As the Summer Holidays approached I knew that it was not the right time to go back to Australia. My kids and I needed time to process all the things that had gone on and were still ongoing in our emails. We needed space to work out our feelings. But that left me with a decision to make. 'What to do with my summer holidays?'
Naoko, a Japanese teacher at my school suggested that I visit her in Japan. She said that she would be pleased to show me around. Chiara in the meantime suggested that I go visit her in Italy. I decided that perhaps the best thing to do would be to go back to Hong Hu and spend time with Mingxing, who would be on holidays from university in Chengdu, but he advised me that he had a part time summer job and would not be going home. Eventually I decided to go to Macao and do some gambling. I do like 'pokie machines' (slot machines). So off I went. Oh My God were they savage! Nothing like in Australia.
My time in Macao (despite the expense) was interesting. The cultural difference between the people there and the Mainland Chinese is tangible. I could never get over traffic coming to a stop every time I stepped onto a pedestrian crossing. And I met some interesting people including an incognito priest. I did make sure to check the tourist maps and went to visit as much as I could, but I do admit that I spent most of my time at the casino.
While I was staying in the hotel in Macao, which I had paid for nine days in advance, Mingxing contacted me saying that his summer job had fallen through. So, when the time came, I took the ferry to Shenzhen and then a plane to Chengdu. When Mingxing asked me if I could come to Chengdu, I warned him that if he did not plan something for us to do that I would just sit in a hotel room and watch TV. So he did some research and organized trips to LeShan and Emeishan. He could not have done a better job of organizing the trips. They were fantastic, even if the Emeishan trip just about killed me. You cannot go to Sichuan and not go to Mt. Emei, but it is arduous, even when you take all the easy options. The ticket for Emeishan was good for two days, and on the first day we walked up to about the 900 meter mark before returning to a bus station and going back to the hotel. The second day we took a tour to the summit, booked through a local company, and we still had a hard slog of it. But it is truly worth seeing. It is spectacular.
I only spent a week with Mingxing, but it was a busy week. As for what I did for the rest of the summer after I returned to Suzhou, I have no idea. It could not have been much because I had blown a considerable amount of money in the few weeks I was away. As both Chiara and Sue had moved on, when School started again in September, I was joined in teaching English, by Jhunex, a young man from the Philippines.
I ended Chapter 16 by saying that exactly half of my students in Suzhou were wasting their time while waiting for whatever certificate was due them. In chapter 17 I wrote of the boys who were studying Italian, that nothing was going to make them progress any further and that they were not the only students in that school in that boat. I wrote those lines because the situation I faced in Suzhou was a little different to that faced in other schools. The Agricultural School had two types of students. Half of the students were those who had listed the school on their list of preferences and who had been lucky enough (or otherwise) to be given a placement. The other half of the students were there by special arrangement with some 'special school'. Those students, as far as I and other teachers were concerned, were 'quite terrible'. 'Quite terrible' is a nice Chinese-English expression which in colloquial English might include some 'yellow language'. Those students gave Jhunex and me a lot of trouble. Jhunex hated teaching them as much as I did, but from memory, he had more of them than did I.
When Jhunex arrived at our school, he was given, just as I had been given, a six month contract instead of the promised one year contract. One of the things foreigners might not know about Chinese schools, is that students have the power to get rid of teachers. These particular students eventually did such a number on Jhunex that his first 6 month contract was not extended. He had been shafted by a bunch of lazy students whose financial background had encouraged them to consider that they were entitled to special privileges such as being passed for exams that they couldn't pass. When I first arrived in the school I did so in the middle of the school year and therefore commenced teaching in the second semester. That first batch of special school students were no longer my concern by summer of 2007. When school started in September, I was stuck with more of these little darlings - for a whole year. A year later, in June of 2008, I faced the same fate as had Jhunex, from a different batch of 'spoiled rotten, arrogant, lazy, good for nothings' - which most of them actually were. There were of course some bright lights.
Although Jhunex and I were good friends and spent a reasonable amount of time together, he already had Filipino friends teaching in Suzhou and spent most of his time with them. During his stint in the college, one of his former students from a different school in another province turned up in Suzhou and looked him up, and that is how I met Jerry. Before his first year of college had ended, Jerry had dropped out to go to work in Tianjin to earn some money because his family was not well off and he thought that if they didn't have to financially look after him, it would be easier for them to buy a house for the eldest son who was due to marry. While he was working in Tianjin he kept in email contact with Jhunex and when Jhunex came to Suzhou, Jerry came down to meet him. And of course, he met me.
While in Suzhou, Jerry applied for a job at a tourist hotel, and despite not having finished college, he was employed based solely on his English ability. Jerry and I became good friends, and still are today. The three of us, Jhunex, Jerry and I would often get together for a meal or to go 'walkabout' in Suzhou. Our most memorable trips were to Mudu and Jin Ji Lake (Jinjihu) . While Jhunex was in Suzhou, Jerry spent most of his time with him and his Filipino friends, but after Jhunex left, Jerry spent more time with me, so that by the time I left in summer of 2008, we were the best of friends. During that summer of 2008 Jerry and I traveled together to Tai'an and Mt. Tai in Shandong.
Apart from my foreign affairs officer Mr. Xu, who occasionally came to visit me or occasionally invited me to his home, the only 'local person' with whom I made friends was a lady who did not speak any English. So that year of knowing Jerry (July 2007 - Summer 2008) was a special time for me, not just from the perspective of friendship, but because it was a difficult time for him in his life, and I was able to help him. Jerry was really fortunate to have been given the job at the 'Holiday Inn', and it took him some time to appreciate that he was made of better stuff than so many of those university graduates who had also managed to score a job there. The hotel took in 10 employees at the time Jerry was hired, and he was the only one with no college certificate. He was however, the only one who was still employed there after 4 or 5 months. Jerry was a conscientious and dedicated worker and often complained to me about how the staff never took pride in their work.
Eventually, he did move on, traveling to Beijing, where a friend, having promised him so many things, disappointed him. After returning to work on the coast he was invited by a former manager at the Holiday Inn to return to Suzhou and work for that manager in a different location. Jerry did so. Later that person moved on and despite his length of service and knowledge, Jerry was denied advancement because he didn't have a college degree. He later accepted positions in a few different places that were offered by people who knew of his English ability and his dedicated work ethic, but they too took advantage of him. Today (2014) he is married and lives in Suzhou where he works for a computer company.
There was one other person with whom I invested a lot of time while I was in Suzhou, and he also was neither a student nor a native of Suzhou. He was young person; lost, a little on the mentally challenged side, and making money the hard way. While I lived in Suzhou I keep in frequent contact with him. Later he would occasionally email me, but the last time I saw him was in 2012 when I ran into him at the train station in Shanghai.
Given that the boy personally has no ability to help himself; given that there really are no charitable organizations in China; and given that China's social services system is primitive at best, this boy's life is little more than a slowly unfolding irreversible tragedy. There are only three outcomes in the drama - he will die of AIDS; starve to death, or worse, end up in Prison.
Political Correctness and Life's Realities.
When I listen to activists complaining about their lot; when they berate their country and their people; when they talk about persecution and personal suffering, they really are in my opinion, talking hot ideological air. When you see what is endured by the 'outcasts' - the discriminated against sections of society in other places in the world, then you really know what suffering is.
When you run away from home in China, there is no government agency out there ready to give you cash, and you needn't think that you will find any legitimate work, because you won't have your own individual identity papers needed for a legitimate job. When you fall pregnant to the boy down the street, there is no childcare center in which to place your child while you do special educational training for which the government will pay. When you decide to stand up and declare that you are 'gay and proud of it', you really need to have Ricky Martin's money and celebrity, to pull it off, because what is most likely to happen is that your family will either throw you out or marry you off to some dimwitted girl. And if you decide to remain in the closet, God forbid that anyone should find out because your ass will be theirs - literally and figuratively. And when your heart bleeds for the suffering of some 'human rights' activist who is on the wrong end of the government stick, your heart will pretty much have to bleed in silence, unless you too want to disappear in an unmarked paddy wagon.
When I hear and see western activists ripping their societies apart in the name of 'humanity' and see what suffering is endured here in China by 'ordinary' people, it leaves me with a desire to take a piece of 4 x 2 to the heads of those propagandized over indulged western brats. When I hear or read of indigenous people talking about the 'emotional pain' they suffer because of what white people did 200 years ago, I can't help but wonder how much more pain they would have were they not now living in their western democratic countries, but in some other parts of the world. This type of pain is called 'vicarious suffering' except that usually the term refers to suffering on behalf of other present day people. A person with enough present day reason to suffer should not have time to suffer the pain of events of 200 years ago.
Living in China has taught me that no matter how hard my life gets, there is always someone worse off. Unfortunately, far too many people in the west have been raised to believe that their life is supposed to be lived like an American movie where the down and out make it good; where the bad people get their just deserts; and where everyone lives happily ever after. Unfortunately life is not really like that. On the very evening on which these words were first penned (2010), I spent some hours talking with a very nice young man who graduated college and has a job, but whose life is not 'free'. His prospects of earning 'real money' are limited. His chances of buying a house are nonexistent. His hopes of finding a wife, dashed on the rocks of reality - discovered the hard way, that unless he has money, 'love' is not enough. And worse still, is that while he lives in the city to make a living, he is actually an 'ethnic' country boy who wants nothing more than to go home and live a happy 'minority culture' life. His choices appear to be: 'Happiness in ethnic bachelor poverty or money in an alien environment with a wife whose first love is his money'.
At the beginning of 2013 Jerry told me that an old school mate of his, who had finally graduated university with a PhD, has just killed himself. It costs a lot to be educated to that standard in China, but having reached his goal, the man discovered that he couldn't find work. Unable to bear the shame, or perhaps unable to bear the thought of digging ditches after all those years of study, he opted out and in so doing undoubtedly shattered his parents hearts.
Perhaps you might understand now why it is that when I hear the 'politically correct' flying off their broomsticks over mere 'words', I just want to shove their heads up their own 'you know where' - that place where the sun don't shine. Life is always tough, no matter who you are. Money doesn't buy happiness - it just buys a better place to cry your tears. Happiness has different meanings for different people; as does hardship. Some students once asked me what I usually do at Spring Festival time. When I told them that I usually lived in a little 300 person village in the countryside, and that the house has no bathroom, W.C., refrigerator, running water or internet, they were all shocked - including the teacher. Not one of them had ever had to live under such conditions. They thought it far too difficult to live that way. It certainly does not have all the creature comforts that I had before I came to China, but when I think about it, it ain't that much different to what I grew up with. I remember the 'icebox', the wood stove, the outside toilet, and mother washing things by hand. I remember my first 'ball point pen', the introduction of TV, seeing my first computer, and drinking fresh cow's milk and drinking water straight from the creek.
Sometimes we need to take a step back from our lives, and see what it is that they are made of. When we think that we couldn't do without something, perhaps we should try and see if our belief system actually holds water. When someone uses a 'word' that is simply not acceptable to our politically correct sensibilities, perhaps we could stop and ask if our anger is 'real' or 'learned'; a genuine belief instilled in us via our cultural background, or the result of adopting an ideological agenda. We are all conditioned consciously and unconsciously by the culture, traditions and teachings of our family and associated situations such as school. We develop a worldview based on our background. This is called enculturation. When you move to another setting, a new culture, a new religion, a different political state or to a totally different country, you have to learn the appropriate behavior within that situation. This is called acculturation. Much of what I have heard and witnessed when it comes to political correctness, is not the result of enculturation, but acculturation - people trying to do what is expected of them from this new political viewpoint or ideology. I can think of ways someone might find objection to my last remark so let me just say, that the culture in which I as an Australian grew up, was one of 'doing unto others', 'turning the other cheek', 'giving a man a fair go' and not judging a man till you have walked in his shoes, and all of that was expected of us even if the other person's actions and behaviors were contrary to our own religious doctrines. We lived in a democracy where people had the right to believe what we do not!
There is no doubt that many people in the luxurious west suffer in many ways, and also no doubt that they need someone to stand up for them, and step in to help them. But such people notwithstanding, the amount of 'self righteous' and 'vicarious' angst evident in the west is overwhelming. Media of all types feed us a daily bowl of anger and indignation; of 'offence' at every witnessed word and act not in accordance with our ideology; and a constant declaration that nothing is really 'our' fault: we are not responsible for what we have done, 'someone else forced' us to behave this way.
Ask the Chinese what 'forced' means in their daily life. Forced to work through lunch breaks by abusive bosses; forced to cancel holidays because the boss now wants them to remain at work; forced to drink 'baijiu' in order to demonstrate their respect for someone; forced to give gifts in accordance with cultural demands and sometimes to pay bribes to get an employee to do their job; forced to watch others with far less qualifications and abilities receiving promotions based on 'relationships'; forced into menial work because they can't afford a good education and excluded from job opportunities because they don't share the Han Chinese ethnicity or Communist party membership.
Many people in China live with unfulfilled dreams, dashed hopes, and unfair treatment. Do they get upset by mere 'words'? Do they run around killing people because they can't stand the way they are treated? (Come to think of it they sometimes do.) Do they spend their days in tears because their dignity or feelings are hurt? No they don't, and the reason they don't is that they don't live in luxury. They don't have the time to spare. They prioritize life's events and circumstances and through it all, they remain proud of their national identity and culture. It certainly puts a western man's troubles into perspective, and helps him to let go of so much western baggage. Well - it has for me at least.
Being a foreigner in China has its own particular problems of acculturation and whilst it is most definitely true that your life is somewhat sheltered and pampered, it is not always true, for sometimes the foreigner too can suffer the same fate as the Chinese. Mine was just six months away.
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