April 8, 2007 -- Karlie Kauffeld, Sophomore
“There are lots of opportunities to do a lot of good out there.”
Where to begin? I’ll start by saying that I wish I had gone through the village in a completely different manner. I walked along the main road, hand glued to my camera, ready to take a stunning picture. A few people glanced at us, but it wasn’t until I turned down a dirt alley that the interactions began.
The alley was formed by walls made of rock and mud. Corn husks lined the path; bits of garbage showed themselves here and there. We passed closed doors, and didn’t see much in the way of life except for a golden dog chained to a pole. It barked at us: “Why are you in my alley?!” A woman and her two sons walked nervously out of a doorway and the mom called, “Hello!”
We approached over-excitedly; we were so eager to give away our gifts.
Again, I found my camera plastered to my face as I snapped pictures of the adorable baby and his slightly older brother. We pushed our worthless trinkets at them as if by giving them a plastic thing-a-ma-jig we would suddenly become gods.
They weren’t taking them with much pleasure. The older boy stood with a heaping armful of goodies and sort of marveled at what they could be. When I tried to explain that my plastic elephant would glowing the dark, the baby stated to cry and the mom ushered the boys back inside.
Giving toys from America: What joy would that bring to the rural Chinese? Any student from a city would, of course, be overjoyed. She could walk around saying, “This is an American pencil: Someday I hope to use it when I study there.”
But for the young and elderly who have been left in the villages, this is not what fills their lives with light. Most likely others in their families have migrated to the city for jobs, for school, to have some sort of shot at being more than farmers. I suppose I don’t see why the villagers would appreciate us tromping through their homes and their streets. Maybe they weren’t supposed to love us; maybe that was the point. It seems they’ve been left in a village with nothing except the love of their friends to make them happy.
I could talk about everything we Americans take for granted, but it’s only talk. I can address it, anyone can; but the likelihood of a change in Americans’ way of living is microscopic.
So why are we here? You know, I feel ridiculous writing this right now. I’m lying in the grass in the middle of a huge campus. Our coach bus just pulled out of the parking lot in front of the building where we eat three meals a day. Everyone else is back in our huge hotel, maybe eating chocolate they just bought at the market down the street.
Cars are scooting along the road as well-dressed college students stumble along the sidewalks. To my right is the huge theatre we performed in last night. Its glass windows reflect the sun and the blue sky.
How can these worlds be so far apart? It was a 40-minute bus ride to the village. It has the same sun and the same sky. How does this happen? The difference between poor and middle class?
How is it that no one stops to say: “Whoa, wait a minute, this isn’t right.” I suppose it’s an awful lot like one of Ms. L's favorite lines from Galileo [which we produced in March at Leland and Gray]. “So much is accomplished when just one person stands up and says “no.” “
We as Americans have so much power and, as Tom said, there are so many opportunities for us to change the world I’ll end by saying saying that I wish we had gone to the village sooner. I think it would have changed the whole way we’ve looked at this trip.
Today is the halfway mark and I know, at least for me, the village visit has made all the difference in how I’ll live the rest of this trip—and the rest of my life.
I feel like my mindset and outlook on life is so much clearer. It was an amazing experience to visit the village. I’d do it again in an instant.