We first heard of the massive earthquake in China on the noon news of May 12. One word came to my mind -- Cathryn. Where were Cathryn Fine Yang and her husband Nicholas? Somewhere in China I was pretty sure; but until that moment hadn't paused one moment to think about where they'd be in that vast land.
I was relieved when I saw her father, Jerry Fine, later that day. He assured us they had heard from Cathryn and she was no more affected by the earthquake than were we here in Brazil when startled awake on April 18. Apparently, like us, they were asleep when it struck.
Cathryn is married to Nicholas Yang, born in Yunnan, China, who also pursuing a PhD at La Trobe, in education. She comes from one of the finest Christian families you will meet (no pun intended). In this area people might remember Robin Fine Bradley, the youngest of the family. Robin was a 2000 graduate of Northview High School and is now a Captain in the U.S. Army. [She is also one of my "adopted children" I sometimes worry about].
You may not know them, but Cathryn and Nicholas Yang represent Brazil Indiana in way that brings honor to our city. Their work in reaching and helping involves going to people in places and circumstances which we in America can never fully appreciate. Her most recent e-mail says,
"I've now traveled to twelve villages this year. Although every village is a new experience, the hospitality and warmth I have met are constants. In [one] village, the people were so happy to host us that they danced for us for several hours. When I joined their dance circle, intense amusement erupted from the watching crowd. The lady beside me patiently taught me the steps, but I never really got it (hence the laughter)."
We might surmise that many of the things which happen in China must remain in China -- unspoken and unwritten. The following information about her work was given me "for publication":
"Cathryn Yang (née Fine) has lived in China for over five years now. She first became interested in China during the summer of her freshman year in college, when she spent six weeks in Hangzhou learning Chinese and meeting Chinese students. Since then, she spent three years in China studying Chinese, and two and a half years working in China with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), a non-profit organization focused on serving minority people groups through linguistic research, community development, and education (www.sil.org). There are many different ethnic minority groups in China, most of whom speak languages that are slowly being squeezed out by Chinese. Cathryn is currently in a PhD program in linguistics at La Trobe University in Australia. The focus of her research are the various dialects of Lalo, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in Yunnan, China. Since no one has yet fully documented this endangered language, Cathryn is spending this year in Yunnan, visiting thirty different villages to collect linguistic data and conduct intelligibility tests.."
It's a good guess that there is more to the story. Cathryn and Nicholas will come "home" to Brazil in July. Hopefully then we'll get more of "the rest of the story."
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.