Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Adventure in Beijing

I wanted to talk to someone at the Communist Party official news agency: Xinua, about the report they released several months ago that said that ICE (formerly INS) is planning to deport 2,000 Cambodians soon. Since I was in the very city of Xinua's headquarters I couldn't resist paying them a visit. Meredith was nice enough to accompany me since we were supposed to never go off alone. After leaving the shopping plaza from hell (sales people used physical means to pressure purchases) we hired a rickshaw driver to take us there. We knew it was in the vicinity but had no idea how far. The wise, but sneaky driver agreed to take us even though he had no idea where Xinua was. We had a magazine in which it was quoted so we used that to help us describe what we were looking for. He stopped a few times to ask his buddies for directions and we enjoyed our fun and dangerous ride through the city. The driver we turned down at the beginning because of his quoted price of 100 Yuan caught up with us. We agreed to split up and use both drivers because we felt bad for the one skinny guy pulling both of us heavy gals. Eventually, out of sheer coincidence, they pulled up to our hotel to ask for directions. After waiting a while for them, Meredith agreed to stay in the cart and I went in to clarify what we were looking for. I convinced her to keep it a secret that this was our hotel since we might use it to our advantage. I went in and showed the magazine quote. They asked if I was looking for a club but I explained that I was looking for the state news agency. I was slightly embarrassed as they passed the magazine around and multiple people read the quote I was referring to "...2-3% of the Chinese population is gay" ... according to Xinua, which of course had nothing to do with my mission, but I was having a hard enough time communicating without going into all that.

Eventually they called Xinua on the phone and I spoke with a polite woman and explained that I was trying to verify a story that was reported and asked if she could put me in contact with the reporter but she could not. We talked for several minutes and I was satisfied at having tried.

So I went outside to get Meredith and we pulled our trick card: announcing that we are staying at this hotel and thank you for the ride. As I suspected, the drivers panicked. No longer did they have helpless, lost, foreigners in the palm of their hands. We tried to pay them what we thought was a reasonable amount: 30 yuan for the first driver and $2 (about 14 yuan) for the second driver. But they threw a fit, making dirty faces and saying "no" over and over. And in the middle of this argument with them another man comes up to us with his best puppydog face and a story of how he lost his wallet and needs money for a ride home. Exasperated we told him curtly that we couldn't help him and then continued to argue with the drivers and discuss amongst ourselves:
"What is a fair payment for a 15 minute ride?"
"I don't know"
"We're paying reasonably! I would drive someone around for two bucks!"
I urged Meredith to walk away with me but she lingered behind shelling out more money.

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