Surprise! Checking in from Luzhou

After over 2 months in the big city, Chengdu, this weekend found me alighting back on my doorstep along the Yangtze River at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. And an even bigger surprise awaited me in my apartment, other than lots of dust and rat nibbles on my bar of soap in the bathroom. My Internet hook-up with the city is still up and running! Although my payment of 1 year is no longer in effect, it seems someone has forgotten to erase me from the system. Thus I get to actually post a blog from Luzhou since I am still struggling with this in Chengdu.


Daily Chinese language classes at Sichuan University have been quite tiring, not to mention busy, so having a weekend away is wonderful. I am especially missing my holiday lessons which I’d be teaching at this time of year if I were still on a work visa.

Halloween has passed but Thanksgiving and Christmas are yet to come. Sitting here in my cozy school apartment, having just turned on last year’s Christmas lights still adorning my outdoor balcony security bars, brings back a lot of wonderful winter memories from 2012. Today’s Sunday worship at the Luzhou Protestant church, listening to Pastor Liao’s sermon and the choir, made me wish us all to speed ahead a year so I could once again be included in choir practices and the big Christmas celebrations yet to come.

I have actually made plans to return for Christmas and miss a few days of classes next month. At Sichuan University, only Chinese holidays are celebrated. That certainly does not include Christmas. While I could stay in Chengdu and easily attend the huge city church services there, I’d much rather be back in my home here with friends and Christians I know and care for. It is more meaningful and will truly make my holiday a bright and special one.


Aside from China news, one bit from America I want to mention concerns my mom’s 80th birthday surprise, held at our hair stylist’s salon, Stephen’s.

Stephen Glendenning, in Martinsville, Illiniois, has been cutting my family’s hair for years, including my mom, myself, my brother and even at one point my sister-in-law. This summer, Stephen gave me the idea of having something special planned for my mom’s November appointment, already booked and ready to go. Her 80th birthday is November 23, which obviously places me in China and not in the US. What something special could be arranged for her even though I wasn’t there?

For my mom’s 75th, I had enlisted the help of my mom’s best friend, Karen Heighton, for a church afternoon reception with friends and family present. This was not a surprise but just a birthday gathering to wish her happiness for her upcoming birthday. I remember my mom had originally said she wanted no such thing, and certainly not a surprise, but after it came together, she was very happy that we’d done something special for her.
For her 80th, I asked if she’d like anything planned. She once again insisted there shouldn’t be a fuss, no reception such as 5 years before. It was just enough for cake at home and presents from whomever.

But this summer, talking to Stephen about making her November appointment something to remember, the birthday pre-party plan was hatched.

Directly across the street from the salon was a cake shop, Darcy’s. After visiting there, I discussed with Darcy herself what was needed. A cake was ordered with my mom’s photo, from when she was 3 years old, to be placed on the top. I also headed off to the Dollar Store to stock up on decorations and party favors which Stephen would be in charge of using for her special hair day. I paid for her cut, of course, and handed over the duties to Stephen for her November 1st party day in his salon.

Naturally, Stephen and I have been looking forward to this day since August. We’ve had a couple emails back and forth as November 1st came closer, both of us anticipating what a surprise this would be.
But leave it to my mother to decide, 2 days before the appointment, to change it to the next week. Fortunately for Stephen, she gave enough heads-up time for him to call Darcy to change the cake-making day to November 5 (Tuesday).


Yet our well-designed scheme went into crisis mode a second time when my mom called again to change the date to November 7. The church chili supper was on Tuesday and she’d already signed up to help. Stephen managed another cake date change without penalty fees and, finally, my mom had her 80th pre-birthday surprise.

According to her reports, Stephen and staff hid behind the counter. When she entered, they popped up, showering her with confetti and shouting, “Surprise! Happy Birthday!”

Stephen had decorated the entranceway wall with birthday banners. Her cake, ready to be shared with everyone, was positioned on a table nearby. She was requested to wear her party hat and lapel ribbon, “The Birthday Girl,” for pictures before blowing out the candles and cutting the cake. My mom also wrote in her email Stephen enjoyed the telling of the tale how the party’s many date changes had everyone wondering if ever the surprise event would take place.

Well, it did, much to my mom’s delight and everyone’s relief.

After many “thank you”s to Stephen for helping out, I did say that for her 90th, we’re definitely not going to try this again!


Tonight will be spent a bit with our Peace Corp volunteers, Angela and Geoff, to catch up on their new teaching lives here in China. After that, I will pack up things to return to Chengdu tomorrow. This week is review week for mid-terms so I’m not missing much on Monday. November 18 we start up again on new lessons before finals the week of January 13.

Time certainly goes fast!

Until then, I might be giving Christmas reports next month from Luzhou if the Internet continues to be connected. We can always hope!

From China, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for the week and your upcoming Thanksgiving Day holidays.

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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1 Response to Surprise! Checking in from Luzhou

  1. Stephen Glendenning says:

    Thanks again. To a great daughter and friend.

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