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Thursday, 22 September 2011

China - Why Return?

By Johna Ferguson

Things will have changed, I’m sure. I remember that fateful June 4, 1989, when positive suddenly became negative; the hope that had sprung forth in ordinary people’s hearts was pierced to the core by the ominous sounds of gunfire from advancing tanks and armored vehicles.

What will it be like to return to China after our year's break in the States? I’m sitting in my condo in Seattle looking out at the Space Needle and I wonder, why leave this peaceful place? My friends and family ask all kinds of questions about my returning; especially what about my future. I can only tell them my heart is there.

Beijing is a huge flat, dull, uninteresting city, yet one full of history and the center of the political scene. But this is such a small part of mainland China. Most Chinese live and work in the countryside but for those of us who live in the city, it is a vibrant place full of all kinds of contradictions; but then, China is that way.

And Qingdao, where we have our home, is a unique and wonderful place to live. The longer I stay in China, the more difficult it is for me to become assimilated back into the American way. It’s not that I don’t love my country, I do. My heart bursts with pride at our many accomplishments, but my heart also breaks when I think of the many homeless and poor in our country of “plenty.”

But that isn’t what takes me back, the feeling that they have something we don’t or that life is better there than here. No, it’s much deeper; it’s a feeling of warmth they have given me, a feeling of belonging instead of the feeling of always being just an individual; a feeling of being responsible for others, not always just to myself.

I find the Chinese kind, yet they kill each other at uprisings. They love their families, yet divorce is on the rise. They believe everyone should be equal, yet there are very rich ones and many poor ones. They believe in certain rules for demeanor yet watch them push and shove for anything. They are a country full of contradictions. This is the irony of China; the way the country is run versus the people themselves.

I go back because of the people. I’m an ideologist, I guess. I believe even one person can make a difference in this world of ours. Not an outstanding leader, just an average person. If we have Americans living in foreign countries not talking about how great America is, but just living everyday lives there, the world can’t help but learn from us.

I was just a teacher, teaching about some of the customs of our country, that’s all. I was not teaching religion or politics, just English and the way to use it and how it fits into our lifestyle. I wasn’t teaching right or wrong, I wasn’t teaching about blacks or whites, rich or poor, but about all Americans, just “Joe Average” like you and me.

And so I went back in the fall of ’89 and now I still go back and forth yearly. My Chinese husband and I will return for four months starting the middle of September. Each time I go I see monumental changes. I will try to write you about some of the major ones I see now, 22 years after that fateful day in June.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


How wonderful it is at our age to have a sense of purpose--to feel one has a role to play just by being one's self, and modeling good, kind human values. Imagine a world where everyone did that!


I don't expect to ever have the wonderful experience of going to China so I will just wait here and read of your adventures..

Have a good trip back to Beijing and wear your Perry Ellis coat so they will let you into the Country even if you forget your passport..HA!

I enjoyed your story immensely. We need to hear more from people like you who have the privilege of living the life of which they write.
Thank you for sharing.

I taught English off and on in Beijing in the 1990s, and I agree with your assessment of Qingdao, which I had the chance to visit while I was there.

I would love to go back, but I have reached an age which the universities looking for English teachers seem to consider as too old. How I envy you.

Thank you for your thoughts and feelings. Whether America or China, the world is made up of individuals and most are warm and good individuals. The more Americans can live "ordinary" lives and simply reflect that people care about one another beyond ethnicity, the better the world will be. We have at times set bad examples. Enjoy your visit.

I think you are an extraordinary woman. You are living your truth and it has to be a positive and learning experience for both Americans and Chinese. It also raises the question that I have pondered for years. Why is it that China has that great attraction for you? Why is it that Africa has that great attraction for me? Thank you so much.

I travel to China every couple years. My neighbor is Chinese. When he and his wife travel there, she tells me everyting upon return. A great storyteller has the ability to transport the hearer.
I did spend over a year in Taiwan.

sheh sheh ni

sheh sheh ni

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