02
Feb
08

How Col. Sanders and Santa Claus Defeated Mao Zedong

As for the rest of it… I really have no idea where to begin. Well, I have set up an apartment at long last, not far from the southern gate of Peking University. It’s a place of stark contasts, surrounded as it is by modern buildings, a 24-hour convenience store, Starbucks, and of course KFC and McDonalds, and yet to the other side, is a Qing Dynasty prince’s restored home, now in use by several restaurants. My apartment looks directly over the mini-palace, which itself is surrounded by skyscrapers and other symbols of China’s emerging modernity. When my apartment is a little more complete – that is, when I’ve fully moved in and finished sprucing the place up – I’ll see if I can still post photos, so you can see it. In the meantime, if you’d like to get snail mail to me, this is the address. I’ll also provide my phone number, but generally when I call internationally, I’ll use Skype. I don’t have full internet access in my apartment yet, but that seems to be the only major utility left to take care of.

Cell Phone: 011-86-10-1591-053-1629

People’s Republic of China
Beijing, 100871
Haidian District
No.3 Suzhoujie RD
#4 428
Jason Walker
CHINA

Yes, the address is written backwards from an American perspective. The “CHINA” at the bottom of the address is actually just for the US Postal Service. Allison may be reading too much into this, but she suggested the reason for this ordering may reflect an anti-individualist cultural attitude – the country and city come first, and the individual very last. Regardless, that’s how it’s done. I had no trouble using Roman letters when writing Allison, or using her western name, so I think the same will be true here. Allison, by the way, has given me a Chinese name to use for people who might have trouble pronouncing my English name. It means “Sagacious Life,” and I’m probably going to mangle the spelling of the Pinyin here: Wang Zher-Shon. It even sounds similar to my real name, so it’s pretty nifty in my book.

Earlier, I mentioned that a visit to Beijing suggests that Mao has been deposed in a coup d’etat, engineered not by Lin Biao, but by none other than Santa Claus and Col. Sanders. I say this because in the time I’ve been Beijing, over two weeks now, I have only seen one portrait of Mao (not counting the currency), hanging in a restaurant in a poor section of town. Yet the venerable Colonel is everywhere here, and seems to have outdone even Ronald McDonald in establishing his footprint in this city. Pizza Hut is also quite common, and though it’s still pretty new, there are a few Starbucks here too. As for Kris Kringle, despite the fact that Christmas ended over a month ago, and despite the fact that this officially-atheist, unofficially largely Buddhist/Confucian/Taoist country doesn’t have any cultural background for Christmas, decorations for the holiday are still up everywhere you go, particularly portraits of Santa, but also Christmas trees surrounded by faux-gifts and Christmas lights up on buildings. I’d say that the only man who could possible have more portraits up in this city than Santa is the Colonel, but that would be a close race. It seems that the Chinese have fully embraced Christmas for all its worth, and made it their own. With the beginning of the Chinese New Year soon, it’s quite possible that the Christmas decorations may finally come down, but so far, it seems to me that businesses have been combining the decorations for the two. This was very much unexpected.

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