As some of you may know (or may not know), I have spent 29 years as an English teacher overseas, with a majority of that time spent in China with the Amity Foundation. A brief visit home in Jan. 2020 to help my mom move ended in a matter of weeks when Covid struck. China closed its borders to incoming foreigners as they worked diligently to control the virus outbreak which originated in Wuhan. The Chinese government was in no hurry to allow foreigners stuck overseas back again for fear that the virus would come with them, which it did on numerous occasions.
At present, there are limited numbers of foreigners allowed into the country (selected businessmen/women , diplomats, foreign nationals) but as of yet, foreign language teachers such as myself and overseas students studying in China are still not being given visas.
My Stateside Position
After 6 months of waiting, my sending agency (United Methodist Global Ministries), which partners with China’s Amity Foundation to send teachers through its program, followed procedures to re-evaluate my service. It was decided for me to continue in America as a Mission Advocate for my jurisdiction (that’s the Midwest area) until China’s bans lifted. From my home, I have been keeping busy within Global Ministries’ assigned obligations. Due to Global Ministries’ Covid policies, staff members and those such as myself are not allowed to travel. That policy is slowly lifting, which means those in the Atlanta office might return by August. I, however, will remain in Illinois and not be joining them. This makes sense since I can stay with my mom for free and not cost the United Methodists any extra money with apartment rentals or flights to Georgia. And since my current job description is not a permanent one, but contingent on a China return, best to stay in Illinois.
Staying in Touch with China
Aside from my Stateside duties, I’ve been in constant contact with my students, my colleagues, my friends and my Chinese church community in Luzhou. I do this through my cell phone, using WeChat, which is China’s equivalent of America’s Facebook or Whats App. On a daily basis, we connect with one another. It might be me asking “Bruce” Li, the teacher who lives on the 4th floor, to check my apartment from time to time or pay my bills using my Chinese bank card which I wisely left in China.
His most recent payment was for my Chinese cell phone account so my phone number will stay activated for use as soon as I land in China. I have already been told by Chinese government websites that I must have a working phone before I am allowed to step off the airplane and into the airport. While waiting to disembark, passengers are to be patient while in downloading the official health App onto our phones, completing numerous documents, uploading required documents: our in-America Covid tests, our in-China Covid tests, quarantine hotel payments, addresses of residence, responsible Chinese employers and contact people, etc. I heard the wait off the plane is between 5-6 hours, which gives us plenty of time to get all those requirements filled out.
I have no idea what happens to people who don’t have a Chinese telephone number to replace their their USA number. Will we be sent back to America? Will someone onboard sell us a Chinese phone plan so we can be contacted within the country ? I don’t want to find out so Bruce has paid my 500 yuan (about $79) to hold my number for me for a full year.
In other words, I’m good to go!
Connecting with my School and Chinese Church
From my college, anything that is asked of me, I assist with. It might be checking English translations to be used for the school’s website, helping with English speech contests, posting personal videos for classroom use by those teachers taking over my classes, or recording the daily English prayer for my church choir members.
I also make sure the English Center remains clean and open during the week. This task has been given to the student’s English Association (English Club) President, a student elected by her peers to lead English activities on our campus. Her name is Wang Wenji and she’s been making sure things run smoothly on her end. I’m usually the one to instigate our campus English programs and work with the president and the members during the school year. The English Center is a part of that. Wenji has done her best to keep the Center open but I fear due to the students being very busy, this might not have happened on as regular a basis as it would under my guidance.
A June 4 Covid-19 Information Release
Naturally, I have my Chinese websites I check on a daily basis, one in particular that seems to be more trustworthy than others. It’s a challenge as government regulations change on a constant basis as the virus continues it’s varied trek across the world. One week, all is well in one country and victory proclaimed; next week that same country is in dire straights and fighting to survive (Look at India!)
America, at the moment, seems to be doing well and this also fares well for me.
Here is the latest, posted today, which gives me a very good feeling:
Guangdong Partial Restrictions and PU Letter Issuance 4 June 2021
Guangdong Province, FYI, is located next to Hong Kong. My province in Sichuan, in Southwest China. See below map.
Various districts and neighbourhoods throughout some cities in Guangdong (predominantly Foshan and Guangzhou) are taking action following a small outbreak of COVID19. Movement restrictions have been put in place with several domestic and international flights cancelled or re-routed from Guangzhou Airport.”
“Several Opportunity China partner schools, in certain select cities, are now able to issue PU letters for teachers from native speaking countries (with the exception of South Africa). There is an expectation that these letters will continue to be issued over the next 3 months provided no major outbreaks occur in the relevant countries. “
Things Looking Up
From the above, you can see there is optimism!
Yes, it’s been nice learning new tech skills, connecting with USA church conferences and congregation members, helping my mom with her house move and setting up her new home, but it’s time. China is calling, and after such a long time, it does seem promising and possible that I’ll be able to return just in time for the new semester, either starting in September or October.
From Marshall, here’s wishing you Ping An (peace) for your weekend.