TJ’s birthday, summer students; Family; China’s high-speed train, long bridge, other scenes and politics
Students Move To Central Campus
We have gone through the emotional responses by some of our students as they moved some things to our campus, where they will spend the next three years of their lives when the fall term begins. (They are allowed to move some things in rather than having to take them all home for the summer.) All of Terry’s students, and half of mine, were on the West campus last semester
There were “ups and downs” as they adjusted to the ‘imagined’ contrasted with what ‘really is.’ Some of the teachers literally lied to them, apparently, telling them it would be “better than the dorm where you are now,” when they were going from almost-new to very old
The enrollment and housing costs on this campus are more expensive, since it is an independent one, compared to the other five locations, which are public. It is also older and in need of repairs. Some dorms are just much (!) nicer than other ones
Jingzhou is an old city, over 600 years. Deep history. A popular statement here: “there is dust here 600 years old.” We are glad to be here to help encourage and challenge them to make the most of their opportunities! The people can make other negative thoughts go away
Terry has taken on a part-time summer job,teaching English to four 10-year old boys. They have only just begun learning English at school in the past few months, but did very well at the first sessions.One is the nephew of our English department head, who lives in the apartment just above us. She has the boys in our apartment twice a week for 90 minutes …. and is so-o-o-o excited to have the contact with others in our educational community
Dean Catherine’s daughter, Lily, came to help with translation, where needed, the first few minutes. This small number is just fine, though there are others interested.We’ve had 90-plus temperature in recent days, but have a very good breeze most of the time, which brings me to another story:.
A not so ’funny’ thing happened on the way home with our 14” birthday/anniversary cake. An eight-foot aluminum sign on rollers was blown into my legs as I was ready to enter the front gate. It hit me hard, knocking me flat to my hands and knees. I had skinned knees and bumps/bruises, but was ok (see photo).
The cake was another matter! It landed right-side-up in the secure box, but it was no longer the same. I got home as quickly as possible so we could open the package and see what we could salvage. We were able to put it into four smaller containers in the refrigerator until the group came to help eat it.
I have often told couples planning weddings that “a sense of humor is the best gift you can give each other. It acts as a shock absorber in the days ahead.”
My words proved prophetic. Our friends made it a wonderful occasion…and the cake was absolutely delicious: chocolate cake and icing, with real whipped cream and cherries in the middle. They had even put small serving plates and birthday candles in the package. We will have much to remember and laugh about at each anniversary forward. 🙂
We live in amazing times! Within the last few minutes, I have communicated through email on our cell phones/computers with friends in Beijing, Jingzhou, Tennessee, and my son in Georgia, at a Braves game.
Anybody have an old Blackberry you are not using due to upgrades but still works and is unlocked? I have a friend who is really wanting one for use here…you could send to family coming to China in early-August….let me know if that is a possibility.
Terry is being asked by some of the girls to help them with make-up advise, and is happy to share what she knows. They’re very kind and appreciate her time.
We met new Family at our Sunday discussions. They were told about our meeting and wanted to be a part….lots of enthusiasm and great singing. We sang some old favorites we’d not sung here yet…they knew most of them. It was good to meet them and look forward to other times together.
In an endearing way, we were called “old” for the first time yesterday, the comment coming around appreciation for “wisdom and experience.” We understood what was meant, but it did remind us that we are getting older (especially Terry, who just had her birthday …..and she is a little older than me).
Our Friday student discussion group treated us to lunch today…we had 11 there and tried some new Chinese dishes…most of them very good.
We were told that with most of the students gone, many of the small restaurants and grocery stores here at our front gate will be closed for the summer. We’ll find what we need…no problem…but it will not be as convenient. I guess we are a university town.
On a Skype session with Michael, Adona, and Louise, Terry was remembering our first two-room apartment 40 years ago…the kitchen was located along the wall in the hallway, under a set of stairs that went upstairs to the only bedroom. The kitchen we have now reminds her of that small, yet functional, place in our past. She is still a great cook.
We awoke today with temperatures in the 93 degree range, a heat index at 111, according to humidity readings. The temp will be close to 100 most of August, which is nothing new to us…we’ve lived in Tennessee and California during that month…and visited family in Texas.
It has become clear the past two days that both of our air conditioners cannot run at the same time…the electrical wiring in the apartment just won’t allow it. So-o-o, we moved our bed and desks into the same room (they barely fit) and we’re in the same situation we were in when we lived in a married housing apartment at MTSU 39.5 years ago.
Our one air conditioner wasn’t enough there, either, so we moved all of our furniture into one room. We have come full circle…and are grateful!! Our students have only their electric fans 😦 We are both pragmatic about life, so no big deal; once we saw things as they are going to be for the next few weeks. We will have close quarters when family visits in August for 10 days, but we love each other deeply and we’ll just have more time together…literally.
Terry was remembering a trip to City of Children in Mexico…hot there…the children had little relief…while the visitors got to go home to the “creature comforts.” We are grateful! Our approach to life for the past four decades is symbolized by a ‘salt shaker.’ We had brought some celery seed with us to China; we knew we could use it, but didn’t necessarily need a lot. When we finished it, we realized the container could be used for something else…realizing we had no salt shaker, well, it just made sense to use the container we already possessed.
Greetings from Terry: Last week Dean Catherine came over and asked me if I would consider spending some time with her ten year old nephew and a few friends working on their English pronunciation for the summer. We settled on twice a week for 1 ½ hours per session.
This Thursday, June 30 was the first session. They are four cute, enthusiastic, intelligent boys. Catherine’s teenage daughter sat in on the first half to be of help translation wise. They brought a text book with them and once we got started it went pretty well.
July 2 we celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary and my birthday together with 15 students here in our apartment. Gary told of the bad “adventure” getting the cake. It was one of the best. But still can’t beat Kathe Addison’s wedding cake she used to make us in Mentor, Ohio for special occasions. Love, Terry.
We believe we are here for a reason: to reach out to the 18-23 year old university students in Jingzhou, sowing seeds of knowledge and understanding wherever possible. We know it will not return to us void. We have the opportunity to teach the future leaders of China, and to be ‘stretched’ ourselves in the process. Your thoughts and support are deeply appreciated! — Gary and Terry
Traveling Light….Divide the world into a rich one-third and a poor two-thirds. The rich one-third claims 87 percent of the gross world production each year. And the chasm between rich and poor is widening. In the United States, the average energy usage per person is twice that of persons in West Germany or England. It is 350 times that of the average Ethiopian.
Our average food consumption is five times that of persons in the developing countries. Our beef consumption; for example, increased from 55 pounds per person in 1940 to 136 pounds per person in 1992. (The amount have only increased as time has passed by).
We are an affluent society. Imagine the impression one of our shopping malls might make on a visitor from a less developed part of the world. There are busy crowds who have the leisure to “shop around.” Advertisements offer suggestions for the “man who has everything.” Well dressed people look for new outfits.
People come to automobile show rooms looking for a new car with an extra touch of class. The television show room offers a TV with a sharper picture. What I believe would be amazing to this visitor is the insatiable appetite for buying by people who do not appear to be in need.
Our society, our economy, and our sense of self-esteem often seem to be built on discontent. Imagine what would happen if we were all to decide to keep the winter wardrobe and the car for an extra year, and that we love our home more than any house on the market.
Look through your favorite national magazine and notice how much of the magazine is composed of advertisements telling us that we lack something which is a necessity. The ad tells you your home would be far more presentable if only you would get a new, elegant living-room suite.
The style of last year’s suit has been changed; even though the suit is in good condition, it would be a sign that you are not “keeping up” if you wear last year’s style. Possessing things says something important to your friends. It tells them that you are doing well and keeping up with the latest trend’.
Have you noticed that yesterday’s luxuries are today’s necessities? The result is that most of us now have “needs” we did not know we had until a few years ago. Let’s raise a serious question about all this, consumption. Is it really worth it to go on keeping up when we seem never to be satisfied with what we have?
The Price We Pay. Soren Kierkegaard told a parable about a wild dove in the forest. The wild dove lived near a farmer’s house where there were some tame doves. The wild dove, which each day had to gather its own food, met one day with its relatives. The tame doves told how their needs were totally taken care of, and how each day the farmer provided them with food. The wild dove had never thought of itself as unfortunate until now. It had always trusted that its needs would be met in the forest. Now it was dissatisfied. The wild dove decided to slip into the farmer’s barn through an opening. Never again would it have to find its own food.
The plan worked beautifully. But when the farmer came the next morning, he recognized the new dove immediately. He put it in a little box by itself until the next day, when it was killed-free from all anxiety for the necessities of life. We pay a big price with our discontent. If only the wild dove, which had always been provided for, had not been lured by its dissatisfaction to destroy itself!
I think of families I have known, and the price many of them have paid for their discontent. They bought new clothes when the style changed. They moved with each new raise. But there were pressures which went with all of the consuming. The father took a second job; the mother took her first. All of those purchases which they could not resist led ,to a dreadful pace of life. The children grew up almost by themselves. The parents seldom saw each other. When “I think of them, I think of my enjoyment of a relaxed Saturday afternoon or holiday-which they seldom have.
Our society also pays for this consumption. Unstable home situations have an impact on schools. Families which have no time together leave us with unstable individuals who become a burden for others.
There is the price we pay when our throw-away mentality causes us to contaminate the place where we live with plastics, pollutants, and wastes-the 7 million junked cars each year, the 26 billion bottles, the 48 billion metal cans.
I doubt if any reasonable person believes that we can go on consuming indiscriminately forever. It appears to be an unavoidable fact that if we do not change our lifestyle and live on less, these changes will be forced on us. In The Limits to Growth, an international team of experts predicted that we will run out of many basic minerals and fuels early in the next century if we go on using resources as we have been. As we run out of those fuels and minerals, their prices will become higher and this style of life will become increasingly difficult to maintain. There will be a time when there are no more trees to cut, no more oil to pump, and no more natural resources to exploit.
A few years ago E. F. Schumacher wrote a provocative little book entitled Small Is Beautiful. He argued that our compulsive consumption is rooted in a spiritual crisis that afflicts the affluent society. Someone else has said that our discontent is caused by a basic boredom with life, a boredom that comes from having no other goals worth pursuing. Schumacher suggested that the only answer to this style of life is to be found in recovering spiritual roots that will help us overcome this discontent.
Traveling Light—We all know times when the Master gave advise for traveling light…”take no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff- for the laborer deserves his food.”
His advice was to “travel light.” He knew that a great many possessions would be like a weight to slow them down. Perhaps taking every kind of provision would take away their trust. We can easily be imprisoned by the things we own. What we possess then possesses us.
The soldier knows that the cause he fights for is too important to allow him to be burdened by things he carries along. Pioneers never have the luxury of taking with them huge wardrobes; they have to select carefully.
We also learn that our lives are a kind of pilgrimage toward the Ultimate Goal. We dare not take on any burdens that will interfere with that pilgrimage.
To travel light does not mean abandoning all ‘things’ and retiring to the desert. But it does mean not being so burdened by them that we cannot carry on the mission for which we have been sent.
A nineteenth-century story from Kierkegaard again illustrates this point. A prosperous man, on a dark but starlit night, drives comfortably with the lanterns of his carriage shining brightly. As he goes along he is safe; he fears no difficulty.
Because he carries his light with him wherever he goes, it is never dark in his presence. Yet because he has those strong lights close to him, he cannot see the stars. The poor peasant driving without lights can see the beautiful stars.
So we may become occupied with the necessities of life. In our prosperity and good days, everything is so satisfactory, so pleasant, so comfortable. But the view is lacking-the view of the stars. If we seek only the glittering lights of the shopping mall, we will never see the stars.
We who have a mission can indeed travel light. (Borrowed from Harold Hazelip)
China News of Interest — Foreigners in Changsha who can’t speak Chinese should find it easier now getting help when in trouble as the city’s police have launched a multilingual emergency call service.
The service was launched on Friday and, according to the Changsha Public Security Bureau, the city’s 110 emergency center has eight volunteers offering translation services in English, German, Korean and Japanese.
According to the bureau, the emergency call center has received a growing number of calls from foreigners in recent years. In 2010, the 110 center received 67 calls from foreigners, a third of whom could not speak Chinese.
For those who did speak in Chinese, quite a number of them were hardly able to make themselves understood, the bureau said.
Interesting goal here — Whether China will reach its goal of spending 4 percent of its GDP on education by 2012 will depend on whether the central government can get its policy implemented to the letter at the local level.
The latest document issued by the State Council on Friday introduced new measures to meet the target set by the guidelines for education reform and development published last year. They include apportioning a larger share of local and central level taxes and 10 percent of revenue from land sales to education.
This is undoubtedly a significant move by the central government and is more than necessary given the fact the input for education dropped from 3.59 percent of GDP in 2009 to 3.57 percent in 2010.
Despite the 20 percent average increase in expenditure on education from 2001 to 2010, its percentage in the country’s total GDP is still not high enough. As early as 1993, the central government put forward the goal of increasing education spending to 4 percent of its GDP by the year 2000.
Summer camps in the US are the latest strategy for Chinese parents plotting a better future for their children. This year, more than 60,000 children will fly off for an immersion program that may, or may not, test their suitability for college abroad.
For around $5,000 or roughly 32,500 yuan, kids are flying across the Pacific for an opportunity to play sports with US students, attend summer classes, and most importantly, speak English.
They will be joining American summer camps, a mid-year ritual for many children in the United States, but still something for the privileged few in China. After two consecutive years at China-based summer camps, Lou Yong’s 13-year-old son, Tim, will take the experience to the next level by spending four weeks in Baltimore, USA. “I hope to enrich his summer vacation and let him experience different activities which he is interested in, but are not available at the local schools,” says Yong.
“American summer camps are a good complement to Chinese-style education. Chinese-style education focuses on academic achievement, while American-style camps allow the students to improve their overall abilities. If the child wants to study abroad in future, an American camp can help them make some adjustments beforehand,” she says.
Alex Abraham, the general manager of Blue Sky Study, a Shanghai-based overseas education consultancy, also sees the camps as a way of easing a child into a culture that he or she will most likely be a part of when they join the other Chinese undergraduates in the US.
The number of students going abroad does not appear to be dropping soon so, for those who can afford it, summer camps give them a head-start. “For parents who would one day like their child to study in the US full-time, it is a great way to introduce a foreign country to a young student,” Abraham says.