Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wo Ju – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 9

Haizao comes to visit Secretary Song to give him an envelope from Boss Chen. She sees the doll, called "Dream Journey Baby" (梦游娃娃, again unknown if this is product placement; apparently, the dolls are from Japan and designed by Yoshitomo Nara, a Japanese pop artist). [Note: Haizao knows that this doll is a work from Yoshitomo Nara, something I wish I knew before I spent 15 minutes trying to look up the product -- Trans.] [Note2: Haizao explains (since Song asks) that Yoshitomo Nara is very cool, a Japanese cartoon designer and painter, also very good looking, and the products he designs are very "Q" (cute). I am feel very 土, un-Q]. Song gives Haizao the doll and she leaves.

Their argument over, Haiping and Su Chun make up. She is happy, because she bought a lottery ticket, and will soon become a millionaire. Su Chun says she is acting like "the little people of the town (市井小民)". Haiping says when she hits the jackpot and takes home 5 million yuan, she will buy a 200 square meter apartment in the city center. Su Chun says she is dreaming. Thom--something, their apartments (Thomson golf, mentioned in earlier episode), the ones next to the river, are 110,000 yuan per square meter. With you 5 million, you can only buy a kitchen. Haiping says those apartments are a ruse (噱头). She paid 10 yuan for the lottery tickets and Su Chun is a little exasperated since she won't buy vegetables or let him smoke because of the cost. She says she is buying hope, and that she will win.

Grandma Li is sleeping in the longtang alley. Her son sneaks past her, looking like he has been roughed up. He reveals to his wife that he was beaten by a mother whose child was in the game room and brought a bunch of people with her. Grandma Li eventually discovers what happened and says that they will get 1 million yuan. The demolition and relocation people came to see her again and she cursed them. She says they must give her a 2 bedroom, 1 living room apartment, or she will make sure they never demolish the area.

Haiping doesn't win the lottery, so she is depressed. She vows to continue buying. Su Chun rues the noodles that he must continue to consume.

Haiping loses again, even with the numbers she dreamed of. Su Chun makes dinner.

Boss Chen visits Secretary Song in his office. Chen says the work of relocating people is a big pain. He calls then diaomin, "crafty people" 刁民. Chen has tried threatening, cozying up, and ignoring, but whatever he tries, they don't move an inch. Song replies: "Profit will never be at the maximum. If you pursue the absolute maximum profit, you will close off your own road. You should work for a reasonable profit. Give the troublesome people a little more, and you won't mess up the entire situation". Chen says you can't exchange a chamber pot for an apartment -- it is infuriating. Song continues: "You are in a hurry, they are not. What is important is the overall situation (daju, 大局). Do you play Chinese chess (围棋)? In the game, you try to win by allowing small battles to be lost, if necessary. The earlier this is done, the earlier apartments can be sold. Tell this to Executive Zhang and Executive Xu. There may be some controlling measures that are issued from above. The future is uncertain, and it might have a negative impact on Jiangzhou (Shanghai). I don't want that to happen, since this area is covered with my own blood [he means the projects and apartments all involve him and his people]. Don't haggle with these ordinary people". Boss Chen leaves.

Haiping is very happy as she walks out of the apartment sales office. She is talking about decorating the apartment and buying furniture. Su Chun reveals that he didn't ask his mother for the 60,000, but instead borrowed a high-interest loan (he hints that the rate is 10%). Haiping hits him, cries, and walks off.

The narrator speaks as Haiping wanders the city: a hole has been ripped in her soul.

Haiping goes to Haizao's house in tears: "I am going to divorce [Su Chun]". Haizao learns of the loan and promises Young Bei's money plus her own to pay it back. Haiping is sobbing. Haizao says, "this is what blood relatives do for each other".

Young Bei takes Su Chun back to Su Chun's apartment to talk. Young Bei says he though it was absurd that Su Chun and Haiping were buying an apartment, with the prices so high. "Why not rent a big apartment for 2,000 yuan a month?" Su Chun replies, "Not only is that practical but it is reasonable. The practical situation is that: no matter how high the price of apartments is, there will be people racking their brains to find a way to buy an apartment. The reality is, around you, all the people by your side, are all talking about apartments, are all speculating in apartments, are all hoarding apartments. And if you don't have an apartment, you will feel you have been marginalized (边缘化了). You will be struck with feelings of dread and instability. Like a drifter. Paying rent is always helping someone else buy an apartment. Psychologically, it is hard to accept this. Haiping is over 30, and around her all these people have apartments. She does not. Haiping is very unhappy."

Young Bei: "So, in order to live up to unrealistic expectations, you take on a snail's shell that large (套那么大一个蜗牛壳, "take on" or tao has other meanings, especially in the housing and stock markets. It means to "be stuck", as an article I wrote for WEF explained -- basically the object of investment falls below the value you bought it for, thereby making it impossible for you to sell (so you are stuck with it)). Isn't it exhausting? Good thing Haizao isn't like that".

Su Chun: "Haizao has not grown up and become self-aware yet. Every little girl wants a Barbie doll; every maiden wants lipstick; and every woman wants an apartment and a man." (Young Bei laughs).

He continues: "A man possessing is like in a war. You occupy the territory for a while, then leave. A woman possessing is different. It is like germs spreading, a spider web expanding, or cotton candy swelling. A little at a time until eventually you are completed possessed, and can’t escape, completely swallowed. Men are bronze, women are rust. In the end, rust will completely cover the bronze."

Young Bei: "At least you still dare to speak. There are people worse off than you: Abraham Lincoln. His wife was so fierce that he didn't even dare to fart. He even had to flatter her. Think about it, who lost everything? It is not you. Ok, don’t think too much."