Leaving China

Excerpt 4: Road Blockades

 

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One change that affected the daily life of the British and Americans was obvious enough that I couldn’t be shielded from it. This was the institution of roadblocks that the Japanese military set up to check individuals’ papers, particularly the medical document that proved you had been inoculated against cholera. Because I was inevitably going to experience these roadblocks on one of my rickshaw trips along the streets on my way to school, my mother explained to me what they were. The roadblocks would be moved around to various locations, usually somewhere along the heavily traveled street that ran by the beach. If you were stopped at one and didn’t have the appropriate forms, you would stand in line to be injected with the same needle that had been used on those who had gone before you. This ritual of the barricades was also part of the effort by the Japanese to humiliate foreigners. The soldiers would bark out orders in Japanese, getting angrier and angrier that we didn’t understand. The chance that any of us might have forgotten our papers or that a particular soldier might decide not to accept them added greatly to the anxiety of traveling in the city.

When I was taken to school or to a friend’s house, I remember sitting scrunched back under the canopy of the rickshaw, hoping that we would not come upon surly soldiers standing by their trestles and barbed wire. My rickshaw man and I were stopped only once, and the Japanese sergeant accepted the papers that we produced. Aunt Gladys, however, was caught in this Cholera Inoculation dragnet and subjected to injection by public needle. She was fortunate to endure only a swollen arm and a feverish day.


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