La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
September 2002 Newsletter
A Long Hot Summer ….
I remembered the last time I wrote, in the middle of June, I asked for your prayers as I was heading for my first full summer teaching programme in China. I thank all of you for your support and your prayers.
Just as I feared most, a week before the beginning of the summer holidays, the political secretary came over to the school one morning. I was informed of his presence and so I went down to the headmaster’s office. The village headman was also present. After a while, the conversation, as I expected, drifted to the question of English Lessons during the long summer holidays. The PS and headman were very enthusiastic about running a Summer English School and that many students will come. The headmaster said I could use the school for that purpose. I listened attentively and politely to their proposals. I then explained that as I had said to them so often, I would rather not have classes scheduled for different primary and secondary students. I just wanted to give tuition to a small number of students from the village of Changjiao. Those really keen to study English were to see me personally and I would arrange lessons for them. I was actually afraid I would end up running a summer school ... with all the kids coming to school according to a schedule where most of them would rather not attend classes!
Well, to cut the story short, I stood my ground. They kept saying that it would be very hard and tiring for me especially as I insisted that I will go to different homes to give English tuition to small groups of not more than 6 primary school kids. Finally, it was agreed that I could give it a try. As it turned out later, the wife of the PS, fully supported my position in this matter. She was directly involved in helping to organise one such “home tuition centre”. It was running very well for the first week. There were 4 primary three kids who approached me for lessons. The kids were always there half an hour earlier and studied together until I arrived for the lesson. Then she asked me to accept 4 more kids, all children of her grown-up nieces who wanted their children to learn English. I reluctantly obliged since she had already accepted them. Then, it happened. The happy pre-lesson atmosphere was not there any more as two of the kids were not interested in the lessons. She then said to me that I was right in insisting that the kids sent to attend lessons should not be accepted. I must say that I gained valuable points from her support in this matter.
Anyway, within a week, the English tuition programme was in full swing. I accepted a total of 42 students ranging from Primary Three to PreUni. As to be expected, one student dropped out after two weeks as he found the lessons too demanding ... meaning he did not revised at home and so was unable to read when asked to. Since my classes were small everyone has to read many times during a lesson. I had to drop two because they went away for holidays. I would not allow them to rejoin the class as the others had gone far ahead. I asked them to come back next summer. My day was long. In the morning I taught from 7.30 a.m. to 12 noon. In the afternoon I taught from 2 to 4.30 p.m. Finally I had a special one student session at 6 to 6.45 pm.
The last week in July was harvest time. Most families either harvested their own rice or helped their friends and neighbours to harvest. Of cause it was also at time of “plenty”. Fattened chickens and ducks were slaughtered daily for the evenings harvesting dinners. I was invited to a number of families to join in the feasting even though I was not involved in harvesting. They knew that the family that I usually have dinner with was either busy harvesting or were “sharing labour” with others who were harvesting. Actually, I did contribute a little by helping out in collecting the rice grains that were drying out on the basketball court and the courtyard of the school.
On a much brighter ... and cooler note ... I just bought myself a small 48 c.c. poor man’s motorbike. It is known as a “QueKu” which means “a little dog” here in the village. It is actually more of a bicycle with a little lawn mower engine attached to it. It can travel at maximum speed of 40 km an hour but I think it is best that I keep it to below 30 km an hour. I normally ride it at about 25-28 km an hour. It is just perfect for my needs. I can now travel between the main village of Changjiao and the hamlet of Baijiang, from one house to another without working up a sweat. Furthermore, I can also ride to the town of Dabu (Huliao to the local folks) within 20 minutes. I have wheels!!! Another great advantage is that no registration or license is required. So far I have ridden through 6 road blocks without being challenged at all. This is just great.
Two weeks into my summer programme, my old faithful the Canon BubbleJet BJ20 died on me. So I bought a Canon S100SP printer. What a great difference it was. I did not need to spend much time in printing out my lesson notes. Looking back, I should have invested in the printer earlier on. I guess I also should have invested in my 48 c.c. “doggie-bike” earlier on. Anyway, it’s always better late than never! Mind you, the unique sound of the bike is now a familiar sound in the village. They all know “Liao Laoshi” is coming.
In early August, I went out to Dabu at night for the first time since I arrived here almost five months ago. It was the political secretary and his assistant who invited me out. What a night it was. We left at 8 p.m. and returned well passed midnight. I was “presented” to various people who are from Changjiao but are high ranking officers in the Municipality of Dabu. We joined a dinner party at the local restaurant. Wow, thankfully I managed to hold my drinks. They were lots of “yum-sings”. I am invited to go out again but I shall try to excuse myself as much as is polite and possible. It’s good to know them but I have to avoid eating and drinking with them.
I returned to Hong Kong on 26th August for my R&R (Rest and Reflection). I am very pleased with my experience in Changjiao so far. One thing I am sure of is that I have gained the trust of the villagers. Interestingly, more than a few parents “confessed” to me that they did not believe that I would actually return to Changjiao to teach their children English although I told them that I would last year. When I did turn up in March, they were just waiting to see how long I would last. When I left after a month without doing much teaching because of the headmaster who did not arrange anything for me, they thought that I would not return. Finally, after the headmaster stopped me from teaching for “security reasons”, they all said that I would surely go away. They were amazed that I stayed on and began exploring the “home tuition centre” model. They are now confident that I will return soon and that things will be better organised in the future.
I thank God for this wonderful experience and I thank Brother Visitor and the District for giving me this opportunity at this time of my life. I do not know what lies ahead but I still look forward to returning to Changjiao at the end of September. Meanwhile, I am also involved as the middleman in negotiating an MBA programme from St. Mary’s College, Moraga, to be taught in Chongqing, the industrial heartland of China. Wish me luck and keep me in your prayers.
Take care and God bless.
as always with love in DLS
2nd September 2002
All good things must
come to an end...