Yes, the Year of the Rabbit is nearly upon us!
Today, January 21 (Saturday), is Spring Festival Eve (Chinese New Year Eve), celebrated by Chinese all around the world, with January 22nd beginning the Year of the Rabbit.
At present, it’s just after midnight in China, a time when everyone stays up late to watch TV gala performances of celebrities and well-known talk show hosts usher in the new year. In other words, people are up and diligently engaged in celebrating.
My former students, friends and Chinese church choir members are rapidly exploding my WeChat text messages with greetings.
兔年快乐！Happy Year of the Rabbit! 愿好运和好运伴随着你来年。May good luck and fortune be with you in the coming year. 新年快乐！Happy New Year!
I, in return, have already sent out my own greeting via video which my mom helped me prepare. I have numerous remarks already, of how great my mom looks (89) and how much I am missed. Here is our video below:
For a rescue from China, Bridget doesn’t seem all too enthusiastic about the upcoming holiday, which will last 15 days until the Lantern Festival ends the celebrations and all go back to work.
Updates about my Return
At present, my college will not be in session again until February 6 when students return to start up a new semester. At that time, my Chinese organization’s (The Amity Foundation) Education Division Director, “Olivia” Chen, will once again be discussing with college leaders when they can send my invitation letter to once again return to teach. This has been ongoing since November and I’m not sure why it is taking so long. I believe the college wants to re-negotiate the strict contract which all Amity teachers follow: 16 teaching hours a week, only English Education Majors (not business or tourism) and participation in the 3-self church if we wish.
A different China than when I left
During these past 3 years, China has greatly changed and become more inwardly focused. The English language, while a mandatory subject in elementary, junior and senior high school, is now not considered as vital as before. This means less students who will major in teaching English and more students going into the tourism and business fields.
While this has always been somewhat of a struggle between Amity’s criteria and colleges applying for an Amity teacher, the colleges mostly are happy to follow such guidelines because they will receive qualified, experienced teachers and our salary follows that of the Chinese teachers: We receive 4,200 yuan (roughly $700 US) a month whereas most native-speaking foreign teachers with NO experience or background in English education receive $2,000 – 4,000 a month, plus free housing and bonuses. These are from private children’s language schools who have very wealthy parents, not public government colleges which Amity only associates with. Of course, for that high amount, schools often take advantage and give teachers work schedules of teaching every day (6-7 days a week), 8 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m., evening hours being assigned for parents willing to pay that extra for private lessons. Children at such private institutions usually range in age from 2 years old (!!) to 12.
Personally speaking, I think we become more of a babysitter than a teacher under such circumstances but that’s my own opinion.
It really just depends on the contract and what was agreed upon how the school wishes to use the foreign teacher. Many times, though, the contract is not honored and the foreign teacher is stuck at the school. He or she can’t leave because the visa is tied to the school. Leaving one school and going to another requires a lot of paperwork, uprooting and new certifications or documents needed which the teacher has to pay for.
In Closing: Happy Year of the Rabbit!
Having said all of that, I am hoping that my college will agree to Amity’s mission, which is to educate the future teachers of China, and allow me to continue as their only foreign language teacher. If not, there are other schools in China which are wanting an Amity teacher and since I’m the LAST one left, I guess I’ll have my pick!
If you have time, folks, go to your local Chinese restaurant and wish those there a Happy New Year. They’ll be so pleased you remembered them on their special day.
From Illinois, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping-ahn, Peace) for your weekend.