Donald D. Smythe, Professor of Geology
Peiyang University, Dept. of Geology
To: Erma Smythe
March 2, 1924
It looks as if we would not take our field trip to Shantung on account of the bandits, we will go north to Tang Shan instead. There are iron mines there. This is a great country in that respect, they take the bandits as a matter of course. They are all potential bandits just waiting for an opportunity.
Have been thinking about your coming out. The summer is very hot and unpleasant but if you come the latter part of August, just before school begins, you won't get much of it. There are three ways in which you might come; by Shanghai as I did, by train through Korea or by boat from Japan. I think the best way will be by way of the boat, it will be much less trouble, shorter and cheaper. I can plan to meet you in Japan for a few days before coming across so that you will have no trouble. Railroad fares have gone up so that we will save about Mex$200.00 by taking the boat, also it will give us a chance to see something of Japan. If we ever go home the way I want to (Suez) we may not have another chance. I will get some more dope and let you know. Think that I can probably arrange everything for you here.
Have made a change in my establishment, fired my old boy and got a new one. The new one does the cooking and looks after the house, waits table etc. To help him I have coolie. The boy speaks good english. I pay him $16.00 Mex a mo. and the coolie M$9.00. The wages are a little high but they are better than the ordinary run of servants here. I don't have to do a thing but give him a few dollars when he goes to market. He is one of the best looking Chinese I have seen. Just had him buy a kitchen stove today, it cost M$21.00 The coolie doesn't talk English but that makes no difference as Chang Shih Pin tells him what to do.
I started to take Chinese lessons a few days ago, have an old Manchu, who is down on his luck now that this is a republic, to teach me. It is not difficult to get a working Knowledge of it I can find my way around and bargain for things in the shops now. You have almost to sing the words, the same sound with different tones means different things. There are four tones in the Mandarin, and seven in South China. 1st tone is rather high and even, the second is like our interrogative, the 3rd is like a tone of reproof with a rising inflection, and the fourth is rather dictatorial. Chi for instance has about 135 characters for the same sound and each one means something different. The tones help this some but do not make the language clear. Lots of times the Chinese cannot understand each other without repetition or explanation. For instance a man would ask my name and I would Ssu, he would want to know which Ssu and I would say the Ssu of Kung ssu. Kung ssu is a common term meaning company, You see it on may shop signs. If I wanted to ask if a thing is good I would say How boo how (good not good) If it was good he would say How if it were bad Boo how. You do the same with all questions, the structure not the tone makes the meaning.
They save everything in this country, even counterfeit money has a market value. I got four mow (cats) or four ten cent peices which were bad, I took them to a money changer and for a few coppers he changed them for good ones.
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