On the way back from the Miao village I sat next to one of our volunteer guides from Guiyang named Yo Yo. We talked all the way to the village and all the way back which was probably about 6-7 hours total. She spoke English perhaps better than any of the other guides and we talked about everything we could think about. She is a post graduate student studying English at the Guiyang Normal University. She taught high school for several years and is hoping to get into magazine publishing when she graduates in three years. Her boyfriend lives in another city so they don’t get to see each other very often, but they plan to marry when she graduates.
Yo Yo was one of the first to greet me when our flight landed in Guiyang. She introduced herself to me and smiled so brightly I couldn’t help but feel welcomed. I will never forget how her eyes lit up when she smiled. On the bus, I showed her pictures of my three kids and she gushed over how cute they were. Insensitively, I asked how many kids she wanted. She kindly reminded me of China’s one child policy. I could tell how much this hurt her and I regretted my insensitivity immediately. I knew that China had that policy, but it was never ‘real’ to me until today when I saw the longing in her eyes. I told her she would make a wonderful mom someday even though she said she wasn’t so sure.
We also talked about where I lived and she said told me that she had always lived in an apartment, but longed to have a little yard so she could have a garden and maybe a dog.
She asked if I would ever come back to China and bring my family. I told her I would love to and that my kids would absolutely love it, but that I probably would never be able to afford to come back. I asked if she’d ever come to America and she said she’d love to, but seemed to indicate that it would be equally impossible for her.
What was really amazing about Yo Yo was that she picked up on several nuances of social interaction within our group. Somehow, despite cultural and language differences, she picked up on who among our group was involved with who, who was being picked on and several other things which I wouldn’t think would be so evident to a foreigner. I told her that this was one of the reasons I enjoyed choral groups; because so often they are made up of so many diverse representatives of human nature. I mean, just within our group we have so many different people with so many different stories and watching those spirits interact and form an expressive unit is a deeply beautiful thing.
On this trip we’ve experienced truly royal treatment, seen unbelievable sights and made life altering memories, but for me – my six hours talking with Yo Yo may be my most precious memory of China. To spite a world of distance, polar opposite governments, completely different customs and cuisine – she is at her heart a loving human with hopes and dreams of a happy family and a fulfilling job. The differences between our countries are many, but the commonality of spirit is very real. I treasure my time with her and was deeply sad to say goodbye. My trip to China was destined to be life changing and unforgettable, but it is made exponentially richer for having shared in conversation with Yo Yo. For me she is the face of China and has offered me such a beautiful window into the common soul we share with our communist friends.
I truly hope I will get the chance to introduce her to my family one day. Though money, distance and politics conspire to make that impossible, I remain optimistic.