My name is Jennifer Van Nostrand, and I was born in China. I lived right on the wall of China, in Fujian on the mainland. For a while, I lived in a village. That was terrific. All the people were very kind to me. It was beautiful. Everyday I spoke and listened to English and Chinese. I used to be able to speak and understand Chinese; I still do, occasionally. The people there spoke a lot of English, so I started to speak English. I found it challenging, but I could do it so I pursued. It was fun. I enjoyed it enough to write it. I’d decided what I wanted to do, and so I did it.
I was sent to China with my parents. My father sold candy and snacks, and he was a very good Chinese salesman. My mother was a nurse. She was a good nurse, a very consistent nurse, very kind, warmhearted-and was very strict. It wasn’t easy to be her daughter. I had to reach her standards, and she set them really high. I just laughed and made it through. Laughter is one of life’s best medicines.
I have two sisters. One of them died of cancer. There’s Betty, Cindy, and me, Jennifer. We fought, but you do when you’re kids. Stupid things you say. It was fun, we had lots of fun. We all got along very well. It was great.
I lived in China for three years. I wrote an autobiography, in 1948. It’s called “My Two Sisters and I”. It was very hard to put together, very difficult. I’m a Liberal, I like music, and I played the piano at a fairly high level. I like to go to plays and concerts. My favourite artist is Josh Groban, because he’s very positive and upbeat.
My graduation was very exciting. It was unbelievable, and just a lot of fun. I was on the planning committee. Very hard work, but it paid off. It was enjoyable.
I went to UBC. It was very hard on me. They set the goals pretty high, but I survived. In a class of kids, I had good experience, and experience shows quickly. One piece of advice that I always give is: try things that you haven’t done before, and always be positive, to the best of your abilities.
I always wanted to be a teacher. I love teaching. It’s a highlight. It cheers people up when they’re down. My sons are a good example. One of the nurses here was my student. It’s terrific. I loved being a teacher, with a class. It was a very high-standard class. It felt good to tell my students how good they looked. I never put them down. Putting people down is a dreadful thing, and it’s not part of me; I don’t do that. I put people up, and tell them how good they look. That’s a good thing, to put people up rather than down.
I taught in the Okanagan; I moved there when I was quite young. I taught French and English 10, 11, and 12. It was very interesting, and very challenging. There were some classes that were really difficult, that were not all that great. They wouldn’t want to listen to you. They weren’t paying attention; they were distracted. I could handle them all. I’d do something really stupid, like make a stupid face, get them to laugh. You learn how to get their attention. I personally have a great sense of humour. I like to make people laugh by doing something very silly. They didn’t think I was that bad, so the students listened. I wasn’t that bad; I was kind of good.
I’ve been here for three years, and I like it. Unfortunately, I get tired pretty easily. What comes around goes around. If you’re positive with people, they’ll be positive with you, I hope. It’s very rewarding. The fact that you’re talking to me is good for you; I hope you feel good about it. I feel very lucky.
“Bless you” is a good statement. I’m very fond of that statement. Just try to stay positive. Try to keep smiling. Always be friendly, no putting people down. Always try and cheer them up, to the best of your abilities.