The Olympic Torch Arrives Near Jason’s University
Jason’s email was full of excitement concerning the biggest event ever to hit his university town, Xining in Qing Hai Province: “Ouyun Huide Sheng Huo laile! The Olympic Sacred Fire (Torch) is coming!”
Granted, I expected his email to be full of news concerning his sister, who for over 2 weeks has been scheduled to have open heart surgery, but instead, I get news of the Olympic Torch:
“I am so sorry that recently I didn’t have enough time to write to you,” Jason explained in his email. “Now, I am quite excited that the Olympic Torch is coming tomorrow! What big news. I and my friends are busy preparing to welcome it, because we have never seen the Olympic flame. Luckily, the place where the torch is shown is near our school. We can even walk there. It just takes about 10 minutes. Of course, I will take pictures. If you like it, I am very glad to send you some.”
Actually, I was quite interested to hear about Jason’s experience with the Olympic torch. Last week, excitement filled our city, Chengdu, after it was announced the torch route would be brought to Sichuan due to the earthquake. From Aug. 3 to 5, it’s to make a run through Chengdu and then travel to some of the hardest hit disaster areas
This should prove to be a very interesting sight to see. I’ve heard many stories about the nationalistic fervor the torch causes when it’s begun its journey throug China’s largest cities. One of my classmates, an American university student, told me she was in Shanghai when the torch passed.
“Was it exciting?” I asked her. “Did you join the crowds?”
“No way!” she replied. “It was more frightening than anything else. People lined up by the thousands for 2 days along the main route. They crammed toward the street and it was difficult for security to keep them back. When the torch came, they went wild. People were shouting “Go, China!” and “Welcome to Beijing!” while waving flags and pressing in closer to see the flame. I videotaped it all from the 4th floor of a building. Just one small thing and people could have been trampled to death.”
She’s not exaggerating. There have been deaths by stampedes of Chinese trying to get into famous international department stores or supermarkets on opening day. It doesn’t take much for one person to trip and fall, resulting in tragedy as others surge forward. Of course, we all expect crowds for exciting happenings in our own countries but when one-fifth of the world’s population is crammed into one country, the word “crowd” has a whole different meaning.
When the telephone rang last night around 10:30 p.m, I thought it might be Jason calling with news of his Olympic torch experience, not to mention his sister. Sure enough, that’s who it was.
Jason certainly didn’t disappoint.
He at once launched into his morning. He and his roommates didn’t get much sleep as they anticipated the coming of the torch the next day. With it being so near their school, Jason knew this opportunity was a golden one. He got up much earlier than any of his friends, grabbed a quick breakfast at 7 a.m. and was at the university’s main gate by 7:15, ready to head out for the 8:30 a.m. start of the relay. He wasn’t sure what time it would reach his area but he wasn’t taking any chances of missing it, even if he’d have to be standing quite a while, crushed by the thousands of others likewise wanting to be a part of this historic moment.
But at the main gate, he and several others were met by the gate keepers who refused to let them out. The gate was locked up tight and the men had strict orders to keep the university students on campus grounds.
“It’s for your own safety,” they said.
Most likely, this order came from the provincial office down to the city government who then reported to all schools not to allow students to attend. The dangers involved in so many people gathering, plus the zealous exuberance of thousands upon thousands of young people, might prove to be too much for torch security to handle.
Naturally, this didn’t sit well with Jason or those around him, including two of his friends, whose English names are Alex and Mike. There was some argument involved but it was useless as the guards weren’t about to let anyone through.
Being a resourceful lot, the three guys walked along the length of the school’s high wall that enclosed the campus until they found a place they could crawl over. Jason and Alex were quick but Mike wasn’t quick enough. One of the campus watchmen grabbed him before he could scramble after the others. He was sent back to his dormitory room but not reported, which was kind as he could get in a lot of trouble for breaking school rules.
Jason and Alex felt sorry for Mike but he was just too slow. His tough luck. They, on the other hand, gleefully ran to where the torch would be passing.
As it turned out, Mike was able to watch the relay after. Jason later found out thousands of university students had stormed the school’s locked main entrance, wanting to see the torch pass. There was nothing the guards could do but open the gates and let them out.
Jason and Alex ran along with the torch runners, even if at a far distance from the street where it was routed. Just too many people to come anywhere near it, including very tight security to keep people back. Everyone was shouting and cheering, giving him a great feeling of unity among his country’s people.
After buying two Olympic torch T-shirts and a few other souvenirs, he returned back to his dormitory where he and his roomies shared their experiences of the day’s jubilation.
An Older Sister’s Worry
“So that’s my first news,” Jason said after his 15 minutes of story-telling. “But I have another thing to share about my sister.”
Then the exuberance went out of his voice.
“I don’t know but my sister has a problem,” he began.
First, she’d waited 2 years for her family to save and borrow the over $7,000 needed for her heart operation. Then she’d waited 3 weeks due to the earthquake. After that, she’d spent a week in the hospital until she was told the equipment needed had to be ordered. And recently, she’s spent 2 weeks at home doing nothing but worry and fret. It was just too much for this poor young woman to handle anymore.
When the doctor called yesterday, telling her they were ready and to come right away, she refused to go.
According to Jason, his sister has been living at home and fighting with his parents over a lot of trivial matters. They’ve had to work part-time jobs in factories, meaning they haven’t been home much to take care of her. She feels abandoned, hopeless, scared, frustrated and worried.
“She says no one cares about her,” Jason said. “I don’t know why she says this! My parents are doing everything but she won’t go. She says she refuses to leave the house. We all try to persuade her. The money is there now. I don’t know what’s wrong with her. Of course, we all love her and care about her!”
I guess there was a huge argument with her parents both begging her to reconsider and begging Jason to convince her via a phonecall that she must go to the hospital.
The doctors have said without the operation, she has about 10 years left at best. I think her fear in having this done is so great that she’s decided to opt for not doing anything. She’s been mentally prepared for too long, with too many disappointments happening again and again, to stoically bounce back and have the same thing happen for (seemingly) the millionth time: another delay, another return home, another anxious wait.
Of course, trying to explain that to family and friends, when perhaps she herself doesn’t understand her true feelings, is virtually an impossible task.
She’s also not being very Chinese in all of this, which makes everyone confused as to why she is acting this way. Too many people have worked hard to help her. Her duty as a daughter and a grateful recipient of such sacrifice by others is to have the open heart surgery and forget about her own feelings in the matter. Her family is losing face: First, among concerned doctors who are being overly generous in giving her so much of their time and effort to make her well; secondly, among the many friends and extended family members who loaned the money. From a cultural standpoint, it’s just not a good situation for a Chinese person to be in.
I suggested Jason contact her best friend to at least talk to his sister. She obviously is angry with the family and won’t listen to anything they have to say. A best friend will have a different effect on her. Perhaps she can even get off of work and accompany her with her mother to the capital city hospital. It would help to calm the tension by having a third party present to keep things in check.
As it stands, I am still awaiting Jason’s call this evening about what finally has happened.
As a Christian, I can pray. I can pray for her to be guided to decide what is best for her, and I can pray for her family to have understanding in her decision.
It will take a great deal of courage on everyone’s part to come to terms with whatever lies in the future for our Jason’s older sister. Please keep them in your thoughts as they go through a difficult family time.
From Chengdu, hoping your day is full of “Ping An!” (Peace)