(This Is China-49) March 11, 2019 – Chapter 50 from THIS IS CHINA

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personal note: I DECIDED to share my book with friends and students in mainland China. It costs too much to order a copy from USA. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, Steve, usa, March 12, 2019   stephenehling@hotmail.com   blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com 


Chapter 50

A few months after my return home from China in August 2015 to Puyallup, my hometown in Washington State, an hour’s drive from the SeaTac International Airport south of Seattle, a number of critical events took place in China related to the fluctuation of the bank interest rates and the yoyo Chinese stock market. These events had catastrophic negative ripple effects on the stock markets around the globe, from Tokyo to Seoul, to New York, London and Paris. They all happened under the mighty hands and the manipulation of the central Chinese government, according to many observers of Chinese economic policies and recent events. The purpose was to prevent any further melt-down of the Chinese economy, while some observers were convinced the government was doing it to maintain some semblance of normalcy, and still others to boost the rapidly sagging output and productivity in the manufacturing sector of the vast Chinese economic landscape.

Statistics, if dependable or reliable, could not hide months of downturn in international trade, and the commodities markets, and slowing manufacturing productivity in China. Many in the world continue to believe only the Chinese central government knows the truth behind recent stock market ups and downs. This is China.

A major American TV network sent a reporter to a busy shopping mall somewhere in China—I saw the report on my American TV—to record and gauge the mood of the Chinese people during this major stock market uncertainly or “crisis” (in the eyes of most Americans), only to inform the American TV audience that all is well in China, that businesses are as usual, and the general public are aggressively buying and selling, and making money, like they always do. It would seem the uncertainty of the stock market had no real visible impact on the people in China. The economy is strong and healthy, according to the American TV report. This is China.

And I knew it is true because I had just returned after seven years in China. Many Americans must be disappointed by the TV news, because, out of touch with reality in China, they were expecting the immediate downfall of Mr. Xi and his government! Ironically, top Chinese government leaders remained calm and confident while the rest of the world was impatiently awaiting the gradual downfall or collapse of the new government under Mr. Xi Jinping. Economic, not political, downfall!

No matter what, I love China. And I made the decision to return to China because I had promised a number of friends and students that I would return for the 2016 Spring Festival (Chinese New Year, to the rest of the world) during the month of February,

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2016, when the weather would be cool in southern China, and cold in northern China.

I would avoid the summer scorching heat that is almost everywhere in China and Taiwan, the same intolerable heat existing twelve months in tropical Malaysia and Singapore. A gentleman must keep his promise.

It was an article by Kathleen Peddicord in the US News & World Report (October 27, 2015) on How To Retire On Less Money Overseas—the same year I retired from teaching in China—that got me to think seriously about China. Why not? According to Peddicord, “Most of us spend the majority of our income on just three things: housing, transportation and taxes.” I had lived in China for seven years and the money I had earned as a teacher in college took care of all my living expenses, plus travels, plus helping two Chinese students studying in American universities, and a few others studying in Chinese schools in China, with enough surplus money to deposit in a Chinese bank account. And now with money from my pension and social security in USA, I can live comfortably in any country of my choosing.

Transportation is fast and cheap in China. Since I will not be working, I do not have to worry about paying taxes. Foods are relatively cheap in China—many fresh from the farms—if you know how to shop in the markets, and cook your own meals. I take Peddicord’s advice seriously: “Take stock of your life and consider alternative ways you could be spending your time and money. You could reduce your retirement costs by starting a new life in a low-cost country…. Certainly, you’ll have an adventure.” Compared with the living costs in America, China is a “low-cost country”. I was there. There are countless other Americans now living in Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries for much less than if they have stayed in USA. Many retirees prefer to live in some countries in South America.

Recently a headline in People magazine (January 20, 2015) got my attention, and the attention of many who are planning where and how to spend their retirement years…especially those who have the money and leisure and carefree lifestyle to boot. It says simply, “Florida Woman, 86, pays $164,000 Per Year to Live on a Luxury Cruise Ship”. Why not? If I inherited a fortune from my dead husband, I might have done the same. The article has this to say about Lee Wachtstetter, that she “isn’t your typical Florida retiree. For one thing, she doesn’t actually live in Forida, and hasn’t for almost seven years, because she’s spent them aboard Crystal Serenity, a 1,070-passenger luxury cruise ship where she’s become a permanent resident, paying around $164,000 a year in rent…She sold the five-bedroom Fort Lauderdale home and the 10 acres it sat on after her husband Mason died in 1997, and took to the seas…Wachtstetter said she stopped counting which countries she’s visited after

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100…She manages to keep in touch with her three sons and seven grandchildren with her computer, and visits whenever the Serenity docks in Miami, where they live”. I might have done the same…with all the money to throw away and enjoy life…in her age.

I did have the privilege to live on board a “cargo-cum-passenger ship” when I got a scholarship to study in the United States. I was a poor but ambitious young man in Singapore, and I had to apply for a “travel grant” from an American foundation. The next thing I knew was someone called me one day and informed me the foundation would put me on a cargo ship from Singapore to Los Angeles. I was eternally grateful to the foundation to allow me to travel to begin my studies in America. I wrote a book about it…CRAZY AMERICANS, available at Amazon, and in it I shared my story of how I met a group of Americans who were traveling on this cargo-cum-passenger ship from port to port from Singapore to Los Angeles. The ship had a limit of twelve passengers…mostly retired Americans, enjoying their lives. It was like living together with strangers, for me, under the same roof, and we enjoyed eating the same meals with the captain, the purser and crew members of the ship. This was one of the last of the old cargo ships, soon to be replaced by “container ships”. A few of the new container ships have rooms for twelve to twenty-four passengers…costing today more than the regular flights by planes around the world.

Instead of following in the footsteps of the Florida retiree, Lee Wachtstetter, I would not want to live on a ship because it means isolating myself from all my friends on planet earth, and meeting people on board the ocean liner, who come and go in your life, with no lasting friendships…I choose China, land of my ancestors. More than anything else, China provides me the reason for returning, a conviction that there are still students who will benefit from my mentorship and friendship as they continue their college education, especially those who want to develop their English proficiency to study abroad, and those who seek better job opportunities, working for international or multi-national companies in China. My work in China is incomplete and I must return to finish it. I feel like a modern missionary sent by the Almighty to work in modern China.

Now as a tourist, I am not flying to China looking for a job or investment in Shanghai, or Shenzhen or Hainan Island. My roots are in China. Flying to China is like going home for me. Having spent seven years in China means I have traveled almost the same routes each year for seven summers between Xiamen, China and Seattle, USA, usually in time for the first semester of school in the fall. During my seven years in China, I had “exposed” a few students to different cultures by taking them to the Philippines, Vietnam, and some parts of China, other than listening to my tales of

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discovery of my travels.

The travel time between China and USA (between Gaoqi International Airport, Xiamen, and SeaTac International Airport, Seattle) is somewhere between ten to fourteen hours. Before Xiamen Airlines started its direct flight from Xiamen to Seattle some time in 2016, there was no direct flight from Xiamen to Seattle. That meant I was required to wait, from Xiamen, in the international airport in Beijing or Taipei or Tokyo or Seoul, for a few hours, for the connecting flight to USA. If the layover time is longer, the airline would provide a hotel accommodation for the night. That happened a few times in Beijing. This is China.


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