A Letter to Jilin
My dear Jilin,
I know we see each other every day, and we talk often, but today I want to tell you exactly how much you really mean to me. It's been eleven years since I first made your acquaintance.
After a long series of firsts—first international flight, first train ride, first time to sleep on a train, first time to speak Chinese to anyone—I stepped off the train in Jilin. I looked around in awe. In my mind, you were a young city then, but you've grown so much! I think we both have such high hopes for each other in the coming years, because our lives are intertwined now, and as you prosper, so do I. My prosperity is also yours.
Eleven years. Can you imagine? I remember the comfortable days back then. At 25 years old, I was little more than a youth, and it was my first time abroad. You were the city that welcomed me in. You seemed a small city to me then. Small, but oh so charming!
The first night I walked along the Song Hua River with a young friend it was sprinkling down with rain, just a little, and the lights along the banks reflected in the river. Even the taxi lights that evening were romantic. The river has always been a source of romance and peace for me. I used to spend days at a time on the banks of the river composing poetry like a shadow of Thoreau.
I remember well the old dirt street parallel to Jilin road near the BBC main teaching building. I also recall the days they paved it! What a thrilling and adventurous time it was. It was the first time I’d ever seen such construction from old world to new, and it was like you were being built before my eyes. Going back in my memory, I can see the old you so vividly. The large, new disco on Jiefang Road that was only open for one summer; the older apartments near Northeast Electrical University where my friend lived, now all rebuilt and revitalized; the way that Beishan Park used to look before the beautiful new concourse was built.
Yet some things have never changed. Your remarkable Hunan street will always be the heartbeat of the city; alive with markets and people. Longtan Mountain will be forever an idyllic, forested retreat from your busy center. And the people will always be caring, generous, and lovable.
Living with you, Jilin, has been a wonderful time in my life. You know that I came here for a job — bright-eyed, optimistic youth — and it has become a career. You were a place of shelter, and now you are a home. We began our relationship back when BBC training center was still BBC school. Back before there was a Zhongdong shopping center, and the fastest train to Changchun was two hours. I admit that I left you after only a year and a half to work in Changchun. I missed you all the time. I missed the quiet life, the family feeling you have. Changchun is a bustling, busy, working city with its own charm, but you have always been in my heart.
When the time was right, I came back to you. I grew up while I was away, and so did you. My time away made it clear to me that what I wanted were you. You are the city that makes me happy. It’s the slower pace of life here; the natural beauty in the parks, the river, and the lake; and the people -- I’ve always found your people to be full of life and happiness. No matter where I go, dear Jilin, one thing is always true: someone is nearby with a smile and a helping hand.
Last year, when I was married, it was one of your citizens, Jilin, who became my wife. We married in Huadian with all of her family; a bright and joyous celebration of love and the meaning of life. We live together here among your mountains and waters, and just two months ago, we brought another precious life to meet you—our son. He was born in Central Hospital on a quiet Saturday night with the dedicated help of the doctors and nurses there. We made more friends and shared together the joy of childbirth. What debt of gratitude I owe to you, Jilin, for his safe delivery, for his patient and qualified care, for the wonderful environment he will have to grow up. Just wait, I know he’s going to be another of your shining lights.
Life is going forward, Jilin, and we are growing up still. This year saw the birth of my son, and the building of our new house. You are expanding, rebuilding, renewing, just as I am with my family. What a special feeling to buy a house. To have a part of you for my own; a place where my family will be safe and we can grow together in happiness. The house is going to be perfect. It’s only a few hundred meters from the mountains and the river. The clean air, flowing water, blue sky, living forests: all of these are the precious gifts you are giving my family, Jilin, and our hearts are full of gratitude.
I’ll be raising my family here with you, dear Jilin. We will experience life together. The joys of childhood are playing in nature with my son and the school years with your careful and attentive education. My wife and I will enjoy your expanding internationalism. The German bars, the Italian restaurants, the Japanese sushi, and the American fast-food. We will spend time with you shopping in Zhongdong, and playing there with our son. We will while away the summers camping on the shores of Songhua River. We will enjoy many more barbecues with friends on the banks of the river. And what, dear Jilin, will you get from us? Our love, our devotion, and our care. I know that as you rise and fall, so do we. Your good fortune is also ours. We want you to be rich and clean and fresh, and so we will take care of you as best we can. We appreciate you, and we will give back our work and our hearts. As an educator, I will continue to shape the minds of your youth and prepare them for the world ahead. What greater gift is there than the gift of a prosperous future.
The times to come are bright, indeed. You and I, Jilin, we’ve been together for such a long time. You truly are my home now. With my family, a house, and a career that I love, you have given me everything. Thank you, Jilin, from the bottom of my heart.
Randall Kent Eckstein is an American teacher in a high school in Jilin.
(Opinions of the writer in this letter don't represent those of ejilin.gov.cn.)