The first time I stepped into the center at Zhongguancun, the first face I saw was that of Lydia. Having just been remodeled, our center was a whirlwind of construction dust and stacks of books and computers and furniture which needed to be dusted and moved back into the offices and classrooms. Lydia, all 121cm of her, seemed to be in charge of the process. Her bright, beaming smile greeted me that day and she then proceeded to blow my mind with her strength and determination and laughter as we attacked the job of putting the center back together for the new term, my first. Lydia works the front desk at Zhongguancun and that bright, beaming smile greets me every day. She speaks about as much English as I spoke Chinese when I arrived those months ago. We communicate with smiles and laughter and an occasional nod.
Working with our staff of Chinese teachers and administrators is as rewarding for me as the work with my students. The Chinese teachers speak English well, and the team approach we truly have at Zhongguancun has made an incredible difference for this new foreign teacher. I don’t have to pretend to be interested in my Chinese colleagues, and I don’t have to force myself to be kind. I enjoy their company and enjoy working with them. No matter how long I stay in China or where my life takes me after Aihua, I will never forget the experience of working with the team of people we have at Zhongguancun.