Fountain of youth

I think I’ve discovered the fountain of youth! Everyday as I walk across the university campus to school and back, I’m surrounded by literally thousands of students moving from class to class. They exude such energy that I am invigorated by simply being in their presence.

The 12 to 15 minute walk is a fitness program in and of itself and should also help us retain our youthfulness. We begin by descending 67 stairs from our fifth storey apartment to the ground level (there’s no elevator) then walk across the north campus to busy Huanghe Road. Crossing the pedestrian overpass to the south campus involves 35 steps up and another 35 down the other side followed by 6 more stairs down to the south gate. After walking across the south campus to our building, we climb another 48 stairs to the third floor where our office and some of our classrooms are located. Four times a week, I continue on up to the sixth floor where I teach my university classes. That involves climbing 72 more stairs! We often make this trip to school and back twice in the same day. I’m definitely thankful for the time I spent on the treadmill before we came to China and expect to be even more fit by the time we leave!

As a young person, I always thought my teachers looked old but the students here invariably guess that we’re much younger than we really are. Until they hear that we have several grandchildren, they always think that I must be in my 40s or perhaps my early 50s. How can I not love these kids?

I’m no better at guessing the ages of people here but I do know that people our age in China grew up in the aftermath of war and under the repressive regime of Chairman Mao. Life has not been easy for them and apparently it shows on their faces. Perhaps those who appear to be elderly are only my age.

According to the most recent estimates that I could find online (2012), life expectancy in China is approximately 6.5 years less than in Canada and until fairly recently the discrepancy was much greater. At present, a Canadian man can expect to live almost 79 years while a Chinese man’s life expectancy is a little less than 73. Women in Canada have a life expectancy of slightly over 84 years while a Chinese woman can expect to live until shortly after her 77th birthday. Perhaps the fountain of youth is really the country in which we live. How fortunate we are to be Canadian!

In spite of the facts and figures, however, I still like to think that my present feelings of youthfulness are the result of soaking up energy from the students who surround me. They are my fountain of youth!


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