Come see my statue
There’s a new bar in the village, run by a semi state-owned hotel company. In English, the bar is referred to both as “Kyrgyzstan” and “Seven People.” It has yet another name in Chinese, similar to Seven People.
“Why have you named the bar after a country?” I asked one of the managers.
“What do you mean country?” he replied. “It is named after the car that
Stalin presented to Chairman Mao.”
“But Kyrgyzstan is a country not a car.”
“Is it? Oh dear.”
The car Stalin gave Mao was probably a ZIS. How that got garbled is anyone’s guess, but in Chinese Kyrgyzstan sounds like it has the number seven in it, so perhaps Seven People is some kind of translation of it, and the bar only has the one name after all.
In the bar’s dark interior is a broken table football set. Tiny photos of old Moganshan, copied from our coffee shop, hang in dark corners beside stacks of 1980s TV guides and the collected works of Marx and Lenin.
On the bar there is a statuette of a foreigner in a hat and coat looking up. It is supposed to represent the first foreigner who came to Moganshan in the 1890s and established it as a summer resort. The artist was commissioned to make a lifesize statue for the local park. He couldn’t find a photo of the founding father so he asked me to pose for him. The commission was cancelled before he made the statue, but one of his trial runs now graces the bar.
When I tell visitors about the bar I use its abbreviated name, the one on the neon sign above the door. “And in the Gyz bar you’ll find my statue,” I say with pride.
The Shanghai representative of a major international company called me early this year. Our county government had commissioned a plan for developing the leisure and travel industry. People in the company had read my book on Moganshan and wanted to meet. I asked if they knew Moganshan was independent of the local government. There was an awkward silence.
The study went ahead without me. The company’s staff travelled from overseas and spent weeks in the area. But they never came up the mountain to visit the picturesque village and the main tourist attraction for hundreds of miles. Instead they roamed the valleys, dreaming up leisure parks and golf courses (which would be illegal).
I saw the result the other day, a book of about 150 pages. It has large amounts of white space, full-page photos of bamboo trees, and all the right words, such as “native resources” and “sustainable.” Apparently, it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the old days, a foreign company that thought it was getting a slice of the China sponge cake would be handed a stale crust. This time they spread it with butter and jam, gave it back, and were paid handsomely.
I was diagnosed with psoriasis while in Britain this summer. The doctor said “Tough luck” and gave me a cream that will help but won’t cure it, and can’t be used for too long.
As soon as I got back to China I made an appointment at a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice in Shanghai. The doctor took my pulse and examined my tongue, discussed causes of the disease and suggested dietary changes. The medical terminology sounded like a weather forecast: hot and cold here, wet and windy there, with the flow of qi (energy) circulating around my body like the Gulf Stream.
I have used TCM for minor ailments and found it effective. I left with a bag full of herbs to be made into a tea and drunk morning and evening. They tasted disgusting, more bitter than any I’ve had before, something like soggy twigs with soy sauce.
At my next appointment, the doctor asked how I felt.
“I feel better but,” I said, pointing to my bare elbow, “the medicine isn’t working.”
“Oh I hope you didn’t expect it to fix the psoriasis just yet. What I gave you was to free up your qi. Now that’s worked, we’ll start the actual treatment.”
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