Journals of 2009

China News #71 – Getting Homesick for China

I started remembering wistfully my days in China.

Since the hall lights in apartment buildings are noise activated, you stomp or cough when the hall is dark then the lights turn on.  It really is a good way to save electricity. But last spring I recall a terrorizing event. If God is angry when thunder and lightning flashes as the Bible says, then He was horribly upset about something. Last March at 3 a.m. the thunder and lightning woke us all up.  That would have been bad enough but then all the hall lights in all the buildings went on, and all the automobile warnings which are also noise activated started wheezing as well.  The next day the same brouhaha.

…..Lydia Tong gave me some beautiful jade jewelry which is a great blessing because it is nearly impossible to tell real jade from fake, and fake is everywhere here.

…..The formal name for Chinese money is RMB (renminbi) but only bankers use that.  The people say Yuan or more often, kuai, like our “bucks.”  I use kuai because I usually mispronounce Yuan; in fact I seem to mispronounce nearly everything.

…..The best food in China.  No contest – the Mongolian hot pot, paper thin freshly sliced raw meats boiled in a pot by each diner and served with a plethora of yummy sauces.

…..Middle aged women out mixing concrete.  Mortar is not always used between the bricks. They are stacked upon each other and then concrete is slathered on the outside, plumb and straight  So now you know why schools fall down.  The concrete is mixed on site by the workers.  Yes, occasionally a real bricklayer uses real mortar and he uses a screen to hand filter out large pieces in the sand.   Most of the demolished buildings in Chifeng were made this hasty and dangerous way which I observed as they were being torn down.  Women are also prominent as plasterers.

…..  Chinese ladies primly wear umbrellas in the summer sun to promote all-white skin; meanwhile I’m rubbing in Neutrogena bronzer lest I look so much like a friendly ghost when I get home my family calls for the doctor!

…..You think most tofu is pretty grim, right?  Right.  But the Mongolians have come up with a fabulous dessert, so good I just like to buy it alone for lunch.  Blocks of tofu are dipped into hot sugar syrup at “hard crack” stage and then one-by-one dipped into cold water to stop the action. Then they are sprinkled with white sesame seeds.

…..The worst thing that happened to me in China is the night when I tried to get night photos of the 70 or so dancers in the town square – a version of Chinese line dancing.  Even with “night shot” selected, this photo is pretty muddy.  The dancers are mostly middle-aged.  Then driving back I was in the taxi at the corner of Hada and Garden Street, the worst intersection in a city of bad traffic, there lay the bodies of 2 teenagers.  To the side was a car with the windshield cracked into a million pieces and shaken persons huddled inside.

A passerby was lifting up the head of one of the kids; oh no, I thought, that’s the last thing you do is lift the head!  China subsidizes the cost of gas, and cars are relatively cheap, but there is a price to pay for progress, dead teenagers.  Americans know this.  China has no real traffic laws to speak of. A tragic shame.

Tao Lee

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One response to “Journals of 2009

  1. Well everyone uses kuai in China anyway so no big problem.

    Traffic is a nightmare in China. Pedestrians are even worse though, crossing at extremely inappropriate times. But there are no pedestrian crossings so to speak of and the ones I have seen, I don’t think drivers nor pedestrians even understand what they mean. A taxi driver once told me that if you can drive in China, you can drive anywhere in the world.

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