12th, November, 2010. LuYuen came back for a visit today; she has been living in Beijing with her boy friend teaching in an English school. When I first met her she had just had some very bad luck with a string of destructive relationships and was very vulnerable but now she is a new woman. Confident and happy.
She is back to be a brides maid in a friend’s wedding “I thought that 5 days back in Xin zhuo would be enough to see everyone but I have found I am so busy running around” She said amazed as we all sat in the only coffee shop in town, sipping bitter expensive red tea in a comfy green booth looking our onto the busy main road. She told us about how one of her relatives works as a professor in a university in the capital of Tai Yuan, how it’s the time to enroll new students and all the teachers and officials have to be locked in a room for the day so that none of them can be bribed and corrupted by rich parents to get their children into uni. It baffled me that this effort was in place. It was clearly a token effort by the government. The fact that bribes and corruption could have taken place anytime before was irrelevant.
“My relative was told by his boss to enroll a rich boy, He was so sad that he had to do it, the boy was stupid and lazy and didn’t deserve to go to the university. There were much more diligent applicants who deserved it more” LuYuen told us. We talked about the importance of having good relationships or as you say in mandarin (guan xi) “when I was in the UK I thought that people can do anything they want if they just try their very best, but when I came back to China I realized that I was wrong, you need good relationships, if you don’t you have nothing and your life will be so hard”.
What she said interested me a lot. I drank a small bottle of honey and mango juice imported from Korea. It was sweet and treacle. In the evening we went to a beef hot pot restaurant. Only ordering one plate of beef and a plate of raw cold beef, everything else was vegetables, mushrooms, glass noodles, lettuce, potatoes and carrots. It was refreshing to go to a hot pot restaurant and not feel stodgy and heavy after stuffing plate a pone plate of meat. The meal was light and the meat was just enough. Sarah and LuYuen where well engaged in conversation and I sat back content to watch the restaurant moving and sipping on a beer.
As we left we went up to the front desk to get our free gift from our receipt, all the staff where eating and even when Sarah asked someone to come they didn’t, A grubby looking waiter sidled past giving me a evil eye like he owned the place. I became a little incensed and reached over the empty counter and grabbed ever gift that was there, they where all fridge magnet white boards. I handed LuYuen and Sarah a few and we stormed out me returning the evil eye to the waiter who was now looking worried and questioningly at our over gifted hands. “Serves them right for ignoring us doesn’t it” I said to the others and we laughed our way out the turning doors.
We walked LuYuen home and after another long chat in the freezing courtyard outside her house we said goodbye. Sarah was sad “I don’t know when we will see her again, maybe in a few years, it’s so sad all our friends are all over the world”. I agreed adding that it was one of the down sides of traveling a lot. “ Truman’s Mum heard that we were traveling a lot and she was so shocked she said how sad their lives must be to have to travel around so much, then Truman replied, it’s their choice, so many people dream of this life style”. We stopped to buy some oranges and a pommelo as we walked back home.