I first met Xia Renci, (Sophia), on Graduation Day at Harding University for our Chinese Host Student/Son, Crescent, in December of 2018. After all of the hugs, high fives, and photos had all been taken, we wanted to celebrate with him, and for him. We suggested that Crescent gather a few of his friends and let us take them all to dinner. We met at a country restaurant called KJ’s in a nearby border town of Searcy called Judsonia. Upon our arrival we were introduced to a couple of guys and a couple of girls. I knew Crescent’s roommates Hank, and Leo, but did not think I knew the girls. As we sat down at our table, I made my way around the group to meet them. I first met Lydia, who was very shy and introverted. As I presented my hand to shake Sophia’s hand, I said, “Ni Hao, Wo shi….” she cut me off, beamed a beautiful smile my way, looked at me with a sparkle in her eye, and said in pretty good English,
“I know you. You’re Xie Yeye. You’re famous!”
CJric Zhou, a former student of mine, a gifted photographer and young friend, died on August 31, 2020 in an auto accident in China. Ric, as he was known, was only 32 years old and had been married for two years. He worked for CCTV shooting documentaries for Chinese television. When Ric first came to my principles of communication class at Harding, he was very quiet and introverted. He had a soft and warm smile and an inquisitive look in his eyes. I never really knew how much of what I said he understood. English was his second language, and at the time I first met him he had only been in the United States for a couple of weeks. Ric was well like and had a lot of friends.
In May of 2020, as I posted the grades for my last Chinese Communication Principles class, I paused for a moment of reflection… I took some time to thank God for allowing me 12 great years for the amazing opportunity to teach our Chinese students! It has been a challenge, a stretch, and an exercise of my heart.
Nie Xin walked into my ESL level Principles of Communication classroom full of energy, and began enthusiastic verbal activity with the other Chinese students. In other words, she was laughing and talking a lot. That was not normal for my new Chinese students. But this was a semester that was starting in January. Spring semesters were always a little different because most of the students had been at Harding for a semester and already knew each other. However, this was Xin’s first semester at Harding. Her English was good because she had transferred from an English-speaking university in the Philippines. Her hometown was Yueyang, Hunan, China, a suburb of the much bigger city of Changsha.
In January of 2015 there was a gentle knock at my office door. My office door is almost always open, so before I turned around to see who wanted to see me I heard a soft female Chinese voice that said, “Hello, are you Professor Shaner?” A Chinese woman was standing there and introduced herself as Catherine (her American name) and that she was told I was looking for a Chinese language teacher.
One thing I learned very quickly from my many excursions to China is the word guanxi 关系.
Almost as soon as I landed and started conversing with others, I was told that I seem to have a lot of Guanxi! I wondered, but didn’t want to ask, what in the world they meant by that? So, I looked it up.