(This Is China-37) February 16, 2019 – Chapter 36 from THIS IS CHINA


PERSONAL NOTE: I DECIDED to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it costs too much to order one from USA. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, STEVE, Feb 16, 2019   stephenehling@hotmail.com    blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com


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Chapter 36

We arrived at Lushan at the bus terminal at Guling Jie, the main street, and immediately went and purchased a map at a bookstore to be our guide. I was excited to finally be here in Lushan. I was ready to visit various old villa-style buildings in town, and many natural sites around town of peaks and waterfalls and the famous botanical gardens. If you like to climb steep stairs Lushan is criss-crossed with many footpaths. Not far from the bus terminal, the three of us found a hotel and we were anxious to settle down so we could begin our enjoyment and appreciation of Lushan. I paid the deposit and the amount to stay for a week for the three of us. When we entered the hotel room, I went to the bathroom to clean up. Suddenly, I realized there were no bath towels, shampoo, or toothbrushes or toothpaste or bar soaps for the guests. I was very uneasy and told Jady and Graham we cannot stay in this hotel. I was very upset because from all my experiences, all hotels would provide us these things. Jady and Graham suggested we take a walk to the center of Guling and maybe we could move to a hotel that would provide us with the things we would need. I was hoping we could find a different hotel but to our surprise all the hotels told us the same thing: they would not provide us with towels or shampoo or toothbrushes or soap. I was not happy about the whole situation.

And as we talked and walked and tried to enjoy the shops and people, we met a Spanish couple who had come to visit Lushan. But in less than an hour, I hated the place because it seemed like the whole population of China was there: too many cars and buses and tourists. Suddenly, I felt the air was polluted and the mountain temperature had gone up because of influx of people and heavy traffic. I was hoping for a quiet, relaxing place to enjoy the mountain air and trees and valleys and the scenery. I insisted we returned to the hotel and demanded an explanation why they were not providing us with what we would need to stay fresh and clean as their guests. I was not sure if I understood what the lady at the front desk told us, that the local government wanted to protect the environment and because of that… hotels were not allowed to provide the things we would need to stay there. It had something to do with the preservation of the environment? Graham tried to calm me down and said there were too many disposable things that hotel guests would use and throw them away. I could not believe what he said…completely irrational and illogical to my rationality and sensitivity. That could be one possibility why they wanted to protect the environment because Lushan is a famous tourist destination of many people during the hot summer months. To me it was not making sense…because it is the responsibility of all hotels to dispose of the disposables according to the laws of the local government. Why would or should that be the responsibility of temporary hotel

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But whatever the reasons… I made the decision to leave the hotel and the mountain after less than four hours and returned to Nanchang. The two boys agreed with me and did not try to change my mind. I heard of the Lushan Big Nature International Youth Hostel, located some distance away from the main street but I had never stayed in one before, and I preferred to sleep in comfort and some privacy, not willing to rough it out in a room with many other international backpackers!

The Lushan hotel policy suits most Chinese guests just fine. Because during my time in China, I did learn something very weird to me: many of my student guests to my apartment would rather bring their own tooth brush, small bath towel, shampoo and soap. I am still not used to their small bath towel. We Americans love bath towels the size of an island! And why the small bath towel in China? It is easier to wash and dry, so they told me. In fact a few students told me their parents warned them not to use towels or some other personal things in a hotel: they are dirty, used by other people. In our American homes, we do not give our guests new bath towels, or even bathrobes. The only things that are new would be toothbrush. Everything else, you use what the family are using in the bathrooms. In China, the hosts will try to offer new small towels to use. Somehow my Chinese students are told many things in a hotel are not clean and you should avoid using them.

Another example which I found strange was my students would request some hot water in a restaurant. Why? Almost all restaurants now are not using their own tableware…many come sealed inside a plastic because they have been washed clean. Many companies would come and pick up all the dirty dishes the next day and bring new ones to the restaurants. But almost all my students would remove the plastic and dip the chopsticks, spoons, tea cups, et cetera, in the hot water to remove some imaginary dirt before using them to eat. Something about obsession with cleanliness in China and yet hundreds of the old and the young die each day in China for various health reasons…because so much of the air, land, and water are polluted in China.

Imagine an intelligent Chinese college student telling you everything in the hotel is dirty: the bed, the pillow case, the bed sheet or blanket. Just about everything is dirty. You cannot convince them any hotel or a restaurant survives because of their reputation. I gave up trying to convince my guests in China; in America most guests do not bring their own towel, toothbrush or soap or shampoo. We do provide our guests with everything…not a new towel still in their original packaging! But This is China…and so what Lushan hotels did about not providing the hotel guests with shampoo, soap, toothbrush and towel, is acceptable to Chinese guests. They would

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rather bring and use their own. Everything in the hotel, any hotel, is dirty! To them.

I believe I felt very insulted that with my money, I could not get what I wanted at Lushan. The boys did not try to persuade me to stay in a different hotel. For what? We would have to shop for towels, soap, shampoo and whatever we needed to enjoy our sojourn up Lushan. To hell with it, that was my incomprehensible reaction. And down the mountains we went. Fuck Lushan, I do not have to tolerate such bullshit! This I China, and I was not about to kowtow to such stupidity or irrationality or senselessness. In America, with my money, I do not have to do what everyone else is doing or eat what everyone else is eating or go where everyone else is going. That is one major reason why many American establishments—hotel, transportation, restaurant, entertainment, you name it—they do their up-most to please their clients because they want your money and for you to come back again and again. This is America. In China, anywhere you go to, they act like you are not fucking important to them economically…yet China is the most fucking capitalistic country in the world!

Everyone who has legs and breathing and kicking is chasing after money money money! To the neglect of their parents, families, loved ones and their own health! This is China. Live there long enough, and you will smell it—the sweet deadly smell of money—wherever you go in China, a new intoxicating drug in China.

Of course Graham’s mother booked a room for me at the same hotel in Nanchang. His mother introduced me to a good friend who also worked for the government. I would soon meet Peter who was a college student. Peter would spend many hours with me hoping to improve his English speaking skills. What shocked me was Peter’s mother bought a plane ticket for Peter to go with me back to my campus without consulting me. Peter did return with me to Xiamen and spent a week with me for the purpose so he could spend more time with me to improve his English.

That was my first visit to Nanchang in 2011.

Jady married his sweetheart January 8, 2012, and we talked at length about the opportunity for me to be his child’s godparent. Zhou LinYi was born March 25, 2013 and as a godfather I chose the name Eric for him.

Does China have a godparent tradition? In China, the practice is non-religious and done to strengthen friendship ties or to fulfill the wish of a childless adult friend to have a godson or goddaughter. When I grew up in the village in Malaya, our family had a godson. I remember we would prepare some special foods for him on special occasions and instead of inviting him over to our house, we would deliver the food to

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him in his house. There was a rumor circulating in the village at the time that they were living in a big haunted house that belonged to a relative. We heard he died suddenly because an evil spirit (the devil, in local parlance) had taken his life. A young muscular man hung himself inside his house, not far from my village house. The villagers said the devil took his life. One of my mother’s brothers was found dead in an outhouse. The villagers said the devil took his life. It seemed the devil was everywhere when I was growing up in the village. Our godson and I never played together. He was about thirteen years old when he died. His image is still edged in my memory, a boy with an innocent smile and kind heart. Why did he have to die? The devil was very active in my village, obviously.

In some parts of China, many children have godparents and some have more than one. Usually these godparents are close friends of a child’s parents. In the old days, parents were careful to choose people with surname Liu and avoid surname Wang. Liu is a lucky name and it sounds like “smooth” to indicate one will lead a smooth and trouble-free life. Wang sounds like “death” and is thought to be unlucky. This is no different for many Chinese to think the number 6 sounds lucky and the number 4 sounds unlucky. It is not the character or word but its sound when pronounced is the cause of trust or distrust, life or death.

One must not forget early death of children due to accidents and diseases used to be quite common in rural China. After 1949, Chairman Mao introduced some rudimentary medical care for the rural poor. Imagine a time when death was prevalent and parents would avoid entrusting your child to someone with a Wang surname. Imagine a time when parents would give their children terrible names, ugly names, or animal names or female names, so the devil would not harm them or take away their lives. In fact one male student explained to me why he had a female name because his parents tried to fool the devil, and he survived because of that. A strong tradition in some parts of rural China, when evil spirits roamed freely like the humans and they might ensnare or attack you randomly, hungry for revenge or for reasons only they would know.

This is China.

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