Hello from China
I have been in China for 3+ weeks. My mom is doing well. I may live here for another 3 months. That gives my mom time to get adjusted to the new life. I’d like to thank everyone for your thoughts and prayers after my father’s death. Thank you, and that means a lot to me and my family.
Today I like to share what this Chinese village looks like, and what the people here care about.
“How much money do you make?”
This is the question I have been hearing over and over again during the last couple of weeks. A tough question, isn’t it?
I faced this question several times. They thought I’m living in US, and must be making tons of money. They looked up to me as a probably alien. Then I told them: “I don’t make any money now. I’m retired.” My lousy answer didn’t shut up the question, but opened a can of worms:
Q: “Retired?” “How old are you?”
Q: “Do you have a pension?”
Q: “Then, how are you paying the daily living expenses?”
Oh my God, why do they worry so much about me? Are they going to set up a GoFundMe account, to fund my early retirement? (just kidding)
Why in the world is this lady not working anymore? She gives up the salary? She must be insane.
They thought everyone loves money as much as they do.
The other day, my uncle (my dad’s brother) and his wife came over. They chatted with my mom. Then decided to go and visit a guy who lives close by. The guy used to be my uncle’s high school classmate. They both are in their 80s. I was curious and wanted to know what topics they would be interested in. I asked my uncle if I could join them. My uncle said yes.
This guy has serious hearing issue, and won’t be able to answer the phone. As a result, we didn’t call ahead, and just dropped in. After a couple of superficial greetings, the guy was asking my uncle: “How much is your pension?” My uncle put up 4 fingers, meaning it’s RMB4,000 (about $570 per month). Then the guy was yelling back: “My pension is RMB4,400”. Okay, you won, old man! I couldn’t hide my amusement.
A school with less than 10 students:
The local school is going down the hill. In the early 1970s, my brother and I spent 5 years in the primary school and 2 years in the middle school in this village. Later it changed to a primary school only, plus kindergarten. Lately it changed to Grade 1 to 3 plus kindergarten due to the low enrollment.
It’s said that now this school has only 4 students, plus a couple of kindergarten kids. How many teachers are there in this school? 6 teachers. Wow, for this teacher/student ratio, even private schools can’t beat them.
Where are the students in this village? Most of them choose better and private schools that are located in other villages or in the town. Many parents are willing to rent an apartment, pay higher tuition, and send their kids for better education. Education is the only way out. Who wants their kids to be left behind in this village? There is really not much hope here.
The other day, I visited the school principle. He used to be my brother’s classmate. Being a boss of 5 teachers, and 4+ students, he doesn’t seem to have as much power as the school principle in US. The school yard was so quiet, and it’s hard to imagine that’s a school.
For the 4 students, it’s even hard to pick a fight. Without fighting, pushing, or arguing, who can claim that’s a normal childhood?
My mom said that, the teachers in this village have the best job in the world, because they just sit there every day, and do almost nothing. I don’t think that’s a fun job. Being a teacher, you have to teach in order to have fun. The vacant classrooms look so depressing to me.
Luxuries – trees, taking a shower, running water and washers:
Only quite a few trees here. No grass. The mountains are on the north and south sides of the village. They are rocky and barren. I don’t see any trees there.
When the wind blows here, the dust is just waltzing around in the air. The funny thing is that, in the last couple of years, I become a little bit allergic to dust. Come on, I grew up in this dusty place. Without dust, without me.
After living in US for 22 years, I become spoiled. Who doesn’t like trees, grass, and clean air? Now I realized I have to reset my mind, and embrace the dust and a lot of inconvenience, in order to enjoy the next 3 months here with my mom.
Taking a shower is a luxury, too. I would be very lucky if I could take a shower once a week. Showering once a day? Just forget about it. As the weather gets colder, the solar hot water system at my mom’s place is already stopped. It won’t be available until probably next April.
I may have to find a shower place at my friend’s or relatives’ apartments, which are at least 7 miles away in the town. Taking a taxi, going to the town, taking a shower, then taxi back, pray for no wind or dust, it could be a good topic for stand-up comedy.
Running water is still a luxury here. The water from the tap is available for about 1.5 hours during each meal time only. People have to be vigilant about the time, and store the water. The hand-pump well at my mom’s place is not available for winter, due to the concern of freezing.
I’m washing the clothes manually. Ha ha, I have not done that for many years. It’s not fun, especially during winter.
22 years ago, I bought a washing machine for my parents, and my mom still uses it except winter. It’s not an automatic washer. One side is for washing, and the other side is for spinning. This dinosaur still runs. No dryer here.
Many of the inconvenience here is related to lack of running water and sewage system.
Miss my home in central Ohio:
It’s good I’m able to stay with my mom for a while at this difficult time, but I do miss my home in central Ohio. Listening to my favorite channel Classical 101 streamed from the internet, I feel the attachment to Ohio. It’s wonderful to hear the voice of my favorite hosts who are 7000 miles away.
I also miss the football games. The final scores are available, but no football games here on TV. My husband gives me an update on the phone once a while, about the Ohio State and Browns. I’m also following my alma mater team.
The Google search engine is dearly missed. It’s not available in China. I have to use bing as an alternative. Luckily my blog is accessible. What a blessing.
Definitely I’m going to miss the yellow and red tree leaves in Ohio. Every fall, I become obsessed with the beauty of tree leaves. It won’t happen this year. Will enjoy more next year.
I’ll miss the elections. This trip was so unprepared that I didn’t have time to do the absentee ballot in Ohio. In China, I missed the absentee ballot deadline set up by the US Embassy in Beijing. Too bad.
A quick note to US readers, don’t forget to vote on Nov 6! Let your voice heard. It matters a lot to you, and our country. As Al Gore said, every vote counts (he knows that for sure).
To all our readers: have you ever been to a place as barren as my village? If yes, how did you handle the daily inconvenience while keeping exploring and having fun? I definitely need some advice please.