Epistle 7 of Leon's China Chronicles


*****Saturn's Day, September 27, 2003*****


The Bug Wars are not over. Although, I have finally succeeded to make my home 99.999% bug-free, I am told that in late autumn, swarms of little, black, gnat-like, flying bugs (probably are gnats) fill the air. I think they have already started to come. When I ride my bicycle, I get gnats in my eyes, nose, and mouth. I'm going to have to wear glasses and a mouth-nose mask when I ride my bicycle. But, I'm worried that the gnats will come into my home.

And writing of bugs, reminds me. I have acquired some potted plants for my home. I like plants to "eat up" the excess carbon dioxide and provide fresh oxygen, especially in the winter, when the door and all the windows are shut. However, one of the pots contains these microscopic, white bugs. Millions of them crawling, wiggling around in the soil. I've seen these kind of bugs only in my Korean flower pots. I hate them, because I don't know anything about them. I don't even know what they are. We humans fear the unknown. I have taken the pot outside and sprayed the soil with industrial-strength insecticide. It is a pity too! I had planted chilantro in there, and intended to cut the leaves off for putting in my soups. Now that insecticide is all over my chilantro, I'm not sure I want to eat it.


Chilantro is more commonly spelled and called "cilantro". That's the Spanish name, because it is commonly used in Latin American cooking. The English name, which is less known, is "coriander". I had never heard of (nor read) "coriander" before today. I was looking for a picture for you on the "net", and that's how I found out it's English name. [But, I think most people in America know it by it's Spanish name]. The English-Korean bilingual lexicon translates it (coriander) this way: "go-su-pul". It is commonly used in Asian cooking as well. It is also called, "Chinese Parsley".

When eating at a Chinese restaurant, my co-workers asked me if I knew it (chilantro). They pointed, because they do not know the English nor Spanish name for it. I emphatically said, "Yes!" They were surprised.

WHY DO I CALL IT "CHILANTRO", instead of the proper "CILANTRO"?

Because that's what my mother told me it was called. And most people in my hometown know it as "chilantro". [Probably a case of regional dialect].


That's a good question. At the supermarket, I bought some chilantro leaves for my cooking. The leaves were still attached to part of the root(s). I used the top leaves for my soup. I planted the remainder of the plants in my flower pot. The soil in the pot is very "rich". (in this case, "rich" means, fertile). The chilantro plants are thriving. It's too bad I had to spray insecticide all over them. I was trying for the soil, but getting insecticide on the plants was unavoidable. Anyways, I didn't want those nasty, little critters crawling up the plants to avoid the insecticide.


I found a good picture and interesting article about cilantro on the "net". The URL is <http://chinesefood.about.com/library/weekly/aa062599b.htm>.


While searching for a picture to show you, I came across an interesting "true" story about cilantro soup. The recipe is included. I'm going to try making it someday. Here is the URL <http://www.chileheadsalsa.com/taf/recipes.taf?f=view&recipeid=21>.


Tomorrow morning, I have to sing in front of 6-10 thousand people. My coworker estimates 6 thousand. I estimate 10 thousand. The students number 4,000. The teachers number 300. Then there is the administration and other staff members, which is probably around 400. Then city officials and honored alumni are invited, probably another couple hundred. Then parents and family members of the students are invited... this is where we disagree on the number... I'm guessing parents and family will be at least 4 or 5 thousand. My coworker doesn't think that many will show up. I'm nervous, regardless of number. There could be one person in the audience and I would be equally nervous (well, I guess it depends on whom that one person is and it depends on how drunk I am and how drunk the other person is). Since nobody will be drunk tomorrow morning, I'm really nervous. I've got to practice. Ciao!

*****Sun's Day, September 28, 2003*****


My co-worker told me yesterday that I should be present at 9am for the 40th anniversary ceremony, 'cause, he said that it begins at 10am. So, I showed up around 9:15am. Now, they tell me that the ceremony won't begin until around 11:30am. So, I have two hours to kill. I haven't started drinking yet. I have to time this drinking thing exactly right, in order to gain maximum effect. I am scheduled to be act #10 in the program. So, that means, I probably won't sing until after 12 noon. I guess I should start drinking around 11am.

Okay! Gotta go! Ciao.

*****Moon's Day, September 29, 2003*****


In short, before singing, I drank too little, and after singing, I drank too much. There is a huge blind spot in my memory. After two 8oz cups of multi-grain whisky, filled to the brim, I don't remember anything. [It should be noted here that a normal person only drinks one glass of grain whisky at one sitting (and considers that enough!). It also should be noted that I had an empty stomach.] I'm never going to drink multi-grain whisky again in my life!


Today I'm going to Bei Jing at 5:30pm. It takes 14 hours (the trains are extremely slow). I could probably get there in 5 hours on a Japanese high-speed train. So, we'll arrive at 7:30am. Well, I've got to pack. Cheers.

*****Moon's Day, October 6, 2003*****

I'm back from Bei Jing. Can't write now; I'm getting re-settled.

*****Twi's Day, October 7, 2003*****

Boy! Do I have a lot to write about my trip to Bei Jing. I almost don't know where to start. I guess I'll start with the train ride.


The train ride takes 14 hours, most of which are during sleeping hours. They time it that way on purpose, so you can sleep most of the way. The train left at 5:30pm and arrived in southern Bei Jing at 7:30am. While riding on the train, I decided that I liked the fact that it was a slow train, because trains are NOT a very safe way to travel, and the faster the train, the more people that die when it crashes. I mean, there is nothing to prevent things from falling on the tracks. A train could get derailed so easily. And it is impossible to stop the train quickly because of the huge momentum that such a train has. I don't really like trains (subway trains excepted). Subway trains are a very safe way to travel. [The Daegu incident was a freak accident that should not have happened. And I promise you, had I been on any one of those trains, I would have either opened the doors (because I can read pictures of the instructions) or broken the glass window and escaped. So, despite what happened in Daegu, I still believe that the subway is the safest way to travel]. {But, Korean ought to seriously consider keeping mentally ill people locked up and under treatment of a doctor}.

Tai Jing traveled free of charge, because he and I shared the same bed.


I'd like to describe the train for you. First impression (from the outside) was that it was huge. The beds were in compartments, six beds to each compartment, with three on each side (bunk-bed style). They have three "classes" of tickets, private compartment (didn't get to see that), open compartment (like where Taijing and I stayed), and seats (cheapest way to travel). The lavatory and the restrooms are separated (but next to each other) [and this is the way it is in all of China, not only trains]. There is a sign on each restroom which is in Chinese and English. The English reads, "No Occupying While Stabling," which I was told means: "No excreting when the train is stopped in any station." You can guess why.

Lights go out at 9:30pm, which was fine by me. I go to sleep quite early these days, sometimes when my son does, and he goes to sleep between 8 and 9pm.

The train attendant/steward alerts you thirty minutes before your stop. In our case, Bei Jing was the final stop. So, we were awakened at 7am.

From the train station in southern Bei Jing, we had to take a bus to Bei Jing subway station (It's like Seoul station). I should stop now and write about the Chinese busing system.


There is no box to put money in when one gets on the bus. Everyone just piles on the bus without paying. Then, there is a bus attendant/steward that collects the money. When there are so many people, it's mostly done by the "honor system". I mean there is just no way to keep track of everyone. It only costs 1 Yuan to ride the bus in Bei Jing. [That's 12.5 cents, US]. The steward gives you a receipt/ticket.


It costs 3 Yuan to ride the subway train. The subway trains have no racks overhead for storing luggage. This is unfortunate (or so I thought). The train from Tong Liao to Bei Jing had overhead racks, but that is to be expected, I guess. The subway trains are much smaller than the Seoul subway trains. I'd estimate that they are exactly between the size of the Seoul subway trains and the size of the London Underground trains. The seats are plastic. There are revolving electric fans in the ceiling and heating vents under the seats. The trains were very clean. I don't know the operating hours. There are three lines: (1) a circle line that "loops" the downtown area, with Tian An Men square at the center, (2) an east-west line, on which there is a stop at Tian An Men square, and (3) some northern line that loops off of the circle line. The bus stopped at Bei Jing station (on the circle line). We transferred to the east-west line and traveled to the last station on the west side. From there, we had to take another bus to our hotel (and I use that word "hotel" liberally).


From the outside, the Hotel looked big, clean, and spacious. The main doors were guarded by two huge, golden-lion gargoyles. [Evidently, lion gargoyles are big in Bei Jing, and by "big" I mean popular. But, they are also big as in huge]. They were bigger than real lions. And, I finally think I know why the Chinese use lion gargoyles; the evil spirits of China have never seen real lions, so to them, the lions must look very frightening. We entered the siding glass doors into the lobby. The lobby was very spacious, with the floors and walls covered with polished granite veneer. There were two wooden elephants in the lobby. They were nearly as tall as I. They were painted red (I guess for good luck). So far, it was so good. There was a small gift shop on one side and a "business counseling room" on the other side. One desk clerk stood behind the counter clear at the other end of the lobby, opposite the doors. On the wall behind the counter, hung several clocks. Each clock had a sign in Chinese and English. One read London, another New York, another Bei Jing, another Japan. Only the Bei Jing clock was working. I started to get a bad feeling about the place. Two of the teachers (my coworkers) went up to inspect the rooms. The rest of us sat in the lobby on luxurious sofas for what seemed like hours, but was more like twenty minutes. One of the two "room scouts" came back and started muttering something in Chinese to the others. I couldn't understand the language, but the body language was not good. I got another bad feeling. "But," I thought, "How bad could it be with a beautiful lobby like this?" I was in for a shocker. I thought I was a "cheapskate" until I met these people. Finally, we all went up to inspect our rooms. The rooms had nothing in them, except a sofa, a TV, and rickety old cots, which did not look comfortable. There was no wash room and no shower. We were expected to use the public washroom next to the elevators. I was disappointed until they told me the price. It would cost us 30 Yuan per person per day. That's like $3.50 per day. I thought, "I've slept in less comfortable situations." I was a Boy Scout and had done a lot of camping in the wilderness. Even slept in an igloo of my own making once. So, I agreed to the conditions. Then, Tai Jing crapped his pants. I said, "I had better get my own room with a shower, because Tai Jing needs a daily shower." I think I made some people very happy, because within minutes, we were all in double rooms with beds and private wash rooms complete with showers. The carpets were stained and filthy, but at least they had carpet. In the Hotel in Tong Liao there was no carpet. The double rooms were let for 170 Yuan per day, and we split the cost. [That's about $10.50 US per person, per day].

I was just happy to have a clean bed (a real bed) and a shower... oh, and a pot to poop in, instead of the public "squatters" (porcelain holes in the floor).


After lunch, we went sight-seeing. It was the day before "National Day" (the birthday of The People's Republic of China). We went to the Tian An Men (pronounced: /ti-en an mun/ IPA) [Tian means Heaven, An means Safe, Men means Portal/Door/Gate]. We didn't actually go into the square. I was satisfied just to see the portal and get photographed in front of it. There were a heck of a lot of people there. There was a huge plaza with huge models of famous Chinese icons, such as the Great Wall, a newly built dam of the three rivers' gorge (called "The Three Gorges Dam") (the model was complete with running water), and some famous shrine, and something else that I cannot remember. There were two huge banners at either end of the plaza. One portrayed the late Chairman Mao, and the other his predecessor, who is lauded for trying to establish a people's government, even though he failed to do so. I learned that day that all the members of the Chinese congress are elected by their respective constituents. So, I was wrong about the Chinese government (but it's not my fault, I was taught incorrectly). You may be interested to know that China is a multi-party government, with over seven different political parties. Of course, "The Party" (i.e., the communist party) is the biggest. I quite frankly don't see much difference between the Chinese government and other so-called "democratic" nations. Okay, so China has had some civil rights issues in the past, but so has every other democracy on the face of this planet. Having civil rights issues doesn't stop China's political system from being as democratic as the next nation. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but notice the irony of the name of the square [Heaven Safe Square], where safety clearly was not a priority during the 1980 student demonstration. I wasn't there. I didn't see it happen. The reports that we got in the West were probably tainted with prejudice. It is just a rotten shame that students' blood was spilled that fateful day, but no less shameful than the spilling of two innocent middle school girls' blood in Korea a couple years ago. Do you honestly believe that Chinese soldiers in tanks actually intended to run over their fellow citizens? The Chinese government probably paid huge sums of cash to the victims' families. A tragedy... yes, a massacre, unlikely. [I have avoided discussing this incident so far, but curiosity might get the best of me... someday.]


I wasn't into the sight-seeing thing. I wanted to go shopping. So, two of my coworkers took me to Wang Fu Jing street, the most famous shopping area in Bei Jing. We went to the largest foreign language book store in Bei Jing, which was on Wang Fu Jing street. I wanted to get some books: (1) a Korean-Chinese dictionary, (2) a novel, Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams, (3) MS Front Page, English version. I found the dictionary, but could not find the novel nor the Front Page. I was so disappointed. The dictionary is really nice, though. It is EXACTLY what I wanted. I wanted a dictionary that gave the Korean word AND the Chinese characters from which the Korean word was derived AND the Chinese translation, which is sometimes using the same characters and sometimes not, AND the pronunciation of the Chinese characters. I found such a dictionary, and I am so happy, because it will be extremely helpful in my study of the Chinese language. It was quite expensive (for China), but cheap, compared to other countries (like ROK and USA). It cost me 120 RMB ($15 US).

I know; it seems funny that I would want to study Chinese with a Korean-Chinese dictionary, but there are a lot of compound words in Korean and Chinese that are not in English. And since the etymology of most Korean words are from the Chinese language, the meanings are much, much closer, if not identical. Such meanings get lost in translation from English to Chinese or Chinese to English.

By the way, I have noticed that the Chinese have many of the same semantic problems with English that the Koreans do. It would seem that the bilingual dictionaries and English grammar books printed here contain the same errors as the Korean bilingual dictionaries and Korean-printed English grammar books. I wonder why this is so. The Koreans blame the Japanese, saying that their materials were copied and translated from the Japanese-printed English-learning materials. I wonder what the Chinese people's excuse will be. They'll probably blame the Japanese as well. Since the Japanese use Chinese characters, it is very likely that the Chinese copied and translated much of the Japanese-printed English-learning materials as well. In fact, I am almost sure that that is what has happened. So, we can most likely blame the Japanese publishers for all of the Far East Asia's English-semantic problems.


The next day was National Day. My coworkers were free to do whatever they wished, because their English Pedagogy Conference didn't begin until the day after National Day. My roommate was afraid that I would get lost if I went places by myself, and he and the other male coworker had to go and buy our return tickets. For some reason they didn't buy round trip tickets. I don't know if it is even possible to buy round trip train tickets. They said that they had to wait until October first to buy our return tickets. The women had all planned to go to The Great Wall (or somewhere). So, I was asked if I didn't mind waiting in the hotel. I did mind, but I told them that I would walk around the neighborhood and go shopping, (which is why I had come to Bei Jing). I walked around, and didn't find anything that I needed. At five o'clock pm, I still hadn't heard from anybody. I hadn't eaten lunch, and I was quite hungry. We all had our mobile phones, so they could have called me to let me know what was going on, but no... So, I took Tai Jing out and we began to search for a restaurant with either a picture menu, or with an English-speaking waiter, or a place where I could point to what other people were eating and gesture that I wanted it, too. We found a place with a photograph of some guy (I presume he is famous eating whatever it was that they serve in the restaurant. The picture was old and faded, but it looked like he was eating kabobs, so a gestured that I would have that. Also, on the menu, I recognized the Chinese character for ox (beef) and I ordered that as well. Well, actually, I wanted beef kabobs, but what I got was totally different from what I had expected to get.


Evidently, the photograph was exhibiting bones, not kabobs. They have this dish in China, which consists of pork bones. That's it. It doesn't make much of a meal. They give you a vinyl glove and a straw, and you are supposed to suck the marrow out of the bones. Now, I fully understand the metaphor: sucking the marrow out of life. It was good. The other dish that I ordered (but didn't know I ordered, but was very glad I ordered) was a soup. This was very fortunate, because my son wouldn't have like the bones (nor kabobs, for that matter). It was the most delicious cilantro soup I have ever tasted in my life! It seemed to have been cooked in beef broth, although there was very little beef in the soup. There were some spices (which I could not identify, except one: chili pepper powder). It was a little spicy, but not too spicy for my son. I know the term for cooked rice (mi fan). So, I ordered a bowl of rice to go with our delicious soup, and Tai Jing and I ate very well.


The next day, my coworkers could not be with me, due to their conference. They asked me if I would be all right by myself, and said that if I needed help, one of them would help me (instead of attending the conference). I assured them that I would be fine. Tai Jing and I went to Wang Fu Jing street to do some shopping. We shopped the whole street, both sides. We ate at Mc Donald's for lunch and dinner. There was a KFC, but we both dislike KFC. I saw a sign for a Pizza Hut, but couldn't find the restaurant. After a full day of shopping, I couldn't find anything that I needed, which was a VCR and MS Front Page. But, I DID find some XL Pampers (the best diaper on the open market), so I bought a big bag of them for Tai Jing.

When shopping for a VCR in China, one will begin to wonder why there are no VCRs here. Strikingly, there are no video cassettes, either. No places to rent videos. No video rooms. Everything is either VCD or DVD. And every hi-fi shop sells VCD players and DVD players (that connect to one's television set). The VCDs are meant to be played in those machines, NOT on one's computer, as I found out. With VCD players, one can push a button to switch from English to Chinese audio. You cannot do that on a computer, so all the VCDs that I bought had Chinese audio (and I couldn't switch to English).

[The logical question that you should be asking yourself right about now is: "Leon, why on earth do you want a VCR if there are no video cassettes in China?" and that would be a very logical and thought-out question. The answer is I brought about twenty videos (from Korea) for my son to watch here. "Ahhhh!" you say. "Yes," I say, "That's why I was so desperate to find a VCR."]

Shopping for a VCR in China makes one begin to wonder if China is more advance technologically than the rest of the world. I began to wonder if I was using soon to be obsolete technology. Then, reason "kicked in" and told me that such thinking is preposterous [and that is the perfect word etymologically to express what I want to express: pre-post-er-ous]. There must be another reason. I just cannot figure it out. If any one knows, please enlighten me.

But, video cassettes and VCRs are about as common here as drains that are at the lowest altitude of the floor/sink. Obviously, some drains are at the lowest point, so I eventually found a VCR, the next day.


I was on my own again. But, this time I asked around for the biggest electronic market in Bei Jing. I was told to go to Xi Dan subway station, and there I would find lots of shops selling electronic goods. I shopped the whole Xi Dan area and found only two VCRs, both Panasonic. One was being sold for 2,000 Yuan, the other 1,000 Yuan. I bought the cheaper one.

There was a Mc Donalds in Xi Dan as well, so Tai Jing and I had hamburgers for lunch and dinner again. The idea was to make ourselves sick and tired of Western food, so that when we went back to Tong Liao, we would be glad to have Chinese food. It's not that Chinese food isn't delicious, 'cause it IS! It's just that every day of Chinese food gets a little old. In America, we eat like this:

Monday: Italian food

Tuesday: Mexican food

Wednesday: Deli food

Thursady: Chicken

Friday: Chinese food

Saturday: Steak

Sunday: left-overs

[But, not necessarily in that order].

The chef at my school is good, but we get the same stuff each and every week. I'd like more variety in my diet. So, anyways, we enjoyed the hamburgers at Mc Donald's... very delicious.


No metropolis would be complete without beggars, but the difference between Bei Jing beggars and beggars that I have met elsewhere in the world, is that many of the beggars in Bei Jing beg for food, not only money. One beggar lady came up to me and pointed to a bottle of juice that I had just bought. I filled Tai Jing's bottle and gave the remaining juice to the beggar lady. I saw other beggars hanging around the out-door restaurants and scavengering left-over food.

I gave 1 Yuan to each of the other beggars. [If you compare "buying power" of the Yuan in China, with the "buying power" of the Won in South Korea, it would be like giving 1,000 won to a beggar in South Korea. If you compare buying power with the US dollar, it would be like giving $1.25 to a beggar in the US]. I gave 5 Yuan to a begging Buddhist monk. (The reason I gave more to the monk, is because he will give the money to his monastery, which will use it to feed the poor). But, I was pissed off, because the monk wasn't satisfied with my 5 Yuan offering. He wanted 200 Yuan. I motioned for him to get lost. I hate it when beggars ask for more than is offered. They should be grateful that I give anything at all!!!! When they ask for more, I feel like taking back what I've already given. How rude, they are! I mean: the gall of such a person!!!


First of all, there are three aspects of any typical men's restroom. You have the urinals. You have the "squatters". And, you have the wash basins. Like I mentioned before, wash basins are completely separated from the excreting area. This goes for all the restrooms I have ever seen in China.


In my school (in Tong Liao), the urinal is a tiled wall, with a gutter at the bottom, which leads to a drain. The construction workers did manage to barely get the drain at the lowest point, but you could tell that they were NOT trying very hard. Almost looks like a matter of luck. All other public urinals that I have seen in China are just like the porcelain urinals that I've seen in every other country.


There are no doors hanging on the doorways of the stalls in any restroom in China (it's a wonder that they even have stalls in the first place). However, there is a big difference between the orientation of the stalls and "squatters" between Tong Liao and Bei Jing. In Tong Liao, the squatter is fixed in the floor parallel to the stall-doorway. There is a wall that obscures the buttocks from view. As one passes by, one can only see the side view of the front half of the individual doing his business inside the stall. This is nice, because I don't really want to see other people's feces. I'm not a scientist studying the shape and consistency and contents of Chinese stool samples. However, in Bei Jing, the public squatters are fixed perpendicular to the doorway and there is no door, nor wall to obscure the person squatting there. So, what you get is a front view of the person squatting with his family jewels hanging out for everyone to see. That view was not appealing to me. I hope I never have to see that again. The thing I can't understand is how those guys can sit there reading a newspaper with their privates hanging out for all to see. Defecating is a private matter where I come from. I don't even like to piss in front of other people.


Every time I pay for something in China, the cashier inspects my money to see if it is real, or counterfeit. The department stores in downtown Bei Jing even have these machines to help check the money. Most money is paper. There are some coins, but they are rarely used.


The currency in China is a bit complicated (linguisticly). I mean there are three different terms for the basic currency: RenMinBi (say /run-min-bi:/ IPA), Yuan (say /ju-en/ IPA), and Kuai (say /kwai/ IPA). [IPA= International Phonetic Alphabet]. The term "RenMinBi" (or commonly abbreviated to RMB) is usually used for banking and international discussions of Chinese currency. I don't know when the word "Yuan" is used, except for the fact that I use it a lot, AND except for the fact that it is written on older versions of the Chinese paper currency. Incidentally, the Chinese character for Yuan is the same character used by the Japanese for the Japanese Yen (hence the similar pronunciation), and the symbols for the Yuan and Yen are exactly the same (a "Y" with two lines drawn through it), which is probably why the international community has adopted RMB to stand for the Yuan. The new paper currency has no "Yuan" written on it; only a number (an Arabic number, not a Chinese number). The word "Kwai" is used colloquially by all people in China. I have not heard a single person use the word "Yuan" (unless they were speaking English to me).


I'm looking at the new currency and old currency as I'm writing this. The largest bill is the 100 RMB/Yuan/Kwai bill. The new one has new pictures and is red instead of bluish-green/purple/yellow. It has some other colors as well, but it is mostly red. The new one has TWO identical serial numbers (the old one has one). Both have water marks. The artwork on both is exquisite. But the new one has a vertical silver thread weaved through it which reads, "100 RMB". There is no "Yuan" written on the new one.

There is one similarity between the two bills: "Middle Country People/Citizen Bank" is written in six scripts:

1. Chinese characters

2. Romanization of Chinese characters' pronunciation (according to BuTongHwa)

3. Mongolian

4. Tibetan

5. Arabic

6. [Some Romanization of some language which is remarkably similar to the Romanization of BuTongHwa, which I'm guessing is a dialect of BuTongHwa] This one is a mystery, because regardless of dialect, the Chinese characters should suffice.

Okay... look and you decide for yourselves:

Here is the Romanization of BuTongHwa: ZHONGGUO RENMIN YINHANG.

Here is the Romanization of the mystery language: Cunghgoz Yinzminz Yinhangz

Some of you might be more familiar with the languages of China and might be able to shed some light on this subject, OR, I could just ask someone here. That thought never occurred to me until now. But, I'm at home now, so it will have to wait.


IF one hundredth of a basic currency is called a "cent", then what is one tenth of a basic currency called? I do not know of such a word, so I have "coined" a new word (Ha, Ha, Ha! The pun was not intended, but it's funny, huh?). The new word is "dec". The Chinese do not use cents, they use decs. The name of the decs are written thusly: "Jiao", but colloquially called, "Mao". Don't ask me why. I have no idea. I went shopping one day, I selected an ice cream bar, and the cashier said, "Ba Mao", which is eight Mao. I looked at her with surprise and embarrassment. I didn't have any "Mao", or so I thought. She pointed to my "Jiao", I wanted to ask her, "Why, if it is written 'jiao', do you say 'mao'?", but alas, I couldn't, and I just gave her eight Jiao. It is one of those mysteries of life, that won't be solved anytime soon unless I can remember to ask somebody who speaks English. [Unfortunately, I keep forgetting to ask]. By the way, there are coins and paper money for Jiao/Mao.


In Bei Jing and Inner Mongolia, women generally like to wear their hair short, even most of the middle school girls have short hair (really short hair, like the boys). I mean some boys have longer hair than most the girls and sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish the boys from the girls (I mean if the girl has short hair and really small mammaries (so small that I cannot see any protrusions from her shirt), and if she has so-called "hard" (square) facial features (instead of the "soft" rounder features, that females generally have), then I have a very difficult time distinguishing. The only way to distinguish is by listening to the voice.

Why any girl, with "hard" facial features, would want to further confuse the hell out of the rest of us by cutting her hair really short, like a boy's hair style, is utterly and completely unfathomable to me. I would think that she would want to do everything in her power to make herself look like a girl. What's with the androgynous look?!!!!!!! I don't get it. Somebody please explain it to me. Are they wanting to look hermaphroditic? Are they latent lesbians? What's the deal?

Obviously it is NOT a school policy to have short hair, because several girls in each class have long hair.

Women are relatively liberated here (in China), whatever that means... relatively liberated. And that is all fine and dandy, but come on! Make yourself look as attractive as possible. Emphasize the positive. Don't make yourself look MORE like a boy/man than you already do. Oh, well, to each her own. I don't really care. I just don't understand. I want to go up to her and ask, "Are you a lesbian?", but that would evoke a strong response in the negative, because even if she were a lesbian, she wouldn't admit it publicly, so I am left to wrest this problem on my own, and since there is no way that I can solve the problem, it will get shelved in the back of my mind along with all the other crap in this universe that doesn't make any sense, like why drains are not at the lowest level of the floor/sink.


When I came back to Tong Liao, the weather was at least ten degrees colder (Centigrade) than before I left. The gnats, mosquitoes, and all other insects (except flies) have vanished. I still have centipedes and sow bugs in the house, but they are not insects, and don't hibernate in the winter. (I know "hibernate" is not the right word. Most likely the insects go into suspended animation for the winter). A bunch of mice had moved into my home while I was gone. They must have come in through the centimeter space under the front door. I chased two mice out (they went under the front door), but I know there are more still in the house, because I can hear them at night. You may be wondering how my cilantros are doing. All but one died while I was gone, and that last one doesn't look too healthy. The spider plant is doing well.


I live on the bottom floor, on the north side of the building, which is made entirely of stone, cement and baked earth, and there is absolutely NO insulation. (I guess they haven't discovered insulation yet). So, if it weren't for the Air Conditioner (which has a heating function), my home would be colder than the outside (which is pretty damned cold). I wish they would turn on the boiler. I have radiators in each room. It would be nice to have the additional heat. I believe that they use coal to heat the water. I mention "north" side, because, as you should know, the earth's axel tilts in the winter, so that the sun is directly over the southern hemisphere. Therefore, I get no direct sunlight in the winter, and plenty in the summer, which is the opposite of the way it should be. Whoever designed this premises should be shot! I'm not railing on the Chinese. I'm railing on the designer. He/She is an idiot.


The people in Tong Liao are very nice. There appears to be no anti-American sentiment. Every where I go, people are friendly and like to wave or say "Hello"... or "Bye bye." And, it's time for me to write: "Bye, bye."


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