Two days ago, Jingmei, and I went to the post office to mail a package
to my friend in Shanghai. As we dealt with the usual bureaucratic bullshit
of using the China-approved box, label, and mailing form (just like
in Russia) Jingmei set down our bag of swim stuff and magazines. When I realized it was no longer with
us, someone had already swiped it. I looked all over the post office
several times; even barging through the line to see if we’d left it at the
counter. No luck.
I was in shock! For the first time in a year of traveling and three
years of living in wacked countries, someone swiped my stuff! I was so
shocked; I couldn’t believe it at first. Why would one of the uneducated
peasants standing around the post office want swim goggles, a towel, and The
Economist magazine? None of them could swim, that’s for sure, and by
the looks of ’em, they didn’t bathe too often, so a towel was not a high
priority. Finally, of all magazines for definitely English, and possibly
Chinese illiterate person to steal, The
Economist?! There aren’t even a dozen photos in the whole damn
I could only come to one conclusion: they stole the plastic bag of my
stuff precisely because it was mine. Laowai (foreigner) stuff. The
curiosity of what I would carry with me, or the greed that it might have
some value, overwhelmed them. They’re gonna be very disappointed with my
old and very scratched goggles, thin towel I bought at a street stall in
Beijing, and a three month old magazine. Serves ’em right, I guess.
Now, I was willing to write that off as a random occurrence. A special
case since the peasants in that particular post office were dirt poor, and
anything semi-Western, even my crap, was worth the good beating I, then
the police, would have given them. That was till I finally went to the
pool I was headed to that day.
This time, Jingmei, and I skipped the post office and went directly to
a pool and sauna in the bottom of a posh apartment building. The pool
wasn’t all that amazing, but the 20 quai door charge (around $2.50 USD) is
enough to keep out the peasants and would lead me to believe that the
occupants would be of a decent social caliber.
We swam, with me buying special ‘laowai’ goggles that had an
adjustable nose strap, since the ‘normal’ goggles were not
designed with a Western nose in mind, and afterwards hit the saunas. I was
in the guy’s sauna, reading a new Newsweek my mom just sent me that day.
After I was thoroughly worked with a few hot sauna/cold shower/hot sauna
sessions over an hour’s time, I’d finished the Newsweek, and went to see
if Jingmei was done. I wasn’t the only one in the sauna, and they’d all
seen me come and go a few times.
I talked with Jingmei a few minutes, but by the time I returned, the
magazine and all the guys who’d been in the sauna were gone. My towel was
still there this time, thankfully, though not concealing my magazine. The
Newsweek was swiped, my second English news loss in a week! Now, maybe one
of the guys the sauna could read English, and wanted to practice, but to
take my mag? That’s just too much! I would’ve given it away, since I’d
read it from cover to cover, though I was hoping to have a bit of control
over who got it next.
Interestingly enough, looking in the Friendship store yesterday, there
was the same issue staring out from the magazine rack. If the guy wanted
one so bad, he could’ve bought one his own damn self. Now I know. Never
leave anything Western alone in China.