If you have
a chance, please check my blog on our school’s home page. I am trying each day
to review the day’s events during my trip to China and to include photos so
that you can share in this experience with me. I’m very thankful for the
opportunity to represent Hicksville Village Schools as part of the
Administrator Exchange Program in conjunction with the Ohio Department of
Education and the Chinese Ministry of Education. Following is an excerpt of my
blog from Sunday, the 11th of April.
Today was a
humbling day. The past few days, we’ve been seeing the sights of Xi’an and it’s
been intriguing to see the history and people of China and this city. It’s a
country with an incredibly rich history and also a vision for a future as seen
by the extensive construction taking place in the city. But today was a
reminder that this is also a country of well over a billion people, many who
are poor and struggling. It was also a reminder that the human spirit seems to
prevail, no matter the circumstances.
went to Pangliu to visit this village that is about 30 kilometers from Xi’an.
It’s the village where our tour guide, “Richard,” grew up. On the way to the
village, Richard told us about his childhood in Pangliu, where his family, like
all villagers, was very, very poor. He also told us about the Chinese system of
“registration” which basically categorizes each person as “rural” or “urban.”
And if you’re rural, there’s not much hope that you will ever rise out of the
condition of poverty and go to the city, where there is a chance to get a job
and make a decent living.
objective was to visit the Pangliu village school, which houses about 150
students from Grades 1 through 6. It was a delightful part of our journey. But
we also got to look through the village of about 2,500 people. It was clear
that this was a village made up of people who have very little. The job
opportunities are few. Although we did see that there are those who are trying
to make a living by starting private businesses raising watermelons, grinding
flour, and making bricks, most villagers work for the government in the fields,
where they plant and harvest winter wheat followed by corn. As poor as it is,
the village we saw is considered one of the more well-to-do villages in the
country. But still, the most poor in Hicksville would be considered very well off
compared to the people of Pangliu.
point of the trip was definitely our visit to the village school. Even though
it was Sunday, all children were at the school to welcome us. As we arrived at
the school, we walked through a tunnel of children clapping, playing drums and
cymbals, and wishing us a “warm welcome.” It was really a festive occasion and
we could tell that they were quite excited about our visit.
meeting with the school’s principal, we visited the students in their classrooms.
Some sang songs for us, some showed us how they would work on their lessons in
reading or other subject areas. All children will go to middle school after
they leave the village school (that was not always the case in the past). After
middle school, they will take examinations. Some will go to high school. Some
will go to vocational school. Some will drop out of school and continue the
life of poverty that generations before them have lived in.
story is Richard, our tour guide. As I noted, Richard grew up in Pangliu.
Knowing that the only way “out” was to be switched from “rural” to “urban” by
the government, Richard was determined to be a good student because going to
university was one way that a citizen of China could hope to receive a
registration of “urban” and go to the city to get a job that earns decent
wages. At that time, the village school was much larger because families were
large. It is much smaller today because of the government’s edict of one child
per family. So out of Richard’s class of 60, only 5 were allowed to move on to
middle school because of their examination results. After middle school, only 2
of the 5 were allowed to move on to high school. Imagine that. Only 2 of the 60
village students from Richard’s class were allowed to get a high school
education. Richard was one of those two students.
Richard returned to his village to be a teacher for a couple of years (the
government assigns all teachers and principals to the schools at which they
will work). After that, he was able to finish his university education (where
he learned to speak English fluently) and was sent to the city to work for the
government, where he made decent enough wages to help his parents and 5 younger
brothers. To make a long story short, Richard ultimately was able to study in
the United States for 1 year in the hotel, restaurant, and hospitality industry
and he returned to China to manage a hotel for many years. Ultimately, he
retired and purchased his own tour business, and he works for the China
Exchange Initiative when their groups come to Xi’an.
never forgotten his roots in Pangliu and his poor childhood, and he is a great
champion for the little village school where he got his start. At the school,
his picture is on many classroom walls as he has provided money for the school
library, computers, and many other projects. Our group made a donation to
Richard, which he will give to the school to help them fill a need they might
have. Each winter, Richard fully funds the purchase of coal to keep the school
warm. It was an incredible story of someone who worked to rise above his
surroundings. But after doing so, he didn’t forget where he came from, nor did
he forget the needs of the people who still struggle every day.
visit to the school, we broke up into 3 groups, and each group went to a
villager’s home for lunch. Though the surroundings might have been humble, the
generosity was that worthy of kings and queens. The food was delicious and the
sincerity of our hosts was overwhelming.
Today was a
good lesson in the fact that no matter what, children are children, and they
have a way of always seeing the best in the world around them. And it was also
a lesson in how one man can make a tremendous difference when he is willing to share
his blessings and good fortune with others.