Final Class of the Year: Reflection from June 20, 2008

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by Robert Carbonneau, C.P.

October 15, 2008
Introduction to this essay: I was tired when I wrote this email. I was tired of teaching; I was tired from the lingering emotional effects of the May 12, 2008 earthquake; I was tired of the various administrative and social hurdles that had become common place for me in day to day life in Chongqing. Realistically, all these perspectives touched my faith and spirit to allow me to reflect on the real need for personal patience and compassion in daily life. I was trying to name a received experience of grace that was given and received by me and I sensed was given and received by others. So it is also true to say that I felt true accomplishment by teaching; I had developed high respect for my students; I had gained, ever so slowly, sincere appreciation of the ever present permeating reality of Chinese order a nation that respected tradition and sought new options for development. In the end teaching the last class to my students reminded me that an important mission upon my return home to the United States was to always speak about the positive experiences I learned and to remain aware that the life and pulse of people are so often different than their government. I walked out of my class reflecting on how the value of my presence and my students were a gift and grace. Written and sent out as an email from Chongqing on June 20, 2008

Yesterday June 19, 2008 I had my last class here at Sichuan International Studies University (SISU) in Chongqing, China. My plans are to return to the United States on August 4. I send this email to thank you for the support that you have given me.

Corresponding from China is not the easiest thing. My laptop computer has crashed twice. Although I have had good email access there have also been times when the internet has been a problem. However, the most challenging aspect has been the May 12, 2008 earthquake. This has had been a real sad event for the people of China. I have been coming here since 1989 and I think that one of the most dramatic points is that none of the Chinese people have really seen disaster broadcast “live” on TV. What this has meant is that the dialogue of news has a new public face in that news reporters seek information and public feelings. This is important because I have seen the compassion of China in a very public way.

Teaching at SISU has allowed me to use a lot of skills that I have relied on over the years. Group discussion skills have emerged well in the spoken English class and just everyday listening to people. Preaching and teaching has been a real benefit for the public lectures. Experience with radio and TV was a great experience when I was asked to speak on the college TV station in an interview about the difference between American and Chinese students. My life long understanding of Chinese and world history was utilized in many conversations. And I was humbled by how much Chinese I did not know even as my Chinese improved. All these are gifts that I know I was able to use.

My faith witnessed a Chinese faith that is maturing. It has been fascinating to visit the local Chinese Catholic churches and meet young people here who ask mature faith questions about religion and culture. It is the sense of listening to students and adults here and getting a pulse of the culture that has been a real contribution to my own character. I learned that Chinese students and people love their country and are quickly developing an alert world view. This sense challenges us all as to how we discuss world views in a compassionate way rather than a confrontational way. This was an everyday process for me in many different situations. I think that one of the most enjoyable challenges I will have is to explain my experience upon my return to the US. I will welcome any suggestions people may have on how this might be done for the province and different groups.

Exams are next week. The students are ready. On June 30 I fly to Manila, Philippines where I will stay with Passionists till July 11. This will be my first time to the Philippines. I look forward to relax. I plan to make a short trip to Changsha, Hunan. In the last week of July I will go to the business area of Shenzhen on the coast and then go on to Hong Kong where I depart from there on August 4.

I have been aware of the changes that have taken place in the province. I look forward to my return and assist us as we continue to minster in the diverse and unique ways in the US and the world. The experience here has been a grace which I hope to be able to share. Thank you for your steadfast support. Rob Carbonneau, C.P.