Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Back in the U.S.S.A. (You don't know how lucky you are, boy.)

Hey friends. I apologize yet again for the lack of updates to the blog. From about mid-December until now, things have been pretty wild.

I returned to America on Monday. After an over 40 hour journey including a cancelled plane ticket and lost luggage, I feel a bit like Oddysseus to be overdramatic. As much as I miss China already, I'm so excited to see every one of you again.

So because there was no time to write in the past two months, I have a collection of belated stories I hope to add here in the next couple weeks.

In case I do not return to China next semester, I will probably continue using this site as a person blog, but may be updated less frequently (depending on the level of interest). I'll also be opening comments up (for security reasons, I could not allow this before.)

I'm looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Friday, January 05, 2007


As long as we’re on the subject of outrages, I saw another violation of human decency today. I was walking behind the park today, when I passed a beautiful pond. The pond was large, and had beautiful lilies growing on it. In the distance above the pond was an amazing view of the mountains.

I then heard a splash right next to me. As I looked up, I saw a group of workers redoing the roof of a building that sat right next to the pond. They were ripping the old shingles off of the roof, but instead of throwing them into a dumpster, or even the ground to be picked up later, they were launching them into the pond! I had to do a double take. Surely, this was just one of them trying to be funny and just threw one shingle into the pond. But then there was another splash, and then another. Every last shingle of this roof, (and it was a big roof), was being thrown into the beautiful pond.

This outright disrespect for the environment, or even beauty in general nonetheless, made me furious. I wanted to run over there and yell at them to stop. However, when I pictured in my mind what it would look like for a crazy 老外 (foreigner) to yell at them in horribly broken Chinese to stop, I decided that it wouldn’t do any good. Even if a local person yelled at them, they wouldn’t stop, so I would just be making a fool out of myself.

I talked to Geoff later, and he agreed. “Can’t somebody do something?” I said. Geoff replied that first of all, no one cares, so nobody wants to do anything. He said even if they mayor were walking by, he’d probably say “It’s not my problem.” Even if the mayor did care, there’s are no laws against it.

“Can’t they fine them?”

“They’re poor farmers, they don’t have any money!”

“Can’t they make them clean it up?”

“They can…but no one cares. Listen: I care, you care. But we don’t matter here. The only thing the government cares about is money. If this isn’t hurting their wallet, they don’t care.”

“But if this place is dirty enough, no one will want to come! Then they’ll have no money!”

Geoff then turned and looked at me with a look that kind of summarized what we’ve been talking about for the past four months. If I could put this look into words it might say:

“Listen brother, I know just as well as you do what has been happening to my beautiful hometown these past ten years. They’re polluting the air, the streets, and the water. They’re building hotels in the middle of the rice fields and mountains. They’re digging into the mountains to steal rocks to build these hotels. They've brought in sleazy brothels to suit the rich, touring businessmen and foreigners that come through here. They’re taking the farmers’ land and paying them next to nothing so they can develop on it. I know and I care, but you just have to realize that we’re helpless here. This isn't America. You can't change it.”

I understood.


For those of you who may not know, I will be returning to America in about two weeks. I'll fly into Detroit on the 22nd.

See you then.

$8 Divorce. Sign here, initial here.

A couple years ago, I ran into my old friend PJ on MySpace. For those of you who remember this friend, it truly was a great reunion. One thing I noticed as interesting was his name on MySpace. It read, "99 Dollar Divorce", and was also the name of his new music project. When I wrote him back, I asked him about this peculiar name.

"Please, PJ, tell me this is just a cynically clever band name you came up with and not an actual advertisement you saw or heard."

He wrote back, "As much as I'd love to tell you it was something I dreamed up, every morning when I lived in Chicago, I passed a huge billboard advertising this deal."

Naturally, this made me pretty sad as I wondered about the state of America.

It's been a little while since my outrage has reached the same point, but today it surely has. My Mandarin teacher (Geoff) and I were riding our bikes in the countryside this afternoon when he told me, "Do you remember that friend I introduced you to last month? He's getting a divorce this week. Did you know that divorce in (this city) only costs 65 kuai?"

"Sixty-Five Kuai!", I screamed. I absolutely could not believe it. (For those of you not familiar with the current value of Chinese money, divorce costs $8 USD in the city I live in in China.)

I had told Geoff before about the $99 divorce signs PJ had saw in Chicago. "Eight US dollars is certainly less than ninety-nine." He said through a laugh. "Although I am still thoroughly outraged," I said, "My concern wasn't about the price of the divorce in Chicago, but the luring manner and disrespect for the sanctity of marriage that the advertisement showed."

"I know", he said as we rode on and shook our heads in disbelief of the situations in both of our countries.