I woke up early and was still freezing. I went to take a shower and there was no hot water. I just washed my face and brushed my teeth using the bottled water I had brought with me. I went down stairs as I was starving and wanted some hot food. I ordered rice, bread, and hot tea. I was feeling a little better but could tell I was going to get a cold or something. It was flu season and I had been riding the train 12 hours with many people and animals, who knows what disease I could obtain.
I phoned Hua Dong Electronics Company and explained that I was late due to the train. They said that was normal, and it did not cause any problems. They also knew I could not make that trip in a couple of hours as I had thought. They sent a company car to pick me up, it was a black Volga, made in the Soviet Union and it had no heat of course.
Arriving at the factory I was taken to the meeting room for VIP’s. This was their first meeting with an American and this was a government owned company. I was given some hot tea in my own cup, thank God. Soon ten other people arrived at the same time and sat down each with their own cup of tea. They were all dressed in army green Mao suits and they all had on gloves and hats. The room had no heat and I was still freezing. It was about 35 degrees in the room. I ask them to turn on the heat and I was advised that they could not use the heat as this would use too much energy and they gave me a hat and gloves to wear. The hat and gloves made it seem like I was one of them and wearing the Mao hat put them all at ease. When I put on the hat everyone laughed. After introductions and name card exchanges we got down to business using their translator since I did not speak Chinese. The translator spoke fairly good English but did not know a lot of the technical words so I had to draw pictures on the black board and explain to her and others what I meant. It was an all day meeting with a factory tour.
This factory was the largest I had ever seen and they employed 24,000 people at this one location. This company made TV’S, stoves, refrigerators and other kitchen appliances. Walking around the huge factory I could see there were no or very little automated assembly lines. Workers were working very hard and by the looks of it they were not having fun. The factory had no heat. At the conclusion of the meeting they ask me if I would like to have a turtle soup dinner with them that night in honor of my visit. I said yes, I like turtle soup and that would be very nice. I had not eaten hardly anything but granola bars for the last two days. We no lunch break during our meeting so I was hungry. Turtle soup sounded great and I could not wait for dinner. I would finely have a good meal.
We sat in the restaurant for three hours talking and eating some kind of vegetables, but no soup. We discussed many things about the USA and China as we where both curious about each other’s countries. I came to learn that most Chinese people do not consider themselves to be communist as they all do not belong to the communist party. Normal people consider themselves to be capitalist. Only certain government people are in the communist party. I found out that Chinese people do not pay income tax and only companies pay taxes. When they heard about the income tax in the United States they could not believe the United States Government would tax the working people. They ask me please do not bring your government style to China as we will never pay income tax. That would mean the people would revolt. I agreed taxes were bad. I also found out that they were paid every week in cash. The use of checks and credit cards were unheard of in China at the time.
I asked what happen to the Turtle Soup? They advised that the turtle soup would come soon. Four men walked in carrying a large metal pot. The pot was about 3 feet in diameter. You guessed it, inside was the biggest snapping turtle I had ever seen. I stood up to look inside the pot and it still had its head, feet, and shell. In the soup were all kinds of vegetables. Since I was the honored guess they gave me the head to eat. I passed the turtle head to the Vice Chairmen of the factory and thanked him for this wonderful dinner. He gladly accepted and said it was a very Chinese gesture to pass the turtle head to him as a thank you for the nice dinner. He made a toast with rice wine to friendship between the USA, China, and good eating to all. They ate the whole turtle, shell, and all. I ate one leg and that was it for me. I just drank the soup which was good and ate the vegetables. The next day I left after another freezing night in my one light bulb hotel room. I have never been so cold.
My trip back to Beijing from Tianjin is another story of a ten hour long ride down the dirt roads of China by taxi. At least the taxi had heat. I did not want to ride the train again. The taxi beat the train by two hours and only cost me $50.00. I gave the driver $100.00 to cover his return trip. The road back to Beijing was all dirt. It was full of chuck holes. The taxi could not go over 30 mph due to the bumpy road and my head was hitting the car roof with every bounce. I ask the driver to slow down. I was very surprised at all the people working in the fields and walking or riding a bike down the dirt road.
There were only a few cars that I saw and every now and then a truck when by in the other direction. The road was very crowded and I feared the taxi driver would hit someone as the people would not get out of the way of the car. The driver was beeping his horn all the time, like he just found out he had a horn for the first time. At one point we had to stop for a funeral going down the road. This was interesting as the dead person was being carried on a bed. There were about 100 people walking, beating drums and ringing bells. Again I wished I had my camera with me. If I had the time I would have enjoyed more sightseeing of the China country side. I just wanted to get home as I could feel the flu coming on. I made it to Korea the next day and was sick there for three days with the Chinese flu. Four days later I made it home. Coming next Part 5, China Tiger Hunters.