The East is Red

The east is red, the sun rises.

China has produced Mao Zedong.

He is the people’s happiness,

Hurrah, He is the people’s great savior!
(Repeat last two lines)

Chairman Mao loves the people.

He is our guide

to building a new China

Hu’er Haiyo, lead us forward!
(Repeat last two lines)

The Communist Party is like the sun,

Wherever it goes, it is bright.

There is the Communist Party,

Hu’er Haiyo, there the people are liberated!
(Repeat last two lines)

The above is the song that all Chinese schoolchildren sang every morning in school.  While the rest of us were singing “O Canada” or “The Star Spangled Banner”, here in China they sang about the important things.  Everyone loved Chairman Mao as you can see from the picture below.

We went to Shanghai from Thursday until Monday afternoon.  The main purpose was to buy gifts.  Ha Ha!  I hate buying gifts because I never know what to get and chances are it will be re-gifted.  Books are good but I don’t think I can bring books back from China.  I can spend a lot of money on things no one wants, or I can spend a little money on things no one wants.  Guess what I chose.  We haven’t got everyone something yet.

The first place we went after checking in at our $38 a night hotel (it was clean and well-located) was the Chinese Propaganda Museum.  They have a collection of old posters and I love old posters.  This is so different from what we Western people know.  Posters were used to inspire the people and show them the right way of thinking.  It was quite a good collection and pictures were not allowed.  Naturally I ignored that since I don’t use a flash.

First off we have the good buddies, Mao and Stalin just standing there looking like great men.  Maybe they are discussing ways of killing off millions of more people.  Great men do things like that.

Now we can see that having your copy of Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book” will show you the way to do everything and how to think.  It’s very similar to the Shulchan Aruch which is the Jewish set of laws that should be followed.  Literally translated, Shulchan Aruch means “set table”, so you know where everything goes and what to do.  I think maybe old Mao got his idea for his “red book” from the Shulchan Aruch.

Now we have a poster of the lovely Jiang Qing (also known as Mrs. Mao) showing that she uses the Red Book too and follows the leadership of Mao.  There is an old saying in China, and China is full of old sayings, that if you marry a chicken then you follow the chicken.  If you marry a dog, you follow the dog.  And if you marry a madman, you follow the madman until he dies and then you try to take over the government and are caught and thrown in jail and then executed.  Good for the lovely Jiang Qing.

The last picture is of something that was commonly seen plastered to walls during the Cultural Revolution.  It would begin with a slogan of the Chairman’s followed by a denunciation of some evil person in your neighborhood.  It was the great project of the mid to late 60’s to root out these evil-doers such as teachers or those that might have a little more to eat than you or in fact, anyone you wanted to denounce.  All you needed was paper, a brush, and some paint and you were a revolutionary cleaning up China during this wonderful revolution, which destroyed many people and many families.

This is one weird place now.  It’s almost impossible to imagine it in the bad old days.  And what is the saddest thing of all (to me), is that a lot of this is the fault of the Americans.  By supporting Chiang Kai-Shek (a total moron), only because he was not a Communist they backed the wrong team.  The Communists had to win in China since they had the hearts and the minds of the people and the people hated the Nationalists (as they should).  If the Americans weren’t so Communist-phobic, they could have worked with China (who needed a friend) and had some influence.  Instead for influence they got Stalin and a crazier Mao.

We went on a 5-hour tour that tells the story of Jewish Shanghai.  Shanghai had 3 waves of Jewish immigration in a 100 year period from around 1840 to 1940.  The first group were the Baghdadi Jews (from Iraq) who came and made some big bucks here as it was a good place to come and try and build a fortune.  The 2nd wave was at the start of the 20th century when the Russian Jews came to escape the Pogroms and the conscription into the army.  The 3rd and final immigration was in the mid-30’s until 1941.  Shanghai was the ONLY place in the world that accepted the Jews from Germany and Europe.  While “civilized” countries like the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia (to name a few) were condemning a people to their death, Shanghai accepted over 20,000 refugees.  Shanghai was an “open” city so no passport was needed to enter.  You only had to get out of your country, which was not so easy.  There was a Chinese diplomat named Ho Feng-Shan in Austria who gave out thousands of visa’s thereby saving many lives.  There was a Japanese diplomat named Chiune Sugihara in Lithuania who gave out more than 6,000 visas against his government’s wishes.  What makes some men do the right thing?  Why should they be “super-heros” while the rest of the world sits around and does nothing?

After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese ended immigration to Shanghai (as it was now under their total control) and forced the Jews to stay in a certain area of the city.  However, they weren’t Nazis so there were no murders.  It wasn’t a picnic but it was better than being in Europe.  Here is an area in the ghetto as it is today.

Here is some grillwork someone did on their door.  You can see it’s a Star of David.

There are really no Jews here anymore.  The Jews who were in the Ghetto back then have come back for a reunion.  We had 2 people on the tour (brother and sister) whose parents met in the Ghetto during WWII.  There is a museum in an old synagogue which I went to in 2004 and has undergone a massive renovation since then.  However, with the renovation they got rid of their best artifact.  There was a man there named Mr. Wang (who was in his 80’s) who had worked with the Jews during those days.  He was a walking history book.  I spent an hour or two with him just listening to him talk of those times.  He was a very gracious and warm man who spoke perfect English.  During the renovation the new “keepers” of the museum decided they didn’t want a 90-year old man working there.  That killed him.  It was his life and it kept him young.  He enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and sharing his stories.  I was very saddened to learn of this because it’s not often in our lifetimes that we meet a man for an hour or two and the memory of him sticks with us.  During the “tour” we went to his house to hear a little about him.

It’s a crazy world.  Jews are murdered in Europe by the millions.  Chinese give the Jews a safe place to live.  A Japanese man helps the Jews (and the Japanese were not nice people).  A living relic of those days is put out to pasture when he had so much to share with people.  It’s a crazy place.  Not just China but the whole damn world.

We spent time with Shujie’s brother and his family (dinner twice).  They are wonderful people.  Shujie’s nephew will be in grade 12 next year and will be applying to Canadian universities.  He plans on spending his summer studying IELTS which is the big exam for English you must take to get into a Western University.  He’s a good kid.  Really.  It’s always nice to see them.

On our last day in Shanghai we went to the famous Nanjing street.  Nanjing street is the most famous commercial street in China.  Parts of it are closed to cars so the shoppers can walk up and down.  Some stores were so crowded you would think they were giving stuff away.  Here is a picture of the street.

Because this place is insane (China), we were told that the holiday would be Sunday to Tuesday and back to school on Wednesday.  The holiday itself is on Tuesday (Labour Day), and the Monday classes were to be made up last Saturday (I have no Monday classes).  Then on the bus on Thursday we learn that there is no school on Wednesday or Thursday and those classes will be made up next weekend.  What a place.  If we knew that, we probably would have gone to Baoding to visit Shujie’s mother and son.  How could they not know until then?  I can’t figure things out and I don’t even try anymore.  They are all crazy here.

I got to do a lot of my Gordie Howe impersonation in Shanghai.  Because the Chinese are lacking in manners and courtesy there is a lot of pushing.  I don’t like to be touched so I am giving out elbows left and right.  I don’t care about the sex or the age of my victim since they started it.  I will elbow little kids and old ladies.  I love when they look surprised that someone who they have pushed, pushes them back.  It’s as close to being Gordie Howe as I’ll ever get.

I had no classes except to give out the assignment to write a play similar to Romeo and Juliet and be as creative as possible.  Some of the entries stink.  One entry was quite entertaining.  At the top of the script the group leader wrote, “because I have David”.  We all know Chinese are skinny.  David is fat.  It’s unusual so they used that in their play.

In their version Julia comes up to Romeo to talk.  She tells Romeo that she loves him. Julia here is being played by David.  Romeo’s friends are commenting.  Here is this part:

(Romeo and Julia stop action)
F1:           Oh! My goodness! Do you hear what she said?

F2:           Yeah! To my surprise.

F1:           Look at her! So fat, so black, and…

F2:           And so flat(平). (point at Julia’s breast(胸))

F3:           Yeah….you can say that again.

Romeo:            (surprised) But I want a thin girl.

Julia:              Okay! Give me some time. And I’ll show you.

I was in stiches reading this.  Some of them can be creative.  Having the only fat boy in the school (really) in their group and using that to their advantage was brilliant.  But you’re wondering, “so fat, so black”, so I’ll tell you.  Last weeks movie was “Precious”.  So they used that.  The story is about how Julia goes to different weight loss clinics to lose weight and has implants to grow her breasts.  Chinese kids?  Never!  But they wrote it.  Then Julia is now played by a girl who presents herself to Romeo.  Romeo proclaims that he can’t love her.  At that moment Romeo’s lover strolls by, and it’s a boy.  Romeo is gay.  They are not all bozo’s.

This is what I was hoping for.  Unfortunately I only got one of high quality, a few “eh’s”, and some “yuck”.  You can’t win them all.

So now I have a few days to kill before classes start up again.  Wang Jin took Shujie, Eleanor (the upstairs English teacher) and me for dinner last week.  Since I was in the group we had barbeque.  It was very thoughtful of her.  Wang Jin (I used to say Wang Jing until I really learned her name) and Shujie have become good friends.  Wang Jin can vent to Shujie since Shujie doesn’t work her, but has an understanding of the place and knows most of the players in the Wang Jin stories.

Wang Jin’s boss whose name is Christy does not appear to be a nice woman.  I never really liked her.  It’s just a feeling.  Shujie doesn’t like her and Eleanor doesn’t like her.  It’s strange that all 3 of us feel the same without discussing it.  I guess where there is smoke, there’s fire.

Some teachers are going to Canada in the summer for a course.  Christy told Wang Jin she couldn’t go because she took students (as a tour guide) to the U.S. last year.  However, being in a course and being a tour guide are two different things.  Christy is head of the Foreign Affairs Department which Wang Jin works for.  Wang Jin also teaches English for 6 teaching hours a week (which is nothing).  Christy also teaches English (4 teaching hours a week).  To make it “fair”, Christy decided that all who wanted to go had to take a test to see if they qualify.  Several English teachers took the test but Wang Jin couldn’t.  Christy took it too.

It was decided that one person from the English department could go.  Guess who?  It was Christy.  What a joke.  The fix was obviously in.  There is corruption everywhere you turn and you can bet Christy’s boss had his wheels greased (or something like that but that is not a mental picture I want in my head).  The person who has the most classes and will get the most for going away on a course should go.  This isn’t a holiday.  But it is China and the higher up you are, the more corrupt you can be.  Sometimes this place makes me sick.  Other times I see such wonderful things.  China is an oxymoron.

So that’s it for now.  It will be a quiet week and the time gets closer before we depart.  We have to find someone to move some of our stuff to Baotou for the new school year.  Shujie is going to visit Baoding one more time before we go.  I will attempt to survive the rest of the year.  I’m running out of ideas.

By the way, here’s a picture of Shujie in the world famous Peace Hotel.

Until we meet again, remember, none of this would have been possible without the leadership of the Great Helmsman himself, the mass murderer Mao Zedong.

(I wonder why WordPress and Blogger is forbidden in China).


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