At each destination, someone from the staff of the library district we are visiting who speaks English is assigned to accompany us where ever we go.
The level of English competency varies, some were shy to speak English. Amy, even tho she could easily have done the translations, always gave the young people the opportunity to translate for us so they could practice their English. She helped them if they stumbled and made it a positive experience for them. (another reason to join the Amy Lee fan club)!
These escorts became dear friends, they were our life blood and our protectors. It was heartbreaking to have to say goodbye as we moved on to our next destination and library. I think it was hard for them to let us go too.
Ji Jiafang, nicknamed Xiao Ji or Little Ji because she is the youngest member of the Ji family, was our companion in Fuzhou at the beginning and end of our trip. She currently works in the General Office of the Fujian Provincial Library but recently took the Foreign Service test and was one of only two people in the Fujian Province to pass the test! We are hoping she will be assigned to the Chinese Embassy in the US!
Lu Jie, or L.J., is the English language cataloger for the Xiamen Children’s Library, and also a new mom. Joy works in the same library with the English language collection donated by the Appletree Foundation. Xiaolan, or Little Lan, is in management at the Xiamen Public Library. She rode the train with us back to Fuzhou to make sure we got safely to our destination!
All libraries have drivers and vans to transport staff and guests because most people in China do not have cars. These drivers are skilled and fearless in maneuvering crowded crazy city streets and can drive long distances without tiring. Our most eventful trip was the unplanned side excursion to Tulou where the driver had to drive over debris from a landslide caused by the typhoon. This was the only time I saw a driver be concerned; before he passed over an obstacle, he got out of the van to see if we could actually pass without going over the cliff! He drove all night to get us back to our hotel by 11pm.
Thank you to all the drivers for getting us around in one piece! And thank you all our translators, we will miss you dearly.