Dear Ben, Davy, Siu-fung, Shirley, and friends of SOAR,
First of all, my apologies for not writing sooner. I think it has been an emotional time for all of us, as we watch on TV and the Internet the enormous devastation and pain suffered by the people of Sichuan. As depressing as some of the situations were, the spirit is at the same time lifted up by incredible acts of heroism, selflessness, and compassion. I hope and pray that with the help of the government and fellow countrymen, it won’t take too long for life to go back to normal for the victims, and China will rise up from all this even stronger and greater.
My trip with the Spring Bud group started on 5/11, and on 5/12, the day of the earthquake, we were in a high school in Ziyang, in the south-western corner of Shaanxi, relatively close to the Sichuan border. Fortunately, everyone at the school and the school itself survived the quake with no damage. We managed to get back to Ankang that afternoon and followed the schedule as planned. The only change made was the cancellation of the school visit in Langao on the 13th. Needless to say, we were all quite “shaken” but we kept our good spirits, and accomplished everything we set out to do.
We visited Mr. Yang Shou-guo’s school on the 16th. We were due to return to Xian later that day. I told Mr. Yang that I would arrive with my group in the early afternoon. It so happened that 3 Spring Bud girls are attending that school. At about 3:15 PM.,I was greeted by Mr. Yang, Party Secretary Qian, and 2 other teachers. While the Spring bud delegation held their meeting with school officials, I visited with with Mr. Yang and his colleagues. Frankly speaking, I was a little embarrassed by the “official” hospitality shown towards me. As you might know, I had intended it to be a brief and personal visit. But it was a nice meeting, and I was very impressed by what I saw. The 2 labs, the SOAR Foundation Audio-visual Systems Lab and the SOAR Foundation Heating/Cooling Systems Lab, are situated across the hallway from each other. In each lab, there are about dozen to 20 “stations”. Currently the H/C Lab is not in use. In the A/V Lab, each station can accommodate 2 students at one time. The instructor has his own monitoring or evaluation station. The students are able to detect up to 100 “problems” and learn how to repair/solve each problem right there at the station. The entire classroom set-up looks totally practical and functional, even to someone like me. By the way, the classroom is well-lit, clean, and orderly. Mr. Yang told me that currently there are about 600 students enrolled in the A/V Lab course. The course duration is 3 months, and upon graduation students also get certification from the local labor department. I don’t have the statistics, but it seems that graduates have been able to find jobs and therefore the labor dept. is giving its approval to the course.
At about 4, it was time for us to leave. I didn’t have time to tour the school which has a fairly big campus and is situated outside the town area. Later I was told by my friends in the Spring Bud group that it’s a very good vocational school.
That wraps up my report. I took some pictures of the classrooms which Ben may already have. If you’re interested, I’ll find a way to send them to you. And if you have questions, please let me know.