Monday, April 13, 2009

The temptations of being treated IV: Pierre's unusual offer

Pierre's unusual offer. The night I had picked up my money from Pierre he had stayed in the bar by himself, looking for someone to buy him drinks. It didn't take long.

"Hallo! You speaka Chinese?”said Mr. Chu.

“Huei (Able),” answered Pierre.

‘Good! May I talk to you? Yes(?!)..Okay…Please come...sit at this table.”

“Sure,” replied Pierre.

"Sankyou, sankyou. It is my pleasure," said Mr. Chu impressed with his own overpoliteness.

“I am Pierre.”

“I am Mr Chu. Nice to meet you! You are American?”

“No, I am French.”

“Ah, you from France.”

“You like wine?”

“Of course, I am French!” replied Pierre.

“I know. You from France. Yes. You say,” answered Mr. Chu strangely oblivious to the connection between France and wine. “Whiskey?”

Pierre knew what was going on: the chinese word 'jiou' covered everything from whiskey to vodka to red and white wine.

"How about red wine," he said. "Not whiskey but simple red wine. You know with the..." He mimed pulling out the cork.

“Red...Hmm...”continued Mr. Chu unsure what spirits were red in color.

Pierre was dying to speak Chinese to resolve the problem, but the guy had asked him if he spoke Chinese, received an affirmative answer, and then continued talking to him in English meaning he was one of those, and he should play along. Pierre understood Eric’s point about the Taiwanese using you to practice their English, but he had a more practical attitude. Maybe, in fact Taiwan was opposite to France: yes, you could learn French quickly because everyone insisted on speaking to you in it, but it wasn’t to help you, but because his people were arrogant snobs who couldn’t accept that their language wasn’t the most important in the world anymore; Taiwanese wanted to get ahead in the world so liked the idea they could speak English.

"Whiskey! Please,” said Pierre wanting the confusion over.

“Cheers! Mmm…Happy to meet you,”said Mr. Chu raising his glass to toast Pierre.

They then started to chat:“You so swai…handsome boy!”he said. As a foreigner you get used to hearing this; you just have to look presentable and you can be ‘swai.’ In fact, to find a foreigner who hadn’t been called handsome at least once during his time here, would be to find the elephant man’s long lost uglier twin.

“You are a teacher?”

“No! I not decide what I want to do, yet,”said Pierre.

“Yes, yes, I understand. You look very strong! You can dance?”

“Of course!”

“And sing?”

Pierre thought the guy was going to check his teeth next, then give a bag of coins to his parents.

"Ok, I suppose."

“You know many Taiwan lady like you foreigners. Give me a call, I introduce you.”

His new friend got an incoming call on his mobile and had to leave immediately. Pierre wasn’t so bothered because he got to keep the bottle of whiskey - Well, he put in his bag and quickly slipped out the door before anyone had time to change their minds.

He reasoned it would only be wasted: Mr. Chu couldn’t take it out because then he would look cheap and lose ‘face’. He would put it behind the bar with his name on and then never come back. All bars had thirty or forty started bottles of Chivas Regal on the shelf and only 10% of people ever came back.

A few days after he called the guy up and asked around, and it was what he had suspected, the chance to be a Friday Boy. He was excited, but apprehensive – these places were run by gangsters – and, anyway, he didn’t like it because the guy had specifically said “ he had some ladies who wanted some foreigners”, and his hatred of doing anything that was stereotypical for a foreigner or exploiting his status as one, was now reaching full maturity - becoming all encompassing. He would not to be a Friday Boy because girls would be specifically looking at him; he wouldn’t be competing with the Taiwanese guys because the girls would discern. Anyway, he knew he had nothing to prove to himself - he could sing, dance, and entertain; he knew that. He was sure he was not the kind of guy who allowed himself to be defined by others, and he would come up with something that other young westerners hadn’t.

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