At the end of January 2006 I went back to Hong Hu and stayed in Mingxing's home in Hengji village for Spring Festival. On February 1st we traveled to the small town of Daishi to catch up with Liu Xiwen; a brilliant teacher and conversationalist and coincidentally my coordinator when I was in Hong Hu. After visiting Lawrence (his English name), Mingxing and I went into Xindi (the central town of Hong Hu City) where I visited Zhan Yan and his extended family on February 3rd as they got together for Spring Festival. The next day I caught up with Chen Yang and his parents and took some especially requested photographs for Linda Mitchell (Hong Hu adoptees). On February 14th Mingxing and I were in Chengdu City Sichuan Province doing a tour of Jingli Street , the Panda Reserve and DuFu's Thatched Cottage Park . By February 25th I was back in Wuhan visiting the Dong Hu Moshan Meiyuan where the Chinese secret police suspected me of being some type of terrorist . In May I returned to Australia for one week to attend my youngest daughter's wedding and in Summer I returned to Yichang City and did a bus trip with Mingxing to the Three Gorges Dam site. When I returned to work in September of 2006 my domestic situation changed.
I have already written that I was the only resident on my floor, but before the end of school term in June, there were already workman doing who knew what to the other three apartments on my floor. It was difficult to make out what they were doing because for all their constant work, it sure didn't look like the apartments were undergoing any sort of 'positive renovation'.
When the new school year commenced in September of 2006, female enrollment heavily outnumbered that of the males and to accommodate all the girls, a boy's dormitory building was reassigned as a girl's dormitory. Thirty-Six of who knows how many boys who needed housing, found themselves living as my neighbors in three apartments on my floor and for the next few months my life and my apartment turned into the 'Do Drop Inn'. My life changed so much because of my new neighbors that I eventually published an article titled "My 36 Neighbors in Wuhan" in which I described something of that experience. Half that article however was devoted to discussing various other experiences a foreigner can have in China, particularly those involving the 'stuck up foreigners' kind of experience.
With regard to the boys who became my neighbors I should firstly point out that none of them were ever my students. English was not their major. Like so many students in China whose English is extremely poor, they assumed that the foreigner, if he could speak Chinese at all, would also not be very good at it. Furthermore I know from experience that many students will not use standard Mandarin around a foreigner because they think that the local dialect or dialectic pronunciation will be beyond the foreigner's ability to understand. But as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am not normal.
I spent the first 2 years in China learning Chinese in local dialect and what 'standard Mandarin' I learned was not quite standard since it was spoken with dialectic pronunciation. For example, I did not ask 'Chi fan le ma?' which means 'have you eaten?' I asked: 'Cha fan le me?' I did not call a motorized rickshaw a 'san luan che' but a 'ma meng', and when I went to class I didn't say 'qu shang ke', I said: 'Ke san kuo'. Train station was not pronounced clearly as "Huo che zhan" but slurred to 'huo sezan'. When I referred to smoking a cigarette I neither said 'xiang yan' nor 'chou yan' but 'chi yan'. Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea about me for my Chinese was not then nor is it today that good, but what I lack in technical knowledge (grammar and language base) I make up for with an accent that is often mistaken for 'native born'. When the boys moved onto my floor, I let them go for some time before letting on that I could understand and speak 'some' Chinese.
Because I had lived alone and had had no neighbors, I was never concerned about walking around in my underwear or completely naked. When the boys arrived I was a little miffed because I had to remember to put something decent on before opening the door which separated my kitchen, bathroom and front door from the living room and bedroom. It did not take long however for the Chinese boys to be normal Chinese boys and run around in their underwear. I would be standing at my stove in front of the kitchen window and boys would be traveling backwards and forwards along the hallway (enclosed balcony) with next to nothing on. After noting that it was their custom to be so dressed, I resumed my former habit of running around in underwear when in the kitchen.
One day I was in my underwear washing dishes when a group of boys walked past the window. I looked up and nodded to them. They nodded and then began to make the sort of comments that Chinese boys would automatically do seeing a foreigner in his underwear. I burst out laughing at one comment and in a loud voice said: "Do you want to come back and take a closer look?" Suddenly they were all at my window wanting to know if I could really speak Chinese. This was our introduction to each other. Over the course of the next two weeks they kept stopping to talk to me through the bars on the kitchen window, or else would call out to see if I was home.
One day after talking with a boy for quite some time through the window, I asked if he wanted to come in. I opened the huge metal door and we stood in the kitchen talking. While we were talking, passing individuals noting that my door was open entered and began to look around.
When I heard the television I knew precisely what they were doing. When I finally went to check on them, I found a total of 6 boys lying on my bed watching the TV. As a westerner you might find this strange but I had already learned my lesson well in Hong Hu, about what happens when you leave your front door open in China.
An open front door is an open invitation for anyone and everyone to enter. During my first summer in Hong Hu it was quite hot and every so often I would rinse off my sweat under the shower. One day, with the front door open, I jumped under the shower without having first shut the bathroom door and as I turned around I saw a boy walking across my living room. I grabbed a towel and walked out into the living room to find that to my left around the corner were two local women. They were all just taking a look-see at how the foreigner lived. After speaking with my coordinator and being informed about Chinese customs, I still kept my front door open but hung a sign and a chain across the open doorway to indicate that people were not welcome to just come wandering in.
My culture slip in Wuhan actually served me well and I eventually told the boys that when it was convenient for me to receive visitors, that I would open and chain back the heavy metal door. The boys came to understand that if they engaged me in conversation through the kitchen window it meant that I was happy to talk for a moment but that I didn't want visitors. One night I had the door open and was working on the computer in the lounge room when a voice whispered, 'Is it OK if I watch TV?' I turned, saw who it was and said that would be fine. At one point I got up to go make a coffee and when I looked into the bedroom there were 11 students on my bed watching TV. One had asked and ten others entered without me even noticing. As for how they all fitted, that's an easy one to answer. Chinese are tactile people who haven't yet learned to become uptight and suspicious when someone enters their personal space or actually touches them. Eleven bodies on the bed fitted anyhow they could - limbs akimbo.
Because space does not permit me to recount all the events, conversations and funny incidences that occurred in my apartment or theirs, I won't regale you with a litany of hilarious events. I also imagine that if I were to recount some of those things there would be quite a few people object or find certain behaviors disgusting. I find it interesting how in our non-discriminating multicultural PC world we can find so many things objectionable, based solely on our home grown culturally based worldviews. My neighbors were a great bunch of guys whose behavior was normal for Chinese boys their age. Growing up without exposure to the sorts of things to which western children are constantly exposed, put the boys on the same level of social awareness as western 12 year olds, or so it seemed to me. They were carefree, innocent, uninhibited, talkative pranksters who took over my apartment when I let them, and made themselves at home. For me it was rather like being a grandparent - glad to see the kiddies arrive and thankful to see them go.
Chinese kids, no matter how we might compare them with western kids, are not western. Within their cultural worldview there is respect for old people, teachers, authority figures and most importantly, for parents and their wishes. If you have never personally - as in 'intimately' - known a Mainland Chinese person you will never have been allowed to see into their 'true mind' to understand how they truly view themselves in the order of things. I use the expression 'true mind' because - as Chinese friends have told me - 'You look at people and speak words with your mouth but your true thinking is at the back' (pointing to the back of their head to indicate that one keeps one's true thinking to themselves. An absolutely PC way to act).
Just this week (2013) I was out and about with friends and got dropped into the young couple's domestic dispute. As they headed off in different directions, the male began to vent his frustration and asked me for advice. I don't believe in giving advice in such situations and told him so but suggested that he talk to his parents. His reply indicated what I already knew to be a fact; that young people (he's 27 years old) always rely on their parent's advice 'and (usually) follow it'.
Another interesting thing to note about Chinese College students is how much they miss their parents and just 'have to' go home for a visit every two weeks. (The exception to that rule would be those students who come from such a distance as to make the cost and time consumption prohibitive). My neighbors would likewise run home to their parents whenever they could and naturally they all returned from home with mother's baked goodies or hometown specialty snacks to share with the others.
The interesting thing about being with the boys was that we were not always successful at communicating. Between their English and my Chinese, it was sometimes hilarious trying to have an effective conversation. For students who were not English majors, they put a lot of effort into improving their English. Two of the boys demonstrated good English language potential from our first encounter and as time went by they not only improved but felt at ease speaking English. It always frustrates me that Chinese students simply do not understand that after their first year of English studies they already have sufficient knowledge to commence talking with foreigners. All they have to do is try. While many of my students would not try, those neighbors of mine became more and more comfortable with using their poor English and so improved.
Chinese people often ask me if I am lonely living by myself and I usually tell them that I have no time to be lonely. During that last semester in Wuhan, all I had to do if I wanted some company was to open my front door. It was that easy. While that semester was definitely the most socially rewarding time I spent at that college, life as always was just lulling me into a false sense of happiness. Trouble was brewing, and I was completely alone when it arrived.
Preparing to Leave Wuhan
Around the end of 2005 or beginning of 2006, the university got a new 'leader' of some sort and it was not long before teachers and students began complaining. A couple of disgruntled senior teachers took early retirement, taking umbrage with their removal from senior positions. Students got hit with some illegal 'extra fees' and all their complaints to the school were ignored. They told me that they were not only being forced to pay for their books at twice the going rate in local bookshops, but that when some of their textbooks never appeared, they did not receive any refunds.
On one occasion I pulled one of my female students aside as she tried to enter class. It was really obvious that she was upset and I asked her why. She informed me that after the school hit them with an illegal 'extra fee', and she arranged for her parents to send it, when she went to pay the fee, it had been increased and she didn't have enough money.
My coordinator advised me that she was being replaced because she was 'unable to control me'. This was apparently in reference to my request for a salary increase at the beginning of the year and the fact that she was unable to slip on the jackboots and whip me into shape. Eventually I myself fell afoul of the powers that were, and got cheated. Firstly they didn't pay me one particular month's salary and thought I wouldn't notice, but as I never used the bank account they provided me, the records only showed deposits - not withdrawals and I simply would not allow them to tell me that I had miscalculated and had actually spent the money.
Before I finished teaching all my classes for that semester I asked my new coordinator for the date of my last class so that I could know when I would be free to return to Australia on holidays. She told me that I must remain at the school until the very last day of my contract in order to collect my last month's salary and collect plane fare. Since the day following my last day was the start of the new semester, it meant that I could not return to Australia, and would have difficulty taking up my new position in Suzhou. I remained in my apartment all through the holiday and still did not get paid.
Financial and travel matters aside, when I arrived in Suzhou, I did so without my 'release paper' and my new school had great difficulties getting the university to fulfill their legal obligation to supply it and a recommendation letter (irrespective of its content). That university in Wuhan was an eye opener for me in regards to all the underhanded things that do go on in China but my next job gave me a look at the 'flip side'.
In Hubei, like most places in China, life for most people is not easy, and for students who are financially or scholastically disadvantaged, a university education is imperative if they want a bright future. The irony of the situation in Wuhan was that while most of my students were not from rich families, they did apply themselves to their studies but found themselves in a school that mistreated them. When I got to Suzhou, I found almost the reverse situation.
Having been tricked into remaining in Wuhan throughout Spring Festival 2007 and then cheated out of the money that was due me, I left Wuhan empty handed and flew to Shanghai where I was met by my new school's representative, and transported to Suzhou.
When I arrived in Suzhou, I found myself in a situation where the school did everything above board and treated the students well, but exactly one half of my students came from wealthier families, and did not give a rat's ass about anything other than wasting their time while waiting for whatever certificate was due them. But I stress - 'exactly half of my students'.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
2013 Social Commentary Articles
The Dysfunction in the Religion of Peace by R.P. BenDedek
By R.P. BenDedek
September 28, 2013
Muslim belief is that ultimately everything is Allah's will. Whether they approve or disapprove of the Kenyan massacres is irrelevant. It is Allah's will! Whether ordinary Muslims approve or disapprove of those terrorists is irrelevant. It is Allah's will! Whatever a Muslim may say with his lips, his true meaning is hidden in the back of his mind. It is Allah's will! Every Muslim, like every other true believer in every other religion, dreams of seeing the world converted to their god. For the Muslim therefore, every action that leads to the defeat or conversion of the infidel must be Allah's will.
Giving the Finger to Comrade GOOGLE's brand of Communism
By Comrade R.P. BenDedek
August 26, 2013
I have come to the decision that the only thing I can do is take a page out of Comrade Google's 'Little Red Book' and say: 'Screw You!' Comrade Google didn't like the way the Communist Government of China kept changing the rules. Comrade Google would not submit to a 'totalitarian authority'. Comrade Google decided to pull up stakes and leave. Is there a lesson to be learned in that?
Learning to Hate The U.S.A.
by R.P. BenDedek
August 11, 2013
American Education is actively turning young Americans into terrorists. The speaker is Brigitte Gabriel (pseudonym), a Lebanese American journalist, author, and activist. Within the video she produces documents which purport that despite so called separation of State and Church, Islam is being introduced to school children at school, and via injection of big dollars into universities all over the USA, Students are being taught to hate the USA.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning Star News. He is also the Editor of the 'Writers Journal' at Kingscalendar.com. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls