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Barry from Australia is a questioning soul who looks at social issues from an alternative point of view and instead of asking, “Why?”, he asks “Why not?” He’s convinced that many of his previous incarnations were spent in China. He feels drawn to the people there; attracted by their rich culture and way of life. If given one wish from God, he’d reply, “I want everyone on Earth to be the same colour, speak the same language, and treat each other as they themselves would like to be treated.”
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My China Trip - Day 22, Part 5 我的中国之行-第22天,第5部分    

By Barry Pittman
3874 Views | 20 Comments | 1/18/2015 1:35:51 PM

On this slow moving day, Tina and I were taking a walk around various areas of Shawan, her home town. Soon we ended up at some sort of historical site, the birthplace and long term residence of Guo Moruo.  He was an acclaimed Chinese author, poet and historian, being born in 1892 and passing away in 1978. 



The fact that this gentleman was both born and resided  in Shawan as far as I later learnt, was about the only real claim to fame that this small town possessed.  In every other aspect, this was an ordinary place filled with ordinary people going about their ordinary lives.



As Tina and I walked back home along the Shawan River (which I later learnt was actually called the Dadu River), we passed a sign stuck on a pole that appeared out of the ordinary.



“What does that say?” I queried.  Tina then looked at it carefully for a short time, reading everything on it.



“Oh, it concerns a missing lady.  It seems maybe she has either fallen or more likely jumped off the bridge here.  Her family are very worried and have posted this sign in case anyone finds anything.”



“You mean, sees her body?”



“Yes” Tina mumured.



A copy of this sign is attached to the bottom of this article for any readers fluent in Chinese to view.  This story did move me.  I felt sorry not so much for the missing lady, who was presumably now tragically deceased, but for her family who as I later learnt, had pasted multiple copies of the notice right down the river in an anguished attempt to if nothing else, find her remains.  This at least would give some type of limited closure to those who were quite obviously grieving.



It’s an undeniable fact of life that when someone dies, they’re now at peace.   It’s the close friends and family who then have to suffer, sometimes for many years or even a lifetime.  The life of the lost soul is indelibly impregnated into the memory of the living, even if only subliminally or subconsciously.



What would have caused this lady to jump from the bridge is a matter of sad conjecture.  My younger brother had committed suicide some years ago, so I felt closer and empathized more fully with this situation than most realized.



There was so much to be thankful for around us.  Yet for a sad minority who felt somehow drawn to take their own life, sometimes life itself became unbearable.  Many must reason that were they to pass away, so much eternal peace and freedom from pain, stress or mental illness would finally and thankfully result. This China trip had helped me to more fully realise than ever before, how fortunate I was.  It wasn’t just an online dating experience or connection to a beautiful Chinese lady, but something much more than this.  Eye opening occurrences were happening around me. I wouldn’t be the same person returning to Australia as the character that had left there a month earlier.



I was continually surprised that most everywhere I travelled, I saw souls less well off than me in a material sense, yet who nevertheless appeared quite happy.  Time after time, day after day. This in turn helped me to focus on my own life, where for many years I’d been on the eat-sleep-work treadmill.  Growing richer in a material sense yet arguably poorer in a moral one.  The more things I possessed, the more I seemingly wanted.  Too much being barely enough.  Way too much being not quite enough, in some sort of wretched, endless cycle. Yet the happiness attained was hollow and superficial, I instinctively sensed this.



One cannot travel in China without continually reflecting on moral issues such as these.  Only the most thick skinned or insensitive soul could fail to be at times mightily touched by what he or she saw in certain sectors of the country.  Western greed and selfishness was proving to be a continuing theme in my long series of blog articles.   I sometimes felt like grabbing every Westerner out there who felt a little hard done by in life and show him around some of the heart breaking sights I’d seen here, until he saw what REAL suffering or genuine penury entailed.



What particularly shook me was the sight of some of the poor souls here, begging on the streets with no legs and arms.  People who were not only blind, but who actually appeared to have no eyes at all, I presumed because they couldn’t afford glass ones.   People who as babies were quite deliberately and cruelly maimed by their parents, in order to maximize future potential begging income for them.



Reflecting upon such outrageous and heinous crimes reflexively took me back to Marlon Brando’s role in that outstanding film, “Apocalypse Now”, where all he could say were the famed words,



“the horror…..   the horror….”



I’ve said this before but I feel compelled to say it again.  The message is too important to ignore.  Many selfish Westerners rather than bleating about how they need a bigger widescreen TV, a later model car, or an apartment closer to the city, should throw their hands in the air and thank whatever God or whatever life force they believe in, for being born where they were.  As opposed to being forced to eke out a meagre living in the slums of Calcutta, the dark alleys of Bangladesh or in some of the poorer regions of Asia and yes, this includes some sections of China.



Take Tina, for example.  She’d been born in a farmhouse in a rural district, with her father acting as midwife.  This was common enough practice back in those days that were in reality, not so very long ago as Tina was now only 45.



Tina recounted to me that at that time, her father was stony broke, receiving a pittance as a teacher in a local school.  Her mother had a total of four daughters yet whilst they were all still young, she had to live apart from them for five years, working in another town as a servant in order to supplement the family income.  I didn’t say five months here – but five years.  Can you imagine how lonely and despairing the family unit must’ve been through this dark period?  What enormous psychological problems the infant children were at risk of developing?



Tina recounted that during her childhood, sometimes the kids had nothing but rice alone to eat. Meat in particular was for special occasions, a wonderful treat indeed.  She said she used to have wonderful dreams about eating meat.  During one of these exhilarating experiences, her younger sister one day inadvertently woke her up.



“Why did you wake me up?” Tina had cried out.  “I was eating MEAT!”



To be continued - Day 22, Part 6



在这个闲散的日子里,蒂娜和我在她的家乡沙湾走了许多地方。

不久我们来到一处历史古迹,郭沫若的出生地和长期居住地。他是一位著名的中国作家,诗人和史学家,出生于1892年,并于1978年逝世。据我后来所了解的事实,正是因为它是这位先生的出生地和居住地,才使沙湾真正声名鹊起。在所有其他方面,这里住的都是普通人,过着普通的生活。

蒂娜和我沿沙湾河(我后来才知道其实是称为大渡河)走回家,我们经过一块插在杆子上显得与众不同的牌子。

“这说什么来着?”我询问道。蒂娜然后仔细读了很短的时间,了解到信息。

“哦,有关一个失踪女士。貌似掉到河里,或者更可能是从桥这里跳下去的。她的家人非常担心并张贴了这个牌子,万一有人发现任何线索好联系。”

“你的意思是,比如她的尸体?”

“是的”蒂娜咕哝道。

这块牌子的复印件附在本文的底部,以便会流利中文的读者查看。这个故事确实让我感动。我感到抱歉,倒不是为这位失踪至今大概已经亡故的女士,而是据我后来了解,她的家人沿着河岸张贴了很多复印件,悲痛的希冀着倘若没有别的消息,能发现她的遗体。这至少能为痛切悲痛的心带来某种有限的解脱吧。

关于生命的一个不可否认的事实是,人一死就平静了,受苦的是亲密的朋友和家人,有的许多年,有的甚至一辈子。已故的人对生者有种潜意识或下意识地不可磨灭的印迹。

有关这位女士跳河自尽的原因的猜想令人叹惋。我的弟弟若干年前也自尽了,所以对这种状况我比你能意识到的有更切身的体会和无比同情。

我们身边有许多事情值得感恩。然而,对不幸的少数人而言,有时生活本身在某种程度上变得不堪忍受乃至被迫结束生命。许多人一定想着要是死了,所有的痛苦、压力或精神疾病有幸终于有个了断,以获得永久的安宁和自由。此次中国之行比以往任何时候让我更充分地认识到,我是多么幸运啊。这不仅仅是网上约会的经验或与美丽的中国女士相爱,远不止于此。我不断亲历让人大开眼界的事。我已经不再是一个月前离开澳洲的那个我了。

我不断惊讶地发现旅行中我所到之处的大多数,我看到物质上比我不太富裕的人,仍然显得相当快乐。一次又一次,一天又一天。这反过来又帮助我专注于自己的生活,多年来我一直就像个吃-睡-工作的跑步机。物质上富裕而精神上可以说是相当贫穷。我拥有的越多,想要的更多。太多又似不够。太多相当于太匮乏,处于无休止的恶性循环中。然而,获得的快乐是空洞的,肤浅的,我本能地感觉到这一点。

游走于中国你无法不断地这样反思道德问题。目睹中国某些领域,只有最厚的脸皮或迟钝的人才不会不受强烈触动。西方的贪婪和自私是我的长篇系列博客文章的一个持续的主题。我有时好想把每一个认为自己的生活有点痛苦的西方人都揪来,让他们四处看看我在这里亲眼所见的令人心碎的景象,让他们明白真正的痛苦或真正的赤贫的含义。

特别震撼我的是一些可怜的沿街乞讨的乞丐,没有腿和手臂。有的不只是瞎的,实际上是没有眼睛,我推测是因为他们负担不起玻璃的。有的婴儿被父母刻意的残酷弄残,为了将来能最大限度乞讨潜在的收入。



对这种粗暴的滔天罪行的思索,反射性的把我带回马龙•白兰度主演的著名电影“现代启示录”,他所能说的著名的话,

“恐怖......恐怖......”

我以前已经说过,但我觉得有必要再说一遍,因为这太重要了,不容忽视。许多自私的西方人抱怨说要个更大的宽屏电视,一辆最新型号的轿车,或一处靠近城市的公寓,他们应该双手向天感谢上帝或生活教会他们相信,让他们出生在自己的国度,而不是在别处被迫勉强维持微薄的生活,如加尔各答的贫民窟,孟加拉国的黑暗小巷或亚洲某些更贫困地区,是的,这其中包括中国的一些区域。

拿蒂娜举例来说,她就出生在一个农村地区一户农家,她的父亲充当助产士,在那些日子这是相当普遍的做法,实际上那可不是很久远的年代,因为蒂娜现在只有45岁。

蒂娜回忆,在那个时候她的父亲身无分文,领着当地学校微薄的教师工资。她的母亲一共有四个女儿都还年轻,她离家五年作为一个仆人工作在另一个镇以贴补家用。我在这里并没有说5个月 - 是五年,你能想象一个家庭在这段黑暗时期所经历的孤独和绝望吗?处于婴儿期的孩子们在这样的成长环境中,面临巨大的心理创伤的风险有多大啊?

蒂娜讲述了她童年时,有时孩子们只能吃上白饭。只有在特殊的节日才能吃上肉,那的确是个美妙的待遇了。她说她曾做过多次吃肉的美梦。回首这些刺激神经的经历,有次她妹妹无意中把她叫醒。

“你为什么把我弄醒?”蒂娜大叫。 “我在吃肉!”

未完待续,第22天,第6部分


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Comments
(Showing 1 to 10 of 20) 1 2 More...
#2015-05-01 16:14:31 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@Barry1

"What particularly shook me was the sight of some of the poor souls here, begging on the streets with no legs and arms. People who were not only blind, but who actually appeared to have no eyes at all, I presumed because they couldn’t afford glass ones. People who as babies were quite deliberately and cruelly maimed by their parents, in order to maximize future potential begging income for them."

I am advised by numerous close Chinese friends that about 95% of the beggars seen in the streets are part of an organized "beggar mafia" in which most of the income rises to the few in control at the top. You see constant instances of women with little babies begging in the streets, and again many friends tell me that usually the children are rented to the organized beggars by real poor people; picked up in the morning and returned late in the evening.

The many beggars who lie near naked in the streets, limbless or worse, are apparently deposited where they lie in the grey of pre-dawn and collected in the silence of late darkness by their owners, people of a morality that is born of the worst slime that one can imagine.

I am strongly urged by my friends to never donate any money to the street beggars, especially the children and the maimed, because to do so is simply to encourage more of this same disgusting and inhumane activity and human slavery of the worst kind. I therefore make a point of trying to always pick up a little food and liquid refreshment and give that to the small kids and cripples, who generally always seem grateful to be given something that they could actually keep and use for themselves.

When it comes to monetary donations of any kind I only give to charitable organizations that I am satisfied are on the up and up. Like my many friends I suggest that members give careful consideration to doing the same, but I'd also be interested in hearing from our many Chinese members as to their thoughts on this.

I am please to advise Barry that your thoughts expressed in this blog very much mirror my own on all counts. Cheers, Mate.

#2015-05-02 12:14:25 by Barry1 @Barry1

@JohnAbbot

"I only give to charitable organizations that I am satisfied are on the up and up. Like my many friends I suggest that members give careful consideration to doing the same, but I'd also be interested in hearing from our many Chinese members as to their thoughts on this."

Thanks for your thoughts, John.

I've noticed by the way that Shawan where Tina lives doesn't have any beggars, nor does Mt Emei or other smaller country towns that I visited. They exist mainly in the large urban cities, including trains and subways there.

I normally give a little money to the beggars that I see but your idea of giving them a drink or something to eat instead is a sound one. The only downside is next time I'm in Shanghai, Nanjing or wherever, I'll have to load my bag up with plenty of bottles and/or biscuits or maybe chewing gum. I'm sure everyone likes chewing gum, yes? Better than chocolates as it won't rot your teeth.

Giving money is so much more convenient, but if the beggar himself doesn't receive all of it, then indeed, giving a donation of food or drink would be ultimately more kind to them.

Good advice, John. (y)

#2015-05-04 00:31:57 by xingyu66 @xingyu66

@JohnAbbot
"永远不要捐钱给路边的乞丐,特别是儿童和残废的,因为这样做就是鼓励更多的这种令人发指的不人道的行为”,我非常赞同您的观念和做法。
Joha,您知道"乞儿黑手党”所控制的那些乞儿、那些没脚没手臂的残疾人是那来的吗?这些可怜的孩子大多数是被拐卖来的,他(她)们被人为的弄残,每当看到这些人我心里就特别难过,我总是会想,他们的父母也许现在还在找他们,也许急疯了,假如这些孩子没被坏人拐走,现在也许过着很幸福的生活。我越想越难过,我曾试过想与他们交流,但是这些可怜的孩子什么也不敢说,反而避开我。
我所在的城市是个小城市,有时一段时间到处能看到这样的孩子,有时一夜之间他们全部失踪,不知道是他们的控制者转移了他们,还是当地政府派人把他们赶出了当地。真希望政府能加大力度打击拐卖儿童的犯罪行为。

#2015-05-04 16:16:00 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@Barry1 - Chewing gum won't rot your teeth? I don't chew myself, but I would have thought that most chewing gum would be deadly for teeth.

I don't so much carry stuff around as such. Generally when I see someone who I think is genuinely needy, which is usually disabled people or mothers with small children, I will grab something from the nearest street vendor or small cafe or shop. I try to make it something that is actually nutritious, like a good soup, or fruit, or some milk. But in any event the best thing I can find that is immediately handy.

@xingyu66 - I am responding based on the computer translation of your comment so forgive me if this response doesn't make sense.

I am aware of the beggar mafia being guilty of maiming many innocent children and even adults, and then forcing them to spend their lives suffering immensely. I hope that your government is tracking them down and ending their truly disgusting and heart-wrenching trade, and I hope as well that your government inflicts upon them a form of punishment that causes them to spend as many years as possible in a living hell similar to the ones their victims have suffered.

#2015-05-04 20:20:45 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@johnabbot and @xingyu66
I agree with both of you here and I must say that there are far too many of them in my city. However, I have not seen disabled beggars, only annoying ones!

As a foreigner in a 'small city' such as this (only 4 million people) we essentially stick out like the proverbial 'sore-thumb' in a sea of Chinese faces, so sometimes it pays to be 'quiet' in certain circumstances. However, I find it difficult to keep 'quiet' when these annoying people keep hassling me.

This weekend (just gone) was May-Day Holiday and the beggars were out 'in force' rattling their begging bowls as people battled to walk down the streets.
Yangzhou, like many other Chinese cities, is extremely old (celebrates its 2500 year anniversary this year) and is a destination for many holiday-makers from surrounding cities - so this last weekend was extremely busy!

Having ignored at least a dozen beggars on my way to get some lunch on Saturday, I finally found a table at one of my favourite little 'back-street cafes'
I had gone there with an American colleague - a young maths teacher from my school.
I ordered one of my favourite dishes, a noodle soup with pork called 'qing Jiao rou si mian' and just as it arrived at my table, an old lady beggar came into the café. The boss was busy serving customers and before he had chance to kick her out she was bashing my arm with her begging bowl.
I told her to 'go away' but she persisted. Her begging bowl held a few coins and a couple of 5 yuan notes
It became obvious that she wasn't going away easily as she continued to thump her plastic begging bowl on my upper left arm
Now I don't have a problem using chopsticks, but I DO have a problem when it comes to gripping food very tightly
Using all the strength in my fingers, I lifted as many wet noodles as I could and as I moved them towards my mouth I quickly changed direction and dumped the lot into her begging bowl, thus soaking the 2 x 5 yuan notes
I looked deep into her eyes with a blank expression as she finally backed away and went out of the café muttering something in local language that I couldn't understand

Round one to me!

Yesterday (Sunday) was the last day of the holiday and the town was particularly busy. I met a friend for lunch and then I decided I wanted to go to a particular supermarket (that sells imported goods)
Getting a taxi was totally out of the question so I decided to get the bus
In order to get to this supermarket I needed to walk about a kilometre to the bus stop before taking the 40-minute trip (20 mins in a taxi)

So after a pleasant shopping experience buying much of my favourite British and Australian food (no Vegemite - sorry Barry!) it was back on the bus because trying to get a taxi was just a waste of time
As I neared the traffic roundabout where I knew the bus would turn left (and I needed to turn right) I got off the bus carrying 2 rather heavy bags of shopping
One km is an easy walk, but with 2 x bags of shopping it's a real pain in the backside
There is one particular beggar in our city who has a monkey on a leash. There's nothing physically wrong with him, he's in his 50's or 60's but he uses the monkey to get money out of people
He carries his begging bowl, walks up to the unsuspecting 'punter' and instructs the monkey to jump onto your leg and hang on for dear life
No matter how hard you kick and shake your leg, you cannot shake the monkey off until his master instructs it to get down - after you have put money into the begging bowl

I have had 2 run-ins with this guy in the past and have never given him money
Now as I say, I'm a foreigner here, so I stick out like a sore thumb.
As I walked along the street in 99% humidity carrying two fairly heavy bags of shopping (mainly due to the excessive number of bottles of Australian wine), he let the monkey loose on my leg, knowing that I had no 'free hand'

He had a wry smile on his face as I told him to get the f*cking monkey off my leg. He just stood there shaking his begging bowl as I frantically tried to shake the filthy dirty monkey off my lower limb. - No chance!

I put the bag of groceries in my right hand onto the ground, put my hand in my pocket and pulled out a one yuan coin which I then dropped into his bowl
He looked at me disappointed but released the monkey and walked away.
Just then my phone rang so I stayed where I was to take the call

After a few minutes I picked up my bag and continued on my way. After a 100m or so there was a little public seating area and 'my friend' with the monkey was taking a breather with.....guess who ???? Another beggar with another monkey!

I saw them sitting together chatting (I assume about their day's takings so far)

I couldn't stop the urge after I saw 'my friend' look at me and say something to his mate with the other monkey
I didn't hear it but by the look in his eye I reckoned it was something like 'Haha, got that foreign prick at last!"

I took a deep breath, turned a sharp right and walked over to the pair of them

As they sat side by side on the wooden bench I put down my 2 bags of shopping, looked at 'my friend' deep in his eyes and told him in no uncertain terms right in front of his 'mate' that if he ever pulled a stunt like that again I would kill his f*cking monkey and he would be out of a job (new monkeys don't come cheap)

I'll be very surprised if either of them bother me again, and there's enough 'other punters' in this city for it not to make me feel worried about any repercussions

As I picked up my bags I had a strange feeling of happiness and trepidation - but what was said was said and there was no going back

As for the rest of the beggars, carry an open packet of cigarettes in your pocket and when they come knocking just drop a ciggie into their bowl

#2015-05-04 21:53:55 by Barry1 @Barry1

@xingyu66

"您知道"乞儿黑手党”所控制的那些乞儿、那些没脚没手臂的残疾人是那来的吗?这些可怜的孩子大多数是被拐卖来的,他(她)们被人为的弄残,每当看到这些人我心里就特别难过,我总是会想,他们的父母也许现在还在找他们,也许急疯了,假如这些孩子没被坏人拐走"

非常感谢你智慧的评论

我很震惊听到贩卖儿童的事件在中国有时发生。我知道狗经常被盗,当作狗肉卖给餐馆。但是偷盗贩卖孩子而获益确实可怕。

蓄意残害婴儿至残以利增大乞讨的收入也是一个令人发指和可怕的犯罪行为。如果有人如此,那么这世界上真有邪恶的魔鬼存在,这确是令人沮丧的事情。

但是,这样的暴行是不容被忽视的,希望谈论他们的暴行,引起人们的重视,可能有助于改善这些可恶的恶行。 (doh)

#2015-05-04 21:58:29 by Barry1 @Barry1

@JohnAbbot

"I would have thought that most chewing gum would be deadly for teeth."

I only ever use sugar-free gum. But maybe this isn't available in China?

But yes, I agree with your comments about buying something nutritious or tasty for the poor beggars. I'll bear this in mind for the future, thank you. They can't be simply ignored, as so many average citizens seem to do there.

#2015-05-04 23:36:55 by xingyu66 @xingyu66

@JohnAbbot,
你说的很对,那是一种令人恶心和令人痛心的贸易。我与你一样希望政府能结束乞丐黑手党的这种贸易。可是,遗憾的是政府常常是令人失望的。

#2015-05-04 23:42:32 by belle777 @belle777

Hi John,
What your friends told you about the beggar mafia are true, I have been cheated several times before, also some teenagers look like students, they approached me and told me their trouble so I gave them some money to solve the problem, but the next times I found they were still there, I actually suspect some kids are controlled by their families, like family mafia.
Sometimes one kid come to the people for money, and if this people give her, then suddenly there is a group of kids coming out and ask for money, and the worst they may grasp this people's wallet and run, that is real dangerous.
I also feel so sad for those disable beggars and the problem is you can't know if they are born disable or not, actually I still can't believe as human someone would make them disable to be a beggar, I did hear about this kind of rumor, but I can't stand the idea, I think if it is true, those evils should go to the hell.
I once did a silly thing, I saw a man wearing broken clothes and laying in the street with close eyes, I thought maybe he was starving and going to die, so I went to the nearby shop to buy the bread and water, I patted him, when he open his eyes I put the things near him and going to leave, he threw the water and bread at me, I was so scared and run away, and my sister warned me not to do this kind of stupid thing again, because that man may have some metal problem and he may hurt me.
Now I only give money to old people begging in the street, I think most of the old people are not controlled by mafia, they are just unlucky in life, once I was eating with my ex outside a restaurant, an old lady in poor clothes carried a big bowl, she didn't ask for money, she asked if we can give her the leftover food, I wanted to cry and I gave her all the money I had in the pocket, I didn't give her the leftover food, that is not the right thing to do, actually I didn't take much money with me that day, and I asked my ex to give me some money, I wanted to give more money to the old lady, but he said I was too naive and didn't give me the money and the male waiters wanted to drive the old lady away.
I think many Chinese men are cold hearted by some reason, and they are obsessed with the idea to become rich, they think if they are rich, they can do whatever they want, and it seems western men are more caring and soft hearted on the poor people than many of the Chinese men

#2015-05-05 08:58:43 by surpurisena @surpurisena

你好Barry1
你文章提到农村人的生活.我深有感触,其实人历经过痛苦未必是一件坏事,小时我的生活可能和你提到的一样,感觉父母不容易但真的好温暖那是因为来自父母的爱,所以我感觉精神上的富裕比物质上的富裕给予人很多美好的回忆。
建议你到农村生活一个月或多些,你会更加珍惜你现有的生活,这将是你一生美好的回忆。谢谢你用心去观察和写作。

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