personal note: I decided to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it costs too much to order one from Amazon USA. Not AVAILABLE IN AMAZON.CN, AHAHAHHA. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, steve, usa, june 14, 2019 firstname.lastname@example.org
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I somehow forgot everything about my experience at Dexing’s hotel and resumed my normal life with Eric, my godson. One day Jady wanted me to share my thoughts about my life and writing in China. He gathered his co-workers together at his workplace, the CDC. We had a wonderful time exchanging some ideas about what I thought about China and why the world outside is interested to know more about China, a country that continues to baffle many outsiders because of its lack of transparency or active campaign to advertise itself to the world. China must do more to educate the world about the country, the government, the people and its status now as number two in the world, only next to America. China has many sister-cities around the globe and that is only one way to encourage involvement of people-to-people programs. Today, under President Xi’s leadership, China partners with many countries around the world in promoting cultural and educational exchanges. Through the Confucius Institute, millions of students have the opportunity to learn Chinese culture and language in high schools and universities around the globe. The Germans do that with their Goethe Institute. Each year more Chinese youth are traveling abroad to learn about other cultures and countries and to experience living in a different cultural environment.
The United States now has the most foreign students from China studying in its many colleges and universities. And the top students tend to stay and work and live in America. And those who do not do well in American schools, especially those who still cannot speak fluent English after a four-year education, would return to China, many to work for their parents and their businesses. According to one of my students, who had studied in England, now working for an English training school in Guizhou Province, he knew of students who have returned to China to improve their English before they could continue their education in America. A surprise to me. Despite the presence of Chinese students all over the world, the world still thinks China is not telling the world everything about the country and its government and its people. Blame it on their lack of mastery of the language of their host country. Blame it on the fact most Chinese students prefer to live and play and study with students of their own kind. Many Chinese students do not mingle or interact with young people of the host countries. I wonder what more China can and should do to gain the trust of the people around the world? That is the question for the government to think on and decide. Not everyone is lucky like me to visit China and to be able to live with Chinese families as I travel from city to city during this Chunjie holidays.
Another day Jady took me and Eric to ride the train for children. This was
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a recreational area devoted to trains. Many young parents, like Jady, would bring their little boys and girls to ride the train. There was also an old stationary train for kids to see its construction and what an old train looks like. On the way there, we found certain roads closed to any traffic and the rumor was in the air that President Xi would be visiting soon. His work philosophy is not to interfere with the lives of the local people and people should not stop doing what they should be doing because of his presence. So since he took over the presidency in 2013, he would visit different places quietly without any pomp and ceremony, no long motorcade, no dinners and welcoming red carpets. People should carry on their lives as usual and not stop for him. That is the new President of China. He did come to Nanchang a few days later after I left for another city.
As a father, Jady made sure Eric has many opportunities to learn about the world around him. He has taken Eric camping a few times. Exposure to the world is one of the best ways for kids to learn about their environment and their love for nature and the world around them. And now with a family car, there is no end what he can do for Eric. He has taken Eric to visit and stay with his paternal grandparents, only an hour and a half away from his apartment.
As a research scientist at the CDC, Jady had won a competition and had spent a year working in Japan. And now he had been offered a scholarship to pursue his PhD there. And it became urgent I discuss with him why he and his wife should consider having a second child. None of my business, right?
I kept reminding Jady of what happened on May 12, 2008, when the massive and enormously devastating Wenchuan Great Earthquake or Wenchuan Da Dizhen occurred in the mountainous central region of Sichuan Province in southwestern China. Whole villages and towns in the affected areas were destroyed. Many schools with over 5,000 students attending classes collapsed and killed all of them. Nearly 375,000 people were injured by falling debris and collapsing buildings. Many more died because of lack of modern rescue equipment, and extreme damages made many remote villages difficult to reach. The evening news in America brought tears to my eyes and sadness to my heart. First, I called David who was doing his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley campus. And he assured me his parents were safe from the earthquake. They live in Sichuan Province. Then, I called my professor friend and his wife in Beijing. They have a teenage son.
“I am so sorry about the devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province,” I said to him.
“You know, Steve, China goes through many natural disasters every year. I do not
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know how we deal with them. And this one in Sichuan is one of the worst in recent history,” he said.
“I want you to do something tomorrow morning, before your son goes to school,” I said.
“What is that?”
“Tell him, you and your wife, ‘Son we love you.’ Will you do that?” I said.
I know in China parents do not say this to their children. I know the Chinese culture and American culture are different. But my Beijing friend and his son had spent a year in America in an exchange program. So he should have learned something about the American culture, the relationships between parents and their children. I thought he would not have any difficulty doing this in China, to say “Son, we love you.”
“Steve, my son knows we love him. We do not have to say this to him,” he said.
This is China.
“You know what? All those parents in Sichuan must have regretted deeply now that they did not have a chance to say ‘We Love You’ that day, before their children went to school. They will carry this burden, this guilt and regret for the rest of their lives,” I said. “Do your best. I know it is difficult for Chinese parents in China to say this. But you must try.”
In the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, many questions were raised about the shoddy construction that was blamed for the catastrophic collapse of so many school buildings, killing thousands of students. And what about the parents whose only child was taken from them so unexpectedly? Many were too old to bear another child.
Then I said the worst thing I could say to Jady, all from my heart.
“You know Jady, as much as I am Eric’s godfather, and as much as I love your son Eric, there is no guarantee he will be here forever to take care of you,” I said so sincerely and seriously. There is no guarantee your son will be here for you.
During my time in China, I have read many stories about the social problems facing modern China and how the Chinese government is trying to tackle each one of them with whatever resources available to them. One group of aging parents never were
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able to bear their own children and now at old age, they are left without any help from anyone. The second group of aging parents lost their only child through accident, disease, ill health and other causes, now left without anyone to take care of them. And the third group of aging parents are those whose children had left when they were in their teens and now choose not to return to their parents, especially those in rural and remote areas in China. China has a problem with the aging population of parents who are now left to themselves.
I wanted Jady to understand Eric should have a sibling, so the two can take care of their parents when they are old. More than that, Eric should not grow up alone with no sibling to play with or talk to. Many of my students in college have told me they grew up feeling very lonely because they were the only child in the family. Some rather enjoy being the only child but most express deep loneliness without anyone their age to play with or talk to. The Chinese government has introduced a new law to encourage almost most families to have a second child. The response from the women in China was at best lukewarm. “Too expensive,” a loud chorus from the women out there in China. Not all women want to be a slave to a child. For the past 35 years, women have enjoyed the freedom to raise one child. That has become the norm, the women said.
Jady and his wife have to make the decision, not just for Eric but for their own future.
I came to Nanchang to see my godson Eric.
I want him to grow up a happy child.
This is China.