I’m in China now. I arrived about a week ago. I start teaching later today. Right now, as I started writing this it was Wednesday morning, May 17th. China is 13 hours ahead of my hometown of Searcy, Arkansas in the USA. It usually takes me a few days to get my clock turned around, meet with all the teachers and administrators here at the University of South China for which I will be a visiting professor for the next four weeks.
While on the train I pulled Flat Stanley out of my carry-on bag so that I could get a photo of him on the Chinese High Speed Railway system. When I looked back down there was the cutest little Chinese girl looking at me and Flat as if she wanted to know what I was doing and who was this friend I had with me. Her parents, from across the aisle had sent her over to say hi to me, as she had just started learning English in her pre-school classes. I had her hold Flat so I could take their photo together. It was all I could do to get Flat back from her. I tried to explain in my broken Chinese why I was traveling with a Paper Doll. That little girl was soooo “ku ai.” (Chinese for cute).
On Saturday, May 20th, in our second weekend in Hengyang, Javan, Flat and I started out for Guangzhou and Donguang to visit our Harding students that were from that area. Plus, on Monday,I had been invited to speak to the Public Relations majors at the Guangdong University of Foreign studies (GUFS). Javan and I were going to two different cities, he to Guangzhou and me first to Donguang. I was going to visit Chen Yingying, a delightful young student that I first met in 2016 while visiting and lecturing at the university she was attending.
Upon arriving at the Guangzhou South train station I made my way to the Subway station and carefully studied the map to see where I was and where I needed to be. A young man, probably a university age student, thought I needed his help, (which I certainly did), and he asked me in broken English if he could help?
After about a drive of one hour, at around noon, we arrived in Foshan. We went to the designated area where we were to meet Ivy but she was not there yet. We assured Zhang Dan and hi wife Sarah that we would be fine and that he and his family should go on after dropping us off. I had Dani and Jeff with me and we could figure out how to meet with Ivy and how to get back. We waited in a park.
The next morning Javan and I had breakfast at the hotel and waited to meet West Ling, (and Stella) in the lobby to take us through our itinerary for the day. I don’t think Stella knew that West was going to be there and I could see the disappointment in her face at not being able to show us to our meetings on campus. I invited Stella to go with us until she had to leave for class, and that we would meet up with her when we showed up for our afternoon class for which she was a class member and I was the guest speaker. She seemed to be delighted with that opportunity.
The two-hour train ride back to Hengyang seemed to be shorter than usual. We made our way from the station to the bus, to the open market bus stop near our apartment, and walked the last two kilometers or so. Still, all the while I was going over in my mind what I would need to do to start the process of replacing my Passport and Visa. I still couldn’t keep from thinking about how bad I felt about losing Flat Stanley… What was I going to do to fix this? I mean money is just money, and the Visa and Passport was just time and money to replace, but Flat Stanley… Flat Stanley was irreplaceable! All I had was a photo….
On Saturday, May 27th, Javan and I left Hengyang once again for Guangzhou. Our plans were to visit some of my other former and current Chinese students, namely Li Aiting (Kitty), and her husband Berry, and of course Crescent and his family. Javan was to meet up with JoJo. The best part of the trip was that this time Flat Stanley 2.0 was going with me.
I had dinner plans with two of my favorite former Harding students. Berry was once in my Principles of Communications class as a student. BTW – Berry, not Barry, was the way he spelled his English nick-name. He chose that name because he loved strawberries, blueberries and berries of all kinds! The semester Berry was in my class he left at Spring Break and did not come back. When I inquired as to why, I was told...
Sunday; a Day to meet old friends and new family:
I love Sunday’s in China. It gives me a chance to meet with my family from another part of the world. I particularly like it when one of my Chinese students wants to attend with me. Crescent wanted to meet with me this day and join me in my weekly family time. Crescent knew that I took time to meet every week like this and he wanted to be a part of this. He had never been to a meeting such as this, not even in Searcy, even though he had a class every semester to study the Good Book.
I like history, but am not a great fan of many historical things like many in my family are, but I love to see the old villages and places where people engaged in everyday life from many years ago. Those kinds of historic replicas or original places show me about people and life. When Crescent (Yijun) asked me what I wanted to do that afternoon I asked him if we could see something old and historic. He must have heard me and Donna discuss this back home because he immediately said, “I know exactly where I want to take you! An old Willage!” I’m sure he meant Village, but he never could seem to say it properly. I wanted to snicker every time he said willage but I resisted… as best I could.
Have you ever heard the line, “All the tea in China?” Well, I think I saw most of it in one tea district in South China. I was in the city of Guangzhou with my Chinese son, Zhang Yijun, also known as Crescent. I had mentioned the day before while we were eating lunch that I really liked the tea that was being served at the restaurant. I casually mentioned that I would like to find some tea like this to take home with me. Chinese friends never forget statements such as these and especially never miss a chance to give a foreigner, or friend, a gift.
My time in China was quickly coming to an end of my service contract and mission. But I still had this lingering list of things that I wanted to do that are better done in China than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Of course, getting my Visa and passport so that I could get home was chief among that list. But that was something for which I couldn’t do for another couple of days still.
The day that I first set out for Guangzhou and subsequently lost my wallet, money, Passport and Visa, was quite an ordeal. This easily was one of the worse days of my life. I was alone, in a communist country and was completely befuddled as to what to do next. I knew God was still with me. My feet hit the floor when I woke up that morning. I wasn’t physically hurt and had plenty of money resources to survive the situation. So, why did I feel so helpless? In my mind I knew, that given time, this would all be fixed, so I consoled myself with the thought of, “just relax and take this one step at a time.
I was so anxious to get home. While my time in Hengyang this year was fun, it was one of the most stressful trips of my many years traveling to China. Because of the debacle of losing my passport and visa, credit cards and Flat Stanley left me with a feeling of, “I can’t wait to get home and put all of this behind me.” On the plus side, I got to meet two amazing young professors that hosted me and Javen and helped us in so many ways. I will always be thankful for Zhang Bao Xin (Joy), and her colleague Xiao Huan (Fanny), for the many ways they became a part of our lives and even our mission. Joy was a Christian, and she let me know that early, so we connected on a different level than I did with Fanny. Leaving Hengyang was sad because I knew that I may never see these two young women again.
Home! It seemed like a long time coming. It was the most stressful and in many ways the most rewarding trip I have had to China to date. But, I say that every year, the rewarding part, not the stressful part. This WAS definitely THE most stressful trip I had ever taken. I had always prepared for times and experiences such as these and this was the first time I had to actually executive my emergency plan.
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.