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Written by Mary Higgins
For the sake of re-living horrible memories, I was trying to remember the absolute worst thing that has ever happened to me in China. There are a lot of things that happened *around* me, like: 1. Taking a train from Beijing to Guangzhou in 1993 when our train killed some peasant, threw his mangled body off the tracks and kept on going. 2. Watching a man bathe in manhole in Guangzhou in 1995. 3. Riding in a taxi in Shanghai in 1997.

Our taxi’s side mirror caught the handle bar of a hugging motorcyclist and we carried him a half a kilometer before the taxi driver noticed, despite my screaming. The taxi driver then hit the brakes and sent the motorist flying. We gently carried on to our destination. 4. Watching a man (yes, this is actually true) chew on a condom in the airport in Wuhan in 1998.

I still am baffled to this to today. I suppose the list could go on and on, but like I said, these are things that have only happened *around* me. What’s happened *to* me?

A couple of things come to mind:

1. I got in a fist fight with a taxi driver in 1997 in Shanghai. He was about half my size and certainly knew he was no match, but when I refused to pay him for taking me on the “scenic route” to my destination that cost 20 RMB than it should have, he went into fist-a-cuffs mode. It didn’t take long before he realized he was not only not getting his money, he was also getting his ass kicked.

2. I got sick in a cab ride in Qingdao in 1999 and end up vomiting all over the taxi. Okay, I suppose that is more about what happened to the taxi driver than me.

3. I tried to do some business in 1996 in Qinhuangdao and ended up in the Chinese prison of banquets. Everything was so disgusting that I had to lie and say how much I loved eating shrimp (which I hate). They then fed me 3 plates of shrimp.

4. Fresh off the boat in Beijing in 1991, I went to the Xiao Mai Bu at my school. I asked for soap. The lady said “Meiyou”. I said “It’s right behind you”. She said “meiyou”. I said “It’s right there, right behind you. I can see it.” She said “meiyou”. For a newbie to China, this was the worst experience ever.

The one that tops the list for me though was on a business trip to Qingdao in 1998. Flying in from Dalian, I was put in touch with a “contact” from a “friend”. I should’ve just declined the offer of introduction. But I thought at the time it would make it easier to navigate business. This “contact” picked me and my business partner up from the airport in his Audi. Riding in class - nice! Then he took us to the hotel that he “owned”. I’m not sure if he really owned it or not, but everyone there seemed to kowtow to his presence, so we were with some kind of royalty. It was getting late, around 10:30pm and we just wanted to have a quick bite to eat, take a shower and hit the hay. Our host would have none of that.

First came the 17 course banquet. All I can say about that is: “Shandong sure does have big mantou!”. Next he brought out an assortment of petroleum for us to drink, which he referred to as “alcohol”. I really, really had to work at declining this, claiming that I was allergic and that it would actually kill me. He acquiesced, but didn’t let us off that easily. It was then that he brought out the big guns.


For the next 4 hours, he ended up mangling every Mando-pop song out there, even delving into some garbled Canto-pop, Edelweiss and Country Roads. An assortment of young girls sat with him, touching his thigh as he made his magical music. He forced us into singing songs we didn’t know and clapped the whole time. No one was spared. With his trusty chauffer, he then made us all take part in singing Zhen Xin Ying Xiong. I got to play the Jacky Chan vocals.

I had to call it quits after that one, knowing that I had ruined any chance to do business with the guy. But a person’s got to have some values they won’t compromise.

Our valuable Editor Mary Higgins has been with us since Tuesday, 24 November 2009.

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