Despite good intentions, looks like my days got away from me since the last posting.
My vacation started 2 1/2 weeks ago but has included quite a few surprises. The biggest one concerns the new teachers coming to teach with the Amity Foundation.
“Connie, can you help us?”
A few weeks ago, I received an email from the Director of Amity’s Education Division, “Helen” Zhao, in the Nanjing Amity Foundation office. There will be two new Amity Foundation teachers in the 2-year program joining the organization and they will need teacher training. One is a gentleman from America, sent by the United Methodists, and the other is a woman from Australia.
“Connie, we would like to fly you to Nanjing to help conduct the orientation for 2 weeks with the two new teachers. They will have language study in the morning and then you will have them in the afternoon, instructing them about Chinese learners of English and leading them to teach the guinea-pig Chinese students we will try to put together for them. This will be from August 13 – 24.”
Well, that sounded great except that I will be stuck in Luzhou, renewing my residence permit for another year. My visa expires on August 15th . On the 10th, my school representative and I will be handing in all my official paperwork, including my passport, to the government’s visa office here in Luzhou. After 2 weeks, I will get my passport back with my 1-year residence permit stamped inside.
No passport, no traveling.
After hearing this, Helen had another suggestion: Amity will bring the two teachers to me, along with a staff person, “Lisa” Meng, to see to their needs.
Tentatively, I will lead the teacher training workshops in the morning and Lisa will teach the two basic Chinese in the afternoon. I suggested the three stay in the hotel next to my apartment building for convenience. Lisa has already booked the rooms so it looks like their orientation in Luzhou is a definite go.
Our Guinea Pig Students: The Ladies Who Lunch
The down side in this change of venue from Nanjing to Luzhou was that there would be no guinea pig students for our new teachers to practice on unless I could somehow drum them up. Helen didn’t ask because she knew that was a huge task to place on me at the last minute but I have managed to pull together one somewhat formal setting with a very unique group of women.
I call them The Ladies Who Lunch, because that is exactly the sort of ladies they are. Well-educated, classy dressers, world travelers, and wealthy beyond belief. Some are high-up government workers while others have rich husbands who see to the family’s needs in quite a majestic manner.
In other words, they truly know how to enjoy a comfortable, happy life.
How We All Met
I met these women during one of their English lessons a few weeks ago with Teacher Snow (Teacher Xue). If you remember a previous post, Snow is the one who helped me find SP (Stairwell Puppy), the abandoned campus dog, a home in the countryside with farmers Che and Chen.
Snow was invited to lead The Ladies Who Lunch in a 10-lesson English course, held in a posh women’s club owned and run by a business woman and her partner. The club offers classes in painting, yoga, Chinese traditional dancing and music. Whatever interests and passions the patrons have, owner “Helen” Yu and her associate use their innovative techniques to organize the activities which might prove profitable for them and fun for the ladies. The activity/course fees they charge pay for the rent of the club space, the drinks and snacks provided, the teachers they hire and also bring them the income needed for their own living expenses.
Their clientele, quite the globe trotters, suggested that an English course which concentrated on useful overseas English travel vocabulary would be very helpful to them. Snow, a good friend of Helen, was then enlisted as the teacher.
A Brilliant Idea Occurs
To make the lessons more exciting, Snow rounded up her foreign friends (of which she has many) to make sure the women had plenty of incentive to say something in English. Even though it was just to sputter a few sentences of introduction, having English speakers of many different nationalities in their midst spurred them on to put shyness aside and shine as second language learners.
For the last lesson, Snow invited me, her Australian husband Geoff and Sanjay from Nepal to attend. It was then that I got the idea of gathering together The Ladies Who Lunch for a one-time, 2-hour lesson led by our new Amity teachers. This would be an excellent opportunity for the two to try out their newfound teaching skills with a group of willing, intelligent and fun-loving Chinese.
After conferring with Helen Yu about this possibility, she whole-heartedly agreed to allow us to use her club for this special event at no cost. She will get The Ladies Who Lunch together (including a few Chinese gentleman) and then it’s up to us to entertain them with a free English lesson.
It’s A Go!
The date has been set for August 18, 7 – 9 p.m.
I’m confident our new Amity teachers will not only impress the women with their well-planned lesson but also enjoy meeting and getting to know this diverse, fascinating group.
More stories of the past few weeks yet to come but for now, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your weekend. And for my American readers, soon to celebrate July Fourth, Happy Independence Day!