non-fiction

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Revolutionary Class

A tribute to a father’s love in chaotic times – by Jianguo Wu

 

Ed: 元旦快乐 and a happy 2017 to all readers in the colony! We have some great nonfiction stories lined up for the first months of the new year, like this touching, untold true tale from the Cultural Revolution. If you'd like to see more like it, pleasdonate to keep the hill alive

It was in the early 1970s, during the Cultural Revolution. Meat was very rare at that time; everyone had only half a kilogram of meat ration each month. Even if you had the ration ticket, there was still no guarantee that there was meat to buy with it.

My father worked as a labourer in a steel factory. At lunchtime one day, the factory’s canteen offered a bowl of ‘twice-cooked pork’ (huiguorou) to each worker – extra meat without need for a ration ticket. My father didn’t eat it but kept it in a round metal bowl. In the afternoon when he finished work, he brought it home to share with the whole family – my mother, me and two younger sisters.

For many years, I have wondered how my father brought that bowl of meat back home on his bicycle – a bicycle so old that it was hard to decipher its trademark. It was five kilometres from the factory to his home, on bumpy roads. He had neither plastic bag nor food box, only a round metal bowl without a lid. He held the bowl on the rear bike rack with a cheap clamp. But he managed to ride home without losing a single piece of pork. I have always wondered how.

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Best Buddies

There's no place called home – by Nick Compton

 

Jake’s house wasn’t much to look at. He rented a weather-blasted two bedroom on the edge of town for a couple hundred bucks a month. The roof was caving in and the exterior scraped clean of its white paint by winter winds and too little attention.  What remained was gray lumber streaked white by curling chips. It looked mean. Haunted, almost.

He was my best friend growing up, but I didn’t know where we stood now. I’d left for university, moved around, ended up working in China and never really looked back.  It was rural America. A tiny town in the hills of Northeast Iowa. My home, but no place I wanted to stay.

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Post(ing) Mao

The revolution lives on – by Vincent McLeese

 

I found the post office hidden in an alleyway a couple of hours before my flight home. A single electric light bulb threw long shadows across the room. A scent of cardboard and black tea filled my nostrils. In the darkest corner, an elderly woman with sleepy eyes cleared the counter of the pile of torn gloves she was mending. It must have been hours, maybe days since her last customer. I affectionately greeted her as ayi, auntie. She smiled and amicably referred to me as tongxue, classmate.

“Can I still send something back to my parents in America?” I asked. “Just a little gift.”

“No problem,” Auntie almost eagerly assured. “Just put what you wish to send on the scale.”

I did.

“Oh.” Auntie exhaled as she stared at my intended postal passenger.

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Getting the Picture

Barlife anectodes by Robert Black

 

A young Australian guy turned up at the hostel. He told me back home he was a boat captain. We agreed to have a beer. I was on tight budget, and so I took him outside to the rou chuan'r place on the street with cheap zhapi, right opposite Beijing Station. We sat in the warmth of the summer night and drank beer and talked, mostly about Australia and China. He said he had to make a call, but he was keen to continue on, and so we agreed to meet in the hostel bar, thirty minutes later.

At the bar we had nearly finished our second handle of beer when a very drunk Chinese guy stumbled over towards us. He did not appear to speak any English and so I had to translate. Like many Chinese I have met in bars, he wanted to drink with us. Except this guy was rude and obnoxious, and pretty much demanded it. He pointed to the bar. We agreed, he was paying after all. But when the three bottles of beer arrived he did not make any moves to pay. So we refused to pay. When he realised this, somewhat annoyed, he got his cash out.

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Bright Lights, Big Dreams

Inside the world of reality TV dating shows – by Alec Ash

 

When rock didn’t make him famous, Lucifer tried TV. Rustic had burnt bright but short. D-22 club had closed in early 2012, and the scene had moved on. But talent and dating shows were booming, and here he looked for a new adoring audience.

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