La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
June 2005 Newsletter
Internet … Baile Road … Visitors …
Greetings. Peace and Joy is within you. I am happy to announce that I am now able to email directly from La Salle Study Center in Baijiang. Baijiang is a little sector in the village of Changjiao. After waiting for more than two years, I decided to buy into a wireless internet service. It is a little more expensive than fixed line broadband and not as fast. I requested for broadband internet service two years ago but it was not available then. Early this year the service is made available in the next village of Qicun. In Changjiao the telephone lines are old so broadband signals are very weak. Not wanting to delay any longer, I decided to test the wireless service. Two sales representatives came and demonstrated the wireless system on my laptop. It worked well. The communication station is on a little hill right behind LSSC so the signals are very good. On 21st April I finally got connected to the internet directly. Thank God for this convenience. I do not have to go to Huliao twice a week to receive and send emails as I have done so for the last four years. Anyone who likes to spend time here to teach English will not be cut off from friends and family. Emailing is now available at LSSC.
As I mentioned in my March 20th report, Br. Visitor Peter Foo, Br. Thomas Chin (Marist Provincial) and Mr. Dominic Cheong (Caritas-HK) visited us at La Salle Study Centre on 2nd April 2005. It was a short one day “whirlwind” visit. The day before, April 1st. at about 3.15 p.m. there was an unprecedented storm that was accompanied by what was said to be the first appearance of powerful whirlwinds from Dabu in Meichou to Shanghang in Fujian. It was nothing like a tornado but it was strong enough to rip off roofs and blow down walls and destroyed planted rice fields. Our Study Centre was not spared. Part of the roof caved in. Fortunately when the roof gave in to the strong winds it ripped downwards and inwards. If it had blown upwards, the whole zinc roof would have been blown away as some were in Qicun. Some pig farmers were not as fortunate. Their pig-styles roofs that were generally not strongly built, were simply lifted off and carried away by the strong winds. Some houses lost part of their roofs and some experienced collapsed walls. The main administrative building of the village was not spared either. Fortunately when the triangular rooftop gave way, it fell inwards onto the building itself and not three floors down to the front porch where many motorbikes were parked as people sought shelter from the storm there. The storm lasted less than 30 minutes. The path of destruction twisted and turned sparing some but whatever was in its path took the brunt of its fury. While it is sad that such a natural disaster should take place yet for me it was an eye opener as I see for myself the long ingrained resilience of the people. Almost immediately after the storm they just went about cleaning up the mess, repairing their damaged property and replanting the damaged rice crop. I also witnessed a vicious flaw in the much touted "free market system" of supply and demand. The price of cement and roofing just short up causing much hardship to already hard pressed disaster victims. For us, it took another 10 days before workers could be found to repair and reinforced the roof of the LSSC.
Before the dust of the tropical storm settled, the village was busy with a storm of a political kind. It was time for the election of the local administration namely, the political secretary, the village headman, and four village committee members. There were new candidates when nomination closed on 4th April. For two weeks, it was “open season” in support of and also criticisms of the old office bearers as well as the new contenders. The moment of truth came on 18th April. There was much relief as the previous office bearers were all re-elected. It meant that previously planned projects will be implemented and that included the cement surfacing of a road leading to LSSC and connecting to a ring road round the upper and oldest part of Baijiang.
Since Baijiang was founded more than 400 years ago, it had not been improved. It’s a rough and uneven river stones paved path. Those of you who had been following my story will remember that in 2003 when I renovated a half completed house to set up LSSC, the path leading to it was very narrow. Last year, I convinced three families to allow me to widen the path. I bought over two out-houses (toilets), a grain store and a small rice field to open up a 3.5 meters wide road up to LSSC. This time, with the cooperation of the villagers who provided the labour we cemented 480 meters of road. Some villagers even allowed us to widen the path using part of their land and fields, The road leading to LSSC was widened to an astonishing 7.5 meters wide road. Now every family house can be serviced right to the door step by the local three-wheeler tractors thus allowing easy transportation of farm animals and feed. Lights were also installed thus allowing more freedom of movement at night especially for older folks. The villagers chose 26th May as the auspicious day for the official opening of the road. In customary fashion, the village drum troupe came. After the speeches, the drum troupe paraded round the newly cemented road. A 260 catties pig was slaughtered for the occasion. The whole of Baijiang, young and old as well as about 50 guests for other parts of Changjiao and Huliao joined us for lunch. We hosted about 150 people that day.
I have to mention that it was not smooth sailing all the way. Some had objections and even threatened to dig up the road if it passed through their land. Village paths pass through a bit of everyone’s land anyway. My own uncle’s family members were the main culprits who stirred up trouble. I had foreseen this and thus in the planning stages, it was decided that the village headman took on the role of chairman of the project committee, Baijiang section leader was appointed clerk of works and I was to stay completely in the background as the fund raiser for all the building materials – cement, stones, sand and wood.. We also decided to cement the village section of the road first and the road to LSSC last. That strategy worked. The whole of Baijiang was at LSSC for the final stretch of the road. My uncle’s own grandson who was home on holidays was the one who personally removed their out-door kitchen and cut down their fruit trees thus making way for the widening and cementing of the road to LSSC and a car park in front of my grandfather’s house. The original budget was RMB18,000. The final cost was RMB23,880. Thus, inclusive of the cost of opening the road last year at RMB9,800, the whole project from beginning to end cost RMB33,680. I am indebted to many villagers who went out of their way to ensure a successful completion of the project. I was exhausted after the celebrations of 26th May. On 31st May I went back to Malaysia for a meeting of the Brothers and a short rest. I return to Changjiao on 24th June.
As in the past three years, the next main activity of LSSC this year is the summer English Programme. It suffices to say for the present that I intend to train my senior students. Last year six of them assisted me. This year I will let them teach and I will assist them. However, I will teach the upper secondary students. I will probably have volunteers from Malaysia to help me. You will have about it in the next report.
As always with love in DLS in the service of youth and nation.
Take care and God bless. BDLiaoFSC
Changjiao 26th June 2005
All good things must
come to an end...