Today was an entirely unremarkable day. I went to work. Work was okay. Work was terrible.
I mean, it was just fine.
I am so fucking tired of my work.
This week the furlough approvals came through. I was granted a reduction of hours to 4 days per week, as were several other people in Shenzhen. My boss was not granted a reduction. The Shenzhen office largely did not volunteer for reduced hours, which i find disappointing considering even our furlough pay would have been almost twice the average salary in China.
I now understand all those people in Taiwan who told me that in China people only care about 赚钱 (earning money). A lot of middle class Chinese equate money with freedom - the ticket into an exclusive community where the government is less likely fuck with you. What they haven't yet realized is that exchanging a "Fengqiao experience" neighborhood watch group for a gated community neighborhood watch group is just switching one brand of authoritarian busybodies for another.
Anyway, outside of China, the CEO said they were surprised at how many people volunteered for a reduction of hours. Like. Did they not connect the dots that every town hall in the past year European workers have been asking for a 4 day week?
I now know 3 people in white collar jobs who had been intending to quit and go on sabbatical this month but now we are in a strange golden handcuff situation where we don't particularly need to work for the money, but we can't quit because it would just add to the stress on the government safety net. No point fucking over the working class even more. The best we can do right now is keep working, keep paying taxes, help boost the government coffers to bail out our less fortunate peers who lost their jobs, period.
But. I, still, am so over my fucking job. And i am really, really over China and its utterly shit government.
Chinese migrant workers are the only thing that makes this country not suck. Also, Chinese food.
After work today i decided to just cab it back to my village, hell with biking home at 8pm, starting to cook at 9pm. I chatted to the driver all the way home.
He read me as male because of course he did. He was telling me it was amazing that i hadn't found a wife yet, he couldn't believe that my parents hadn't pressured me into it. He said in China there's no choice, once you are 29 your parents will force you. I've heard the story a million times. He was happy and free. Parents got involved. Made to marry at 30. Two kids. Now he has no freedom and no money. Most goes to educating the kids, the rest goes to his wife.
The kids are not even in school yet.
I joked that at least when they grow up and get great jobs they'll be able to pay him back. He laughed and said no way. Once the kids grow up, they have to get married, and then have kids, and then all their money will go to their kids. He said "i'll be dead by then".
He agreed with me that middle class malls and gated communities suck and urban villages are the only places in Shenzhen where people are laid-back. But he also said he only sees his family twice a week. I dunno if he was happy about that or not. I suspect if he had the money he'd move his family into a gated community closer to the rich part of town, get them away from government-enforced evictions and gentrification.
When i got back to the village i sat down at a 湘菜 Hunan restaurant i haven't visited before and ordered 芹菜香干 celery tofu. It's still a luxury for me to eat rice because i don't have a rice cooker at home and most places i go for lunch i get noodles like the 单身狗 (single dog) i am. It was delicious.
A guy at the table with me struck up a conversation about how life was in Canada. He didn't name-drop 白求恩. Working class people never do. He wanted to know what the salaries are like in Canada, and how much the rent is. He wanted to know how badly fucked they are by the coronavirus. (This is another common topic of discussion lately: how bad is the corona in your country? Oh, haha, China is much better! China safest country in the world! China number one!)
I said i was an engineer, in computing. He said he was in hardware, notebooks. He was wearing factory overalls so i'm gonna go with assembling them, not designing them. He asked me how i got my first job in IT and i told him the truth: i started as a temp in the mail room of a government department, stuffing envelopes. Somehow i met the IT manager, who was looking for a sidekick. She asked if i wanted to come on to plug network cables, fix people's Excel problems and do a bit of UNIX and Windows admin. It all came from there. I truly started at the bottom, although - to be fair - it's easier to start at the bottom when you have an upper middle class mom spotting your rent while you get on your feet.
Guess it ain't so different, being a parent overseas. Give yer kids all the money, hoping they'll make something of themselves.
I didn't make anything of myself.
My mom died knowing i had been a raver, a trannie, a manic depressive, a drunk, a drug addict, a divorcee, a wanderer. I ended up in a country she hated (having spent a decade dealing with it in her job), in a job i hated. I hope she knew that despite all the shit i still didn't quite hate my life. I appreciate everything she did for me. I think she knew.
Anyway it's Thursday and i am being a hopeless drunk again. My 4 day weeks don't start till next week and tomorrow i am supposed to represent my team on some meeting i don't want to go to. The fuck, i don't want to go to any more meetings.
I am watching a livestream of David Dorad playing minimal tech and deep house music at the Klunkerkranich, which is a hilariously Berlin joint - an open-air nightclub on the roof of the parking lot of a shopping mall. It's all wood and antique knick-knacks and shit, and i probably would've gone there a lot more often when i lived in the city if my house had been in West Berlin.
The wall's still there, yo, invisible but true. The government is trying to build freeways to delete it. All that's going to do is slash a knife across the city. I lived in Toronto. I been to Buffalo. I know.
It's still daytime in Neukölln, and the Klunkerkranich is one of the best views of the city. Mid-rise European apartments as far as the eye can see. Couple of cranes putting up some condos for tech workers who are hard at work gentrifying the fuck out of the place. Cathedral spire and TV tower and the (new) Tresor chimneys on the horizon. If i wait till sunset, i think it will set right behind the DJ booth.
God, i miss Berlin. I miss the techno music. I miss fucking going out after work, going out somewhere that isn't full of very rich people listening to EDM and getting bottle service like they're in Vegas or some shit. Berlin is full of very rich people too, but it's balanced out by drifters and hipsters and artists and migrant workers who actually like techno music.
Migrant workers here sit on plastic stools and watch short videos and get drunk and lament being forced into marriage and parenthood.
I can never go back. Thank you, fucking Brexit. I'm not a European any more. Didn't even get a say.
I guess one good thing is that here in China i actually can go out and talk to migrant workers. The city still isn't properly unlocked, but it's way the fuck more unlocked than Europe or North America right now.
Fuck corona. I hate everything. I need another beer. Tomorrow is going to be terrible.