Chapter 2 - Arriving in Communist China.
2013 Revision of 2010 Draft
Having decided to postpone my suicide for a bit, in February 2003 I arrived in Beijing to meet up with my brother and to meet Geoffrey who was organizing our teaching contracts. Geoffrey at that time was in the business of placing foreign teachers, but since then his business has branched out and he no longer takes on new teachers. Together they got me settled into a hotel room, and gave me a quick tour of Beijing and the Great Wall of China.
Because my brother had promised to stay with me during that first year, Geoffrey was trying to arrange it that we could both teach in the same school, and after several failed attempts, managed to secure us positions in the Number One Senior Middle School in the rural city of Hong Hu in Hubei Province, the capital of which is Wuhan City.
We were met at the Wuhan airport (Tian He Ji Chang) by our Coordinators and immediately transported south about 165 kilometers to the middle of nowhere. It would be weeks before we had any idea at all where we actually were. Hong Hu City could be described as a Rural Area in which are located many small towns. The Administrative center is called XinDi or Xinti (depending upon which dialect you are speaking).
The drive to Hong Hu took us past Xian Tao located at the end of the highway, and on through numerous townships and villages. It was late February and I had my first close up (so to speak) experience with snow, for there was still some snow on rooftops and on the fields. I had seen snow for the first time the year before in Austria (only because it snowed 3 months early, and then only saw it on the distant mountain). What I saw on the trip into Hong Hu captivated me. It was just so beautiful. It was nevertheless a shock to see some of the housing in the villages that lined the main road leading into XinDi. I could not take my eyes away from the window; a phenomenon from which I still suffer 7 years down the track.
Something that becomes obvious to foreigners when travelling in China is just how easily the Chinese fall asleep. Train, plane, bus or car (not to mention school classrooms) the Chinese just nod off at the drop of a hat. It really is so unfair to someone who has great difficulty switching off his mind come bed time.
One of my pet hates about travelling is that when I travel by plane (last month I took 3), I invariably get assigned the aisle seat. Now that is a great place for me on international flights, because it means I can go to the toilet or go for walks without disturbing the others in my row. On international flights that fly at night however, I invariably get the window seat. On domestic flights in China, it is always the Chinese who get the window seat. I wouldn't begrudge this except that instead of looking out the window, they either fall asleep or close the window; and I get to see nothing.
I flew into Wuhan one summer and via an empty row of seats, was able to grab a window seat and see the province from the air. The countryside was amazing. The whole effect looked like someone had used far too much oil and had used far too surreal colors in painting the landscape. The sunlight reflecting off the many fields filled with water, the colors of the different crops and the distinct outlines of different fields left a deep impression on me.
What one sees from the air of course, is far more beautiful than the perspective on the ground. Nevertheless, as a person who both as an adult and a child spent a lot of time in 'rural' type settings or actually out in the country, I really do appreciate the countryside warts and all. You can keep Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong (Xiang Gang), Wuhan and other major cities, give me the countryside anytime. Oh! I just had a mental flashback to the TV series Green Acres! I would be Eddie Albert of Course, and my ex-wife would be Eva Gabor. (I used to bake bread while she would fix electrical appliances! True!)
Arriving in XinDi
By the time we arrived at the school I was desperate to go to the bathroom. Our driver dropped us off at the gates to the residences and we walked to the furthest building in the distance. It seemed to take forever, and upon arrival at our quarters, nobody seemed to be in a hurry to let us enter. Seeing a brick structure over by the Security wall, I asked what it was and upon being informed that it was a toilet, I made a dash for it. I literally ran in, and although shocked by its interior appearance, including the 'ditch', I was nevertheless relieved to be relieved. It was sometime before I discovered that I had entered the women's section.
It took me about 2 years to be able to identify the Chinese Characters for man and woman. When you don't know which is which you have to wait to see which gender enters or leaves which side of the building before you feel safe to enter. Whether or not you feel safe once you go in is another question altogether, and whether in the countryside you can actually find one is another.
The first time I had to use a squat toilet was on a visit to Wuhan, and I was fortunate to be in a shopping center. What a shock I got though. I still don't know how the Chinese can so easily drop their gear without losing everything from their pockets; do their business without urinating into their pants (yes I have!); and all without needing to brace oneself with one's hands firmly wedged against opposing walls. The only saving grace in that particular experience was that I was in a cubicle with both door and high walls.
I'm not sure I could 'Go' in one of those places where there is either no door, and/or the walls are only 4 feet high. At any rate, upon entering my future domicile in Hong Hu I was mightily pleased to discover that I had a Western Toilet. Well by 'Western' I mean that it was a regular toilet seat with flush tank. It took me ages to realize that the smell outside was because the toilet merely flushed the effluent to the other side of the bathroom wall, to then be gravity fed through a hole under the residential compound's security wall, to be collected into a little pond. I actually had to climb the wall to discover that fact, and immediately felt both guilt and concern because I constantly used detergent and bleach to wash both the toilet and the bathroom floor, and that 'non natural' material was draining through the soil into the rice paddy located beside the collection pond.
Since I have at this point already degenerated to toilet humor, I may as well stay on subject. Unlike my current western one, my bathroom in Hong Hu, like the one I had in Wuhan, was a spacious room that contained a toilet, hand basin and shower apparatus. So efficiently designed were they that you could kill two birds with one stone, and you could both sit on the toilet while waiting for something to happen, and take a shower at the same time.
Alternatively, if you are one of those who finds that his/her bladder gets activated when you jump into the shower, and finds it a nuisance to have to run to the toilet, then once again you can just kill two birds with one stone. Such is the design of the Westerner/Chinese bathroom! The Chinese/Chinese bathroom is smaller however, and this by virtue of the fact that the actual 'effluent disposal point' (squat toilet) is directly under the shower, and as a westerner, let me assure you, it takes concentration not to step in it while you shower.
I can't speak for foreign women, but as a foreign male, I can assure you that using the more 'common' public toilets requires a lot of determination. For those suffering 'performance anxiety' and/or are shy, the common public toilet is not the place to 'go'! If you are a white person reading this, then you will no doubt be aware of the urban legend that black men are better 'built' than white men. Well in China, that urban legend relates to Chinese men and White men.
Although the unspoken western custom at the urinal is to look straight ahead, that is sometimes really too difficult to do, when out the corner of your eyes you can see men bending forward as far as possible to get a look at your 'equipment'. What is worse are those times when in the process of doing so, they begin to step closer and closer to you. It used to completely unnerve me! Now I just take revenge. I just turn at a 45 degree angle and say in Chinese: 'You want to look? Here! Look!'
Of course if your position is somewhat changed, you will find people standing immediately in front of you, or peering down on you from the next cubicle with its 4 foot high wall. Last semester I entered the toilet at school to find one boy at the far end of a long row of urinals, using his left hand to play with his mobile phone, while his right hand searched for his 'you know what'. I chose a urinal at my end of the room and proceeded to stare at the wall. Next instant there was a 'flash' to my left. I immediately looked left, and honestly, I have no idea as to whether he took a photo of me at the urinal, or of himself. (Use your imagination!)
Now while you might at this point be a little grossed out (if so you are probably female), it must be stressed here that while the Chinese are on the one hand very moral, their cultural customs leave them at ease in the type of same gender situations that would leave most westerners ill at ease, and I have at times been accused of being 'too Chinese', because I do not feel disgusted or ill at ease with certain customs.
Prior to my arrival in China all I knew was that it was a huge militaristic and Communist country that would one day try to take over the world. If I had ever stopped to think what it must be like to live in China, I probably would have thought that there were soldiers with guns standing on every corner, and that the citizens (read Students!) would be very disciplined, macho, and obedient.
Although at the time of my arrival I was consciously unaware of having any preconceptions about China that I did was made obvious by my surprise over the absence of 'armed' personnel. Additionally, I simply couldn't get over how 'gay' everyone behaved.
Chinese people are very affectionate with their 'same gendered' friends and relatives. My very first memory of walking through the Number One School in Hong Hu was of boys holding hands with boys, and girls holding hands with girls. Boys had arms wrapped around boys, and girls likewise with girls. I remember turning to my brother who had already had one year of teaching in China under his belt, and saying: 'How come China has such a big population when everyone is Gay?'
Three weeks after our arrival, we had to go to JingZhou to complete necessary paperwork, and on the road trip back, I was sitting in the minivan beside my coordinator, Lawrence. At some point, Lawrence put his hand on my knee. This did not affect me too much, but every time he took his hand away and then put it back, it seemed to get higher and higher up my leg. I eventually came to learn that this is a common cultural behavior between people who feel close. Those who have read the Old Testament might remember that it was customary for oaths to be taken with one hand on the other person's thigh.
Over time I just accepted that Chinese men did not consider it odd to feel my pecs, my thighs, my arms or my butt. It took me a while to realize that none of this was sexual, and that this type of attention was a general indication of how I was viewed, and as such, was better than some of the negative treatment I have received at times.
Whilst there are many foreigners who feel 'obligated' never to mention anything negative about their experiences in China, I have throughout all my public posts, discussed all of my experiences, be they good or bad. I am nothing if not completely and unabashedly 'not politically correct'. Furthermore, I know that many Chinese like to read my articles, because they want to know my 'true feelings'.
In Chinese culture, civility in front of superiors or under certain circumstances is the norm, and that civility includes not speaking the truth, and sometimes downright lying. It is part of the 'face saving' culture of China. In the West, I would just call it 'Political Correctness', which in my opinion, is the art of 'not saying what you really mean while saying something that makes you to appear to be a nice person'. Frankly, I much prefer the adage so often used by my old and dearly departed Scottish friend Alistair Renshaw, who would say: 'You can hit me - just don't sh*t me!
The Chinese customs relating to honoring guests and visitors means that foreigners are treated very well when being received by schools or other organizations, and our reception into the Number One School in Hong Hu was no exception. We were wined and dined, and had all our needs met. The school authorities bent over backwards to accommodate us and provide us with a suitable environment within which to live. (The classrooms were another matter.)
It was only the other day (2007) that I heard a horror story about the demands of a certain foreign teacher here in Suzhou, and it makes me wonder what expectations the teacher had or perhaps what lifestyle he lived back home in his own country. For myself, having grown up in traditional Australian wooden homes called 'Queenslanders', and being old enough to remember wooden stoves, ice boxes, outdoor toilets, and the introduction of the ball point pen, television, computers and many appliances that today are taken for granted, the apartment provided me in Hong Hu was like something from the set of the television series 'Dallas'. It was a vast improvement over the flat I had been renting in Australia.
All in all, from the first day in China up until my first day in Class, my life in China looked like a vast improvement over my life in Australia. Of course the real test was yet to come. I had yet to actually stand before a class of Chinese Students.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
2013 Social Commentary Articles
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