What a hectic, incredibly busy semester! I have never in China had this many weekdays, evenings and weekends packed so full that I haven’t been able to squeeze in an update on my blog. This is certainly a first for me and I’m not sure if it’ll be any better soon but I do feel I owed you all a reason.
Let me now report why.
It’s not the teaching hours that have done me in but rather a few never-before-had extras added into my China routine.
Getting To Know One Another
I’ll start with the new Peace Corp volunteers, Jackie and Garett. We have been getting to know one another, which means spending more time talking about China, lessons and the school. These a few times have gone late into the night, on weekends or even on week days.
New Swimming Pool Found
Those who know me from past blogs know that I am an avid swimmer. Wherever I am in the world, I will always find a pool. Putting in my daily lap time is my way of staying healthy, relieving stress, lesson planning in my head and meditating. In the past, I’ve been forced to swim at the Number 6 Middle School’s 50 meter pool. While an indoor pool, it’s unheated which is not unusual in China. Winter Swimming Clubs are quite popular here, where people enjoy diving into chilly, refreshing water and flapping away to stay warm. Thus unheated pools abound in this country to serve those who are zealous enough to partake in that particular exercise regime.
Freezing water, anywhere from 50 degrees to 65 degrees, is not my idea of refreshing but that’s all I had in Luzhou. My wetsuit kept me fairly warm until mid-November when I called it quits. Just too cold for me, even in a wetsuit. All that pool time lost gave me more hours in the day to do whatever I liked.
But with Luzhou’s booming economy, fancy fitness centers are starting to crop up all over this city. Feili Sports, a fitness center chain, just happened to open not more than 3 bus stops up the road from our school. And it has a heated pool!
I joined for the year, getting a discounted price of $450 for new members.
It’s quite the spiffy place, with attendants greeting you as soon as you walk off the elevator. The marble floors are spotless and the locker rooms are amazing, especially the wonderful hot showers. (Sure beats my itty-bitty campus apartment with my lukewarm shower that is located on the balcony in a freezing, closet-sized room.)
There are 3 levels of equipment to use, as well as experienced trainers who are available for fitness classes or individual one-on-one help. (Not for free, I might add).
Feili Sports has now become my in-between classes hang-out, 2 hours every day, after which one would think I’d be able to return to the school with nothing else to keep me busy.
Volunteering at the Xin Wang Veterinarian Clinic
It’s a long story how I began volunteering at the clinic and I’ll save it for another day. In short, I walk the abandoned dogs who have been dumped or are housed in the clinic because no one wants them.
Ms. Deng, a 56-year-old animal lover, is the one who deals with these canine unwanteds. She has made arrangements with the staff to keep strays and hurt animals in the back room in cages. She brings them in off the streets as she finds them, then comes every evening at 9 p.m. to see to their needs. That includes feeding, walking, cleaning cages, petting and giving medications if necessary.
Before I entered the scene, they were only taken out once a day, when Ms. Deng arrived, and received no other attention besides what she bestowed upon them.
After I visited the clinic in late August, I learned of her efforts and the plight of her charges. The poor, pitiful things in their small cages made me so sad that I am now helping Ms. Deng walk the dogs and clean cages but I do so in the afternoon, after my pool time.
For 1 1/2 hours, I make sure Black Fattie (overweight poodle), Brownie (crippled Brown poodle), The General (a bulldog mix with an underbite, recovering from a back leg injury), Tiny Tim (a 3-legged little guy with a constant rasp and heart problems) and SP (Stairwell Puppy, a healthy, large hound-mix 1-year-old gal) get their 30-minute leash outings and special attention.
Being with these lost critters always brightens my day, and theirs, but it does take more hours out of my already full day.
Make-Up Classes and English Corner
Thrown into the above comes evening make-up classes for numerous times students’ classes have been canceled. One week of missed courses was for teacher observations, where 2nd and 3rd year students observed experienced teachers in local elementary schools. Other times missed included all national holidays, which the administration demands that we reteach and schedule in on our own. I usually squeeze make-ups into weekends or evenings.
There is of course English Corner. This is an extracurricular class which Jackie, Garett and I do together on Tuesday evenings. We plan activities for anyone who is interested in learning English and then wait to see who shows up. We have anywhere between 40 and 80 students, depending on how busy they are.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Upcoming Christmas
Of course, there are the holiday lessons which have taken up extra time.
I had a huge Halloween Activity Night which took a lot of time to prepare and get ready for. Costume wearing, mask making, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating and bobbing for apples were enjoyed by students, teachers and their children. Thanksgiving classroom fun included learning how to set an American-style table for this special day.
Christmas now has me about ready to decorate my home and get ready for Christmas open houses all next month.
Speaking of Christmas celebrations, the Luzhou Prostestant Church community is likewise gearing up for two fantastic performance evenings and worships for the public (Dec. 24) and for their own church members (Dec. 22). I’ll be participating in at least one on Christmas Eve, although I’d really like to slip in on a couple of choir practices to join in even more. We’ll see if I can manage to fit those in on Thursday evenings, 7 – 9 p.m., during the next month.
Whew! Sounds like a lot yet to come but I get great joy out of sharing with everyone. Keeping busy is certainly better than hanging around, being bored
Surprise!! Article Published in the Christian Science Monitor
And in the midst of all that, I actually have found time to write!
This has just been published in the Christian Science Monitor for the week of Thanksgiving. If you’re interested in reading about a wishbone tradition gone to the dog, be my guest. The site is below:
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
From China, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your upcoming holiday.