Liu Shu Mei


“You’re the guy who writes on China,” is a frequent comment I get from folks I meet. A few readers came out after I suggested that I count readers of the column on one hand. I knew for sure three readers who followed our musing, and a dear friend who runs an educational institution wrote back to say that I might consider him the fourth!

I found out that there are actually four Franks who follow our musing, one who leaves a few copies of his newsweekly when he thinks it might enlighten me to read an article; another, a former professor, told me that I just write without much consideration for clarity on the poor readers who might be lost on the foreign words and acronyms I fling about. Good point. I did mention that my style is not to offer expert opinion but to invite dialogue. Of course, I receive diatribes, instead!

A third Frank is a Carolinian gentleman I bumped into by the Quartermaster Road’s tank where I planted a tree longtime ago. I wanted to know the name of the tree I planted on the ground and sought his assistance since he seemed to be regarded as knowledgeable on such matters. He informed me that it was a variety brought around by the MVA.

(That’s when he commented that I looked familiar and made the connection. He follows our laptop hack in his retired years.)

The fourth Frank is younger, but I shall spare the reader the colorful terms he uses to respond to my reflections.

Liu Shu Mei, like our previous Liu Xiaopeng, is a contrived name, a composite for the many “Frances” in the Chinese community who had been drawn into the “you’re the guy who writes on China” circle. One remembered me when I assisted Chinese workers from a garment factory while the industry was closing out.

Another read my accounts on the China rail rides I took, from northeast, Manchuria (Dong Bei) where I resided, to Manzhouli near the Russian border, to the far southwest of Sichuan by the Himalayas to Ya-an and learning Liuliude in Kangding up the hills, then the eastern north-south route from Hong Kong to Beijing via Wuhan, and Shanghai to Guillin, and finally, the impressive Maglev out of Shanghai. She found my materials worth the read.

An old acquaintance at WSR, in the process of starting an English school for Chinese workers, reminded me why the Liu Shu Mei’s of the CNMI figured so prominently in my existence.

One came with a three-year contract without being told that the CNMI recognized only one-year terms. She was let go after working for three months without any means to recouped the investment to come to the islands from the distant province of Sichuan. The Oleai Resource Center I headed could not assist enough to get her indebtedness squared. She turned on a red light in her room.

Then there was another who found it lucrative to pass on meta-amphetamine brought in through innocent workers’ luggage (Might one guess where the undeclared cash at the airport come from?). Evading the arm of the law, she managed to keep her market on Saipan, moved to Tinian, until she encroached into someone’s territory and found herself a felon in the CNMI’s tribunal system.

Her passport expired while incarcerated and the penal system did not know how to facilitate her acquisition of a new one, nor have her legally accommodated without over-serving the terms of her sentence. Floundering in the penal system’s indifference, or, incompetence, she caught the attention of one of our crusading lawyers. He got her out of jail and I got her home to China.

A girl from the poor section of Jilin in Manchuria entered the profession of lady of the night at a very early age but she was a bit on the rotund side but when she came to the CNMI where the demand was high and not too particular of shape and size, she found a calling.

Unfortunately, in two attempts to gain permanent residency, through a fake marriage, at first, that was found out, then was truly married to a sickly person who later died, her immigration papers flounder. Now, keeping to the strait and narrow, she hangs out with another islander hoping that the green card will finally come around.

My Liu Shu Mei was a student nurse in a group I sat with on a China plane to Saipan, came to learn her English to take the NCLEX exam as a nurse. She passed the test and we lived happily ever after, at least, for five years. Thirty-seven years of difference was too wide a gap to bridge, but it’s still one story worth the telling, maybe another time.

Liu is a common last name in China and Shu Mei is virtuous, charming girl’s name, never mind that mei is the same word for the dirty coal that China utilizes to energize the manufacture of inexpensive consumer goods for the West. Using loose quality control, manufacturers now go elsewhere but it polluted the air and water in the process.

A colleague called me Liu Jimu (Jaime Liu), my spouse is a Liu. I was Wang Zhimu (James Vee) at the Shenyang Aerospace U. In the West, the wife takes the husband’s name. The reverse is poetic justice. My toast to Wang and Liu clans. Ganbei!

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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