Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Money-Making: The Chinese Way

Last night I had a rare quiet moment at Web and was chatting with a couple of my favourite students in the "Web Café". One of them, James, asked me if I could go to his apartment after work to give my opinion on something. His home is very close to mine so I thought it wouldn't hurt to take a look.

He lead me into the same building that I previously mentioned here. This time it was to the seventh floor. As we made our way up the floors in the lift, I asked him how much he pays to live in such a place (it's a standard question in China, not taboo in the slightest). The price he gave me was astonishing, only 550 RMB (about £45) a month. After my painful experiences of apartment hunting in China, I couldn't believe such a good area and modern building could be so cheap. Why couldn't I find such a deal? I was given my answer as soon as we came to the front door -- which was already open.

The apartment was divided into seven different bedrooms, with two people in each. There were two bathrooms and one laundry room for everybody to share, but no kitchen. It was like a halls of residence for first year university undergraduates. I was also surprised to see one of my colleagues, Cucu (pronounced "cuckoo") there. At first I asked her, "what are you doing here?", not even thinking that she would be a tenant. When she replied that she was indeed living there, it hit home that as a lao wai in China I am getting paid considerably more than my local workmates. It's not fair and I don't like it, but it seems to be the way every school in this country is being run right now.

As I sat in James' bedroom the conversation came back to the original reason I was there: for my opinion. I was very interested by now to know what he wanted my point of view on. He walked to his wardrobe and revealed a grey suit jacket. In fact, it was a fake Dior suit jacket (see top right), and he wanted to know if he could make any money from selling them. I couldn't help but think, "why has he asked me here for this? I'm the last person who knows anything about clothing." He told me why: apparently I wear stylish clothes and if I think it's good he'll think it's good too (which is ridiculous, but very flattering all the same). Of course, my first question about the jacket was how much it cost him to buy one. He told me, 100 RMB (about £8). Wow, even in China that is a bargain. We spoke a little longer and discussed selling them together on eBay to the UK or USA. If there is a market for it I am convinced we could make a little more than £8 for each suit jacket online. He's going to buy twenty more and we might give it a go....

Guitar lessons have been going well so far, I found a great website with some well-structured lessons on it. Results have been quick and I'm finding the lessons pretty easy. This false sense of security is only due to my brief learning of the guitar previously, and the fact that I know all of the theory already. I am waiting to hit the brick wall of progress in a month or two. For anyone who doesn't know, this is the time when improvement suddenly becomes painfully slow, only motivation and sheer perseverance keep you going.

I've also started keeping a diary of Chinese words that I learn during each day. I had become fed up of forgetting everything that people tell me. If I come across a word I consider to be helpful or necessary I will write down the pin yin in my little green notebook (see left). Unfortunately I'm constantly having to carry it around with me in my pocket for it to be of any real use (which isn't too bad because it makes me feel a bit like a homicide detective). To memorize the words I will attempt to read them before I go to bed at night and then again after waking up in the morning.

It looks like October is a good month for starting new things.

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