I wanted to spend some more time with Hope so that I could learn more about her story. I asked her if she would be willing to join me, Anson and Jiaming for dinner, and then to accompany Anson and me to tomorrow’s activities of meeting and speaking to a couple of different schools?
She jumped at the chance. She has been out of high school for a year now and did not have a job. So her normal days consisted of helping her aging grandparents in whatever needed to be done at home. I knew of a place that had the best Jaozi (dumplings) in the world, right here in Xi’an. It was a restaurant called the Golden Dumpling on the second floor of a building on the South Bell Tower Plaza. None of the three local Xi’an residents I was with knew of this place, but I told them to just hang with me and I would show them Xi’an!
On this second full day in Xi’an I visited a high school for the arts. Anson met me and Hope, for whom I had invited to tag along with me, at the hotel lobby. We arrived at the first school office to meet and pick up one of Anson’s employers. His name was Mr. Kong. As the three of us sat in the reception room of this very hipster type of office, I noticed that the office staff of women kept walking by and staring at me. I asked Hope what was going on and she said they wanted to see the American. The next time one of them walked through I stood up, held out my hand and introduced myself, Wo Shi Xie Yeye, (which always brings a giggle because Yeye is not a real name in China). When I turned and introduced Hope they asked me what she did? Did she work for me? Was she my assistant? No, I said, “She is my Meili Fanyi, which means beautiful translator.”
We quickly left the office and drove to what we would call in America, a magnet high school. It was a school for high school seniors only and had specialized training classes in the graphic arts. This class was a drawing class. The class was busy drawing one of their classmates for whose turn it was to be their model. After a few minutes they asked me if I would be the model? I wasn’t sure that I heard correctly so I turned to my meili fanyi and Hope explained that the teacher wanted to draw my likeness and have the rest of the class look over his shoulder while he explained what he was doing. The teacher promised it would only take about ten minutes (it took longer), and If I would let him do this I should just get into a comfortable seated position. This may be the first and only time I will work as a model! Everybody strained to look over his shoulder hanging on to every word he mumbled about drawing my likeness, but eventually they all clapped when he was done. Afterwards we all posed for photos with the teacher and the students. I had handed Hope my camera so that she could take a few photos of the experience. They were really good. She seemed to catch this story in picture form. Hope wants to major in education when she gets to Harding I may want to recruit her to the media arts. Hmm…???
We left there and went to a very nice restaurant. Mr. Kong and his business associate, another Mr, Kong, (no relations but they laughed about being brothers from a different mother). The food was excellent. I always tell my hosts that I’ll eat anything and they should just order for me. At first they wanted to place us in selected seating but I insisted that Hope sit next to me. I knew that Anson would talk business with them in Chinese and I wanted Hope and I to maybe continue our conversation about her story. I asked Hope to explain to me what they were talking about as they ordered. Oh they want to order usual Chinese dishes, two or three kinds of meats, and fish! They ordered Peking Duck, a whole baked chicken, (and when I say whole I mean head feet and all), and some lamb strips. Along with a few vegetable side dishes it was a feast. They also wanted to order me a beer. I declined gracefully so they ordered me an Orange soda instead! I normally don’t drink calories. I drink black coffee, unsweetened tea (hot and iced) and water. Water is my usual drink of choice.
This day was running long. I knew I needed to go back to my hotel, change clothes for giving a more formal lecture and pick up a flash drive with three PowerPoints on them to be delivered at my next stop. So no Chinese nap for me this day.
The class I then taught was at the Xi’an Medical University. It was a few combined classes for their English majors. I talked about the three principles of Rhetoric that Aristotle had taught 3,000 years ago, Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Then I shifted gears and talked about the elements of vocal variety, to keep you from sounding boring. Both lectures were straight from my Principles of Communication class I teach the Chinese students at Harding.
I had Hope, my meili Fanyi, sitting on the front row. Even though I lectured in English I would often resort to explain things in Chinese one word at a time. I often would ask Hope what the Chinese word was for whatever… She was amazing, being put on the spot like that, but boldly speaking up with the assistance I needed.
I’ve been teaching as a guest lecturer in China eight out of the last nine years. I always leave room for Q&A, and the questions don’t have to be about my lecture or subject matter of the class. I think they were most surprised during this time when I answered a question about Donald Trump. I won’t post here what I said… (I learned my lesson about talking politics on Social Media the hard way.)
Anson Ye, then took over my time to make a presentation about Harding University. Anson is the perfect ambassador for Harding University. What a great young man. He gets married to Liu Jiaming, on August 19th, which happens to be mine and Donna’s anniversary date. I am so glad that we will share that date together forever more!
Hope, is planning on attending Harding in the fall as a freshman even though she will be 21 years old by then. Hope was a smiling and beautiful presence that stayed by my side and whispered/translated all the things that were being said about me throughout the day. When we got back to my hotel, I said my thanks and goodbyes. Anson drove home, Hope got on her bus to her house and I started planning for my Holiday visit in Lingbao the next day. I can’t wait to reunite with Hope the 2nd week or August… But, I do not want the summer days to end yet. I’m just getting started.
Steve Shaner, also known as Xie Yeye, is a professional story teller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.