Editor's note: The Deseret News invited three couples who participated last year in the BYU Kennedy Center's China Teachers Program to share some of their perspectives and experiences.
For three decades, Shannon Harrison talked about going to China.
Her husband, Ray, wanted no part of it.
"As retirement grew closer, she upped the ante by suggesting she "'felt called' to China," said Ray, a former Provo elementary school principal.
"I said, 'Great! Write me often, because I'm not going."'
Then at the end of 2004, Ray stumbled across a short newspaper article about BYU's China Teachers Program and felt a similar prompting. By next summer's end, both he and Shannon were China-bound, assigned to teach at Shanghai's Tongji University.
They taught oral English and English writing for three semesters, until Shannon needed to return home in early 2007 for the first of two spinal-fusion surgeries.
Later that year, CTP directors Ray and Maryann Andrus asked if the Harrisons could pinch-hit for a couple needing to return home. Ray and Shannon agreed, returning to Tongji and the same apartment as before.
"Teaching in China has been a life-changing and a life-enriching experience," Ray said. "The Chinese people are much like us simple, kind people with similar hopes, dreams and goals."
Shannon suffered two injuries while in China, both resulting in shows of compassion by their Chinese friends.
A broken shoulder suffered in a 2006 fall required surgery for Shannon, who was regularly visited in the hospital by faculty members who would stay all day "just in case she needed any translation," Ray recalled.
During their last semester at Tongji, Shannon severed a leg artery on a sharp piece of angle iron at a Shanghai DVD shop.
"The shop owner escorted her to our apartment, accompanied us to the Tongji Health Center for every one of Shannon's visits, paid all medical bills and all taxi fares, brought flowers, brought fruit, just came to visit," Ray said. "And she made sure all the metal corners in her shop were henceforth covered with plastic so no one else could be similarly injured."
Chuck Kewish got a head start on his wife, Carol, in the China Teachers Program.
A BYU graduate who worked in marketing in California's Silicon Valley, he was visiting his alma mater one summer, saw some CTIP promotional posters at the Kennedy Center, talked with then-directors George and Diane Pace and ended up spending a semester himself teaching marketing in English at Nanjing University.
When Carole retired as a high school teacher two years later, they first moved to Provo, unloaded their belongings and the next day caught a flight to Beijing to teach together at China Foreign Affairs University, where they have spent the past two years.
Chuck has taught economics and marketing courses, while Carol has taught writing classes and oral English.
The university is the only such institution run by the Chinese government's foreign ministry and boasts one of the longest-standing relationships with the China Teachers Program.
Students include municipal and provincial government officials receiving English training before some depart for more extensive educational opportunities in Singapore or the United States as well as foreign ministry officials preparing for assignments abroad.
Chuck also added some Beijing Olympic volunteer work, helping to "polish up" the English translation of the Main Press Center's staff operations manual.
A memorable moment for the Kewishes came just after the devastating May 12 earthquake in Chengdu, some 430 miles away. Two of their students from that area were anxious about not being able to reach family members.
Carol opted to dispense with the lesson plan and instead base that day's discussion "on accepting the hard things in life how to deal first with disbelief, then with anger and so on," she said, adding "that day, I wasn't a foreign professor to them but a friend."
The Kewishes had a way to deal with their own frustrations while living abroad, when encountering the numerous lifestyle, cultural and political differences in mainland China.
Kent and Kay Summers of Hooper turned noticing a China Teachers Program notice in the Church News into a five-years-and-counting stint in mainland China.
Kay taught school off and on while having the first three of six children, and then later operated a small business. Kent spent 38 years as a fish biologist with the state's wildlife department.
"I never taught anything other than hunter education," he quipped, adding that he served an LDS Church mission in Taiwan "a thousand years ago."
They spent their first two CTP years in the coastal city of Qingdao, followed by a third year way out west in Xi'an.
Having reached the program's maximum time allowed, "we came back home for a year and said, 'This is kind of boring,"' said Kay, with the Summerses making their own arrangements with the Xi'an International Studies University to return both last year and this coming fall.
Both have taught oral English in Xi'an, with Kay also teaching written English and Canadian and American culture classes previously in Qingdao.
Rather than the Chinese four-phase education method of lecture, listen, memorize and recite, Kay said "our mode of teaching is to do as little talking as we can about a third to a half of the class and to force them to use their English."
"I know they can spell better than I can," said Kent.Added Kay: "And they have better grammar, too."