Relativity and chaos


We are now into the year 2016 in the Gregorian calendar. I was just in China where my mind stayed on the U$ dollar mindset. Thus, a 20rmb luggage charge at the Dalian train station was still $3 in the brain, an acceptable figure enough on Saipan until I realized that the middle class worker receives only 3,000rmb/month, only a sixth of value compared to Saipan teachers’ income.

The renowned Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho has a few bestsellers, one of them Eleven Minutes, the magical length of a normal amorous encounter. The quip on this trip was that I was in Dong Bei for 11 days, and my wife and I were lucky to see each other for 11 minutes. 

She has two very sick parents to attend to 24/7 in an unfinished dwelling new enough that its central heating still functions and the bidet works, but in the middle of winter where all are bundled up, sensuality was not the order of the day!

We had been treating “chaos” as the “state of disorder,” its definition in mathematics more precise, though more related to determined predictability than disorder. The theory of relativity with its empirically analyzed elements skews hypothesis; it depends on natural processes. Experience matches conclusion through calculations rather than prediction. That’s why it is called “relativity,” silly.

The real estate developer of Xiang Jiang (HK) Hutchinson built Huiland Development in Shenbei where I parked my butt off the campus of the Shenyang Aerospace U next to Liaoning U within walking distance. I climbed the back fence at my apartment Sunday evening when I arrived, thinking there was no one in as the lights outdoors were not lit, only to discover my in-laws watching TV.  Well, mother was; father-in-law is technically blind, so he listened.

I forgot about austerity on electricity.  Both hard of hearing, they did not hear my knock, the doorbell didn’t work, and my wife was cleaning my papa-in-laws’ incontinence.

A recognizable marker of the residence is the Puhe River that looks more like a creek. In winter, the river invites young skaters with moms hollering instructions on tails that are thickly padded, and dads hunched on holes where they drop a line to fish. The catch does not make it to the dining table as the activity is more recreational than food gathering.

My getting home in Shenyang at mid-evening was an exercise in choking in the cold. A two-block jaunt to the residence from the gate guards, the PM2.5 reading was high and the dry air rapidly parched the throat. In the morning, the sun slanted at 30 degrees in the horizon looked like a bright moon against heavily polluted clouds.

Construction runs China’s economy since Deng Xiaoping opened the market to foreign investments. Real estate, that non-renewable commodity, received the financial focus. Building low-cost high-rise structures were encouraged so now we have “ghost” towns and sparsely populated neighborhoods. My housing development, the affordable four-story kind, is such an example.

The in-laws lived on a fourth floor apartment sans an elevator (six-story buildings are not required to have one). Grandpa, hospitalized for hipbone replacement, suffers from diabetes that deteriorated his eyesight, and agonizes from arterial disorders; it made moving to a first floor unit a no-brainer. Grandma has the yard to cultivate in the spring, summer, and fall, with an irksome backache and deep cough.

Shenyang brags of clean drinking water from the tap but the bathwater that came out to fill the tub this time is like swimming in the Puhe River in the summer. The suburban development fully subscribed to is 15 percent occupied. Acquiring a unit meant doing the interior; ours took eight months to do floorings, windows, walls, ceilings, lights and bathrooms, with labor at seven days a week doubling cost but shortened time.

Papa-in-law inches his walker to the dining table when impatient grandma barks for him to eat. Daughter is go-fer, 24 hours. I slept in the guest room so she can get rested as she is at her parents beck-and-call all night. The duo prefers sleeping in the daytime. My spouse did not return to Saipan with me and she will probably be in Shenyang a good while until suitable care is found for the elders.

Just as well. Checking into my flight, I discovered my booking was canceled. Shenzhen Air charged me $180 to get to Shanghai. My luggage was 5 kilos overweight so the Jim Beam and 16 percent alcohol-per-water-volume beer moved to the carry-on, only to be told by security to return them to the counter and check it in. It was not purchased at Duty Free that guarantees the purity of the product. So Security disposed of it.

The trip to Saipan via Shanghai and Guam was both a nightmare and a dream; we shall reserve that for a later telling. I left China three days after the solar New Year, returned to a Saipan lagoon where the water is warm all year-round, its chaos more reasonably relative and manageable.  I won’t trade the tropics for winter.

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

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.