Finishing up my “To Do” list: A Historical Relic Homesick for Home

This afternoon, I headed off to Plainfield, Indiana (near the airport), for my hotel overnight before flying out from Indianapolis to begin my journey tomorrow, back to China.  My brother chauffeured me the 1 1/2 hours on I-70 to the hotel, after which I treated him to dinner.  Off he went, leaving me to have this evening free.

Getting Things Done

Sorry to say, my mom and I didn’t get the 500-piece puzzle finished we’d been working on.  I had to leave that for her to continue on her own.

But other things managed to get taken care of.

The “To-do” List

As you can imagine, these past few days I’ve been marking things off my “to do” list: setting up my mom’s new android phone, along with a tutorial on how to use it, changing all the burned-out lightbulbs in the upstairs’, high-ceilinged bedrooms (a hazzardous task as a bulky stepladder is needed), last-minute strolls through the Walmart to pick up soup mixes and gifts for my Chinese friends, stop-offs at my favorite Marshall homes to say goodbye, mailing a box of new clothes to myself and packing my suitcases.

One of these “to do” list scribbles involves something I’ve often thought about doing over the years and never got around to it.  It involves returning a unique item to a rightful owner. Read the story below

A Gift from My Grandmother’s Friend

Growing up, I had a passion for antiques.  My mom and I would spend weekends scouring local flea markets and antique shops, looking for something that caught our eyes.  My mom collected goblets and pretty plates; I was into antique clothing, hatpins and jewelry.

When I was around 17, my mom and I took a summer trip to see her mom, who lived in  Rockford, Illinois.  Connie Maris, my grandmother, invited us to give a singing program for her senior citizen’s group in the elderly high-rise building she’d advocated for as the city’s first female councilwoman.  She was a strong, representative voice for the elderly and was extremely involved in city politics at that time.

For our program, we needed an accomplished accompanist and that person was Esther.  Esther was my grandmother’s good friend who’d been in the USO during World War 2.  She’d traveled all over Europe, entertaining the troops during that time period, and had made many friends overseas who gave her presents to take back with her.

I remember going to Esther’s home to practice and while there, my grandmother mentioned my interest in antiques.  Esther, whose home was stuffed full of fascinating things, began rooting around in her piles and pulled out two objects to give to me.

The first was a black-and-white checkered headscarf her mother had worn over from Europe as an immigrant to America.  She told me that her mom wrapped this around her hair as she entered Ellis Island and viewed the Statue of Liberty from the deck of the ship that carried her overseas.

Such a precious treasure!  I felt so honored that Esther deemed me worth of appreciating such a gift, which I absolutely did.

The second item was quite unusual.  It was an old, dented pewter beer stein with an etched, yellow-tinted, sunburst glass bottom.  I’m not sure how Esther attained it, most likely on her USO journeys, but there it was being placed into my hands.

I was too enamored with the stein to pay too much attention to what was written on it.  I just grabbed it up in awe,  quite excited that she was presenting it to me.  I thanked her profusely, then off my mom and I went to meet up with her the next day for the program.

It wasn’t until the 7-hour drive downstate, back to my hometown of Marshall, that I truly inspected what Esther had bestowed upon me.

This wasn’t a mere drinking stein at all but an engraved trophy for the National Rifle Contest, held on July 1st, 1862, between two rival rifle clubs:   Middlesex and Lancashire.

Names of participants on both sides were listed, along with their scores, placement in the shootings and the tally for both clubs with Lancashire coming out as the winner by 8 points.

Sergeant Thornbury, Corporal Smart, Private Lathbury, Ensign Sprott, Captain Field….  All these names of long-ago riflemen who joined together in the British sport of shooting. It was fascinating!

Following Through

Over the years, my mom and I often thought of this stein and how we could contact someone for its return.  But without Internet some 35-years ago, we just placed it on a shelf and forgot about it.  During my visits back and forth from China, we’d often come across this antique and say, “You know, we should do some research on this!  Surely someone wants it back.”

And every visit to Marshall, I’d forget to put it on my “to do” list.  Thus such actions on our part to send it back home across the waters remained pending until my next visit, when I would once again wait until it was too late to follow through.

This has been going on for nearly 25 years, a ridiculous amount of time, especially in this day and age when the Internet is now at our fingertips.  We are able to look up anything and everything, connecting so easily with the world and having instant communication via emailing or even international calling on cell phones.

Remedying the Situation

This time, I made sure to put “Trophy Beer Stein” on my to-do list, including a little Internet digging.

I found the event itself recorded in London newspapers dating July 1st and 2nd, 1862, including descriptions of the weather conditions and the clubs participating.  I learned the National Rifle Association, founded in 1859, held the competition.

According to the organization’s history, a commentator wrote:  “These annual gatherings are attended by the élite of fashion, and always include a large number of ladies, who generally evince the greatest interest in the target practice of the various competitors.”

Armed with a little background, I found the website for the National Rifle Association of the UK and sent the following email:

Dear National Rifle Association of the UK:

My name is Connie Wieck, an American who currently teaches and works in China.

An elderly friend of mine, who was in Europe as a pianist with the USO during World War 2, acquired a trophy beer stein which she passed along to me.  This is an award presented to the winners of  the Middlesex vs Lancashire National Rifle Contest held on July 1st, 1862.  I did a little research and it seems this is, indeed, the original trophy from that era, the event having been described in several London newspapers during that time period.

I am enclosing a few pictures as visuals.

I truly believe this little fellow deserves to be in his UK home, among those who would appreciate, value and treasure his contribution to your association’s history.

If you would like this trophy returned, please email me and let me know.  I am very happy to send it your way.  Just give me instructions on who to address it to and where to send it.

Yours Sincerely,

Connie Wieck

Waiting for a Response

It’s only been 4 days but I do hope someone will take notice of the email and write back.  My mom and I are anxious to see if anyone claims it or wants it.  Such an item should receive a place of honor in a prestigious trophy case where it can be admired and prized for it’s historical significance.  At present, it is positioned in one of our upstairs’ bedrooms, gathering dust in a dark corner of on a bookshelf in our family library.

Not at all a very triumphant or worthy throne for such a magnificent artifact.

I’ll be sure to let you know if I get a response.  Until the next entry, most likely from China, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your week.

Posted in A Visit Home to America, From Along the Yangtze, Illinois, Return to China, Smalltown American Life, Travel, Visit To The States | 1 Comment

Luzhou Applies to be A National Civilized City (全国文明城市)  


Luzhou, a city of 5 million, sets sights on becoming a National Civilized City

       During the past few years, Luzhou has been working toward becoming a National Civilized City. This prestigious honor ranks a city as being economically, environmentally, politically and socially excellent.

The movement itself began in 2003, with  10 cities chosen to hold this title: Xiamen, Qingdao, Dalian, Ningbo, Shenzhen, Baotou, Zhongshan, Yantai, Langfang and Zhangjiagang. This formal recognition means that the named city or district can hold the title while continuing to ‘civilize’ itself over the following three- to four-year period, when they will be re-evaluated and can possibly lose their status if they do poorly.   

Cities wishing to win this name must apply to participate (not all cities want to bother) and pass 126 various assessments, including inspection visits by outside invigilators.

       What sort of criteria is needed?  Here are a few:  good sanitation, pollution control, pleasing appearance, friendly, helpful residents, and a strict following of national and city laws.  

About the Evaluation:  Strict and Serious!!

Civilized City contests take place every 3 years.  The Spiritual Civilization Commission sets standards and selection procedures for National Civilized Cities at all levels of government administration.

Evaluation of all city candidates is the responsibility of the City Investigation Team of the National Bureau of Statistics . Team members sign non-disclosure agreements and are assigned to cities where they have no conflicts of interest. Their task is to evaluate the goals and achievements of urban civilization policies. Evaluators learn of their assignments when they are en route to the airport. They then open a confidential envelope specifying their destination and field sites.

Like restaurant critics, they carry out their work incognito, posing as ordinary tourists.  They stay in three-star hotels and travel by taxi to observe conditions in major commercial streets and at traffic junctions, in hospitals and markets, as well as some fifty randomly selected sites. They try public telephones, and ride public buses to tabulate how many people do, and do not, give up their seats for the elderly, pregnant women, the disabled and children. All visits are unannounced, including neighbourhood visits during which they interview residents about their participation rates in local activities.

Luzhou:  Getting Ready for the Big Inspection

       Luzhou’s first inspection took place in April of 2018.  I have no idea about the secretive nature described above for that first assessment because it was far from secretive.  

The Luzhou government officials knew several weeks before the inspectors’ arrival and made sure we all knew as well.  The entire city went into overdrive beautifying public places by planting more trees, creating pristine mini-parks and cleaning up eye-sore neighborhoods.  TV channels and newspapers chastised citizens, car drivers and public government officials alike who didn’t follow proper procedures.

For example, pedestrians had to walk in crosswalks, not litter or spit  in public.  All citizens had to be openly kind and helpful to one another.  Drivers had to slow down considerably and taxies were not allowed to pick up numerous passengers to take to different destinations all at one time, then charge bargained amounts without paying attention to the meter.  (This has been a standard in the past 3 years, meaning the taxi drivers can make more money.). Slogans on billboards and fancy, colorful signs popped up at every corner, touting:  “Love your Country; Take Pride in Your City; Be Kind, Cultured and Civilized.”

Also a continuous reminder, via the media, was of China’s 12 Core Socialist Values, those designated by the Communist Party which all people were to know and earnestly follow: prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendship.

Flowery and grassy landscaping was added along the main highway in front of our school. Notice the large red characters, the 12 core values, ostentatiously posted to greet the inspectors if they happened by.

In fact, these values had to be quickly spouted out, without hesitation, if any inspector stopped a Luzhou citizen to ask what they were.   Points were deducted if someone faltered, or so we were told by media outlets.

A good week before the inspection, I remember the teachers, workers, students and administrators randomly stopping to test one another with: “Can you say the 12 core values?”.  While there were light-hearted giggles and laughs then this happened, I will say that everyone took this seriously and every single person I quizzed could, indeed, rattle of their core values at the drop of a hat.

Inspection Two:  A Visit to Our Campus

Luzhou Vocational and Technical College chosen as an inspection site

A second inspection took place city-wide last Dec. 21 – 27. This was to see what improvements the city had made from the first inspection, which listed problem areas.

This time around, not only did we know when the invigilators were coming but where they’d be.  Their visit impacted my college more than others in Luzhou because the school was scheduled as a definite inspection site.  

Our school campus gets ready for the big inspection

For a week, the college leaders, teachers and students prepared and practiced for this inspection in order to receive high marks, which would be added to the city’s evaluation score. 

Student dormitories and departmental offices were thoroughly cleaned and new rules instated about the condition of the dorm rooms.  Everything had to be tidy and put in its proper place.  No messy desks or unmade beds.

Students were also not allowed to hang up their wet clothing (undies, pants, socks, shirts, shoes), after being washed,  to dry on their dormitory balconies.  If they did so, they would be in deep trouble and subject to harsh chastising and reprimands by head teachers, checking their rooms before the real inspectors came.  With no driers available, this was somewhat of a sore spot among the students who always hung out their clothes to dry.  That’s the drying-clothes standard in China, for all of us, so not being able to do so (at least until after the inspection) created a lot of grumbling and mutterings.

The school dormitories were cleaned from top to bottom by students.

No students were allowed to lazily hang out in their dorms but had to be visibly seen studying diligently in classrooms or the library.  School grounds had to be impeccable. 

Before the clean-up crews got busy preparing the campus.

After the workers finished their clean-up.

Student representatives, in orange vests, lined the college sidewalks, walkways and roads to direct student traffic (no jay-walking) and catch litterers. 

Walkways were kept clean and all trash receptacles emptied for the upcoming inspection visits

Administrative paperwork for every department had to be readied for review and all school facilities had to be in proper working order.

         The day of the inspection had everyone on edge.  Even I was called to task for putting a desk into the hallway as a sign-up table for my conversation final exams.

        “Not allowed, Connie!” I was told by a panicked teacher.  “Please, move it immediately into the classroom.  The inspectors are on their way.”

         I did so in a hurry.  I certainly didn’t want to be responsible for our school receiving demerit points! 

The Results?

I heard that the second inspection was a great success throughout Luzhou and our college, although I still have no idea if the city gained the title or not.  I believe more evolution is still in the works.  

I will say that, while it was nice to see the city’s citizens come together in a common goal, it didn’t last for long.

As soon as the inspectors left, everything went back to normal, including jaywalking, littering, speeding, pushing and shoving while in lines and other undesirable qualities which everyone had kept in check until there was no need to do so. 

Several days after the inspection, all went back to the way it was before.

Overflowing garbage cans returned, with recyclables mixed in with non-recyclables, which was a huge “no-no” during the inspection.

I guess that’s what civilized people do when not watched: misbehave!  

Closing Off

Quite an interesting event, this National Civilized City movement.  It caused quite a stir in December and I’m sure the next inspection will be just as stressful.

Until next posting, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Tales from Sichuan's Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou, Travel | 2 Comments

Luzhou Protestant Church Christmas Worship Services



To finish off my Christmas celebrations, it’s only fitting to end with the Luzhou Protestant Church worship services.

This past year, the Everlasting Love adult choir, of which I am a member, was asked to participate in both the contemporary worship service (Dec. 23, 7 – 9:30 p.m.) and the traditional (Dec. 24, 7 – 10 p.m.).  The contemporary was more of a “guest appearance” with us singing just one piece rather than doing numerous numbers and hiding  in the back corridor, waiting for our turn.   I personally enjoyed the former much more because we could join in the congregation, singing and clapping along with everyone else, as you can see from the write-up.

December 23rd:  What a Service!


The contemporary worship was a new experience for me and I must say, I fell in love with it immediately.  The praise team, with electric guitar, keyboard and drum accompaniment, was full of energy like I’ve never seen before.  Wow!!  We were on our feet practically the entire time, not because we had to be but because we couldn’t keep still long enough to settle down quietly.

This service was full of dance, praise songs, skits, and a lively, vibrant congregation that clapped and waved away while loudly belting out all our praise team songs displayed on  the two power point screens above.

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The choir had only one anthem to sing, a baroque piece that our director picked out just for the service.  We sang it last year for the traditional Christmas Eve worship.  In my opinion, it was rather out-of-place with all the modern music and excitement that surrounded us but that was the director’s choice. Not sure the listeners were too taken by it but we were only one tiny piece of the service so not a big deal.

Pulling on Religious Heartstrings

What did impress the congregation members the most, and brought many to tears of agony, was the short religious play, inserted in the middle of the program.

This was story of a young Christian woman, driving with her non-Christian friend in her car. The friend shows her a text message, distracting the Christian driver,  and this causes them to have an accident. Both die.  The Christian goes to heaven and her friend goes to hell where the devil terrorizes her with brutality, chains and wicked laughter.  It is a heart-wrenching moment as the Christian reaches out to her friend but is unable to bring her to heaven as she is not a Christian.  To add even more to the tragedy, the Christian girl’s father, inconsolable because of his daughter’s death, is about to commit suicide by poison with the daughter (now an angel) looking on, sobbing uncontrollably and begging him to stop because she knows he is doomed to an eternity in hell.  He couldn’t hear her, of course, and despite her pleas, he dies in the end, sealing his fate.

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While the entire depiction of hell, as well as the storyline, does not exactly mesh with my personal Christian faith,  I will say the acting was excellent and the emotional tug quite strong.  In other words, I would say the “Be a Christian or go to hell” message probably hit home with most of those present, which I’m sure is  what the participants hoped for.

The Altar Call

For both services, an altar call at the end brought up first-time visitors to the church who were warmly embraced, prayed over and given Christian material plus church contact numbers for further follow-up.

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In the contemporary service, we had about 30 who came forward and in the traditional service, we had about 25.

Christmas Eve Worship 


Pastor Liao, during rehearsals, helps to decorate the church


As with most churches in the States, Christmas Eve is considered “the biggie.”

The choir and all participants had two 6-hour rehearsals beforehand, on two Saturdays before Christmas.  During those, Pastor Liao  made fully known her wishes for how the service should progress and instructed everyone on behavior, humble attitude, proper appearance and having a warm, inviting demeanor for newcomers.  She had plenty of input from her husband, Pastor Zhang, and our associate pastor, a young woman named Pastor Zhao, as well as our choir director, Zheng.


Director Zheng gives us instructions during our rehearsal time

With such preparation, we were all expecting everything to run like clockwork.

Well,  it did except for our dramatic processional when the sound system wouldn’t work.  The poor tech guys were trying desperately to get our opening music to play as we came in but failed.  Pastor Liao was frowning as she hustled back to us after having consulted with the guys and just said to start as it was 7 on the dot.

Our contemporary worship keyboardist, Mr. Zhang, stepped up to the plate and, by ear, chorded on the piano the music we were to come into, “Bless His Holy Name.” While not quite as impressive or musical as if we’d had the tape, it was still a worthy processional for Christmas.

As we say in church circles:  “The worship must go on!”

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Gift-Giving:  Both Service Worshipers Receive Presents 

Both services also had the church giving out gifts as people departed.

For the contemporary service, everyone upon leaving picked out a colorful winter scarf. There was a wide array of colors, sizes and materials to choose from.  Even the choir members were invited to take home a scarf.

The Custom of Giving Apples on Christmas Eve

For the traditional service, apples were handed out.  Why is that?


Though Christmas is not a public holiday in mainland China, it’s becoming increasingly popular among the country’s young people who are not Christians due to its Western holiday draw.  Sending apples as gifts, although a recent tradition, has become a unique addition to the festivities, and a great example of how the Chinese like to play with homophones (words that sound alike).

Christmas Eve is translated as 平安夜, (ping‘an ye) which means a safe and peaceful night. And the word for apple is very similar (苹果, píngguŏ), making it “the fruit of being safe” in Chinese. Hence the reason for sending apples as Christmas gifts.

The Chinese church has picked this up as well and it’s not at all unusual to see apples handed out after Christmas Eve services to congregation members as a way to send blessings to those who attend.

Ending my Reports on Christmas

That pretty much ends all my Christmas reports for 2018.  Hope it gave you all some insight into celebrations at the Luzhou Protestant Church.  It certainly was a blessed celebration and one I’m very grateful to have been a part of.





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Christmas Activity Night at My College

This gallery contains 31 photos.

Before adding the next posting, Christmas at the Luzhou Protestant Church, I’ll include a short mentionable concerning the campus Christmas Activity Night. The Idea Emerges A few years ago, I had an idea that my Christmas lessons shouldn’t be just … Continue reading

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Playing Catch-up: Christmas 2018 at My College

Since you missed all the Christmas visuals, let me take you through some pictures of my holiday events at my school.
Christmas in My Classroom
My freshmen get the full 2-part lesson of Christmas:  Part 1 is the religious explanation with in-class re-enactment of the story through a short play.
Part 2, a week later, is the traditional symbols lesson (Christmas tree, stocking, reindeer, Santa Claus, etc) which included vocabulary building through my old Christmas cards followed by my  infamous symbol Bingo game.
My Christmas Open Houses
After all my lessons on Christmas were completed, it was time for the announcement of my Christmas Open House nights.
 It took me 5 days to decorate my home, with balcony and window lights galore, to get ready for this.  I emptied 5 boxes of decorations, including 3 themed tabletop Christmas trees:  The Guest Christmas Tree (white lights, gold bows and red/gold tree skirt), the Pet Christmas Tree (photos of pets surrounding the tree covered with animal ornaments), and Connie’s Christmas Tree (apple dangles symbolizing teaching and special decorations with sentimental meanings to me).

Finally finished, it’s time to announce my Open House Visits.

I have 3 freshmen classes of 50 students each, giving me a total of 150.  Every class was divided into Group A (25 students) and Group B (another 25 students).  Scheduled visits to my home, 50 minutes for each group, were arranged over a period of 2 weeks.  I greeted every group outside of my building and brought them up the elevators to my 9th floor apartment where students enjoyed all my decorations, played with the Christmas toys, took photos and ate loads of candy.
I had a total of 6 open houses this year for my freshmen.  I usually buy cheap candy for student events but for Christmas, I spring for the good stuff.  I went through 70 pounds of candy, all different varieties, which I bought at the candy stalls near my school.
It’s always fun to watch students pick through the candy baskets during an Open House.  They scrutinize each piece to find the ones they like the best and snatch those away.
After every Open House visit by every class, I tell them to empty the baskets because that candy is theirs, gifts from my US friends who send money for them to enjoy a better holiday experience.   Pockets are greedily filled to take back to their friends or roommates who are not my students.  Chinese young people are very generous in that they share everything with others.  Ah, the true spirit of Christmas!  Spreading joy and happiness to all.

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A First:  Homemade Christmas Cards
This is the first year that I have had homemade cards prepared and hand-delivered especially for me by my freshmen.  Never in all my years of teaching have I had such creatively designed gifts come my way, with lovely written notes of Christmas greetings and thank yous for my teaching.
As you can imagine, I was quite moved.  I have kept all my cards and will save them for display each year.  See below and you will understand why I will hold onto these for many years to come.

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My Christmas Photo
My biggest expense, as always, is my Christmas photo.  I enlist the help of the school’s photographers, a couple who own the copy shop on campus.  They come to my overly-decorated Christmas home where we do a photo shoot, I choose the best ones, and via computer, they add the Chinese and English greetings on the pictures themselves before they are copied and laminated.
This year, I had 560 printed which were given to my students, neighbors, friends, faculty members, school leaders, and many in the Luzhou church, including the choir, of which I am a part.  How excited everyone was to receive their special photo gift!
My seniors get choices of the photo they like the best to take home.  Here they are below. Which is your favorite?

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Teacher Open House
My last Christmas visit was for the teachers.  All teachers in my building and those in my department were invited, including their kids.  I didn’t have a huge turn-out due because many were busy but those who came had a great time.
For the teachers, candy isn’t enough.  Coffee, tea, soft drinks, my homemade Christmas cookies and chocolates were served.  The spread was beautifully displayed using a table cloth brought from America which belonged to a dear friend of my mom’s.  She no longer wanted it so I snatched it up in a hurry.  It now is a permanent member of Connie’s Open House decor, and one which makes my Christmas table complete.
For those reading who sent a little extra money my way for my holiday activities, thank you so much!!  It was so much fun not to be a stingy Scrooge at Christmastime. Your very thoughtful donations absolutely made that fun possible.
Next post will include more Christmas photos to finish off my 2018 holiday postings.
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My Freshmen Reveal Their Lives through Essays

My freshmen Class 2, 50 students, visit the English Center for a holiday movie.

Freshmen Class 1, another 50 students, in the Center

At the end of every school year, right before we dismiss for the summer holidays, my top priority is to visit my department’s office and pin down Mr. Chen, in charge of assigning courses to the teachers.

“Don’t forget, Mr. Chen,” I say. “I want to teach the freshmen. Be sure to give me the freshmen English Education classes for the next school year.”

“Yes!” Mr Chen replies with gusto.  “I will not forget.”

“See?” he continues as he catches my skeptical look.  “I am writing it down.”

I watch him carefully do this because one year, he didn’t remember and he had quite some time getting schedules moved about to finally remedy that mistake.  Don’t think he wants to repeat that hassle again!

This Year, More Freshmen than Ever

My Christmas Open Houses with freshmen this year had me dividing every class into two groups, 25 students each group, due to increased enrollment.

Every department at our college has a cap on how many freshmen can be accepted into different majors. The cap for the 3 English majors offered (English Education, Practical English and Business English)  is 266. This number was decided upon by the college office in charge of admissions and has remained the same for quite a few years.

Never in the history of the department has 266 ever been reached. But this year, for the first time ever, we are at almost full capacity for freshmen with 261 now majoring in English.

At present, I am teaching English Education Classes 1, 2, 3, and 5.  The Peace Corp Volunteer, Zuri, is teaching Business English and Class 4.  While I would have loved to have all English Education majors, I was already at full capacity with teaching hours because of the seniors that are always added to my schedule.  I teach methodology courses which require a professional, experienced teacher, thus I am always given those classes rather than those be given to a novice.

Freshmen Voices

 My first homework assignment for the freshmen is a writing assignment, on Page B of their textbook which I create myself: “In the Classroom with my Foreign Language Teacher.”

The assignment is to write a 200-or-more word essay, choosing one of the following topics:  My Family,  An Most Exciting Day in My Life and An Important Lesson in Life I  Learned.  I announce that this assignment is not for a grade but for me to get to know them better. (It’s also a great way for me to assess their writing skills, although I don’t tell them that.)

The topics I devised for three different levels of language skills.  “My Family” is the easiest.  A majority of my students choose that one and give the basics about those closest to them.  “An Exciting Day in my Life” demands a story-telling ability, which is a step above the first prompt.  The last choice, “An Important Lesson in Life I Learned,” requires more depth in thinking, including not only the story of what happened but why it was life-changing.

Those that choose the last I notice outshine the rest of the class during the months that follow.  These are the students I find are natural teachers, those who quickly catch on to methods and have astute observations about classroom management when we do have discussions on what makes an excellent teacher.

As an example of a few of my favorites, I’ll include excerpts below of such students whose essays I found both revealing and thought-provoking.  (I have left them with their errors intact, as they originally wrote them.)


My Mom Learns an Important Lesson by Yu Ruyi

Fortunately, I have a very happy and harmonious family, but I have a very careless mom.

In my childhood, my mom and I went to the market to buy food.  My mom concentrated on buying vegetables, so I played by her side.  At this time, a human trafficker came and took me but my mom was not aware of it.  Just then, the vegetable seller told my mom that I had been taken away.  My mom was very worried so she ran after the human trafficker to the railway station.  Finally, I was saved.  

You see, there is always a careless mom who really hurts! 

My Family by Mao Yiru

Once my family is very rich in 1987.  Everyone admires our family because my grandma owned a hotel.  Our family has a good business, so our hotel is famous.  My dad was a teenager.  Years later, my dad married my mom and soon, I was born.

But my father didn’t like me because I was a girl.  And my dad was cold to me and Mom.  My father bought clothes for my cousin during the New Year.  When my mom knew this, she was very sad.  

My father was a driver.  One day, he had an accident.  He needed a lot of money.  My grandmother had to sell her hotel so our family became poor.  I was only one year old.  No one helped us.

Then my mom left me to make money.  My grandma said my mom left because our family was poor and told me not to call her Mom anymore. I didn’t know anything back then so I hated my mom.

Later, my mom told me the truth.  When I was 9 years old, my dad and mom divorced.  I wanted to follow my mom because I didn’t like my dad.  But my grandmother wouldn’t let me do this.  She said: “I’ve been working hard to bring you up.  What has she done for you?”

So I didn’t want to upset Grandma.  I chose my father and we moved far away from my mom.  I missed her.  I wanted to be loved by my mom.  Although my father found me a stepmother, I was not happy.

Fortunately, now I’m free to go to my mom.  I am a college student now.  My dad and grandma can’t stop me.

My Family by Chen Ju (Jennifer)

I’m from a happy family of 4 members:  father, mother, sister and I.  First, let me introduce my father.  My father is responsible and dotes on me very much.  But last year, he died of a serious illness.  Although it was destiny, I realized that there was no choice for him to die or not to die.  My mom continues to make money by herself for me to go to school.  It is a great burden for her.  She is a very strong woman.  I will be like her some day.

Eager to Improve

This last excerpt shows how desperate students are to improve their English, how they truly wish their teachers to point out their mistakes and make them better in their skills.  At the end of her essay, Guo Chunyan wrote a personal note to me:

“Lastly, I want to say I think it’s interesting that my birthday is the same day as yours.  When I found out your birthday was January 12, I was so excited that I couldn’t believe I’d actually find someone born on the same day as I am.  I’m sorry my English is poor.  If it’s any trouble to you, you can write down my shortcomings on my homework.  Thank you!”



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Our New College Initiative: Trying to Improve Image in the Educational World


At a special choir competition, our entire departmental faculty (combined with the College of Mechanical Engineering) First departmental performed under our new title, the School of International Studies.

The beginning of the 2018 Fall semester ushered in a rather noteworthy change in the college.  It’s  what I call the Impressive Titles Campaign, where every department was  asked to improve its department with a name-change.  To explain this, I’ll first report on why I believe this took place.

Establishing Overseas’ Relationships

Over the past 10 years, the college has been developing overseas’ partner schools. These are small colleges  of similar size and matching majors to ours.  The purpose of partnering with such schools was to build a higher educational reputation  in China, share educational teaching/administration methods and techniques with foreign entities and eventually develop student study exchanges.

The first such partnership was established with East-West University, a private 4-year institution with 2 buildings located on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The school was founded under the British design system, established by a gentleman from India who was also the chancellor (what we call the president).  How someone found him is beyond me but he did come to China to visit our school and many others, most likely trying to increase enrollment by snatching up international students whose tuition would be extremely high: a “reasonable” $34,000 a year with no housing facilities available.

Needless to say, after the signing ceremony of partnership sealed the deal, he didn’t snatch up any of our students.  Our 9,000 can barely afford the 4,000 yuan (roughly $600), which includes a full year (12 months) of housing.

German Trade School a Better Success Story

Of the overseas’ partnerships that the school has established, the most productive has been with a particular vocational trade school in Germany. It regularly sends teachers and experts to our college to introduce new technical methods in mechanics and other  vocational professions.

We’ve also established a German Language program at our school.  This is the 6th year we’ve had a German language major.  Twice a year, 3 German teachers arrive to test the German language majors for their final exams at the end of the semesters.  Other exchanges have involved our teachers, leaders and administrators visiting the school in Germany.

Trying to Impress the Outside World

In August, before the semester began,  every department was requested to submit a new, gloriously-sounding name-change to create a more upscale college image.  All names also had to be translated into English for overseas’ partner schools.

For example,  the Mechanics Department (students majoring in car, factory equipment and office machinery repair and maintenance) became the College of Engineering Sciences.   The Management Department (those trained in business, hotel and restaurant  management and hostessing) became The College of Management Design and Business.

In the English Department, there was great debate concerning what name we should create. Text messages flew continuously within our department text-messaging chat group about what would be appropriate.

As the deadline drew near, the Chinese was chosen (国际学校) but not the English version of this.   Feedback was requested for the top two:  International College  or  International School.  Hmmmm.

I understood the reasoning.  International College or International School  is the direct translation for 国际学校, but while that might be fine for the Chinese, it’s confusing for our overseas’ partner vocational schools.  It seems to suggest we have international students, or that we are a school for expats’ children.

In my mind, those two translation choices fell far short of what was needed.

While not asked, I went ahead and gave my 2-cents’ worth.

“How about School of International Studies, College of International Studies, Department of International Studies or International Studies Department?” I posted.

After some discussion, I’m happy to say that my two-cents’ worth paid off.  Our department is now called the School of International Studies.  (I would have preferred  the word “department” in there somewhere but that was nixed as being too common, less grandiose, plus did not match the other departments’ translations, which all included “college.”)

Now Official

Our first competition of the school year, the English Language Speech Contest, was under the new title of School of International Studies. (In the background, our title is announced on the power point)

All departments across the board at our college have now had approval of their new titles and English documents announcing as such to overseas’ partners have been sent. Also included in the write-up were new departmental designs and seals with our new titles.  No turning back now!

Our proud speech winners in the School of International Studies.

Students receive their awards which are signed by our department heads but under the new title.

Here I am! Now the first foreign language teacher listed for the School of International Studies.

Next post, a second big change to our department, now known as the School of International Studies.  Ping an!  (Peace)

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