‘Daniel’ promised to pay me $10,000.00 if the deal went through.
You mean 10,000 yuan, right?
“No. 10,000 US Dollars.”
Ok, what do I have to do?
“Nothing. I will do all the talking (in Chinese). You just come.”
Yes, but…. what do I have to do?
“Nothing. You da rich American client want to buy plutonium isotope. I translate for seller”
Umm … I know nothing about plutonium enrichment or nuclear isotopes.
“No problem. Don’t say anything. Just come. Wear a tie.”
… So I accepted. We left the house early – around 7:00, and I wore my nicest clothes. My best pants had already been shrunk by the housekeeper, but I didn’t have anything else, and I felt odd in my suit tie – which was far less than what I imagined an American businessman interested in purchasing Plutonium would be wearing. But $10,000.00 dollars sure sounded enticing.
2 hours later we drove up to a fancy building that looked a little bit like a Las Vegas conference – type hotel, with a grand reception lobby complete with fountains, rock waterfalls, Goldfish ponds … and enormous stuffed bunnies.
Up the elevator to something like the 26th floor, and then down the hotel corridor to room number 172b. (more or less). This was a suite; two hotel rooms with a shared “conference room”. the private rooms were on opposite sides, separated by the conference room in the middle. There were maid-servants that came in from time to time to serve coffee, tea, and some sort of weird Chinese biscuit – snack.
We got there first, and waited – maybe an hour and a half, before the others arrived. (Good thing we got there so early!)
I just did NOT feel like I was filling the role of the big businessman. But well, I did try.
In the beginning there was some protocol. Serving tea, and biscuits, small talk – who knows. Nothing was being translated for me. They never even greeted me, or shook hands. It was as if I didn’t even exist.
Daniel had instructed me to say stuff in English every once in a while, which he would ‘translate’. Didn’t matter what. So I asked if there were any more biscuits. And why did the lady with the plutonium salesman have such clearly defined notches in her teeth. At one point I tried my ‘Texas businessman’ act:
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN, 3,000,000 radon cycles per second?!! That’s outrageous!”
“Don’t y’all have any ORANGE JUICE, for cryin’ out loud?!”
“What tarnation is wrong with your teeth?”
I was getting bored.
The salesman was too.
He was just taking naps.
It was HIS big deal, too – but he was just letting this woman with the finest jagged teeth I’d ever seen talk and talk and talk – I guess she was his ‘negotiator’. But he seemed authentically UN-interested. He even snored a few times.
My eyelids were drooping from boredom, but I thought that for 10,000.00 dollars, I better at least ACT interested.
Then, all of a sudden – 3 hours later – it was over. No goodbyes, no handshake, nothing.They simply left.
So Daniel – I guess the deal is off?
“No no – deal is on, everything great. You did a good job.”
Cool, so …. when do I get paid?
“After we meet again. to sign papers”.
I didn’t hear anything about this again, until (Chinese) new year’s eve.
When we returned home at about 2:00 a.m. we stumbled onto that “meeting”. And – apparently – ruined everything.
We weren’t supposed to come home that night – only nobody told us – and once the salesman saw me – no longer dressed as a businessman – he figured out it was a scam, I guess.
But the thing is, there was nowhere else to go!
In China, new year’s eve is a family holiday, and NOTHING is open. Everyone goes home to spend this eventful occasion setting off fireworks at home with their family.
The whole business deal was off, because we did what everyone else does, we came home to celebrate. go figure.
Now back to the fireworks. It was decreed that fireworks are illegal in Beijing. But we saw fireworks everywhere.
Not just bottle rockets and lady fingers and roman candles… much much more; but chaotic.
There was no big orchestrated “show” like what you see in the US for 4th of July.
It was like an enormous, unorganized, personal fourth of July celebration in every neighborhood, in front of every household. Yes – a war zone, because the noise was unbearable, coming from every different direction – a syncopated harmony of explosions.
Fireworks are supposed to be for good luck, and to chase away evil spirits for the entire year….
The chains of hundreds of 4-inch fireworks; similar to what I remember being called m-80’s in the US were hung in doorways before being set off – for ‘good luck’.
I remember thinking that if I were a terrorist, wanting to explode a building or something, that there would be no finer moment.
This was the summit of a crescendo that had been building up for nearly 2 weeks.
Yep, fireworks are illegal.
So is playing music in China, without the authorization of the “minister of Culture”.
But now I’m getting way ahead of myself.
Next chapter I’ll tell you about my fishing trip with our Filipino musician friend Ralph.
Or walking through the park early in the morning…
“Zai Jian” (See you again – used for goodbye)