Hope is all we need

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--By Heidi DUGAN, TV Host, ICS Program "You Are the Chef"


One of my clearest memories when I first arrived in China, which I still remember so clearly, was in Wuhan. I had decided to go to Wuhan to do a course at the Wuhan Iron and Steel University. At that time, most of the people had never seen a foreigner and the boys on the course from Australia were often met with groups of people who wanted to rub the fur on their arms and legs. I remember one day walking down a dirt road on either side of me were shack like shops selling everything from street foods, to bike parts. But it was one shop that caught my attention. It was obviously a shop that was put up and brought down everyday there were 4 metal poles in the ground with a large plastic like cover over the top of it, a bench and large bamboo steamers. The lady would have been about 28yrsold and she was serving a man who obviously couldn't make up his mind over what type of mantou he wanted, bai mantou, cai mantou, rou mantou, I sympathise with him, because to this day I still find it hard making up my mind which one to have. Any way the lady serving had a child who wouldn't have been any older than 5 years old, and he was screaming and crying grabbing her leg and pulling her clothes. The girl continued to serve her customer as if nothing was happening. Instantly i had this funny feeling in my stomach and was thinking "when this customer goes this child is going to get a spanking or a very serious chat to". But it was at that moment, when the customer was walking away with about 10 mantou, she turned around to her son picked him up and hugged him and kissed him. The little boy stopped crying instantly.

Perhaps it was from my western experience that I had thought that if the child was grabbing on to their parents whilst they are trying to work we would definitely have been reprimanded by it, that I thought the mother was going to get angry at the child. It occurred to me at the moment the importance of family here in China and the sacrifices that parents in China have made on their own lives for their children, to give them a life that is better than theirs, in the hope that their Child could live the Chinese Dream.

After leaving Wuhan I headed to the big city Shanghai. Now remember that Shanghai 19 years ago was definitely not the Shanghai of today. But I thought it was heaven. Interestingly enough, till today I still believe it is a slice of heaven. A place where, you can do and have whatever you want as long as you are willing to work hard and smart, it's a place abundant of opportunities and it is a place where dreams come true. There is no other city in the world quite like Shanghai. It is a place where people, where I am living the Chinese Dream.

I have grown in this city as the city has grown around me. I have done just about every job imaginable from Real estate agent, to Office manager in a law firm, curator of a retail/restaurant/spa on the bund. But what I am most proud of and what I am most well know for is my experience on TV, most importantly as the host for You Are The Chef. I first started working in TV in china, with Shanghai Weishi, which then became Dragon Tv, the foreign department in Dragon TV on January 1st 2008, saw it's dreams come true when the department grew to a station called ICS. It was through the dreams and a lot of hard work and long hours, of some very important people that believed the people and the city of Shanghai was ready, that such a TV station could ever have come to life. Now days I continue to film YRTC after 13 years of being on air, it is the second longest airing foreign language show on ICS, next to City Beat.

During these years I was very fortunate to find myself a Shanghainese husband. Now I think we all know how great that is, as their reputation is extensive. I have two beautiful children a daughter 8 years and a son 4 years. And yes, I know yi nu, yi zi is 好. My children go to local pre-school and school. We are passionate about them learning not only the Chinese language but also the local language of Shanghainese. My husband, a very patriotic Shanghai man, and myself believe that to be able to speak and write in a language is to be able to truly understand its culture.

During the summer holidays I take my family back to Australia for 2 months where they go to school there. The balance of life between, the relaxed and creative way of education in Australia, to the disciplined, culturally and knowledge rich environment of schooling in China, for me is the perfect education and preparation for my children and their future.

My Family is exposed to people of so many different nationalities, many of whom have become close friends. I have watched some of me dearest Chinese friends who started out with me all those years ago and whom I look at now with admiration and amazement of how they created not only an amazing life for themselves and families, but also how they have helped to change and affect the people around them and the how the have been able to dramatically change and improve the industries they are in whether it be the TV industry, film, investment banking, hotel or food and beverage.

I walk my children to school each day and watch the people running around starting their day. I pick my kids up in the afternoon, and shower them with hugs and kisses. I look at them and see how their lives and experience are so rich, but I also see that the things I do affect them. We are all living the Chinese dream and we are also creating a place where our children have the chance to hope, to dream and to experience a life of their choosing. The Chinese dream may change for them, but as long as it is theirs and it is filled with hope they too can create their own Chinese Dream.

I know that there are many people that will say that there are things, systems, people that need to change and improve on, but that is what living the dream is about. It's not about having it, it's about experiencing it in its entirety, it is about the journey. It is moving forward together, creating a better place and better lives that we are all happy with, it's about taking ownership and responsibility for what we have created and what we are creating. I am an idealist, and I choose to look at the positive, but it is through these eyes and this way of thinking that has created my reality.

I have lived exactly half my life here in China; it has made me who I am today. Without this city, this country, it's people, the experiences, the challenges, the opportunities, hopes and the dreams that have come to life here, I know that my life would not have been as fulfilled, as happy or as exciting. I would be a very different person. It's when I look back on the last 19 years here that it is very clear to me that I am living the Chinese Dream, and I want to take the chance to thank you for sharing it with me. Thank you.


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