I had been sent to Wuhan in central China to study the cement industry. The largest plant at that time was an old American factory purchased around 1930. This was to be one of the most interesting times I had in all of my fifteen years in China. I first arrived by train from Beijing and was surprised by the startling differences between the two cities. I was immediately taken by the fact it was so crowded, fourteen million people crammed into the city which was completely industrial. The first point of my interest was the mode of transportation. There did not appear to be any buses so people would jump onto trucks and everyone held on to the people in the middle to keep from being thrown off. There would be literally a hundred people on the back of an open truck. After I settled in I tried it myself, it was a wild ride.
I went from the train directly to my hotel and was greeted by the manager who was in the process of slaughtering a pig in the small lobby. I was to find out that I was the only guest in the hotel. The room was large and comfortable but my room mates, the rats, were a little to lively. I went back down to the desk and complained. The manager was now annoyed that I had disrupted his butchering the pig, twice. It took a little while to explain that the rats in the room were very active but when I did manage to make him understand he smiled, left the lobby and came back with a dead chicken and a piece of string. Confused, I asked him what this was for and he shook his head in a great show of annoyance and led me back to my room. I was about to witness the most interesting form of rat control I had ever seen. He took the chicken and tied the string around its neck and then hung it in the closet about three feet off the floor. He smiled at me and closed the door, leaving it open about three inches. He had made a point of the size of the opening. What I saw next was unbelievable, the rats in the room all ran into the closet and started to jump at the chicken but it was too high for them to reach. I would spend my evenings thereafter reading and listening to the constant sound of the rats jumping at the chicken, it was a steady, constant sound which emitted kind of a beat to the propaganda coming from the loud speaker just outside my window. The slogans were recited 24/7 in sing song classical Chinese, the only thing more uncomfortable was the fact that in September the water was shut off and I had to use a public shower until the next spring.
Using the toilet was also a chore, as there was no water there was no indoor plumbing. It had been explained to me that I had to go to the toilet between 6AM and 10AM or 6PM and 8PM. Behind the hotel was a wide alley, down the middle of the alley was a trough over which the Chinese would squat and do their business. needless to say the thought of squatting in a line of several hundred people was not an acceptable way for me to go to the bathroom. I thought about the problem and came up with a solution. I cut the seat out of one of the overstuffed red velvet chairs in my room and carried it down to the alley every day, with a copy of a news paper I had brought from the States. Each morning I would take my chair, place it carefully over the trough and hide behind my newspaper. I used the same newspaper for the 25 months I was there.
I had made a good friend in Wuhan, Mr. TU. He was the head of public security in Wuhan at the time. As I was the only foreigner in that City, which was still under the control of the red guard, I was pretty much alone. People were not allowed to talk to foreigners in those days, they did not want"Western Moral Pollution" to effect the citizenry so Mr. TU would visit me every week and we would talk for a couple of hours. He would also supply me with cigarettes, soap, toothpaste and other necessities. I was not allowed to shop in the stores, although there really was not much to buy. Mr. Tu and I became friends over those two years.