Last I left off, a new 1-week holiday had been thrown at us, causing school leaders to cut the semester 2 weeks shorter than expected. Everyone was left scrambling to fit testing into any time slot available, then working madly to calculate semester grades to be recorded into the computers. I wasn’t the only one running around at top stress mode. The tension in the school’s classrooms and our English offices filled the atmosphere with frantic frenzy.
It wasn’t pleasant.
On Friday morning, June 7, I finished up everything that needed done and headed off to Sichuan’s capital city, Chengdu, for a respite from the hassles thrust upon us. I needed time to recuperate before returning to finish out the rest of the school year with our branch school students from Qing Hai University. Their school year doesn’t end until July 5.
Chengdu News: Swimming at the City’s Natatorium
I must say, it was a relaxing week and one much needed.
I met up with my neighbors from years ago during my language study. I usually rent a room in my old apartment complex because it’s an area I know well. Everyone welcomed me back, wondering if I was there to stay.
Daily jaunts to the Meng Zhui Wan Swimming Pool had me meeting up with all my swimming buddies from the winter. This swimming complex has 4 outdoor pools, a water park and an indoor pool as well. The indoor pool is going through repairs during the summer so we are all forced outside, into the sizzling rays of sunshine, for our lap swims.
Chinese women dislike dark skin so I was one of the very few women to swim with the guys in the mornings. We all greeted one another before and after work-outs, which made me feel quite special. All that male attention, even from the older men, is appreciated by a woman of my age!
Over the years, I have noticed the swimming crowds at this pool as well as others in China are growing. Years ago, swimming was considered a wealthy sport. The cost of $3-5 for a swim was too expensive for most to afford. A huge luxury meant only for the upper classes. In fact, I enjoyed at times being the only person in my lane to swim.
Not so anymore.
Now, swimming has become a sport of choice for quite a few in all income ranges. Swimming lessons are a huge draw for metropolitan parents wishing to keep their kids busy during the summer holidays. The lifeguards often have their hands full giving lessons to classes of 30 – 40 kids early morning in the training pools while the rest of us enjoy our swimming times in the 50 meter pools.
Walks around the Sichuan University Campus
Aside from the pool, there were lovely walks around the beautiful Sichuan University campus, which directly is across from the place I always stay.
Especially nostalgic was to see all the graduates from the many different university departments. This is the time of year when graduation ceremonies are held, one after another, during the weekends. Seeing such joyful faces, excited figures floating around campus in caps and gowns, brought back many memories of my own university graduation years ago.
Throughout the school, clusters of classmates posed in front of buildings, on tree-filled lawns, on building steps, seated at the school’s lotus flower ponds and around the campus gates to record this auspicious day.
A new chapter in life for the up-and-coming Chinese youth was about to begin and they wanted as many remembrances as possible.
Back in Luzhou
Back in Luzhou, I’ve resumed testing and grading for this week but on a much more limited, and relaxing, schedule. My Sichuan students have mostly left for the school year and will be returning after the summer. A majority of the school’s 8,000 have fled homeward with around 2,000 still remaining. Yes, we are quite the quiet little community at the moment. Most of the “leftovers” are the Qing Hai students, the ones I am currently finishing up.
My Peace Corp brethren, John and Ashley, will be leaving soon for the States. They have been gone for 2 years and are eagerly awaiting a reunion with family and friends before beginning a new life together as husband and wife in the States. We are hoping for a farewell evening together to at least chat a bit before their departure.
Unusual Circumstances Have Me Up in the Air for Next Year
This past month has been quite a topsy-turvy ride for me, something which I have as yet to report. New regulations in this province have denied me a work visa for the next school year.
Sichuan government regulations state after 5 consecutive years in China on a work visa, foreigners must “take a break” for one year before returning to Sichuan. Another 5 years is then granted.
At present, only Sichuan seems to have this rule. Other provinces are quite happy to have foreigners working in their areas no matter how long they have been here but Sichuan’s policy, as of this year, is fully underway and being strictly enforced.
The Amity Foundation, my US sending agency (United Methodist GBGM) and I have been discussing what that entails and what will happen to me. Moving is one option but there is no hope ever of returning to Sichuan to teach. It would be goodbye to Luzhou forever.
Another is language study for a year (a student visa is considered “taking a break” from a work visa), which will keep me in country, most likely studying at Sichuan University. Yet another is time in the States with assignments from the Board, either itinerating or something else.
The school has graciously said they will hold my apartment for me, keeping all my things here if I plan to return. I would then stay at this college for several more years before taking on another placement in China.
Decisions to be Made Tomorrow
Decisions on this will most likely be fully made tomorrow, after holding a conference call with those involved. My preference is always to stay in country but we will see how that unfolds.
From Luzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day until the next report from along the Yangtze River.