An easy and happy life is universally desired, a life that in its essence is like an idyllic poem. But when one night Mom told me that I could no longer go to school, even as a drop-in, the violent torrent of my tears made it abundantly clear that I had understood the challenging life which was ahead of me.
For the first time, I truly felt that my disabilities had deprived me of my right to attend school, and had shackled me to a cage from which there was no escape. Little did I know, however, that there in Shandong lived a woman who, despite the great physical pain that she herself endured, had mastered multiple languages entirely on her own and had had several books published either as an author or as a translator, before the advent of PCs and the internet.
As I grew older, her story drove me forward. Even today I keep her Beautiful English up on my bookshelf. It was beyond my wildest dreams that some 30 years later, I would have the honor of personally meeting her in Beijing. Naturally, when an acquaintance who works at the provincial Disabled Persons’ Federation (DFP) broke the news to me, I suspected that his WeChat account had been hacked.
On September 28, 2021, around 1:40 P.M., Mom and I landed at the Daxing International Airport, which also seemed like a minor miracle to someone who stares at an LCD monitor all day long.
A step into the Domestic Arrivals hall tossed us into Charlie’s chocolate factory, every corner of which is sleek and smooth. Across an expanse of nearly two kilometers, black and white lines connect the pillars and ceilings all the way through, with giant glass windows and ceramic tile floors poised to create a sense of grandeur. Pots of green are artistically dotted around – a joy to see after a long flight! But for me, the most wonderful of all is an ample range of state-of-the-art accessibility facilities, including fully-equipped accessible toilets!
We entered a multi-media lecture hall large enough to accommodate a hundred or more people. High above, a ceiling of lights lined neatly in gentle arcs illuminated every particle of air with softly bright beams of light. I immediately felt lit up from the inside.
To my left ran a gentle terrace of creamy-yellow seats from the door to the center of the room. Close to a low stage at the far end stood three U-shaped rows of seats, semi-circling the stage on which a wall-sized LCD screen was placed facing the audience. The entire layout must look like a perfect half-ripple if viewed in midair. As an invited member of the audience, I was led to the last U-shaped row, toward the left side of the stage.
When seated, I noted a young lady sitting next to me on my right side.
Everything about her looked distinctly elegant – her winter dress, pony tail, eye makeup, pink and yellow N95 mask, nail art...and even her Chinese given name is stunningly unique, which is a character composed of four “fires”.
We made a few friendly exchanges before she started to greet the arriving CDPF leaders and take photos with them like old acquaintances. For each photo-op, her mother quietly came over, picked up her cell phone and, when done, placed it on her lap and helped put her mask back on. And how I was stunned by her mastery of spoken English when we were introduced to the Provincial Relations Team of the US Embassy!
Later I learned that this graceful lady had traveled to 28 European countries and authored a 200,000-charcter journal. These were only some of her accomplishments after she had a terrible car accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. Indeed, every participant in this room seemed to have a unique story to tell.
A full episode of inspirations came on display as the guest speakers shared their stories.
Yang Shuting, a "post-90s" lady of Miao ethnicity in Xiapingshui Village of Baimaoping Town, Chengbu City, Hunan Province, had started a nursing career at the community medical center when a car accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Wheelchair bound, she earned her first pot of gold online as a sales assistant for a Taobao store in 2012 – 7.7 yuan (roughly USD1.2). Her business gradually took off thereafter with government-supported interest-free loans and marketing channels and culminated in her founding Hunan Qiqi Science and Technology Co., Ltd. In 2017, her company exported USD 6.85 million worth of craftwork integrated with traditional Chinese art, resulting in the creation of many jobs were created for her fellow townspeople.
Here in this brightly-lit room, the only face I was familiar with was that of an elegant lady sitting in the center of the first U-shaped row. In a purple suit jacket and a white scoop-neck top, teamed with black trousers as well as her signature perm, she entered the room smiling a warm smile.
Prior to the entrepreneurs’ segment, she spoke for more than an hour, epitomizing developments in China's disabled community and outlining her visions for the future. She sometimes smiled, sometimes frowned and at other times looked pensive, as she detailed her thoughts about disability and life in general as well as her concerns for disabled sisters all around the world.