LETTERS FROM CHINA 2 -
November 23, 2005
The following is a second letter
from Millicent Agnor, who just returned from China. The
first letter was published last week.
How true it is that one must walk in the
other’s moccasins to know their experience. We have come
to know something of the Chinese people that could never
be experienced as a tourist . . . our lives are spent
with the Chinese people. In describing the Chinese
people, what adjectives come to your mind? Were
“friendly, warm hearted, generous” among the adjectives?
In recent years, I believed that Millersburg and Holmes
County was the friendliest place I had ever been. Now,
easily, China is tops on the list.
I learned to take a bus into the city
center early in my experience here. One day I had a
short time available and decided to walk the city wall
by myself. It was delightful, toward the end of the day
and good for photography. The present city wall was
built during the Ming Dynasty (about 1400 A.D. I
believe), about 40 feet wide on the walking top and it
circles the city for about 7 miles. I took a bus back to
my hotel and after boarding #6, tried to converse with
my seatmate. Only one person on the bus spoke English. I
believe they were all trying to tell me that I was on
the wrong bus. I realized this when it turned north
instead of proceeding east. There was more conversation
and when I left to get the correct bus the young man who
spoke a few words of English got off with me. He and his
girl friend insisted on walking with me to the correct
bus stop. They actually changed their plans in order to
take care of me! This is the common experience!
Teaching has been a wonderful joy. I
looked forward to going to my school every morning. I
met such friendly warm teachers who are delighted to
have me work with their students. The students are so
receptive and work hard for me. We laugh and have a
wonderful time together. We have created so many new
friends in my school. Each day at noon, Button, our
teacher host, takes us to dinner at the local hotel.
Different teachers, students and parents accompany us.
We have eaten many delicious foods. Food in Shaanxi
province is quite spicy . . . some hot pepper dishes I
taste and say, “No, thank you.” Noodles and dumplings
are some of their favorite foods, prepared in so many
ways and flavors.
Our drive to and from school each day is
one hour each way. Each ride to the school gives us a
spinal adjustment (potholes) and just in case we are
sleeping as we near the school, the final railroad track
crossing seems as if they neglected to put down boards
for cars. We wake with a severe jolt!
We travel through fertile farmland.
Crops are growing in small plots, as we would say. They
have two crops a year basically . . . corn and winter
wheat. They grow many apples, pomegranates, persimmons
and green leafy vegetables. We also pass through pretty
dirty city streets. Street cleaners, persons with brooms
and dustpans, are always visible and occasionally a
truck washing the streets will also spray our van. We
see corn drying everywhere, sometimes hanging in dozens
of ears together. Shelled corn is spread on the broad
edges of the highway and people continuously are raking,
turning, shelling more corn to dry on the road. When it
rains, it is covered with tarps.
Xianyang, the small city where our
school is located, is also very famous in Chinese
history, as is Xi’an. Xianyang was the center city of 12
dynasties. We pass in the distance several emperors
tombs that have yet to be excavated. While we have been
here, Xi’an hosted the International Conference of
Preservation of Monuments and Sites. Some 1,200
representatives attended from all over the world.
Last weekend, my team packed in two full
days of seeing the sights of the city. We visited the
Big Wild Goose Pagoda built in the Qin Dynasty, Little
Wild Goose Pagoda and Tang Pavilion. Unbelievable . . .
all this. We saw the very old and the very new. Tang
Pavilion just opened last year, acres and acres of
beautiful park and trees and lake in the middle of the
city with all kinds of entertainment . . . the best
acrobats I have ever seen performed on an open square
and a large variety of other acts too.
On Sunday, four of us took a taxi to
Huashan Mountains, one of five sacred mountain areas of
China. These mountains rise absolutely vertical out of
the plain! Some choose to climb them and at least a half
dozen lose their lives each year. A cable car took us
near the top of one lower peak and we walked cement
steps the rest of the way . . . a spectacular view. It
was the first good day after many rainy ones. Such good
Shopping in the Muslim Market is a
unique experience. Many good buys and one must bargain
to get them. They will often come down double . . . from
150 yuan to 50 yuan. It pays to shop around and they
expect you to bargain. There are about 60-70,000 Muslims
in this city of 6,700,000 people. This is the largest
Muslim population in China.
Tomorrow, I will start the next part of
my journey in China. We will go to Wuhan and Han Chuan
to visit the place of Renee’s origin and speak with the
persons there who may remember her. We will deliver a
very special scrapbook. This scrapbook contains photos
and letters from the Agnor family and the family of five
other girls who were also adopted from the Han Chuan
Social Welfare Institute. Everything is in English and
Chinese. It was created by my dear artistic friend, Jann
Glove. It will be exciting!
I have a day and a half to make the
transition. Little did I imagine how meaningful these
three weeks would be. I am very nostalgic in leaving
good friends on our Global Volunteer team, but also for
all the dear Chinese friends, I have made among the
students and teachers. I wholeheartedly support the
Global Volunteer mission and philosophy. I would love to
have another Global Volunteer experience. They are in
many countries all over the world, but I would like to
return to China.
Many persons asked me or thought to
themselves, “What good can you possibly do, teaching
English for three weeks?” I confess, I rather wondered
myself, but I now am a believer! It is not so much the
English that we teach, but it is the friendships that we
make, it is the motivation the students get from us. The
Chinese people view us as wonderful friends. I truly
value their friendship.
Perhaps we make a small contribution to
world peace by building such friendships. I value this
and it is my wish for every person to know those who are
much different in cultures and appearance. So many
times, we hear that all people have more in common than
differences . . . I hope you will take every opportunity
to find the truth in this, in your heart as well as in
your head. If I had this experience much earlier in my
life, I would have chosen to spend more time building
bridges where possible.
I’m sure you must be getting tired of
reading this, wondering if I’ve lost my bearings or have
become brainwashed. Neither, my friends, just so very
grateful for this opportunity in my lifetime. People ask
me if I miss my friends and family. Of course, I do . .
. very much. I show them photos of you. But while I miss
you, I am staying in the moment and taking it all in
here. I’ll be back in little more than a week.
Lots of love,