Tomorrow, Molly and I head back to the United States. Visting JiaYou was inspiring; here are some of my final impressions of this trip ...
It is hard to express in words what I've experienced in China, but I will try. I've met children who are seven years old and walk 60 minutes each way over mountain passes to get to school. Many children walk from even farther distances to school, and thus must live at the school dorm in conditions which are hard to imagine. These same children cook their own meals every night. While I love my own children dearly, I could never imagine them living in a bleak dorms when they were only in second grade, and cooking their own meals every night.
At the same time I've seen the new school at JiaYou, which was built thanks to your generosity. These Chinese families are dedicated to education in a manner we in the U.S.A. can never appreciate. Their children now learn in a bright, clean, protected from the weather environment. Thank you!
For many of the children, and adults, I was the first Caucasian they had ever seen. This region of China near Vietnam is 100 km from the nearest larger city in China. It was only five years ago that the dirt road connecting the region was paved with blacktop. Our driver told us the 100 km drive used to take over ten hours. Many of the mountain villages in the region are still only reachable by footpath. Farming of rice and tea is conducted as it has been for hundreds of years ... by hand.
The local officials treated Molly and me like royalty. Our entourage included four, four wheel drive SUV's. The group ranged from the local school officials, the president of the China Tomorrow Education Foundation, the regional People's Republic of China vice chairman ... and us! Without the SUV's we would never have reached many of the schools we visited.
Finally, my hotel room in rural China was clean, cheap ($12 per night) and had free internet access!
Bye for now ... I'm physically tired, but rested of the soul. I will leave you with some photographs of my Chinese mountain journey and a 30 second sound clip (mp3) featuring the children of JiaYou!