A spare moment to give you an update from China.
My Christmas ended on a high note, as always, with gift photos handed out to all the students, faculty and friends as well as Christmas pencils which so many of you donated and sent my way. We actually ended after Christmas but no one seemed to mind an after-Christmas holiday gift.
See below the my photo choices which were given to all who received their laminated copies. Christmas greetings in English and Chinese were printed on every one. Can you guess which one was the favorite?
Saying Farewell to the Seniors
That last week of school was spent finishing up testing, grading and (always a bit sad) saying goodbye to my seniors.
Although our vocational school is a 3-year college, all education majors (no matter what subject) finish their time on campus at the 2 1/2 year mark. Their last semester, they do not attend formal classes. Instead, they finish up, on their own time, graduation research papers on education as well as complete self-study projects. In June, they then return to school to finish up all coursework, hand in research papers and complete graduation paper requirements in order to get their certificates of college completion.
During the spring semester, after spending holidays with their families for Chinese New Year, many either stay in their hometowns or return to Luzhou where they interview for jobs, do part-time teaching or volunteer at local schools to gain more teaching experience.
My senior English Education Majors (140), which I have taught since they were freshmen, departed 2 weeks ago after our departmental picture on January 8. All 3 classes gathered together on that day with our school leaders and English language staff, including me, their foreign teacher.
We were so fortunate to have a sunny day, which allowed us to take many fun pictures together to commemorate their graduation and end of college life as they know it. Sad in many ways but joyful all the same.
Best of luck, my seniors! You should feel so proud! I will miss you.
Before Heading Back to America: The Amity Foundation Winter Conference
January 21 – 26 gave me a rare opportunity to gather together with other Amity teachers in China for our yearly winter conference. Also included in the 6-day meeting were 10 school representatives who have Amity teachers placed at their schools.
At present, there are 5 in the Amity Teachers Program (we teach at the college level) and 11 in the Young Adult Volunteers Program, which is a 1-year commitment, initiated by the German Lutheran Church, teaching English or German at the elementary and junior high levels. Also present were two Norwegian youth, straight out of high school, who were sent for 6 months by the Norwegian church to help with Amity-sponsored projects in Nanjing.
This year, the conference was held in a large, coastal city called Xiamen.
The highlight of such gatherings is visits to Amity-sponsored projects in the countryside. In the past, these have included visiting a school for the deaf and handicapped, attending a support meeting for those recovering from drug addiction, touring a village which received funding for an irrigation system and personally seeing the results of Amity’s micro-loan program. In the micro-loan program, recipients proudly showed off their bakeries, convenience stores, and livestock which have allowed them to make ends meet in remote areas of the country.
For the project visit, our group spent three days in Pei Tian village, a community of 1,000 which is struggling to become a tourist attraction due to their excellently preserved ancient houses. Here, Amity assists in several projects. One is bringing in experts to help villagers learn better farming techniques. Another is providing micro-loans to entice those youth who have left Pei Tian to return home and start businesses to help promote the village’s tourism trade.
Aside from learning traditional crafts and enjoying musical performances from the locals, we teachers organized two English language evenings for the village children. Over 50 youngsters (ages 4 – 12) came to our sessions, which we held in the village meeting hall. The children became so attached to us that the second evening, when they heard we were leaving the next day, one little girl clung to Tobi, a German Young Volunteer, and sobbed in his arms.
“Don’t go!” she cried, tears streaming down her face.
For all of us, leaving Pei Tian and the people there who welcomed us so warmly, was similar to that little girl’s feeling: Just really hard to let go.
When I finally download the pictures onto my computer, I’ll post those here.
This Evening’s News from the Airport Hotel
It’s finally time for me actually to begin my vacation, which I will spend in Marshall, IL, visiting my mom, from Jan. 27 – Feb. 27. The school year starts up March 5, which gives me plenty of “down” time before entering the classroom once again at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College.
I am truly looking forward to this trip back to the States for several reasons but the big one has to do with birthdays.
My mom turned 85 last November but as I was in China, I couldn’t be with her on this day, obviously. My 53rd birthday was on January 12 so I figured we could combine a celebration with a special trip to Chicago. From Feb. 12 – 17 in the Windy City, we’ll enjoy some mother-daughter time, celebrate our birthdays together and relax in our favorite hotel, the Monaco. The Monaco, a lovely boutique hotel, is located within walking distance of Marshall Field’s (now known as Macy’s), the theater district and our all-time love, the Art Institute of Chicago. There will be shows to see, great food to eat and shopping to do which will make our birthday treats to ourselves all the more exciting.
Don’t forget: The Year of the Dog is Coming Soon
Before I forget: Pet your pooches, everyone! Feb. 15 begins the Year of the Dog.
I have already loaded up on posters, wall hangings, stuffed canines and other decorations to give away during my stay at home. They are at present weighing down my suitcase.
There is a Chinese restaurant in my hometown owned and run by a Chinese family from Fujian Province, where I have just spent the last week. (Xiamen is in Fujian). It’s my custom to inundate them with decorations to put up in their establishment as these are hard to come by in a tiny town like Marshall.
Here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your weekend with more posts to come after I have landed in the States.