In 2006, I was in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia in the north of China.
On the internet I came across an advertisement for an assistant at a summer school in Dongguan, a city not too far from Guangzhou in southeast China. I took the plane from Hohhot to Guangzhou and then a bus to Dongguan.
When I arrived at the school, I was shown to my living quarters in a dorm. The next day I met my class: three boys and 11 girls, all 11 years of age. I had to eat with them, play games with them, do some educational things such as reading, writing, speaking, finding places on a map, and any other projects I decided were appropriate.
Our first project was to make a banner for our classroom door. Being from California, I decided on the sights of California. Our banner included the Golden Gate Bridge, beaches, the ocean, mountains and traffic, etc. The students worked very hard on the project.
One day I was assigned to take my group to an indoor amusement park. When we got there, I gave them the rules and said we would go back to school if anybody misbehaved. The rules were no loud noise, no running and no leaving the amusement park.
After a little while, Lisa, the smallest in the group, came to me and asked if I would go on a balloon ride with her. I looked at it and said no, I did not like heights and it was scary for me. But Lisa was not going to take no for an answer. She pleaded with me and said that she had taken the ride before and it was not scary. I still said no – it was too scary for me. I guess a little white lie is ok sometimes.
Finally, she took my hand and said, “Don’t worry Tony, l will take care of you.” Of course, my heart melted. I broke down and went on the ride with her. And seeing as though she took such good care of me – we went on the ride again. Wow, Lisa was very happy.
Then it came time to finish the summer camp. Lots of parents came for the closing ceremony and to see their beloved children. The ceremony was held outdoors, it was about 33 degrees Celsius (92 degrees Fahrenheit) with high humidity.
Then back to the classroom to tidy up and collect personal belongings. But what about the masterpiece on the door? I decided we should raffle it. I put all the names into a hat and had one of the students pick out a name. MARY!! I gave her the work of art. Everybody clapped and congratulated Mary.
Then Mary broke out crying but she would not tell anyone what the problem was. I asked a Chinese teacher for help who likewise failed to stop the crying.
Then as quickly as she had started, Mary stopped crying. I coaxed her along and finally she said, “Tony, you have done so much for us here, I cannot take the banner. So, please, you take it and share it with your family in America and remember us.” Everybody agreed it was a good thing to do.
And as you can see, I still remember Lisa, Mary, Tiger and if not all the names, certainly all the children.
Anthony R. Kingsley is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.