Stanley’s Trip to the Countryside (Cont.)



I (Stanley) visit the Chen family in the countryside.  Here I am with Zhu Li (Julie) Chen and her friends in her mom’s bedroom.



Please read the previous entry for explanation of Flat Stanley.  Here he continues his adventures in China, with a visit to the countryside. Stanley learns that  most city people have money but countryside folk do not.  There is a huge difference between the very well-educated who live in Luzhou and the Chinese farmers who live in countryside areas nearby.  It’s a hard life for them.

I (Stanley) Visit the Countryside

Connie took me to the countryside for a day visit to Mrs. Chen’s home.  It took us 2 hours to get to her house:  two bus-rides to a town called Tong Tan (40 minutes), 30 minutes’ walking through the town to the river, 30 minutes to wait for a ferry to take us across the river and then 15 minutes walking along trails to Chen’s home.

Mrs. Chen and her husband are farmers.   Farmers in China are very different than farmers in America.  They grow all their own food to live on, not so much to sell, so they don’t have a lot of money to live on.  They have no farm equipment.  They do everything by hand.

 Because they don’t have jobs to earn money, Mrs. Chen’s husband doesn’t live at home.  He finds construction jobs building buildings in different parts of the country so he can earn money for his wife and daughter. 

Their daughter (Zhu li, or we can say Julie) is 12 and goes to a good city school in Luzhou (loo-joe). Luzhou is where Connie lives.   Because Julie  lives too far away to come and go to school every day, she lives at the school in the school dormitories.  She goes home every month for 3 days to visit her mom.  School in China is free but not for living there.  It costs $1,200 a year for  Julie to attend the school.  That pays for her dormitory, her food costs, her books and other extras. 

This is why Julie’s dad leaves home to find construction work.  He can earn $20 a day if he builds buildings.  On his farm, he earns nothing.  He only comes home for Chinese New Year, in the winter, for about 2 weeks.  After that, he returns to other places to build buildings.  Building buildings is not steady work.  Sometimes, it takes him a few weeks to find a job.  He is 62 years old and no one wants to hire older people to work construction.  Many companies only want people under 50.  This makes it really hard for him to earn a living but he keeps trying. 

This is common for many farmers in China.  The men go to work construction in big cities and the women stay at home to do all the farming.

It is a hard life but both  want their daughter to have a good education.   Mrs. Chen and her husband didn’t finish junior high school.  They can’t read or write very well.  They grew up on a farm and had to stay home to help their parents with the farm work.  They know education is very, very important. 

Like all Chinese farmers, they want a better life for their children so  they are working hard to send Julie to school.

Their dream is for her to go to college and graduate with a profession to do. No one in the family has ever gone to college.  Then she can have a steady job in the city and live a better life than her mom and dad.  She can also take care of her mom and dad because she will have enough money to do that. 

Most Chinese children who grow up thank their parents in this way.  They take good care of their mom and dad for all their lives.  Julie will do this, too, when she grows up.

Mrs. Chen’s Life

Mrs. Chen fixed us lunch when we arrived. She used a wood-burning oven to cook with.  Most Chinese farmers use wood they collect every day to make fires so they can do their stir-fries.

We had stir-fried vegetables from her vegetable plots.  We had duck, too.    Mrs. Chen has a lot of ducks and chickens.  These are for eating, not for selling. 

Mrs. Chen also served us her homegrown rice.  Farmers harvest rice once a year and have to harvest enough to eat on for the entire year.  If they don’t harvest enough, they have to buy the rice from stores.  That’s too expensive. 

They also grow rapeseed.  Rapeseed is used to make vegetable oil to cook with.  It is also harvested once a year, which is in May.  The plants have tiny, tiny seeds.  These are beaten out of the plants with special bamboo tools and the seeds are put into bags.  Farmers have their own hand-cranked machines to squeeze the seeds into oil and put into plastic bottles. This is the oil they use for the entire year to cook with.

While we visited, Mrs. Chen was beating the rapeseed plants so the seed pods would open and she could collect the seeds.  She was doing this all by herself because her husband was not there.  It was really hot outside and the sun was strong but she didn’t stop for a long time.  I tried to help her but she just laughed at me.  I couldn’t do it very well.  And I got tired in a hurry. 

I would make a really bad Chinese farmer if I lived with her.

Five days a week, Mrs. Chen goes into the city to sell her vegetables so she can have a little money to give to her daughter.  It takes her 2 hours to get to the city, placing all her vegetables in a basket which she carries on her back.  It’s a very heavy basket.  She has to walk an hour to get to the bus stop.  Because of this, her back hurts a lot, she said.

In the city outdoor market, she sits with other farmers and sells her vegetables to the city people.  She can make $5.00 a day doing this but it costs $2 for her to take the bus and ferry to and from the city.  So really, she only makes $3 a day for all her efforts.  She can give this to her daughter for spending money or  buy  some clothes for her to wear at school.

On Our Visit

On our visit, Julie was home for the weekend.  She and her friends were watching TV in the new part of their home.  4 years ago, the Chens borrowed money to build a concrete house.  Before, they lived in a sod (dirt) house for 22 years.  There were very few windows  and it was pretty awful inside.  The sod house is now used for farm storage and they live in the concrete house.   The conditions are so much better than before.  I was happy to see the family could enjoy a better home life than before.

We Walked the Trails

After lunch, Mrs. Chen went back to farm work.  Connie and I walked the trails and visited other farmers who were out in their fields.  We were led on the trails by Mrs. Chen’s dog, SP (Stairwell Puppy).  SP used to live on Connie’s school campus and was abandoned in a stairwell.  No one wanted SP because she was a big dog.  Most Chinese are afraid of big dogs so Connie sent her to live with Mrs. Chen and her family.  SP now is free to roam everywhere by herself.  She protects Mrs. Chen and barks if strangers come to the house.  She is always happy to see Connie and enjoys following her around.

Little Sister, the Chihuahua, also comes for visits to Mrs. Chen’s home. On our visit, the farmers had never seen such a little dog before.  They only know about big farm dogs, not little dogs like Chihuahuas.

“Is that a cat?” one farmer asked. 

“No,” Connie said in Chinese. “That is a dog.”

He was amazed that a dog could be so small.

“It’s really cute,” the farmer said, smiling. 

All the other farmers agreed.  Sister wagged her tail, then gave a bark.  She was proving she was a dog, not a cat.

Leaving Mrs. Chen’s Home

We left at 5 p.m. because the ferry stops running at 6 p.m.  It comes every 30 minutes so the last ferry across the river leaves at 5:30.  If we miss the last ferry, we can’t get across the river to return to Luzhou.

Mrs. Chen gave us lots of vegetables as a gift before we left.  We had cabbage, potatoes, and green leafy things to stirfry.  Julie and her friends came to wave us off as we stepped onto the ferry.

It was a really nice day.  I was happy to visit and learn about life for farmers in China.  It is so different than in America.  Maybe farmers in America used to work like that 100 years ago but not today.  It’s really a hard life, I think. 

Closing Off My Visit

Thanks for sending me, Marlee!  I had a lot of fun with Connie but I was ready to return to America.  Where will you send me next?







Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories, Tales from The Yangtze River, Tales of China, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Flat Stanley Comes for a Visit


Those of you who are teachers, or are young enough to remember participating in this geography lesson, will know the familiar name of Flat Stanley.

This is an elementary school project that has been floating around for awhile.  The project’s name comes from the character of the children’s book Flat Stanley.  This book was written in 1964 by American author, Jeff Brown  The book centers around the life of character Stanley Lambchop, a boy who is accidentally flattened.  In the book, Stanley gets squashed flat by a falling bulletin board. His parents roll him up, put him in an envelope and mail him to his friend in California.

The Flat Stanley Project is an educational project that was started in 1995 by Dale Hubert, a third grade schoolteacher  in London, Ontario, Canada. The project features paper cut-outs based on the title character of Brown’s 1964 Flat Stanley children’s book

Hubert designed the original unit to facilitate the improvement of the reading and writing skills of his elementary students while also promoting an interest in learning about different people and places.

Students involved in The Flat Stanley Project are read the story of Flat Stanley and afterwards given black-and-white cut-outs of him for them to color.

The students send their  Flat Stanley character to a family member or someone living outside of the child’s town.  The recipient, after being contacted for permission,  take him about on daily routine outings:  to the gym, to the store, to work, to the park and so on.

After a week or two, Stanley’s newfound friend writes about his visit and/or takes pictures of him wandering about.  Stanley returns to the classroom via mail or being handed over to the child where he is posted in the room along with the stories of his visit.

Years ago, I had a young person send me a Flat Stanley in China during my first years in this country.    No computers, no cell phones, no readily-available fax machines and only one phone on the entire campus  that connected overseas.  Flat Stanley came as all communication from America came:  via snail-mail (the post office).  It took about 3 weeks for him to arrive, hang out for a week and then another month for him to return.  I later heard he came in the summer, when school had finished already and the child had moved on to the next grade.

Oh, well!

Today’s Overseas’ Stanleys

20 years later, a new world has emerged full of technology.  This includes China, where literally everyone (including the elderly) has the latest updated cell phone with a majority of people having computers.  Scanning, copying, photographing, texting, emailing all take place in an instant.

21st Century Stanleys visiting overseas no longer have to suffer through the agony of weeks crumpled and folded up in an envelope, then spend weeks coming back.  There was  also the possibility of being accidentally lost in the US or Chinese postal system, a fate no one would wish on anyone.

Stanleys today go the modern route: electronically.

Marlee Heighton’s Stanley

 A few weeks ago, from my hometown (Marshall, IL), I received an email from Dad Garry Heighton, whose mother (Karen) is a long-time friend of my mom.  Garry’s daughter, Marlee, was doing a Flat Stanley project in her classroom.  Would it be possible for me to help her out with Stanley coming to China?

Stanley was attached along with the explanation letter.  Electronically, he could be printed out and scanned for a return along with his stories.  Would I be willing to host Stanley?

Hey!  Why not?  Sounds like fun!

Stanley’s Visit

For about 2 weeks now, Stanley has accompanied me through my daily routines.  He’s gone to the fitness center, walked along the Yangtze, visited farmers in the countryside, come to my English classes to meet my students, walked the campus and numerous other activities.

His date of China departure was marked May 8 but we had to delay that a bit due to Internet difficulties. I apologize to Marlee, who has been waiting eagerly for his pictures and reports to share with her classmates, but here it is.

Enjoy the slideshow!  Better let him rest up a bit.  He had a really busy 2 weeks.

And Stanley, and I, send you a Ping An (Peace) for your day.

I (Stanley) Come to China to Visit Connie

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 Connie’s Home at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College

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My First Day with Connie

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A Trip to the Countryside (To Be Continued)

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Tales of China, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time for an Update!

Time for catching up

The last entry left you all hanging concerning the return to China after the Chinese New Year holidays.

How is the English Center coming along?  How has the new semester been going?  What worthwhile events have taken place?

As always, time gets away from me.  I’ll lead this new entry with the English Resource Center

The English Resource Center Still Not Developed

In February, Jackie and I landed  back at school with great intentions of getting our English Resource Center (which is also our office space) cleaned and furnished.   I had the funds; we both had the drive.  Time to go shopping!

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But then the English office teachers Mr. Yang and Mr. Huang threw a surprise at us:  The school will provide everything for the Resource room which also combines as our office.  Whatever we need, make a list and after approval, it’ll be ours.

Wow!  Such generosity!  What a wonderful gift!

Yang, Huang, Jackie and I sat down together to go over the list.  Mr. Huang had been so enthused that he drew 3 diagrams to show where all the furnishings would go.  Yang pulled us into our sad-looking, dirty office space to discuss  things we wanted and where they’d go.  The two young men even pulled out a tape measure and began eagerly measuring the room.

“List as many things as possible,” Huang suggested.  “Maybe not all will be allowed but the more, the better.  And you must give the measurements.  We must provide the list, all with details, to the correct office.  If it is accepted, then the school officials will buy what you want.”

“Well, can’t we go to buy the things with the person in charge?” I asked.  “That way, we can get exactly what we need.”

Yang and Huang paused, thinking and finally frowning.

“No, that is impossible.  The school will buy,” Huang said solemnly.  “It is the way we do things. It is best if you take pictures of what you want, give exact measurements,  send to Yang and he will send to the person who will buy the things.  That is important.”

Not being able to shop for all we hoped for  was a bit disappointing but Jackie and I weren’t about to turn down free everything.  Obviously, the school felt this was important for the foreigners and the students so money was set aside just for this purpose.

Jackie and I  busily collected  photos and measurements of what we wanted, including several bookshelves, a huge flat-screen TV, stackable stools, desks, 2 couches, air-conditioning/heater unit, water dispenser and whatever else we could think of.

The outcome of this enthusiastic gung-ho excitement on our part?


All that frenzied fuss was 3 weeks ago. We haven’t heard a word since.

As always in China, requests sit on a desk for days, weeks, even months before (suddenly, miraculously), things get done.  We imagine a phone call coming out-of-the-blue to announce, “Connie!  Jackie!  The furnishings are here.  Please come to unlock your office door and the furniture company movers will come to put them into the office.  You can tell them where to place the things.”

Jackie and I will then be dashing to our office building, frantically trying to figure out where shelves, desks, TV, and everything else should go.  We have a rough idea but hard to place things until you actually see them and know how they’ll look in the room.

So that is where we are right now:  Waiting.

Probably More Waiting

I expect there will be even more waiting as we’re having a 3-day holiday at the moment, Qing Ming Jie (Tomb Sweeping Festival).  That ends on Tuesday with us starting up classes on Wednesday.

That’s not the end, either, of a hiatus in our teachign schedules.

Next week, we will be having the annual Sports Meeting from April 12 – 14.  This is a mini-campus Olympics with a grand showing of all students parading around the field for opening ceremonies.  These are complete with intricate dance routines and choreographed formations, plus many speeches by the school leaders.  After that, Thursday and Friday follow with numerous sports activities and races.  Track and Field, basketball matches, ping-pong and even silly exercise games for the teachers are in the line-up.  Not everyone participates as you have to sign up but almost everyone comes out to cheer on their favorites.  It’s quite a big deal and something every school in China does, from elementary to university.

No classes are held during this time but we as teachers are expected to make up the classes that are missed.  We just have to go over student schedules and fit them in whenever students, and we, are free. It’s rather a pain to do make-up classes for all holidays and school functions but that is the way things are done here in China.

We can moan and groan about it (which we all do) but nothing to be done so we endure.

Looking Forward to One Particular Make-up Class:  Easter Activity Night!

For myself, one particular make-up class I’m planning is actually not going to be such a painful experience .

My first years are doing our Easter lessons at the moment. Last week, we completed the religious part of this Christian celebration which leaves my Part 2 lesson for this one, the more enjoyable American traditions of Easter.

On Friday evening, for my make-up classes for both the Sports Meeting and Tomb Sweeping Festival, I am having a combined class for all  150 freshmen education majors that I have.  We will be doing the U.S. customs for  Easter, including egg coloring, the jelly bean contest (How many jelly beans in the bottle? The one who guesses the closest wins all!) and an Easter egg hunt of sorts in the classroom we’ll be using.

My plan is to place egg cut-outs under numerous seats.  After enjoying all the activities planned, students will be instructed to search the room for the cut-outs.  Only 1 cut-out per student.  One person can’t hoard or collect all of them because  that’s not fair.

The cut-outs they will give to me and in return, receive a chocolate, tin-foil wrapped ladybug (Couldn’t find the chocolate eggs here).  I bought three small containers of these in Chengdu at a speciality chocolate store.  They’ve been imported from Germany and are they good!

In total, there will be  30 cut-out eggs to find, which should be enough to keep the excitement of the search going for at least 5 minutes.

But the grand prize will be the gold egg paper cut-out.  That one is worth a 50 yuan ($8) note.

This grand prize is due to a tradition in my hometown for children.  We hold an Easter egg hunt, sponsored by the city, every year in the city park.  There are many eggs to be found but the gold egg is worth 50 dollars.

My students and I have already gone over this tradition in our lessons so students understand the concept of the egg hunt.  They just don’t know yet that they’ll actually be doing it, albeit in China and in a classroom.  Wait until they find out the gold egg is worth 50 yuan!  I can imagine all the shrieks of excitement and racing around the room as they look frantically for where that gold egg might be.

As I said before: Make-up classes are a real pain, and absolutely nothing we students or instructors ever look forward to in fitting into a busy weekly schedule.  But in this case, my Easter activity night will be one make-up class no one is ever going to  regret attending.

Until next entry, Ping An (Peace), along with many, many Easter blessings sent your way.

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The English Language Resource Center: A Campus Project Finally Underway


Those of you on my newsletter list will most likely remember my Page 4 call-for-help on several items.  One of those was a photo of a sparsely-furnished room, with the caption “Help fill our new English Language Resource Center.  Email for details.”

So let me go ahead here, now that I have a little time in the Detroit airport before heading onto the flight to China.

Many Years Waiting

The English Language Resource Center has been my dream for 15 years, ever since moving to Luzhou (loo-joe) Vocational and Technical College to teach in 2002.  Our old campus had no rooms available for such things but with the move to a new campus last September, a large room was allotted to the foreign teachers to use as they wished. 

In my previous school in Guangxi, we had such a center which had been started by the VSO, Volunteer Service Organization. The volunteers who arrived with VSO are Canadians, Australians and Brits.  This is a government-run organization of the countries mentioned above.  In  America, we have the Peace Corp Volunteers.  Both groups do the same sort of thing, being sent to smaller schools in China to teach at the college level and raise the standards of education among the students they teach.

The English Center we had in my small town of Longzhou (lohng-jo) was a lovely set-up.  It was in one room, on the 7th floor of the main classroom building, and overlooked the mountains of the town.  The VSO teachers had equipped it with English books, DVDs, a TV set and DVD player, magazines and other items.  They created an English Center club of students who were in charge of the center, open every day from 4 – 6 p.m.  The students cleaned the room, made sure materials were returned after check-out, monitored those who came for visits, held special activities to promote the Center and hung out there with others to practice speaking English.

I added to this center during the 3 years I was there by asking for donations of games or money to buy what was needed.  Scrabble, Boggle, Monopoly, Uno, Magic 8 Ball and other fun items were carefully placed on the shelves for student use.  The biggest hit was the Magic 8 Ball (ask a “yes/no” question, shake it and receive an answer) and Uno.

This room also was the one where I met with students who wanted extra work for upcoming tests, to get to know me better in an informal situation or had questions about their language study. What a great use of my time!  And so convenient.

Plans for My College’s English Language Resource Center

For the 2016 Fall semester, Jackie Zubin (the Peace Corp volunteer) and I were too busy with the campus move to concentrate on organizing and filling the room which was allotted to us.  Actually, room we were given was designated as our office, not really a resource center, but we were told we could decorate and do whatever we wanted with our space so we decided the Center would be a great idea.  Another reason we put this on hold was due to money.  Funds were needed which we didn’t have. 

But here the Spring Semester has arrived, we’ve already settled in, and we are ready to get this project off the ground.  Not only do we have the time and energy, but funding as well.  While in America, I received several birthday monetary gifts and special “use-as-you-need” checks from many  United Methodist Women units and United Methodist churches who receive my newsletter.  These donations have certainly added up.  Now it’s time to put them to use to create a wonderful space for students and English language faculty alike. 

What’s the Set-up?


Lots of space needing to be filled.


Lots of supplies and equipment needed. We’ll soon be filling our Center with lots of goodies!

Jackie and I discussed last semester the room’s equipment inclusion and organization.  Via email, we are planning to devote all of March to getting this thing off the ground.  We’ll have volunteer students from the English Association to give input and suggest decore, plus sign up to run and monitor the room with our help. At present, we’d like to begin by purchasing two couches, 30 stackable stools, 3 more book cases (we have 4 at present), 5 foldable tables, 2 stow-away cots (for teachers living off-campus to have siesta time during our  daily 2 ½ hour lunch breaks), cleaning supplies for upkeep and decorative wall hangings to make the room look inviting.  At some point, we are hoping the school will pitch in and purchase a flatscreen TV for movie-watching.  We’ve been promised 2 new computers as well but that might take awhile. 

This special addition to the campus will bring great joy to all who use it and become the perfect place for everyone to enjoy in an atmosphere of learning, relaxation and fun.  I can’t wait to share the pictures of our new Center with those of you who follow my blog. 

Thank you so much for your interest in my website and also to those who sent monetary gifts my way in the month of January.  Email at any time! (

Blessings and Ping Ahn (Peace)!


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Heading back to China!

My Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) vacation in the States is nearing to an end.

I will be flying out tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 7) from Indianapolis to Detroit to Beijing to Chengdu.  In Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, I will stay a few days before heading back to Luzhou, 3 1/2 hours away, on Saturday the 11th.  Saturday officially marks the end of Chinese Spring Festival with the Lantern Festival.   I can imagine dragging my luggage along  with thousands of our students who will likewise be returning to school after a restful holiday.

Classes begin on Monday, the 13th, and will continue until June 3rd, the end of our Spring semester.

Last Day in Marshall


My mom, walking Lao-lao uptown to cast our penny ballots for the Best Pet Contest.

My last day in Marshall had my mom and me walking Lao-lao uptown in our mild-weathered 50-degrees to alight in the newspaper office.


My mom and I get ready to give our votes to Lao-lao with my bag of change.

I had with me a bag of pennies and small change which I planned to place in Lao-lao’s coffee can for the Best Pet Contest.


The coffee cans of pets entered in the contest await filling.


Here’s Lao-lao’s can, sandwiched between a ferret and a dachshound.

My mom felt that filling Lao-lao’s can with change was cheating.


My mom has reservations about us voting for Lao-lao.

“Shouldn’t we vote for someone else’s dog?” she said with embarrassment as I gleefully encouraged her to dump my coin bag into his can.

Well, he’s our dog!  Why can’t we vote for him?  It’s not like he gets the money.  All voting funds go to our local animal rescue group.  That’s the most important thing, in my opinion.

In other words, no shame here for filling his can with votes.  He’s rescue, too, after all.  And an immigrant to boot.   He should help raise money for his American brothers and sisters still looking and hoping for a forever home.  He found his happy home with us.  Now we can help others find theirs.

And I wasn’t the only one voting for Lao-lao, I will tell you.

While standing in line at the Marshall Post Office, I was waiting to mail a big box to China when someone noticed the heavy bag of coins I was clutching.

“What have you done?  Emptied the bank?” the woman behind me joked.

“Oh, you know that pet contest that the newspaper is holding?” I explained. “One penny per vote. I entered my rescue dog from China who is living here in Marshall. After I’m done here, I’m walking over to put all this into the voting jars.  All the money goes to Rescue Me Clifford, our local rescue group.”

The woman nodded.

“Oh, yeah!” the man behind her piped up. “I saw those in the paper.  Real cute.  Which dog is yours?”

“He’s a Chihuahua, Little Old.    Chinese name is Lao-lao,” I continued. “I figured since he’s an immigrant and a rescue himself, he should help raise money for our community’s American strays, abandoned or lost critters.  That’s why I entered him.”

Several affirmative murmurs followed that remark.

Finally, my turn at the counter was up.  It took awhile for my box to be processed because a lot  of computer entry is necessary  for international mailing but eventually, I was able to go.

As I turned to head out the door, those I passed stopped me.

“Hey! Put this in your voting jar,” three in the line said while digging into pockets and throwing  their loose change in with mine.  “Good luck!”

How nice!  I’ll take as many pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters as I can get.

Like I said, no shame here in voting for my dog, Lao-lao.  He’s well worth it.

Here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.  Next entry,  from Luzhou in China!





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Luzhou Vocational and Technical College Celebrates 115 years

As mentioned before, my busy semester had me scrambling away with hardly enough time to get to bed before 11 p.m.  Very little space in my day was available for website updating so let me remedy that a bit with this news concerning closing off 2016.

The School’s New Year’s/Anniversary Gala

2016 marked the year when Luzhou Vocational and Technical College celebrated 115 years since its founding in 1901.  This was a huge deal, especially since we had just moved to a new campus, and the administration wanted a celebration to mark this milestone.

It was decided that a grand 2-hour performance celebration would take place in the new auditorium (seating 1,000) on Dec. 30, 7 p.m., before the new year was upon us.  For 3 months, students and faculty prepared for this grand affair, and what a show! Over 100 teachers volunteered for the big choir number for our opening.  This was directed by one of the music teachers.  Students prepared traditional dance numbers.  We had poetry reading with a power-point slideshow in the background of historical pictures and current ones of the new campus.  The art department’s teachers gave us a lot of laughs with  a humorous skit.  The retired teachers (all women, ages 55 – 75) added their talents with an intriguing, cute, and quite difficult, choreographed dance routine.  The finale included everyone lining the auditorium aisles, singing with gusto as our operatic teachers from the music department belted out a patriotic number from the stage.

Quite a memorable performance!

Here are a few photos of the evening.  Certainly puts to shame anything a US college would have put together, that’s for sure.  Seeing such school pride displayed by students, faculty and administrators alike was truly inspiring.  Looking at the pictures below, I think you’ll agree.

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In a country where immigrants are at risk, our Chinese immigrant (小老老, Little Old-old) Thrives

In America’s current climate where immigrants are at risk, my family’s diminuative Chinese immigrant might very well come out on top.

Every year, my local hometown paper in Marshall, Ilinois, has a seasonal contest (usually in the winter) in which residents vote for a winner by placing pennies into a contestant’s container.  The container with the most money is the winner, with prizes being donated by various Marshall businesses and the penny donations going to a local charity.

For several years, the contest has been limited to only men with The Best Beard Contest.

During the opening day of the contest, photos of our community’s hefty guys with well-endowed, tidy, full beards filled The Marshall Advocate’s pages for the opening day.  After that, citizens were invited to stop into the newspaper office to vote.  Large plastic pickle jars, with each contestant’s name and picture posted on each one, lined the Advocate’s front desk.  Residents were then encouraged to drop by and toss in their pennies (as many as desired) to select who they felt should win the grand prize.  This usually went on the entire month of February, after which tallies were totaled, the top 3 place winners announced, prizes given and proceeds sent to the chosen charity,

This year, the paper’s editor and staff took a different path.  Instead of a contest of beards, we have a contest of furry, feathery or scaly critters.  Yes, it’s the Best Pet Ever Contest!

From January 16 to 31, entries have been flooding the newspaper, including the one I sent for Lao-lao.  Requirements included a photo and 50 words (max) telling people what’s special about our little guy.  Hard to limit his unique, and ornery, personality to 50 words but my mom and I came up with what we hope is a good summing-up of his most desirable characteristics.

The penny voting jars will be open from Feb. 3 – 24, with winners announced in the February 28th edition of The Marshall Advocate. This can be viewed online at, for anyone interested.

I must say the prizes are pretty desirable.  The winner will receive $675 worth of pet merchandise, gift baskets and gift certificates from local restaurants, flower shops and even the veterinarian clinic.  Second place receives $50 cash and 3rd place receives $25.

But the most rewarding prize of all will be the donations in the jars, sent to our local animal rescue group, Rescue Me Clifford.

My mom and I are hoping that our Lao-lao will pull ahead of the pack in pennies because of his town celebrity stardom.  He’s been featured in the newspaper several times for his immigrant story, that of surviving the Sichuan 2008 earthquake and his remarkable journey to America after I scooped him up off the streets of China, broken jaw and all.  He also has his own children’s book in our public library, a book which I have as yet to find a publisher for.

And if he doesn’t win?  Not a top priority on our list.  It’s really  just the fun and joy of entering.  My mom and I hope that Lao-lao’s jar will fill up with enough monetary donations that the group receiving the funds, Rescue Me Clifford, will greatly benefit.  Being a rescue himself, it’s only fitting that our little Chi should give back to his American brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom here.  He’s very proud to be a part of our USA small town and wants to help in every way possible.

Wish him luck!  And Ping An (Peace) in his happy home life.

Our Entry


What’s Special about Lao-lao in 50 words or less?

Law-abiding (legal immigrant, from China), low-maintenance (sleeps 24/7 with minimal breaks for food and walks), quiet (one bark per year), safety-approved (no biting capability due to limited teeth), self-cleaning (grooms daily), economical (licks plates clean), abstains from promiscuous behavior (neutered), compact (fits easily in a totebag), crowd-pleaser (just darn cute!)

小老老  Xiao Lao-lao (Little Old-old)




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