Epistle 9 of Leon's China Chronicles


*****Odin's Day, October 23, 2003*****Some Pics from Inner Mongolia*****

My Son, Taegyung, in Inner Mongolia, Fall, 2003

My digital camera is a piece of crap.  Got it for only 30 bucks, though, so eat your heart out.

This is one of the classroom doors on campus.  The doors are wooden, but they cover them with sheet metal, probably to prevent vandalism and theft.

Inner Mongolia has the most beautiful skyscapes I've ever seen.

Because of the poor quality of my digital camera, this picture doesn't do it justice.

The Front Gate of No.5 Sr. Middle School

Tongliao, Inner Mongolia, China


*****Sun's Day, October 26, 2003*****

Today was rather warm, and a swarm of ladybugs came calling on me. I scooped them all up and put them in my pot with all the little white bugs, covered it with plastic wrap, and put pin-hole for air. Maybe the ladybugs will eat up all those little white bugs. I know that ladybugs are carnivores... one of their favorite foods is aphids. We'll see what happens. My cilantros are all dead, but I bought a water melon and it was over ripe. All the seed inside were growing roots. So, I took some of the seed and planted them in the ex-cilantro pot. Plus, I made friends with the gardeners and they gave me two potted flowering plants.


There are too many student to play on the play ground during recess. So, the second and third grade students (11th and 12th grade in the US) have been asked to play in the open-air corridors in front of their classrooms. I live directly across from one of the 12th grade buildings. The boys come out and play soccer every day. I have personally witnessed them breaking two classroom windows with the soccer ball, because their aim leaves everything to be desired. They just wildly kick the ball when the play "keep away". There are two teams and one team tries to keep the ball away from the other team. They keep hitting the glass panes that cover my porch. They have knock over my bike several times and even dented it. And despite the fact that two windows have been broken already this school year (and we are only two months into the school year) no one seems to put and end to the soccer activities. I don't understand it. It's like this school is made of money. I get the feeling like... "Don't worry about breaking windows, we'll just buy a new one. Go ahead and play your dangerous "keep away" game. I'm surprised my window panes haven't been broken yet. They kick the ball really hard! I know that one of these days, my son will be playing on the porch, when that one ball that succeeds in breaking the glass come directly toward my son and his face will be all scarred, or worse yet, a piece of glass will go in his eye and blind him, or worse yet a piece of glass could cut his jugular, and he will die. No, I'm going to put a stop to this tomorrow. This cannot go on this way. Something needs to be done, and if the other teachers won't do it, then I will.


*****Odin's Day, October 29, 2003*****


1. University Professor, Canadian, single female, not-yet graduated from university, TESOL certified

2. Me and my son

3. 2 guys hired by private company and leased out to schools, Canadian,  1 is not yet graduated from university

4. Instructor at private institute, single female, graduated (I think), second year in China

5. Instructor at private institute, American, female, speech pathologist, M.A. in TESL

6. Instructor at private institute, British, single male, (education level not known)


The university professor and I seem to have the best living conditions.

Nobody has hot water (except for shower).

Everybody who lives on the first floor gets disgusting smells emanating from their drains every time someone from an upper floor takes a shit (including me)

Most people have to boil their drinking water (or buy bottled water). I don't 'cause I was given an electric water-boiling machine. All I have to do is push a button and boiled water comes out. (Lucky me).

Some people have maids. I don't know if they must pay from their salary or if she is provide as a fringe benefit. I think maids wash clothes for the foreigners.  I just take mine to a laundromat. Only the university professor has her own clothes-washing machine. I've got heat now from the radiators, but some of the others were complaining that they can see their breath in their homes.


Does anyone know why we call spam "spam"? I'm really curious. Anyways, I get spammed a lot these day. My hanmail account gets the most spam. I usually check it about once a week and each time I check it, there is over two hundred spam messages there, and most of them are English! Of course I always use that email address when I sign up for things on the internet. Sometimes I get spammed in my other email accounts as well. The other day I got an email with the subject:

"Doctor approved male enlargement pills"

Now, this is funny. It means, I can take a pill, and I will become larger, but only if I'm male. Ha!

That reminds me. When I was in Beijing, I saw some info-mercials for such a thing, but it didn't matter which gender you are/were (hey, some people change their gender). You take a pill and you actually grow taller. They showed before and after video clips. It was amazing. There was another info-mercial for breast enlargement. You put this electric bra on and it sends electric impulses into the pectoralis muscles (under the mammaries) and stimulates the muscles. After many days, your muscles get bigger and push the mammaries outward, making them appear to be bigger.


I found the gourmet sunflower seeds. I don't get so many "crappy" ones. Every once in a while I get one with nothing inside. How in the world that happened is beyond me. It automatically goes into the back of the mind along with "Why do drains not come at the lowest point of floors/sinks?", "Why do boyish girls further wish to confuse the hell out of people by buzzing their hair off?", "Why do people make sidewalks and then insist on walking in the bike lane?", and "Why do Chinese people say 'ually' instead of 'usually'?"


Actually, I haven't met a Chinese person who will pronounce this word "usually" correctly. AND, neither has any of the other foreigners in Tong Liao. I mean they CAN do it, but they refuse to do it. WHY???????  This is one of those mysteries that might have to be shelved, along with those above.

*****Saturn's Day, November 1, 2003*****


I have bought three watermelons since coming to China. I will never buy a watermelon again here. The first one was bought in early fall. It wasn't ripe. The second one was bought in late fall. It was rotten. The third one was perfectly ripe. But, it was yellow inside, and tasted like rind. I'm not kidding. It had the texture of a watermelon, but the color of a lemon (inside) and the flavor of rind. From the outside, it looked just like a regular watermelon, but when I sliced it open, it was yellow, and it had no taste. Watermelons are too expensive for me to be playing "grab-bag" gambling games. That's it! Game over! No more watermelons in China (unless someone else pays, hee, hee, hee).

THE MICE WARS (continued)

A couple of weeks ago one of the maintenance guys came by and patched up all the mouse holes with cement. He went crazy, patching up every single hole inside and out. Poor mice are now trapped under my porch. I haven't seen nor heard any mice since the cement work was completed.


The ladybugs are fine, but the watermelon seeds aren't growing. I can't understand it. I made friends with the gardener and got two potted flowers a while ago. One of the plants has aphids all over it now (they weren't there before). I know ladybugs eat aphids, so I transferred all the ladybugs to the aphid-infected flowering plant. I have a month-old carrot in the fridge which is sprouting, so I'm going to put it in with the watermelon seeds (where the cilantros used to be).


The security is tight in China, everywhere you go. If you go shopping in a supermarket (and I mean SUPER-market), then you must check in your bags at the door. There are clerks at every single isle making sure that there are no shop-lifters. Security guards make sure you check your bags before going in. Cashiers inspect every bill for counterfeits. It's amazing! Never seen anything like it in my life. In some places you have to pay for things BEFORE the aisle clerk or station clerk will let you have it. They write up a bill. You take it to the cashier. You pay. You get a receipt. You take the receipt back to the aisle/station clerk. THEN, she gives you the item. Truly, amazing! I guess hiring all those people for security is cheaper than a surveillance system. Or maybe China's policy is "prevention is the best medicine". I kind of find it degrading to the concept that basically a great majority of humans are good-hearted, honest individuals. Well, such is life in China.


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