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Chinese native in Ferrum:
New to America, Maggie Wigley enjoys the rural life
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Richard Wigley and his wife, Maggie Wu Wigley, went sightseeing in China before she moved to America as his bride.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor

In China, you can make a living in the city or be poor in the country, Maggie Wigley said.

Since Wigley, 48, moved to Ferrum from China 15 months ago, she lives half a mile from her nearest neighbor. However, she still enjoys the comforts and security she only would have had in a large city in China, she said.

“Most Chinese like living in big cities,” she said. “The city and country (lifestyles) are different than in the U.S.A.”

Large cities “are very convenient for living,” with amenities such as good jobs, schools and medical care. By contrast, life in the country can be hardscrabble, without access to those. “Most people who live in the countryside are poor people,” she said.

Medical care is hard for country people and poor people to get, she said. People who work for big companies are well insured and can get the help they need.

She was born Shirong Wu in Shenyang, China. When she was a student, it was extremely rare for girls to go to college, she said. She was one of only two students in her high school class of 60 to attend.

For the next two decades, she lived in Zhuhai, about 30 hours by train from her childhood home, and worked in the stocks and futures market. She adopted the American name “Maggie” for her career and uses that name here in Virginia.

She was widowed when her daughter, Melina, now 17, was a young child. When she decided to start dating again, “it was not easy for me,” she said. She said in China most men avoid dating women who are mothers, and they prefer younger women.

So she turned to the Internet. She met Richard Wigley of Ferrum on a site called Christian Mingle in 2010. He visited her twice in China.

She and her daughter, who now attends Franklin County High School, arrived in Virginia in June 2012. The couple married three months later.

Her husband is a park ranger at Philpott Lake, and she volunteers frequently at the park. At home, the couple have 17 acres, where she likes to garden and be outdoors. Though she is well spoken in English, she takes English classes at The Franklin Center in Rocky Mount.

She likes dairy products and bread, foods which are not common in China. “They (Chinese people) wonder why Americans like cheese,” she laughed.

However, she misses the selection of fruits and vegetables she used to get in China. She would buy them fresh every day from the market. “Chinese people don’t like frozen foods,” she said.

She has enjoyed seeing different regions of the U.S. and aims to visit all 50 states. She particularly was impressed with redwood trees, which she had read about in China.

When she talks about differences between China and the United States, the topic of government comes up frequently.

Wigley said the fairness of the American form of government and freedom of information are important to her. “In China, they block out information so people don’t know what’s going on.”

Now with the Internet, there is “more freedom than before, but not enough.”

Education now “is very different” than when she was growing up, Wigley said. She estimated that more than half of all students go to college.

Because admission to university depends on good grades, students study devoutly, she said.

The school day is longer in China than here. The school year is about the same, except that winter break lasts about a month. Many students take classes during the summer and winter breaks.

She said schools teach through memorization rather than critical thinking,. Also, she suspects the government falsifies some topics: “I don’t think some history in the books is real,” she said.

She said that traditionally, Chinese society has put great importance on respect for elders, but that sentiment is losing ground. Normally, elderly people retire and move n with their adult children. Over the Internet, they have seen examples from America on older people remaining independent in housing, work and activities.

Where the Chinese used to think Americans neglected the older generation, now they appreciate the government’s and society’s web of services to allow them to live independently, she added.

Several holidays and festivals dot the year in China. The two most important are the spring festival, which marks the Chinese New Year, and the autumn festival, which celebrates harvest.

The spring festival is observed over a period of five days. Traditionally, people return to their childhood homes. It creates intense crowds and competition on public transportation, she said.

The harvest festival, which is held on a night of a full, red moon, is more important for couples, she said. Then, people celebrate the foods of their regions.

Other festivals celebrate the memories of loved ones who have died, and the memories of important historical figures.


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