I am sitting at a patio bar in the business district of Shenzhen. It is Cinco de Mayo 2013. This town is younger than me (I’m 37), but it has already grown to 15 million. It grows fat on fast money and never quits eating. Shenzhen talks with its mouth full.
It is a Special Economic Zone, a beast born of Deng Xiaoping’s economic opening of China. Give credit to a man that had stupid beat into his head for decades and still saw fit to entertain a good idea or two. There are few among us who could say the same. Inertial ignorance is not the boon of generations.
Even though it is Sunday and well before rush hour, the traffic is steady as war. Taxi drivers jockey for position in competing lanes as does everyone else with a horn. A cacophony ensues, loud and ugly and anger-inducing to the ear and mind which chooses to pay it any attention. Don’t, I tell myself. It’s a trap and you’ve fallen into that one too many times. This time I’m cool, but it’s a rare feat. I take note to write more, this seems to be working.
If New York is the city that never sleeps, Shenzhen is the city that never blinks. At least not when there’s money on the table. A kuai not hustled is a kuai lost, and the locals will have none of it. God bless these people with no use for Sundays or church. Hell is breathing down their necks, the most of them. On corners, with barbecues they make the rent or not. In factories, which produce nothing more than monotony and carpal-tunnel, they funnel cash back to suckers poorer than themselves.
There are mostly foreigners here at this bar. That’s usually true because a bar itself is a cultural insert in China. Although Chinese people here do mix about, they are few. A Chinese man (and it is usually a Chinese man that drinks), would not have much use for a bar.
They would prefer a restaurant, where a feast could be had. A feast with plenty of beer and baijiu. The beer here is excellent but the biajiu is a foul concoction, both in its taste and its evil intentions. Satan made it and laughs up from hell at its affects. Many a man has awoken in the gutter cursing his own weakness and ill-planning after a bout with its acrid flavor. However, they always return to the giver; it’s only a matter of time.
I rarely drink the stuff and that brings me back to the fact that I’m a foreigner here. I’m a foreigner who couldn’t have travelled further from my home, the United States, and still stayed on Earth. If the universe sees fit to make a further destination, with peoples more foreign, I might give it a try. You never know.
The foreigners at this bar are mostly rich. I can’t be sure, because I have no interest in mingling, but I imagine that most of them are digging their nails into a rising tiger of industry, while keeping a foothold in a crumbling land of their birth.
So it goes on this planet: one side rises up and the other comes crashing to its knees and we look to do our best. Sit steady or guess the future and ride the waves. It’s always a hard call to make and you never know the future.
As a group, the foreigners rarely are lacking in superior attitudes that lead to lust-filled endeavors on the local women. Often the foreign man is aged, ugly and wealthy, and with a stunning young beauty.
Such a couple is off to my right now. The woman has fire-cupping marks on her back and shoulders. She is stunning still, in a slight, gray dress. The man passed his prime fifteen years ago. I would bet diamonds to dollars that he paid for the fire-cupping.
I doubt the man speaks any Mandarin yet failed not to get the point of his sensitivity across in English. I doubt his Chinese girlfriend understood or believed it, too. I wonder what the foreigner’s wife would say, in their own life, back home. Surely she is past the game of his words, well into the realm of action and is now well-versed enough in the terms of horseshit to know the difference. A mature American woman is a wise one.
But I am not of this man’s ilk, so who am I to judge? I am an expat of the lowest common denominator; I’m an English teacher. Every washout, derelict, womanizing and low-life drunk with a superiority complex (based on race or culture, pick your poison) and a penchant to distance himself from the scorched Earth he has left behind resides with me somewhere in our this nation-wide outpost. Of course, that is, if you ask the man with fire-cup girl. I’m tempted to but not drunk enough. Give it some time.
But I can’t even blame the old foreigner. Aren’t we all in the soup of narrow-viewed foreigners scraping by or capitalizing upon a situation? Aren’t we all in the soup, foreign-born or local, of playing a game in our minds of cutting the next guy down to size? It makes us all feel a little taller, right?
On I carry. There is a group of three girls directly to my left. They are twenty something Americans. Probably they are exchange students. Very few foreign women work here, either in education or real jobs, so I can’t imagine what else they would be doing. They are too comfortable to be in China to be here for a week or two. They don’t giggle enough for that.
The American girls can be spotted on appearance because they are, by and large, fat. Not many other people here are, even if they are foreign women. Some Chinese people are fat, and a few are obese, but it is exceedingly rare, like people openly talking to themselves.
If you can’t bet the bucks on appearance, you can always catch the accent. Even if, by some form of magic, you couldn’t get to the accent, you could know them by vocabulary. Before coming here, I never noticed how much American girls overuse the word “like”. Not as a verb, mind you, but in their own special colloquialism. These include, but are not limited to, sentences such as these:
“I was like hell yeah.”
“She was like no.”
The group next me has been in a permanent state of contacting the waitress. Within a minute of the waitress leaving, one of them has a waving arm in the air, beckoning her back. They get embarrassed when they wave an arm too long. But that’s no problem, they will try again in a matter of seconds.
Ah, and there it is, one of the girls just said: “She is like totally ignoring us.”
Tags:Expat Rants & Advice Expat Tales
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Artful and razor-sharp observations about one simple truth of life: we're all equally divine and dificient creatures in the fusional mishmash of humanity!
May 23, 2013 05:50 Report Abuse
Thanks for writing that comment about Anthony Bourdain. I hadn't heard of him before, but I googled him. I remember his face from TV because he smoked cigarettes on camera. Outside of fictitious characters, that is something you rarely see anymore, so his face stuck in my mind. I just read a good article on him here. http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/a-drunken-afternoon-with-anthony-bourdain-20121212 . I'll check out some of his writing now. The rest of the comments are to be expected. I knew that would happen and I addressed it towards the end of this article, or piece, or blogpost or whatever you want to call it. A lot of people on here are probably feeling superior right now for cutting me down to size. I get it. But you couldn't slow me down with a brick wall.
May 07, 2013 23:21 Report Abuse