Coffee Reggiegrams: what goes on in village schools all over the world?
And who are their dedicated teachers?
What does the world outside look like? As part of my medical mission to China, beginning informally over 30 years ago in the mid 1980s, I was privileged also to teach in many middle and high schools, some of them village schools where 60 kids were packed into one bare room. The sparse rooms just had a blackboard with white chalk, and the walls had slogans from the Party, and posters of Lenin and Mao. And kids were then all wearing very basic dark blue clothes that were often quite worn out and soiled. But to me what was most exciting were the wide eyes of the eager kids, waiting to learn about the outside world, “long before” (not that long actually) the age of the internet.
30 年前，我有殊荣在许多初中，高中教课。其中一些乡村学校里有60多个孩子挤在仅有的一间教室里。这些简陋的教室里只有黑板和白粉笔，墙壁上挂着党的标语和列宁毛泽东的海报画像。孩子们都穿着极其简陋破旧的深蓝色衣服。 然而对我而言，最让我兴奋的是，孩子们睁大双眼期待着了解外面的世界。那个时候距离互联网时代到来有“很长的时间”（其实并非很久）。
To them, we were like delegates from the outside world, often the first foreigners they saw in their lives, a confirmation that there was definitely a real touchable world outside China’s borders, and a fascinating hope for the future. This was at the time that China was just beginning to open up again to the world outside, an earth-shaking time indeed. And to us, it seemed an awesome responsibility for our team to present ourselves in as non-scary a way as possible. After all, in the old, old days, Americans were even labeled as “white or black devils,” which I could use as a nice joke for my non-Asian friends.
对这些孩子们而言，我们就像外面世界的代表团，常常是他们生平中见到的第一个外国人。这就肯定了在中国国界之外肯定存在着一个真实的可以触及的世界， 一个令人憧憬的未来。这是发生在中国刚刚开始再次向世界开放之时， 的确是一个翻天覆地的时代。对于我们，一个很棒的职责落在我们团队的每个人身上，那就是要尽量展现我们的平和友好。 毕竟，在过去，美国人常被称为“黑鬼白鬼”. 这个可以成为我对来自亚洲
How many hours did you say? In 1994, we officially started a medical mission to Southwestern China, and, in total I have had, by calculation, 10,000 school child hours of interaction with students. Of course, it’s easier to rack up school child hours if there are 60 kids per class! 10 hours is already 600 child hours! From these experiences, I have had the great privilege of following several kids from the early days of our mission. These were from county schools, one step up from village schools. But they also had never met a foreigner before. We were the first there to remind them vividly of their own potential outside their village and county.
你说多少个小时？在1994年，我正式开始在中国的西南部做医疗服务。算起来我总共积累了1万小时学生接触时间。如果一个班就有60个孩子, 学生接触时间当然会积累的很快。 教60个孩子10小时算下来就是600小时！在这些经历中，我有殊荣从我们医疗服务早期一直追踪其中几个孩子的成长。这些孩子来自县城的学校，比乡村学校高一级。但他们也从未见过外国人。我们第一批到那里，真实地提醒了他们自己在乡村和县城以外的发展的潜力。
What happened to the kids? And now, one of the kids I taught, Zebedee, is a lawyer. He had left his home in Yunnan in the Southwest of China, to train in Beijing in the Northeast, and now he is currently working in Shenzhen in the South, just across the border from Hong Kong. Thousands of miles of journey from his home village. Remember it was only a few decades ago that college young people could not even cross states for school! I met him often in the ensuing years, in different cities, and watched in admiration, as he described his long-term ambition in exciting terms, and how he worked so hard to save his little money, in order to be able to study at a good university, in law.
Zeb is an impressive example of the great changes in China over the last 20 to 30 years, just like the city of Shenzhen he works in, formerly just a village and marshland, which is now a thriving new metropolis with a current population of 13 million. And Zeb is now a modern young man in a modern very sophisticated city, a city that is even threatening to overtake the nearby ultra-sophisticated international city of Hong Kong.
Another kid, Linda, went on from Yunnan to Henan, a province in the east, to get her degree in English language teaching, so she could return to her home county to teach. She is an enthusiastic young lady, whom I am sure, from her eloquence, must be an excellent teacher. I have always wondered, if our many visits to her town, especially teaching numerous hours of English over many years, and even visiting her then very humble home, helped inspire her to be just such a teacher. Very recently, she volunteered this very conclusion to me over a touching video chat on the ubiquitous WeChat. Linda is now clearly a young, confident and elegant lady, who is married and has a healthy young infant, a true representative of “modern China.”
What about a century ago? My dad was
educated also in a village school in China, in the 1910s and 1920s, in a small Hakka (Kejia, a minority people of China) village in Guangdong province. See my story, “We are all Hakkas.” To the surprise of many when I tell them, the school was actually not the usual government run school, but a permanent mission school started by British Presbyterian missionaries, nestled among the hills of Southern China, far away from big cities. In view of the current news of the explosive growth of Christianity, to now being 7% of China, or 100 million Christians, you might be forgiven for thinking that Christianity is a brand-new thing for China, but you would be slightly off.
一百年前是什么样子？我父亲于1910 -1929 年间 也曾在广东省内一间乡村客家学校读书。 在我的文章“我们都是客家人”中有写到。 当我告诉大家，这间学校事实上并不是普通的由政府成立的学校， 而是由英国长老教会创立的永久学校。 这令很多人感到惊讶。 学校位于中国南部，周围群山环绕，远离大城市。 最近的新闻报道基督教在中国急速增至到7%的中国人口, 相当于有1亿 人口是基督徒。 出于此事实，认为基督教在中国是新兴事物的观点虽可以原谅但稍有偏颇。
In fact, since the late 19th century, Christian missionaries had fanned out all over China, starting schools and hospitals in big cities and little mountain villages, like the one my father went to. The usual Christian mission would nearly always include a church or chapel, and a school compound. There would be regular church services, and Sunday school for kids on weekends, where the Bible would be taught faithfully.
Amazing what good teaching can do! I imagine that dad’s education, nearly a century ago, must have included rather novel influences. Familial Chinese Confucian traditions must have been taught alongside Christian principles in school, and included inevitably some Western (British) cultural influences! His own parents were among the first Christians in their village of Wujingfu (Wukingfu), and his father even became an Elder of the first local church.
Even though my father was educated in this small village of China, remarkably, within 2 years of his graduation from the village school, he was able to enter the English language medical school, in the British colony of Hong Kong. I can only conclude that, though his secondary education was done “only at a village school,” it’s teachers, mostly from Great Britain, must have been truly dedicated teachers who taught him well, in English and modern science. They obviously prepared him very well for the rapid transition to the big city medical school, whose teachers then were Western professors from the British Isles and “the Empire,” but not rebel America.
Who are these unsung heroes? I’m sure there are tens of thousands of Christian unsung heroes from many nations who taught in similar village schools all over China. I have yet to find a book that records all these teachers, and hope someone will indeed do that. Maybe after reading this story! Their impact is literally inestimable, and truly heroic. Imagine working in a small village in China 100-150 years ago, in a totally new culture and language, far removed from one’s own home and upbringing, without phones, WeChat and computers, relying on sea mail that took 3 months to arrive. And 100 years ago was a time that the country was going through many struggles and wars, a seriously dangerous period of history.
谁是那些无声英雄？我确信有成千上万的来自世界各国的无名基督徒英雄曾在中国乡村学校教课。我还没有看到一本书中有记录这些老师们, 希望有人以后会做这个记录。或许就在读完这个故事之后就开始记录！他们的影响无可估量，是真正的英雄。试想在100-150年前一个中国小乡村工作，身处在一种新文化，新语言之中，离家万里，没有电话，没有微信和电脑，仅依靠需要3个多月到达的海上邮件 。 并且，100年前那时候的这个国家正在历经众多劫难和战争，危险异常。
The dream, the call. The dream of teaching in a village school in China is still possible. It would be amazing if “adventurous types” could still receive a calling to spend their lives working in such schools. Literally millions of children are in such schools, hoping to seek their future and meaning in life. Great potential and joy are awaiting you. But now of course, you will have the pervasive WeChat with you.
梦想，使命. 在中国乡村学校教书的梦想现在依然可行。如果有“冒险家”可以终身在乡村学校中教课那一定很惊人。仅从数字看来，数以百万的儿童在乡村学校，盼望追求自己的将来和生命的意思。 巨大的潜力和喜乐在等候你们。当然，现在你们都可以使用无处不在的微信。