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- The Log of the Empire State - 5/9 -
when we had to learn "Pidgin English" and use the "Mex" dollar in China, and next we were told to exchange our money from Peking notes to Shanghai currency.
The approach to Shanghai, the Paris of the East, along its beautiful row of buildings on the waterfront, and called The Bund, surprised even the muchly thrilled Chamber of Commerce Party.
The American Consul, C. T. Cunningham, was very ill, but his wife gave us a reception. A dinner by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and an examination of trade exhibits followed.
The six physicians of the party received their biggest surprise at the Chinese Theatre when, in the middle of the performance, a large towel that had evidently been dipped in warm water, was passed around to the audience so that the theatre-goers might wipe off the perspiration or beads of excitement from their faces and hands. The towel was a rich shade of brown by the time it reached our party. Germs? Why they never thought of such a thing and seem to feel, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise."
If Shanghai thrilled us, Hongkong fascinated us, when we ascended in a railroad something like our Tamalpais cars to the peak. To reach the very top, cozy wicker chairs, mounted on bamboo poles, carried by two coolies, are necessary. The movement of the chair while descending reminds one of a ride on a rather old, single-gaited horse.
Our party will always associate Macao, China, with "Dante's Inferno." To see the half-clothed Chinese bending over their open fires in the opium factory, to see children soldering the covers of the little boxes their brothers have just finished mixing and filling, will always be an awful, vivid picture in our memories.
The cigar factory also seemed a fine sample of what some good people wish us to believe awaits the wicked. Babies, not able to walk, are busy working beside their mothers stripping the tobacco leaf from the stems.
If the cigar and opium factories shocked us, the firecracker factory appalled us. A crowd of youngsters huddled in a tiny, filthy room filled with powder, were working with wonderful dexterity, ceaselessly putting fuses in firecrackers. No one seemed to notice or care if a visitor might carelessly let a light fall from a cigar or drop a match. Many of us decided that perhaps the proverb: "If you want to make a Chinese happy, just buy him a coffin," is not so far off, because death to many of them looks much more attractive than life. We were told that if a Chinese falls off his sampan, his neighbor does not try to save him. That would be a "Bad Joss" as they say and would incur the wrath of the River God, who pulled him in. Then, too, the rescuer would have to support him for the rest of his days.
The Homeward Trip Chapter VIII
The Stop at Singapore
They say that anticipation is half of enjoyment, but the Chamber of Commerce Party never could have imagined the pleasure we were to have in Singapore, although the expected palms waved greetings from the shore as an indication of the tropical scenes we were to see.
We had heard it said that, "He who tries to hurry the Orient shall come to a speedy grave," and we thought there must be some truth in it, when at the junction of two busy streets we saw a lazy native peacefully reposing, on his cot bed, in the middle of two lines of traffic. Nice quiet spot for a nap, while the sun was beating down with such force that the men of the party drew their new helmets well down over their heads. Stanley, exploring darkest Africa, could not have heard more precautions and sunstroke warnings, than the men of this party. But the guide-book authors do not seem to care whether the sun strikes the women or not. Guess they believe that the women's hair will protect them, or, perhaps, it is reasoned, that as the ships usually touch China first, (one of the greatest hair markets of the world), the women cheated by nature, are supposed to have gotten a goodly supply before they reach Singapore.
But do not let this give our friends the idea that the women were neglected in Singapore. They say there are only three unmarried white girls left in that city and that these are taking their time about deciding upon which of the army of males they will select. One fine looking chap told a group of ladies of our party that it was two months before he learned that in order to secure dances with the popular matrons, it was necessary to phone the week before the dance to find out whether he was to be favored with the sixth or seventh or ninth dance.
Now before any girl who chances to read the foregoing and packs her trunks for this tropical spot, let me warn her that it is so hot that the powder stays on about as well as water on a duck's back, and a lizard is liable to drop in her lap at any time. At least that is what happened to the smallest debutante of our party, Miss Sallie Glide, at one of the dances given in honor of the San Francisco Delegates. And while some of the young couples of our party were strolling through the wonderful botanical gardens admiring the Travelers Palm, whose fan-shaped branches are said to be the compass of the desert, as their branches always point east and West, a family of wild monkeys (with the baby monkeys clinging to the mothers' breasts) crossed the path. And a little further on a snake charmer giving his cobras an airing, was encountered. If the element of danger appeals to her, then this is the place for her, for she may expect to see one of these big snakes unaccompanied by its master at any time if she ventures in the thicket. And just a short trip out of the city is the tiger in his native jungle. Phil Lyon and Carl Westerfeld went on a hunt, but H. J. Judell came nearest to killing one. He shot between the eyes, as the guide directed, but missed the brute.
The variety and brilliancy of the clothing of the cosmopolitan inhabitants rivals the scarlets and greens of the botanical gardens. The natives, perhaps, try to make up in vivid coloring what they lack in quantity. Others are entirely unadorned and most of the children are also naked.
Alfred Esberg, C. B. Lastrete, Dwight Grady and J. Parker-Currier were given a dinner at the executive mansion of the English governor, Sir Laurence Guillemard. This was the first time that American travelers were so honored.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce gave a beautiful reception to our party. As we entered the banquet hall, the band played the "Star Spangled Banner" and the moving picture machine recorded our activities. Speeches were made and conditions discussed, while the champagne flowed freely. The ladies were given orchids.
Someone remarked that the white people in Singapore seem bent on checking the over-powering heat with internal irrigation. At eleven A. M. all assemble at a special resort for the morning "eye-openers," between twelve and two, business stops in order to give the thirsty inhabitants time for tiffin accompanied by a half dozen whiskeys and sodas or "gin-rickeys"; after four all business ceases for tea, and, if the tea cup appears it is usually accompanied by a substantial stick in it, to rouse drooping spirits. Of course during dinner and the evening Bacchus reigns. Now, I suppose some of you understand why there are so many apparently contented men in Singapore, in spite of the climate.
All the lovers that were accustomed to haunt the top deck, called the "Honey-moon Deck of the Empire State," took rides through the jungle. The tropical moonlight reflecting the palms in the rippling water and the trip through the Gap (a break in the hills disclosing the sea far beyond, as one of the justly famous sunsets was in progress), are said to have done their work, and four couples, the gossips say, are expected to announce their engagements. One of the ship's wits said, "Again the dashing widows have proven far more attractive than some of their unmarried sisters." Mrs. Carrie Schwabacher, offered a linen shower to the first couple that were married on board, but they all seemed bashful. Louis Mooser suggested that the name of the ship be changed from Empire State to "Vampire State."
Some of our party visited homes in Singapore and found one solution of the "servant problem." In many cases, the mistress of the house pays a No. 1 boy, or upper servant, as you know they call them there, a fixed sum to purchase so many meals and to take the entire responsibility of the buying and running of the house, while she comes and goes and entertains as a guest at a hotel. There are no unexpected huge bills at the end of the month; if the cook leaves, why should she worry, No. 1 boy just gets another.
Some of the Chamber of Commerce party were frank enough to admit that their most vivid recollections of hearing about Java were, in connection with Moca, together with eggs and toast and the usual accompaniments of the breakfast table, but we were all in for a revelation. The cultivation of the hillsides in Japan is child's play in comparison with the miles upon miles of hills, plateaus and even mountains, all in flourishing rice fields, coffee plantations and sugarcane.
One can now realize what the late Premier Hara of Japan meant, when he is said to have admitted to some intimates that there was no over-population in Japan if only fifteen percent of the vast tracts (61 percent of all Japan) were utilized (as it is in Java), enough space for Japan's growing population could easily be found. It is said that the Japanese Emperor and his advisers will never dispose of this land or allow it to be used.
Our party separated over the land of Java, like the forty tribes of Biblical history. Some went to the famous ruins of Bora Badur erected ages ago, some to Djorka to see the native dances and to see the strange old walled city, where the Sultan, his wives and the fifteen thousand natives, said to be related to him, live. While the Sultan and his harem are seated, cross-legged on the floor, with the Dutch Queen's pictures looking sternly down upon them, the ever waiting counselors of the Sultan squat outside the sacred precincts. These wise-looking old counselors of the Sultan also have their retinue of servants waiting on them - one with a pipe, another with a pillow, still another with a fan, etc., etc. Our delegation was especially honored in being permitted to go in the sacred place where the ancient bedroom is situated. We even spied some harem beauties in the distance.
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