Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Dead Man Walking
Despite several e-mails and one unenlightening phone call by me it's been quiet, too quiet, from Hong Kong. I'm beginning to fear that my euphoria over the tryout and brief time there may be a case of counting my avian flu chickens before they're hatched or a case of premature congratulations. Great, just another premature 'ulation problem to worry about...
Meanwhile, times running out on my meter at the SZ Daily and the strain is beginning to show both ways. It's clear from their averted gazes and brief, muttered hurried responses to my falsely hearty "Morning! What's happening, comrades?" greetings that some of my colleagues regard me as already gone. Others have no clue and it's painful to hear them discuss summer plans that could include me while I'm thinking of a way to ask them if their second cousin's brother-in-law in Butte might have an opening for a 51-year-old delivery boy at his Chinese restaurant this summer.
I was also painfully reminded of my once-ecstatic arrival here with the arrival yesterday of another foreigner. I'll call her U because I can't pronounce her name and she'd also probably prefer not to be named. She's in her late 20s, a business and economics journalist from Germany and is here for two months on an exchange program that sends one of our staff there.
In this case, they got the dutiful spineless party aparatchik whom I suspect ratted out Shenzhen Zen and, based on dinner with her showing her around the Lucky Number neighborhood last night, I'd say the SZ Daily got the better end of the deal.
Soon-to-be-ex-foreign barbarian coworker Jeff and I were, of course, the last to know of the exchange until we saw a thin, tall, Aryian-looking blonde looking lost in the newsroom.
"Are they remaking Triumph of the Will?" I asked. "What's with Leni Riefenstahl's granddaughter?"
"Why should they tell us anything? We just work here," he muttered.
It turned out she's being put up in a new, upscale apartment virtually next door to the mighty Shenzhen Press Group tower, and I offered to show her around the area after work so she could get her bearings, buy some lodging essentials and learn where the restaurants with Chinglish language menus and non-biohazard restrooms are. She's not working for the paper, but is under its protection while she researches the Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock markets and works on a report about how the SZ Daily "works."
She told me her version of what she'd been told by the editors ("a free, independent and transparent source of news for Shenzhen's foreign community") and I told her how it really works ("a State-owned thinly disguised propaganda vehicle for the Shenzhen Bureau of Thought Control") over a Tsingtao for me and a Sprite for her at the Lucky Number.
She's no dummy and has spent some time in foreign climes before - including India and Colorado - so she's not coming in here full of shock and awe. Lots of healthy curiousity, though.
If I was passing a torch of sorts, it felt good to give it to someone who knows how to use it. I just hope she doesn't get burned.
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