Submitted by Kevin Royes on Sun, 11/12/2006 - 02:50.

Nov 8

It’s almost 9am. I am in a kick ass hotel in a city called shawshen. That is not at all how it’s spelled…I can’t spell it…it starts with an X but sounds like a SH. and I don’t have a clue. It is an industrial town just outside of one of China’s tourist city’s called Hangzhou…2 hours south of Shanghai. I was told last night that this district is the 2nd largest manufacturing district in all of China. I have a headache. Last night I went out to a KTV joint with a couple of guys from the factory I am working with on the snapaction tools project. Joel is my guy that I work directly with. Simon is one of the owners…from Ireland. Joel is from TO and went to UBC. This factory is unusual in that they are 5 partners and they are all foreigners and they speak perfect Chinese. Imagine what Chinese sounds like spoken with an Irish accent. I have a headache…I mentioned that. The K in KTV is for Kareoke. The TV is for….TV. We finished a bottle of scotch and vodka, played dice games with a few of the local talent. I only picked up the mic once and that was at then end of the night just before leaving. Like many of us in the west, I am not much for the K in KTV, but it is an asian MUST.


 Here’s the deal with KTV’s in China…it’s  more than just getting drunk and singing Sinatra songs all night…there are ladies involved…and it is necessary to suspend all judgement because…well, when in Rome…and though certain aspects of the experience are ghastly to us in the west, KTV’s are a way of life throughout almost every Asian country.


 First of all, every big KTV joint has some major theme…this one was gaudy Victorian style. There are a few dudes dressed in black…security. They all have radios and ear plugs like secret service agents. Makes you wonder what the hell you’re getting into. They toss some words into the radio and within seconds we’re met by a woman they call Mumasen…loosely translated as Madame…she looked like she was in her 40’s, which means she was probably from the jurassic period as Asians tend to look a tad younger than they really are. She was super friendly (duh) and knew Simon by name…old friends it seems. We followed her up the stairs as she led us to one of the lavish rooms all decked out with a super long couch big enough to seat 20. A big screen tv for big time singing was mounted on the wall and the control console sat in the corner. We were appointed a server…you never pour your own drinks…not very polite…that’s her job.


Joel and the Mamasen chuckle and chat for a few moments then she leaves the room, soon to return with the part of every KTV night that is extremely uncomfortable…even Joel who has been to countless KTV’s finds the next few moments hard to deal with, and I am already dreading it…The Lineup.


The Lineup is exactly that…a lineup…of girls…and you’re supposed to pick one to hang out with you for the night. It’s dreadful I tell you. Ten girls standing in front of you…human beings…and you are supposed to choose one like choosing a puppy in a window. I feel awful and don’t want to make eye contact with any of them…in my mind I am repeating the phrase-when in Rome, when in Rome. It doesn’t help. Even Chinese guys I know hate this part and most times it’s easier to pick a girl for the other guy. I have been to KTV’s in the past where the entire lineup had no talent anyone was interested in, so someone has to have the balls to ask the Mamasen for another round…ouch. All of them sent back…followed by another 10, and so on.


This night at the gaudy Victorian house was one of those nights, but worse…the talent pool was very shallow. The Mamasen swung open the door to let the ladies enter…both of them. Two. 2…and not at all hopeful. Simon was there with his girlfriend so only Joel and I were in the market for singing partners and these were the only two. I couldn’t look so I started eating snacks and turned my attention to Simon while Joel did the ghastly deed of turning them back. The Mamasen was very very apologetic…it’s a very slow night she said but she would make some calls.


You might think KTV’s are a place to find hookers for sex…I did. I was petrified of the idea of these places…the first KTV I ever went to was in Taiwan and I thought we were just going to drink and sing really bad songs until we walked though the doors and I saw a bounty of women in tight dresses walking around moving in and out of various rooms…


But the vast majority of KTV’s are harmless. Essentially girls join you to drink, play dice games and sing, as this night eventually turned out after the arrival of 2 more ladies we dared no refuse. Simon even brought his sister to one when her and her friend came to China to visit a few months back. In Japan they have what is called Hostess Bars…same idea without the singing…beautiful women to hang out with for a couple hours. Once you get past the incredibly uncomfortable moment of having to choose, everyone loosens up and the dice begin to role. The women, with their very somber faces in the lineup, turn into quite the lively dice players and you have to keep an eye on them because they have sneaky ways to cheat…which is all good, because to loose a round of dice just means you take a drink. It’s also a great game when I don’t speak more than 3 words of Chinese and their English is the same.


So the night went on, and in a drunken state I was spewing to Simon about my view of business as a form of art. A couple hours later and we call it quits for the night and prepare for work the next day.


The next night one of Simons super wealthy friends took 3 of us out for an amazing feast that included bull frog of all things. He put some on my plate with a look in his eye that said – let’s see how long it takes for the foreigner to throw up. It was actually quite good and from the approving look on his face I could tell I just moved up a notch in his book, which probably put me at ONE…


It’s customary to drink beer out of small glasses and we had two mini wooden casks of beer on the table to keep filling up from. Almost every time someone goes to take a drink they offer a cheers and a klink of the glass. You can cheers the whole group, or just cheers someone you want to make a particular point of contact with for one reason or another. It took me a while to catch on as I kept sipping my brew without klinking…but I finally got the hang of it. And the reason the small glasses are used is because quite often a cheers is led with the word – GUMBAI – which means “to the last drop homeboy”, so you have to knock it back…or else.


I can’t keep it up…the drinking…I am having a lot of fun and hanging with some heavy hitters, and business is rolling smooth, but I am also looking forward to the silent introspection of the vipassana in India. From KTV’s to 10 hours of meditation a day…talk about yin/yang.


In China, the Volkswagen Jetta is called the Bora. FYI.

( categories: WorkSpace Community )