Life in Weihai: Last Month in Weihai, June 13 to July 20, 2011
Early in the Spring semester we made a difficult decision to leave Weihai and return to Fort Worth. We did not make the decision to leave our friends and way of life in Weihai quickly. But for a number of personal reasons, this seemed the best decision for us. During our last 6 weeks in Weihai we entered into a very busy time of completing our commitments at Shandong University, packing our belongings that we wanted to take home with us and deciding how to best divest ourselves of our collected belongings that we were not transporting back to Fort Worth, and saying goodbye to our many friends.
In addition, we enjoyed visiting with old friends from America who were visiting Weihai and meeting students and faculty from various foreign universities. A large number of international students come to Weihai to study and tour during the summer.
UNK visit – Late in June, UNK Chancellor Doug Kristenson; his daughter, Morgan; UNK’s 1+2+1 coordinator, Zhang GuiJie; and Dallas Kenny, the Director of International Education, visited several university partners in China – one being Shandong University at Weihai. One major purpose of the visit was to renew partnership agreements, but we enjoyed visiting with everyone and catching up with things happening in Kearney, Nebraska.
Meznarich visit – Early in July, Richard Meznarich, a retired professor from UNK and a close friend with several Shandong faculty, came to visit Shandong University and his friends. We enjoyed being included in several of the lunches and dinners arranged while Richard was visiting Weihai. Richard was a delegation member of a group of UNK faculty who spent 2 weeks in Weihai 3 years ago. Richard said he felt like he had returned home!
Deb’s Last Lecture in China – Deb’s summer teaching responsibilities were to prepare a set of 2 hour lectures on our life in Weihai and the value of living , studying, and teaching abroad. The audience consisted of 200 English major sophomores; so, trying to include pictures and information that would be of value to these students proved to be a challenge. Deb asked Finnie to be an integral part of the lectures to answer questions. We enjoyed this exercise and it actually helped us further reflect on our own experience living abroad. Finnie snapped the pictures below of this lecture.
An edited version of these lectures can be viewed by clicking on this link: International Travel and Study – for blog (1)
Eye Glasses – We learned through our teacher Sue that the on-campus optometrist provided students and faculty with very good but inexpensive prescription glasses. Sue went with us to translate our wishes to the optometrist. Finnie ordered 2 pairs of progressive lens glasses and I ordered a pair of prescription reading glasses. We got them just before we left Weihai, and are very pleased with the glasses. They are much better than ones we were using for the last 2 years and certainly were far less expensive than if they were purchased in the US, so now we have reading glasses for another several years and maybe we can get some replacements the next time we visit Weihai.
Liu’s new daughter: On June 6, Liu Liang, one of the International Education staff and who proudly bears the nickname EyeCandy, and his wife, Li, became the parents of their new baby girl, Liu Zishang. She is a beautiful little girl and Liu proudly showed us many pictures of her.
Packing to Return to America
China – Much to Finnie’s angst Deb wanted to take home a complete 8 place setting of bone china the we had purchased in Weihai. This meant that we had to be very careful what else we packed and how we packed everything. We ran the risk of ending up with several pounds of bone china sand when we got back to Texas. After lots of discussion and packing and repacking, we figured out how to get the important stuff packed along with safely packed china. Our bags all weighed precisely the correct amount and we took advantage of all available carry on space – there was not one pound more we could have added. The china arrived home safely except for one broken tea cup handle. It has been meaningful and delightful to use the china since we have been home.
Giving away lots of stuff – our “in house” garage sale – In order to get ourselves home with the bone china and the other things we needed to bring home, we had to leave behind lots of things we had collected to make our lives comfortable while in China. So we gave our bikes, printers, furniture, books, and kitchen things to our friends who wanted them. We even had an in-house “garage sale” in which we encouraged all our friends to look at what was available and take anything they would have use for. Our friends seemed a little uncomfortable with this idea at first, but when they realized that we could only take a few things with us, they came to our rescue and gave good homes to most of our used stuff. It is nice to know that in a way we still have a presence in Weihai.
English Corner – Finnie and I decided to continue meeting with the English Corner students during the summer session. We met a few times before we left Weihai during which new students started meeting with us, while some of the students who had been “regulars” during the spring had departed for summer jobs. We loved these meetings with students because the topics varied from telling jokes to discussing serious social concerns to comparing norms between China and the U.S. The students are loving, engaging, and extremely intellectually curious. It was, to say the least, difficult to say goodbye to these students.
Hotpot with English Corner students – One evening the English Corner students invited us out to our favorite hotpot restaurant and we happily consumed lots of meat, tofu, and vegetables. The meal was so much fun. Afterwards, we invited the students back to our house for dessert and to see if anything in our “garage sale” was of interest to them. Some students found some useful things – even one of our foam bed cushions! The pictures below show how special this dinner was to us. The students prepared a special book for us in which each student took a page and wrote whatever was in their heart. They gave to us at the dinner, and it will be a treasure to us as long as we live! We will never forget this special evening!
English faculty lunch – We enjoyed the farewell lunch with the English faculty so much! Each one of the faculty became friends with whom we have special memories; for instance, a delicious Mongolian Christmas dinner, shopping trips, a trip to the “end of the earth”, inclusion in family dinners, invitations to concerts, all afternoon tea tastings, and other special times. Having lunch with all the faculty together was a very special treat and we could enjoy each person and remember our special times together. Of course, the Moutai drinking contest during the lunch just added another special memory. This time honored tradition of drinking Moutai and endless rounds of toasts made us feel like part of the group.
Lunch with Zhou and Gu – Ms. Zhou, who had stayed with us in our home in Kearney on her visit to UNK in 2007 invited us to have lunch with her, Ms. Gu, who spent a semester at UNK, Ms. Zhou’s daughter, Helen, and Yin Chuanbo. While enjoying a great Korean lunch, we reminisced about UNK and Kearney.
Lunch with Fan and Amy Zhou at southern food restaurant – Amy Zhou and Frank invited us to join them at a new restaurant downtown serving Southern (China) Food. It was fabulous!!! It is food prepared like in Amy Zhou’s hometown and she was so happy to be introducing us to foods she grew up with.
Hotpot with Bin, Jenny, TongTong, and NaiNai – We had not seen Tong Tong since her first birthday, so when her parents and grandmother took us to dinner, we were able to give her our birthday present. Below are pictures of TongTong and her family.
Dinner with Zoe and relatives – Zoe and her family invited us to a special dinner at Hai Yue. The restaurant was close to where we lived so we were able to ride our bikes there. The dinner was elegant but felt very much like a family gathering – we continued to feel honored that we were included in another Zhang family gathering. Mr. Zhang showed us several pictures of the new home that he and Lin are building. They invited us to visit their new home still under construction on the following Saturday. What a treat! We would get to see a home under construction and how houses are constructed in China.
Tour of Zhang’s new home The next Saturday arrived. In our past we have had a house built for us to live in and we have renovated too many of the houses we have lived in, so this was going to be an interesting visit. We could observe how utility lines are installed, how the heating and cooling of houses is accomplished, and how neighborhoods are developed from farm land. We were impressed with the setting of his house overlooking one of the beautiful fishing bays of Weihai. The cool breeze coming off the bay onto the third floor patio was soothing as we sat on the patio discussing the building project and enjoying each other’s company. The house has 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, living room, kitchen and dining area, as well as a large yard, and a basement for storage. The house will use city utilities (water, sewer, electricity, central heating), but will also take advantage of a neighborhood owned wind turbine electricity generator. The house features many amenities that will make it a beautiful, comfortable house in which to live and to entertain guests. Thank you to the Zhang’s for inviting us to tour their new home.
Noodles with Sue – Sue (Zheng Shuhong) had finished her class projects and we had finished our Chinese lessons with her in June. So she decided to apply for English teaching jobs in Beijing in order to be able to live nearer her boyfriend, and to earn money to prepare for a semester abroad next academic year. Within a week after applying for jobs, she had several interviews lined up! A quick trip to Beijing ended in a job offer, and she packed her belongings and moved to Beijing about 2 weeks before we left Weihai. On her final evening in Weihai, we all decided to have noodles at the noodle shop just before she left. We met her at the front gate, tied her tightly packed suitcase to the back of Finnie’s bike, while Sue and I followed on the electric bike. We enjoyed our noodles and talked about everything – our lives together and how much we would miss each other. Soon it was time for Sue to catch a taxi to go to the train station. We quickly found a taxi. We gave each other a final big hug and watched with teary eyes as she left our lives. This evening was far too emotional to remember to take any pictures. Sue has a deep place in our hearts and we wish her a happy and meaningful life. We look forward to seeing Sue again when she travels to the U.S. to study.
Exchanging money at bank with Isaac’s help – We were fortunate enough to have been able to save a few yuan. In order to convert the yuan to dollars we asked Lulu for her advice. She suggested that we exchange the yuan at a bank with the assistance of Isaac. So Isaac (Zhang Jiahao) and Deb agreed on an afternoon when they were both available. We met at the south gate and biked to the bank. As Isaac and Deb were waiting for the next available bank teller, he reminded Deb that this was an afternoon that was meant to be. The first time Isaac and Deb met was to go to a bank so that he could help her with a bank transaction; and they were ending our time in Weihai together again conducting business at a bank together.
Last Lanzhou noodle meal with Lulu and Isaac – Nearing the end of our living in Weihai, we went with Lulu and Isaac to enjoy one last Lanzhou noodle lunch in Canteen 5. Finnie was able to take several pictures of the cooks preparing the noodles. The cooks loved the opportunity to show off their expertise in making pulled noodles, which I have learned is a technique only learned with much practice.
Home cooked meals by Li Hongzhen and Lu Xiaomin – Two students that we met in the English Corner sessions were Lu Xiaomin and Li Hongzhen. Xiaomin asked if she and Hongzhen could come to our house and prepare a dinner for us. We said sure! The girls ultimately prepared two dinners for us – an amazing dinner of several delicious dishes including a very tasty eggplant dish, and a dinner that would be characterized as more homey “comfort food” dishes, including noodles made from scratch topped with a tomato sauce. As we were eating, we thought that the spaghetti and meat sauce dishes Americans love probably had their roots in the something like noodle and tomato sauce dish that Hongzhen prepared for us. The pictures below are from both dinners showing the cooks at work and the final delicious meals they prepared. Since we have been back in Texas, Deb has prepared the
The second dinner was actually a very special dinner since Hongzhen prepared the meal as a birthday celebration for Xiaomin, complete with a birthday cake she had had especially baked and decorated for Xiaomin.
Lulu and Qun’s visit – The night before we left Weihai, Lulu and Zheng Qun, Lulu’s fiancée, came to our house for dessert and visiting. We shared a wonderful watermelon and cake and most importantly shared an evening together! We took lots of great pictures and we really, really look forward to their visit to our home in Texas next winter.
We’d like to take time here to express our deep gratitude to Lulu for her love, friendship, concern, and commitment to us as we lived in Weihai for the last two years. We know that our lives were enriched beyond anything we ever imagined because of Lulu’s and Wang Yue’s (Yvonne) extraordinary efforts in our behalf.
Farewell the morning we left – Touching, emotional, tearful, loving, and deeply moving are all apt descriptions of our early morning farewell by our Weihai friends. We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and best wishes from everyone. We just could not take pictures – pictures would have intruded on this deeply private farewell by our close Weihai family.
However, Lulu gave us a slide show as a going away gift. It illustrates the deep and lasting friendships we made in Weihai. We would like to share the show with you here to say thank you to everyone in China who made our experience in there so extraordinary, We miss you every day. Gift to Finnie and Deb