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The year when things changed

03128 Li Chang Xia
Translated by George Wang

It happened in a beautiful fall season. With slumped shoulders and messy hair, adark, scrawny girlcould hardly contain her glee. She shifted her sights sheepishly between the scribbles on the class chalkboard and thedesktop textbook, just to make sure that she was not in a dream. She was overwhelmed with elation. For years she walked with her head down; now she straightened her back, head up, and walked the school corridors with high spirits and self-assurance. She no longer suffered hunger and wailed in her bed; she could afford the daily mealsnow. I was that scrawny girl and Peach changed me. My life took a pivotal turn when I encounteredPeach.

I grew up in a poor farming family in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture.The local custom favored male child and my parents were no exception. They stubbornly pursued the path of havinga son and ended up withonly disappointments. With four schooling girls and my grandpa paralyzed in bed from stroke, their acts had condemned the family to doom. I am the eldest daughter. All my sisters are pretty and dandy, I am proud to tell you that, it just that we could not afford such a big family. Our livelihood depended on a few acres of arid land. The yield from the land could never support a family of seven. We were constantly living in the shadow of hunger and cold. Within the four walls, the house was barren and impoverished. We couldnot find help and we were struggling for survival. As the eldest daughter, I struggled constantly under the financial shadowand was on the verge dropping out. I lived in fear, worried about if I could continue my studies all the time. The distress wrecked me into that miserable, scrawny girl.

In the fall of 2005, Grandpa’s illness worsened. The family could barely afford the medicalexpense and there was no money for me to attendschool. Myparents decided to have me to work on the farm instead. I went to the principal’s office to hand over my request. The principal asked about my family status and reviewed my academics. He realized that I was doing well in school and, in the final English test, I scored the highest in the class. He adjusted his spectacles, moved them up and down, to get a better look of me. He sawmy toes, poking out from the torn shoes and was bare in view. He frowned a bit. He asked whether I would like to stay with the school. Upon hearing this, I broke down. I answered “yes”, andmy tearsstarted to flooddownthecheeks. He consoled me and told me he fully understood my predicament. He would waive the tuition and asked Peachto help me. Ever since, I received 400 RMB each semester from Peach. The amount went up to 800 in high school. It was not a great sum of money, but it made a life difference. It was the very straw that saved me from going under.

Since that autumn, I no longer worried about dropping out of school. I did not have to hide myself from others orstayin the corner with self-pity. I no longer sufferedthe shame of hunger and wretchedness. I felt like I had been chained ina dungeon for years and was finally granted my freedom. I had been living in hell and, by the grace of God, was liftedto become a winged angel. I felt energetic and happy, full of hope toward future. “I am a lucky girl”, I said, “This is my opportunity. I will study hard. I want to go to college. I want to see the world”. Later, I received letters from my sponsors in Taiwan and USA. I corresponded with them and reported my status and progress. With their encouragement, I threw myself into studying. In 2009, I was admitted to Sichuan Normal Universityto study Chemistry.

It had been two years since I started to work as a teacher. Due to the high turnover rate of school faculty, I taught not only high-school Chemistry, but also English and Geography in the middle school. My major was Chemistry and I had to make extra preparations for the other two subjects. Fortunately, I had a good understanding of these two fields. For my lack of expertise, I made it up with thorough preparations of the teaching material. I think I was doing a good job. The students liked me and I was highly regarded by my superior too. I became the office assistant handling school filing and documents.

Last year, I sponsored a PEACH student who had a similar background like me. In a way, it was a “relay” ofPeach’s endeavors. I would like to help others just like they had helped me. I felt good about being able to reciprocate the benevolence and kindness.In February, I married a colleague of mine. I am enjoying my happy life.

 

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