ENMU Chinese students arrive safely at home

By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer

A Chinese exchange student from Eastern New Mexico University wrote in a e-mail she was only home 15 minutes when a devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck China on May 12.

In her e-mail to Jason Paulk, director of choral activities, and to Kayla Paulk a vocal coach and accompanist at Eastern, Xinrui Li — known at Eastern by her adopted American name of Sherry Li — writes, “I had just taken a shower … just got a towel in my hand … I felt the building was shaking a lot … my house in 12th floor … so that I was so scared. I didn’t know what was going on. My mother asked me to run until we got outside. I still saw the buildings around were shaking.”

Although Li’s family and friends were OK, she wrote that a few towns around were all gone.

ENMU participates in a 1-2-1 programs in which students study one year in China, two in the U.S., and their final year in China.

All of Eastern’s Chinese exchange students and their immediate families were reported safe following the earthquake in Sichuan Province, according to ENMU officials.

Some ENMU students, however, have had to have their airplane flights diverted to Beijing or delayed and are still uneasy about the well-being of their families in China amidst fears of more possible aftershocks and mudslides.

Another ENMU student, Liang Qing, known here as Esther, at first had problems getting a hold of her family in her home state of Sichuan, in southwest China, which is about 200 kilometers from the epicenter of the earthquake. She was finally able to talk to them and relieved they are fine, although they had to leave their home for a few days for fear of aftershocks. She said her family continues to sleep outdoors at night in fear of another earthquake or aftershocks.

“My mother told me on the telephone, ‘You’re so lucky because you’re in the United States,’” said Qing, a 21-year-old business administration major at ENMU who does not plan to go back home to China until May of 2009.

She added that she feels helpless here, saying, “All I can do here is worry.”

According to the Associated Press, officials in China expect the final death toll of the China disaster to exceed 50,000. Qing said there are not usually earthquakes in the Sichuan province, noting that one of this magnitude has not hit in at least 30 years.