In the past few years, there haven’t been as many Amity teachers as there once was.
In 1986, when the program first began, the numbers were well into the 40s and 50s. Now is a different story. Sending agency budget cuts, inability for people to commit to 2 years of service in China (mostly due to personal economic issues), and lack of PR work in our separate countries have seen the program shrink.
This year, we only have 21 teachers, and a majority will be leaving China at the end of the term.
That includes many in our Guangxi Province clan.
Our Amity Guangxi Teachers
For two years, Guangxi has had 5 Amity teachers placed in different parts of this province: Claire Brook (UK, in Qinzhou University), Bob Kenyon (UK, in Hezhou University ), Ueli Walter (Switzerland, in Hezhou University), Lena Aspfors (Sweden, in Yulin University) and myself (USA, in Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities).
Claire and Ueli both came with their spouses, who supported their venture in China for 2 years as staunch supporters. Claire’s Martin found time to teach in a middle school near the college. Ueli’s Johanna (from South America) spent her time learning Chinese and English, as well as tutoring students in Spanish. Both Ueli and Johanna were the youngest in our group (in their 30s) and newlyweds to boot, which always made for great teasing on the part of those in Amity who had long-since tied the knot.
Since we are so far away from one another, getting together isn’t easy. It’s always a challenge to find a weekend when no one is busy but March 24-26 had us together in Nanning, the capital city, where we were able to catch up, over-indulge in Western food and say our farewells.
There just isn’t any time for us to meet again this semester, so this was our last opportunity to say goodbye. Only Lena and I will be staying on in this province next year. The rest are moving on with their lives in their separate countries.
A Fun Time Had By All
As the closing slideshow suggests, everyone made the most of the weekend.
A Pizza Hut luncheon had us all so hyperactive on caffeine from the restaurant’s rich, dark coffee that no naps were needed that day. We walked around a nearby teahouse park enclosure to take pictures and ended up enjoying a free tourist show of Zhuang nationality dancers. Claire announced that during the weekends, the traditional Chinese garden was full of brides and grooms, dressed to the hilt, having their pictures taken by professional wedding photographers.
Sadly to say, there were no such couples on the day we were there. The weather was just too dark, chilly and dreary to entice anyone out for wedding photos.
However, a cluster of elderly had set up stools for sketching the scenery around us. Ink pens, chalk and water colors in hand, they scrutinized the covered teahouse bridge before us while their artistic abilities took over.
This small drawing club of retired folk certainly were enjoying themselves. While their talent wasn’t up to any high standards, it wasn’t meant to be. This was just one of the many different club activities the elderly in big cities partake in year-round. Whether it’s drumming teams, dancing troupes, tai chi gatherers, gardening green thumbs, calligraphy experts, drawing or painting amateurs, the Chinese older folk know how to keep busy, energetic and active in their retirement years.
Unlike most of us sedentary, overweight Americans, TV is not their favorite form of relaxation. The Chinese elderly are always on the move, and their well-kept figures prove it, too.
Departures Made Amid Quick Goodbyes
Sunday morning had a majority of the group already well on their way to return to their colleges. Ueli, Bob and Johanna had a 7-hour bus ride far to the north. Claire and Martin had a shorter, 2-hour journey to the south by train. Lena headed to the east for a 2 ½ hour bus ride to Yulin. I was scooting in the opposite direction, to the west on my 3-hour trip back to Longzhou.
Next semester, Lena and I hope enough Amity teachers will be sponsored to fill the spaces our jolly band has filled for 2 years.
It’s always a little sad to see old faces leave our ranks but it’s also exciting to have new ones to replace them. Be sure you’ll have updates on our new teachers here in our province.
Until that time, here’s a toast to our departing teachers: God Bless and 一路平安 （literally translated as “One road, safety or peace” or rather in English “Safe Travels”）.
From Connie in Longzhou, Ping An (peace) for your weekend!