Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Once upon a time in China

Once upon a time, half my life ago, My husband and I took a break from our lives as American College Students, and signed up to travel to Beijing China and attend Beijing Teacher's College as exchange students. The Miracles began as soon as we committed to going. we didn't have the money, heck I worked at Taco Bell and he worked for Dominos pizza and we were full time students - but as soon as we said, "let's do this!" Doors opened. We met the University financial aid officer and she knew her job. She helped us get the loans and grants and put us into a program that viewed the whole trip expense as tuition.

Soon we had the next miracle. A girl, age 17, came to our home town as an exchange student from China to the local High School. We met her just before we had to leave and found out that her parents lived only a couple blocks from our dormitory in Beijing. this entrance into a Chinese Family gave us instant friends, who went out of their way to play host. They loaned us their daughter's bike and took us to many places, and invited us repeatedly into their home to eat and visit.

We flew from Oregon to Hong Kong, still a British Colony at that time, then stayed three days and Flew to Japan, and from there to Beijing at last. The first discovery was that the colleges in Beijing did not allow married students, and they claimed that they had believed us to be brother and sister, and fined us $200 dollars to allow us to share a dorm room on the men's floor. This was a time when the average monthly salary in Beijing was $20.

The classes that we took were History,Chinese Education, mandarin and Tai Chi. We got to go on many trips around the country by Bike, train, plane and boat. There were riches beyond imagining and a treasure of history, even though some still bore the scars of destruction from Mao's Cultural Revolution. There was also a lot of poverty, but not poverty of spirit. Over and over again we met people with no qualms about inviting us into their homes and allowing us to hold their babies and share their food. they sometimes shared one water spigot with 6 families, or had no refrigeration, or their toilet was a trench with boards across it, but they always made us feel welcome. They were richer than a lot of penny pinching people in McMansions around me every day now.

I have been looking at the photographs from that semester and realizing that no other period of my life, so shaped who I have become. Because I realized that even in vastly different cultures, people are people with many more good people in the faces you meet than "Bad Strangers." i have to admit that sometimes it was hard to be the obvious minority. I was as tall or taller than most people I met, and brightly red-headed and therefore everyone stared. A Lot. But the friends I made are still with me in my heart every day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

When dreams and children combine

Not artistic but old, this combine was the inspiration for many years of adventures for my brothers, cousins and I. Growing up in the hot, dry dusty summers it became everything from Cinderella's coach, to a pirate ship to the rocket to the Moon. In more than one spring we found that our Easter Baskets were hidden in here. We hid during games of hide and seek or when Grandma Grace wanted to assign chores, safe in here.

Life was good when the sun was baking down on this rusty hunk of junk. I'm not sure how active play could be when just sitting on the edge of this machine, clucking your tongue at a magnificent team of stagecoach ponies, but the imagination became more active by the moment, and at times the highest point became a springboard for long jumping competitions where we learned that we could, almost fly. So when the stagecoach was suddenly held up by bandana smothered bandits, the play turned very active, leaping from the coach, cracking whips and tackling the bad guys and earning golden rewards was all part of a day to day life, and easily managed in time to be called in for dinner.