Thursday, June 03, 2004

Gimme Shelter
Long distance house hunting is not easy in the best of circumstances - but trying to find an affordable "flat" in Hong Kong when you're stuck in Shenzhen with the Manchurian blues again, well it would try the patience of a Shaolin monk.
Leads and agents provided by a sundry group of mostly friends of friends have so far given me no hope that I won't be sleeping under a Hong Kong bridge 12 days from now.
Uncertain phone connections, cultural, social and linguistic gaps also present some, er, stimulating challenges. As does the fact that, despite several forays to HK and some intensive map scrutinizing I have little idea of where, say, my future employer is in relation to "that cool little shop where I bought a Cultural Revolution-era figurine of a Red Guard chopping off a capitalist's head."
All of which leads to phone queries like these. The first was to a man with the unfortunate name of Fok. The second to another agent with the equally unfortunate surname of Poon:
Mr. Fok
Me: "Hello, Mr. Fok? I got your name from a friend in Shenzhen who said you might help. My name is Justin Mitchell. I need a furnished flat, one bedroom anywhere in Hong Kong as soon as possible. I am in Shenzhen now and need to move quickly."
Fok (British accent and in a tone that suggests I am calling from a Bangladeshi leper colony): "Shenzhen? Oh. Well. Where would you prefer to reside?"
Me: "Almost anywhere. As long as it's no more than $5,000 a month." (Readers note: That's Hong Kong dollars and not a lot by many HK standards.)
Fok: (sniffs audibly in contempt) "I do not have anything at that, er, rate. May I suggest Amoy Garden?" (Note: SARS Ground Zero).
Me: "Uh...thanks anyway." (To myself as I hang up) "And Fok you, Mr. Fok."
Ms. Poon
Me:(shouting into office phone cuz it's free long distance to Hong Kong; coworkers in background stifling snickers while pretending not hear): "YES, HELLO! HELLO? Is this Ms. POON?"
Poon: "Wei! Wei! Nei-hou!"
Poon: "Who call? Yes! English yes! Who call?"
Me (very slowly): "I am Justin Mitchell. Lilian Ko gave me your number. You are a real estate agent?"
Me (assuming psuedo-therapist/crisis counselor tone): "No, I am not Miss Ko. I am also not a Tong member. Miss Ko say your name. I am Justin. In Shenzhen. You can help find flat? You know Miss Ko?"
Poon (more alarmed): "OH! SHENZHEN! NO! (Flurry of Chinese) MISS KO!" (Sound of phone dropping, line suddenly goes dead).
Me: "Hello? Hello? Ms. Poon? Hello? Nei-hou?...Nei-god-damn-it..."

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