Jonathan Brun

The Fall of Communism

I thought I would give you guys an an update on my situation even though I find these mass emails self engrossing and often pointless. I will attempt to make this worthwhile.

I arrived in Beijing a week ago and have managed to find an apartment (see photos) and get to work. To say things are different here would be both an understatement and misleading. Humans are humans. The general citizenship are cordial and understanding regarding my language impairment and they remain generally honest, though no matter what I pay, I feel like I am being ripped off.

It remains that most everything is cheap here. I bought fake puma running shoes for 6$ and on Friday I had dinner, took three taxis and got completely smashed for about 20$. A Canadian dude from BC is in an apartment next door; he had some friends over and we ate down in the Hutongs below us, with beer, for a grand total of (drum roll) 10$ (for 5 of us). Hutongs are the old school, ghetto, chinese housing that is very dirty and essentially completely impoverished, they are all over the city (see one of the attached photos). We first went to an expat white trash party, at which my canadian buddy and this black american new yorker won best white trash costume. Essentially, because booze is so cheap, I bought one round and the rest of the night people were handing me liquids to consume. I had also been told that Chinese beer is remarkable dry and therefore gives you one hell of a hangover. They were right. We then hit up a night club not unlike something back home except for the fact that it is full of chinese people. By then I was already remarkably drunk and I ended up avoiding a fist fight with some black dude thanks to a massive asian bouncer. I danced around like the drunk jewish boy that I am for a while, until I realized I did not recoginze anyone in the club. So I hopped in a cab, mumbled some chinese stuff and passed out for 20 minutes, woke up handed over 4$, got out, climbed four flights of stairs, and passed out, woke up to barking dogs and crazy chinese people and swore off Chinese beer for the next 8-12 hours.

My apartment is completely brand new and better that anything I would get in the western world (see photos). As labour is ridiculously cheap here, the city is immaculate. You do not see any garbage on the street or in the subway system. You are constantly being waded on. Fast food restaurants bring food to your table and there is always an abundance of people willing to help you. I am unsure how the country will be able to completely modernize to the level of the western world as increases in wages would inevitably lead to layoffs and general social discontent. At my office building (it is a high end office building) there are 4 doormen, 4 security guards, and two people at an information booth inside. Not to mention the army of cleaning staff that roam the building like drones in white labcoats polishing everything that does not shine sparkle sparkle. There are people everywhere. You cannot go anywhere without there being many many people, not just a few people like back home, but many many people. I take the subway to work and as you can imagine, it is chaotic. But a little canadian muscle usually manages to get me in and out of the train with minimal casualties to the local population. The streets are all gigantic and what looks like a 5 minute walk on a map is actually 25 minutes. Beijing is 4 times bigger than Paris. And Paris is pretty fucking big.

Pertaining to the actual purpose of my trip, my job, I am working in downtown Beijing at the sales office for Danieli. Danieli is an Italian company that produces machinery for steel plants, they also do project management for the installation of their machinery. They produce machines for everything from Blast Furnace linings to galvanizing lines (which, for the non technical among us is like from A-Z in steel making). The office in Beijing comprises about 50 Chinese people and 20 Europeans (mostly Italians), but at any given time, 30% of the office is traveling. That being said, I will be doing a substantial amount of traveling for the company. This will permit me to see the real china and to get some hands on experience. Business is conducted in a mixture of English, Italian and Chinese, which means that the people in the office are all very intelligent and capable. I am leaning chinese and will likely get a tutor (costs 3$/hour) after I meet my supervisor on Monday. I am involved in the negotiations of contracts and I will go to the plants to make sure the machinery is being properly installed and to convey any problems to the company. I am leaving to North eastern china on Wednesday for four days and I may go to Taiwan next week. Of course, I will not be doing this alone, but I should obtain a fair amount of responsibility and I am essentially guaranteed a job anywhere in the world when I am done, unless I prove to be a real fuck-up, which remains a distinct possibility.

Published on May 20, 2005