INTRODUCTION---written after the fact

            How I came to be in China for four months, which gave rise to this journal, is an interesting story.

            One day in the late spring of 2001, Susan Turnbull, a friend from church and a primary school teacher, called to tell me of this opportunity to teach in China. Through a mutual friend, Zhang Fu Ling, the owner of a primary school in Tianjin, China, had made contact with Tom Hendricks, the principal of Voorhies School where Susan taught. Voorhies has a strong program for teaching English as a second language, and Zhang Fu Ling with an interpreter came to visit it. She told Tom that they very much wanted to bring over a large group of American teachers to teach English in their schools. Tom made that announcement to his teachers. When Susan called me, she said my name popped into her head immediately and stayed there, so she had a strong feeling that I was the one who should do this.

            Mother had died in January so, for the first time, I really felt free to be gone for six months. Like Susan, I had a very strong feeling right from the beginning that this was what I was supposed to do. So I started corresponding with them...if you can call it correspondence. No one in the office spoke English except Cui Hua, the young secretary who spoke a minimal amount. So I would go for literally months and not hear from them and got precious few answers to my questions, because they couldn't read and understand them (which I realized only after I was in Tianjin for awhile). I told them I could not come until second semester and that I would be 70 but quite healthy and energetic. (They wanted men teachers under 65 and women teachers under 60!) They were to get from the government the permit for me to apply for a work visa. It never materialized. At the last I ended up going over on a tourist visa for one month (which they subsequently renewed for me the maximum three times for a total of four months.) That only worked out because I enlisted the help of a San Francisco travel agent who spoke Chinese and could write them with the last arrangements in Chinese. For a while I told people I would believe it was happening when I was actually on the flight to China. At the end I was saying I would believe it was happening when someone from the office actually made contact with me in Beijing.

            No one in their right mind would have gone over knowing as little as I knew...but I had that strong feeling that this was where I was supposed to be. And, as you will see, it was.