China Diary

Day 26: Money to the Machine

I’ve been here now for one month. That’s one month of being away from home, from my son, my wife, my parents and sister. It’s a humbling experience. And the only real contacts to outside people are Lei, and Mika whenever he’s around. With everyone else, I have no way to communicate with.

As a social person (socialist?), I crave for this kind of thing. I’m not the one who goes to his room and feels fine by just playing, reading, watching movies and going to the gym. I need human contact. Honestly, I’m cracking up here. There’s nobody to talk to, outside of the very rare people in work, and with them I can’t really go too much into personal / nonsensical level – which is, actually, the very basis of human communication! Humans didn’t become this terrible juggernaut of destruction by talking shop all their waking hours. We want to gossip, talk bullshit, joke around and argue about absolutely nothing. This is how our intelligence came to be. As a side product, we also started to solve problems, discuss collaborations and such stuff, but had we used the language only for that, we humans would’ve ended up killing each other in no time.

So, that’s what I need. Someone to talk nothing to. Even a bartender talk would do, but bartenders here – and there’s basically no bars – speak no English. They understand “beer” if I point it out on a menu, but again, no common way to have a dialogue with them on any meaningful level. Also, the culture apparently is not very stranger-chatty here: I wouldn’t expect Chinese going to a bar and yapping to the bartender just for the sake of fun. Well, same goes to Finland, of course, but the reasons differ: in China, they probably have tighter family ties and more friends and acquaintances to chat with. In Finland, we just don’t have the nerve to open our mouths with strangers, who knows if we say something stupid and will have to endure a lifetime of humiliation, self-hate and possibly eventually a suicide. Talking to a stranger can get you killed in Finland. By you.

Luckily, I have my diary. “Dear diary”, they said. Well, it’s becoming more dear to me. It’s the only entity I can unload my thoughts and feelings to. The fact that you are reading it is actually not the point, it’s actually not even very relevant as the format goes, although I do like to think there are people who read this and sometimes scoff and say: “that guy sucks”. That’s an achievement already! And I hope my family reads this every now and then. I know Annika does, I think daddy reads this too, mother also but her English is not very good for long reads. Whoever is reading, remember, this is not written for you, it’s a therapy for me.

But, back to the topic of communication. Yesterday, instead of whining about it by myself, I went out to have a nice dinner at a small restaurant close by, called Nola. They server killer burgers, so I had something like a burger and enjoyed the atmosphere. But again, the problems of communication are vast and unprecedented: the bar was full, and next to me was a happy group of Mexicans… But boy, were they loud. So there I am, craving to hear people talking and having fun, but now I had my share of it, in Spanish, shouted to my ear. I plugged my earphones on and dipped into the sad world of Finnish music – stories of longing, of lost love, grief and failures. Nothing cheers me up more these days.

After the (brilliant, yet heavy) dinner, I skated to see if Maggie’s was open today. And by golly, it was! The beautiful, inviting light shining in the night wasn’t the headlight of a Taxi, like Tuomari Nurmio sings, but the neon letters MAGGIE’S. I snuck in and found myself in a beautifully decorated, old-style bar with jazzy music, huge bar and few customers sitting around. I ordered a whiskey to help digestion, and lo and behold, a bartender comes to talk to me!

I was in ecstasy. He asked where I was from, how long I was staying here in China, what was I doing (I didn’t tell I’m a director, the less people know it the more meaningful conversations I have) and that sort of things. There were not that many people around so he had time to chat, and I enjoyed the little convo to the fullest.

All this time, a pretty girl had been eyeing me over bar counter on the other side. I knew instantly the name of the game: I’m not the guy pretty young girls give the eye over the counter because I’m a handsome hunk. Nope. They do it either because they know I’m a director of an international film and they want to present themselves as a possible actor for whatever I’m doing next, but since she couldn’t know that, the only other possibility was that she was looking for customers. And of course, she had teamed up with the bartender, so the moment the bartender found I was around here by myself, he tried to wink her secretly to get her over.

She did. She walked next to me, started asking: hi, how are you. Are you alone? Where are you from? My mood dropped. I was enjoying my drink there, chatting with friends over Whatsapp and exchanging few lines with the bartender, having good ol’ time in an environment I found pleasant, but suddenly, I had to find a polite way to tell I’m not going to buy any more services. How do you do that? “Hey, hooker, get away?” “No, I’m not interested?” “I was enjoying my time alone here?” I don’t know. We Finns are not very good in this kind of situations. So all I could think was being polite for few lines, then finish my drink, thank the bartender and the professional lady, and get out of there.


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