I had a long conversation yesterday with Daisy, our English-speaking helper and person in charge of the school’s international programs. She came to suggest how I might organize our new Reading Room library which will be open to students after the winter break, at the end of February. After sharing her great ideas and insights, we chatted for awhile, then she noticed my calendar, which had arrived from Canada on Monday. It was from the “Those Women On Tour” golf trip that I went on last June. I’ll let you figure out the acronym. Since I was pretty excited about it myself, I quickly took it down from the wall and explained it to her. This was the tour that my mother was a regular on until she passed away in 2005. I had always hoped to join it one day but alas, was always still at work in June, up until last year. I showed her the pictures of all the ladies and talked about our age range, which I’m guessing is between 50 – 82. Her response was quite informative. First, she admired the creativity of the calendar and had a little laugh about the picture of me hiding among the club-head covers. Then she told me that golf was a “noble” activity in China, by which I believe she meant an activity for the elite. There are very few golf courses in China and those that are here do indeed seem to be for the wealthy.
The fact is that the average Chinese works crazy hours that most of us are fortunate not to have to do in Canada. Think about the Chinese grocer that we all knew when we were kids. They were the first ones open in the morning and the last ones to close, and they worked every day of the year. 12 hours a day was a starting point. Now, of course, there are many more shops and malls that are open extended hours and on weekends, providing services for those who are free to shop at those times. Here in China, it is impossible to distinguish a weekend. Nearly everyone is as busy on Saturday and Sunday as on any other day of the week. That goes for teachers as well. David works Friday night and Sunday afternoon and evening. Mr. Zhao works for part of both Saturday and Sunday. Daisy used to work from 6:30am to 9:00pm daily but after a serious illness some years ago, she was able to reduce her teaching load and take on the foreign program and some library work. She no longer works weekends and is very thankful for it.
As we chatted on, she told me that she was very envious of the lifestyle that we have in Canada and that she could never do something like go on a golf tour. Take away the expense part and the reason is that elders in China are expected to stay home and raise the grandchildren, clean, cook and look after the household. Daisy has a long way to go to Freedom 55 but looking ahead, it doesn’t seem all that glamorous to her. I guess not! When I suggested that at home, I might on occasion, go on a weekend trip with girlfriends that doesn’t include golf, just for fun, she said no, that wasn’t something that she could do, either. I understood completely when she said once she has babies, ie grandchildren, she wants to be around them, but she added that people would say things if she went off on travels or fun adventures while babies were at home. Hmmmmmm. I can hear my mother’s response to that, and yours, too, Lois, Wendy, Darlene, Noreen, Harumi and Marion! Mind you, we in Canada don’t have the history of public criticism that was such a painful part of the Cultural Revolution. Sounds like a carry-over is a lot of vulnerablity. I’m sure that not everyone here feels this way but for those who do, it might be a little tough.
On the other hand, there are those elderly Mahjong players who looked like they were having a heck of a good time every afternoon when we came home in the Fall! Kids are only little for a short time, then grandma packs them off to school, quickly cleans the apartment, then heads down to join the game!