Wo Shi Laowai – Wo Pa Shui

This Blog was Invented in Xi'an 5,000 Years Ago

Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Dishonest Landlords

Posted by MyLaowai on Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Further to a recent post concerning dishonest landlords in Shanghai, this is the follow-up…

As is usual, we paid a sizeable deposit when we took the place. We liked the location, and the apartment itself wasn’t too bad. The price was a bit high, but we accepted it.

Then, a few weeks ago, there was a bit of a slump in the local stockmarket. The same week, our landlady called and said that the rent was going up by 40%. Well, we have just moved out, and suffered the usual inspection before getting back our deposit.

The landlady (who brought with her a group of ‘friends’), discovered some damage – a chip was missing from an interior door. Photo below:


That wee nick, dear reader, cost me 6,000 RMB, in addition to the usual additional charges such as extra money to pay bills, etc. This, in a city where the average monthly income is just 1,400 RMB. The mind boggles.

But wait, was it really 6,000 kuai for a nick in a door? Of course not. The reason that was given, after all the ‘discussions’ had taken place? By not respecting the door, we had caused harm to the feelings of all the Chinese people.

We had caused harm to the feelings of all the Chinese people.

I shit ye not.

For what it’s worth, this particular landlady only rents to foreigners. So, if you’re looking for a place in Shanghai, and you’re concerned that this evil piece of shit may become your landlord, send me an email and I’ll give you all her details.


Posted in China | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

A Forced Relocation

Posted by MyLaowai on Monday, November 19, 2007

About this time last year, I was sitting at my desk at home, when there came a tentative knock on the door. Naturally, I did the smart thing and ignored it. It wasn’t long before I heard the noises of someone trying to fit various keys into the lock, and it became obvious that my unwelcome visitor was either the landlord hoping to see what I had under the bed, or yet another botched attempt by the PSB to place yet another bug somewhere in the living room. I crept over to the door and flung it open, surprising the small group on the other side.

The conversation proceeded thusly:
MyLaowai: “Who the fuck are you?”
Unwanted Visitor: “I am the estate agent who is selling the house, and these people are potential buyers who have come for a look.”
ML: “You have the wrong house, this one isn’t for sale.”
UV: “This is the right house, your landlord gave me the keys.”
ML: “You have ten seconds before I break your nose. 9… 8… 7…”

And they departed rapidly. But the Unwanted Visitor had been telling me the truth, and my landlord bluntly confirmed that she had handed over the keys to several estate agents, with instructions to come only at times when I wasn’t expected to be home. A lucky thing that I had changed the locks shortly after moving in a year previously. Anyway, it was made clear that she was selling the house and that Mrs MyLaowai and I had better get another place sorted out PDQ (although we wouldn’t have known anything about it until after it was sold, had I not been working at home that day).

Well, we found another place and it seemed not-too-bad, if slightly on the pricey side. We explained our situation to the new landlord, and he assured us that he had no plans to sell the place, and that he was very happy to sign a nice, long, lease with us, so we paid out two months rent in advance and moved in. And a week later he left us a note saying that we had ten days to be out, because the place had just been sold. Yes, we did refer to the contract, the same standard contract that is used for all apartment rentals – and discovered that the estate agent had removed the section that gave us any recourse at all. No surprises that the owner was working in collusion with the agent, and that the victim was a stupid laowai.

Well, I’m going to skip through the next few days, because the point of the story is that we found another place nearby, and moved in. There’s not a lot of point in letting you know that every estate agent in the area had been made aware of our situation and tried to fuck us over, nor is there any point in going on about the fact that prices in the area suddenly went up overnight. Suffice to say, we found a place, got moved in, and that was that.

That was about a year ago.

Last week, we got a call from our current landlord. She asked whether we were happy, to which we replied that yes, we were very happy. Did we want to sign for another years rental? Oh yes, we replied, we like this place. Good, she said, in that case the rent goes up 40%.

Forty Percent?

So now we’re looking for a new place again, and I’m wondering why it always happens this way? For the longest time I thought it was merely the absurdly greedy and desperate desire that these mongrels all seem to have to be rich before lunch, without actually doing any work, or even getting out of bed in many cases. That, I knew was true. My landlady had certainly lost some money investing gambling in the stock market recently, and obviously wanted to recoup her losses from a stupid and rich laowai – no shocks there, either. But, I found myself wondering, is that it? Can that really be all there is to it? The the truth hit me – the reason that Chinese all try so hard to fuck us up at this time every year, is that they hate Christmas. Don’t believe me? Here’s why:

Ten Reasons Why The Chinese Hate Christmas

10. The Grinch was Chinese. He only lost because of a Conspiracy Against China.

9. If Rudolph & Co. flew over Chinese airspace, they’d be shot down.

8. Christmas is a time of goodwill to all men – Chinese never got that concept.

7. Christmas is a time for giving, not petty theft.

6. Chinese homes don’t have chimneys. Or fireplaces. Or heating. Or insulation.

5. There are no Christmas Trees in China – they’ve all been either cut down or killed by air and water pollution.

4. When an old Chinese man asks little children to sit on his knee and tell him what they want, it means he’s a paedophile.

3. Red is the colour of bloody revolution, not the clothing of fat, jolly, old men.

2. The angel on the tree doesn’t have the approval of the State Religious Affairs Bureau, in accordance with Order Number Five, and is therefore officially “illegal and invalid“. A bit like reincarnated Buddhists.

And finally, the Number One reason why Chinese hate Christmas:

1. Although lovable Santa Claus has the same Body Mass Index as dictator Mao Zedong, he doesn’t have anything like the same body odour, possibly because Santa Claus is on record as having had a bath more than once during his entire life, and Mao Zedong is on record as never having bathed, ever. The Chinese love Stinky Dictators.

Posted in China | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Oh, I’m Sorry

Posted by MyLaowai on Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to knock you off your motorcycle as you sped down the footpath towards me this morning. Really, I’m sorry. What is it you Bamboo Monkeys say? Yes, thanks – dui bu qi. I mean it. It really wasn’t my intention to put my elbow out and knock your mirror. Mirror? That’s the useless thing that humans use to help them with their situational awareness. And if my elbow accidentally carried on and hit your arm, then dui bu qi for that, too. All the same, you must admit it was quite funny, that strange noise you made just before you hit the deck. How did it go? Oh yes, “Aiyoaiyoaiyo!“. Hahaha! Priceless! Well done!

What’s that you say? I kicked you? Nonsense. Granted, my foot may have given your rear tyre a nudge, but it was hardly a kick. All the same, dui bu qi. Stop whinging, there’s a good girl – it could have been worse, it isn’t like you actually broke any bones, is it? Oh, you did? Your fingers, you say? How did that happen? I’m standing on them? Well, look at that! Gosh – dui bu qi. I really don’t know how that happened. Lucky for you it wasn’t your windpipe I accidentally stepped on. Not that there would have been any point in that, after all you’ve already spawned your litter and passed on your defective genes, so your death at this point would be almost as meaningless as your entire life.

No, you misunderstand. I’m not blaming your defective genes on you. Not at all. That’s the fault of your mother and the tofu-seller who lived next door. We have a saying: 5,000 years of inbreeding is probably not good. Yep, that’s a real saying. Think of it as a Big Character Slogan, but in a real language. What? Oh yes, I’ll get off your fingers now. Dui bu qi.

Call me a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, but at least there wasn’t a ditch for you to fall into, like the last person who tried running me down did. There she lay, in the bottom of the ditch, legs wrapped around the twisted remains of her motorcycle – Oh how we laughed. Oh yes, she was laughing all right, I could see the tears running down her cheeks. Of course, I did apologise. “Du bu qi”, I said, and I meant it, too.

Well, think of this as an educational experience. Next time you see a foreign devil, perhaps you’ll have learned not to try to run him down with your motorcycle as he walks to work along the footpath. Interesting word, that. ‘Footpath’, foot path, footpath… Almost sounds like it means a path for pedestrians, esp. an alley between buildings or a pavement at the side of a road. Yes, it does sound a bit complicated I know. Call me Mr. Oxford English Dictionary, dui bu qi about that.

Hmmm…? What was that you were saying? Yes, your mobile phone is broken, I’m afraid. Dui bu qi. Perhaps if you’d been watching where you were going, instead of endlessly repeating all your ring tones, it would still be in one piece. So yes, your mobile phone is broken, but on the bright side, your mobile phone is broken. Isn’t it your lot that have that lovely saying, something to the effect of: “If something is broken or stolen then you are lucky, because you can get a new one”? I’ve never really understood that, but I assume you do.

Ah, here comes my bus. It was so nice having this chance to chat with you. No, I don’t have any time now to help extricate you from the wreckage of your former motorcycle, dui bu qi. Perhaps if you are really, really lucky, then one of your countrymen might actually help you.

I wouldn’t count on it, though. Zai Jian lah.

Posted in Rules of the Road | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »

Wo Shi Laowai?

Posted by MyLaowai on Saturday, September 29, 2007

When it comes to foreigners in the Celestial Kingdom, there are a few categories that most seem to fall neatly into. There are the tourists, naturally. They have a fantastic time, and generally leave saying things like “Oh, weren’t the Chinese friendly, they were all so curious and said ‘Hello!’ to Mildred and I everywhere we went” and what-have-you. They also tend to witter on ad infinitum about all the ancient 5,000-year old temples [that didn’t exist ten years ago because they’d all been knocked down during the Cultural Revolution, with the monks still inside at the time, but never mind that small detail]. Oh yeah, tourists have a great time.

Then there are the transients – temporary teachers, short-term students, ‘travellers’. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to include them with the tourists.

Then there are the ‘seagulls’, company bigwigs who fly in from Europe and the U.S., make a lot of noise, crap all over everything, and fly back out again. They also have a wonderful time, eating expensive dinners, shagging themselves silly with KTV hostesses and barbershop quartets, staying in the best hotels, and all the rest of it. They believe everything their dick tells them, and leave saying things like “I just don’t understand why Jenkins complains so much. These people promised me everything I asked for, and were so very polite at all times, I’m sure we will have a great future with these people”. There aren’t many of these types, but what they lack in numbers, they make up for in stupidity. Pretty much every Western politician falls into this category.

Of course, there are the company types who actually live here, too. They tend to come in two different flavours – the ones who have been sent here unwillingly, and the ones who applied to come (local hires fit into the second category). There is a bit of overlap here, so if you are in the first category, but live the life of the other, then no offence is intended. The ones who have been sent here against their will are frequently sent here in the same way that people used to be sent to Australia, before England ran out of convicts and the Irish. They simply are so inept that they cannot be allowed to work anywhere where they can cause any harm, but their golden parachutes make firing them too expensive. I’ve met a few who were brilliant at their jobs, though, and they have more in common with the local hires. The convict-types usually live in serviced homes, with local help on call 24/7 to cook, clean, suck dick when the wife’s out, and all the rest of it. They have company cars with drivers, work in air-conditioned offices, shop in ‘foreign-goods’ supermarkets, and generally have a ball. They let their local staff get away with anything and everything, they spend money like water, and they think they actually make a difference. They don’t say anything when they leave, because they can’t leave. Local hires, for the most part, are the opposite, and are in the majority, too.

Most of the good that happens in this benighted Land, happens because foreigners do it. Charities that actually deliver the goods? Development assistance? Technological advances? Management that works? The concept of honesty? Foreign direct investment? Medical aid? It’s a long list, and I’m bored already, but rest assured it comes from foreigners, not the Chinese People. Without foreigners, foreign money and foreign technology, China would slip back into the Stone Age within a year. Ok, perhaps 18 months. China really does have a lot to be thankful for.

But all of us are ‘Laowai’: evil foreign scum who are only here to oppress the good, honest, diligent, hardworking Chinese People. We personally are responsible for keeping China down, for stealing world hegemony from the glorious motherland, and for eating babies. Every bad thing that ever happened here, is our fault – and they never, ever forget it.

Let’s go back to Mildred and her travelmate. Remember how they said that all Chinese are so friendly? Saying “Hello!” to tourists all day long? Well, I’m sorry to have to burst your bubble, but in the words of the legendary Inigo Montoya: I do not think it means, what you think it means. As it happens, “Hello!” in the mouths of the Chinese People has more in common with the words “Jew!” [think 1936, central Europe], or “Boy!” [1903, the deep South]. It isn’t friendly, and it isn’t a greeting.

Now as it happens folks, there are three main holidays in China every year, each one about a week in length (though being a Communist holiday, one is required to work the weekends either side, in order to make up for lost national production). These holidays are not only national events, they are also Nationalist events, and are always preceded by a rise in the level of extreme nationalism one can experience when out in ‘the sticks’. This may come as a surprise to the foreign folk who don’t get out of their ivory towers much, but believe me when I say it’s not only bad, it’s getting worse. It used to be just “Hello!”, but in recent years the locals have become braver, and I know of many, many incidents involving violence. I have been lucky thus far, though I have had a few close encounters of the Sino kind.

Anyway, back to “Hello!”. The reason the yokels say this, is because they don’t know any other English. Of course, some of the brighter lights have learned such gems as “Laowai Fucka You!” (and one particularly hostile lass was shouting “I Love You!” at me in a restaurant once, which brings me back to Inigo Montoya again). I used to get quite angry about this, as I would never accept this behaviour from anyone in my home country, regardless of who they are or who it was directed at, but this year I have changed my tactics. I have prepared a few stock phrases that can be easily shot back, and which will be easily understood. I field-tested them today, as follows:

Local: “Hello! Laowai!” – group of ‘workers’ in the street.
Me: “Tu Baozi!” [lit. dirt dumpling, a scummy peasant]

Local: “Laowai! Fucka!” – group of high school students in the street at lunchtime.
Me: “Wai Di Ren!” [lit. not local person, a country bumpkin]

Local: “Want buy?” – local perched a fence rail, selling stolen cellphones.
Me: “Dui Bu Qi” [an apology] [spoken as I pushed him backwards into the bushes]

In every case, the result was a resounding success. Complete shock, confusion, and inability to comprehend quite how the Laowai was able to speak the complex Chinese language. And by the time the folk in question had sorted themselves out, I was gone.

So, friends and neighbours, if you are going to be here and in contact with The Man In The Street, learn a few words of the local lingo – it really does pay off.

Wo Shi Laowai – Wo Pa Shui?

Posted in Ask MyLaowai, Rules of the Road | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

A Matter of Face.

Posted by MyLaowai on Sunday, September 16, 2007

Now Arrived in Stock! The post they said couldn’t be made!

Sex! Drugs! Action! Violence! Face! And More Hey Nonny Nonny Than You Can Shake A Large , Pointy Stick At!

A Matter Of Face…
Or, All Face And No Shame

The Story So Far: Saturday afternoon, around 1630. I had just finished up with a client across town, and was in a taxi heading back home. There was a lot of traffic on the road, more than usual for that time on a Saturday, but not as much as a normal gridlock rush hour. The hairless chimpanzee driving the taxi was no better and no worse than any other taxi driver in the city, there were no confusing directions (like ‘left’ or ‘right’) for him to deal with, and I thought of the martini that was looming large in my immediate future. How wrong I was.

Act I, The Main Event: Monkeyboy pulled the usual stunt, getting into a turning lane in order to get ahead of other cars waiting at a set of traffic lights, and then attempting to force his way back into the correct lane at the head of the line. Unfortunately for him, the black Santana he tried to get in front of wasn’t having any of it, and pulled out of lane slightly to block the taxi driver (whom I will henceforth be referring to as Driver X, even though his real name is Fa Kin Kok). The rather predictable result of this, was that Driver X was out of lane when the lights went green, and fell back some ten cars or so. He also Lost His Face. He therefore set about breaking all kinds of Laws (and I don’t only refer to the Laws of the Road, I include the Laws of Physics, too) in order to get in front of Mr Black Santana, so that he could regain his Face by forcing him to slow down.

Act II, The Fun Starts In Earnest: Driver X, in the best traditions of Chinese Driving, accelerated wildly towards Mr Black Santana, aiming for the left side of his car. The only problem, was that there was another car already there, and that car had nowhere else to go. This problem was obvious to me, of course, but to Driver X it was not a factor in his own personal universe. That is, it wasn’t a factor until about 1 second after it was too late. Driver X hit the skids. The car he was heading for hit the skids. Cars all around us hit the skids. It was like a scene out of CHiPs, and there was so much blue tire smoke in the air that it actually blotted out the view for a moment*. The only car that didn’t hit the skids was Mr Black Santana, who saw the whole thing in his rear view mirror, and who proceeded to come to a gentle stop not a hundred metres later. Mr Black Santana got out of his car, looked back at Driver X, and gave him the Smile. Now, for those of you who are blessed with never having been here, the Smile has about the same effect on interpersonal relations as a declaration of Defcon One has on international relations. It says in no uncertain terms that the Smiler has completely and utterly wiped the Smilee’s ‘face’ away, and that the Smiler fully intends to revel in the fact.

  • Note that, incredibly, not one car actually traded any paint with any other car. Not one. It was the freakiest display of luck I’ve ever seen, because not one of those fifteen-odd cars was in any kind of control, whatsoever.

Act III, Revenge: Driver X has now really lost his face. He’s failed in an aggressive manoeuvre in front of every car on the road, and we’re talking about one of the busiest roads in Shanghai. And now people are getting out of their cars and shouting at him, well, let’s just say that his meaningless existence has just been brought home to him. And then he sees Mr Black Santana, just up the road, giving him the Smile. And he’s off after him (well, actually, it did take him a good three minutes to get his car pointing the right way again, after all that sliding around the road). Mr Black Santana, of course, is well away by this time, has made an illegal U-turn, and is heading back the opposite direction. Driver X, having lost all his face, now has nothing left to live for. He throws his taxi around and heads back down the road, actually managing to catch up with Mr Black Santana, and starts trying to force him into the central barrier. His driving skills may have been on a par with my grandmothers, but the excitement level was higher than anything the Duke Boys ever managed in the General Lee. Yours truly was bounced around the interior like a rag doll, head hitting the seat in front (twice), the door frame to the left (once) and the door frame to the right (twice). It was not fun at all. Of course, I suggested that he might want to stop the car, to which he gave the traditional “Wait a moment” reply. And then I made some suggestions about his mother and some anatomically difficult positions he could attempt, but all to no avail. And then both he and Mr Black Santana spun out of control and came to a halt. I wasn’t waiting around for the Police to arrive and arrest me for being a foreigner (and yes, certainly it would have been my exclusive fault. Honestly), so I leaped out of the taxi and headed for the side of the road, not stopping until I got there. I looked back to see Driver X getting out of the car to come after me (for non-payment of the fare!), and decided he was going to get his eyeballs punched out the back of his skull, when Mr Black Santana took off again. Driver X, horribly torn between getting money and getting face, paused a moment, before jumping back in his taxi and roaring off after him.

Act IV, The Aftermath: This all took place on Saturday afternoon. I write this blog entry late Monday evening. My neck is still a little stiff, but the headache has almost gone away now (note to self: fix another martini). There’s very little for me to learn from the experience, because none of it comes as any kind of surprise. When ones lives amongst such ‘people’, one comes to understand the concept of All Face, No Shame all too well. The sorry fact is, that the colossal arrogance of these peeps is matched only by their world-spanning vengefulness and vastly inflated sense of spite. And whilst this isn’t new news to me, perhaps there’s something in that for my readers who think that China is a country where Kung Fu masters meditate on the tops of mountains and everyone is harmonious.

The End.

Posted in Rules of the Road | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

MyLaowai’s Daily Prayer

Posted by MyLaowai on Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to kill because they pissed me off.

(thanks to Sarah Noelle Pratt Ferguson for the prayer)

Posted in China | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

This Is Your Life, Wang XianSheng. Part 2.

Posted by MyLaowai on Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Part 2 in a 3-part series on the life of Wang XianSheng, an ordinary citizen of the People’s Republic of China.

When last we saw Wang, he had, at the age of 27, just become a father. His wife, with whom he has a loveless relationship, was alone in the hospital and Wang was spending his misbegotten gains on a KTV hostess.

Wang’s life is a good one: he has an apartment (which he shares with his wife and parents), he has a television (everyone needs a hobby), and he has a son (so no more pressure from his parents in that department). He also has a job at a State-owned company (which allows him to earn a significant under-the-table income), and he has a mistress on which to spend it. Yes indeed, life is fine for Wang XianSheng.

The next few years are fairly uneventful for Wang. His wife is unable to find a new lover, so she continues to act the good wife at home, and keeps her normally sharp tongue in check. His parents spend their days taking care of his son and doing the housework, so he is spared the bother of having to worry about the chores, and his KTV hostess finally agrees to have sex with him. Wang installs her in a nearby apartment so that he can spend the evenings with her, instead of having to deal with his family.

Behind the scenes, though, trouble is brewing. His wife, from the first day of their marriage, has been slowly siphoning Wang’s finances into her own secret account. She, of course, sees this as only natural and if she ever thought about it, would argue that it’s the duty of every wife to do so. Nevertheless, she is a long way along the path of being able to leave Wang, and she has begun to press him to buy her a second apartment, as an ‘investment’. His mistress, too, is plotting for control of Wang’s finances, and has started to suggest that he should divorce his wife and put the apartment into her own name. Wang of course, hasn’t the courage to leave his wife, and hasn’t the integrity to stay. Although things could well continue on like this for some time, a confrontation is almost inevitable at some point.

Wang is thirty two when his father dies of a heart attack. This unfortunate event opens a wholly unexpected can of worms, as before the body is even cold, several of his uncles and cousins start squabbling for control of the assets, including the apartment. This is the beginning of a family feud that will last years, and although Wang will eventually win control of the apartment and ninety percent of his late fathers’ assets, it will be a pyrrhic victory.

Thirty four and Wang’s mother is diagnosed with gastric cancer. The doctors prescribe lots of different Chinese medicines for her, including anti-cancer herbs, qi (chi) tonics, blood-vitalizing tonics, and phlegm-resolving herbs, but nothing seems to help. Wang is told that she might need Western radiation treatment, which will be expensive. This requires a great deal of thought, as Wang is about to buy a car. A car will certainly show everyone he is a big man in the world, but on the other hand, his mother does do all the housework and raises his son for him. Eventually, Wang decides to beg some money from a relative for her operation, thus ensuring a win-win (two wins) scenario for himself.

Wang is thirty seven when the foreigner moves into his apartment building. Really, this is intolerable! Why can’t the foreigner go back to his own country? Wang quietly starts a one-man campaign to have the foreigner evicted, but he is unsuccessful. And fortunately so, as his wife points out to him one night, for his son is at school now and some free English language tuition would certainly be useful. Wang agrees, and asks a friend (who speaks a little English), to enquire as to whether the foreigner can give free English lessons to Wang’s son. The foreigner politely declines, and Wang is incensed – who does this laowai think he is, anyway? Doesn’t he know that Wang is an important man? China should be for the Chinese, and Wang vows to have the last word on the subject.

Thirty eight, nine months later, and Wang gets his last word, when he tells a friend in the Public Security Bureau that this foreigner regularly invites prostitutes back to his apartment. In fact, the foreigner is living with his Taiwanese girlfriend, but that all ends when the police knock on the door one night. The end result is that the girlfriend dumps the foreigner, who is asked to leave the country with a big red ‘Prostitution‘ stamp in his passport. Wang celebrates with a prostitute of his own.

Forty two, and Wang’s mother dies. Wang is devastated – how dare she? Wang has spent all his life caring for her, and now she leaves him with a son to raise and housework to do! Wang has never loved his wife or son, has never had real friends, and even his father was just a person who was there, but his mother, the only person he has ever trusted has finally, in the end, betrayed him. The fucking bitch. Who will look after him now? Two weeks after the funeral Wang’s mistress, seeing her chance, delivers an ultimatum: leave your wife and give me the apartment, or else. Wang, furious and unable to cope with the pressure, beats his mistress and tells her she is finished. Later the same day, he beats his wife and son, too. He is a big man, and nobody should dare to threaten him!

Forty three now, and things have settled down again. His mistress has left him for one of her other lovers, but Wang doesn’t care – she was getting old, there are plenty of other fish in the sea, and he has just had a promotion. Wang has been put in charge of approving applications for certain licenses. As a result, he can now earn more through graft every month than some of his colleagues earn in a year.

The next eight years are good for Wang. His son does well at school and then college, and though Wang isn’t sure exactly what his son studies, it is enough that he can boast of the boy’s success. His wife is still with him (having lost a lot of money gambling at the mahjong table, she can no longer afford to leave). And of course, he has the ‘respect’ of the community.

And it all ends for him one morning in August. At seven forty five in the morning, Wang XianSheng, aged fifty one, dies of a heart attack. Wang leaves behind a twenty four year old son and a forty seven year old widow. He never knew his son, never loved his wife. Wang XianSheng never had a true friend, never knew trust. He did not marry for love, nor ever understood the concept. He did not travel to other countries, and he never understood anything about the people who live there. He never thought thoughts that were truly his own. He never appreciated art or poetry, never understood philosophy, never read a book for pleasure. And though he spent virtually all of his life in the company of others, he lived out his existence completely alone.

Wang was not unusual, there are nearly a billion and a half other people just like him. He was a product of his society, and this was his life.

Part three coming soon…

Posted in Wang Xiansheng | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »

Keeping Fit in the PRC

Posted by MyLaowai on Sunday, July 1, 2007

Next year, 2008, and the Olympics will be coming home to China, the land that invented them. I know this to be true, because I have seen the 40-minute CCTV documentary that proves it. China – the sporting superpower that gave us cricket, soccer, snowboarding and the Tour de France – is experiencing a wave of sporting enthusiasm the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Grog the Neanderthal first learned to throw a stick javelin. As a patriotic , tax-paying, member of this harmonica harmonius society, I therefore bring to you:

Sports. With Chinese Characteristics. Lah.

1. Remember that kid at school that everyone laughed at? Y’know, the one who would stand by himself in the playground with his legs slightly apart, twisting his torso left and right randomly, with his thin little arms flailing wildly and out of control? Yes, the one everyone called fucktard. Well, the joke’s on you, because it turns out that he was in fact practising the National Morning Exercise Of China. Every morning, half a billion fucktards diligent citizens start their day with this display of uncoordinatedism.

2. If that sounds like a little too much work for you (and certainly I doubt I could make myself do it), then how about this: extend your left arm out to the side, and with your right hand, reach across your chest and slap your left shoulder a dozen times. Repeat with arms reversed. Note that it does help with the reaching across bit if you possess a sunken chest, like pirates and Chinese do.

3. Too motionless for you? No problem. Find a nice open piece of lane and walk shuffle slowly backwards for twenty yards. Turn around. Shuffle back. Repeat until you feel dizzy (twice more should do it). Believe it or not, this is the mainstay of Chinese sports, and the reason for their astounding sense of balance and poise.

4. Not Zen enough? Hey, we got it covered. Stand in one place and wave one arm in a slow circle. That’s it, really.

5. For those of you who are into competitive sports, why spectate when you can expectorate? That’s right, sports fans, ‘Long Distance Spitting’ makes a return to the Olympics as the National Sport Of China. Modifications to the points system include bonuses for green colouration of the phlegm, minimal amounts of spray (sidewash), and slipperiness underfoot at the drop zone.

6. Foreigners haven’t been left out, either. The ‘Hop, Skip & Jump Through The Phlegm & Dogshit Minefield’ (A.K.A. the ‘Streetwalk’) has never been more in vogue. Just watch those laowai go!

7. An old favourite, the ‘Get A Seat On The Bus At Any Cost’ event is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Tickets are sure to sell out fast, so hurry to join the queue.

8. Massage is an ancient and traditional Chinese art. Massage is practised widely throughout the Celestial Kingdom, with salons found at convenient locations everywhere, even just outside primary schools. Simply look for the rotating Traditional ‘Barbers Pole’ outside and the Traditional Diligent Qipao-Wearing Masseuse inside. (* see also Press Up).

9. One of the more demanding sports in China, is the ‘Pretend To Pay For Lunch Or Dinner’ contest. The rules are complex and the action intense, but essentially the aim is to wave your money in the direction of the waiter whilst shouting loudly that you insist on paying, and yet somehow end up with your money back in your manbag and your guest having paid. All this after a fourteen-course meal washed down with a nice blend of Coke and Chateau Laroque. Wow, now that’s sport!

10. Finally, there’s the Special Olympics. China is expected to field the largest team ever, with nearly 1.5 billion competitors eligible for the team. Go get ’em, tiger!

Like the Man says… Just Do It!

Posted in Ask MyLaowai, Olympics | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

This Is Your Life, Wang XianSheng. Part 1.

Posted by MyLaowai on Thursday, June 28, 2007

This is Wang. The result of an indiscretion between his mother and one of her ‘friends’, he is still in the womb. Not yet born, much of his life has already been mapped out for him. He will not ever have a true friend, will never know trust. He will not marry for love, nor even understand the concept. Though he may travel to other countries, he will never understand anything about the people who live there. He will never think thoughts that are truly his own. He will never appreciate art or poetry, will never understand philosophy, will never read a book for pleasure. And though he will spend virtually all of his life in the company of others, he will live out his existence completely alone.

Wang is not unusual, there are nearly a billion and a half other people just like him. He is a product of his society, and this is his life…

Wang is born in a hospital. Though he doesn’t realise it, this is the greatest triumph he will ever experience. Just to get to this point, his mother has had to lie about his conception to her husband, the man whom he will soon be calling “baba”. He will, of course, never know the identity of his biological father. Wang is also fortunate in that his parents don’t already have a child, so his birth was merely a matter of getting Party approval, and he can expect to be taken home rather than being abandoned in a public washroom on the way home.

Wang’s parents are not rich, but neither are they paupers, and Wang will never want for anything that money can buy. He will also have plenty of attention: parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties, will all devote themselves to him. He will seldom be scolded, no matter the misdeed, and he will grow up knowing he is the centre of the universe. For now, though, he is struggling to learn who his parents are. His grandparents have taken control of his life, have selected his name, and are making the decisions. His mother will soon stop feeding him and then his life will be in the hands of the people who make the milk powder. This is a dangerous time for him – many babies have died from the lack of nutrition – but with luck he will make it to solid food.

Wang is never required to move. Indeed, he is unable to do so. Swaddled in numerous blankets and always hot, his arms are pinned to his sides and only his genitals and face see the light. For the next few years, he will not need to learn to walk, and will be carried everywhere by his grandmother.

Three years old, Wang attends kindergarten. Wang is a clever boy, and curious about the world. This does not endear him to his teachers, who frequently shout at him or hit him on the back of the head. At least once a week, he is locked inside a closet and at sleep time, he is tied to his cot so that he will not play with the toys. His parents never ask him about his day, and although they give him expensive toys to play with at home, they don’t take the time to play with him themselves. Wang is starting to learn how to be a ‘good’ boy.

Seven years old now, Wang is at primary school. A quick learner, he does well at political theory and can recite all the Dynasty’s of China. He is aware that there are other countries in the world, but has never been taught their names, only that they are against China. Wang has also learned how to lie, and does so whenever there is a chance to get a classmate into trouble. He feels justified in this, because many of them lie to get him into trouble, too. He does not enjoy sports, but he is learning the violin at his mother’s insistence. Wang’s teachers have noted in his file that he has great potential, partly because he does, and partly because his father was generous with the money at Spring Festival.

At the age of twelve, Wang has a major argument with his father, who refuses to buy him a new bicycle. Wang tells his teacher that his father is against the Party, and the School Party Secretary notes this in his file. Wang is made Class Captain, and his father does not receive an expected promotion. His fathers’ mistress leaves him in disgust, and his wife makes his life a living hell. Despite the abusive atmosphere inside the home, however, appearances are kept up in public, and Wang remains the centre of the universe.

Eighteen years of age and Wang is accepted into university. He does well in the mandatory Political Theory, but his other grades are not so good. He wants to study Marketing, but his father wants him to be an Engineer, so engineering it is. He really doesn’t understand much of it, but there’s no question of failing to leave university with a BSc, as long as his father keeps making donations to his professors.

In his second year of university, Wang meets a foreign student named Sarah. She is the most beautiful woman Wang has ever seen, she actually seems to like him too, and he is determined to marry her. When he announces his plan to his parents, however, the gloves come off. How dare he disgrace his family like that? Does he not care about his family’s face? Does he not know that foreigner girls are immoral and have AIDS? Wang is shattered, but his family are right. Wang stops seeing Sarah, and his family starts looking for a more suitable girl.

Twenty four years old, having graduated university with a BSc, Wang is working for a State-owned company. His work is not demanding, and he has plenty of opportunities for graft. He is also getting married to a girl his parents have found for him. Her family have some influence and he has them to thank for his new job. The girl in question is not attracted to him, nor he to her, but both sets of parents are in favour, so that is that. After they get married, she will live with Wang, his parents, and his grandmother.

Twenty five now, and Wang is told by his mother that it is time he had a son. Wang doesn’t want a child, but duty is duty. The only problem is, Wang is still a virgin. His wife displays all the enthusiasm of a dead cod, and he has only the vaguest notion of what is involved. Wang purchases a ‘yellow’ DVD and watches it for clues, and that night he and his wife finally consummate their marriage. It’s not particularly satisfying for either of them, but Wang has lost his virginity now and feels on top of the world. His wife, who lost her virginity many years ago, at least has her other lover to entertain her.

Twenty six and Wang’s wife is pregnant. Unfortunately, the doctor says it could be a girl. It’s an easy decision to make, so they opt for an abortion and try again. Later the same year, they are rewarded with good news, and this time it’s probably a boy.

Wang’s wife has become very loving – her lover left her when she became pregnant and now she needs to do her part in her husbands’ bed. For her, though, there is some good news – Wang’s grandmother has finally died, so not only has the amount of housework been reduced, she also gets a morning off work to attend the funeral.

Twenty seven and Wang Junior is born. Wang is at a KTV at the time. He has been spending a lot of time at this particular KTV lately, because one of the girls who works there is in love with him. Well, she says that she is, anyway. Wang buys her many presents and he hopes one day she will have sex with him. For now, though, it’s enough that she plays dice games with him and pours his drinks. Yes, she really is special.

To be continued…

*** Part 2 *** Part 3 ***

Posted in Wang Xiansheng | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »