|http://www.sina.com.cn 2005/12/14 11:05 青年参考|
On Being a Volunteer in China
by Michael Magid
I still remember that day in July 1997 when I was chatting with my friend in a in Montreal and she asked me why I had decided to join Volunteer Service Overseas as an English teacher in the Chinese countryside. I told her that I wanted to help my future students in China to improve their English. I hoped that this would give them more job opportunities.In other words, I wanted to give them something that they would not otherwise have. My friend replied that perhaps the people I would meet in China would give me something that I did not have. The words that she had spoken could not have been more true for the people that I met in Guangxi province gave me a sense of community and purpose that I had never felt before.
I went to the village of Yangshuo for the first time during the national holiday. It is there that I found a kind of peace that I had never known before. I rented a bicycle in Yangshuo and took a boat down the Li River to the village of Xing Ping. As I was sitting on the boat, the Karst mountain scenery came into view. Those lush green mountains enveloped me and suddenly I felt like I had come home. How strange to feel at home so far away from home and in a place which was nothing like my Canadian home! How wonderful! As I cycled from Xing Ping back to Yangshuo, the warm wind whispered in my ears. The aroma in the air was sweet and the mountains beckoned. They acquired a purple tint under the radiance of the midday sun and seemed to become a part of the clouds so that the two were indistinguishable. Smiling children ran out to greet me and shouted, “Hello! Hello!” I was in the most beautiful place on earth!
One of my students, Mark, became like a brother to me and helped me to feel comfortable in my new environment. He even invited me to his hometown during the Spring Festival! It was there that I met his parents who were both teachers at the local middle school. I was sad to see that the students in the countryside did not have modern English textbooks. I remember the dust rising from the steps as children ran to their classrooms. I remember the one light bulb in the classroom that hung from a long cord attached precariously to the ceiling. It was fulfilling to be able to donate books to these students with the grant that VSO had provided.
It was rewarding to be able to witness my students becoming full-fledged teachers. One chose to volunteer in the countryside in a Dong Village. When I visited him, I learned that he rarely got paid, so he and the other teachers grew vegetables to get themselves through the times when their 300 yuan monthly salary did not arrive. There wasn’t a good road leading out to the highway, so farmers in the village had a difficult time selling their crops. Most were living below the poverty line. This is true of so many villages in China.
When I studied Chinese brush writing, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the Chinese characters. Each character was a painting in itself and so I came to love the Chinese language. It was the bridge to the Chinese culture and helped me to forge a deeper connection with the people I met. I remember taking the train during the Spring Festival to Chengdu. The carriages were packed with people. Many were sleeping on the floor and one lady who was sleeping near the door kept screaming as people stepped on her on their way out. Two salesman sitting across from me were making their weekly trip to the capital. We started talking in Chinese and they said something to me that I will always remember. “Look at all of us”, they said. “We are too tired to smile now.” However, most of the time when I spoke to poor people, they would make the effort to smile. They would wipe the sweat of their forehead and bear a wide grin. They would spend their hard-earned wages to treat me to a meal. How many people do that in the city, I wonder?
The people I met as a volunteer were very different from the kinds of people who I usually meet these days in Beijing or the people I met when I was teaching in Shanghai –high powered lawyers, government officials, and their children. The people I met in Guangxi were farmers and their kids. They were the poor, honest, kind, hard-working people who still make up the majority of people in China. Although I make more money now than I did as a volunteer, I can’t say that I am happier. It’s true that there are some things that money cannot buy like fresh air, love, a sense of community, and fulfillment. As I take the subway to Wudaokou every day, I look at the beggars on the train. Many of them are old men and women who can barely walk and disabled children. They remind me that as a citizen of this world who has been lucky enough to grow up without ever feeling hungry, it is my duty to help those less fortunate than me. I cannot simply look away and indulge myself in my spare time. That would be irresponsible. Therefore, I continue to do some volunteer work for the Hope Project. Let’s all reach out to the people in need! Our lives will be mutually enriched. Poverty and environmental problems do seem overwhelming, but I think that if we tackle them together, we can make a difference!
作者：Michael Magid(加拿大) 尉迟皎皎/编译
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