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Mr. Joke Returns to China

Our traveler returns to China this summer for a month of teaching, lecturing and learning at industry and university sites in Shanghai, Nanjing and Chongqing. Last summer, during his Fulbright to Beijing, he was once introduced to a formal conference as “Mr. Joke,” a moniker that has stuck. Following is the record of Mr. Joke’s reprise.

The staff of the Take It Easy and Don't Worry About Anything Hotel get warmed up for a day's work. (Jock Lauterer photo)
The staff of the Take It Easy and Don’t Worry About Anything Hotel get warmed up for a day’s work. (Jock Lauterer photo)

I am staying at a delightful little mid-town hotel in our neighborhood of Huixing (whee-SHING) where my third-floor room overlooks a garden three floors below. Each time I ask for the translation of the hotel’s name I get a different answer. I like them all:

The Heart’s Rest Hotel

The Heart is So Relaxed Hotel

The Comfort Hotel

The Take It Easy and Don’t Worry About Anything Hotel.

In any event, my accommodations are serenely protected from the hurly-burly of Baosheng Road’s rushing traffic. And since my spacious window-wall faces due north, i am treated to artist’s loft light all day, never any direct sunlight.

No one speaks English at the Heart’s Rest Hotel, but the eager staff wants to learn. Every morning at breakfast, along with my noodles and coffee, i am peppered with little notes in delightful Chinglish. Here’s what the front-office women left me today.

“The noodles isn’t good this morning?

We all love you

No thank you!

You can teach us something simple

May you have every day of happiness”

See? What’s not to love? They have consulted their front office computer for translations and are writing me notes every morning before their daily speech and warm-up out in the lobby: waitstaff, cooks in tall white hats and the front office women assemble out front and get their daily pep talk and finish with a rousing song.

Everywhere the clash of culture. Over the hotel PA system plays an elevator music version of Simon and Garfunkle’s “The Sound of Silence,” while outside on the sidewalk a Chinese drum band plays BOOM BOOM BOOM, (pause), BOOM BOOM BOOM in an ancient type of percussion: each musician, dressed in flaming Chinese red and waving red wrist-scarves, beats a small oval drum worn strapped around the waist. I’m told it the practice comes from Xanxi Province and it dates back to the time of Jesus. That’s China today.


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