Marc holds up a picture of a road in China taken 10 years earlier from the same point of view.
As I walked up the road to the school, the only thing I really recognised was the road itself. The school, however, had not changed a bit. 

I was a teacher for six months at Huanan Primary School in Fuzhou.

The day before I left, I took photos of the school and of the sweet lady that ran the corner shop outside the school gates.

Ten years after leaving Fuzhou, I wanted to show my husband the city and school that had been my home. As I walked up the road to the school, the only thing I really recognised was the road itself; no building was the same, no tree the same, not even the little river was the same. The school, however, had not changed a bit; albeit with new students.

It felt like a little pocket surrounded by chaos and change, a place where children could feel safe, nurtured and temporarily protected from the scary changes that were taking place outside in the wider world."

To my delight, my favourite shop was still there too and looked exactly the same, except that it was a man working there.

I showed him the photo and tried in my very basic Mandarin to explain that I had been a teacher ten years ago.

He gestured for me to wait and got his mobile phone out, smiling. After a very loud conversation he passed the phone to me and there was the crackly voice of an old lady.

Even though I couldn't understand most of what she was saying, she sounded pretty happy to be speaking to me!

We were asked to wait in the searing heat. About thirty minutes later, the old lady who used to work in the shop came power-walking down the road, a massive smile on her face. I showed her the photo and she started to cry and laugh at the same time.

Marc stands with a woman who still works at the corner shop after ten years
Marc with his husband and the lady who had run the shop outside the school gates ten years earlier.
A student in China smiles and holds a pug up to the camera.
Smiles from my students. 

With the help of a ten year old schoolgirl who happened to be passing by, we caught up on the past ten years."

The lady was so moved that I had returned to see her and had brought the photo with me; she didn't have any photos of herself at all.

By this time, there was a small crowd of locals gathering round to see what was happening. We spent the next hour enjoying a hot bowl of noodle soup while the old lady showed her newly-acquired photo to anyone who passed by, and made sure that we were suitably fed and watered before leaving her for perhaps another ten years.