In 1965, I became a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines. My activist sister protested the Viet Nam war. The conformist, I wore makeup and a bra while exploring our vast world. Then in 1983 my life turned 180 degrees when I went to China on a 3-week tour. The nun’s words came back to me as I fell in love with the country, people and philosophy, returning again and again.
China became my passion. I led friendship tours, taking airline employees to China for the US-China Peoples Friendship Association (USCPFA). I lived in Hangzhou in the 1990s and again in 2006/7 where I taught English as a Second Language (ESL). I made lots of friends. Certainly, we wouldn’t bomb those we knew and loved!
As I sat in the Unitarian Universalist Church engaging in the ATD Symposium, I wondered if I could take the symposium to China without being kicked out. (The Chinese Government does not like activist groups.) And really, wasn’t this a better use of my time than obsessing about my Chinese memoir and getting nowhere!
I became an ATD Facilitator and with my Chinese friends’ help, I facilitated a hand full of symposiums at Hangzhou Teacher’s University where I had taught. But I needed a more efficient way into the mainstream consciousness.
It took almost 4 years but the ATD Symposium has taken root in China and is flourishing. We have partnered with a visionary, Huang Ming, who developed Solar Valley, Dezhou, Shandong, China. When his daughter was born, he had been in the oil business. He looked at his little baby and changed his life to create a better world for her. He turned to solar power. After the ATD Symposium I facilitated for 300 of his employees, he started opening doors for the symposium to be held at high schools and universities, knowing how important it is to awaken the Chinese youth.
In the past year, Huang Ming connected with an ATD Symposium participant from Inner Mongolia, Chunsheng. Huang has developed and is producing Solar Yurts for Chunsheng’s educational center in Inner Mongolia, which will raise the ecological awareness of the strong but disruptive tourist trade there.
Chunsheng invited our team to his homeland this summer (2015), where we were transported by turbine farms and rolling green hills as far as the eye could see. But the degradation of the grasslands also caught our eye. Instead of knee deep grasses, the grasslands resembled a mowed lawn with patches of desert sands waiting to be watered. We held a symposium and are planning an in-depth series of symposiums for next summer to influence and train as many ATD facilitators as possible.
This spring (2015) my dream came true when a representative from the Pachamama Alliance, Maisa Arias, joined me in Beijing to train 23 ATD facilitators. Those facilitators have held two to four symposiums a month, which has generated a group of future facilitators waiting to be trained this fall when I return for a 2-month ATD China Tour. From Beijing, the ATD Symposium’s purpose is spreading in many directions throughout China.
In addition to the above, another adventure awaits me as I return to the challenge of writing my memoir. I believe the environmental element will bring my story relevance at this time of world change. I also plan to write more articles about China and its involvement with ecological challenges. The people I tell about my China volunteer work are often amazed that the Chinese are “interested in the environment.” That perception needs to change.
What about the visionary nun? I don’t know. I just keep making friends in China!