Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tick Tock

A few weeks ago C & I had the pleasure of hosting two, rare foreign Hong Kong visitors in Shenzhen. Not a lot of them are willing to make the plunge, unless it's a quick in-and-out involving the ol' in-and-out and/or a swift trip at the Lohou border to score quickie counterfeit stuff, a massage, some non-Cantonese Chinese food and back again.

Thanks to C's connections and a story idea I had we had a different tour agenda for my New Zealand chum, H., and an English lass, N.

"Hey, kids! Instead of Windows of the World, Splendid China or Shenzhen's Tallest Building, how 'bout we visit a counterfeit watch factory?" The factory in question is run by a first cousin of C's, a cheerful 35-year-old fellow who originally made legit time pieces in their northeast China hometown of Dandong til the lure of more money and competition with North Korean counterfeit watch makers across the Yalu River drove him south to Shenzhen. His current set-up is a slightly scarifying operation; three floors up in a non-descript structure in an older, less-developed Shenzhen neighborhood it contains at least one room reeking of toxic plating fumes where brain jangled teenage employees without masks incur long-term neural damage working 7.30am-6pm, 6-days/wk. while crafting fake designer time pieces for about US$2/day.

First an introduction: N is tall, thin - 6-1 ft, 6-2 maybe? - and blonde. She also speaks fluent Mandarin. Thus in Shenzhen and anywhere else in China she is both an object of basic curiousity (see: tall, thin, blonde, female) and also one of extreme wonder (as in: "How wonderous that a young, exotic foreign female speaks our language so well, while that old, fat, red-faced, hairy barbarian loser squiring this group around and trying to poke into my fake watch factory speaks nothing but broken phrases and babble!")

She and C were the keys to getting her cousin to open up a little more. Mr. Wong as I'll call him (not his real name, but I'd have to kill you, etc. if I told you) was entranced by N and practically crawled on broken glass as he chatted her up while escorting us out of his fake watch sweatshop to the nearest taxi artery. You can read about some of it here.

And if you're in the market for a mass order of fake Thomas the Tank Engine, Mickey Mouse, Validmir Putin (or the Lone Ranger) on a White Steed, Hugo Boss, Rolex, Omega, Fossil, Tag Heuer, Beijing Olympics etc., watches, lemme know. I know a guy who might help. And if N agrees to a dinner date, I bet he'd drop the price even more...
Man, you always have the best outings.
Next time I'll bring a friend who does amazing things with ping-pong balls...

"The ole in-out in-out? " Why, my good sir: are you implying that anything unwholesome occurs in the shining example that is the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone...?

I'm incredulous, simply incredulous, at the mere suggestion.
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