Our Experience through Photos

Due to some unexpected technical difficulties, we were unable to upload photos while in Baotou. Here are a few now which show some of the highlights of our experience.

1. The 2012 Amity Summer Education Program Volunteers

Amity staff – all Chinese people – are in the front row. Note that many of the volunteers are young adults in their twenties. Can you find Anne & Gordon? (See top left.)

2. The Baotou “Foreign Teachers”

From left to right: Anne Saunders, Gordon Timbers, Helen Allen, Bob Jones

3. Churches are alive and well in China

We went to three church services at three different churches; each time the congregation numbered at least 1500, with the sermon lasting 30-40 minutes. In one case everyone applauded the minister after he spoke!

Sunday service with the choir singing an anthem

Gordon, Helen and Anne standing outside a Protestant church in Baotou

4. Teaching Chinese teachers in Baotou

The Baotou program was held at one of the best resourced secondary schools in the city. The school was not air-conditioned, but drinking water was available and floor fans kept the air moving on hot, humid days. Each classroom had a computer console enabling us to teach with Power Point presentations, audio clips, and scenes from movies.

An aerial drawing of the school — we taught on the 4th floor of the building shown in the lower right

Both the opening and closing ceremonies were formal events. We were seated at the head table on stage with the Chinese teachers – our students – sitting in the audience. These teachers came from various parts of the Baotou region; many of them teach in remote, rural schools. Speeches by our hosts – from the Baotou Bureau of Education and from the hosting secondary school – were translated into English.

The Opening Ceremony in the school auditorium

The 100 Chinese teachers were divided into four classes. Each “foreign teacher,” as they called us, taught one course. The courses and their outlines were provided by Amity. A fifth course, “English Corner,” was taught jointly by us the first week with all 100 Chinese teachers together; the following weeks small groups of the Chinese teachers had the opportunity to lead the class. The content included activities, games and songs using English vocabulary of course (e.g. Simon Says, tongue twisters, word scrambles, charades).

Our teaching objective was always to improve the oral English of the Chinese teachers. We encouraged learning activities that required dialogue with a partner or discussion in small groups. Below are some classroom scenes.

5. Outings

Each class took the four of us out for a delicious meal before we left. Our hosts from the Bureau of Education also took us out — to the grasslands on the outskirts of the city, where Mongolian culture is featured, and to the desert about an hour from Baotou.

Baotou means “city of the deer” and behind to the right is a statue with three deer on the top

Mongolian entertainers

A Mongolian banquet with our hosts in a yurt restaurant

A herd of deer on the grasslands with the Baotou sports complex in the background

On the grasslands with Baotou cityscape in the background

 The vast desert landscape about an hour from Baotou

Our team on the desert with our hosts from the Baotou Bureau of Education

Homeward Bound — From London, UK

What an experience we have had!

We have learned a lot first-hand about China and its people. But most memorable are the personal stories we and the Chinese teachers have shared about our day-to-day lives, our families, and our careers against a backdrop of rapid social change.

We are grateful to The Presbyterian Church in Canada and to the Amity Foundation for giving us this opportunity.

We are now on the last stretch of our journey. Our last posting will be some photos from our three weeks in Baotou.

Posted by Gordon Timbers and Anne Saunders

We are in our third week of teaching!

It is hard to believe that we have been teaching in Baotou now for more than two weeks! How the situation has changed with each day, as friendships have formed – not only between the “foreign teachers” and the Chinese teachers, but also among the Chinese teachers for they were all strangers to each other.

We have made friends particularly with those in our homeroom. Each morning as we climb the last stair to the 4th floor and walk around the corner to the hallway, many of the teachers await us, warmly greeting us and walking into homeroom with us, talking casually in English with new confidence.

This past Monday there was talk about the weather as it was raining quite hard and some of the roads were flooded. And each morning now we are brought up-to-date about the Olympics.

As we have come to know each other better, we have had longer conversations about our day-to-day lives and found many similarities with respect to our goals as educators, our experiences teaching young people, and our hopes for our families.

Last week there was great activity in taking homeroom class photos, photos of each Chinese teacher with their foreign teacher, and candid shots while classes were in session. To our surprise and delight last Friday one class took our team — Bob, Helen, Gordon and Anne — out for a lunch of Mongolian hot pot. And this week, our last week of teaching, the three other classes are doing the same, but for dinner on different evenings. It is great to be eating and conversing together, in English, for a couple of hours. What progress these teachers have made!

On Friday we have our Closing Ceremony and lunch with the Baotou Bureau of Education officials. Then late afternoon we depart for Shanghai for the weekend Amity Debriefing. What a wonderful learning experience this has been!

Posted by Anne Saunders and Gordon Timbers

The First Week of Teaching

It has been a fascinating experience to work with the teachers and to get to know them as individuals. They are generally competent in reading and writing but some were initially hesitant in speaking English because they haven’t had much experience of conversation with natural English speakers.

Because of a new national education policy of starting English language learning in the third year of schooling many English language teachers have been needed in a hurry. Many people found themselves assigned this task without much preparation. The Amity Summer English Project is a great opportunity for reinforcing and extending teachers’ English language skills. The Amity Foundation has many grassroots service and ministry projects besides this English language training program that enable Chinese Christians – and their international partners – to make a difference in Chinese society.

The English teachers we are working with are wonderful people, and it is amazing to see what a difference there is in our relationship since first meeting at the formal opening ceremony. In our classroom sessions we have found many opportunities for learning about each other and our countries, and there has been much laughter as preconceived notions are revealed and discussed. We look forward to what we will yet learn together in the coming days.

Posted by Gordon Timbers and Anne Saunders

The First Weekend, July 14-15

Last Friday evening we were warmly welcomed by our hosts at the Baotou airport and then driven to our hotel where we are comfortably accommodated. Our rooms are air-conditioned and there is a computer and a flat screen TV in each of them. Unfortunately the internet connection is not always working, but we now have access to the school’s computer lab, equipped with about 75 desktop computers.

Last weekend we settled into our “home” for the next three weeks, went for walks on Saturday to orient ourselves and on Sunday morning we attended a one hour Chinese church service – along with perhaps 1000 other people! The first hymn was the familiar sound of “Praise Him, Praise Him.” We felt warmly welcomed as other worshippers gave us Chinese hymn books, opened to the Chinese words and showing the music in the tonic sol-fa format, and afterwards a choir member who spoke some English talked with us.

On Sunday afternoon in the school’s large auditorium, the opening ceremony was held for the 2012 Baotou Amity Summer English Program. After this we went to our classrooms and interviewed the 100 Chinese teachers to assess language ability and to divide them into four classes. Finally we were in the school and meeting the people we would be working closely with for three weeks!

On Sunday evening our hosts organized a visit to a Mongolian cultural theme park . We saw deer as we drove into this grassland area, and then yurts in which people were dining, and male and female hosts in Mongolian traditional dress. We walked around the area which included a small lake, an archery range, a horse corral, two camels, views of fields of grassland with the cityscape of highrises in the distance, and a memorial to the Mongolians. When we sat down to dine there were 14 of us including two school personnel who could speak English and translate. We were entertained by Mongolian singers and dancers and enjoyed a delicious Mongolian banquet with many toasts to each other!


We are in Nanjing participating with 40 other volunteer English teachers in Amity’s orientation for its 2012 Summer English Program.We arrived in Shanghai early Saturday morning. This gave us the day for sightseeing.

View from hotel in Shanghai


 View across the Huangpu River from The Bund

Vendors on Nanjing Road


Shoppers on Nanjing Road pedestrian mall


Cooling down in the fountain at the People’s Park

On Sunday we travelled from Shanghai to Nanjing very comfortably by high speed train. This gave us a glimpse of the dense and ongoing urban and industrial development with some scenes of canals and paddy fields. As we approached Nanjing hills appeared on the landscape, and then Purple Mountain that overlooks the city.

 View of urban development between Shanghai and Nanjing

Nanjing is a beautiful and historic city and our hotel is located in a very scenic part, next to Xuanwu Lake and park. However, there is little time for sightseeing for we have much to learn at this orientation. This year’s theme is “Conversations” based on the Chinese saying,

“A conversation with a good teacher is better than ten years of study.”

We have participated in workshops not only about teaching in China, but also on such topics as The Church in China, Survival Chinese, Social Expectations towards Women in China, and 400 Years of Christianity in Nanjing; and we have had trips around the city to see some of Amity’s other programs like its Printing Company, Senior Care Center, and Bakery.

The gate to Xuanwu Lake by our hotel in Nanjing


  Liu Wei from Nanjing Union Theological Seminary

The one sightseeing trip we have done is an afternoon visit to the Memorial to the Nanjing Massacre, which was a very moving experience informing us about the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanjing when it is believed that 300,000 people were brutally killed.

 A statue at the Memorial to the Nanjing Massacre


View of Nanjing from an expressway

Tomorrow we leave Nanjing for our teaching assignments. Our team will spend the day travelling; we fly to Baotou with a stop of several hours in the Beijing airport.

Gordon Timbers and Anne Saunders


2012 Summer English Program (SEP)

In 10 days we will be on our way to China!

Anne Saunders, member of Beaches Presbyterian Church, Toronto, and Gordon Timbers, minister of Unionville Presbyterian Church, Markham, will depart for China as part of the 2012 Summer English Program aimed at helping Chinese middle school teachers improve their English listening and speaking skills.

The program is organized by the Amity Foundation, a grassroots Chinese Christian community development organization and a partner of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. For more information go to: http://www.amityfoundation.org/wordpress/teach-with-us/summer-english-program-for-middle-school-english-teachers/

On July 6, 2012, we will fly to Shanghai and then travel by high speed train to Nanjing to attend a four-day Orientation with more than 40 other volunteers. On July 13, we fly to the city of Baotou, Inner Mongolia, along with the other two members of our teaching team: Helen Allen of Vancouver and Bob Jones of Madison, Wisconsin.

Map of Baotou (in red), Inner Mongolia (in beige), China (in white)

We are grateful for the administrative efficiency and patience of Margaret Zondo in International Ministries of the Presbyterian Church’s Toronto office and of Robert Li in Amity’s Nanjing office. They have been overseeing all our travel arrangements, navigating us through the paperwork, and providing us with essential information – in both English and Chinese!


Posted by Anne Saunders and Gordon Timbers

Pictures of the Youth Rally at Church In Dangtu

Here are some pictures of the portion of the Youth Rally we attended at the Church in Dangtu
These first three pictures are of the Sunday morning, the day before the Rally began
Front of sanctuary

Front of sanctuary

Sunday morning: Making costumes for the Youth Event

Sunday morning: Making costumes for the Youth Event

Sunday morning, children's choir practicing for their part at the Rally

Sunday morning, children's choir practicing for their part at the Rally

The next couple of pictures gives you a flavour of the song and dance at this amazing event.  The church was packed. 
There was a lot of excitement as each of the groups lined up for their part in the program.  And the torrential downpour and thunder claps added to the drama. 
Liturgical Dance, Jesus is Lord of all

Liturgical Dance, Jesus is Lord of all

Dance of the Prodigal Child

Dance of the Prodigal Child

A Dance that included hand dance. So meaningful, so elegant

A Dance that included hand dance. So meaningful, so elegant

Singing Songs of Faith

Singing Songs of Faith

Youth and children of all ages took part.  The music and movement combined were emotionally moving.  God’s presence was celebrated.  We were privileged to be able to be witnesses at least for a portion of the day. 
Jan Hazlett

Last days in China

The final days in Dangtu went by quickly, far too quickly.  There were final evaluations, certificates to award, classes to plan and final celebrations to put together. 

We were joined for the last days by a group of four teachers from Hong Kong, who were there to work with primary and secondary school English teachers for a couple of days.  They had been brought in through a teachers organization in co-ordination with a branch of the government to do with foreign relationships.  These women were able to join us for meals.  We had lively conversations with them about the area and enjoyed sharing our experiences.  We also introduced them to the coffee shop in Dangtu. 

 It was hard to say  good bye to the teachers who had been our students.  They had become friends and although some will be in touch by email, it is unrealistic to expect that we will ever meet again.  The good byes continued with our host and interpreter and then the hotel staff who had been such a large part of our lives in Dangtu.  They appreciated the maple sugar candies and Canada flag pins from half a world away.  They also gave us reminders of China, mostly preserved food from the region, that is unavailable other places.  Such kind and generous gifts!  The gifts made packing difficult, but with some rearranging we were ready when the van came to take us to the Nanjing train station.  Travelling at speeds of up to 328 km/hr we were in Shanghai in just over an hour. 

Our 48 fellow Amity team members trickled in from the 12 placement sites throughout the day.  We had the evening to spend in Shanghai, so a group of us headed off to the Expo site, to share the evening  with over half a million other people.  It was hot and crowded.  The grounds were quite amazing but line ups were too long to get into most pavilions and those we entered were crowded.  Just being on the grounds was exciting, the different light displays as it grew dark kept us enthralled.  But it was good to get back on the Metro and head to the hotel. 

Sunday the group gathered for breakfast at 7 and then headed to church at Grace Church Shanghai.  There we spent 2 hours in worship that included communion.  We were provided with English translation during the service and enjoyed it very much. 

Back at the hotel  we spent the rest of the day sharing our stories, the good, the amazing and the challenging.   Together we shared our ideas for this program in future years and provided the Amity staff with feedback that will allow them to enhance the program.  After a full day, we headed to bed, many of us preparing to head back home the next day. 

As I write this I am in Ontario, spending a couple of days on the shores of Lake Huron before heading back to Calgary on the weekend. 

I hope to update this blog over the next couple of weeks with reflections on my trip and some ideas of how to be involved in similar opportunities.  Thanks for joining with me on this journey. 

Jan Hazlett from Red Bay Ontario.

Weekend Adventure

It has been a while since my last entry.  Things are fine here, but we have had some extra activities and the internet has been very unreliable.

On the weekend our host took us to a scenic area about 30 minutes from Dangtu.  There we climbed a high hill to see a pagoda, were able to overlook the Yangtze River.  Although the mist and perhaps smog were heavy, the high water level was obvious, as water lapped on the sides of buildings and trunks of trees. 

On Sunday we attended the church service.  The text for the day came from Philippians chapter 3.  The large sanctuary was packed.  Afterwards we were again treated like guests of honour.  We have posed for many pictures, and were toured around to rooms that were closed in previous times there.  We came upon women busy making vibrant coloured costume with the aid of treadle sewing machines.  We were told that they had a youth event on Monday and Tuesday.  We also heard children’s choirs practicing for the big event. 

On Monday a representative for the Amity foundation made a site visit.  We spent time with her, talking of our experiences after she visited with students and our classrooms.  We were disappointed that the computer crashed when she was there, so our last class was not what we had hoped.  She helped us to get many of the technology problems resolved, so perhaps it was for the best.  Her comments were insightful and positive 

On Tuesday we made arrangements to attend the youth event at the church during our lunch break.  We were ushered to the choir loft in the front for front row seats.  The music, singing, dance and costumes were amazing.  We found the time uplifting! 

I won’t test the internet connection further right now.  So I will post this before I lose it.  Blessings from Dangtu, Jan Hazlett