Epistle 5 of Leon's China Chronicles


*****Odin's Day, September 17, 2003*****


Today marks the first monthiversary of my arrival in China. Woo-oo Woo! Incidentally, in all that time, Taijing has had only one nosebleed. In Korea he had nosebleeds once or twice a week. I don't know what the reason is and I'm not even going to speculate. I'm just happy that the nosebleeds have stopped.


My quest for a decent razor has been completed. Evidently, Chinese don't trust their own razors (unless Gillette is made in China, which is a possibility I hadn't thought of until just now). My male coworker suggested I get a Gillette and even offered to buy one for me (but of course, I had to reimburse him). I'm slowly getting settled here. I even found some nappies/diapers that actually fit Taijing. I even found some REAL fruit juice (as opposed to the artificially flavored shit). I guess you just need to know where to go. My final quest is to find a pizza restaurant. My students assure me there is one, but I have no one to show me where it is. The only western-style restaurant I've seen in town is the newly built KFC, which overcharges for imitation meat. I guess you are paying for the ambiance. THANKS, BUT, NO THANKS! This weekend, I will try to find the so-called pizza restaurant (there's only one). If I can get my pizza fix once a week, I'm sure I'll be able to survive here.


Just when you think he has stuck his head up his anus as far as it can go, he sticks it up further. What's up with the making waves in China??? I mean: Jesus H. Christ! For the love of Pete! Give me a frickin' break! I don't want to write about politics any more. It's giving me a headache already.


I met with the School newspaper editor today, because I would like to have an "English Corner" in the paper. He agreed to let me have my "English Corner". He coincidentally happens to be the dean of the psychology department. He wants to "pick my brain" about US education, hoping to glean some ideas to improve Chinese education. I don't know what to tell him. Should I tell him the truth?... namely, that that the American education system (universities excepted) is going to hell in a hand basket... that I hate the American public school education system with all my heart... that the whole bloody education system is run by a bunch of idiotic bureaucrats who haven't an iota of pedagogical background... that teachers are leavin' the profession in droves... that American students are bringing guns to school and killing their teachers and classmates... that most inner-city schools have metal-detectors at every entrance... that teachers are underpaid, overworked, and treated like shit...

I have no idea what to tell him. I cannot prevaricate (for, I was born with some "morality" gene that won't allow me to deviate from the truth), but I have been known to dissemble when I find it advantageous to do so. I think I will tell the truth. I owe no allegiance to the f***ing American public school system, which after I was treated like shit by students, parents, and administration, after my car was shot at, after students assaulted and attacked me physically, after the superintendent fired me illegally breaking the contract that we both had signed, I feel a total lack of desire to hide the egregious truth. I hate to disappoint him, for I know he is looking forward to getting some good ideas, but frankly I can only tell him what NOT to do.

*****Thor's Day, September 18, 2003*****

There is nothing as thrilling as being appreciated. Well, perhaps some things are more thrilling, such as a ride on one of those amusement park rides that free falls for "n" meters before being stopped by hydraulic machinery, but the thrill of such a ride doesn't last nearly as long as the thrill of being appreciated. The thrill of being appreciated can last a whole day or one's whole life, depending on how long one is appreciated and how much one appreciates being appreciated by that particular person or group of people. When my students give me a standing ovation as I leave the classroom, I am thrilled.

On the other hand (or as the Koreans and Chinese say: "on the other face," which is strange now that I think of it, because I person has only one face, but maybe it means face of something like a coin), there is perhaps nothing more disappointing than being unappreciated, such as by a bunch of students who entirely ignore my lesson. They act as if I'm not even in the classroom. This just happened. I am so disappointed, and I let them know it, (in English, but I used simple English and spoke loudly, slowly, and clearly, ... and with authority, as I teacher must do).

Writing of speaking with authority... if you are not a teacher, you may think it is a bit pretentious, but as any veteran teacher will tell you, your students lose respect for you very quickly if you say things like, "Now, class, I really think it would be a good idea if you quieted down now." or "Class, I would really appreciate it if you would do your assignment quietly." Try it, if you don't believe me. It doesn't work. A teacher must command respect from his/her students. The word "respect" does not imply "affection". Affection is irrelevant. Of course, every teacher would like affection from his/her pupils, but it is not a prerequisite to effective teaching. Respect, however, IS a prerequisite. I "chewed the class out" and when the bell rang I wasn't done "chewing" so, I kept on "chewing" until I was done. Plus, I wanted to make them late for lunch as a punishment for being so naughty.

In America, I tried to keep a class in after school once. I even stood in front of the door, with my arms folded. When the bell rang the whole class stood up in unison and rushed the door, pushing me out of the way. I was shocked by such unruly behavior. And the principal had to balls (she was a woman) to blame me for THEIR unruliness. She can kiss my lily white, hairy ass. I'm out of that hell hole!

*****Fry's Day, September 19, 2003*****


problem appears to be solved, except for a few stragglers.


problem appears to be solved.


seems to be getting too cold; they've all gone into hybernation, except the few remaining mosquitoes.


Wednesday and Friday are the busiest days. I'm glad the week is over. Now I have a two-week, paid vacation. I haven't ever had one of those in my entire life. I won't know what to do with all the free time. Actually, I'm planning to go to Bei Jing and buy some much needed stuff that I cannot find in Tong Liao during the second week of my vacation.


September 28th or 29th marks the 40th anniversary of Tong Liao No.5 Senior Middle School. They want me to sing a song in front of the whole school for the event, but that was before they heard me sing. We went to a karaoke with some of them and they haven't bothered me about singing since. Whew!

Singing is something I only do when I'm drunk and when my audience is sufficiently drunk to not care that I'm "off key" most of the time.


These people really like singing and dancing. There a park (which is more like a plaza than a park) near my home (I mean nearer than most other things). One night I saw about fifty old "fogies" (folks) out there singing and doing some line dance. I thought it was odd. That was before it starting getting cold at night, but still, it seemed odd to me. I had to stop and watch for a while. I mean, I've never seen anything like it before... fifty old folks doing a line dance in the park. Kinda cool, actually. Then, over in the corner, there were some women doing some Tai Qi or something like it.

*****Saturn's Day, September 20, 2003*****


I just realized that cigarettes are quite expensive here. I mean 6 Yuan is only 75 cents (US), but when you only make 300 dollars a month, that's a lot of money. Let me put this in perspective for you Americans. The per capital income in the US is 3,000 dollars a month. In China, it is 300 dollars a month. So, based on the 'per capita monthly income' to 'price of a pack of cigarette' ratio, it would be like an American paying $7.50 US dollars for a pack of cigarettes, and that's the cheap brand. Let me put this in perspective for you Koreans. The per capital income in Korea is currently 1.6 million Won/mo. (five times the Chinese per capita income). So, it would be like a Korean paying 4,125 Won for a pack of cigarettes. So, it is very expensive for a Chinese person to have a smoking habit, but 99.9 percent of men smoke here. And then there is this "elite" thing. Instead of what kind of car you drive ('cause no one owns a car), it's what kind of cigarettes do you smoke (to determine your status in the society).

With regards to status symbols, I think it has got to be about the stupidest thing on the planet (except for drains that are not at the lowest point of the room/sink/whatever).


I have a good job. I have a good son. And, NOW,... I have pizza!!! I decided this evening, to go looking for the alleged pizza restaurant in town. First of all, the town isn't that big. Secondly, I figured that a pizza restaurant would have pictures of pizza and/or "Pizza" written in English. If not, I could look in the front window and see what the customers were eating. Well, EUREKA! I found it! I was so happy. Tai Jing and I ate so deliciously well. A 7 inch pizza, the smallest, costs approximately 15 Yuan ($2 US). A 9 inch pizza costs 28 Yuan ($3.50 US). A 12 inch pizza costs 45 Yuan ($4.65 US). We had a 9-incher, and it was the perfect size. We were full. NOW, I am sure I can endure a year or more here. For, as long as there is pizza, I don't need a woman. In fact, pizza is better than a woman. Let me explain...


10. Pizza is more delicious than what a woman would cook for you, if she even cooks at all.

9. Pizza doesn't snore.

8. Pizza doesn't hog the sheets/blankets.

7. Pizza doesn't say, "Do this", "Do that".

6. If you are late, you can heat the pizza up in a microwave in seconds. (You can't stick a woman in the microwave).

5. Pizza will wait up for you.

4. You can eat pizza and watch TV at the same time. (Try watching TV and talking to a woman at the same time!)

3. If you don't like your pizza, you can always order a different one.

2. Pizza is always good in bed.


the number one reason why pizza is better than a woman...

... When you eat pizza, it doesn't say, "You are doing it wrong!"

Sorry, ladies... you know I'm just kidding, don't you?



When looking for the pizza restaurant, I "stumbled" across the entertainment district of Tong Liao. Lots of very, very lovely ladies in lovely gowns sitting in front of shops with pink lights. I am 100% sure they are not brothels. That would be soooo illegal. I'm 100% sure that they are like Korean "Room Salons", i.e., hostess bars, with karaoke. I am also 80% sure you can go to "2 Cha" (as the Koreans say). But, you cannot go to a motel/hotel, because you must show a marriage license there. The way it works in China (and this is from someone who KNOWS, not me) is you go to the girl's (or girls') place for the nasty "deed". I hear it is quite expensive. I'm just telling you this FYI. I'm not interested in partaking of the forbidden fruit, I just like looking at the menu. Interestingly, the Chinese character for prostitute is a picture of a woman next to the symbol for prosperity. Beautiful prostitutes can become extremely wealthy in any country. They probably make more than I do!


After pizza and two bottles of beer, Tai Jing and I were ready to go Karaoke-ing. I found this one place. It was obviously a Karaoke place because of the neon musical notes outside. As soon as Tai Jing and I walked into the place, I could tell that it was going to be expensive. One of the ushers spoke a little English. I asked, "How much?" She said, "Sixty Yuan for one hour". I didn't have time to calculate the exchange rate it in my head, but I thought it was very expensive and they didn't have very many English songs, so we left. 60 Yuan is 7.50 US dollars. That's only nine thousand won. But, let's keep this in perspective. When the per capita income is 200 dollars a month (as it is in Tong Liao), that is very expensive. I could provide seven meals for me and my son at that same price in Tong Liao. I could take a taxi anywhere in the city 12 times for that same price. I could buy forty diapers/nappies for that same price. I'll try to find a/some cheaper place(s). There has got be some.


Every main entrance to nearly every building in Tong Liao is guarded by two lion gargoyles, which is funny. The closest naturally existing lion is 8,000 miles away in Africa. You'd think that the Chinese would use tiger gargoyles or dragon gargoyles. Oh, what do I know? Maybe 5,000 years ago there used to be lions in this part of the world. The lion gargoyles are to scare away evil spirits, but they are so cute. You just want to go up and pet the things. And are evil spirits supposed to be color-blind or what? I mean blue lions? What's up with that?


It hasn't rained since I last mentioned rain. Sometimes, after my son and all the students go to sleep, I like to go outside for a smoke and enjoy the serene nights of Tong Liao, Inner Mongolia. I look up into the sky, and look at the stars. Tonight is especially clear. I don't think I have ever seen that many stars in my whole life. The moon is in it's last quarter, but it is so bright. Yet, despite the brightness of the moon, I can see millions of stars. All is silent, except a wolf (or dog) howling in the distance. I can tell that it is far away, perhaps a mile away, but I can hear it clearly, because there is no other sound at all. It is 2am. The whole city is asleep, except for the prostitutes and their "johns", perhaps. Maybe it wasn't a canine howling after all (just kidding). This is such a change from Jongno, Seoul. There are no sirens, no roaring motorcycles, no drunken guys singing at the top of their lungs, no fighting, no guy yelling at the top of his lungs trying to sell ddeok at 2am (which is not necessarily a bad time to sell ddeok, but the manner in which he solicits it is quite annoying, and like people are going to be running out of their houses at 2am in their pajamas yelling, "Over here! Over here! Stop! I want to buy some ddeok!" Yeah, right!) I like it here. I really do. It's chilly outside, but it is worth it! You cannot buy serenity and a view like that. It's one of those things in life that is so precious, and yet, it's free of charge. Too bad one has to travel to Inner Mongolia to find it.

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