I’ve recently received some emails saying, “Hi, Connie! Just wanted to know how you are. Are you still in China?”
I’m guessing those individuals haven’t been checking out connieinchina.org or my Facebook page, so let me review, with a few updates.
Why Am I Still in America?
If you didn’t know: I am Connie (Cornelia) Wieck, a Marshall, Illinois native who has been with the United Methodists for nearly 30 years as a college English language teacher, a majority of those years being in Asia. I am single and currently a teacher through the Amity Foundation, a social service organization founded in 1985 by Chinese Christians. Amity’s headquarters are in Nanjing with a majority of the Amity sponsored projects helping rural Chinese people. There are also Amity poverty alleviation projects in other countries as well. (See amityfoundation.org for a full overview of all Amity does.)
On January 9th, I returned to America for my Chinese New Year holidays. My mother was moving and I planned to spend a month helping her with this venture before returning to my college in February to begin a new school year.
Those plans suddenly changed as Covid-19 began its journey around the world. Our U.S. airlines discontinued overseas’ travel in late January. I planned to itinerate in Illinois, sharing my time in China with so many of you, but that, too, ended as wise decisions of caution canceled our church gatherings. China then blocked entry of non-essential overseas’ visitors into the country in order to contain the virus. This has me sheltering in place with my mom in our small Illinois town.
News from my Chinese College
Although China now seems to have the situation under control, with most schools, businesses and in-country travel now resuming, the temporary ban on visa holders such as myself is still in place.
The 10,000 students at my school, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College in Sichuan Province, were required in May to return to the campus to complete mandatory summer courses. My freshmen English language majors (250) are currently being taught by two of my Chinese colleagues with my assistance. I’ve been sending short educational videos of my hometown life, including practical phrases to use and discussion questions. My lessons are being shared in my oral conversation course. Of course, I would much rather be in the classroom with them but this is the best way to continue to stay in touch, complete my teaching duties and still feel needed and useful. There is talk that the ban might be lifted in August for a limited few weeks. That would allow me to return to start up the Fall semester.
My greatest concern is my visa, which expires September 30 and is renewed yearly. Renewing a visa must be done in person, in China, with my college’s many stamped and officially signed documents in place. It is always a lengthy process, taking at least 2 months, but renewal is certainly much easier than starting from scratch.
Once a visa expires, however, the entire application must be done as if it’s the first time. This process can take up to 3-4 months. It must be done outside of China, not in China. That means an even longer delay in my return to teach while all the paperwork is sorted out by the Chinese Embassy in the U.S., a lot of back-and-forths between me, the Amity Foundation and my school, plus a substantial amount of money ($550) being spent to re-register and re-apply.
Obviously, I am not too keen on having to do that but I may not have a choice.
Limited Flights to and From China: The current Situation and what is required of arriving passengers
As a few foreigners begin to return to China, there is the limited airplane situation to deal with. All flights were canceled for some time until February, when China Eastern Airlines was allowed to have one flight a week to and from America. No US Airlines were in service to China or other parts of the world.
As of today, June 6, an agreement was reached to allow only 1 flight a week from Delta, United and American Airlines. Passengers who arrive into the first port of entry will be ushered off the plane, giving a virus test, placed for 24 hours in a holding area, tested again and (if negative) will have a 2-week quarantine in an airport hotel which they will pay for. Daily temperature checks will be given and health monitored for those 2 weeks by health officials. No one is allowed to leave the room. Meals will be brought.
If after 2 weeks, the individual still tests negative, he/she will receive a color code of status: Green means safe and no more quarantines; yellow means traveling onward to other cities and another quarantine might be required; red means you have the virus and will remain in a hospital, or quarantine, until you test negative.
According to the China Aviation guidelines, if a US carrier has passengers that test negative for 3 weeks, 2 flights a week will be allowed by that carrier. Another 3 weeks of negative tests from passengers will allow 3 flights a week and so on until the pre-Covid 19 schedules can be resumed.
If any passenger tests positive during any of those 3-week flights, the initial 1 flight a week will be either revoked or continued without increases. These cautious regulations were put into effect just recently when a flight from Egypt brought into Beijing 9 positive virus cases. After successfully controlling the sickness, only to have it re-enter the country from overseas, China is now being very, very careful
Naturally, this caution creates a limited number of flights and seats, which will make it difficult for those of us abroad to even purchase a ticket as most flights will be full.
All of this is a mute point, of course, because China still has not lifted the ban on people such as myself. New visa holders, however, essential international business personnel and diplomats, can enter China without any problems. …. if they can get a flight!
News from my Chinese Church Family
While a majority of China is opening up, large gatherings of people are still on hold. This includes religious centers (temples, churches and mosques), movie theaters, large trade shows and business conferences. Like in America, Chinese churches have moved to online services which most watch on their smart phones through a special worship App. (A vast majority of Chinese have smart phones, including the elderly, and all are quite adept at using them.). Our 4 pastors at the Luzhou Protestant Church take turns giving the Sunday message. Recorded hymns and praise songs are included. Scripture readings are likewise posted for everyone to follow along. It is uncertain when churches will open their doors but for now, rest assured that Chinese Christians still have the ability to virtually worship and join with others to praise the Lord. The Luzhou choir family, of which I am a part, is anxious to begin rehearsals and once again sing together in the 1913 sanctuary. In our choir WeChat group (comparable to Facebook), we are given suggestions on how to keep our voices in shape at home. I also post the daily English prayer for those in our group who want to challenge their language abilities. Despite being apart, we can still connect in this special way and it is a true godsend.
Connecting with Me
As I wait to return to China, here are a few ways you might consider connecting with me.
1). Email, post or call: Send me a note! firstname.lastname@example.org; Connie Wieck, 503 North Michigan Marshall, IL. 62441. Tel: 271-826-5161
2) Website: connieinchina.org will inform you of my activities.
3). Newsletter: If you are not on my newsletter list, contact me and I will add you.
4). Facebook: I have started actively engaging my Facebook page, Connie Wieck.
5). See my morning worship service on June 14! I will be doing an online service at my home church. It will be posted on Facebook, Marshall Illinois First United Methodist Church.
5). Zoom Meetings: If you are interested in setting up a Zoom meeting and inviting me to attend, please let me know.
6) Upcoming Webinar: June 18, 9 a.m. EDT (That’s 8 a.m. for Illinois folk!) Our Methodist Atlanta Ministries staff have set up webinars (Zoom meetings). During that time, I will share briefly about my work in China, update everyone about the China situation and hopefully have time for a few questions. How can you sign up for this? You must register and choose me as your meeting room speaker.
To register right now, go to: https://gbgm.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAsc-2pqTwpHdES6NV88XqdGZg081GJTycH
Please share with friends, congregation members and others in your area. If you have an difficulties, please email (email@example.com.) or call (217-826-5161). I will help you!
I continue to help my mom with her move to a new house, keep in touch with my Chinese friends, students, school and church, and make sure I stay connected with all of you who have been following me (recently or for many years).
I leave you with my English prayer for today, posted for my Chinese Christian family in Luzhou:
Today’s Prayer: Dear Lord, Speak to me and I will listen. Lead me and I will follow. Urge me and I will take action. Your guiding hand strengthens me and makes me whole. In your name I pray, Amen.