What 6-year-old boy hasn’t grabbed his shovel and started digging? Everyone was doing it in the 1950s. Mom always said, “Eat everything on your plate. There are starving kids in China!” It became our solemn duty to dig that hole so we could scrape yucky vegetables down the chute into a waiting Chinese child’s bowl of rice.
I had no idea where China was (other than down that pit) until third grade at Ysleta Elementary School in El Paso, Texas. Geography class opened my eyes when our teacher told us about The Great Wall of China. The story and photos remained in the recesses of my mind for decades. I HAD to see this wonder of the world someday.
Of course, I eventually realized that digging a hole to China was a monumental task. Fortunately, I chose a career that involved extensive world travel. My office was seat 43-F in a multitude of 747’s. A couple of million miles and frequent flier points provided the ability to go anywhere my heart desired. Five decades after I started digging that hole, it dawned on me that I could redeem some of my Executive Platinum miles on American Airlines and step onto the wall that haunted my mind.
My first trip to China happened in April of 2006. After hours of research and networking, I bought a ticket from Los Angeles to Shanghai. I checked into the Bund Riverside Hotel, then walked outside and began investigating local life on the surrounding streets. This trip lasted only one week, but I knew I would return soon. On my third trip to China, I finally stepped foot on the Great Wall. The experience was as awesome as the first time I approached the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Through 2010 I began commuting to China four times each year. In 2011, I arrived in Southern China where I have been living for the past six years. To my surprise and delight, I discovered that Chinese mothers told their kids, “Eat everything on your plate. There are starving kids in America!”