Back in 2012, the New Zealand China Friendship Society published an article based on several interesting e-mails that Dodie Johnston sent us about her experiences when teaching at Hwa Nan Women’s College in Fuzhou, Fujian province. Dodie tried to set her own personal stories against the background of Chinese culture and neighborhood activities in hopes of giving the reader a richer view of everyday life in this intriguing country.
Since then she has published a book ‘How was China?‘, about Hwa Nan Women’s College and her experiences teaching there. Within a framework of the history of the College, Dodie includes many vignettes about the lives of her Chinese students, which gives an overview of social life in China, a country that has gone from a feudal state to a world power in only a century. Having started teaching there in 2000 and returning every other year until 2011, Dodie says in the Epilogue of her book that she would not go back to China and gives her reasons why.
But now, in her amusing and informative blog, Dodie explains why she is going back and some of the difficulties in achieving that.
Once there, she returns to her old haunts, finds many of them gone or altered beyond recognition. What she also finds is that lowered college admission standards have lead to a different student demographic and attempting to teach Applied English to young people with very basic language skills is an increasingly difficult challenge. There’s been a shift in major choices, too. Applied English majors who were formerly yearning for positions in an international trade company now aspire to be teachers. Why? Stability…one of the most valued concepts in China. With the economy slowing, the one-child policy abolished and the world wobbling on a changing political axis, schools are seen as a safe source of employment.
A new industry in private kindergartens and after-hours “training schools” for elementary and high school students is also supported by parents who want their kids to edge out the competition.
Looking around Fuzhou, Dodie sees a city that is trying to restore some of its cultural heritage along with its modernization. The new combination of leisure time and disposable income have spawned such novelties as DIY baking shops and drumming “clubs” where sound-insulated rooms can be rented for practice. Her blog supplies pictures and vignettes that take the reader along as she visits puppet shows, match-making markets and a rural island transformed into an international shopping paradise for Taiwanese. She also gives info about her book on the website.
Dodie Johnston is an American Licensed Educational Psychologist, who worked in public elementary schools prior to teaching in China. She has written articles for local newspapers and magazines wherever she has lived, as well as endless psycho-educational reports. She lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California where she is a member of Sierra Writers. Her book is now available on Kindle and has been featured in the superb magazine ‘Translating China ‘ [Dodie’s article is in Vol 2 No 1, Page 50].
– Duncan France