Ni hao, readerz
Woke up today with a very bizarre recollection of what happened yesterday. I had been asked by Marco’s and my quasi-“agent” if we had some white, male friends who could act as hosts and waitors at an event in Tangshan on Friday for some pretty fat remuneration. Naturally, gathering the troops for this was not a problem (Gutti, Jackson, Cyril, Marco S, Marco P and I were game). After having trecked to the Art District, where we were being picked up by the client, we saw that 30 other models would accompany us. In total, this meant ~40 people being shipped from Beijing to Tangshan for this event. After a 3 h busride, we arrived in a place which looked very desolate, apart from 10 mega-skyscrapers and a super lush conference center connected to those buildings. Apparently, it was the opening of the buildings which we were attending. A big, fancy banquet was being held in the atrium, underneath the stars. It looked like a Hollywood- wedding scene. Everything about the conference center was bombastic and over- the- top; it was a modern complex that tried to look like an Italian palace. Everything about it breathed a strange mix of “money” and “fake”.
When we asked “what are we actually supposed to do here?”, we got very aloof answers which seemed to suggest that our job- basically- was to be… white. ~35 people in suits and dresses were posted around the site to provide a “beautiful, white face”, whereas Gutti, Marco S, Cyril and I provided the alcohol for these guests. Wine is expensive here (imported product), but that was no object to the client: if people wanted alcohol, we were to provide. Pretty soon, people were decadently shit-faced.
All of a sudden, a massive fire-work display went off, a titanic ice-sculpture was rolled in, the band (terrific group from UK+ US) blasted their tunes and it was clear that dinner was transitioning into gambling in the casino. Alcohol was everywhere, cuban cigars and people in frocks circulated the place. The message that this place wanted to give was blatant: “WE HAVE MONEY. A LOT OF MONEY.”
When the 1.5 h dinner was over, the wine- team was told that our job was over. “Wait… what?”. They paid all foreigners 1500 yuan for 1.5 – 2 h of work. This means that the client splurged ~60 000 Yuan, in order to have white people around. When asked how much she got out of this, our Chinese manager said that she got a little more than a quarter of our individual salary, and she had been working all day (she was surprisingly chipper about it, though). Apparently, being able to hire white westeners to do service-jobs for you is the ultimate token of success here. To them, it seems perfectly understandable that salary is – and should be- directly linked to your skintone. We were bemused…
Apart from the absurd scenery and the absurd job-discription, the business of representation (modelling to some extent, i guess) is a pretty strange environment. Yesterday, the manager had no problem whatsoever resounding “why didn’t you shave? You look old!” and “you should loose weight, you fat!”. However, this lady was pretty hysterical in general.
On the way back, the manager came into the bus with piles and piles of money: everyone was paid cash. No taxes there… After a night of many surreal impressions, it was pretty nice to sit on the bus and watch the landscape of the night swish by. After ~2 hours, it was consoling to see the stately skyscrapers of Beijing Financial District welcoming us back to the city from afar.
It was ~02.00 when we got back, and we were greeted by something you don’t come across everyday in Beijing: a very starry, clear night. All smog had lifted, winds were blowing just a little chilly, and for the first time since coming here, I felt that fall was around the corner.
Today: a perfectly clear and sunny day in Beijing. I have had time to reply to some e-mails (not all, though) and quite simply enjoy a day in the neighbourhood around campus. Called home because of sister Karins birthday (Hurra!), and it was nice to talk to the family. Today was also Hedvigs birthday, which meant a sweet party in dorm B0423, awesome dinner at restaurant and rooftop- party thrown by my kick-ass neighbour Shan from Sri Lanka.
Now, sleep awaits as I’m waking up in the morning for another job: wearing a kilt and pretend to be Scottish. I’ll totally pull it off, since I’m white, right? Back Monday evening. After that, GOLDEN WEEK OF no musts!