The School Year Ends!
The school year has finally ended! At least for me, anyway.
My final courses of the year are over and done with as of last Friday, with the re-take test for those who failed my literature course.
Friday’s second-time-around test for the 12 Qing Hai University students who failed my literature final proved a good thing. Every student but one received a 60 and passing mark. If not for poor, clueless Jack (Dan Jian Nuo Bi), a Tibetan from Qing Hai province, I’d have had 100% student rate for passing all my courses.
The Struggle of Our Qing Hai Students
It’s always hardest for the Qing Hai students who come here to attend school in Sichuan. Our college started this branch school alliance 6 years ago. Those in the 3-year certificate program (not the 4-year degree program) are placed here to complete their education instead of staying on the university campus in Qing Hai province.
And let me tell you, adjustment to this area takes some getting used to.
Qing Hai province runs deep into undeveloped Western China. It touts a crisp, cool New England climate, not the sweltering summer heat, deep humidity and sub-tropical weather we have here. The horrible 90 plus degree temps we’ve experienced these past 2 weeks has made our Qing Hai group melt into puddles on the classroom floor. Their energy level zapped; their diligence to learn squelched by the unbearable heat.
Add to this the food, which is another troublesome spot. The spicy Sichuan hot peppers swimming in every dish, as well as very traditional southwestern dishes, make for unhappy, upset stomachs. All semester, I’ve had our far-to-the-west students come to me, hands on their stomachs as they double over in pain, asking for leave because they are feeling sick.
Then there’s the strong, Sichuan accent to deal with. Most of the Qing Hai students (a majority of Tibetan nationality) find no comfort in living here, hardly able to understand what any native Sichuanese is saying. They mostly stick together on our campus, speaking Tibetan or Qing Hai dialect while staying far away from our Sichuan students at the college.
To make them even more different, there’s no difficulty spotting them among the 8,000 Han Chinese who are here. Their habits, mannerisms and dark-skinned appearance are a dead give-away they aren’t from here. The rugged, tall, handsome guys are bedecked in jewelry, pierced ears and long hair. The girls boast flowing tresses down to the waist while their Muslim sisters are crowned in brightly colorful head scarves. This look is far different from the cosmopolitan youth of this province who wear trendy clothes and the latest short-cropped hairstyle.
In other words, our Qing Hai 2,000 from the far grasslands of China really struggle in this alien environment.
So for them, I have a soft spot, especially for our poor Jack.
He couldn’t speak a stitch of English in my class, nor even read it out loud, so my guess is that his parents forced him into this major. I can imagine them insisting an English major would offer him better opportunities, better jobs, better chances of leaving the difficult countryside life which is currently theirs. He is probably the first in the family to go to college, and, sad to say, most likely he shouldn’t.
Jack has little aptitude or desire for study. The 8,000 yuan ($1,300) for his yearly tuition probably could have been better spent on his siblings. (Minority families, such as Tibetans, are allowed more than one child. Most have 2 or 3 children.)
That was quite apparent by his attendance in my class. He missed 8 of 12 classes this semester.
The fact that he copied word for word from the essay of his classmate during the re-take test also hints at an inability to function at any English level, much less one for an English major.
Thus Jack, and only Jack, is my one failed student for the entire school year.
I do wonder if he’ll even return next semester after going home this summer. My guess is probably not.
What’s Happening with Me!
And the next question is: Will I even know about Jack’s fate, given that I won’t be teaching here again until the 2014-2015 school year?
Yes, final decisions have been made after my Sichuan work visa was denied for the 2013-2014 school year. (See previous blog for explanation on why that happened.)
It is official: I have been granted study leave for half a year with the other half spent in the States.
I will be enrolled again in Sichuan University’s Chinese language program from August to February. (This is in Sichuan’s capital city, Chengdu, 3 ½ hours away from Luzhou.) From March to July, I will be in the States itinerating and doing as much PR work for the Amity Foundation as possible.
During my China time, I will be visiting my apartment on the campus here once a month during weekends to make sure everything is in proper order. While I’m in the States, I will have my Chinese friend check up on things for me. (As mentioned before, the school has graciously allowed me to keep my things in the school apartment.)
During my US time, I will be visiting churches within my own conference and others if I am scheduled in. My home base will be at my parents’ home in Marshall, Illinois, which will certainly be a blessing. My mother and I have been struggling for years trying to clean out the house during my brief landings.
Needless to say, nothing much has ever gotten done.
With this extended time period, I think we have a good chance of finally accomplishing something worth cheering about.
Until next report, here’s wishing you Ping An (peace) from along the Yangtze.