La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
March 2010 Newsletter
Greetings. Peace and Joy is within you.
It is time to write once again. I begin with words of thanks and gratitude to all Lasallians and friends of La Salle, my former students, personal friends and relatives in Malaysia, Singapore and Hongkong, for your financial, moral and spiritual support that is sustaining this our Lasallian outreach mission at La Salle Study Centre in Meizhou, China. LSSC is indeed “An Adventure begun, supported and sustained by a Spirit of Faith, a Culture of Service, a Sense of Community - The Lasallian Way.”
When I last wrote in December 2009, I was back in Malaysia to attend the Brothers’ Annual Assembly and for my end of year home leave. I am thankful to all who took time off to meet me for a meal or simply for a chat over a cup of teh-tarik or teh-aliah, a roti-canai or tosai, a wadday or curry-puff. I must admit that the highlight of my home-leave last year was to re-connect with my former students, the Lasallians of Klang especially the “computer students of 1983-85” in “home-coming” they organised. Thank you for remembering our days together in the past and for supporting LSSC Changjiao now .
Yes, “all good things must come to an end ...” so on 18th January 2010, I flew to Hongkong and early morning on 25th January I was on my way back to LSSC Changjiao. By noon as I crossed the border to Meizhou County, my local mobile phone started to ring periodically. Anxious students and parents wanted to know if I would be back for the winter holiday programe. I have to give them credit for the way they keep one another informed by word of mouth, phone or SMSes. Before I could even reach Dabu, some parents had already got together to host a “welcome back” dinner.
When I arrived in Meizhou at about 2 p.m. I was glad to see one of the three regular taxi drivers waiting at the old Overseas Chinese Hotel. As usual, I asked to be taken to the Cathedral for a short visit. For reasons still unclear to me, I rang the bell numerous times but there was no response. The Bishop and the Sisters must have gone for a function elsewhere. I decided to go back to Dabu and arrived at LSSC Changjiao earlier than usual at about 3.30 p.m. Ms Nancy, our teaching assistant, was there to greet me. Soon, a few elderly villagers came over and I was told that my niece Yun Fong and her husband Pin Ho from Shenzhen were also back in Changjiao to celebrate CNY.
At about 6 p.m. a parent drove in to take Nancy and I out for dinner. As we suspected, discrete enquiries were made to sound out if LSSC would take in new students. We made it very clear that LSSC admits new students only once a year, on the 2nd weekend of Setpember. There will always be requests for admission but having new students ever so often, disrupts the momentum of teaching.
The wisdom of just one admission per year was very apparent during the 10 days Winter English Reading Programme from 30th January to 8th February. Except for very special cases of students from out of Dabu-Huliao and some senior high school students and university students, we limited participants to regular weekend students only. The discipline was excellent and lessons were conducted smoothly. We conducted 4 classes of an hour each beginning at 7.30 a.m. Generally, Class One was for primary 3,4 and 5 students; Class Two was for primary 6 and junior middle one students; Class Three was for junior middle two and three students; Class Four was for senior high and university students; however some students attend two or more classes according to individual needs.
We had 8 junior high school and one primary 6 students staying in to help us teach Class One where we had almost 100 students. These student assistants attended Class Two and Class Three lessons and in the evening they had extra lessons. They took turns to cook breakfast and dinner and do other house-keeping assignments. Lunch was cooked for them but they had to take turns to do the wash-up. Apart from the above, these students who are mainly from single child famlies, had to adjust to “community living” conditions such as sharing toilets and bathrooms, handwashing their own clothes, sleeping in dormitory and having a common schedule. There were numerous requests from other parents for “stay-in”. We will have to give this matter serious thoughts as, according to parents of those involved, it helps nurture and develop the character of the students.
We had a great time celebrating the Spring Festival. It began on Thursday 11th Feb. the 28th day of the Lunar month. We bought two local black piglets – decendants of wild pigs – in early June last year. The pigs were left to forage along the river bank and fed only once a day to lure them back to small pigstile every evening. While farmed pigs, fed with animal feed, are slaughtered after just 4 months, our two slow growing pigs naturally foraging along the river bank were more than 8 months old. We had more than sufficient volunteers coming together to slaughter, clean and distribute the meat among 36 families. The villagers drew lots to collect their portion of meat. They were very happy with the very fair distribution method and the high quality of the meat. That evening onwards till the 15th day of the New Lunar Year, I ate all my meals with different families. I was very careful not to over-eat. As I would not take more than 2 glasses of rice wine per meal, I did not put on weight as I did in 2009.
I made further progress in my education of village life and customs. Last year, in cooperation with some middle aged villagers, we re-opened the pathway up and around Feng Wang Shan (King Pheonix Hill), the back-drop hill of our sector Baijiang, intending to stage a “dragon walk” for this Lunar Year of the Tiger. They remember that it was 25 years ago that the villagers conducted this ceremony and since this is the Year of the Tiger, it was felt that we should emulate the bravery of the tiger, mount the “dragon head” by staging the “dragon walk”. For that purpose, three adults including myself and two students began learning how to play the drum. We spent 25 days training every night. I was given the honour to play at the top of the hill assisted by two of my students. It was decided that we performed the “dragon walk” on the 13th day of the Lunar New Year combining with the Feast of Lights to welcome sons born the previous year.
I was supposed to host a simple dinner that day but a family volunteered to do so. We gathered for dinner at 4.30 p.m. and at 5.30 p.m. we sounded the drums and gong at LSSC to begin our “dragon walk”. Led by the vibrating sound of a big gong carried by two men, flanked by 5 lighted lanterns, our troupe of almost all children and able bodied men and women of Baijiang snaked up the winding path to the “dragon head” – top of the hill. I was drummer for one session and a primary 5 school boy lead the another. Then it was time to walk along “the dragon back” – the ridge of the hill – to the ‘dragon tail” – the lowest part of the ridge where we played once again, I led one session and a junior middle school student led the other. The whole party then paraded back to LSSC for a short rest and refreshments before proceeding to our yearly house to house performance. Each household welcomed us according to village tradition with firecrackers and a display of fireworks. It was a memorable night … my first performance as a drummer of a local drum-gong band. We end with a tea party at LSSC.
Celebrations aside, this year we began our community development work very early. We prioritized three, namely, to build a small house for the most needy family, to build an incinerator to deal with thrash and to realign and rebuild irrigation canals (now that our pomelo trees planted 4 years ago are fruiting). At the request of the “houseless” father and son and with the cooperation of two master builders in Baijiang, who agreed to take time off from their work schedule, work on a small 76 square meters house began on 3rd March. Those who regularly read our report will know that last year we constructed a cemented pathway to the property and pulled electric supply to their 35 years old shabby shack. I will write more about this project in the next report.
I end by thanking Franciscans Tan Chin Shu, wife and son, and his brother-in-law Hock Lin and wife for visiting LSSC on 1st March. They were visiting Fujian in search of their ancestral roots in China . No offence, Chin Shu, but your healthy crop of white hair testified to my many years of “happy teaching life” – 愉快教养生活yúkuŕi jiŕoyǎng shēnghuó.
Take care and God bless. Please come to share what your support has done for LSSC.
As always with love in the service of youth and nation through DLS,
All good things must
come to an end...