Each summer we encourage people to go visit our care centers to teach English and Bible classes. This year, directors were more diligent to encourage children to remain at the center for the classes or go back to visit relatives for a short time and then come back for the special classes. Although many students miss this special treat, those that are present truly enjoy the presence of an American teacher.
Steve Hawley from Westbury Christian School in Houston, TX is at North Canton Christian Care Center. Here is what he wrote this past week:
Good afternoon! The heat is oppressive but we are making it just fine. This morning, we had a class on ASK-SEEK-KNOCK that went well. Afterwards, we had an English class, discussing American weights/measures, currency, occupations, musical terms, etc. I even talked about the exchange rate of dollars and R.M.B.! Yesterday, we went on an adventure. We took the kids swimming at a river about 45 minutes drive from here. We had to go in two shifts because of limited space in the rented vehicle. It was a neat place where they took us on a boat across a river to an island where the channel was shallow. I don't think any of the kids can really swim, but they loved playing in the water with small innertubes. I joined in and left with a nice sunburn! It was so much fun! After we swam, we had a cookout on the island. Over an open fire, we roasted hot dogs, potatoes, eggplant, and leeks. Dessert was apples and watermelon. All of us were exhausted! You might notice in the picture that the children swam fully clothed. It took a long time to get the dirt off my khaki shorts! I broke down and purchased a pair of flip flops. Nobody here wears socks. It really was, for me, a matter of convenience as it is hard washing dirty socks by hand! Keep us in your prayers as we make headway with the kids. Several of the younger ones struggle as you might expect from not living with parents. They attach themselves to you very quickly. The older girls really seem to want to learn and they are very open. If I had a million dollars to help here, I would not know where to start in terms of facilities, but they do the best they can and the children are loved.
Steve Hawley, Teacher
The next five or so segments are from Carole Booker who is also a teacher at Westbury Christian School in Houston. She has spent several weeks at John Connor Brown Christian Care Center in Tiendeng. Her descriptions of her life there are priceless and I know my readers will really enjoy reading what she experienced. She gave me permission to add this to my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Subject: First day in Tiandeng
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 2010 09:52:06 -0500
Hello from Tiandeng, China!
Wow, how could you fit any more experiences into one day? Asan picked me up from the hotel and we went down to the complimentary breakfast which was a large buffet in a beautiful dining hall, very elegant, but they wouldn't let me take pictures. Then we took a taxi to the bus station. Driving through the streets of Nanning was frightening to say the least and they don't have back seat seat belts which made it worse. Lots of bicycles and motor scooters and the occasional bicycle driven rickshaw, complete with traditional straw hat. I even saw someone carrying two buckets suspended from opposites ends of a long pole across his shoulders like I've seen in old movies. At the bus station I realized we had left elegant back at the hotel. It was hot and busy. They made me open my suitcase at security because I had an aerosol container of bug spray. Asan talked with them for a long time and finally they let me keep it. Funny, nobody had a problem with the can at the 3 airport security check points I went through. I knew this would be a long bus ride and I foolishly had 2 cups of coffee with breakfast, so I had my first Chinese bathroom experience at the Nanning bus station....a long trough....enough said. Outside of the city the scenery is beautiful. I didn't sleep any on the bus because I was fascinated with the mountains and farms. We passed several water buffalo grazing by the road and several more pullng ploughs in the rice fields like they've done for probably a thousand years. A few hours into the ride we came to the Tiandeng bus station outside the city. Asan said we would take another bus and then she said "this would be better" and we boarded a cart pulled by a motorcyle. At least it had a plastic sheet over the top for shade, but the back was open and needless to say, no seatbelts.....barely even seats. We bounced along for I guess 10 miles passing buffalo and locals until we came to the entrance to the care center which is located on a public school campus. The children were on a break when we arrived and they all came and stared and wondered who I was. They were all very sweet and surprised when I said, "Ni hao!" they giggled and Asan instructed them to say "hello" to me. They took me to my room which is the private room off the kitchen with the "western" facilities, PTL! Then I got a tour of the care center and met the workers. One of the workers fixed us lunch and we sat to eat rice with tomatoes and chicken skin and cabbage. They don't drink anything with their meals here. After lunch I tried hooking up to the internet which eventually worked and then I met Lou, the director. We talked about when I might be able to schedule a time for classes. At first they said the children are too busy with school for any other lessons and I was very disappointed. The more we talked they decided I could teach on Saturday and Sunday if the students would be willing. I will just have to make it exciting enough to draw a crowd. I observed the children have several breaks during the day even though they have school until 8:00 at night. I decided to try to do most of my teaching outside during those breaks. When I hear the school bell signal for break time, I'll go stand outside and try to look interesting. I tried it this afternoon and it worked! I drew a crowd of children who asked me all sorts of things and wanted to know the English words written on their shirts and teach me Chinese words. Asan said one girl wanted to tell me she loves the Father and wants to hear GB stories. I was thrilled. Another girl wanted to tell me I had big beautiful eyes. That was nice, too. When the kids went back to class I took a nap. They woke me up for dinner where I was introduced as Auntie Kai. The children are wonderful and very happy. I sat at a table with 7 children and they took turns trying to help me pronounce their names. They laughed at me a lot. After dinner Xin Ying, one of the 2nd graders took me by the hand and led me all over the facility and finally yelled across to someone at the entrance and we both went running towards them. It was Lou about to take 3 boys on an evening walk through town. Xin Ying pulled me out the gate with them, I must admit I was a little aprehensive since I was with no one who spoke English. We walked about 30 minutes down streets and through alleys between houses and past a pig pen and through a rice field to a trough where women were washing clothes with Tide. Once back inside the campus gates Xin Ying escorted me through the school corridors and before we knew it there were about 20 girls following us and giggling and saying "hello". We went to the girls dorm where one girl showed me a coloring book of GB stories. I was reading it to a couple of girls when another one came in and insisted we go down the hall. When we did I saw a group of the girls line dancing to a children's video and they wanted me to watch. They were adorable. Finally I explained Auntie Kai needed to sleep and I said "wan an". Now I'm under my mosquito net with a fan about to sleep on a piece of plywood. I hope to sleep like a log because I am truly exhausted. Love to you all. Hope everything is well in Houston. Sorry for the long email - lots to say.
Carole (Auntie Kai)
Subject: China update
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 2010 02:27:49 -0500
This is my 5th day at the care center. I taught 4 lessons over the weekend and they went well. On Saturday the son and daughter of an Australian missionary in Tiandeng came to the care center. They said they heard I was coming and they wanted to come see me. They interpreted for my classes. Their father's name is Ross Meredith. I don't know if anyone has heard of him or even what denomination he might be, but I think the children frequently come to the care center to help. They are older teenagers and grew up in China/Taiwan. They said maybe I could come over to visit them in Tiandeng while I'm here. I hope that works out.
It is Monday so the children are back in school and taking their semester tests tomorrow. I listen for the school bells and then go out to the yard and read to the kids or play with them or take pictures of them. Ron Brown's friend, Lowell, makes videos for fundraisers for the care centers and he asked me to videotape a few of the children and provide a little "up close and personal" information for them. Many of the students will go home after their tests (home being a relative who takes care of them during the summer break) so I've been busy trying to do this before they leave.
It is extremely hot here. It has to be 100 today and no breeze. The fan in my room makes it feel like only 90. It's hard to sleep. I've given up on the mosquito net because it breaks the breeze from the fan. I found a couple of quilts to put under me on the plywood bed which has helped a little.
I'm getting to know the children and many of their names. The girls are much more social than the boys. You can always find the boys, especially the younger ones playing in the waterway that runs through the center of the orphanage. This waterway is used for everything; laundry, bathing, rinsing mops, playing, swimming, washing pots, rinsing garbage pails. The boys found some leeches in it a couple of days ago which made for lots of entertainment. Today it was guppies.
Tonight I will find a group somewhere after their classes and have more impromptu lessons. After lunch today the little library on the boy's floor was open and I went in there with a few kids. There were some bilingual GB story books there and we read them.
The food has been rice and some kind of "mixin" at every meal. Today I think it was pork and some green beans.
I will write again soon. Love to all.
Subject: 2nd week in China
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 2010 08:34:47 -0500
I'm into my second week here and a bit more settled into the routine, trouble is the routine keeps changing. The children finished their examinations Wednesday. We took another long walk with some kids Monday evening around the town here, Rong Hua. The scenery is beautiful, the poverty is devastating. Yet at least the homes I see are made of cinder blocks and not sticks and mud. We passed a gaggle of geese and honked back at them. We passed a big lily pond and the girls picked the huge leaves and wore them upside down as hats - so cute. When we finished our walk through the rice fields we came back to the village and the local farmers were parked as usual selling produce. Lu noticed there was a very good price for watermelons so we stood at the watermelon truck while he bought about 10 of them. Xin Ying was ecstatic. You would have thought she was getting a triple scoop of ice cream. Everyone carried a watermelon back to the center and we had them for the evening snack. I was not given a lesson time because of the school work, but thought I would try to squeeze one in. I know I don't have many more chances before most of them leave. I took the perfume samples upstairs to the girl's rooms a little before bedtime. I opened them and showed the girls what they were. Quickly a crowd gathered and I asked one of them to get Asan to translate. I told them the story of Mary pouring perfume on his feet and how she loved him so much because he had forgiven her so much and how he loves us. I explained my friends had collected the perfume samples for me to give them and they squeeled and quickly all of the samples disappeared. They laughed at the ones they didn't like and swooned at the ones they did. It was a big hit. Thanks to all of you who helped me with that.
Tuesday Asan said she needed help on an errand in town and asked if I wanted to go. I was happy to go and see the world outside. We took a san luan chue to Tiandeng town. We were going there to find a storage room where the care center kept a supply of quilts some ladies in the US had made for the orphanages. We were to count out about 70 of them and ship them to Nanning where they would be taken to the new care center opening in August. The storage room was on the fourth floor. We pulled quilts out of huge bags and melted as we counted them out and stuffed them back in. Then we had to carry them down the stairs. It took both of us 3 trips and we were completely spent. Asan is no bigger than me. When we had brought them down and stacked them in the alley we stopped at a little store right there and had a cold coke.....best one I've ever had. Then we walked the streets looking for a shipping company to send the quilts to Nanning. The second shipping company we tried agreed to do it so we walked back to get the quilts. Fortunately they sent a san luan chue to carry them back for us! We were also picking up a water machine there so we rode the delivery truck (san luan chue) back to the care center with the machine and some other supplies. Very tired when we got back. I had not done a lesson with the kids that day because they have tests tomorrow and Asan said I should not do a lesson. When it was dark I saw a thunderstorm in the distance over a mountain and put a chair outside my room and sat to watch it. I sang "How Great Thou Art" as I watched it. Xin Ying heard me singing and climbed in my lap to listen. I remembered the last part of the chorus in Chinese from our Chinese church and and sang it in Chinese and she jumped and turned around and looked at me and laughed. Then I sang the "He loves me,This I Know" song and sang the first phrase in Chinese and before long she was singing with me. Then she got a wild hair and started running all over the courtyard yelling the son loves me in Chinese. I think I just did my lesson.
Asan will be gone some of next week so I will be without anyone who speaks English. She has arranged for me to take the 10 remaining children into Tiandeng town to teach them because someone she knows there could translate. The part about me taking the kids into town by myself is a little unnerving. I am to teach in town next Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The new translator has invited some local children to come to my lessons also, but she doesn't think many will come. On Tuesday and Friday we will stay in town and eat lunch somewhere and then look around town. Tiandeng is much larger than Rong Hua, but that's not saying alot. There are lots of little storefronts for all kinds of goods, but nothing like a KFC or Starbucks...not even close.
I was trying to do a lesson last night, but in the middle of it Lou called a meeting of all students and everyone disappeared. I'll try again.
Government came to visit yesterday. I missed the opportunity to meet them, coming outside just as they were leaving. They said they heard I was here and wanted to see one of my lessons, but that wasn't the reason for the visit. Asan doesn't think they actually will.
Many of the children left the center today for summer break. I said goodbye to Xin Ying. I'll tell you all about her when I come home. I cried as I watched her leave. I hope she will be ok.
I gave a lesson to a few of the remaining children tonight. A large part of it was spent reading the death, burial and resurrection out of a children's version one of the students had. Someone had supplied the bilingual books to all the children and they wanted me to read to them.
I know you are tired of reading by now. I'll try not to write so much next time.
Love to all.
Subject: A new adventure
Date: Sun, 11 Jul 2010 06:19:28 -0500
I'm still doing fine, haven't gotten sick!The last couple of days have been eventful. Friday the 6th graders took their examination to get into 7th grade. I was sitting in my room this afternoon writing during the kid's rest time and looked out to see a snake peering over the walkway by the office. Wanting to be able to sleep tonight, I went up to make sure I knew where it was and then looked for Asan. She was nowhere so one of the teenage girls came out and I pointed to it. She squealed and yelled something and Lou and all the boys came running out. I fully expected to be laughed at and the boys to be playing with the snake the rest of the afternoon. But they looked just as horrified as I was. One boy slapped it with his shoe as it was trying to get away and then crushed its head. Chao Song slung it over the fence. I guess it wasn't the kind you play with.
I had a lesson tonight on feeding the 5000. These kids know most of these stories from the director that was here before, so I had little Qin Qiu show the pictures and tell the story herself. We do simple conversation, greetings with the puppets I brought which they love.
Then it was movie night. It was HOME ALONE - the original. One of my favorites. I sang along with all the songs.
Saturday I was planning to work on my lessons more for teaching in Tiandeng next week, but Asan came to get me and said they were going into town to have a competition, so I went along.
When we got to the site, the lady who will translate for my lessons next week told me we had a problem. Apparently 18 neighborhood kids wanted to come and there is not nearly enough room for all of them in the location we had planned. A local school teacher had heard I was coming and encouraged the students to come. When the translator told the teacher there were too many, she offered for me to use a room at the public school. I was hesitant because I was nervous about traveling there on my own. I said I wanted to see the school so it was arranged for Asan and me and the new translator to go look at the school after the competition was over.
The competition was a sort of debate. They practiced for a good 3 hours in this cramped room sitting on little stools while Asan explained the debate process. Then we left for lunch and the real competition would be in the afternoon. I witnessed some unpleasant events happen in the market place as we were looking for a place to eat and pretty much lost my appetite. The girls were very sweet, they saw me crying and were very concerned. I couldn't help it.
After lunch the debate started. It lasted 2+ hours. Our kids wouldn't have lasted 30 minutes and these worked on this for 5 hours, no complaining, no talking out of turn. Plus, school was out for the summer and it was a Saturday.
Afterwards we walked a short ways to the public school. I was expecting to just look at an empty classroom, but when we arrived we were ushered into the headmaster's office where we met her and a dozen other teachers. Even without speaking the language I could tell this was turning into a much bigger deal than anyone thought.
The headmaster said that if we were going to use her classroom she wanted more of her students involved in the class. So now I am teaching 38 students for 4 days next week at the public school with the teachers and headmaster in attendance. Not exactly what I had in mind. I'm a little stressed out!
There was a park with a waterfall nearby and we walked over to it before catching the san luan chue back home. Several kids were swimming, some sans-suit. There is a trail up the mountain next to the waterfall that leads to a pagoda looking gazebo that overlooks Tiandeng. I expect we'll go up there next week.
I decided to write Ron Jr. and tell him about the teaching situation next week in case this is not something he wants me to do. He said it was ok for me to do it, but it was way above and beyond what they brought me here to do and I was under no obligation and he could cancel the whole thing if I want him to. It's nice to know there's a knight in shining armor who can save me when I get in over my head, but I told him I would go tomorrow and see what happens. Without Asan here, my teaching abilities are greatly handicapped, so at least I could still be doing something productive. Ron called later to tell me that they had arranged for Ms.Xin to pick us up at the care center and take us to the school. Then she would be my interpreter. I was told to stick strictly to the English. It's funny. These people think I know what I'm doing. This is my first time to do something like this. All my students speak English. I'm feeling my way in the dark here. Say a prayer for me and I'll let you know how tomorrow goes.
Love to all,
More Tiendeng Tales
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2010 08:18:01 -0500
I've managed four days without a translator and I'm doing quite well. Asan was supposed to be back Wednesday, but she didn't arrive until everyone had gone to bed. But the good news is her trip tomorrow has been postponed, so she isn't leaving again. I have a bad feeling it's been postponed because of me. She really didn't intend to leave me by myself with this teaching deal in Tiandeng, that's just how it all worked out. Several kind people have stepped up to help me out and I've been well taken care of. I seem to have gotten closer to the kids in spite of the lack of communication. We're pretty good at body language and hand signals.
The classes I've been teaching in town have been going smoothly, but not exactly how it was described to me. I was supposed to have the younger ones Monday and Thursday and the older ones Tuesday and Friday. On Tuesday the younger ones showed up again. I moved on with another lesson, but had planned to teach the first lesson again for the older ones. I tried to explain to the translator that I wanted to know what happened to the older children. I was afraid they misunderstood that we were splitting the class by age and just thought they were bumped off the list. Today the younger ones came again, but about 7 older ones joined in.
In an email from Ron he said to always expect the unexpected in China.
The military was there again Tuesday, this time with rifles, but thankfully no gunfire! When I finished talking to the translator and teacher after class Tuesday, I walked to the school gate where Lou and the kids were waiting for me. The soldiers were taking a rest under some trees in the courtyard. As I walked by I heard a chorus of "Good Morning!" from among the ranks. I had to laugh to myself. I waved and greeting them likewise.
Lou told the translator to ask me if I wanted to go back to the center and rest or if I wanted to go with him and the children to get some lunch and spend the afternoon in town. I said I wanted to go with Lou and the kids. He was pleased. As we left the school to walk to the market area Lou took my backpack off my back without saying a word and carried it for me the rest of the day. I was so grateful. It was full of my teaching supplies and heavy. I felt badly for him, though, because it turned out to be a long day.
The first stop was at a supermarket where evidently we were getting snacks. The children were each putting their choices into the cart. I recognized some crackers, so I picked those and a bottle of COLD purified water from the cooler. The girls saw me swoon over a package of chocolate and strawberry cookies and they insisted I get those, too. I tried to pay for my own things, but Lou wouldn't have it.
After the market we went to eat lunch. We stopped at the same little shop where we ate on Saturday. After lunch we took the boys for haircuts at a nearby barber shop. They needed it. I took "before and after" pictures of each one. It was the first time in two weeks I had seen myself in a mirror bigger than a 2 inch pocket mirror......I was horrified. I have reached an all time low in bad hair days. This heat and humidity and riding in open air vehicles through clouds of dust and smoke has my hair a curly mess. I tried to straighten it up a bit, but it was futile.
While we were at the barber shop a young man and girl came in and sat beside me and said hello. I recognized the girl as a friend of the librarian's who was trying to learn English. She had brought the young man to find me because he wanted to practice English with me. His American name is Kevin Lee. He stayed with us the rest of the day. Before long he had input my email address into his phone, I have a new pen pal.
We walked to the park I mentioned a few days ago and we climbed the mountain to the pagoda at the top. There was a stone stairway that wound its way up the mountain. I counted 400 stairs to the top. A few of the stairs were normal, but most had a much higher rise and some were as tall as my knees. It was hot and I was completely exhausted when we reached the top. After I was sure I still had a pulse, I looked around and took more pictures. It was a beautiful view. When we got back to the bottom we sat by the little waterfall and swimming hole and ate the snacks we had bought.
Then we ran an errand. Lou needed to move everything out of that storage apartment I went to with Asan. So up 4 flights of stairs we went. Kevin came too. Everybody carried something downstairs, but every bag or item I picked up Kevin took out of my hands and said he would carry it, I was to carry nothing and just rest. Either he's extremely chivalrous or I looked like I was about to pass out. He came all the way back to the care center with us. He was very proud to play Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey songs over his phone for me. When we got back I went to my room and collapsed. It was 4:30.
That night 4 of the girls went swimming in the viaduct (or is that aqueduct? anyway the cement waterway thing that runs through the courtyard and comes from who knows where). I sat and watched and laughed with them. They begged me to come swim with them, but I respectfully declined - doctor's orders. I was warned not to stand in the water, much less swim in it.
I have a blister on my hand from playing badminton with the new cleaning lady.
I taught 23 in class today. Among other things we learned left and right and major body parts so, naturally, we had to do the hokey-pokey. I took them outside and showed them a simplified version of the old standard and they laughed, but they joined me. One older girl who knows some English came up to me laughing and said, "You are crazy!" Asan said teachers don't act silly with the kids here, but they like it. When class was over Mrs. Xin's husband picked me up in a different car. So far every time I've seen him he's been in a different car. They get better every time. (I'm looking forward to tomorrow!) Today it was a new Volkswagon Passat with working a/c and - BONUS - seat belts! I got the front seat this time so it was a glorious ride back to the center, over much too soon.
Funny things people have said to me:
A man walked up to me as I was waiting with the children and Kevin for a ride back to the care center and this was our conversation:
He: Hello. May I help you?
Me: Hello. No, thanks. I'm just waiting here with my friends.
He: Hello. May I help you?
Me: No, thank you. I'm ok.
He: Hello. May I help you?
Me: No, I'm fine thanks. (I was running out of answers)
Realizing I was not a great conversationalist, he finally gave up and walked off.
I passed a man in town and he said enthusiastically, "Auf Wiedersehen!" Now, I am actually half German, but I had no idea it was so obvious.
After having just seen myself in a real mirror for the first time in 2 weeks, Kevin came in the barber shop to converse with me, as I mentioned earlier. After awhile he said, "You look very nice". I thanked him, but I had to laugh. His English skills need a little fine tuning. What he really meant to say was, "You look like Harpo Marx."
Love to all,