Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

 I have been reading Young Fu of the Yangtze. It’s a young adult novel first published in 1932 and was awarded one of the earliest of Newberry Medals in 1933. Placed in Chongqing in the 1920’s, Young Fu is an apprentice brass maker. Although it’s written in a style that won’t endear it to most contemporary young readers, the book is a great work of historical fiction into a period of time most Americans have very little familiarity with. The protagonist has to deal with warlord soldiers, thieves, beggars, and communists, as well as the treacherous Yangtze and fire. If you would like a better understanding of 20th century Chinese history from a personal perspective, I recommend Young Fu of the Yangtze, the work of  Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, a Methodist missionary  for several years who, after returning home because of illness, authored several children’s books based on her experiences. 

Trade Deficit? Savings Deficit?

Why does America have a trade deficit with China? What’s the answer? I don’t pretend to have the answer, but in a discussion of the issue on NPR, one essential fact was pointed out. A trade deficit means the US buys more than it sells. The St Louis Fed examines Chinese savings  and states: “The figure shows that China’s personal saving rate is about 25 percent and national saving is roughly 47 per- cent of GDP (in 2005, compared with 0.5 percent personal saving and 12 percent national saving in the United States)— and these savings rates have increased in recent years.”

As a true-blooded American, I want my “stuff” now just like everyone else, but what if, instead of disrupting industries here and abroad President Trump had just launched a national campaign to increase our national savings rate? Getting everyone to set aside just a little more so that families had emergency funds on hand instead of having to borrow using credit cards would increase our overall well-being with minimal impact on our economy.

Yangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, and Technical Difficulties

NOTE: I wasn’t able to upload photos to give life to this weak entry. I am packing and won’t pursue it any further

I haven’t kept up with my travels in this blog. I had thought maybe i could take a nap and recoup my energy, but the time it has taken using buses, subways, and walking has found me far from my hotels and returning impractical. I started this entry a few days ago. It is time to pack up and go home.

While I mentioned before is that I have started doing is speaking up with seatmates on the train or people nearby in the station, i have enjoyed the results….

  • As I wrote earlier, on the platform in Qian’An I startwd a conversation with a normal university (think state university…normal universities are primarily for training teachers). Her daughter was assigned to the seat next to me so she switched and we had a wide ranging conversation for the entire trip.
  • In the Yangzhou train station, I took a photo of young woman with stylish holey jeans and shiny black shoes, ,leaning over to try to sleep on the net seat, sleeping exhaustedly, and then I felt a bit sheepish when she awoke and I moved to sit beside her when she tried to carry on a conversation across the aisle in the noisy station. She was a traveling office furniture salesperson. We were in different cars, but when we got off in Nanjing she found me and helped me get the subway to the hotel before she left to go home.
  • From Nanjing to Shanghai, I talked with the woman next to me who is a high school English teacher who had just finished her vacation after a grueling year of preparing students for the gaokao college entrance exam. I got a better idea of what the test is like and how classes function.

These conversations  were just interludes in the main travel. I didn’t have friends in Yangzhou or Nanjing so I managed on my own. One day I went to what purported to be museums in the morning.

One was a museum of Buddhism which was mainly large display boards with explanations of Buddhism in Yangzhou, a couple of statues, and a couple of nicely done dioramas. I wondered if maybe the museum was penance from  the local government  probably been made to the Buddhists for confiscation of land and destruction of property. I was helped around the area by a local who works as an air conditioning engineer in other parts of China. He remembered the museum area once being the site of a large commercial trading market. 

The other “museum” was a market for selling things like lacquer wary and jade. The guide book called it a folk art museum. There were craftsman creating objects, but most of what was made elsewhere. 

In the afternoon, I took the bus to the Yangzhou Museum, dedicate primarily to block printing, but with wings on archaeology including ceramics and bronzes, calligraphy, and special exhibits. The museum is very comprehensive in showing the history of printing, including paper making and ink, as well as movable type. 

The next day I took the bus to the Han tomb museum. I got off the bus a stop later than I should have and had an interesting walk through village with row crops. The museum  preserves a couple of tombs found elsewhere. One is a small brick tomb. The other is a large complex that was first uncovered in 1978, if I recall right. Maybe it was the memopry of the destruction of the Cultural Revolution that drove the curators to create a complex behind a locked gate. It was an interesting museum and very educational, but there were very few visitors.

In the time before leaving on my last day in Yangzhou, I tried to take the bus and walk to a couple of spots. However, in the middle of the journey I got a message thatt the hotel I had made reservations with aboiut ten days  before had just realized I was a foreigner and they can’t accept foreigners.  Not wanting to be homeless or penniless in the high-priced city of Shanghai, I headed back to the hotel.

Oh, I should mention the technical difficulties here. Two things that have bugged me are Lightroom and the phone connection, In this context, it’ the phone. Although I told the salesman when I bought the new SIM card my travel plans, since I entered Jiangsu, I have gotten messages that I don’t have an Internet connection., Finally, I got a message that said since I was out of province Where did I buy that card? Henan? Shanxi? In any case, the 300 rmb I spent is useless. Fortunately, I am leaving tomorrow and managed to get a hotel room in a very nice hotel for even less money. I got Lightroom because it can handle  RAW files, the photos that have more information,,,and take up more space on your SD cards…so if you get a really great photo, you can tweak it to perfection, However, you may remember when I thought I had a problem with an SD card not being read. The real problem was I somehow chose to take photos in just RAW, with no JPG component that programs other than Lightroom can view, The easy solution was to use Lightroom to convert the photos,,,,that is what Lightroom does. On the left side of the program, there is a panel that shows you the photos you have cataloged and saved. You simply select the photos and export them,  Easy? My problem? No left panel. I spent my spare time when not traveling about trying to figure out what I had done  to lose the left panel. After three days I did a Google search and found it was a glitch in the  program and a topic of dicussion. I had restarted a couple of times and done taken other measures the computer/program didn’t respond to, One day it started up fixed, I have no idea what finally went right. Time wasted? Priceless.

I paid more for this hotel, but the difference a bit more ,money can make is The decor includes art and flowers in the hallways. There are even lounge areas on the same floor with armchairs. The room has a high speed exhaust fan…you notice these kinds of things when you wash your clothes and wait for them to dry. the bathroom is spacious and well-lit. The desk area is large with multiple plugs. Oh, but now I am talking about Shanghai and I have totally skipped over Nanjing. I will stop here and, hopefully, make some other entries for Nanjing. The Nanjing Museum, Ming tomb, and Nnnjing Massacre Memorial are each worth their own entries.  

The Power of Tongxue

I started this last weekend in Qian’An. I am iin Yanzhou now,,,oh, now I am in Nanjing!

I am in Qian’An, a city near the coast east of Beijing. Two of the nearby cities, Beidaihe and Qinhuangdao, are popular summer beach cities. Qian’An is under the administration of Tangshan, one of the premier steel producing  cities in the world and the main highway is choked with trucks and the air filled with its smoke. The city has part of the original Great Wall, the only part made of marble. The city is built beside two rivers and parks and lakes with classical Chinese bridges show the possible truth of Qian’An’s dream for itself of becoming a tourist destination.

My guides here were high school and normal school classmates. Zheng Jing Jie is a politics teacher in a vocational high school. Liu Xiuli is a Party school teacher, but once taught high school English. Xu Shaaoru is an accountant so she wasn’t as free as the teachers, but she did go to the Great Wall and join us for the final lunch.

On the first afternoon, we went yo the Qian’An Museum where another one of Zhang Jing Jie’s classmates provided a personal guide, Yang Yang Guides are a play an important role in Chinese tourism. Groups often tour museums with guides. A Chinese guide might cost 100 RMB while an English speaking guide might cost 200. While I just can’t justify the expense, about  $30. I appreciated the insights that Yang Yang gave to the collection as she patiently waited for me to photograph most of it.

When you hear abut the Great Wall, almost everyone, including Chinese, think of Beijing. The wall there has been rebuilt extensively., Your “climb” may be on a tram or a ride like  you might find in a water park. But it is the Great Wall and it stretched the width of China from the western desert to the eastern sea. In remote places, there are still remnants of the Great Wall, but you won’t find an amusement park ride to get to the wall which often runs along the top of the mountains. The wall near Qian’An forms the border between the interior steel making city of Tangshan and the coastal resort city Qinhuangdao. We drove past farming towns and fields and orchards to the foot of the mountains. It was a vigorous, but not difficult  walk to the wall. It was unmarked and the parking lot only had a half dozen cars. When we reached the most accessible tower, I met a information sicence major with hopes of studying as a graduate student at USC after he graduates next June. His father had a big dSLR and later he sent me some photos after we made friends on Wechat.

For lunch we went to one of the guad towns near the wall. These farm villages specialize in tourism and almost every home serves a restaurant to people who come to the Wall. Guards who staffed the Wall once lived in these towns. Now there are small farms with fresh fruits and vegetables. We asked for a private room instead of the main living room dining. The room ame with a bed where I laid down to rest while Zheng Jing Jie and her classmates. Originally country girls, the menu probably brought back childhood memories.

After lunch, we drove to another former guard town where the town is like an amusement park. As you enter, there was a water park. We drove to the river where a dam providess a lake where there are paddleboats to rentWe dpent an hour or so paddling around, occasionally bumping into other boats and I provided abject of interest as a foreigner,and activities provide great photo ops. 

Wow, with the wonder of the touchpad, I just wrote a whle paragraph which as disappeared somewhere in this text, …Zheng Jing Jie dropped me off at the hotel and told me to call her to check out the park scene, with colored lights, dancing, and kids playing, after I ate ddinner. I figured she was just as exhausted as I was. After napping, I managed to go out, but I didn’t realize I was going in the wrong direction. Instead of restaurants, I found car washes, air conditioner stores, and car upholstery shops. I had hoped to find a restaurant with soup or a supermarket where I could buy some yogurt, bread, and a banana. I only found a small grocery with dim lights. I ended up getting ice cream bars, Oreos, milk tea, pear flavered drink, and milk tea. Not nutritious…Oh, I did buy a carton of beef soup, but decided to save it for the train.I returned to the hotel, ate the Oreos,drank two of the drinks (I had eaten the ice cream on the way back), and sent Zheng Jing Jie a message telling her I had eaten and asking if she was tired, When she didn’t answer, I decided to go out and try to find a couple of SD cards since I was running out of room. As I exited the hotel, I notice that the lit sign on the buI et”, looking kind of like a Whole Foods market.

I checked out the surrounding stores without success and passed a small square with an outdoor market before returning to the hotel. Zheng Jing Jie sent me a message asking if I had eaten and saying she was tired and didnt want to go out.

Before taking me to the train the next day, we went to two parks beside one of the rivers. In the middle of the largest was an art galley and we met the artist and her daughter. It was Monday so the pagoda museum was closed.

After the park, we met the accountant at a buffet restaurant where you had your own hot pot to heat up frozen dumplings. I paid for the meal as a thanks to the classmates, a very reasonable 82 (less than $15!) yuan for an all you could eat meal for four people.  After lunch, we found a computer shop where I bought a couple of SD cards.

Since the hotel had been arranged through one of Zhen Jing Jie’s tongxue, Jing Jie gave her classmate a call and asked for a late checkout time so I could return to the room to rest before taking the train. Jing Jie asked for three o’clock and her togxue gave me two o’clock.

After a nap, I found Zheng Jing Jie and her closest friend Liu Xiuli waiting for me in the lobby. We drove to the high speed train station outside of the city. Zheng Jing Jie and Liu Xiuli helped me with my luggage to the security and we said goodbye, with an invitation to return.




Yangzhou’s Punk Ballet Hotel

I’m sleeping with Marilyn Monroe. Three pre-Photoshop pictures of the sex goddess hang on the walls above the circular bed with the embroidered English name of the hotel on the top quilt. The absence of chairs, unless you count the two red circular  steel one like the one I am sitting on as I use the shelf below the window as a table hint the room is not meant for work. That’s reinforced by the brassy recessed square mirror above the round bed. It had not occurred to me before laying down how convenient the room’s door lock is. Instead of a plastic key like every other hotel I have stayed in, the Punk Ballet uses a number lock electronic touchpad that they send the combination to to your mobile phone when you check in. The room furnishings are sparse, but it does have its own modem. There are no snack or beauty supplies to add to your room charges…just a three pack of prophylactics on the window sill above the bed, next to the wooden box of tissues. Many Chinese hotels have a way to hang your laundry. This ome has some hooks to hang clothes and a few hangers.

When I managed to take the bus to the area around the hotel and then use Baidu maps to get the two dots of mmy position and the hotel’s theoretical position to touch, I was feeling very good. However, each person I asked fr directions had a contradictory answer until I finally took the advice of the middle aged security guard who told me to take a taxi…ten yuan.

The taxi driver took me blocks from where I had been and he had to give his GPS a second voice command. I had called the hotel a couple of times, but they spoke no English and the directions about a black sign didn’t make much sense. Even as I stood before the door, entry eluded me. I tried climbing the stairs in the open doorway next to the sign, but after slipping on the second landing and no sign of a hotel, I decided that wasn’t right. I called again and they told me to ask at the hot pot restaurant a few doors down. The hostess there took me out to the street and told me to turn left. I assumed she meant the alley way, but I only found air conditioner-less people socializing and staring at the foreigner. I backtracked and made a second call and then what I thought was just a black glass sign opened and one of the desk clerks came out to rescue me. Two fat cats were in a cage in the corner of the rooms and a glass-topped table was in the center of the room, mounted on what looked like engine blocks. A 50s British bicycle was locked near the elevator with a nameplate that said, “London taxi.”

Fortunately, the security guard followed me to the room and appeared just as I was about to head down the elevator when I couldn’t figure out how to open the room. I was a bit confused when he asked me to take out my mobile phone, but then he explained that the text that I had received that I though was just for the checkout hours.

With the door open and feeling exhausted, I threw my stuff down and rearranged a table to use as a chair, putting my electronics on the window ledge. Just as I was taking my clothes off, I couldn’t find my small travel backpack that I have been using instead of my travel vest because of the heat and humidity. I looked too quickly and headed downstairs to report my loss to the front desk.

The hotel has twenty security cameras connected to the front desk computer monitor. The security guard had to make a phone call to get the code to run the time back. It was painful to watch my antics of photographing the lobby, including returning to the outside to photograph the artistic, elusive entrance. In each section, it was clear, as I turned around, that I had had three bags the whole time before I made it into the room. I apologized for  troubling them. I had left my phone in the room to charge, but the guard remembered the number so he let me in so I could shower and do my laundry before going to bed…until I got up because I kept on running over this story in my head and just had to write it down. Oh, the bag? It was partially hidden by the red round table/seat I moved.

I have photos of the hotel, but my computer does not recognize them on the SD card. I am trying  a direct connection to the camera to see if that works. If it doesn’t, I should be able to use Wifi to send them to my phone and then upload them. I am publishing it now without photos and will add them here or in another post. I had a great day in Nanjing before arriving here, but that deserves a separate post.

The Kindness of Strangers…Again

Feeling thankful for a new friend and a one time acquaintance. I took the train from QianAn, a city east of Beijing near the coastal city of Qinhuangdao to the former capital of Nanjing . Before leaving, in the station, I discovered the prepaid stay in a Nanjing had not gone through. I quickly made another and chatted with the CTrip staff to make sure I was not going to be charged twice.
On the platform, I met Sarah Zhang, a university professor in English teaching. As it turned out, her eighth grade daughter had the seat next to me. She traded seats with her daughter and. We chatted on a wide range of subjects, from her experience studying at the University of Manchester, Donald Trump, her mother’s farm and ours, GMOs, to my experiences in China and pollution. I had put my backpack in the luggage rack above the passenger behind me and I didn’t want to bother to try to wrestle out the dried noodles I had bought for dinner. Sarah gave me a peach and some packaged mahua (sort of like the Chinese version of rice krispy treats) and I had some peanuts and a fruit juice drink so I had a dinner. She got off in Xuzhou which is the city where I had taught a couple of weeks ago.
At the Nanjing train station, I had decided to buy the tickets for my trip today to Yangzhou if the line was ten people or less. It was, even though there was only one line available since it was almost 10 p.m. The ticket agent impressed me with how she somehow gently ignored the line jumper who had appeared before me and beckoned me to give her my list, passport, and money while he waited to the side. She confirmed that I knew the train was from Nanjing and not Nanjing South where we were. She also verified the dates were right.

Since I had exited the main station to buy the tickets, I decided to make my way back by following the signs. It probably would have been easier to backtrack because the direction I ended up going was designed mainly for cars that parked at the station.

When I started to get in the taxi lineup, I was alarmed to find that my CTrip app didn’t have my reservation for the evening. When I checked my QQ mail, there was no confirmation. I had no mobile signal.

An English speaking bystander asked if he could help. I explained my problem and he told me to calm down and asked me to connect to his phone’s wifi. We did and the reservation appeared.

I got into line (there were two, one for local…the station is south of the urban center….and one for the urban core. However,when I got to the front of the line, it turned out there was only one and I had to walk across six rows of taxis to get to a local taxi. The driver in the lead taxi didn’t acknowledge me or open his window. I asked the cop directing the lineup what was happening. He motioned for me to open the trunk. I did, put my luggage in, and got in the front seat. The cop gave the driver something he had written on paper, but the driver still asked for the hotel address. I had saved a jpg of the CTrip taxi directions. i told him it was close and the driver agreed and said it would only be six minutes.

After waiting to checkin at the hotel and reminding the clerk to return my passport (they always take a photocopy for the police registration), I took the elevator to my room. It was one where you have to use your room card. I couldn’t get it to work. A man in his fifties tried to help, but he had so much to drink that he was using his Chinese ID card instead of his room card. A couple in their 30s got on and saved the day. The drunk had to be reminded to get off on the sixth floor. I had kidded him about having too much jiu (alcohol) and he agreed as he left us. 

When I got to my room and set up wifi before showering, I discovered that my phone had gone into the “do not disturb”, airplane mode that I have kick in every night at 9;30.

Moving On, But Coming Back…Hopefully did a

Today I leave the city of Xinxiang in central China and take the train to the northeastern city of Qianan, not far from the summer resort cities of Qinhuangdao and Beidaihe. My time here was too short. The staff of Leonard English were very generous and kind. We’ve talkeed about my returning next year. I ate three great dinners with them and Tina’s husband provided transportation to and from the school. Yesterday he took me to a shrine in a nearby city dedicated to Bi Gan, an assistant  who told the emperor the truth and had his heart removed. We had lunch together and then drove back to Xinxiang where we visited the museum which had introductory sections in English and the tags for the objects were also bilingual. I am coming  to the conclusion that almost any city in China has museums and attractions that are wroth seeing….but, then, I am a bit crazy about China. The Xinxiang museum has archaeological finds from the surrounding area and displays that show how things like stone tools and pots were made.

I was dropped off at the hotel for a nap and picked up at 4:30 to go to the school. I had planned on giving a lesson, but Rick and Maggie only had a day of camp left and plans to complete. We went to a Muslim restaurant for dinner and left after 10. Tina brought me a cup of frozen ygurt, made on a freezing table, to try. It was good.

the next day I took the cab to the train station after breakfast at KFC. The manager at KFC went to get his phone to tell me that the wrap I had ordered was sold out. I forget what his app said…something like previously ordered. the counter person rushed to get my tray when I tiied to buss my own tray to the trash.

The cab driver told me 30 yuan to the high speed train station. Thinkng he was ripping me off, I told him to turn on the meter. I was suspicous of his off-color (the official cabs in a town are one color; rogue, “black” taxis are other colors). When I told him to turn on the meter, he turned on the heater too. I had been enjoyuing the cool, fresh air…a welcome change. Then he started smoking and I started fuming. As it turned out, the trip cost 36 yuan. Who knew?