Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mao Tse Tung and queing up for hot water

I was reading an online book on Chairman Mao of mainland China. The writer said that Mao, by virtue of his learning was looked up to in a peasant army where illiteracy was common. (that was before he rose to power) As he was regarded as a scholar, Mao felt it was beneath him to queue up for his daily supply of water.

That account reminded me of my student days in Beijing. In those days, we had to line up, together with the local workers to get our supply of hot water. I think the higher staff have hot water faucets at home. At that point of time, I used to think pensively how I took the conveniences of life at home so much for granted. And here I was freezing in the cold winter waiting for a flask of hot water that would last me just one day. It wasn't funny at that point of time, especially when the queue could run a mile long but looking back it was quite an unusual experience. You fill your hot water bottle at the front where there is a long sink with several faucets. You need to watch out how you turn off the tap and you can't fill the flask to the full, or you might get burnt by the hot boiling water. The water depot is opened for a few hours in the morning and again in the evening. Very inconvenient. You might ask why not just buy mineral water or use the water off the tap in the dorm. Mineral water can hurt the pocket. As for the water in the dorm, it is undrinkable and is thick with a kind of carbon found in old pipes.
Several months after that, some young punks spoke up and demanded that foreign student quarters be supplied with hot water pipes and would you believe it? The college administration bowed in to student demands. Oh, the power of the greenback!

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