Mary Chandler is a small, attractive woman who choses her words carefully. Her clam manner is likely to command respect from the Chinese she will meet this fall.
Chandler, a Silver Spring junior high school teacher, is preparing to write a new chapter in her already eventful life. In September, she will leave for Anhui Province in the People's Republic of China, where she will live with her daughter Laura, son-in-law Jon Ritter and the couple's newborn baby.
According to the terms of her visa, Chandler will teach English to Chinese students. Beyond that, she does not know quite what to expect. She is not sure where she will teach or how advanced her students will be.
"(The Chinese) invite you over and after you get there, they'll assign you," Chandler said. "I expect to need a knowledge of contemporary American literature since the second World War. The Chinese know very little about that because of their isolation since then."
Chandler is not uninitiated in Chinese culture. She visited China for three weeks in 1974 and was active in the founding of the Washington chapter of the U.S.-Chinese People's Friendship Association, a group that now has about 600 members here.
Undaunted by the fact that she neither reads or speaks Chinese, Chandler believes this will be an advantage in her teaching efforts. She notes that her son-in-law, also a teacher of English in Anhui Province, did not know Chinese when he arrived there.
"One theory of teaching foreign languages," Chandler said, "is that it's better for the teacher not to know (the students') language. They'll become dependent on you."
It is no longer as difficult as it once was to travel in China or to secure a working position there, according to Chandler, although she said the opportunities for teaching jobs like her own are becoming rare.
"It's not easy to go there to teach because they have many people applying," said Chandler. "There was a Chinese delegation attending the conference for Teachers of English as a Second Language in San Francisco. They're becoming more knowledgeable about the American teachers they want. They're most interested in scientific areas."
Her concern now is for the present.
"Now I just have to get myself ready," Chandler said, throwing up her arms in exasperation. "I have to do something with my house, my dog, my car . . ."
Chanedler, a widow, is looking forward to seeing her new grandchild, and expects that her role as a grandmother will generate special respect from the Chinese. Overall, she is excited about every aspect of the experience.
"I'm very anxious to go," Chandler said. "I've been working for 10 years.
I don't want to stop working but it's great for me -- the chance to live in a different culture."