Un­for­get­table Mem­ory from Nanpo Vil­lage

I had never dreamed that one day, I would come to study in China and got the op­por­tu­nity to be a vol­un­teer teacher in the ru­ral area.

Special Focus - - Contents - Ni­codino da Cruz [East Ti­mor] 欧阳鸿飞


Iwas born to a sim­ple fam­ily in a re­mote area in East Ti­mor. In 2000, while my coun­try was re­build­ing from the war that broke out in 1999, ev­ery­thing was burnt down to the ground, in­clud­ing n early ev­ery home. Many peo­ple were home­less. I used to live in a small bath­room.

Dur­ing our tran­si­tional govern­ment, we re­ceived hu­man­i­tar­ian aid from many coun­tries— China be­ing one of them. There were also univer­sity stu­dents from other coun­tries vol­un­teer­ing to teach in ev­ery vil­lage in East Ti­mor.

There­fore, when I grew up, I’ve al­ways been look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­pay the so­ci­ety. I’d been a vol­un­teer teacher for vil­lage chil­dren in my home­town of Lospa­los.

I be­came a stu­dent of the China Univer­sity of Geo sci­ences in Wuhan (CUG) in 2014.

Af­ter I came to China, I heard from some teach­ers and through the In­ter­net about the poor ed­u­ca­tion sta­tus of chil­dren of mi­grant work­ers in un­der­de­vel­oped re­gions. Their sto­ries were such a mag­netic force that pulled me in. I felt that I needed to do some­thing when I got a chance.

I kept telling peo­ple around me that I would like to go to the ru­ral ar­eas and help teach the chil­dren dur­ing the va­ca­tions, and the op­por­tu­nity fi­nally came. Two of my school­mates in­tro­duced me to 山中花儿爱心

助学团 (Shanzhong Hua’er Aixin Zhuxue Tuan, lit­er­ally Moun­tain Flow­ers Stu­dent’s Char­ity Group), a foun­da­tion at CUG com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the ed­u­ca­tion con­di­tion in poor ar­eas and to up­grade the growth of pub­lic con­scious­ness of young stu­dents. Through it, stu­dents can ap­ply and go to teach in ru­ral ar­eas in their sum­mer va­ca­tion.

I ap­plied to the foun­da­tion, and in the sum­mer of 2016, I joined a group of stu­dents to vol­un­teer in Nanpo, a vil­lage in Guangxi Prov­ince.

On the morn­ing of July 8, we took off from Wuhan. Af­ter 24

hours cheer­fully spent in mu­sic play­ing, chat­ting and mak­ing new friends, we ar­rive data train sta­tion in Guangxi the next morn­ing. The mango trees and cool weather in this south­ern prov­ince of China brought me back to my days in the coun­try­side of East Ti­mor.

On July 10, in the early morn­ing we left for Nanpo. With the fresh air and fog upon the hills, we en­joyed the morn­ing sun while seated on the mini bus to the vil­lage.

Af­ter some hours, we fi­nally ar­rived at Nanpo. On the same day, we went to visit lo­cal fam­i­lies. We went door to door to ask whether there were any chil­dren able to come to a class that would start in the next few days. We met some of the chil­dren on our rounds and made our way to their homes with their help.

The lo­cal peo­ple were warm­hearted and wel­com­ing. They es­pe­cially wel­come vol­un­teer teach­ers like us, “No mat­ter what lan­guage you speak, it seems ev­ery­one un­der­stand the true mean­ing of a smile, it com­mu­ni­cates ev­ery­thing that a heart wants to ex­press and un­der­stand.”

Some peo­ple were liv­ing in good homes but some were not— some of them were liv­ing in very sim­ple huts made of leafs, grass, wood, and clay. They have to work hard each day and night in or­der to sup­port their chil­dren to go to school. Even though they have a hard life, they still ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery­thing they have— you can still see the happy faces be­hind the huts.

On July 11, we started our first day of the school pro­gram in Nanpo. Some of us were in charge of the stu­dents’ reg­is­tra­tion process and some clean­ing the class­room. At the be­gin­ning, only around sixty stu­dents reg­is­tered. We split them into two groups based on age. Af­ter a short while, each class had around forty stu­dents.

Some of the younger ones were shy, es­pe­cially when they were see­ing a for­eigner for the first time. They didn’t know much about my lessons. In or­der to over­come this chal­lenge, we played games and sang along with them. When they be­came more fa­mil­iar with me and the other teach­ers, the teach­ing process be­came eas­ier.

Art class was one of the most in­ter­est­ing classes. I was con­vinced that the pupils were will­ing to learn new things. All of them were re­ally care­ful with their work. They paid at­ten­tion to the steps I drew on the white board closely. Among the pupils there was a lit­tle boy who was very good at draw­ing. On one of our last days in Nanpo, we vis­ited his

home and I de­cided to give him my draw­ing book as a gift.

The pupils were cute and very nice, even though some of them were a bit naughty. One thing I liked about these pupils is that, ev­ery morn­ing, they would come by our dor­mi­tory and greet us with their happy smil­ing faces. They would even take snacks in and share with the teach­ers. Af­ter more time passed, the stu­dents be­came more cu­ri­ous about us.

I didn’t have a Chi­nese fam­ily name be­fore go­ing to Nanpo. There, my stu­dents helped me in choos­ing my fam­ily name 欧阳(ouyang). From that mo­ment on, my Chi­nese name be­came 欧阳鸿飞 (Ouyang Hongfei).

Some started to call me 飞哥( Feige), es­pe­cially the naughty pupils would pre­fer call­ing me

(Heige) or even (Lao­hei). They started to ask me many ques­tions. One of them asked me whether one day he will be able to speak English well. Some­times af­ter class the pupils would ask me for my draw­ings, be­cause they wanted to keep them as a mem­ory.

July 18 was the last day of our stay in Nanpo. Be­fore we left the vil­lage, the whole group re­ar­ranged the rooms and the school fa­cil­i­ties that we have used, and made sure ev­ery­thing was put in place. We also man­aged to or­ga­nize a farewell party with the chil­dren, where the stu­dents pre­sented their tal­ents such as singing, danc­ing, po­etry, and we gave them the presents that we bought from Wuhan and their cer­tifi­cates. The stu­dents also sur­prised us. They gave us some sou­venirs and other small gifts. It was a sad day for all of us. Even­tu­ally we all left for Wuhan.

I’d never dreamed that one day, I would come to study in China and get to teach in a ru­ral area. Be­ing part of the life of the chil­dren of Nanpo might be the most in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence ever for me. If you asked me what would be the thing I have done to make me the proud­est, my an­swer would be put­ting a smile on the faces of the chil­dren of Nanpo.

Those chil­dren will al­ways be in my heart.

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