Stories #2 – Nail Polish and Liver Soup

Here comes the second episode of my series of translated travel posts. Initially I was planning to summarize them in only 4 parts, but it takes me more time than expected to translate so there’ll be 6 of them: Crossing Gazes, Nail Polish and Liver Soup, Fishing Party, The Sacred Bond of Marriage, There’s Worse Than Being a Foreigner, Tomorrow the Way Home Will Last Three Days.
The “TN” are notes that I added afterwards.

September 2nd, 2011

Today I finally could check my emails, and I also caught a cold the other day \o/

These days I feel like a mix between Tintin and an intern (TN: Tintin is an adventurer-reporter in a Belgian comics series). Every morning I go to the factory where Sandra is employed: she works in the international sales department. I sit down at my very own desk and surf on the web waiting for something fun to happen, which occurs about every two hours: an invitation to eat together, someone to help, or just a stranger who wants to have a chat… That’s for the “intern” part.

But there is also a feeling of self-education. I spend my days in a Chinese factory in a part of the city where there is literally no other foreigner. I explore a bit and realize that they use the same 3D modeling software that we have at my engineering school. I discover the hard life of the workers – those who make a living thanks to globalization.
I’m not here to play the sensationalist reporter, be horrified at the living conditions, play disgusted and criticize everything. I’m here because a young woman wanted to share her lunch with me, made me a liver soup to cure my cold and invited me to sit at her table. It touches me that people who don’t even know me propose to cook me a meal and invite me inside their houses without a sign of hesitation.

Just like the hotel’s reception clerk.
Sandra literally confided me to her, saying that she should take good care of me and help me improve my Mandarin skills. The clerk takes it very seriously, and sometimes reminds me of Chihiro (TN: a Japanese girl that I met while working in a factory in Japan, and who took care of me in pretty much the same way). She forces me to wear nail polish, criticizes my boyish pants, tells me about her not always happy life, and says that she “wouldn’t talk as freely to a fellow Chinese person, but since I’m a foreigner she doesn’t have to censor her thoughts”.
Today she got really angry because I got an access of fever, and instead of calling for her I stayed sweating in my bed. What the heck are you doing?! Take this medicine and drink hot water! Put the air conditioning on and eat something! And next time you call me, do you hear?! We’ll go to the hospital if it’s necessary!

She looked mortified (“Kids these days!”) but that was just my normal “caught a cold” state. Knocked out by the fever, runny nose and stupid with exhaustion: a cold! I just wanted to sleep forever but she looked so angry that I did everything she told me to. Apparently she even called Sandra, who brought me dinner in my bed (noodles and soup), as well as a stock of medicine and breakfast for the following day. Actually, it’s not so bad to be a kid…

In the next episode, even shorter than this one, there will be quite a lot delicious-looking pictures. I will also talk a bit more about Sandra’s present and future life. The episode after that will tell the story of how the hotel’s clerk arrived in Shenzhen; if you don’t already, after that you’ll want to give her a big hug. Bear with me.


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