Un­scrupu­lous For­eign­ers

En­rique's Tu­mul­tuous Evening

That's China - - Contents - Text by / David P. Pur­nell

玩过火了的老外们

The For­eign Ex­perts Build­ing was a lively place, with lots of par­ties, big and small. It was, how­ever, a gen­er­ally peace­ful place. If there were do­mes­tic ar­gu­ments, the ce­ment walls must have been thick enough to con­ceal them. My win­dow fell out once, and that was some­what ex­cit­ing.

Un­scrupu­lous for­eign­ers teach­ing in China in the 1980’s were widely known to bring girl­friends or boyfriends along, pos­ing as spouses and thus en­joy­ing free tick­ets and larger apart­ments as part of the stan­dard con­tract for “For­eign Ex­perts.” En­rique, the boyfriend of a Span­ish pro­fes­sor from Mex­ico City, was one such im­poster and the role seemed to suit him very well. Not hav­ing to work, he joined us on all of our out­ings, was very so­cia­ble, liked to draw, but did lit­tle else. Hav­ing no in­ter­est in learn­ing Chi­nese or English, he spoke Span­ish with every­one. I would of­ten see him, laugh­ing at his own jokes and in­vari­ably pro­duc­ing in shop-keep­ers, egg-sellers and wait­resses alike a mix­ture of amuse­ment, fear and dis­may. In my few years there, I had seen many for­eign­ers come and go, and ob­served with in­ter­est how most stayed care­fully within a bub­ble they built, care­fully main­tained and car­ried around with them, usu­ally con­sist­ing of a se­lect group of com­pa­tri­ots. En­rique’s bub­ble con­tained only one (or two, count­ing his girl­friend “wife” Maria).

The For­eign Ex­perts Build­ing was a lively place, with lots of par­ties, big and small. It was, how­ever, a gen­er­ally peace­ful place. If there were do­mes­tic ar­gu­ments, the ce­ment walls must have been thick enough to con­ceal them. My win­dow fell out once, and that was some­what ex­cit­ing. And then there was the time Mike Pronko ate a raw “jiaozi” (pork dumpling)

as we were mak­ing them up with stu­dents and peo­ple thought he was go­ing to cer­tainly die. We also had a mys­te­ri­ous prankster for a while, blast­ing us all out of our sleep with gi­ant strings of fire­crack­ers strung down sev­eral floors in the stair­well, but that was af­ter the in­ci­dent with En­rique.

On an ex­tremely cold Jan­uary week­end, there was a party in one of the larger apart­ments. Still re­cov­er­ing from one of those aw­ful re­s­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses that the dry and dirty air of Bei­jing seemed to spawn, I didn’t stay long, so I was dead asleep when there came ex­cited knock­ing on my door at one or two in the morn­ing. Sev­eral of the guys stood there, eyes wide open, pant­ing, and it was clear that they needed my help with some­thing. Ush­er­ing me down the stairs and to a room near the party, they quickly de­scribed how En­rique had be­gun act­ing oddly at the party and, af­ter in­sult­ing sev­eral of the women, was ba­si­cally thrown out. It wasn’t long af­ter­ward that he (all one hun­dred and thirty or forty pounds of him) broke the door down “com­pletely off its hinges” and brought the party to a fright­en­ing halt. I was still un­sure what they needed me for but, as they opened the door and I saw four larger men strug­gling to keep En­rique pinned to the floor, with blood splat­tered on the car­pet and real fear in their eyes (but not En­rique’s), I knew what they wanted - desperately needed- me to do: go get seda­tives. The school physi­cian. Dr. Han, lived in an apart­ment next to the clinic, and she knew me well, with my in­fected si­nuses and in­ces­sant re­quests for an­tibi­otics and pain pills. She was not up­set at be­ing awak­ened at such an hour. Her many years of en­sur­ing the health of a small univer­sity must have taught her pa­tience and stead­ied her nerves. I was con­cerned, how­ever, that she didn’t seem to grasp the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion as I de­scribed how volatile En­rique had be­come, try­ing to make the point that she needed to bring seda­tives, and won­der­ing if I was us­ing a strong enough term in Chi­nese. I could feel her think­ing, “Aya, the for­eign­ers are drink­ing again!” Putting on her coat and start­ing to­ward the door, I po­litely re­peated “And­ingyao ma?” (“…and the seda­tives?”). With an ev­erso-slightly con­de­scend­ing hint of a smile, she grabbed a lit­tle box and shoved it into her bag. I truly thought she would in­stantly un­der­stand when the door opened and she saw how bad things were, and I ad­mit I was some­what look­ing for­ward to her

sud­den en­light­en­ment. In­stead, amaz­ingly, she quickly knelt down be­side En­rique’s still twitch­ing body (which seemed ready to strike, snake-like, at the first sign of his cap­tors’ re­lax­ation) and pro­ceeded to take his hand in hers and mas­sage the acu­pres­sure point be­tween his thumb and first fin­ger un­til, head sud­denly lung­ing in her di­rec­tion, he tried to bite her. The sy­ringe was in Dr. Han’s hand, and then into En­rique’s shoul­der, faster than my eyes could fol­low. We all held our breath. .one.. two… three – noth­ing. Another sy­ringe was quickly pro­duced and ad­min­is­tered. Still noth­ing. Only af­ter a third shot did the mus­cles start to un­bind, the brow and lips flat­ten out, the breath­ing be­come deeper and more even and, fi­nally those ter­ri­ble eyes close. We never saw En­rique again af­ter that night. Some­one said a car from the Mex­i­can em­bassy was seen on cam­pus the next day. Dr. Han re­tired not long af­ter that and moved to the beach town of Xi­a­men.

We never saw En­rique again af­ter that night. Some­one said a car from the Mex­i­can em­bassy was seen on cam­pus the next day.

Lots of par­ties, big and small, at the For­eign Ex­perts Build­ing in Er Wai

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.