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June 27, 2014
Creative Living
The Afternoon that West Met East
by Dian Thomas

Traveling brings the most amazing experiences while learning about people and places around the world.  Sometimes it happens when I see a new sight. Other times it happens when I meet a new person. Today’s adventure centers around a person I met in one of my travels.

One of my long-time speaking friends found out that I was the tour leader for trips to China, Peru, and South Africa.  I got a call from her asking me if she and a friend could join me on a trip to China. 

She told me that her friend had just retired from a career in the Navy and that she was a two-star admiral.  I knew that was a high rank, but when I looked it up I found out that was the equivalent to a two-star general in the Army or Air Force.  I had never met anyone of that rank in all my travels.  

I found Sharon Redpath to be a unique person.  She was a delight to be with from beginning to end.  She was out to live life to the fullest.  Her mother had been a tailor and she was the one in her family that learn this trade. I learned that she designed purses and sold them on the Internet.  The money that she made from that went into a fund that helps wounded soldiers. 

Sharon Redpath

The first stop on our tour was in Guilin, which is in the south part of China.  The country of China is in the shape of a chicken.  It is just a little smaller than the USA but has more than 1.4 billion people.  That is about five people for every one that we have in America.  There are 607 cities in the world that have a million people, and 340 of them are in China. (Only 12 are in the USA.)     

My goal as I take people traveling around the world is to have them experience and enjoy the people they meet.  It is much easier to do that in the country than in big cities.  When I stayed in China a few years ago for six weeks I explored a small town in southern China named Yanshou.  It is nestled among the famous Gumdrop Mountains. 

This was a town that I stayed in for six weeks.  I found a lady named Wendy has an incredible story to tell.  I like to invite her to have lunch with the group and then she takes us on a tour of her home with is a real Chinese experience.  I have written about Wendy before in these pages. Read her story here.

Wendy is a farmer’s wife and has never had a car.  A friend of her bought her a scooter, which is what she uses to get from place to place.  When Wendy went to get on her scooter I could see that Sharon really wanted to go with her so we arranged for her to ride on the back of the scooter to Wendy’s house.

Wendy and Sharon on Wendy’s scooter.

Everyone that I take to Wendy’s leaves more grateful for what they have a home.  Wendy lives in the country in a typical farmhouse.  As a farmer’s wife she could have two children.  Her first two children were girls.  In China, in the country most families want a boy.  Girls will marry and go off with their husband’s family. 

Wendy wanted a third child.  In China if you live in the city you can have one child.  If you live in the country you can have two children.  An extra child will cost the family a lot of money.  Wendy’s friend told her that she should become a guide because she lives in a beautiful part of the country and many foreigners come there to visit. 

Wendy did not speak a word of English.  One of her friends printed her a sign in English that said, “I can be your guide,” and Wendy would go out and show the area to the tourists who hired her.  Wendy learned English from the tourists, and the tourists allowed her to earn enough money to have her third child, which is a boy. 

As a farmer’s wife Wendy helps her husband plant, grow and harvest the crop.  One day when I went to see Wendy she was carrying these two baskets of sweet potatoes from the field to their house.  I tried to lift the basket, which I guess would weigh at least 120 pounds.  I could not even get them off the ground. 

These baskets of sweet potatoes weigh at least 120 pounds.

Next for Sharon was a tour of the kitchen.  When Sharon saw the live chicken in the corner just to her left of her in a cage on the floor, it was hard to stifle a laugh. 

Sharon was startled to see a chicken in the kitchen.

Now to the bedroom, we saw all they had for a bed was a board and a bamboo slats over it.  Coming from America it was hard to understand how they could sleep but in China they like a very hard mattress. 

In China, the bed is the equivalent of sleeping on the floor.

Our last stop was to the outhouse which was about 100 feet from the house.  It was just a hole in the ground with a pail of water and a small cooking pan to use when you needed to flush the toilet.

These are a far cry from the bathrooms used in the United States.

As our tour ended I heard Sharon say, “I am going home and never complain about anything again.”  Sometimes all it takes is a trip to see how other live to help us appreciate what we have.  

Dian is a tour director for Dick Jensen Tours.  To see all the tours that Dian and others take, go to  You can also write to  For a special discount on your next tour, just tell them you read this article in the Nauvoo Times.

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