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.
West Ling had a full day planned for us. Including handing us off to Dr. Janet Cai. Janet was a professor at GUFS that I had met when she was a visiting professor at Harding in 2012. It was her class that I would later be guest lecturing.
We sat down in the Lobby and I explained to West what had transpired just two days before when I lost all of my credentials, ID cards, money and such. Stella listened as I was looking for West to give me some direction about how to proceed to acquire a new Passport and Visa. Stella broke into our conversation to tell me in what seemed like a very stern voice, “You should be more careful! You need to make sure you keep track of your stuff better when you travel!” I was stunned that this 20 year old girl would give an older man such a rebuke. It was so unlike the Chinese culture to do this. I was a bit surprised that she said this. I sarcasticly said, “Thank you Stella, I’m so glad to now know that!” West said something to her in Chinese and she backed off. As soon as I saw her back down from West’s comments I felt bad. I guess I shouldn’t have been so sarcastic to Stella, after all, she was right!
I knew that West would help me about as much as anybody I knew in China. After all he had arranged for hundreds of Chinese students to acquire their Passports and Visa’s so that could attend Harding University. He said, “You need to go to the U.S. Embassy to get another Passport. Then you need to go back to Hengyang to get a replacement Visa. Where is the Embassy? What do I do to apply? How long would this take? I had a zillion questions....
I then asked West if he would talk to Sunny back in Hengyang. She is my International host and was in charge of all my legal details while I was in China. “Sure,” he said. I called her number and handed him my phone. I wanted him and Sunny to be on the page as to my next move and somehow make this Flat Stanley kidnapping get resolved. They spoke in Chinese for a few minutes. As they spoke West would look back at me, but I couldn’t read what that meant. When he got off the phone he looked at me and said, She’s angry! She said she told you not to leave town. Well, I needed to be here to keep my commitment to you and Dr. Cai. So I’ll smooth things over with her when I get back.
West Ling told me I would have to go to the U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou to apply for a new Passport. He made a phone call, spoke in Chinese for a few minutes, said Zai Jian, turned to me and said, “You need to go on-line to the Embassy website, download the forms, and make an appointment to come back to Guangzhou to complete the process.” I had a full day the next day in Guangzhou and I was returning to Hengyang on Tuesday. “I’ll start this process when I get back to my apartment,” I lamented.
Today is Monday and it’s a National Holiday on Tuesday, it’s Dragon Boat Days. So we can’t even call them until mid-week.
Our first stop upon leaving the Aloft Hotel was a campus meeting of prospective students. There were about 20 students who seemed very delighted to see me and buzz to each other about us, but I couldn’t get them to engage of communicate back with us. I was told that they thought their English was to poor to talk to me, so I greeted again, this time in Chinese. They laughed at my poor Chinese skills! I told them to relax, that their English was better than my Chinese! I delivered to them my pre-planned speech about the differences of universities in America compared to Chinese. Ironically, the Chinese High School system is very hard compared to America’s but their University process was so much easier than ours. That meant these students had experienced their own rigid high school system and was now going to be transferring to a harder more rigid university life as well. There were two female students that came up to us afterwards to get their photos made with us. One had good English skills and was actually quite chatty with us. The other student never said a word, even when spoken to. She smiled, nodded her head, looked at her friend, and allowed her friend answered for her.
It was near noon, and West had planned a luncheon with two of the University leaders along with Dr. Cai. Even though I had been communicating with Dr. Cai via email and working out our speaking arrangement I had not seen Janet in a year or so, she was very excited to see me again What a wonderful and delightful person she is.
After lunch we hurried back to her classroom where upon arriving a minute or so late we walked in to a thunderous round of applause and standing! There were about 125 students that had been told we would be there. Stella was in this class and had prepped the class about who we were, where we were from and such. I first told them a bit about myself, and my family. I introduced Javan and then went into my planned lesson on Public Relations practices in America. They also applauded when I finished! Dr. Cai apparently told them that I would be happy to take photos with them and they just rushed the front of the room when we dismissed. I stood there for about 30 minutes trying to meet everybody that wanted to say hi to me and get there photo made with me or Javan. Finally, Dr. Cai told them all we had to leave and they applauded again! I NEVER get responses like that back home.
Janet escorted us back to our hotel and informed us that she and her husband would be taking us to dinner that evening and to be ready at 6:00 o’clock. I headed for a Chinese nap and Javan chose to walk around the area promising to be back soon. We were ready and as scheduled Janet showed up in our lobby and we got in the waiting car for which her husband was driving. Her husband, whom I had met in 2012, was also a university professor but he was at the Guandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Soon we arrived at the restaurant. It was raining again. And our table was outside, or so I thought it was. It was actually in another building that we had to access by walking out of the back of the building and down a walkway that was built over a pond of water. Our table was in a private room off of this walkway that had glass walls and one very large round table. I thought Janet must have invited more people to join us? Yep, soon one of my Harding Chinese students,Yuyang, and his parents walked into the room. I had met the parents the previous year and had Yuyang man in my most recent class. Then I remembered that he was in fact the nephew of Dr. Janet's husband. His Mom brought us gifts! It’s so Chinese to bring gifts for visitors. But they brought way to much. I knew that unless I left something behind that I would need to buy another suitcase to get home. I couldn’t refuse the gifts. That was a real social no-no in this culture. I thanked them again, and again, and carried them out as we left that evening. Later, before I returned home, I took the gifts of tea, and the porcelain tea set (cups and serving pieces) out of the styrofoam packaging the were in and repacked them in something that took up a lot less room in my suitcase and I was able to get them home unscathed.
Before the evening ended Dr. Cai asked for my train tickets. She then reached into her purse and pulled out almost ¥2,000 to pay me for speaking and cover my costs of travel and such. I knew this was the arrangement and after losing ¥4,000 earlier it was a bit of a relief to get this in my pocket, although I would have done what I did for absolutely no charge!
The next morning, after breakfast, Stella was there to escort us to the train station, make sure we were able to get our tickets and set us on our way back to Hengyang. She was a delightful hostess and a very welcomed help while we were in Guangzhou. We both thanked her. Then she turned to Javan and announced that she had a gift for him. She then proceeded to pull out a book, a paperback, used American literature book of some sort, that she said was one of her favorite American books. Stella handed that to Javan. He looked surprised and I didn’t think he had a return gift for her, but without a second's hesitation he said, I have a book for you too. It’s my favorite book. He reached into his backpack and pulled out his traveling Bible and gave it to her. She was excited to say the least! I’m not sure she actually knew what it was but it was from Javan! Stella held the book to her heart and told him she would cherish it! Just as we were finished saying goodbye I wanted to get a selfie of she and I. No! She exclaimed. Why I asked?” She didn’t like the way she looked. Are you kidding me??? She looked like she had just stepped of the front page of a fashion magazine. But she insisted that she did not want me to have a photo made with her! So I just said, “OK,” turned around and we left. I was very disappointed in not having that picture, but she would not have any of that.
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.