Amity’s 25th Anniversary
This year marks the 25th anniversary of The Amity Foundation, which is our United Methodist partnership organization in China. Amity is also my sponsoring agency while I’m in China. The Amity education director oversees my teaching placements here, including my well-being and supervising my work.
Every 5th-year anniversary, Amity invites all its sponsoring organizations to send representatives to participate in its celebrations. The week-long invitation includes 5 days of seeing Amity projects in the many Chinese provinces that Amity has been working. Sponsoring agencies are presented a list of provinces and projects to choose from. Each province has its own special focus, such as the handicapped, agriculture, health, Chinese church-initiated programs, education, AIDS prevention, and micro-loans.
After groups travel for their 5-day look at Amity’s good works, they return to the Nanjing headquarters for another 3 days to share experiences, see the main offices, visit Amity’s Bible Printing Press, the new Nanjing theological seminary and discuss household issues concerning their support of the organization.
95% of the money for Amity comes from overseas’ sending agencies, a majority being Christian denominations. Thus this invitation is one which is highly prioritized by the staff during any anniversary year. They want everything to run smoothly and well when their international sponsoring representatives come to participate in celebrations and project visits.
Guangxi Province Amity Projects
Guangxi Province is one which receives quite a bit attention from sponsors.
Amity has numerous rural development projects among both the Han Chinese and the many ethnic minority peoples of the province. Guangxi itself is touted as having the highest number of ethnic peoples, 80% being the Zhuang nationality although there are those from many other nationalities as well. Agriculture, micro-loans, and AIDS prevention are Amity’s biggest concerns here.
As for education, that would be my placement in Longzhou.
After discussion of which projects should be included in the Guangxi tour, it was decided that the group could swing way down to our southern border area and take a look at an Amity teacher’s placement.
When the school and I received this news in early September, we were all quite excited. The school was excited to show off their campus and hospitality to international guests. But I was more excited to have 11 foreigners to share with my students. How often does that happen in our little tiny Longzhou?
What Was In Store for Our Amity Visitors on November 5th
Friday, November 5, was the assigned day for our hosting events.
It was going to be a short, 3-hour visit only, so in order to prepare the schedule well, there were many meetings to determine how best to show off the campus and students. My concern was getting maximum student contact time with our guests. This meant planning events that would put our visitors in direct face-to-face encounters with our English language classes.
The school was in charge of the first hour of the visit, which would be opening speeches by school leaders, a speech given by one of the English Education students and then 30 minutes of student performances. For entertainment, we’d have an English skit, two ethnic minority dance numbers and the famous Zhuang ball toss and basket catch game with audience participation.
After that, I was in charge of the next 2 hours. There would be a 30-minute English Corner where chosen students would talk to our guests in small groups, then lead them on a 30-minute tour around the campus. We’d also have 30 minutes in the English Center where English Center volunteers would introduce the Center’s history, volunteer program and lay-out. Last stop was a visit to my apartment to see the Amity teacher’s home before the group jumped on the bus for a fast 2-hour drive to the airport. They’d be leaving immediately for Nanjing to continue in celebrations at the headquarters.
Preparing for the Visitors
Preparation on my part fell into several categories.
First, I selected students to lead our English Corner and campus tour. I chose 24 from my two English Education classes, second year only, as it was only fair that they receive the honor. After all, Amity stresses English Education majors more than other English majors. Plus my second year students had the language ability to carry on conversations with other English speakers. We also added a few more young hosts to the lucky ones. My co-teacher Abby Yi chose 12 from our second year Business English and Practical English majors. I had those students last year and didn’t want them moaning and groaning that they were being ignored and not considered worthy enough for meeting our international visitors.
All together, we had 36 who were paired in groups of 3 and 4 to talk to and lead their guests around our campus.
We had 3 practice sessions for 1-hour each before the guests arrived. In this way, when it came time for the actual visit, I could just step back and let the students do their thing and have their special moment.
The same went for the English Center.
We had 4 students who were chosen among the Center’s volunteer members to man the Center when the guests arrived. We all practiced their 10-minute presentation numerous times until they were ready to handle things on their own.
I also worked with our chosen English Education major, James (Jiang Zhihui), who was to give a 5-minute speech to the Amity guests about the importance of his education here. James wrote his own speech and then we worked together practicing it to perfection.
The Skit Miracle
My last duty working with students was helping with the short skit.
To be honest, this duty was actually a last-minute thing. Years ago, I had written a 10-minute Reader’s Theater performance of Little Red Riding Hood and done it as a class assignment. When I was approached by our panicking students, needing to do something for an English performance, I handed over the script and figured they’d ask if they needed help.
Two days before the arrival day, I felt I should at least see a rehearsal of their performance so I requested a listen.
I think you can guess the result of that first listen: Disaster!
Not only had no one prepared, but we had characters missing who went home and weren’t coming back until the night before the guests arrived. Needless to say, everyone’s pronunciation was horrible, they had no idea what they were doing, and, worst yet, they were goofing around. I walked in on them chasing one another about, fiddling with their cellphones and not really caring one way or another if they pulled this thing together or not.
Obviously, it was time for the teacher to give them a good talking to, which I did.
After that, it was down to business.
We prepped for 2 hours and then the next day for another hour. There was a night rehearsal for all performances, which gave them yet another few hours of practice.
It was still pretty awful Thursday evening when I left them on their own to continue working on their lines and diction.
I wasn’t at all confident that they could pull this thing off. Another 2 days of practice would have been ideal but there comes a point when you just have to give it to God and let the Lord take it from there.
For the skit performance, I gave it to God.
Our Amity Guests Arrive
Thursday night, a very exhausted group of 14 (3 Amity staff members and 11 representatives) landed at our Longzhou hotel. They’d had an 8-hour bus ride from the far north where they’d been in Guangxi’s deep mountain areas, seeing Amity rural development projects among tiny remote villages. After such a hinterland visit, landing in our small town must have seemed more like landing in civilization.
Early the next morning, the group arrived on our campus at 7:45 a.m. to be greeted by tinkling, bouncy recorded music (Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head), female students dressed in colorful ethnic garb, and gifts of embroidered Zhuang nationality necklaces. We had huge banners in place and displays of the Amity Foundation’s work as well as photos of past Amity teachers. The school had really gone all out in getting ready for our visitors and it certainly showed.
Everything from the opening speeches to excellent performances to the leisure campus tour went like clockwork. Even my seemingly doomed skit performers managed to wow us with their humorous portrayal of Riding Hood and her entourage. It really made for a good laugh and lighthearted moments.
While the visit was short, I helped lengthen it a bit when I joined the group on the bus for the 2-hour trip to the airport. Rebecca Aesidillo, my UMBGM boss, was among the visitors so this was my chance to get to know her better. We chatted the entire time, sharing personal stories and some business matters about my future placements with the Board.
It was a very special time for both of us as it was our first time meeting together other than talking over the phone. I can definitely say we were kindred spirits, especially after she informed me her daughter was on a college swimming team.
Well, what do you know!
I also was a university swimmer during my college days as well.
With the students entertaining the guests so well, my biggest role was to take pictures . . . and more pictures . . . and even more pictures of everyone’s interaction with each another.
Chinese have a great love of pictures, which must be taken everywhere, with every sort of background imaginable and every sort of pose possible. My students wanted memories of this exciting visit and my job was to give it to them.
Looking at the photo album included, I think I did well.
Enjoy the photo journey, although the picture quality is not as I’d have hoped. (Might be time for Santa to send me a new digital camera!)
Ping An (peace) from our little Longzhou