Who knew that I would have my very first taste of Canadian ice wine while living in China? Life is full of the unexpected!
I didn’t expect to meet Richard Guo, founder and president of EIE (Education in English), the company that employs us to teach English at Liaoning Normal University while I was here in Dalian either. After all, he makes his home in Mississauga, Ontario.
The day before yesterday, however, while we were relaxing at home the phone rang and we were informed that Mr. Guo was at the school and wanted to meet us. We were asked if we could come right away and, of course, we did. He started by telling us that he wished we weren’t leaving at the end of this term and that we are welcome to return to China and to EIE at any time in the future. We’d been told that already but we didn’t expect to hear it directly from the top dog! He went on to explain that the company is expanding and that he was actually in China to sign an agreement to begin offering English instruction to nurses in training at Dalian Medical University. If plans proceed as expected, nursing students who study English with EIE will be able to take their first three years of training here and then transfer to an affiliated college in Ontario to complete their degree. After explaining all of this, Mr. Guo invited me to join him at the official signing ceremony which was to be held this morning! That was certainly unexpected!
At 8:30 this morning, Mr. Guo (pictured on the left below), our supervising teacher Cliff, and I met at our school gate where we were picked up by a very comfortable van from the medical university and taken to the new campus overlooking the ocean at Lushun which is about an hour from here at the tip of Liaoning Peninsula. It was a bright sunny morning and the drive reminded me of travelling through parts of British Columbia.
When we arrived at our destination, we were greeted by an English speaking staff member who took us on a short tour of the campus before accompanying us to the very formal boardroom where the ceremony would take place. Cliff and I didn’t really know what to expect but we felt a bit like visiting dignitaries as we were ushered about with great decorum. In reality, I think I was only there as the token Canadian and because I had no classes scheduled until late this afternoon!
Cliff and I had no active role in the actual signing ceremony but we were each provided with a translator to explain the key points of the speeches and discussion that took place before the documents were signed and sealed. Our delegation sat across the long boardroom table from the president of the medical university, the director its school of nursing, the head of its foreign languages department, the director of teaching, the president of a separate but affiliated school of nursing and one or two other important individuals. As soon as the ceremony was over, most of them rushed away to other meetings related to the fact that it’s graduation week at the university. We relaxed over tea until most of us reconvened for lunch in a private dining room with an ocean view.
Lunch was a most interesting affair. It was by far the fanciest and most beautifully presented meal that I’ve enjoyed in China. Though there were a wide variety of dishes, seafood was featured prominently. I’m not overly fond of jellyfish but I took a bit to be polite and it was better than any I’ve had before. The abalone soup, scallops on the half shell and sweet and sour prawns were heavenly. Lunch really wasn’t about the food though. Between delicious morsels, we toasted everyone and everything that had anything at all to do with the new agreement! That’s where the ice wine came in. Richard Guo brought it all the way from Canada for the toast that he proposed! We used a lovely red wine for all the others. We were constantly out of our chairs clinking glasses and declaring Gambei! (cheers!) Even Cliff and I got into the action. When my turn came, I congratulated both sides of today’s agreement telling them that in addition to benefiting them, it will also help alleviate Canada’s nursing shortage which is expected to worsen in the next few years as more and more nurses reach retirement age. I told them that, as part of Canada’s aging population, I appreciate the fact that they plan to send well trained young nurses to help take care of me in my old age!