Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wo Ju – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 4

Young Bei tells Haizao that he has 60,000 in savings, and she is ecstatic. In his response to her question of how he saved it, he says he doesn't buy clothes or consume, and stays at home all day with his obedient piggy -- yiqi woju, 一起蜗居, here woju is used as a verb, they live in their snail space together. First time this word woju has appeared in the series.

The people in the longtang get information that their housing will be demolished, and they are excited. They know because someone's wife went to the residents' committee to move her hukou but was rebuffed since all hukou are frozen until the next year for demolition.

The middle-aged woman says 1 square meter will be worth 20,000 yuan -- and that that is pretty good compensation. The middle-aged man says they only have 10 square meters so that is not good.

The elderly woman says the couple might be happy about demolition, but she is not. The developers will turn around the land and pocket millions or tens of millions. She has lived there since she got married, and she doesn't want to move. In the past at its height, the 10 square meter space had 7 people. And she wasn't sad when her husband died because, for the first time, she could stretch out her legs.

Haizao asks Young Bei again about borrowing the 60,000 yuan to lend to Haiping. He says, one day, your sister will not be your closest kin, but instead it will be him and their baby. How can they get married on May 1 of the following year, and purchase an apartment, if they lend all their money to Haiping. This amounts to a rejection of lending the money.

We meet a new couple with a teenager. They are sitting in a large living room eating breakfast. The daughter is eating toast and milk, unlike the adults who eat rice porridge. The father is Secretary General Song, who showed an interest in Haizao. The father says he is late so can't take the daughter to school. She must get a ride with someone's mother instead.

Haizao is asked to play golf with her boss instead of go on a business trip.

Su Chun comes home and doesn't turn on the light. He sits on the bed.

When Haiping returns, he tells her that his mother is sending 60,000 yuan. She is ecstatic. He thinks to him self: "Now you say 'our mom' instead of 'you mom'. If she didn’t give the money, it would have been 'his mom' [咱妈, 你妈, 他妈, this is a joke because a working translation of "dammit!" in English is 他妈的, or "his mother’s"]."

Haizao's boss, Executive Chen, is waiting for her. He picks her up and they go to Thompson Golf, a well known course/residence in Shanghai.

Another new set of characters: Auntie Xu, who works for Madame Wang. Auntie Xu wants a pay raise, but Madame Wang says she can't just increase her salary.

Secretary General Song, Haizao, and Executive Chen play golf together. Song helps Haizao to swing a few strokes.

A real estate agent is explaining to Haiping and Su Chen about an apartment. He explains the convenient transportation location, so they ask him about the noise. He says only garden houses on Hengshan Road have both good transportation and no noise.

Outside the apartment Haiping says the apartment is not good enough. "This will be our guarantee for the next 1/2 of our lives," she says. "He mentioned a 'mature community' that means old houses. Built in the late 1980s -- it's been almost 20 years. They have had 统共使用权 ("all had use rights", [the origins of this phrase are unknown to me -- Trans.]) for only seven years. We won’t even be dead and the apartment will be taken away by others."

The agent calls again. Haiping hangs up and suggests that they find a couple of other agents. "货比三家不吃亏" , or "compare the goods from three stores in order to avoid getting ripped off", a saying [This saying is cited in a well-researched book on department stores in China, written by Amy Hanser. While a little one-sided, it does good comparative work on an underground clothing market, a state-owned department store, and a Hong Kong luxury mall all in Harbin (a city that is much easier for Westerners to work in than Shanghai or Beijing, where the cities are saturated). The book is called Service Encounters: Class, Gender, and the Market for Social Distinction in Urban China and can be accessed here.

Su Chun sighs about the prospect of continuing to search for apartments.

Back to Madame Wang's apartment. It is richly decorated, and there is a party (that Madame Wang asked Auntie Xu to stay around for and clean after). Madame Wang: "Auntie Xu, please bring a plate of fruit".

Haiping is reading a book: Fengshui for Modern Housing , 《现代住宅风水》. "Su Chun, you have to look at a lot of apartments before you buy. Otherwise, it is easy to end up with a 衰房, shuaifang, 'apartment in decline'. You can’t buy apartments in a complex shaped like a box; because people in a well have blocked wealth and valuables. It's not feudal superstition. For logic of the prohibition on apartment complexes shaped like a box, the apartments inside will be blocked from the sun, and without the sun, it is easy to catch diseases."

Auntie Xu asks to take home the dishes that the Wang family doesn't eat. Madame Wang agrees, then laughs, "that saves your food fees, so it counts as an increase in your wages." Auntie Xu looks distraught.

Haizao goes to a government (party) building where Secretary Song works. She finds Secretary Song, and invites him to the opening of a new xiaoqu developed by Boss Chen's company. He says, "Come into my office."