Random event I just remembered from last weekend:
I was at Babyface with some Chinese friends and a friend from Bates. It is a well known club here in Shanghai, extremely popular with wealthy locals but also notoriously unwelcoming to foreigners. It was here where a guy on my study abroad trip in 2006 decided to go for a solo night out and got into a fight (he lost, badly) with a bunch of Chinese guys. Since I was with a bunch of Chinese people, and also like to think that I'm less of a jerk than the aforementioned guy, it was all fine.
The place is really interesting as an example of modern Chinese culture/wealth. It is ultrapretentious and ridiculous in the Chinese “nouveau riche” way. Expensive to be expensive....display your wealth etc. It's pretty amusing. You buy a table and a bottle (Johnnie Walker or Chivas Regal for $150!) and it comes with mixers and ice and a dedicated server who is so ridiculously attentive it’s crazy. Every minute, she lifts your glass and wipes the residual moisture with a tissue. Somebody smokes 1 cigarette and immediately she brings a new ashtray. You drop your dice that you’re using to play the dice drinking game and she picks them up for you. You take a sip of your drink and she immediately refills it. It's crazy. Also, don't think about going to the bar to get a drink. It's table service only and you can only order through your server. Very rigid. Also, just like a Chinese meal, one person will pay for the whole evening. Don't even think about trying to pay your share.
Anyway, I went outside to get some fresh air around 2AM and was greeted by about 10 little kids, about 5-10 years old, who immediately swarmed me, holding on to my legs, raising their plastic cups toward me, wide smiles on their dirty faces, begging for money. "Money, money! Please, please, please money!" Now, I typically don't give these kids money because I think it's pretty messed up that their parents (the ones a few feet away who train them and "direct" them to foreigners to ask for money) use them as beggars. Their parents are always the ones trying to sell you flowers and cigarettes, while their cute kids just beg you for money.
However, I was feeling particularly generous, and mindful of the $400 bar tab inside, so I asked these kids if they had had anything to eat lately. Their parents were shocked that I could speak some Chinese. "Mei you!!!! 没有!!!" (no we haven't) the kids all shouted in unison. I eyed the McDonald's right next door. I told them to wait a minute while I went next door and bought 10 hamburgers. The kids were jumping and I had to shake them off my leg and tell them to hold on while I handed around the burgers. Immediately their parents approached me, thanked me, and pushed their flowers and cigarettes at me. No, sorry, I still don't want to buy anything from you, and why don't you take your kids somewhere to get some sleep? The kids were happy and full for a few hours at least.
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