Profile: Jing Crystal Wu-a vigorously diligent flautist
STOCKHOLM, Oct. 25(SCBR)–Before the interview,
Wu Jing said, ”Thanks to my trip to China, I am used to be interviewed by journalists. Two kinds of people I feel I can
and like to contact, one is musicians and the other is
journalists.” Indeed she knew what she could say and she
spoke very clearly.
So my parents took me to many hospitals around China to see if they could save my vision, and it didn’t really help. The doctor basically told my parents that they have to make a decision, either they will sign operation letter with the hospital that I would do an operation, then I would become completely blind, that is one option and another option was that they would just let me go, you know, the tumor would grow and then I would eventually die. I can imagine it must be a very difficult choice for young parents like my parents, you know it is very difficult to choose because they knew if I do an operation and the chance to live is 50 percent, it is not even one hundred percent that the operation will be successful, at the same time they knew that I was going to be blind the rest of my life which is also very hard when you think about it.
But I am extremely thankful that my parents made the decision that I was going to receive an operation and become blind, so since I was about three and four years old, I started to have memory about life surroundings and environment etc.
So basically I grew up from my father’s school, as soon as I became blind, my parents decided that they were going to move to my father’s teachers’ apartment on campus. In that way I could actually meet other children every day, I could have a social life with other kids and I can play with other kids instead of being isolated and stay at home all the time, which was very smart. I think my parents were very smart in this way in how to even start to educate me, help me and train me as a normal kid since I was little, so they encourage me to go out with other kids, do all the other things with other ones, even though sometimes they tease me or bully me a little bit. Kids are just kids, they don’t know anything about it.
And I still remember when I was four or five years old, you know one of my neighbors a little kid was in my age, and he said, ”well, you want to go out with me?” ”yah, sure”. So we went out and looked around and he said ”just go forward, go forward,” and I said what is it there, he said nothing , just go forward, so basically he tricked me into big water pond and I was like, hey, that was mean. And he thought it was very fun.
So since I was little I realized or after a while I realized well I am different. And I realized ok, I can’t see. But my parents always encourage me to go out, I climbed the tree with other kids, we have done lots of cool things together climbing the tree, stole water melon from farmers in a summer and picked tomatoes from a farmland, basically we were together doing a lot of things.
Q: What kind of environment are there in China if someone is blind, what kind of pressure is there, what kind of attitude people generally have in a town or a village to the fact that the parents have a blind child. How do they treat the parents?
A: Well one word can best describe the attitude, I think is sympathy. Most of the time people just symphathize the parents who have a blind child. And that is number one thing because usually when people see a blind child, their first reaction is that oh what a pity, and then a second reaction is how is she going to do, what kind of life will be in the future, like she will be a useless person or a burden at home. That is their expectation most of the time when they see a blind child or see a blind person. Basically you are a burden, you are the burden to the family and they have extremely low expectation on what you can do.
Q: So your relatives see your parents as an example, how do your parents defend?
A: My relatives are quite open minded, I haven’t heard so much negative things from my relatives regarding my blindness, but from many other people on the street. Where there are people that I meet all the time, they sigh each time they see me and my father walking together.
They just say, ”Oh what a pity, and this teacher has a blind daughter.” In this case, they show their sympathy and everybody shows this kind of attitude towards my family. It gives pressure to my parents like should I have another child, what should I do with this kid, shall I educate her like anyone else, or should we just leave her at home. Because it is shameful to bring a blind child around all the time. It is a feeling of shame. It is something like we did something wrong, something was wrong in the family or somebody did something wrong in their early life. For example, people might say to me what did you do in your early life so you became blind, I would said well, God knows I don’t know. So people joked about that, but my parents had pressure to bring me around. I am extremely lucky because all my relatives they take me to dinner, they take me to all kinds of social events, and all dinners they go to with other families, and they bring me with them. But of course when I was little, I was just very active, very social very naughty kid. I don’t really show that I was blind either when I was little. I was extremely active, I wanted to do everything, I wanted to feel everything, I had many questions, I was curious. Of course my parents encourage me that kind of behavior as well. So that helps a lot.
I went to music school when I was 8 years old. And this school is a very special school, because they have a very wonderful music band and they also have extremely wonderful music teacher in school. And the school is very famous for their music, basically so I got into the school.
And the first day my music teacher came to me with all kinds of instruments, like flute, trumpet, clarinet, Saxphone, drum, everything that they had in the music room. So he asked me to feel every instrument and asked me which one I want to learn. And I immediately picked up the trumpet because first of all I thought it is very cool instrument which has three buttons on it, and I can made a wonderful music, and another thing is that I heard that trumpet is very loud in a band. I wanted to be loud. So I told my teacher I was going to study the trumpet. Of course my music teacher really gave me all kinds of support that you could ever think of in life to help me with music.
Q: How did you learn music in a blind school?
A: Well my teacher taught me hand by hand how to read brail music to begin with.
Q: How can you read brail music when you have a trumpet in your mouth?
A: It doesn’t work. I have to memorize the notes first and then practice it on the trumpet. And later of course I changed the instrument into the flute which I continuously play, but the thing is that with the note, you can’t really read it and play it at the same time like everybody else does, and you can’t even practice with the notes in your hands, so I have to memorize all the notes first. And even when my music teacher did, he recorded the notes for me as well, he would sing the notes and then recorded on a kasset at that time in 1994 when we still use kasset, he would record it for me and he will play it and slower motion so that I can listen to each note carefully and he would also tell me which bar I should play in what kind of emotion. So basically my music teacher spent hours and hours with me everyday at that time he was very young, not married and he was 19 years old when I entered the school and I was 8. And he lived on campus with us and he woke me up five thirty every morning to practice to play the flute or the trumpet at that time. And he would come to me after lunch and take me to music room to memorize more notes and learn more things, and after dinner, he would spend more time with us to practice, basically he was with us all the time. During the weekend, he spent six hours with me to practice, you know after a couple of years, I felt like this is boring. And I really don’t like him because I felt like he was trying to push me to study as much as possible, and was so strict all the time, but that helped a lot. Without him spending so much efforts so much time and hard work, I don’t really think I can build up such a good ground and feelings in music when I was little.
Q: Then you were tired of it and you want to do something else, what was that?
A: Well interesting thing was that I was very much interested in sports.
I watched the olympics on TV, I listened to it, of course, lots of Olympic Games, and even soccer games, when I was little, I listen to it all the time.
I thought sports are very fascinating and interesting and I really enjoy it running and climbing and doing all kinds of stuff in life, I thought it was very interesting to do some sports. So one day when I was performing on stage, it came a coach from the national team for the visually impaired. He came to our school to select somebody who can potentially become athletes. And then he came to the stage and asked me. He said, are you interested in becoming a runner because I saw you have been running around without any fear, even though you can’t see at all, you still run
around and you are not fearful.
And I said what? To become a runner? Are you kidding? And he said , well we can give a try anyway, if you like to come to our summer camp and to have a try, then we can see if you have the potential to be a runner. And I said all right, that sounds good.
We do that. So in the summer of 2002, I went to this summer camp in my province, and of course, I brought my flute with me anyway because I thought it is good to continue to play with my flute all the time while I was training to become a runner. I thought it was pretty awesome and amazing and cool that I had the opportunity to train together with many other runners and I also had a very wonderful coach who was even more strict than my music teacher, but anyway with my passion to do sport and running, I was accepted and I was selected and became an athelet in the team, basically we had about 70 kids there in the camp and about 10 of us stayed in the team,
The goal was that we could be trained to attend all kinds of competitions national and international and eventually the Paraolympics, so that was the goal, to select all these potential athelets. And I was one of them that has been selected in the team and I thought oh it is pretty amazing, I didn’t know I could do it, I explored a lot of things and I never thought that I could become a runner. So I said oh, I got to try it. And I stayed in the team and trained for three years, and within the three years, of course it was much hard work and lots of pain and lots of challenges, and many times that we got so tired that you throw up and then you just go to drink some water and then continue to train in 40 degrees outside and you still have to go run etc.
But it came the result, it was really like how much you put in, how much you get out. So in year 2003, I competed in the National Games, I won two gold medals, and one silver medal, and broke one national record. I was very happy because the moment when you stand on the stage and receive the gold medal, basically I really understand why athelets were so emotional because you feel how much efforts you put in those days to train and physically and psychologicallly you know it is very intense.
I ran 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters. So in the same year, also in 2003 in December, I participated the Asian Championship for disabled. It was in Hong Kong. So I went to Hong Kong and I was very nervous because that was my first national competition, I was pretty nervous, I did not know what to expect, even though all my leaders said ”you have the potential to win all three gold medals, you know expectation is always expectation”. When reality comes it is tough. So I thought you guys can say whatever you want, but I don’t know what it is going to be like. So it was right before the Christmas and the weather was pretty nice in December and I thought now we are here and we are going to compete. And I absolutely followed my coach words. He told me ”whenever you are going to stand in the track, it doesn’t matter it is international or national competition, the only thought in your head is I’m the best and absolutely I am going to win. ”
And I had that kind of mindset in my head when I was about to run or when I was about to compete, and I absolutely took his words, and when I start to run 100 meter, that’s the only thought in my head. ”I’m the best and I’m going to win which I did. ”
Go to Olympics
So I tried to use the same method for the rest of my competition. And I was able to receive three gold medals in the end for the Asian Championship in Hong Kong. That was the best Christmas present I received from myself at that time. Because I did pretty well in Asia, so I got the chance to go to the Olympics the year after. My goal was actually to participate or to attend the paraolympics in Beijing because I thought I was too young, I wouldn’t make it to Athens, I don’t think I have enough time to make it in Athens, but fortunately I did. So I completed my dream four years earlier than I originally planned. So I went to Paraolympics in Athens in 2004. In Athens, it was pretty amazing because you know it was the first time for me to come to Europé, with a big team, we have 287 athelets and it is foreign environment, and everything was just fascinating, even though we can’t speak greek, still many people can speak English and I could speak some English at that time, so I was able to communicate with others. Then we had a competition day, unfortunately I got injured at the trial. I got seriously injured on my hamstring. And I was carried out by the stretch and my doctor from national team told me that I don’t really have to compete in the final, I got into the final. And the doctor told me not to do it. And I said well even I come to walk, I still get the eighth place, and that is still good. If you got the eighth place in the world, that is not too bad.
For me at that time in my head I thought if I walk, I should complete what I planned to do even though I don’t have to run because my hamstring was really seriously injured, it wasn’t a good idea even to walk because I had a wheelchair and I was requested to sit in a wheelchair for a couple of days, but I told them well, why don’t you just let me walk 100 meters and I can get an eight place, I can always have this determination in myself, all the time, if I determined that I was going to do something, then I have to complete it, if I don’t complete it, I felt like something was undone. So I told myself you know I have to complete this task. I got into the final, then I have to walk the final, even though I don’t have to run. So I did, and the interesting result was that I got the sixth place, not the 8th place. And the reason I got the sixth place was because the other two injured athlets did not come. They didn’t show up. So I got the sixth place instead of the 8th place. I was pretty young at that time, I was 18 years old and I don’t think so much about whether it was right decision or wrong choice. But basically I completed something. For myself, it was very important to feel the completion. I complete my task.
After the Paraolympics, actually while I was training in 2003 before the Paraolympics, I thought about this. I can’t run the rest of my life. I can run probably untill I am 30 or 35 as much as I can, but I don’t think this is something that I can do untill I die. And I was thinking what kind of thing that I can do untill I die and still enjoy it. And it came to me the answer was to do music. I really enjoyed it. I love music a lot, and I never give up playing the flute even though I was training and I was doing a lot of other things, but I never lost my interest in music, I never lost my passion in music, I listen a lot to music I bought. I use a lot of the money I received from the national team, I used a lot of those money to buy music cds, to buy a new flute, to buy music and music book etc. I spent a lot of my earning on music instead.
Journey to America
You know long time ago, when I was a kid, my education opportunity in China would be very limited because I knew most of my blind friends are trained to become a massör, they are going to do massage. Their only career opportunity was to do massage. And I was actually trained to do that too except that I really didn’t want to do it. I wanted to make a change. I wanted to show to myself and others that there are other options, there are other opportunities and possibilities. So I read something on the newspaper and heard something on the radio that blind people are able to study at a university in the United States, and in some other countries in Europé and in Canada. So simply in North America and many other developed countries blind people are generally accepted at universities to receive higher education. So I thought then I am going to learn English. I wanted to study English, I started to study English from 2002, the same year I started to train running. So basically the question was how was I going to proceed my study plans. It was almost impossible I could say, for blind person to study English at that time in China. It was not easy at all. If you don’t have a teacher, and you don’t have a book, you don’t have anything, just a dream, then you have to start to wonder how I am going to fulfill this dream, how I am going to do it. So I started to listen to radio programs to learn English. I always joked with my friends that if you want to achieve what you want to do, it always depends on how much you want it, it depends on absolutely how much you want this. If you really want it a lot, then you will find all kinds of solutions in order to reach this goal. And that is what I did when it comes to learning English.
I listened to the radio program, and I heard there was a guy who was teaching English, and he is from Canada, so I called the radio station, I said, you know I wanted to study English, but I am blind, I don’t have much resource, could you please introduce this guy to me?
It is a radio program on the Chinese radio station. It was a Canadian guy who hosted the radio show in Jiangsu Radio Station. So I called Jiangsu People’s Radio Station, and said, excuse me, you know I would love to get to know this guy Greg who was the host of this program. Because you were young and you were brave enough just to give a try and that lady actually said all right, let me give you his telephone number. So I called him up with my extremely poor english, I don’t even know how he understood what I said but I said something like, you know my name is Wu Jing and I want to study English, can you help me, so I called him quite often after that. I called him maybe once every two weeks or once a month, just to practice the things that I have learnt. And maybe after about several months, he found it interesting enough to come to visit me, so he came to my school where I attended in Nanjing at that time so he came to my school and visited me and then he also came to my training center and look at when I ran, he was like, ”this was fascinating, this is amazing”. So we became friends, and he told me lots of things, and it gave me also inspiration to continue to study english, and to reach my goal that I was going to have an opportunity to study abroad someday with at least some english skill. And after my paraolympics, he knew that I got injured and also I have the dream to study abroad. And then he called up and said to me ”you know I am actually the principle of a Canadian International School in Nanjing right now”. And I said what? Is that true?
He said ”yes, I am the principal and headmaster of the school”. And I said vow, congratulations. That’s great. And then he said, I just thought to ask you if you are interested to come to our school to study. You know for me I thought I heard it wrong, I just asked him to repeat that question at least three times. Just like what did you say. Are you seriously kidding me? Because in China this is almost unheard of, unheard a blind student can go to an international school to study together with other sighted kids. It was unheard, and he said yes, you want to come here, just give a try to listen to some classes, and I said absolutely. So we made a schedule and I went to school and I realized actually I could understand most of the lessons, and I had a fun to also socialize with other students, and had a good communication with my teachers. Most of my teachers were from Canada or the United States because it was an international school.
Study in the United States
In the United States, you have very wonderful opportunities for blind students to study and all kinds of best universities possible in the world. But I always encountered one problem in the United States at that time when I studied, as long as it came to the fact that I need some asisstant tools, equipments, help or anything like that, I always had the problem to get them because I was not an American citizen. That is one big hinder that I had at that time. And another thing was I really had a very tremendous difficulty to pay for the living expenses and other tuitions. Because I am coming from a very common family that we really don’t have that kind of money or finance to support me to study in the states like that. Even though they offer you scholarship, you still need the money to pay for your equipments, I needed money to pay for many other expenses that weren’t included.
I could stay but then you need to raise money to do it. Then I would split up myself into several different persons to do all these things by myself or try to get money, try to raise money, I didn’t have parents in the states, I had to establish contacts by myself and I wasn’t really sure how to do it at that time except my main focus was to study. And at that time, before I went to the States, I had been to Sweden for a visit. I have visited schools in Sweden too before I went to the United States.
And on the same trip I actually met a Swedish guy that was my boyfriend. So at that time there were many facts that made a final decision that I was going to move to Sweden to study, which is a country where we have a very good resource for blind as well and very fine education, very fine school and universities, and the only thing I needed to do was that I had to study Swedish, which I did within a year. So then I was very satisfied to be in Sweden to study here and I get all the equipment that I needed, for example brail display, brail printer, brail inbrowser, screen reader, etc. I received help like everyone else in Sweden which is a very generous country, extremely generous and I must say I am very thankful to all the resources, the help and support that I get from this country.
Then in September last year, I got a new boyfriend.
Current and future plans
My current plan is to contintue to study music here, and do music here in Sweden and I found Sweden is absolutely a wonderful country to produce music and also they have absolutely wonderful musicians to work together and I think the environment for studying music or producing music is very good. So my plan is to continue with music studies with music performance in Sweden and then eventually I would like to bring my music to China, to the United States, and to other countries, so basically this is my production center. At the same time I have so many great friends and musician friends as well and people that we can play music together. So I pretty much enjoy what I do here at the moment.
Help other people
That is the motivation that I had for a long time that I really always want to help others and also give the same opportunity for other people. So I am working as a board member of the Swedish Youth Association for the Blind in Stockholm. I try to make the international exchange between visually impaired people as frequently as possible for them to have the opportunities to exchange information and exchange opportunities etc. If I am going to gain knowledge, money or anything like that, I would also absolutely love to help other visually impaired people to have potential opportunities basically to develop themselves as much as possible in life.
Exchanges between China and America, Sweden
I have taken blind delegation to China twice, and this is the second time, the first time I took a group from America to go to China, and this year I took a group of visually impaired people from Sweden to China. What I can see is that people get fascinated by just seeing foreign blind people I mean visually impaired people walking down to the street with cane with confidence. They find it extremely amazing that we a group of visually impaired people just take our cane and go take the subway in Beijing and go to buy food by ourselves and walked around on the street and complete different tasks on our own. They find it is extremely fascinating. Also at the same time, when we speak to the visually impaired people in China, they also find that it is very cool and interesting to know what kind of other career opportunities are available for visually impaired people, for example you can become psychologist, you can become musician and you can become teacher, politician and you can become all sorts of things you can dream of in life if you really want to. It opens up their world and also gives them lots of opportunities to dream and to get inspiration, I think. For Chinese blind people it is also important that we want to give them opportunity to come to Sweden for a visit to do some foreign exchange and cultural exchange, so they can come over here and experience what life is like, and in this way I think it is good for the cultural communication and people got to learn about each other, even among visually impaired people, and then it also gives more opportunities for visually impaired people to be part of the society.
After the interview, we also went to see Jing Crystal Wu play Pingpang, or table tennis, here it is called Showdown with the ball with bells.