Guest post by my mama. Featuring: police handlers, Attractive Sheep, Hello Kitty, primal screams. This is the final Mom Email from China; my mother & stepfather will be back in the Wild West sometime next week, where antics and adventures of a different sort are sure to ensue.
Shenyang is a small city that you never heard of- about the size of Los Angeles- about sixty miles north of North Korea. We spent the weekend there for Jim’s last police training, and except for the cigarette smoke, it was fun. There is a smaller version of the Forbidden City that is in more pristine shape, and a good museum. The police are always very considerate hosts, and I was “handled” by a young policewoman named Miss Ho who toured me around to see things and shop.
I asked to go to look at some handmade folk art or some crafts, and she said, “I know just what you want!” Then she took me to a mall where you could pay to paint a plaster copy of Disney characters or Attractive Sheep, the big cartoon character in China. Oh well, anyway, it’s a nice city.
Each night there was a banquet, as always, and one night they took us to a North Korean restaurant- the food was good, with dancing girls to entertain. The Boss Dancing Girl came into the room and said grudgingly, (in Chinese) “Well most Americans are really bad people, especially the soldiers, but you guys seem to be okay.” After the dances, they served a dish of cold noodles, and some stewed dog. Jim ate this but I could not. Also I felt guilty that we had all the food for the whole PRK on our table.
Our hotel was a beautiful old one on a main square with a famous statue of Mao. We were on the third floor facing him, right at his eye level, and it looked like he was waving hello as he peeked into our room. Lots of people were gathered in this square all the time, doing tai chi, or dancing or roller-skating. Some people had the semi-interesting Chinese habit of standing outside at dawn and doing a primal scream. Since Shenyang is about halfway to Vladivistok, it is about 600 miles east of Beijing in the single time zone of China, that means dawn is somewhere around 4 a.m. right now, and I was bored of the screaming after the first day.
At the end of the training the police gave Jim a complimentary police badge. It is brass and weighs two pounds; it’s at least eight inches across. They put it into a Hello Kitty! bag to present it to him.
After the training we went to the end of the Great Wall where it goes into the ocean, and to the first fort, all of which has been restored a lot, but it is still very pretty and interesting. Then we took a train to the resort where all the leaders of China like to go for vacations, called Bei Da He- on the ocean. Our friend Kaho brought spirit lanterns, little hot air Chinese lanterns that we set off on the beach after dark, and watched them fly up over the water.
We stayed at a hotel that is owned by the Department of Building Oversight. It was actually called a “sanatarium”, not a hotel, and it was staffed by a group of bewildered, fluttery girls who never seemed to know quite what to do about anything. We were the only people in it, possibly because none of the plumbing worked. It seemed as if this was run-of- the- mill - Leslie went down to tell them that her floor was flooded, and the girls came and looked at it and then went away.This is the best way to do oversight. She had to go back twice and complain before they switched her room, but the same thing happened in everyone’s room- water just poured out all over the floor during each use of the faucets. But the beach was lovely, and the air was fresh, so it all seemed good. We got back last night, and are in Beijing for the last week before the movers come.