Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Jin Yanhua

I met her in the cold early days of March in 2002. We were doing in-depth interviewing of rural children and their families in Gansu. Her sweet frail mother spoke of their struggles to keep three girls in school. Her father had been injured in a coal mining accident and during his period of recovery there was no cash flow for the family. Jin Yanhua's mother's responses to our questions were interspersed with light-hearted laughter with no indication of bitterness or frustration, and also interspersed with a cough that seemed to rustle through her whole body. Her only protection against the cold pre-spring breeze was a thin sweater. Grandmother was there too. A delightful woman that I fell in love with at first sight. She seemed to emanate love and warmth out of kind eyes and toothless smile. And then there was Jin Yanhua, the stoic fifth grader who responded matter-of-factly about not telling her parents that she needed a new eraser as she did not want her parents to borrow money to buy her stationary. She said that she was able to borrow things from her classmates. It became apparent to me that the equivalent of the twenty US dollars that I had with me and that I would likely spend thoughtlessly on something that I did not even need would mean a great deal to this lovely little family struggling on this dusty mountainside.

And so began a lovely friendship. I managed to get a little money to the family every year mainly to support the schooling of Jin Yanhua and her two younger sisters and I sent plenty of pens, pencils and erasers along with some books for the girls to read. Jin Yanhua began writing me lovely letters and she even kept a journal for me writing one page every day to fill up an entire book. I have managed to visit them a couple of times after that. Once in 2004 and again on this most recent trip. Things seem to have gotten much better for the family. Jin Yanhua's mother is looking the picture of health, her father is working again in construction in the provincial capital and Grandma has a new set of teeth which adds such a sparkle to that beautiful smile of hers! Jin Yanhua is struggling to pass the high school entrance examination to the top high school in the region.

And Jin Yanhua's uncle's family have a nice new house with a garden full of peony bushes. They gave me a bunch to take with me. Grandma gave me some hand embroidered inner-soles a traditional folk art. This picture is not of the one's she gave me but very similar. I have had some of these before and actually used them. It would make me happy every time I went to put on my shoes. However, I feel this gift from Grandma is too precious to use. I think I will frame them and hang them up on my wall instead.


Blogger Bonita said...

Thanks for dropping a "Hello" on Flitzy. I've enjoyed reading about your trip to China, and was especially touched about this trait of yours about loving people who were once in your distant past then when they reappear they bring up the same feelings of devotion and love. I hope such connections sustain you lifelong, and I'm glad you hold them so dear.

When I was watching your videos I was surprised that you were able to videotape there...until the officer came. I'm surprised at all of the supermarket items. Our daughter Ruhiyyih taught in China several times, and she brought home delightful little embellishments like your embroidered insoles. Such happy colors and abundant patterns.

5:12 PM, June 05, 2007  

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