Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An American Volunteer in China

An American Volunteer in China

To locals, 36-year-old David Deem seems a particularly tall and slim American. He stands at 1.93 meters (6 feet 4 inches), with blue eyes, curly blond hair, a beard, and an honest and bright smile. They call him "Ding Dawei."

Ding Dawei has been in Dongxiang Autonomous County in northwest China's Gansu Province since 2000, voluntarily helping with the elementary education of children. He came to work in China in 1994, and before coming to Dongxiang he was with the Northwest Minorities University for seven years as an English teacher.

"A Teacher Should Go Where He Is Needed Most"

When I first met Ding Dawei, I was surprised that he could speak in fluent Chinese.

"How about coming to my office and having a talk there?" he suggested as he showed me the way to his office-a 13-square-meter room functioning both as an office and a dormitory. The furniture is simple: one single bed, one table and two chairs. The red five-star flag on the wall is the only decoration in the room.

"I often ask myself the same question you reporters ask me," Ding Dawei said. "What did I come here for? I had been a teacher in the US, Japan, and later on in big Chinese cities like Zhuhai and Lanzhou. Everything was okay, and so why should I choose to come to Dongxiang? People often tend to move up into higher positions, but I, to the contrary, am moving gradually lower. But, as you know, Dongxiang is probably the weakest in China in terms of elementary education. I just came to offer my help. What do you think of this, worthy of praise or not?"

Ding Dawei was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His father is a senior executive in the largest tire factory in the US, and his mother was once a middle school teacher. When he was a third-year student in college, he went to China and studied for one year in Peking University. Like all foreign students in China, he traveled extensively and tasted the various delicious foods of different areas. He returned to the States a year later, and received his MA degree in classic literature at Asbury College, Kentucky. He found himself leaning towards a career as a teacher, and started to take notice of education in Asia-in particular, education in China. He came to the country in 1994.

A Sense of Responsibility

Ding's backpack holds an old folder, faded in color, which holds various items: his ID card, photocopies of his passport, reports on building schools with donations, official written replies from the education bureau, lists of donators, a bankbook, several account books, photos of schools, letters of thanks and many receipts waiting to be mailed to the donators... "This is my life here," he said.

For years, letters and donations have been continually sent via post to "Ding Dawei, Dongxiang, Gansu." He said, "I am probably the one who receives and sends the most letters in the county."

How to best use this money is often the question that racks his brain most. The money is used to build schools, purchase related articles for the schools, purchase gifts for teachers and students on Teachers' Day and Children's Day, respectfully, and pay for the teachers' training and exchange programs.

During each winter vacation, he takes local teachers to Guangdong Province for training and exchange, so as to help them gain more experience. Upon their return from the tour, he collects all the tickets and writes to donators, advising them why and how the money is best spent on bringing teachers to Guangdong Province, and the amount of money that had been used. The tickets and receipts are sent with the letters.

He wrote to the donators describing the expenditure of their contributions. The income and expenditure account was in triplicate: one for the education bureau; one for the school; and one copy for himself. Because of his assiduous recording keeping and donor communications, many contribute repeatedly, and one donator has forwarded funds more than ten times.

"I'm a Chinese Teacher"

Usually, Ding Dawei will travel by foot from one school to the other dealing with various problems, and he will often walk at least two hours a day.

To learn more about his life, we followed him on one of his journeys to deliver gifts to kids before Children's Day. The roads were not smooth, and the vehicle was packed with many things, so he insisted on going by foot. When he appeared at the gate of a school, we heard students loudly calling "Ding—Da—Wei." He was immediately encircled by children who seemed to come out of nowhere, and we were told that nearly all the children in Dongxiang County know him. Children are happy to see him, and he too feels happy and relaxed in being with them.

He delivered the gifts and the children returned to their classrooms under his instruction. This time he bought everyone a red baseball cap and a five-yuan electronic watch.

Looking at the pleasantly surprised children, he said, "You don't know how lovely children are here!" Then, he took out a globe and asked one child, "Do you know where China is?" As the child pointed out the position, he asked the child to tell him where Gansu Province is located, and the child did so correctly. Satisfied with the answers, he asked, "Where is Dongxiang?" The child replied that he did not know. Within the vast territory of China, Dongxiang is too small to be marked on any globe.

Children like playing games with the "giant," letting him hold them upside down in the air, or snatching the basketball that spins on his fingertips. And he likes to ask them questions. The assignment he gives himself is to appraise the skill level and abilities of each student, and determine in what areas they need to improve. In class, he asks questions in accordance with their different individual levels, not too difficult and not too easy. "It is difficult to handle it properly," he said.

Most of his time and energy is dedicated to providing the children with better education conditions. He continually visits all the schools in the county solving various problems, meeting the local children, who are truly fond of this blue-eyed teacher.

I remember that Ding Dawei was once invited to a popular live program on CCTV. On the screen, the audience watched as he took out the Chinese national flag (the one that now hangs on the wall of his room) from his backpack; and he told the host and the audience that he carried it with him at all times-just to remind himself that he was in China and he should speak more Chinese. "It also helps to bridge the gap between myself and those that come to my room," he said. "Every time I see the national flag, I will say to myself, 'You are a Chinese teacher now.'"

目录 [隐藏]


1994 年,年轻的丁大卫来到中国,在广东珠海恩溢私立小学担任英语教师。一年后,丁大卫萌生了到西部去看一看的想法。他选择了甘肃兰州,前往西北民族学院应聘当 大学教师。当时学校给大卫定的工资是每月1200元。老实的大卫跑去问别人,1200元在兰州是不是很高了?别人说,算很高了。于是,大卫主动找到学校, 要求把工资降到900元。学校不同意,大卫一再坚持,说:怎么也不能超过1000元。最后,学校给他每月950元。
丁大卫自己的家当很少,包括一 顶队帽、一本相册、一副家人合影、两套换洗的衣服(其中一件军装是大卫爸爸年轻时当兵穿过的,整整40年了)和一双未洗的普通运动鞋,还有一些生活必需品 和一面随身带着的五星红旗。大卫说,每当他看到中国国旗,他就会告诫自己:"你现在是一位中国教师,你要多为中国教书育人。"




丁 大卫说:“生活上的不便都是相对的。比如我所负责的8所小学都在乡下,而我现在在县里工作,有固定的办公室和住所,所以每次下乡都很麻烦,也不能每天都 去。乡下的条件还是很差的。而且东乡经常停水停电,但是我觉得既然东乡人能够在这里安居乐业,我也可以适应这里的生活。饮食方面也不是问题。我与家人联系 主要通过写信,美国那边大概两个星期可以收到。在别人看来,这种方式很麻烦、很原始,但这也是相对的。


丁 大卫的第一“怪”,是喜欢往贫穷地区钻。“人往高处走,水往低处流”,丁大卫却偏往低处走。他到中国的第一站是珠海,在珠海第一家私立小学恩溢国际学校任 英语教师,大小也是到了中国的特区。当丁大卫为这所学校招聘英语教师时发现,招聘到的5个人中有4个来自西北地区。他觉得,西北的人才都出来了,有谁去 呢?他的信条是,“当老师,就应该到最需要的地方去。”于是,丁大卫把自己的简历寄到西北的一些学校,最后他在兰州大学、西北师范大学等学校的邀请中,选 择了西北民院,理由是:“这里的学生大都要回到民族地区当老师,是最需要人的地方。”就这样,他从特区走进中国的西部兰州。到了兰州,他又开始研究哪个地 区最贫穷、教育最落后。几经考察,他选中了东乡县。从2000年开始,他为甘肃东乡族自治县做起了基础教育义务助学工作。这还“不过瘾”,2002年6 月,丁大卫和西北民院的合同到期,他决定辞去民院的工作,专职到东乡做事。

丁大卫的第二“怪”,是别人吵着要加待遇,他却硬要减工资。 1995年,丁大卫作为外籍教师应聘到西北民院,学校给他开出的工资是每月1200元。他打听了一圈后,知道这个工资比一般教师要高,于是主动找到学校, 要求把工资降到900元。学校不同意,坚持要付1000元,丁大卫觉得“四位数”还是太高,几番争执,最后定在了950元。

这 些年来,寄给“甘肃东乡丁大卫”的信件和捐款一直不断,总数已经超过了10万元。所有捐款的支出,他都会写信告诉捐助人。所有的收支账一律一式三份,给教 育局一份,学校一份,他自己留一份。别人问他, “又没有人要求你这样,不用这么麻烦吧。”他的解释是,“那怎么行,人家把钱交到你的手里,总要有交待。”他还为了学校1.5元一度的不合理电价去和电力 局理论;为一个语言功能有障碍的孩子联系聋哑学校和赞助人;为了春节期间带东乡的6位老师去广东恩溢学校培训的事向教育局汇报;还“义务”为双语教学项目 培训老师翻译资料。他甚至把家人都拖进来了。丁大卫的老父带了两个朋友去东乡看儿子,他让他们为建校做砖工,临走三位老人还把身上的余钱全部掏了出来。
曾 经有人对丁大卫说,二三十岁时做这样的事还可以,但是快要到40岁的人应该现实一些,过条件好的生活。丁大卫说:“我没想过要离开这里,我已经来中国十多 年了,也许我可以想到明年做什么,但是以后的事情谁也无法想像。我和我的妻子都很希望能够留在东乡。我有很健康的身体,有志同道合的妻子,有很多可爱的学 生,这些都支持着我继续在这里工作。我觉得每个人的生活都必须是有意义的,我现在做的是我喜欢的事情,这是一种自我满足。如果每个人都向往富裕的生活,而 没有人愿意付出,那么世界上绝大部分人都不会有过上优越生活的条件。”


No comments:

Post a Comment