'Time has melted our (China/US) hearts together'

By the Christmas of 1978 we, the students of the English Department at Anhui University, [Mainland China] had been impatiently looking forward to the arrival of our newly wedded American teachers. When they finally came, it was an excitingly remarkable day. The leaders of our department showed them around the building and took them to meet all the students waiting in their classrooms.

As they stepped into our classroom, I, like other students, stood up and clapped my hands. I watched them in their colorful American dress, closely. "The tall masculine young man must be Jon Ritter, the pretty and amiable woman Laura Ritter. From our stiff posture and widely opened eyes, I thought, they must have sensed our feelings of curiosity, welcome mixed with worries and estrangement. But they smiled naturally, full of understanding.

These chatting scenes led to an exciting weekly eventlistening to lectures about American society given alternately by Jon and Laura. So, on Wednesday afternoon, I would dash into the small auditorium with the zest I had had as a little girl.

When America was mentioned, I would visualize a collapsing economy with rows of beggars. I had long been taught to look at America with these views. But these lectures on different topics threw much light on every aspect of American society.

The day when the third topic began, I found the audience larger. A strange face told me that many were drawn from other colleges and units.

As we were allowed to ask any questions in which we were interested, I put forth a question about hippies (I had always been concerned with the ideological trend of the American youth).

Other students asked about the US national broadcasting and TV network, about famous movie stars, and about the life of college students. As one student put it, "Now we have seen the society in perspective. America is no longer a myth, nor the picture stamped on our mind before."

I don't know exactly when Jon and Laura's office became the "haunting" place after class. Each time when I went there, the small room was full of students, who were selecting all kinds of books, magazines, newspapers or pictorials.

I was suprised to see these Americans register in Chinese pinyinm on library cards so skillfully, faster than I could do. At such a speed, they could deal with a score of students during the 10-minute interval, no matter how tired they felt after having a class.

When Jon and Laura came to China, the brought with them about 200 pounds of books, some of which were their wedding presents from their friends and relatives, and some of which were bought with their own money.

Then, at their request, books and all kinds of reading materials poured into the little library from their friends in the Sino-American Friendship Association, especially from Laura's mother and Wendell Lepic (and many other friends whose names I don't know exactly) and the Washington D.C. chapter of US-China Peoples Friendship Association.

The little library with more than 1,000 books opened a new world in our department, a prismatical world of American civilization. No wonder when we knew that Jon and Laura had left these books as a gift to our students, we were greatly touched.

We know books are expensive, but their value can't be measured with money. The Hong Xing Friendship Library (named for Jon and Laura's daughter Abigail whose Chinese name is Hong Xing) will be a permanent symbol of the friendship between our two peoples.

Time has melted our hearts together. I'll never forget the day when Laura entered our classroom and said: "This is the last lesson I"ll give you. . . ." I heard two girls sobbing.

I choked with excitement and sadness. Many students felt that words failed them. As Laura lifted the camera, I took it over and asked her to stand among the students. We wanted to perpetuate and preserve the unforgettable, happy moment we spent with our American teachers.

Many such precious moments are engraved on my memory: We wer dining with Laura in celebration of International Women's Day and talking about the women's rights of our two countries; we were enjoying the English short play "The Blue Bicycle" directed by Jon; we were teasing and kissing the lovely Abigail, the first American baby born in China since the normalization of the relationship between our two countries; we were singing Christmas songs with Jon and Laura under the beautifully decorated Christmas tree. . . .

All these glowing moments will turn into the glorious pages in the annals of cultural exchange between our two countri es and two peoples.

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