In a simple sequence of brushstrokes, Han Moy feeds a black-ink and rice-paper white panda freshly painted bamboo to fulfill his class of seniors’ hunger to learn something new. The 71-year-old retired engineer is a volunteer teacher for the Asian Community Center’s Lifelong Learning and Wellness program, which holds classes, like line dancing, introduction to digital cameras, and ikebana, for the energetic elderly. Moy has mastered a quality-of-life technique: Start all over. He says, “The life is very, very simple, very, very boring—just like everybody else. I married, have kid. I owned the cat before. I owned the dog before. I own houses before. I come from China. I working hard. Now, I retired. I very comfortable. It is right about time I give something back to the community.”
What classes do you teach?
I’m teaching tai chi. I am teaching the simple Yang style. The Yang style is very popular because the Yang style is the easiest to learn. The Chen style is difficult to learn and more geared into the younger people. The people try to actually go to competition, try to knock somebody out “bong"! That is the Chen style. But most of us here, the senior all over United States, is the Yang style.
And what other classes do you teach?
I’m teaching the Chinese brush painting. You have the brush, and then dip the thing into the ink, and then have the rice paper, and then you just draw. Chinese brush painting is very, very unique. I’m teaching most is the traditional, traditional Chinese painting. So I have quite a few students. I think I might have five, six sometimes seven. If they play hooky, I have three or four.
Tell me about your students. What are they like?
Oh, I do not know. I really do not know what they like. No. 1, I very seldom communicate with my student. They coming here, they want to learn. And then I try my best, see if I could get my points across. Basically, I show them how I do thing, and then they practice, and then I look at their way to practice. And then I try to improve their skills within their capability.
But remember, the student come here is not college student. College student, they have to work hard in order to pass. In here, we don’t have passing grade. If somebody want to repeat the same thing over and over and over again, for me, as a teacher, cannot do anything. I cannot say, “Oh, you are so stupid. Why don’t you get out?” No, we won’t do like that. And besides, most of the people that come here, the senior, they want the relaxation. Actually, I try to understand, what’s their ability? For me as a teacher, they’re coming here for recreation. Still learn something.
Why is lifelong learning and wellness important?
Of course it’s very important. To the older people, it like this—just like me, I cannot achieve or perform something I done 10 years ago. For example, 30 years ago, I could play tennis, pingpong at the 4.0 level. And today, I cannot play that more than three minutes. So therefore, as you get old, you’re mentally and also physically, what? Deteriorating. Year after year, actually not only year after year, second after the second.
But however, the old people, they still don’t want to die. They don’t want to quit. How to keep the older people young at heart unless they learn something new? A college professor teaching in nuclear physics for 40 years, at the time he retire, he say, “Look, I cannot be a better nuclear scientist anymore. The peak is over now. But yet I still have the ability to learn something new.” Completely new—because there, you are start from the beginning.
What about lifelong teaching?
New experience for me. Even though through my younger life, I always like to draw something. Once in a while, I put up the picture on sale. Some people asking me, “Mr. Moy, how you doing that?” And I said, “Da da da da da …” But it’s nothing to do with you sit down one-to-one—I teach you something. So, this is new experience to me.
Teaching is more or less like giving. Sometimes, the people get satisfaction not taking thing, but giving. So, I am lucky I have a little thing to give instead just take, take, take.
Why did you volunteer at ACC?
Maybe to the Chinese senior-citizen group, they might want to learn something from the motherland. Not many people really wanting to teaching the brush painting. That is why there’s some opportunity for me to teach. They could learn the ordinary painting, go to the university adult education. But even then, there’s not that many Chinese brush painting. They might have one or few instructors, but they are more commercialized. For me, it’s free of charge.
Are Chinese brush painting and tai chi your passions?
No, it’s not. That’s what I learned before—now, my passion is playing golf.