I live in a gated community built by Jardines of HK. The design looks like it was done even before the Shenyang Aerospace U, Liaoning U and the Normal School a subway stop toward town joined five universities that moved into the edge of the city neighborhood from their downtown campuses. Their 3D models of the schools do not visually represent existing structures.

The landscape of the first phase in a four-phase development scheme reflects our current housing. The rest are still waiting for the scrape of a bulldozer! The current main office of Hui Land Development is smartly staffed. I taught them English every Saturday on their own time, and we were doing fine until the end of December when the head guy announced that he just resigned. I thought he was just moving on as at the main office tasks did not look like it held an energetic young man’s enthusiasm for long. It now appears that the business was going down and he was strategically let go. It is even rumored that Jardine might “abandon” the project.

The following week, one of the consistent six students in the class told me that there were only two left in her department. The rest were “fired,” a term I thought she used due to her limited English. It turns out she was on the money. The gate guards too had been decimated three days after Christmas. I thought that was cruel. I found out they were being kind in giving them a month-and-a-half headway before the critical lunar new year, the Chinese holiday that matters, Chun Jie, middle of February.

With the current economy in China underdoing radical alteration, it appears that the dreaded construction bubble is bursting; the laborers at a Daoyi corner in the new suburban city of New Shenbei, with tools and vehicles ready to deploy at the first pound of a hammer, have no takers! Signs recruiting labor ask for workers not older than 45. Ouch!

My residence is by the new Puhe River with a designated Metro Station at a new urban center that now fancies high-rises, though unsure of occupancy. The river itself has fishers at the moment carving holes on the ice. When the weather was still warm, I remember the number of folks lined up by the bank fishing. I said that if I was a fish, I would not swim at the river, and if I fished, I would not eat what I caught. But these are desperate times.

Not for everyone, though. A couple came by after hearing of a foreigner who might continue teaching their 5-year-old daughter English (she has a brother not yet 2). A nouveau riche, a hydroelectric engineer from Harbin’s MIT-like school, he has the gait of a go-getter and he bought a four-story villa for his coop. (I call it a “townhouse”, but too drab for the uppity Anglo developers)!

He extended an invitation for tea, to which I demurred until the summer, clear of the pedagogical angle on the daughter. It was just as well. He inquired about Filipina house workers as his neighbor has three brown skinned maids-in-China, competent workers from the Philippines via Hong Kong, highly desired not only for the quality of their work but also the status they provide, like having a live English butler!

He touched a raw nerve. In fact, I am not remiss to an economic venture but not on nanny-gate, remembering my elitist response when OED included Filipina as another word for “nanny” in England, perfectly acceptable, as English butler is common to the Anglo mind but grates on the Pinoy heart that decried the fiat of our school teachers migrating elsewhere as housemaids! Not the engineer’s fault by any means; I am just an oversensitive Pinoy!

I will offer three oral English learning trips to Saipan during the winter (warm temperature, the big draw), and three tour trips to Dong Bei to visit Shenyang’s forerunners to Beijing’s Forbidden City from the Manchus that became China’s last imperial house, the Qing Dynasty. Two trips in the winter include a dash to ice and snow, and a summer trek up Changbaishan trail and its elevated lake at the border of China and Chiao Tian (North Korea).

Though still in the “dreaming” stage, I see Chinese language learners taking the sights at Sabalu and Gualo Rai cathedral, though wading at Mañagaha will most likely be the highlight of visits.

The reverse will be exciting. Manchuria and Dong Bei (northeast), the surprising stronghold of Mao Zedong’s forces, sent Chiang Kai Shek to Taiwan. It is home to the semi-religious personality cult of the Falun Gong and Dafa also. Yanbian in the area is Korea-in-China where the Kogoryeo Emperor ruled when Korea was not limited to west of the Yalu River.

The Yalu’s source is Changbaishan crater lake, accessible to tourist only during the summer months; winter trekkers brave the elements sans official consent. The mountain straddles North Korea and China, so some get lost, but that is not funny to NoKor since wanderers often sneak in new GPS systems. Prison cells are not comfortable!

Changbaishan! Got sleeping bag ready?

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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