ZhengZhou -- Fri, Jul 15, 2005
An incredible day!
- 5 news organization representatives (TV and newspapers) covering our volunteer day
- A sign "Welcoming the delgation of Brad to support autistic children"... What delegation... ;)
- Being forced to sing a country song... yes, I know I don't have a good voice, and yes I don't really like country -- but my hosts didn't care, so... that is what I did ;)
- Playing games, dancing, counting numbers, and taking way too many photos with 60 autistic children. There was this one girl that might of actually had downs syndrome that was a great dancer, we had some fun ;)
- Being hugged and kissed by many of the kids, very surprising to me from autistic children -- and they loved the little stubble I am starting to grow on my face ;)
If you haven't seen the pictures of the past 3 stages -- make sure to check out http://www.biketheworld.org/gallery/
If you haven't noticed, we have taken a detour from our route. This detour adds about 200km and takes us north through Henan, to ZhengZhou allowing us to add another volunteer day.
We woke up early and rounded up 9 bikers from Wuhan University that we met on the road (3 of which will be joining us to Urumqi). We biked 15km out to a school for autistic children and were greated press, filmcrew, and 100+ people clapping for our arrival (I am starting to like this... ;)
Foreigners are big news out here and they went all out for this. 20 foot banners welcoming us, speeches, performances, sound system, stage... And yes, they made me perform as well... Their president gave a speech praising us. I had to come up with a speech on the spot about what we were doing and what I've learned over the past 12 days. They love that you want a girlfriend Blake ;)
Then they made me sing a country song... I wanted to sing Lean on Me but it had to be country so I went for Live Like You Were Dieing by Tim McGraw. Let me say that thank god they didn't know English... my singing is atrocicious as my high school theater teacher can tell you, but they seemed to like it (the Chinese like John Denver so, I guess it should be pretty easy to please ;)
After that they gave us dipolmas, the teachers did a performance -- a sign language song ala Happy Hands ;) Then I played some games with the kids and then we worked on our numbers. The kids were giving me hugs and kisses, which really surprised me. I can't even get Blake to kiss me ;) They were adorable and it was a lot of fun.
And then it was photo time. Photo time is a big deal in China and this was no exception... 30 minutes later it was time for press interviews. Pretty harmless, but it was the first time I have had a press microphone in my face, an odd feeling ;)
After that we went in and toured the school and worked on some of the activities with the kids. The school is really incredible. The founder, a doctor, started working with autistic children in 1995. After some success getting children to improve their speaking abilities, she soon got a number of requests for help. See officially started the school in 2002, after selling/mortgaging her house to do so (a relatively rare thing in China). The school has grown dramatically and is a truly amazing organization. They probably have 50 teachers working with the kids, real one-on-one attention. And they have done this with no government support and little community support/ understanding (no tax-breaks in china for non-profits...).
Really incredible -- I wish you were here to see it. They had one class of students all about Blakes age. It made me miss Blake a lot... One kid's gestures really reminded me of Blake.
We had a discussion regarding autism in the United States and I shared the little that I know. They are really interested in talking to some people in the US who actually know what they are talking about. If you would be willing to talk to this organization about treatment, fundraising, or any other ideas please let me know and I will put you in touch with them.
Then we went to lunch -- the typical chinese affair -- 2 hours, too much food, and too many gambies (chug beer). I kept my own though, even though I was being triple teamed -- I guess I have had some practice out here... A teacher of the school and his girlfriend joined us as well, great people, he is from mongolia, was going to be a doctor but decided he didn't like seeing sick people ;)
We went back -- did one last round with the kids and then said our good-byes. Wen Ray had a few drinks and I had to get his head straight before the bike ride home. I really didn't want to have to pick him up off the pavement.
Tomorrow I set off for Xi'an alone, Wen Ray is going to bike to Xi'an with his cousin, the following day, but I need to get to Xi'an on the 19th to meet Fang Wen Guang. Its going to be a hard 4 days; 600km. We'll see how I do...