Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wo Ju – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 5

Back in Secretary General Song's office. Haizao says that Song must attend the opening of the xiaoqu, or else she will be out of a job, as Boss Chen told her. Song says he will call Chen. Song also gives Haizao a mobile phone, saying that a friend gave it to him to try out for two months, and then send in the suggestions form. Haizao reluctantly accepts the gift and leaves.

Su Chen is cooking and Haiping is still reading her book on fengshui. She says one can't buy U-shaped, T-shaped, H-shaped, or 1-shaped apartments, and it is all for reasons that have been proved scientifically -- for instance, that U-shaped apartment complexes resemble the character for death. Su Chen is exasperated that Haiping spent money for three servings of rice on this book of feudal superstitions.

Boss Chen tells Haizao that she should take orders from Secretary General Song in the future, since his matters are more important than the companies'.

Haiping and Su Chen look at another apartment with the agent. Haiping, outside, is unsatisfied. Haiping does not give a reason, but points to the interior decoration being temporary as a indication that something must be wrong with the apartment. Su Chen is upset, claiming that it will be impossible to quickly find an apartment with Haiping's attitude, and tells her to find an apartment herself.

Discussing food over dinner, Haiping suddenly interrupts.

Haiping: "I know. I finally know. Why I have looked at so many apartments and still can't find one. It's because they are all second-hand (used). They are all old. I want new, I want a new apartment (新房). Without the tinge of anyone else. I am the first possessor of this apartment. Starting from tomorrow… starting from tomorrow, I will only look at new apartments."

Su Chen: "New apartments? New apartments? They will be dozens of kilometers from the city. Two hours to get to work, and two hours to return home."

Haiping: It is better to buy an apartment that is further away, but next to a starting point for the bus, and sit for the two hours, rather than stand on the bus for one hour to get to work. And with the speed of development, it is not impossible that we will buy a car. There is a domestically-manufactured one that costs only 50,000 yuan. Look at Minhang [the characters are different from Minhang district of Shanghai, but the pinyin is the same]. It used to be far away, but it developed and developed and it will soon be a center of the city.

The preliminary demolition teams comes to visit the elderly woman--Grandma Li, who lives on the ground floor of the collective house where Haiping and Su Chun rent. There is a representative from the residents committee, which is bursting with enthusiasm. There are also a man in a suit and an aging man from the area. She ignores the initial exclamations of the residents committee representative, who says that are moving from chamber pot life into a new apartment (with indoor toilets).

Old woman, there is a new trend, and you have to be a part. You want to be emptying the chamber pot for the rest of your life? You want three generations under one roof? You want that?

Grandma Li: "Why wouldn't I want that? This is a good home. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It costs me nothing. Transportation is convenient. The local hospital is only steps away. For those of us with low incomes, and little security, saving money is a good thing. Understand?"

There is now a crowd of people in her room.

Grandma Li: "At my age, where can I move? Outside the city? Suburbs? The ways of world have really changed. Out of towners and foreigners are kicking us out. They live in the city center, in high-class areas. Break up those of us who have lived here for decades. Us old Jiangzhou (Shanghai) people, become lowlier as the days pass."

The residents committee representative says the Grandma Li is not keeping up with the times. She is like a "frog at the bottom of a well" (井底之蛙, a metaphor used in earlier episodes by Haiping), staying in one place where it is inconvenient to use water or go to the bathroom (in earlier episode, Haizao saw Grandma Li's son showering and was disgusted). This is not the living style of a big city.

Grandma Li: "People move upward, but water runs downward. Without improvement or advance, how am I to move?"

The group leaves and in the alleyway say that Grandma Li is certain to become a "nail household" (钉子户) [Here is a very famous photo of the most well-known nail household in China, in Chongqing:

Secretary General Song picks up Haizao at his office. They ride in an U.K. SUV -- probably a Range Rover. They talk about different things, and eventually Haiping calls to invite Haizao for dinner. Haizao is upset because she doesn't have the money. Song offers to lend it to her and she accepts. They arrive at the destination.

At Song's house, he sleep late and doesn't know S.H.E. -- the pop rock band from Taiwan. He tries to stop his daughter from attending a signing for them in Century Park, but fails. Song makes a call and arranges for his daughter to be taken care of at the event as a V.I.P., so they will not have to get close to the crowd.

Narrator: Haizao makes his (Song's) blood race, and makes him feel old, but also young.

Back to Auntie Xu and Madame Wang. Madame Wang thinks Auntie Xu is stealing money by buying too little food with the money Wang gives her. Xu says she wants to quit because Wang is too penny-pinching, and doesn't trust her. Wang threatens to take away three days of wages. Xu quits, and Wang says she has a master's degree from a famous university, so it is below her level to have to deal with this type of person (to a neighbor).

A real estate company. The employees are attaching numbers to a board. There are a few apartments that are reserved in advance, and they are marked with a red flag -- there is a layout of the apartment complex in miniature in the company lobby. Building 10 is reserved, and building 6, with multi-levels, will be sold in the next batch of apartments. The employees adjust the board to reflect the choices made by Executive Zhang. Is there a mistake with the price? Last week it was 9,500 per meter. A whole week has passed. Can prices not go up? This land parcel, it is exactly 11,600 per meter. I almost don't want to open up the apartments for sale. If we could just wait half a year, or a little more, it would be 15,000 per meter. How much profit am I sacrificing?

A woman who knows Zhang comes in and wants a number, near the top. Zhang gives her the number. Zhang gives a speech to the guards to control the crowd. Safety first. For sales girls, be fast. If they can’t decide in 10 minutes, forget them. Understand?

Ok. Start!