Sunday, August 12, 2007

friday in shenzhen

I was out of internet contact for six days and I have been very busy and/or too tired to post anything.  I'll post something later on the missing week (August 4-10).

Shenzhen is located on the border with Hong Kong and is China's richest city.  It was a fishing village before being designated a Special Economic Zone in 1980.  Now it has a population of over 13 million, over 11 million of these are migrant workers and the vast majority of those are women.  That means they are not local residents and do not have certain rights like schooling for their children.

Being a young city it really has no soul and zero charm.  There are only three things it is known for:  fake brand-name goods, the best foot massages in China, and hordes of prostitutes.

Friday we visited a factory and went out to dinner with two factory owners and a broker that connects factories with buyers like Walmart, Costco, BJ's.  Then a dark side of Chinese business social life was exposed.  They brought out shot glasses and a bottle of 104 proof Chinese version of white lightning.  The men down the shots at one time, quickly getting drunk, trying to prove who is the better man by how much they drink .  I have heard about this before.  They seemed to reluctantly accept that I did not drink any alcohol anytime and that they shouldn't take it personally.  Poor DM took a couple of shots then wanted no more.  It got a little ugly as they really pressured him to drink.  DM got a little peeved at the pressure and absolutely refused to drink any more.  Then they gave him a beer.  He probably would have had the beer except he resented how they tried to force him to drink it.

The social abuse, the power trips and bullying is something you wouldn't even see among US frat boys.

After dinner our host wanted to take us by his factory then out to a club.  We didn't have time for the factory tour but agreed to go to the club.  One of our women wanted to go and the other felt she had to so as to not offend our host.  DM had been before to this sort of thing, told them what to expect, and absolutely did not want to go.  I decided we'd all go due to the sketchiness of it all.  I wasn't about to let the female students go there by themselves.

It was opening night for the club.  Very pretty girls would escort you to a room with loud music where a bunch of drunks and pretty women (prostitutes) were playing cards, doing business, karaoke, and more drinking.  There were also some waitresses with forced smiles whose purpose was to keep the beer flowing.  I had the honor, I later found out, of sitting next to the owner, a local mafia leader.  I smiled a lot, did not drink toasts but made the OK sign frequently.

I was doing pretty well until the female students left my side to karaoke.  Then after a few minutes a couple of professional women descended upon me.  I tried moving a bit further away but they just moved closer to me on the couch.   They were quite social despite our language differences.  They kept yelling "What is your name?" I answered but they either couldn't hear or couldn't understand me.   I soon excused my myself to tell YW, "I'm making some friends I really don't want to make."  We soon left a little while later, explaining we had appointments in the morning.

A funny thing happened to DM.  He was trying to be polite by having a beer with the boys but then received a cell call.  He went out in the hall to answer it.  It was his mother calling from Nepal.  As he was talking with mom a handful of prostitutes encircled him asking for his name.  It was to say the least an awkward situation.  DM can really tell a story and we were both doubled over with laughter when he later recounted his tale in our hotel room.

Only DM and I seemed to understand what a potentially bad situation it might have been had the women students gone by themselves.  Let's just say, mafia types aren't known for asking for permission.  There were a lot of drunk guys and the only other women socializing in the place were prostitutes.

I think our purpose there was to be trophy American friends of our host.  DM heard him tell someone earlier in the day that he couldn't talk because he was with his friends from the States.

The rest of our stay has been more pleasant.

Be blessed.


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