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About the Book
West Dreams East is the love story of Kayleigh, an Irish teacher, and Chi, a Chinese artist, set against the background of the 1989 revolutionary events in China. Chi introduces Kayleigh to Lao Yu, a Taoist nun who initiates her into Taoism, the ancient Chinese path of wisdom. When Kayleigh is deported and Chi arrested for their part in the demonstrations against the government this mystical philosophy sustains and guides them in their struggle for reunion. The book explores how the search for love and companionship is inextricably linked with the quest for truth and identity.
Escape the reality blues into a world of mystical magical romance. West dreams East brings you behind the Bamboo Curtain into mysterious China. Journey with Kayleigh into the remote North West, the land of the ancient Silk Road and nomadic caravan routes. Teach English in an enormous Chinese College. Fall in love with Chi, an artist and political activist. Traverse deserts populated by exotic tribes of Uighers and Kazaks. Sail down the Gyantze Gorges, now lost to the waters of the largest dam in the world. Become initiated into Taoism, the ancient Chinese philosophy of life.
Ride the roller coaster of the greatest political revolution and prison and end up where the story takes you…...
About the Author
Excerpt from Chapter Eight;
In the Eye of a Typhoon ......a deportee
Chi called to my room early on May Day morning. Normal college life was at a standstill. Even the reception personnel at the You Yi Bing Yuan, our Foreign Guest House, were not on duty. Since the telling off by Mr Wu the reception had been given instructions to check all visitors who came to see us by asking for their identity cards and writing their names into a visitor's book. They were obviously no longer interested in our activities. The larger picture was now dominating their lives.
Chi was very excited. It was the first time I'd seen him flushed.
'Hey what about your Taoist training now? I joked. 'Remain calm in the storm.'
'One must also go in accordance with the forces of nature. When action is called for one must act.'
'Come,' he said urgently, 'there's a truck waiting outside with my Art College students and colleagues.'
'Can I bring a camera?'
'Yes.. everyone has cameras.'
As we hurried along the broad avenue sheltered by the ripening leaves of spring we were joined by colourful throngs of singing students and teachers in their spring colours waving vibrant banners with daring slogans.
Carnival was in the air. The atmosphere felt more like a Saint Patrick's Day parade in New York than a demonstration. Many were in costume. More wore bandannas of red across their shiny black hair, sporting white tee-shirts with slogans for democracy brandished across them. They had drums and pipes and they were cheering and singing. Outside the college gates military style trucks converted for commercial use and now political purpose waited to hoard the swarming crowds onto their flatbacks, standing as many as fifty to a truck.
All day to day traffic was at a standstill. All public transport was being put to the service of the demonstrations. To the sides of the main boulevards in the special bicycle lanes the cyclists were also parading in style, blazing white banners and singing as they made their way down Mian Lu, the winding river road running between the purple mountains.
Congestion was widespread at cross-roads where bands of protesters joined up accidentally or by design to swell into a much larger hoard of bobbing black spools of heads making their way to the square. On the way they were cheered and encouraged by shopkeepers, passers-by and residents, giving out free drinks and food and lending words of praise and encouragement.
Some shops had large pictures of Mao and Zhou En Lai. There were posters saying how both leaders had remained honest and loyal to the people to the end. I had a deep sense of foreboding about this. The last time there were posters of Mao on widespread display in China was during the Cultural Revolution. But Chi said it was a very different type of protest in a different era; a protest for freedom rather than oppression, a demonstration for human rights rather than against them.
The square was thronged with students and banners and posters of protest. Buses were converted to housing around the centre stage where rallying speeches were being voiced amid cheers, often bursting into song and music. All sections of society were represented; many came to demonstrate their support for the cause, others came out of curiosity. An old lady dressed in a navy blue tunic and pants perched on tiny (previously-bound?) feet squeezed up against us in the crowd and turned her grandchild to have a look at the foreigner. The year-old child, grabbed my hair, gurgled and said,
Chi and the old woman laughed.
'She thinks you are her grandmother because of your light coloured hair.' The child and I were laughing and fondling each other when Fang Yuan appeared out of nowhere and whispered something to Chi.
Chi's look changed from one of cheer to one of worry.
'There's a man over there taking photos of you. Fang doesn't think he is a civilian. The camera looks like a professional one. I think we must to go.'
'That's all right I'll go back on my own.' I insist. 'It's best you are not seen with me.'
But Chi is also insistent.
'That's no problem. Come on let us get out of here fast.'
But Fang is thinking for both of us.
'Chi maybe its best you stay to make your speech. I'll go back with Kayleigh.'
'Well I suppose I can trust you to take her home safely. Chi jibes and squeezes my hand goodbye.
'You know she will be fine.' Fang smiles. 'Come along Kayleigh. The man is still taking photographs.'
Luckily we are travelling on foot and by bike. No car would have made it through the crowds. It was the second time that day my exuberance had been chilled by sinister foreboding but I said nothing to Fang Yuan on the cycle home as I didn't wish to dampen his enthusiasm. He seemed unusually optimistic. Maybe he was thinking of going abroad again. If China became more open and democratic he wouldn't need to marry to do so.
More dairy entries- three days later.
Third of May.
I am in Chi's' home, sipping tea and eating watermelon seeds, listening comfortably almost casually, to a student Government Press conference. As if it was the natural order of things for a group of powerless students to make demands on one of the most powerful oligarchies in the world, supported as it was by the military might of the Chinese army.
· The students demand that the Government meet with representatives from the demonstrations and not the Beijing Student Federation, which is a Government elected body.
· They demand to be given equal status in negotiations with the Government.
· They request that representatives from the National Political Council and standing members of the politburo be present at negotiations.
· The students pledge to continue their demonstrations if the Government does not respond.
The Government appear to be responding respectfully to the student challenge. They are very measured and reasonable in their dialogue. They say they have no doubt about the students patriotism. They even agree with the students that there are problems with corruption and embezzlement and would like to work with the students to promote democracy and deepen reform.
However they calmly advise the students to return to class to restore order to the cities and not to follow the instruction of those who only wish to create disorder and unrest. They warn the students that if they violate the criminal code they will be arrested.
International interest in the demonstrations has increased. On the radio, The BBC World Service and the Voice of America give blow by blow accounts of events in the square. The students and teachers are glued to them both though most people consider the BBC more objective. The TV cameras are there too - from all over the world. We wonder how long will the Government tolerate the International media. Fang Li Zhi, a leading dissident and respected professor, suggests US business boycott China because of Human rights violations. Fang Li Zhi founded the China Democratic League based in the USA which has been declared illegal by the Chinese Government.
Eight of May.
Mr Wu comes to the apartment to tell Julie and I he will no longer be our Chinese teacher. We wonder is he trying to distance himself from us because we are foreigners and it might go against him in case of a crackdown. Or is he afraid for being accused of corruption for taking our classes in the first place when he wasn't qualified to do so.
Twelfth of May.
The party leadership, despite the rhetoric, have not responded to the students demands. The students in Beijing go on hunger strike. The students in Lanyuan go on strike in sympathy. So too do the students in the other cities. The students take over the Public Address system in the colleges and we now get a view of the protests from the student perspective. Julie and I are asked to the College Communications Tower to translate what is going on in Beijing from CNN, the American TV network. The students have lost faith in the Chinese TV accounts and only listen to it for clues as to what way the leadership may be going.
Rumours along the railway lines that Deng Xiao Peng has been shot by a body guard.
Thirteenth of May.
It is rumoured Deng has survived the attack on his life. There are further rumours that there is a power struggle within the party and that the different leaders are going to the seven military strongholds, including Lanyuan, to drum up support from the army. The PLA seems to have become the most important player.
Nineteenth of May.
CCTV announces that the students have given up their hunger strike. This is not true.
Martial law is declared in all major cities.
The dairies have become scant. The details have been taken over by events. My personal account has been superseded by history.
Today is the fifth of June. The day after the troops moved into the square. Two days after Chi's arrest. I am flying into Guanzhou. It is surprisingly easy to get a ticket to Hong Kong at the international airport. We, a motley crew of foreigners, only have to wait a couple of hours to be hurled by the typhoon into calm at its centre and to relative safety.
Safety is a relative thing. The hungry hounds of the International Press are there to meet us on arrival at Kai Tak airport. Their appetite for news of China is voracious. We are the first foreigners out of the provinces. They jostle with each other to get close to us. They have microphones in their hands. It's like seeing people being hounded by the Press on TV except you are those people. One particular monster heaves his breathless microphone into my face and shouts;
'Did you see anyone die? Were there any of your students shot?'
'No, no.. please can I get by. I'm too tired to talk now.'
I rush for shelter behind a burly DWA representative who I recognise from my orientation. DWA arrange for interviews tomorrow afternoon with the papers Julie and I have selected on grounds of objectivity and sincerity.
Even though I will have time to prepare and I know these newspapers have integrity I am still worried if I am doing the right thing.
Will it only incense the Government more against Chi and the other students if pressure is put on them by the press? They do not have much respect for the International press in the first place and the Chinese Government do not like having their backs put up against the wall by anyone.
Who should we meet up with for dinner that evening but Ole Rupert. He wasn't going to wait for the rest of the volunteers in the provinces to leave before he got out, now was he? Not the same calibre as the Irish Embassy man, by any means. I am almost glad to see him despite the woodeness of his personality hidden behind his suit of Oxbridge manners.
Maybe events will return to a cyclical continuity after all, maybe the circle will be completed. I met him at the beginning now comfortingly he is here at the end.
'I am quite adamant that it is a good idear to meet with the members of the press.'
Rupert is proselytising over a full glass of Burgundy. The British and American governments have already pledged support for the students and offered asylum to the leaders. Even if they do not fulfil this promise they will put pressure on the Chinese Government for their release, particularly those who have received media attention. Don't worry your Chi will be out in no time. The press will adore your story. The romance of it.'
Rupert was right . The press did like the story. So much so that even though I had only given details to a few select papers with integrity the tabloids got hold of it and it was headlines;
Irish Girl's Romance in Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen student leader has Irish love.
There was no knowing what path our story would take now that the media had taken part ownership.
West dreams East
By Rita Hogan
R.M. Hogan has based this first novel West Dreams East on experience of teaching in China from 1988 to 1991. During that time she had to be evacuated from the provinces due to the threat of Civil War caused by the Tiananmen Revolution of 1989. Being one of the first evacuees from the provinces she wrote an article for the Irish Times on her experience entitled Isolated in China’s Macabre Silence.
She decided to write a novel about the time to protect the identity of those she knows in China and for the creative opportunities afforded by fiction. She is also working on two other novels, one based on her experience of working in the Third World with the UN and another ‘coming of age novel’ about travelling and working in the USA, entitled ‘Reviens New Orleans’.
She currently works for the V.E.C. Adult Education College in Limerick teaching English to Asylum Seekers.