A Word From Prof. Glen Taylor at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, Nanjing, China
Friday September 28th, 2012
I arrived in Nanjing on Tuesday, September 11th and didn't start teaching until Friday, September 14th, which helped me adjust. I was right not to do detailed course planning because I needed to be here to get a sense of the level of the students, workload expectations, etc. My first class was the one on the Minor Prophets, in which I have 60 students. A big mistake was to bring a camera, take a picture of each student and promise to learn their names. Everyone's name is strange to me and is entirely lacking context or association. I have had to resort to my bizarre mnemonic devices which are helping. I will have about 150 different students in all. The discipline of learning names helps me put an individual touch on each person - this reminds me of their worth in God's eyes.
The seminary is on a newly built (though poorly constructed) campus. I'd guess there are about 350 students. I take three meals a day in the residents' cafeteria, so no meal prep which is great. They are impressed with my use of chop sticks, though someone today noted that I hold my hand close to the food end exactly like children do when they are learning. My apartment is a new, very nice one bedroom unit with a study, private kitchen, three-piece bathroom and patio. It's furnished with new IKEA furniture.
The students are very kind. About half know next to no English. The graduate students (to whom I teach one course) know English well, so I have some people to talk to. It’s tiring for them (a bit for me too) to converse. Unfortunately most students avoid me because they are unable or reluctant to speak English.
Recently I went by subway to a Chinese-speaking church service in the downtown area. The sermon lasted an hour! The keen students with whom I made the hour long trek downtown then took me to the English service. It had 150 or so maybe. After church my small student gang and I went to a Chinese fast-food buffet place (a big lunch cost me $4). We then went shopping. They have huge, ultra-modern malls better stocked by far than ours, including trendy and expensive stuff. Outside it's a mixed bag; everything from cranes and skyscrapers to very old buildings and run-down storefronts.
I am stunned by how ultramodern much of China is, more so than home. Also, it's a completely free-enterprise economy; things are booming!
I have been fortunate in that it is much cooler than normal. It has been like Toronto in June, whereas it is normally about as hot here in September as it is in peak summer in Toronto, including humidity. One foreigner who has lived here for some years and who lived in Houston, TX, for a time, tells me summers are hotter and more humid in Nanjing than Houston even. I'm glad to be here in the fall!
The seminary students are keen in their Christian faith. Chapel is always packed. Most get up an hour before breakfast for a 6:00 a.m. prayer meeting.
I feel privileged to be here and to be seeing all I am.