CHINA JOURNAL—Sunday, May 26th, 2002

            I just realized that I put the 26th on the last journal, but here is where it really belongs. At about 10:30 this morning, Zhang Jie and I started out by taxi to Sun Zhi Hong's house. We were invited for lunch. This was the first time I had met his wife and daughter, who is Zhang Jie's age. They just moved into a brand new apartment building about three weeks ago.

The street right outside is completely torn up to be reinstalled. The men were out working today. We had to walk a block through all the dust and rubble to get to the apartment building. As is typical, the workers are apparently ``from the country'' so they set up their own housekeeping at the site. This time a wire had been strung between two telephone poles and a big stretch of that red-white-and-blue string reinforced plastic had been hung over it. The sides had been pulled out to form a big, long A-frame shelter with open ends. Each man had his sleeping comforter inside. That is their version of a sleeping bag.

The new apartment is on the third floor so we walked up concrete steps. (Here at Zhangs we have the ``marble'' steps.) They don't have furniture in the living room yet so it is a big tile floor room currently holding a piano, two TVs, a large fish tank (sans fish), and one of the gorgeous tall Chinese floor vases. I guess they junked all their old furniture except for the bedroom sets. Sun Zhi Hong's daughter is a dear. Her name is Sun Man. If you look at that in English, Sun Man is a rather fun name. It is really pronounced like ``Soon Mon''. She works as a CPA in Omron, a Japanese company. Much to my surprise, the manager, who is the only Japanese person employed there, permits no smoking in their office. The Japanese are as heavy smokers as the Chinese.

Sun Man and I had a great time visiting and going over some English lessons with her.

            About a half hour later, Mrs. Sun Zhi Hong came in with three friends, a husband and wife and another man who apparently is fairly new to Tianjin. Mrs. Sun is originally from Shanghai. She and Sun Zhi Hong met when they were among the young adults sent to the communes to work in northern China during the Cultural Revolution. She came in dressed so nicely that I felt slightly underdressed in my comfortable cotton dress. I needn't have. She disappeared into the bedroom and came out wearing what looked like a short, sleeveless cotton nightgown but it had a pocket. That was it. They had the usual spread of foods on the table. One new addition was what I call the Japanese (long) eggplant cooked whole until they just fall apart. Very good. Since we had talked about wanting to learn how to cook some Chinese dishes, Sun Zhi Hong called me in to watch and try the process of making the cong you bing, which are what I describe as an onion pizza. Like so many of the dishes, it is delicious (because it is oily and fried), but I know I would never make it at home (because it is oily and fried). But I do enjoy learning how.

The fresh lichees are in season now and so refreshing. It is the shape of the canned lichee with a very thin hard paper-like shell that you peel off. Sun Zhi Hong took some of those that had been peeled╔a time consuming process╔ rolled them in flour and boiled them in oil. Then he made the candied coating like Zhang Ji Sheng makes for sweet potatoes and cooked the lichees. The fruit is a little too wet, even with the flour coating, to work as well as the sweet potatoes, but it was good. When we first arrived, Sun Man asked if I would like some lemonade. She came back out with Chinese style lemonade╔a slice of lemon is placed in the paper cup and the ever-present hot water was poured over it. That was it. No sugar and not very strong lemon.

Before we left, they gave me a padded box that had a set of chopsticks in it╔white, with blue painted enamel. They also played some nice Chinese music with two different styles of Chinese female singing. One of the singers who is quite well known and has a deep rich voice is an honorary headmaster of Bohan School. She was a classmate of Sun Zhi Hong's. Since I was new to almost everyone we spent about half an hour at one stretch and various other stretches too discussing how healthy I looked, how young I looked, how active I am compared to Chinese women my age, etc. Sun Man translated enough that it kept me up to date. It has been awhile since I've been in that situation with new people. I just smile and nod my head and wait for someone to come over and pinch my flesh and check my teeth.

My talk is just about ready for this Wednesday. I think I will attach the outline I made for the part about my impressions of China. The story I will tell about religious freedom is not being able to take Zhang Jie and Cui Hua into the International Church for the Easter service. The one I will tell to illustrate the freedom of the press is how the delightfully funny political cartoons lambasting various U.S. policies could just as easily have appeared in a paper in the United States, but that I never saw a cartoon poking fun or criticizing a Chinese policy, which would be the parallel situation here in China. Before I came I sent over a large group of a large variety of magazines, deliberately including ones like The Nation. I plan to take the whole pile on Wednesday to give away to anyone interested in reading a magazine in English.

IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA

Wonderful people╔friendly, curious, happy, strong, sturdy, hardworking, practical, content survivors

Beautiful country╔amazing variety and a rich cultural heritage

DIFFERENCES (the short answer):

TRAFFIC & TOILETS


TWO BIGGEST BASIC DIFFERENCES

(seen in my experience)

1.              Philosophy of Education

Leading out vs Pouring in

2.              The Place of the Government

CHINA: Li Ping, top legislatorĐ``---parliaments are an important part of a country's political system and a bridge between people and the government.''

U.S.A.: Congress (parliament) IS the government, not a bridge to it.

Freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, Amendment # 1:

      Freedom of religion

Freedom of the press

GOOD INNOVATIONS:

Traffic light timers that count down the time left

Lighted top railing on cloverleafs

Sink drains that swivel

Sunporch drying racks

Doublesided chain guard on bikes

CULTURALLY DIFFERENT HABITS

Two that disturb a Westerner:

spitting and angry voice tone

More apartments
Little handicapped access

                        Exercise anywhere anytime

                        Smoking

                        Eating style:

Plastic table covers

                                    Napkins

Small personal dish

Reaching into serving dishes

Putting head down to plate

Lifting bowl to mouth & shoveling

Slurping

Sweet first and soup last

Menu of many dishes