Birthday on ChangXing Island

If you watched the video about the trip to Xitang, you know I celebrated my 59th (60th by Chinese reckoning) birthday on October 14th. On Tuesdays, I have only a single class to teach so it’s usually a quiet day. I had my camera with me in hopes of capturing some of the relaxation exercises done every day during the first 5 minutes of this period (10:10 to 10:45). As I filmed in the hallway before entering the classroom, I became aware that at least some kids knew it was my birthday. As I entered class and began teaching, it was obvious that this was common knowledge as I was surrounded with kids wishing me well and giving me hand-made birthday greetings addressed to “Teacher John.”

The video below shows that this birthday, spent so far very from home, was a very special one. It was my dear wife Grace who made sure that Jessie, head of the volunteer teacher program in China (and my good friend,) knew about the birthday. And it was Jessie who (after orchestrating a special surprise for me in Xitang) made sure that Karen Ying, my teaching advisor here at school, knew about it. And it was Karen who spread the word to other teachers and students and arranged for a special office party celebration. Karen has done so much to make my teaching assignment a wonderful experience. She has guided me in curriculum choices, ensured a manageable schedule for me, served as my translator for communicating with the non-English speaking teachers and administrators, been a wonderful role-model for me and encouraged my development as a teacher, and included me in her social life, introducing me to her husband, family, and friends on several memorable dinner occasions (more in a future post.) I consider myself lucky to have been assigned to work with her and cherish the wonderful friendship we have developed.

Thanks also to Guoming, who filmed much of the office party and has become such a good friend as we have tried to help each other learn the other’s language. He has also made a special effort to make me feel at home on the island – I’ll have more about that in a future post too.

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