I promised in the last post for more recent updates from my end. Here is the latest about what’s happening in my extended stay in America.
There have been so many ups and downs: moments of excitement, sadness, determination, apprehension, excitement, concern, reflection . . . . the list goes on. In this entry, I give you the highlights
Return to China . . . Still on hold
From the beginning of this wait, starting in February, I had great confidence of a return to China for at least the beginning of the college school year in September. I daily logged onto websites announcing openings of China to different countries as governments and experts tamed the virus in their regions, giving China the confidence needed to allow overseas’ visitors to return. The timeline is as follows:
April: New visas for students, teachers and company employees issued for those in South Korea.
May: “Fast Track” business lanes for business executives and special experts from Germany, Britain and Singapore opened up.
July: Educators teaching at International Schools allowed to return on their current visas (Unfortunately, I work for a Chinese college, not an international school, so I was not included in that category)
August: New and current visas for 36 European countries, including Britain, are being processed with a letter of invitation from educational institutions or companies.
September: Direct flights to and from Beijing are now being opened to 8 more countries.
That has been the last as of today, with more country bans lifted as the months progress.
Mandatory 2-week quarantines are still in place at designated hotels, with people being herded directly off the airplane into the facilities assigned. Costs fall on the individual, housing and food delivery. After those 14 days, three negative Covid-19 tests are required before any visitors to China are released into the public. After that, those taking on-going flights will require a person to quarantine another 2 weeks in their residences at their final destination.
All new virus cases have been from abroad, with no new reports of pop-up cases in the country itself being found. I am still crossing my fingers for my school to receive permission from local government authorities to send my invitation letter for the Spring semester. Much of this depends on how the virus continues to spread, both in America and around the world.
News from Luzhou Vocational and Technical College
My Chinese colleagues living on campus, and those traveling from their distant home towns after their summer holidays, were required to return 2 weeks early (by mid-August) and quarantine at home. On campus, meals were delivered 3 times a day to my apartment building and left outside people’s doors for pick-up. I received many messages from my colleagues saying how much they enjoyed having a rest in their homes for 2 weeks (although a bit bored) where they were able to sleep, watch TV, clean house and prepare remotely for the new school year to get their lesson plans in place and do numerous office duties (including virtual all-school staff meetings) from the comfort of their homes.
Then came the postings of students returning to the campus, by classes, with the seniors arriving first, then the sophomores and lastly, the freshmen. Everyone was required to quarantine in their dorms for 2 weeks, after a Covid test was administered with a negative result, but they could go to the cafeteria to eat. We have a holiday coming up, National Day from Oct. 1 – 7 (celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China) but students are not allowed to travel home. They must remain on the campus to make sure they don’t bring the virus back with them, although in China itself, Covid 19 is pretty much gone.
Even campus building projects are going strong.
The indoor pool is finally open!
Last October, after a hasty push to get it done for China’s 75 anniversary of the founding of the PRC, many structural issues kept it from opening: burst pipes (constant 4-foot water flooding in the electronic pump room), chlorination imbalances (water was over-chlorinated, under-chlorinated, or not chlorinated due to technical issues), qualified lifeguards and a knowledgable manager not yet hired and unfinished locker rooms with numerous installations needed.
Needless to say, those have all been solved and the pool is fully being utilized.
Next bit of news concerns the bridge linking the extended campus with the new dormitories, located across a busy main freeway, is to be opened late October. This will allow students trekking from farther away to be safe, rather than cross an expressway with heavy traffic that separates the two areas of the school.
The Luzhou Protestant Church: Now open for worship and activities
My Luzhou church family has already begun worship services, with the sanctuary full and the choir having practices twice a week, plus belting out anthems with no fear of virus spread. I continue to post the daily prayer and receive our scripture readings for the day as well as notices of church happenings.
All the choir members, and Pastor Liao, send me uplifting messages of hope: to take care of my mom, to stay healthy, that God is watching over me, that they look forward to my return, that I am prayed for, that all will be well and not to lose faith. Those little notes of encouragement mean the world to me. How very blessed I am to have such love and support coming my way all the way from China.
My Students: “Teacher, where are you?”
I have received countless text messages and voicemails from students and friends, asking me when I will return. Most do not know that I’ve been blocked from entry and am waiting for the Chinese government to change that stance.
On my WeChat blog moments (WeChat is similar to Facebook), I post several times a week about what I’m up to with pictures of me, my mom, my hometown, things I’ve been doing and my community’s news. Comments abound, with likes, sympathetic emojis or words of cheer or surprise.
In moments of frustration, my mom has to listen to me lament about all the events my students and I always organize for the Fall semester, not to take place this year: Mooncake giveaway for Mid-Autumn Festival, Halloween Activity Night, Christmas Activity Night, Thanksgiving Day lessons, my holiday open houses, the English speech and singing contest I judge with other Chinese teachers, end-of-the-year “thank-you”s to monitors and words of praise to my classes for their hard studies and participation . . . . the list goes on.
I read my WeChat posts from a year ago, go over pictures I took of all our fun times together and reflect upon the amount of work, effort and time that went into doing everything.
I remember exhausting days full of teaching, meeting with students, evening planning sessions in the English Center, rushing off to choir practice for Bible study, fellowship and song, not getting home to have dinner until close to 10 p.m., then finishing up last-minute emails and blog postings on this site or WeChat before an early morning rise the next day.
Wow! How did I do all that?!
And despite it all, there was the uplifting and excited feeling about the next day, plus looking forward to a Saturday of rest or dinner hosting in my home, not to mention a joyful Sunday worship with my choir family and Christian community.
It is hard to let go of those joys and know they will not take place this year.
My mom listens with patience and sympathy as I moan and groan about what I’m missing out on. As any good mom, after an adequate amount of silence, she responds.
“I have faith you will return to China. Don’t dwell upon the negative. There is always a reason for this hiatus. Think about all you have been able to do now which you never would have been able to do had you been in China.”
Her remarks always bring me back to the “count your blessings, one by one” of today. She’s so right!! See what all I’ve accomplished and am accomplishing, or adding to my new-found life here, during this special time I’m spending in America.
Blessings of Connecting: Zooming the day away
In China, I am somewhat isolated using the Net in that many sites are blocked to me. This includes Skype, Zoom and Lifestyle (the virtual meetings’ App’s), Facebook, Youtube and a few others. With WeChat as the main venue for communication in China, I had no trouble touching bases with everyone who lived there but in America, it was hotmail that put me in touch with all of you in the States.
Now, however, Zoom and Lifestyle have given me a whole new world and community of people to meet with: The UMC Atlanta office staff, my UMC colleagues both overseas and in the States, our UMW (United Methodist Women) and church groups, and my hometown church for Bible studies, church meetings and fellowship time. I’ve just finished 9 gatherings these past 2 weeks with more to come.
This has been truly a very special, rewarding part of my being here. It certainly would never have happened in China, with so many blocks to use such means of communication.
Educational Videos and Photo Ops
Creating 4-5 minutes videos for my students in China has been so much fun. Not only do I get to use my mom for some of these, but I have the ability to drive about town and choose whatever venue I want to record or photograph for future lessons.
No need to dig through archives of photos and clips and try to build around topics that don’t exactly fit the textbook chapter. It’s been so much fun to think of a theme or topic then actually go to the place itself to film or photograph: an American supermarket, swimming pool, tour around town, visit to a farm, my brother’s law office (he has his own firm in town), interviews, American hobbies, etc.
The more I do, the more I have for use.
Not only can I send to my college department or post on WeChat blog moments for others to see and use, but I am collecting for my return to my Luzhou classroom .
Despite having had frustrating moments of “Will I ever get back?!”, there honestly more of “What a great video addition to use next year for my lesson on XXX. I can’t wait!”
We Have Moved!
It only took months of packing, sorting, boxing up, trips to the Goodwill, many carloads to the new house, trips to the furniture stores, and then the movers finally arriving but we finally made it.
Into the new ..
Leaving behind the old …
A little nostalgic and sentimental? Just a tad but the new house is, folks, very, very, VERY nice. And even more important, I was able to do this move with my mom, not leave her the great burden and daunting task of doing it all on her own.
From Stateside, helping Chinese Rescues is still in the works
Despite being far from my Luzhou home, I have still been able to help out with a few animal rescues. These new connections I established because of Covid 19 and would not have joined such groups beforehand had I not been stranded in America. I recently posted this notice on a Facebook site for Beijing foreigners who have been updating me on China news since March. All use a VPN to be able to access Facebook and have been an excellent source of information concerning those of us stuck in the States during this time. I’m hoping something comes of the below, which I sent out a few days ago:
“Hi, Beijing folk!! While still waiting to return to China, I am in touch with an animal rescue business woman, Zhou Yan, in my city, Luzhou, Sichuan Province. She has saved several larger dogs, including this poor stray in the picture below. He would found emaciated, hairless, covered in scabs and cuts, and being attacked by attendants in a shopping mall the poor thing had wandered into. He was so gentle and frail. Zhou Yan guesses he is about 2 years old. After months of rehabilitation, and her own out-of-pocket money, he is ready for adoption. (Still needs neutering and vaccinations but she’s working on that.) The difference is incredible! See this gentle giant below in the video. If you know of anyone in Chengdu who would like to adopt this big boy, or even another of her larger or smaller animals, please let me know. Zhou Yan often brings sick dogs to Chengdu (4 hours away from Luzhou) for better veterinarian care. She would be happy to bring him for a meet-up and possible adoption. Email me and I will connect with her to connect with anyone willing to help. firstname.lastname@example.org”
I leave you here with my mom’s Fall display at her new home. May the cool, fresh autumnal breezes blow good wishes your way, and may abundant 平安 (ping ahn), Peace, fill your weeks as it continues to fill mine.