Sunday, January 02, 2005

Father and Child Reunion
Damn, but it was good to see the lad clad in his Less Than Jake T-shirt, black hoodie and matching black Jagermeister cap loping into the arrival area of Hong Kong International airport only 24 or so hours after the handy itinerary provided by the travel agency said he'd arrive.
I'd done a inadvertant dress rehearsal a day before when I made the jaunt out the first time. It was only when the arrival boards had no flight number matching the travel agency info and I did some rapid calculating regarding time changes, international datelines and then badgered a United Airlines information woman who finally relented and told me that someone with his name was booked on a flight due the next day that it all became clear that booking through my newspaper's travel agency was about as reliable as doing it through one of those froggy loined guys pushing "copy watch -- almost REAL Rolex, sah!" outside Exit C-1 of the the Tsim Sha Tsui subway stop.
It was almost a real itinerary, except for the date.
After I stopped sobbing and sniveling and clutching him -- it had been a year and a half since we'd seen each other -- we fell into the old rhythms effortlessly. Perhaps our finest moments came when:
1. I made arrangements to get him a tourist visa so we could visit Shenzhen. The visa service came highly recommended from a normally impeccable source, but the logistics were, uh, like a lot of other stuff here, just a little unorthodox.
"So, dad. Let me get this straight. We meet some Chinese guy you've never seen before who supposedly works for a service you've never used before at a crowded subway exit at noon and give him my passport and HK$1,000 and he gives me a visa and my passport back a day later?"
Well, yeah. Exactly. And after waiting 25 or so minutes after our scheduled drop time both times (25 minutes is apparently "2-minutes" -- as in "I will be there in 2-minutes!" -- in Hong Kong time) at the meeting site while continually fending off the copy watch parasites the deal was done.
2. Riding the overstuffed two-day-old Shenzhen subway with Julian, my girlfriend, C, and a weighty plastic sack stuffed with melting, dripping ice and live crabs that we'd purchased for dinner at a store that specialized in only radio controlled mini-vehicles and crabs. ("Need 2.26 kilos of fresh crabs to go with that RC speedboat and 4X4, sir? I thought you would!") The subway is still a work in progress, despite the attendant positive hoohah of SZ TV and publications such as my old rag, The Shenzhen Daily. An entire escalator at one stop was ripped out, dismantled and stolen by ambitious thieves disguised as subway workers in broad daylight about a week before the opening. And despite the Shenzhen mayor's continual proclamations that his city is "international and English speaking" all annoucements for stops are in Mandarin only, not even Cantonese for the myriad Cantonese speaking Hong Kong visiting brethren who continually pour across the border for cheaper duds and grub. The exit signs are also only in Chinese - but there are occasional Chinglish signs warning passengers to "Be Mind Your Head!"
Additionally, at least one major stop shown on the schedule and advertised on TV is still under construction, the token machines don't take paper money yet and just fawgetabout the multi-ride cards. Advertised, complete with sparkling new despensing machines, but not available.
The sack o' crabs began slowly dribbling a pinkish, faintly rank mixture of effluvial exoskeletoid gunk on the train floor midway through our cramped journey, causing even the jaded Chinese passengers around us to express quiet disgusted curiousity at what horror might be in that foreigner's sack. C pretended not to notice while Julian stopped crowing "Hey, I'm taller than everyone here!" to join me in annoucing loudly: "Relax folks. It's simply a human head and kidneys harvested from a Bolivian tourist for strictly medical experimental purposes at the Lucky Number Apartment and Surgical Center. Rest assured that all procedures have been approved by the Shenzhen Subway Authority in advance!"

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