There is never a dull moment when I travel throughout China, and even more so when I travel alone. Traveling alone may be a bit of a misnomer. I do travel alone, but very few places do I not have somebody at both ends of my journey helping me leave one place and arriving at my next location.
Given the hectic day I had leaving Wuhan I decided to call who I refer to as, “The Joy of Hengyang!” Zhang BaoXin. Her English name is Joy.
Joy was such a Joy… again. Joy was my teaching partner last year. She is a professor of marketing at Nan Hua Da Xue (the University of South China) in Hengyang. In 2017 I taught her two Principles of Marketing classes for four weeks in a visiting professor program. Joy is a bright, loving, pretty woman in her early 30’s that had grown up in Hengyang, graduated from Nan Hua with her bachelor’s degree and holds a master’s degree from a university in England. She is now a teacher at Nan Hua Da Xue. Joy has been married for about 8-9 years. She and her husband have one daughter, Anna who is seven years old and in the first grade. Joy’s husband is a building inspector for the City of Hengyang and has a degree in Architecture.
Perhaps one of the most successful and satisfying aspects of this 2017 assignment of teaching at Nan Hua for four weeks was the wonderful and talented Zhang BaoXin. Joy was assigned to me to assist in both academic issues and my daily management of living in Hengyang for a month. Joy helped me manage her/our classes and help me to explain a lot when the class didn’t understand the concepts for which I was teaching. I could tell that their students admired and respected her.
Zhang BaoXin was always gracious enough to take me to lunch after class in the university canteen. At lunch she introduced me to many other teachers and professors. Many of the teachers that I met, I remembered meeting in past years. Not only did she help me in class but she also helped me manage the variety of needs I had in getting around town to acquire the meals and shopping needs I had while in Hengyang. I could always call Joy to find out where to buy something, what bus to get on and the most efficient way to exist in this Chinese culture for which I was the foreigner. Joy even picked me up at the train station upon my arrival and escorted me back to the train station when it was time to go home. I would not have been as successful as I was without her!
The best part about meeting and working with Joy is that she has a compelling story of faith to tell. She became a Christian a few years back when she and her husband were contemplating divorce. I don’t know much of the details of that story, but that story is hers’ to tell. I do know that she told me her story about becoming a believer. We all have stories and I often ask people straight up, “So, what’s your story?”
Joy will tell you that becoming a believer probably saved her marriage, even though her husband is not a Christian, he still likes the fact that she is a Christian. When her marriage was in trouble she sought out counsel and marriage advice from a trusted older woman who was a Christian. Among other things, she was told to be the best wife and mother that she could and that God would handle the rest. Joy has done this with so much humility, dignity and grace. She’s really inspiration to others.
Joy was born and destined to minister to the needs of others. She delighted in helping others because she will tell you that we are all family in God’s kingdom. Joy would often respond from a thanks from me by relating a scripture and expounding on the spiritual and relevant application to us. Wow, she has such great insight for a relatively new Christian.
I had emailed Joy several weeks back when I realized I was coming to Hengyang. Visiting and seeing Joy again was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Hengyang. I also had high on my purpose list meeting the American teachers that had been recruited and placed there by Ed and Pam Mosby.
I had asked Joy to help me find a hotel near the campus. Staying with somebody can be problematic because of the Chinese governments rules about checking in to the local police to inform them that you are in their city. Many residents don’t want to have you stay with them because of this complicated regulation. A hotel however, does this paperwork as a normal process of registering for a room.
Joy had previously arranged my hotel stay in Hengyang for the Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22 & 23 dates. Now, in a bit of a panic I needed her to change my reservation for TONIGHT and the next night, May 20 & 21st. She said, mei wenti (no problem) and, she continued, Anna and I can pick you up at the train station and get you back to the Hotel,” which happened to be right next to the campus. Can you see what I mean by her being the Joy in Hengyang? I Checked into the hotel and crashed knowing that I had God looking out for me and providing me with great friends and Christian family.
Monday morning came early and I went to find Dylan Prato, a recent Harding graduate and now second year teacher at Nan Hua. There were a couple of other American teachers that I wanted to meet and Dylan made arrangements for us to all go to lunch on Tuesday. Among those teachers I wanted to meet Amy Michelle, a young woman new to the Chinese teaching experience that my wife Donna had previously hosted when she was going through training in Searcy, Arkansas. While she was preparing the year before to teach in Hengyang, I was in Hengyang, but we had never met in person until this visit. I met Joy for lunch and I continued to have her tell me her story of faith. It’s quite a story. So I asked if she had time for me to set up my DSLR on my tripod and video record some of this testimony. While she was willing to do so we just couldn’t find a time that worked for both of us.
Tuesday I was up early. As long as I was in Hengyang I wanted to visit and teach a couple of classes. I was the guest speaker for Dylan’s second year English class. This was the same group of students that had Rachel Weiss as their first year English teacher. They practically swooned when I mentioned her name. They LOVE Rachel! I gave them a lecture about American culture using people skills. It’s one of my basic lectures and lessons on meeting new people and extending your view of the world.
I also spoke to Zhang BaoXin’s marketing class. It was the same class as last year but with all new students of course. Because this was a marketing class I spoke on the 4 P’s of marketing but particularly on the Promotion element of marketing. As always, I leave room at the end of class for questions of any kind, and photo opportunities. I got out in the middle of the classroom and Joy took my photo with 50-60 smiling and waving students. And, of course we traded WeChat ID’s.
Dylan had arranged lunch with the teaching team. I invited Joy to come along so they could all meet each other. I wanted Joy to have some Christian friends for which she could fellowship after I had departed Hengyang. Zhang BaoXin is the Joy of Hengyang!
After lunch Joy waived down a taxi, told him through the passenger window to take me to the train station... We said our goodbyes and I headed to Xinhua… once again. Third time’s the charm!
Steve Shaner, also known as Xie Yeye, is a professional story teller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.