Monday Monday

Shh. There’s a penguin right behind me.

I’m sitting on a chaise lounge[1] in Nanshan. I know, I know, I was in northern Bao’anqu yesterday morning. How did I get here? Well…

The day started, as usual, with me minding my own business. I shaved, showered, cleaned up a bit and threw on my best pair of, “we need to talk,” fancy shmancy work clothes. Then a guy I know only as “Driver”[2] showed up to, presumably, escort me to work on bicycles. Biking is always an extreme sport here due to three factors: people drive like lunatics, a piece of the bike can just fall off at any moment, and the combination of the above two factors creates interesting “look ma’ no brakes” scenarios.

So I completely lost the front brake but made it in to work to have a chat with Fran[3]. They took it really well, and tried to get me to take four days’ salary. I told them I didn’t want it, but it ended up being forced on me anyway. In return I re-translated all of their English stuff so that it made sense and has as much English sales potential as it does Chinese. That was about 4,000 words in an afternoon; Fran thought I was nuts. “You work too hard! Go talk to single girls.”

Afterwards the entire sales team, consisting of eight girls wearing skirts and blue blazers, and one guy whose name is Realan and is a total badass, went out to dinner. There’s an expression in Chinese, similar to “cheers” but somewhat more diabolical. “Gambe” means, literally, “Dry your cup.” All night they took turns going one-on-one with me. Fortunately beer makes me full before it makes me drunk, so I was still kicking by the end.

Eventually we made our way back to my hotel. I handed over the keys of my busted ass bike, seeing as I wasn’t going to bring it with me to Futian (where I still intended on going in about a week), which felt good as, despite its shedding of important parts, it was still worth about 300 RMB. And then eight angry, beskirted saleswomen started yelling at the hotel management.

Let me explain. I paid for a month in advance at this hotel (still wasn’t very much money), and the girls wanted to make sure that I got the balance of my money back. I figured it would be easy and I’d ask in a couple days, as I intended to stay the rest of the week anyway, but they were adamant that I get it now.

Long story short, an hour later I was in a car[4] on the way to Nanshan with three of the girls, one of whom had incredibly generously offered to let me crash at her weekend-home for a couple of days. The hotel paid over half of the balance (which was more than I expected as when I came down with my stuff the girls were yelling at police officers as well), and now I have a stuffed penguin sitting behind me.

I think I’ll call him jiu3, because it’s a lucky number in Mandarin and you can just call him Joe.

Enjoy irresponsibly.

PS: I don’t have internet, but everything is as I expected it to be in Nanshan. It’s amazing here. I’m going to find an internet cafe, talk to a few hotels for pricing and then explore a bit to see where I want to live.

[1] I worked in a furniture store for a bit. I know weird things. I can also distinguish a bag from a purse. That one’s harder to explain.

[2] He’s really cool despite my inability to pronounce his name. He reminds me of the ukulele guy from Shallow Hal, except more Chinese. I remember one time we were both having bike trouble, so we casually pull over to fix our broken-sauce bikes. His pedals were completely boned, and he turns to me really slowly, pauses for a second, and makes an “I have no idea” gesture. Then we struggled onwards resolutely.

[3] I love Fran. She’s awesome. Her English is the best of the bunch, but most of the time she’ll just mistranslate other people’s questions or statements to me. “Christy says she wants you to be her boyfriend.” Or she’ll just pull really random arguments out of nowhere. “Why you want to stay at hotel? Look! All these single girls! Single girl, single girl, single girl, trouble, single girl…”

[4] Dad’s girlfriend’s brother doesn’t speak English, but he’s the coolest guy I think I’ve ever met. He’s incredibly nice, but he’s scary as shit when he wants something. I bet the hotel guy only gave in once he showed up raining fire and brimstone. He lent us his car for the hour-long drive.

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