Joe and Jo-Ann arrived in China on August 2 and have had a rewarding experience so far. We flew into Beijing, and after a brief night’s rest on to Chengdu. In Chengdu we are participating in the orientation for new Mennonite Partners in China teachers. We have Mandarin language instruction in the mornings and cultural orientation in the afternoons. We feel like we are on SST! Our residence here is at the Foreign Affairs Office (waiban) residence hall that was home to all GC China SST groups prior to 2008.
We were able to take two days off at the end of last week to go to Nanchong, a smaller city east of Chengdu. As in 2008, Nanchong will serve as home base for this year’s China SST group. A new high speed train took us from Chengdu to Nanchong in just 1.5 hours—not so many years ago the journey would have taken all day. While in Nanchong, we met some of the Chinese colleagues who will be assisting us with our program, we saw our apartment on the new campus of China West Normal University, we obtained local cell phones, and opened a bank account. To our delight, we were also able to join a Mennonite Mission Network (MMN) tour group on a visit to the farm of our colleague Wang Ying’s parents-in-law high up in the hills NW of the city. As her father-in-law guided us through his crops, he proudly pointed out the 120-day rice that he had planted. Wang Ying also introduced us to the center she has founded to work at issues of peace, cross-cultural understanding and language instruction.
Back in Chengdu, we joined the MMN group when they visited the Sichuan Theological Seminary and participated in a youthful Chinese praise and worship service of about 400 people. Space does not allow a detailed description of our culinary experiences. We have enjoyed everything that we have put in our mouths from the sumptuous meals served in elegant restaurants to the dishes purchased at “hole-in-the-wall” diners.
We eagerly look forward to the arrival of our students at the beginning of September and experiencing China with them.