My time is winding down here in the big city of Chengdu. I will finish my Chinese language classes on May 1, which is the UN proclaimed international holiday, Labor Day. China observes this with 3 days off, May 1 – 3. May 4th, I will have packed up my belongings and rented a car to take me back to Luzhou. That will give me enough time to re-pack for my USA journey, leaving China on May 9 to return August 17.
Hopefully, the work visa will be in place during the summer and all will go smoothly for my return as a teacher at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College.
Catching Up: The US Consulate Lecture
I’ve been waiting for the photos to be sent of my April 9 Consulate presentation, “Welcome to Marshall!”, which arrived a few days ago. For security reasons, no personal photo taking is allowed inside the Consulate but Li Tao, one of the staff members, is in charge of using her “sanctioned” camera to snap away for those of us who want them.
I was honored for my presentation to have 3 individuals present whom I know quite well. Teacher Chen, my Chinese language teacher from last semester, canceled his dentist appointment just to attend. Joining us as well was Frank (Gao Pei), a junior economics major at Sichuan University who often joins me for campus walks to practice his English. And lastly was Sha-sha, who meets up with me every day for doggie walks with her rescued mixed corgi stray, Hua-hua (Flower).
After meeting at the West Gate of the university, we walked the 15-minutes to the Consulate together.
We were rather early, arriving 45 minutes before the lecture time, for me to set things up.
While Teacher Chen enjoyed looking over the many shelved English books in the lecture room, I put Frank and Sha-sha to work at the outer table. Their job was to make sure everyone entering the room signed their name on a wooden ice cream spoon to put into the container for the quiz drawing.
I was very pleased to have such great helpers as this allowed me to do a few other things, like greet the Chinese as they came in and arrange our prize table.
Great Audience；Great Response
We started promptly at 2:30 after I was introduced by Tom Wilkins, one of the PR staff members.
With such great weather to bring people out, we ended up with 57 Chinese of all ages who attended. Most were university students, regulars who took advantage of these weekly gatherings, but we did have others in their 30s or 40s. We also had one 8-year-old Chinese girl who came with her mom, sat right in the front row and had a wonderful time enjoying my hometown photos.
Unlike most of these talks, mine was quite interactive with lots of visuals to keep people interested. With such a variety of people, it’s difficult to know whose English is advanced and whose isn’t. I always make sure to include something that everyone can enjoy, even if their English is nil, so as to make the presentation inclusive of everyone.
Quiz Time: Everyone Wins
Of course, it’s always hard to know exactly how much people get out of a presentation unless there is some sort of evaluation at the end.
After introducing everyone to Marshall, concluding our tour with a final photo of main street, I posted 7 questions for the audience. They had 10 minutes to discuss in groups their answers before we began the drawing for correct responses followed by prizes, English magazines which the Consulate donated.
As different audience members drawn from the container came excitedly forward, many were nervous but with the help of others, they could easily answer.
One older woman came rather reluctantly.
“My English is very bad,” she said shyly while standing in front of the group.
“Don’t worry. Your friends can help you,” I reassured her.
The question was: Tell 3 activities you did in Marshall during your tour’s free time.
Without missing a beat, she said, “Swimming, visit the library, see the art show.”
“Exactly!” I replied. “Choose the magazine you’d like.”
Her eyes lit up as she scanned the pile. She swiftly chose the one that interested her the most and then joyfully raced back to her seat, saying, “Thank you! Thank you! I will treasure this forever.”
For the remainder of the talk, I saw her out of the corner of my eye, flipping intently through her reward. I have a feeling that is the first time in her life that she felt truly successful in her English skills, especially as there were so many others around her at a much higher, fluent level.
Mother and Daughter Team Amaze All
Yet another thrill with our quiz time was when our little girl, English name “Susie,” had her spoon drawn.
I quickly invited her mother to join us.
“Surely such a little girl will need help answering questions,” I was thinking. “Don’t want to scare the poor thing to death!”
As it turned out, 8-year-old Susie’s English was a lot better than any of us anticipated.
“So, Susie, tell me 3 things you did at the Wieck house when you went to visit,” I said slowly, pointing to Question 5 on the power point list.
Susie’s mom and I gave her a little time to answer but it didn’t take long.
“See the back yard garden, eat breakfast and . . . meet your mom and dad!”
Everyone in the room gasped in surprise at her understanding, with a few giving claps to show their support of her English study.
“And sit on the porch, too. Remember?” her mom added with a smile.
Susie received an English reward pencil that said “Great Job” and her mom chose a magazine.
Two very happy campers!
Finishing Up Our Time Together: Little Old-old (小老老) Takes Center Stage
To end our 1 1/2 hours together was the question and answer period. I had many thought-provoking remarks and comments made but probably what surprised me the most had to do with Xiao Lao-lao, Little Old-old.
He was shown on the front porch of my family’s home, greeting the group on their Marshall tour while being held in my mother’s arms.
I mentioned he was a Chengdu rescue and that his story could be found in the Consulate library, where his book had been donated.
I must have had 8 different questions, wanting to know about tiny Chihuahua, 小老老: his age, how he was found, how he made it to America, what he ate if he had no teeth, how he was accepting American culture and so forth.
Seems out of all the information given on my hometown, out of all the fascinating photos of life in rural America, historic places to see and people to meet, the one thing that stuck with everyone the most was their very lucky little Chengdu native, what we call 本地人 (ben di ren), who managed to make it to the States to enjoy a wonderful, secure and happy life.
From Chengdu, China, until next post, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your weekend.