Sunday, July 10, 2005

Dark End of the Street
Former foreign-barbarian-coworker Jeff was unceremoniously forced from his long-time "polishing" post at the Shenzhen Daily almost two months ago after a long-running dispute regarding the terms of his contract.
He'd asked for some modest changes well in advance, the powers that be (mostly third-in-command, Xenophobic Commie Stooge Paul S.) ignored him and expected him to re-enlist without question. So Jeff walked after telling Paul off. At least that's Jeff's side of the story. I kind of hesitate to ask around at the Daily lately because I learned that Paul also recently took offense to a, well, let's say 'light hearted' reference I'd made to my former employer (the offending phrase was ''Unofficial motto: 'If it's news, it's news to us!'") in a Standard column and used it as an example in an (all-Chinese) staff re-education style meeting on why "foreigners cannot be trusted." I was just thrilled that he cared enough to read me.
Which is all by way of saying why C and I finally got together to pay a tea, beer and sympathy call with still-jobless Jeff and his girlfriend on Saturday. He's doing all right, or makes a brave front for a guy whose visa is about to expire and is waiting for free-lance work from Australia to pay off. Jeff's apartment is also C's old stomping grounds and she and I found ourselves looking for a place nearby to eat after bidding him adieu.
The neighborhood had changed since our last visit, nearly 6 months ago. It's still known as "Mistress Village" due to an enclave of single mainland women with Hong Kong sugar daddies who put them up there, but I noticed that there were fewer Hong Kong-style eateries that catered to the cross-border players.
"They might have to give it a new name," said C. "I've heard many of the mistresses have moved out."
"Where have they gone?"
"Some have gone back to their home villages to get married. A lot are too old now and are trying to find jobs. Maybe a few might have married their boyfriends. But people say there aren't enough mistresses any more with Hong Kong boyfriends who like to eat here. Less mistresses and bad feng shui. The corner businesses cannot stay open long."
One of our old favorites, a barbecue oyster shack (mid-block) was still thriving, though we noticed a lack of Cantonese male (Hong Kong) hubbub and more gender equal Mandarin -- possibly more evidence of a changing Shenzhen demographic trend due to mistress flight.
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