BETTY LIN, HEAD OF VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS AT AISG, HOLDS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HER STUDENTS’ HEARTS, WHICH IS WHY THEY ORGANIZED A UNIQUE SEND-OFF AHEAD OF HER UPCOMING MOVE TO PERU.
“The kids organized a surprise at my last AISG concert,” laughs Betty, as she describes the sendoff she received from students. “They secretly learned a new piece and played it for me – it was the Greatest Showman, but they changed it to the Greatest Showwoman and gave me a top hat to wear while they played.”
It was a fitting tribute for the multi-talented Betty, who for the last 17 years has been Head of Visual and Performing Arts at AISG. Things have certainly changed from the day Betty first stepped through the doors of the music department, charged initially with ‘creating a band’. “The music department was really small in those days. They had no instrumental music at all,” she says. “When we first moved to Er Sha, there wasn’t even a stage!”
But Betty was a force to be reckoned with, moving the school on from a general music program to bands, symphonic orchestra, jazz ensembles, strings and choirs for middle and High School. “My job has always been exciting, because every year it has changed and grown,” she says.
Guangzhou has also changed over Betty’s time here. “When I first came, there were still cows grazing in the city. There was no western-style food. People would have to go to Hong Kong to buy food or watch movies. Now, it’s so much more modern and has a completely different feel. I am really glad that I have been able to see that transformation, it’s been phenomenal.”
One constant almost from the day she arrived has been her cat, Snowy. Bought as a kitten when Betty first arrived, the two have been inseparable. So her move to Peru was understandably causing her consternation, as Snowy was too old to make the trip. Happily, the AISG community came through, and Snowy has now found a new home in Guangzhou with the mother of an AISG alumna.
Even with the Snowy issue addressed, Peru is a big move for the Australian, whose Hong Kong Chinese background and fluency in Cantonese helped her settle in Guangzhou. Not speaking Spanish will be her first challenge, but it’s not one to daunt her. “I want to be able to master it, and I’m thinking being immersed in a Spanish-speaking culture will make me learn easier and faster. I’m looking forward to trying, anyway.”
The move is not entirely a step in the dark – Betty already has several friends and former colleagues at her new school and has made visits there in the past. She is looking forward to sampling new foods and culture. “Peruvian cuisine is just excellent. I am looking forward to something so totally different. The variety is just immense. Very exciting.”
Ms. Lin is Coming!
But for the moment, let’s go back to that amazing send-off, organized by Betty’s students. “Every time I walked past the music room, they were practicing classroom music,” says Betty. “Well, that’s what I thought. But really they were surreptitiously practicing the Greatest Showman, and whenever I approached, a lookout would shout, ‘Ms. Lin’s coming!’, and they’d quickly change the piece.”
The effort was worth it, as the final concert piece was a total surprise, as was the photo slideshow the students had put together. “The whole thing was so sweet and so completely unexpected,” says Betty. “One of the most touching things was when the kids and their parents gave me flowers while I was on the stage – it really felt like I was graduating from AISG. Look, I finally graduated – it only took me 17 years!”
So, just as she’ll be taking her own spices to Peru to make sure she can recreate her favorite Chinese recipes, so she will take the memories of her students and her life here to her new home. “I will miss them a lot. It’s hard to say goodbye. But it’s not really goodbye. People will come and visit, kids keep in touch. I’ve got kids who have graduated now who have their own children, and I still keep in touch with them. That won’t stop. That’s one of the best things about being a teacher.”
We tip our hats to you Betty – and we have no doubt the show will go on once you have settled into your new role in Peru!