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Seth BS: More China Stories (19) More China Stories 23 Dec 00

: If you are close to my generation, male, American, then you remember the war comics of the nineteen fifties, with orange colored Chinese pilots flying thir MIGs and saying things like " Eat leaden death, Yankee dogs" into their headphones, before they were blown to pieces by American Sabre jets. Later, before I came to China, I was warned by family, friends and travel guides how wily and tricky the Chinese were , and how it was part of their culture to try to rip off the unwary or unwise visitor. If you read guidebooks about China, you can read this too. It says that a Chinese merchant will lose face with his or her colleagues if they don't come out on the fat end of every deal. So. We decided to visit Nan Yang, a town about five hours away by train, famous for its jade and turquoise mines. It was gray. It was cold. The wind was down from Siberia for a few days, which always makes every day feel like Chicago in January. The train was economy hard seat, which means just that. Seats are pieces of wood nailed together at right angles with the most minimal padding. Heat is supplied by a Chinese train crew member shoveling coal into a boiler at the end of each car. Things were bad but they went from worse to bad, and steadily got better as the days went on. Every time we had a need, a person appeared as if on cue to fill it. Leslie was chased out of a store by a merchant who noticed that Leslie had forgotten to get her change back. I was chased for half a block by a Muslim raisin seller who wanted to know if we had liked the noodle shop he had recommended. We couldn't find a receipt to get back a 200 Yuan hotel deposit; the hotel gave it to us anyway. We went to neighborhood restaurant three times to eat and the last time the whole staff gathered around to have pictures taken, wish us well, and, of course, the meal was free. And that's not all, that's just the stuff that I recall easily. I don't think that they get too many Americans coming through Nan Yang, I don't think that you could expect this in Beijing or Shanghai, but who knows? The warmth and kindness of Chinese people is amazing. I shake my head in wonder. : Later, getting on the train to go back to Luo Yang, we got to see another : side of Chinese life. Chinese people don't like to wait in line. There are : no reserve seats on the hard seat train to Luo Yang. There are many farmers : with huge bags of peanuts, raisins, fleece to take to the larger markets of : LuoYang. When the train arrives at the station, before it has completely : stopped, before any passengers can get off, people are pushing, crowding, : using their packages and bags as battering rams to get on the car so that : they can get a seat. About ten minutes of chaotic insanity, while people : yell and scream, threaten each other, call each other names and fight for : seats. Wow. Then everyone calms down for the rest of the trip. The young men : have all the best seats, and families and the old women have to take what : they can get, which sometimes is no seat at all. Then we ride through the : beautiful Chinese country side in the early winter afternoon, with the December : sun cutting the green fields at an oblique angle, and making an etching of : every goose, duck and muddy child we see in the villages along the rails. We : share our food with our traveling companions, Chinese country folks who : cough, spit, smoke and toss things out the train window. They laugh, showing : their brown and broken teeth in big smiles as we attempt to communicate in : Chinese. We are getting up to Christmas. Last year , for a special treat, the head chef at the school made all the "Western " teachers baloney and jam sandwiches! Who knows what might be in store this year?? Happy Holidays to you all Seth from China : Love to everyone from Seth in China :

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