Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, July 18, 2008

We returned to the tent school this morning. The students running the school had asked me to visit a couple classes I had not had a chance to speak to. I also returned to the English class. A few days ago, I had heard Andy singing "Take Me to Your Heart," a song popularized in China by an English-speaking Danish rock group. I don't know if this song is heard much in the States, but it is a big hit in China. I asked Andy to write down the words, and we taught them to the kids.

I cannot say enough good about the energetic young people who gave up their summer to teach this school for the children of the earthquake. You know, it's a lot of work teaching these lively kids. But they are a lot of fun. When I visited a class of primary age kids, I was saying things to them in Mandarin, and asking them how to say those things in their local Sichuan dialect. Actually, I don't know whether a linguist would consider Sichuan-hua a different dialect. Deng Xiao-ping was from Sichuan, and he spoke with a heavy Sichuan accent, but people in the rest of China seemed to be able to understand him. Whatever the case may be, it was sure funny watching these kids trying to teach me how to speak like a native.

We finished our work at the tent school at noon, so we decided to stop at another school. We stopped by unannounced at a location where some volunteers from Chengdu University had been running a summer school. The summer school had been disbanded, partly due to the heat, and partly due to the fact that the regular school year this year has been moved back because of the earthquake, so the kids will be back in their regular school the first of August. But when we talked with them, they asked us to stay, and they went outside and rounded up all the kids they could find. I asked one of the student volunteers to translate for me, and then presented the students with a simple question: "What is your dream?" It was interesting to listen to some of their answers.

"I want to be a doctor."

"I want to be a teacher."

"I want to be an engineer."

Toward the end of my presentation, I stopped at the desk of one young lady, and put the question to her. She said, "I want to go to Chengdu University so I can be like her (pointing to my interpreter) and understand what you are saying." I thought, "This is the smartest kid in here." It's easy to throw out the name of a profession you have heard about, or something you imagine will put you in a good position in society. But that young lady has found a practical reason to get a good education. She saw me walk in as a complete stranger, and one of her teachers was able to immediately begin translating what I was saying to that everyone could understand. That kid is destined for success.

This is our last evening on the farm. Tomorrow we head back to Chengdu, and then Andy and Hank will be leaving for Beijing. The hospitality of these country people has been a huge help to us. As we were walking down the road outside the farm this evening, I heard a truck coming. It sounded like a very big truck and it sounded like it was coming very quickly. I was surprised, because I couldn't figure out why such a big vehicle would be racing toward us at that time of the evening. But Xiao Hong told me it was a landslide in the mountains. It is going to take awhile for these hills to heal, but as the seasons come and go, the vegetation will slowly cover the scars, and the mountains will stop bleeding. Nature has a way of healing her wounds, albeit ever so slowly.

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