On the evening of May 23rd, a gentle breeze was blowing as the twilight was slowly fading at the Chiang Rai International Airport. A special group of guests were about to leave Chiang Rai, a beautiful city they would always hold dear and close to their hearts. They had spent countless hours with students in the Chinese language classes as a warm breeze blew and now with blessings from the students, they said goodbye to this beloved city. Having finished their teaching terms, these eight Chinese language teachers and volunteer Chinese language teachers of the Confucius Institute at Mae Fah Luang University, which was co-built by Xiamen University, were on their way home.
This is not the first group of Chinese language teachers and volunteers who have left our co-built Confucius Institutes in this special period. Since the pandemic of coronavirus, 35 teachers and volunteers at our co-built Confucius Institutes in such countries as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Turkey, etc., have completed their terms and returned to China in batches in an orderly manner. 29 of them are now under quarantine in cities where they have landed. So far, all of the returned CI staff members have been tested negative of COVID-19.
It is worth mentioning that, although the journey back to China was made very difficult by this severe pandemic, thanks to the support and assistance from many sides, 35 teachers and volunteers of the Confucius Institutes all returned to China, safe and sound.
Chinese embassies and consulates abroad have attached great importance to the return of teachers and volunteers of the Confucius Institutes who have completed their term of service. For example, due to the pandemic, flights to China from the United States were very scarce and even scheduled flights were canceled several times. It was extremely difficult for our teachers in the United States to return home. To address this problem, the Chinese embassy and consulates in the U.S. have arranged charter flights for overseas Chinese students who have completed their studies and volunteers who have finished their terms. Teachers of Confucius Institutes co-built by Xiamen University could book flights in advance and fly back home.
The Confucius Institutes have also provided all-round care and support to the CI teachers and volunteers who returned to China after their term of service. For example, in the face of the ongoing pandemic, the Confucius Institute at Mae Fah Luang University purchased 26 protective suits, goggles and sufficient masks in advance for the last two groups of departing teachers and volunteers. From the moment they checked in to the moment they disembarked the plane, the teachers had protective garments on. The Chinese directors of the Confucius Institutes kept close contact with them and helped them solve problems they encountered on the way home.
The Southern Base of Confucius Institute and the Office of Confucius Institute Affairs of Xiamen University has taken necessary measures to ensure CI teachers could return to China as scheduled, including contacting them via WeChat, knowing their schedules, helping them book tickets or check real-time information of flights, helping them with paperwork for the school resumption and informing them of the disease prevention requirements and health check-up regulations of the cities where they landed. The Southern Base of Confucius Institute and the Office of Confucius Institute Affairs of Xiamen University also kept track of every phase throughout the whole process of their returning, including boarding, transit and landing and helped connect returnees with the CI Headquarters and the institutes they worked for, providing strong support in every way possible.
After the CI teachers landed, many people, including the airline crew, airport ground staff, medical personnel, customs officers and hotel staff members, all went out for them and kept them in warm company until they safely reached their final destinations.
Currently, there are still 135 Chinese working overseas in the Confucius Institutes co-built by Xiamen University. Since this February, the pandemic of coronavirus has posed many new problems and challenges to teaching for CI teachers sent abroad. In the face of this pandemic, on one hand, the teachers who are far away from home are acquiring scientifically grounded knowledge about disease prevention, and protecting the health of themselves and their colleagues; on the other hand, they are working even more professionally and diligently to cope with the adjustments necessary during this special period. When the pandemic first started, they wore masks in classes. Later when the classes were shifted online, they kept up the standards, carefully preparing interesting slides and class activities and finding ways to ensure that all sorts of tests, including midterms and the Chinese Proficiency Test could be conducted smoothly and that the students were able to earn credits. By fulfilling their teaching duties earnestly, the CI teachers have set a good example by abiding by the regulations regarding disease prevention and control and contributing their fair share to the fight against COVID-19.
(Southern Base of Confucius Institute, Office of Confucius Institute Affairs of Xiamen University, Confucius Institute at Mae Fah Luang University and Confucius Institute at San Diego State University)