It’s time for me to get out of town. Our weather has turned warmer, meaning that the pool water at the Nanyuan Hotel will be at about the right temperature for spring swimming. As mentioned before, most pools in southern China aren’t heated with the pool water getting down to 55 degrees or colder, even though our winter temps are nothing like up north. My indoor pool should be ready to go with the 80-degree hits we’ve been having this past week.
And there is DVD shopping to do as well. I’m out of my favorite TV shows and newly released movies. Most students ask me why I don’t just watch these online. I would except that I like to donate DVDs to our English Center. After I’ve finished with them, I can then let the students enjoy checking them out or entertaining themselves in our Center after stocking our DVD shelves with more of them.
Big News on Campus
Speaking of the English Center, my visits these past 2 weeks have been filled with the latest big topic that’s taken up everyone’s conversations: the canceled move to the new campus in Chongzuo, 1 1/2 hours away.
Last year and the beginning of this semester was all about our big move to Chongzuo. This Longzhou campus was closing. All students, teachers, their families and even some of the workers would be heading over to the new school during the summer. Equipment would be cleared out. The library bookshelves emptied. Desks and chairs loaded into trucks and off everything would go.
In fact, a majority of the teachers had already settled into their Chongzuo campus faculty apartments, buying new furniture, decorating, cleaning and making sure things were ready by summer for settling in. Some teachers had already sent their children, spouses and aging parents (who often live with them) to live in their Chongzuo homes this semester. They remained here, in single housing facilities, to continue with their on-campus teaching duties. Quite a few teachers also rented out their school apartments here to the locals in order to make a little extra money.
Currently, a few of the staff are commuting the 1 1/2 hours by bus back and forth to Chongzuo as they have classes to teach on both campuses. Liang Ling (my vice-dean) and Mr. Lan (a head English teacher) have been coming and going during the week between the two schools. It’s been hard for me to catch them in the office as they haven’t been here 100% of the time.
The students also have been eagerly awaiting the move. Our campus now has only 600 students whereas the Chongzuo campus has 8,000 at present. “Over there” is a bustling environment but not so in Longzhou. Several dormitory buildings have remained empty all year, collecting dust in the rooms and giving this place a rather dreary feel.
On the other campus, everything is new, including the dorm rooms that are equipped with ceiling fans and hot water. These are missing on our campus. Just having more students to talk to, and being on a larger campus with fancy equipment was likewise a big selling point for the students here. Not only that but Chongzuo isnearer to Nanning, where everyone goes to transfer for travel home.
Chongzuo also has a train station, which we do not. It’s only $1 US to get to the capital city by train whereas here, it’s a $10 bus ticket. These students have so little money to begin with that $9 is a big save when it comes to traveling home.
Never mind that the new campus was in the middle of nowhere, with no stores or restaurants in sight, not to mention a 20-minute ride to get to the town if you were lucky enough to catch the bus or taxi. The Chongzuo school, compared to here, was a paradise in everyone’s eyes. (Ah, the grass is always greener!)
But all those excited, enthusiastic expectations of a move disappeared when the leaders announced we won’t be moving after all. It was a big decision after heavy debate at the Chongzuo campus by all the education officials of the university. The biggest problem had been that the Longzhou campus had not yet been sold. The land belonged to the county government and it had already been mandated that the buildings couldn’t be left empty and in disuse. They had to be used, not remain vacant for who knows how many years.
The Longzhou County government had also petitioned the school leaders to allow the campus to remain for economic reasons. There is nothing in Longzhou of interest except this college. When it goes, the town’s economy will definitely suffer due to the students no longer being here to spend their money or anyone having a reason to come to this area. I heard that money had been offered by the local government to keep us here but I’m not sure how much.
After all of this, it was decided we will remain for another 3-5 years before finally moving. During the summer, a transfer of more students from the Chongzuo campus will begin to fill up our empty dormitory buildings. Those students, however, will only be those in the 3-year education program. 4-year university students, who will receive college degrees, will all study on the new campus. Those in the 3-year program (comparable to a junior college education) will come here.
So What About Me? Moving or Staying?
For myself, it’s all up in the air. Originally, I was to move to a new placement within the Amity Foundation. Openings in Inner Mongolia were discussed by myself and my Chinese boss, Liu Ruhong. But since the college is staying, there is also an offer for me to remain here. I have until the beginning of May to decide and that is what I am contemplating at this time.
But for this weekend, I’m putting all those difficult decisions and thoughts behind me. It’s off to Nanning and some R&R this weekend before going back to classes Monday.
Stay tuned for more updates! As always, here’s Ping An (peace) for your day from rural China.