We're Not in Kansas Anymore!

Trip Start Jun 24, 2010
Trip End May 18, 2011

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Flag of China  , Jiangxi,
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Well, if you have been following the map on our blog, you'll see that we have traversed the world and are now settled here in Nanchang, capitol of the Jiangxi Province in the southcentral part of eastern China. Upon leaving Beijing last Friday evening via overnight train, we snuggled into our hard sleeper bunks in a cabin shared with three Chinese men, and had a moderately restful night sleeping to the rhythmic clickety-clack of the railway tracks.  We awoke to the morning light streaming in through the window of our cabin and we gazed out onto the Jiangxi landscape rolling by as we awaited our arrival in Nanchang which will be our "hometown" for the next five weeks. 

We were picked up at the train station by an acquaintance of our friend David and taken by car to the Jiangxi Civil Affairs School, a secondary technical school with mostly 16-21 year-olds training for jobs in nursing and social work.  The school has around 600 students from various parts of Jiangxi Province, and is situated on a rather small but beautiful campus.  We had an introductory meeting with the school president and several of the school’s administrators and teachers who warmly and excitedly greeted and welcomed us with thanks for our gracious service.  They then treated us to an absolutely fabulous lunch, after which we were given the card keys to our rooms.   Our new “home” consists of two adjacent dorm rooms, one for the kids and one for us, with nothing extraordinarily fancy at all but they are nice and clean and cozy.  But we certainly know we’re in China now, cuz for the next five weeks we’re the proud owners of two of those infamous Chinese squat toilets, along with an outdoor clothesline strung from building to building where we can dry our laundry.  ;-)  But despite all that, it’s fun to feel like we’re back in college and it’s also nice to be settling into one place for awhile. 

On Sunday we were driven into downtown Nanchang to have meetings with officials from the Jiangxi Red Cross and various government offices (Science and Technology, Religion and Education) as well as volunteers from the Nightingale Society, retired nurses who work to improve nursing in the province.    We were enthusiastically greeted by Mrs. Jiang, the 82-year-young and extraordinarily spry retired president of the Nurse’s College and one of the most influential supporters of the Red Cross, who happily and graciously led toasts of thanksgiving to our being here.  And of course, the meeting was followed by an outrageously scrumptious meal at a wonderful restaurant whose main dining room (where we were) had an entire window wall which looked out over one of the many lakes of Nanchang.  Incredible! 
Since most of the talk on both days of these meetings was in Chinese, we mostly smiled and nodded, but we did have a chance to introduce ourselves and thank both groups for allowing us to be here and for their gracious hospitality.  Translators helped out, so that we could understand at least some of what was being said.  And how did our kids do through all of this intro stuff?  They were pretty patient considering the length and interest of all this meeting stuff for a 7 and 10 year-old, as they politely sat and read their books and drew in their sketch books.  Good kids!  ;-)

On Monday morning, we met with the English teacher for the school and learned our purpose and our schedule for the next few weeks.  We’ll be sharing stories of American culture and lifestyles with the students but primarily helping with conversational English by speaking in our normal English (“but slowly……”), just talking back and forth with the kids.  We’re to attend three classes on Tuesdays, two on Thursdays and one on Fridays.  And Benjamin and Lisha are going to be helping when we talk to the students, too.  The idea being the students may be more comfortable using their beginning English with children.  We’ll see……. 

It’s been fun moving in to our new digs and walking around campus getting oriented, as the students have all been very friendly, calling out “Hello” across the courtyards and plazas and asking to speak English with us.  John and the kids went out to play catch with their baseball yesterday, and Benjamin came back with a new buddy who they taught to throw and catch the ball.  The students seem particularly taken with both Lisha and Benjamin, who they describe by saying that “Lisha is very lovely” and “Benjamin, very handsome and COOL!”  Since we’re a bit of a novelty, we’re also constantly getting our pictures taken.  We’re feeling a little like Rock Stars!!  ;-)

So, that’s about it for now.  We’re still getting settled in, but I’m sure we’ll have LOTS to tell in the coming days!!  But as a quick note, we have had our challenges in getting connected to the Internet since arriving here (not that that should be a big deal, but when you’ve been so use to having easy access, going without it has led to symptoms of withdrawal), so our use of the Internet here will probably be sporadic (when and if we are able to have access to the school’s computer room).  But in the meantime, we’ll keep making new friends, enjoying new adventures, and we’ll certainly keep collecting our stories and will post updates for y’all whenever we can.  So until next time…………………Zaijian (“bye”)!!
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Betty Rose on

Hi, Thanks for yours most recent blog and the campus is lovely. What a great experience for all of you. Back in a college setting and the kids meeting and sharing the English language with the students too is awesome.

We have had way too much rain for this month, over an inch yesterday, 9/17/10. Temps near 70 so rather humid/muggy at times. Take care. Betty Rose' as in a fine wine

james D. Reddick on

Yes, John -- we know how fast you talk from the auctions. You will have to slow down. You may want to put on a auction fund raiser to show them how lively you get. It is probably good that you are traveling since the Christine just ordered an across the board cut of 6.7% all agencie plus she is requesting that everyone look at an additonal 10% for 12 and 13.

Cindy Gleason on

What an awesome experience you are having. The cultural stuff, the touristy stuff and the real life stuff! Enjoy. Hugs all around!

Vicki Whitaker on

Umm....somehow my comment meant for this page went on the wedding day page. OOps!

Juliana Alspaugh on

Nice to see your new digs. Looks beautiful. Thniking of you guys. What a fantastic opportunity! Looking forward to seeing more later.

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