‘If you want to walk fast–travel alone. If you want to travel far–travel together’ (Chinese Proverb)
It is exactly a week since Xuelin and I arrived back in London following the walk.
A week is about the right amount of time needed for me to think about what the walk this year achieved and where it might go in the future.
It takes less than a week for the Zhejiang UK Overseas Chinese Association to organise an amazing Homecoming Dinner with seventy guests all seated with name cards, a list of VIP speakers and a room and tables at the Bright Garden Courtyard Restaurant wonderfully decorated with banners, flags and flowers.
This is the fourth time that Zhejiang UK Association of which Peng Huang is President and Xuelin is Chairman have organised a Homecoming Dinner. The first was when we returned from a walk from London to Berlin in 2014; the second after our walk in China in 2015 from Beijing to Hangzhou; the third after our walk last year from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro.
As we had not been away, our walk was around the UK, this year we had said we shouldn’t do an event. That wish was over-ruled earlier in the week and on reflection I so glad it was because it was a very special evening:
It was special to see friends again who had met on the way such as Anna Wong from Bristol who had travelled to London especially for this and also representatives from New Beacon College in Stafford. Dr Zu who had travelled from Nottingham to offer advice on my Liver had also made the journey down. Anna Reaich from the British Red Cross also came along to receive the final cheque of £53,110.69 from Xuelin. I was amazed at the turnout at short notice and despite it being the first in the new series of Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1.
Counsellor & Consul General Mr Fei Mingxing was our first speaker who brought good wishes from the Chinese Embassy in London on the walk and complemented the way in which these simple acts of walking and writing had been such a powerful way of increasing friendship and understanding between the people of UK and China. He looked forward to seeing how they might develop further in the future. This seemed to spark a series of impromptu interventions:
Dr Chan, who as well as being a dear friend to Xuelin and I, is leader of the Chinese overseas Community in the UK spoke up saying that he was concerned about my health and how long I could keep doing such long walks without doing irreparable damage to my health and urged us to re-think how they were done.
Then Mr You from Tangshan in China who has developed a network of amazing Caofeidian vocational colleges which we have visited in China stood up with a suggestion–he invited Xuelin and I to walk in China next year from Beijing to Tangshan (about 160km/100 miles). Mr You went on to say that if we did this then his company would build a Hope School for children in a poor area of Hebei Province. I had to ask Xuelin to translate a couple of times before I actually believed what I was hearing.
Then Peter Ren who established the UK Chinese Entrepreneurs Association stood up and said could we not do something in the UK as well next year as these walks were gathering momentum here–his suggestion was a short walk, “What about getting 100 people to walk 10 miles with you and raise funds for charity.”
There seemed to be quite a bit of agreement around the tables and then he said, “Why not do this before the Chinese New Year Celebrations in London?” The Chinese New Year Celebrations have grown incredibly in recent years and are now the largest outside of Asia with over 700,000 packing the streets between Trafalgar Square and Chinatown. Another amazing idea.
Then two ladies stood up bringing greetings from our friend Stephen Ng, MBE President of the UK Association for the UK Association for the Promotion of Chinese Education who said that they would like to use some of the blog pieces for their ‘A’ Level Mandarin classes as a way of improving understanding of Chinese and British culture.
We then heard from a journalist who was covering the event Nouvelles d’Europe (UK edition) who said how appreciated the blogs were by their readers–they had run the series from the walk. He suggested that having more pieces walking in China about British perceptions of China would be very popular.
I could go on but I am conscious that I am placing a final burden on our wonderful team of translators of these blogs into Chinese. I hope however that they feel from this feedback that their dedication and efforts have been appreciated by others as they are by Xuelin and I.
What an evening!
Xuelin and I travelled home in the car which took over an hour to travel three miles as our journey coincided with the end of Last Night of the Proms which had been screened in Hyde Park and Park Lane was closed. It was a good opportunity to discuss what we had heard.
I began making notes as I sensed that this was one of those evenings which are like a hinge on which doors of service might open in the future. Our conclusion was quite simple and yet I think quite profound for our small charity and initiative–The Walk for Peace for Foundation. Our charity was started on our wedding day in 2012 and is our life’s ambition to fulfil. My note said this:
‘In the quest for understanding and friendship is it not far better that 1000 people share walking 1 mile together in the name of peace than any one person who walks 1000 miles alone.’
Like all good journeys thanks to our friends we felt we had unexpectedly discovered a better path by which we may be able to reach our destination.
To be continued…….