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.
And yes, I am traveling with Flat Stanley! My grandson Gavyn's class in Fairfax, Virginia, had a lesson on Flat Stanley and the class had to send or give it someone who could journal about Flat's travels! The first grade exercise is a nationally known program designed to teach geography and culture of those that live far and near away from them. My daughter-in-law, Jennifer, called and told me about this and said "This seems like the perfect assignment for you!" After accepting that assignment Gavyn drew and colored Flat Stanley and mailed him to me. A few days before I left, Flat Stanley arrived in my mailbox in Arkansas and off we went.
I started pulling out Flat Stanley and taking photos as soon as I got to the airport. As I started taking pictures, a Delta Airlines customer service agent asked me if that was a Flat Stanley? “Why yes, I said, my grandson gave it to me to accompany me to China!” She replied, “If you want, I can take Flat Stanley to the cockpit of this aircraft to visit with the Pilots? You can’t go with me but Flat Stanley can.” I said, “Oh yes! Here take my camera and get photos of him while he is with the Pilots.” The pilots even gave him some Wings; the same ones they give to children that fly on Delta Airlines. The Wings were the crack and peel stick on variety so I stuck them on Flat and he looked official! I took his picture so that I could send back the photo to Gavyn to show where Flat Stanley had been and what he had been doing.
In addition to traveling with Flat Stanley I was also accompanied by Javen Yeager. Javen was a freshman at Harding that had befriended many Chinese students and asked me aloud one day how I was able to travel to China as I did every year? After telling him briefly how and why I went, I asked him if he wanted to go with me the next time I went? Wow, he jumped on that idea! I went on to explain to him what he would need in passports, visas and money, thinking that would quickly draw him back, but it did not and I was excited about having him as a traveling companion as I made my way across the world. Soon Javen had all the necessary paperwork and finances worked out and off we went.
On Wednesday, May 10th, we made our way through the Little Rock and Chicago airports, on my way to Hong Kong I continued to take photos of me and Flat together in various situations. I was surprised how many people were aware of the Flat Stanley story, purpose, and function. When we boarded the flight to Hong Kong, there were a lot of Asian people looking at me funny, (no surprise there), but I soon realized they were wondering why this grey haired Caucasian traveler had a paper doll as his traveling companion. It was along and grueling flight. It was scheduled for 16 hours but we arrived about an hour early.
Javen, Flat and I arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday, May 11, and spent the night in Shenzhen in a Hotel near the home of a couple of my Chinese students from Harding, Betty and Ren, (a married couple), actually, her parent’s home. Thursday morning, we awoke, had breakfast and headed to the Lin family home to meet and greet Betty’s family. Betty was a student in my Communication Principles class about a year previous. Ren was a classmate of mine when I enrolled in a MBA class. They are a sweet and delightful Chinese couple that had been dating for a couple of years but got married soon after they both arrived in Searcy. At Betty’s parent’s house I told them of the story of Flat Stanley and they all wanted to make sure they got a picture of them and my grandson’s school project!
One of my usual activities that I do as soon as I can after arriving in China, (or any country), was to head to a phone store and acquire a phone number form that country, (china), by purchasing a “chip” that can be inserted into my IPhone. Ren knew exactly where to take us to acquire that and help us negotiate a good deal.
After that short night’s rest, some good Dim Sum for breakfast, a delightful visit to Betty’s family for Chinese tea, and a new phone, they put me, Javan and Flat Stanley on the train to our destination, Nan Hua Da Xue, in Hengyang, Hunan.
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.