PART294 Visiting the flange factory

10th, December, 2010. Today I felt alive when I woke up. I lay in bed watching Sarah on the lap top. She looked worryingly morose. I imagine putting unnecessary pains into my leaving. We made our self’s day ready and emerged onto the cold streets at about 1:00ish. Small chunks of rubbles and plastic flying at my face. A policeman’s hat flew off and he ran quickly in pursuit as the strong racing wind made off with it. Trees whipping violently, dust clouds whirling along with the cars like elemental spirits.

We got a taxi to KFC, a warm up before my last Si chuan spicy noodles meal, but lack a day Friendly calls saying we are going to see the Flange factory with his boss. Cancel the noodles, a quick burger and a taxi ride later and we are at Friendly’s hotel and the boss drives us all to Ding Shang village where his factory is located. He drives a big jeep; I find a razor shape dagger in the door compartment. It looks old fashioned with a red stone on the hilt. The boss begins talking about all the countries he has been to; he says he has been to about 40. Sarah asked what food was his favorite “I liked Indian food a lot, the curry’s and the flavors are very similar to Shanxi style”.

I chuckled I knew he would Say something like this, I think for Chinese they think their own food is the best. I agree. I asked which country was the most polite “England and Japan are the most polite; they have a lot of tradition and most of the people I met where very respectful”. I asked which he thought was the most impolite country “ the middle east, they are so rough, when I was on business trips there they don’t look after their guests well, they act as if you’re not even there”.

We turned off to a dirt road and rumbled and jiggled along in the dust until we reached a collection of ware houses and old brick walls. Inside the brick walls we stopped and got out, a long court yard containing piles of different metal. Girders over 20 feet long, huge wrecking balls of gray metal, A huge crane on a sliding run stood still, a few grim looking workers smoking fat cigarettes stood next to a bulky circler girder and watched as it was slowly dragged into another ware house by a chain. We had a look in this ware house as well and it contained even more raw metal in shapes and sizes I don’t care to describe. We went through a series of ware houses looking at the furnace where the metal is heated and the machines which are used to press and pull the soft metal into giant flange shapes. “Shanxi is short of electricity so we are only allowed to work at night” The boss told us.

I had thought that it was quiet and not much was going on, but as the sun set the massive machines rumbled into life. Huge robotic arms grabbed the molten disks out of the furnace and placed them on the stretching machine while workers housed down the machines to keep them cool, the workers dirty and hardy when the sun went down they emerged from different doors and corridors like creatures of the night. Drills made defining noise as they ate through the flanges making threads for screws to go in later. I didn’t think they would be so big. I thought I wanted to take a few samples back but even the smallest flanges where heavy and as big as a basket ball. The biggest being meters wide.

Next we saw the testing and quality testing building, machines which tested the mineral contents, a hammer which would hit the flanges to test their strength. In every room we went the boss told us how expensive the different machines where “this one cost more than my jeep” he pointed to a vending machine sized green box which was used to check for mineral imbalances. Everyone wore blue jump suits and had clip boards; it was like being in a bond villain’s underground layer. After our tour we climbed up the stairs in the test building and had a rest in the bosses office. Messy but housing expensive trinkets. A long bullet shell stood next to a big jade carving by the door. Bottles of the best Bie jiu in their glittering and red cases specked every surface. A Kung fu tea set on a table by the window. We sat and the Boss began the laborious task of boiling the water pouring it through various beautiful tea pots and then into out minuet cups. This style of drinking is called Kung fu tea, I believe it gets its name because you have to work so hard to get the tea, it’s a delicate ceremony. I think people like it because they are serving others; they are like the host, keeping everyone’s glass filled, the important tea man.

The next few hours where an inspiration, hearing how the boss achieved his wealth, how he bought the hotel which Friendly now works in, how it was shut down due to corruption, how everyone pleaded with him not to buy it. He did anyway, with no help from anyone “Clever people are rarely successful, the best thing is to be brave, to try again and again even if you fail. To believe in your dream and to do anything to get it.” He talked about how he believes in treating people well and that is the best way to do business. He is hoping to get on the stock markets in a few years ( not that I know what that means or how ones does it), he feels his hotel is very useful, he can entertain many important people and treat them all well thus maintaining and creating new important ties. He told me that he would be very interested in me become his sales person in the UK “I have no native English who work for me, you will be trusted more by your own people” He told me. I was inspired to do great things. He gave me a load of brochures to take back to the UK and he introduced me to two young women who can speak English and who I would be working with. Both wearing large shapeless blue jump suits, both pretty and small.

The Boss could not take us back to Xin zhuo himself so he got his driver to take us back home in his big America luxury camper van. TVs on every chair, DVD players, telephones, massages on all the chairs and snazzy neon lights on the ceiling. “We should go and eat at the hotel tonight” Friendly said as he lent back to talk to Sarah and me. We had planned to meet King for a goodbye meal tonight but after all the trouble Friendly went through today we thought we should be with him.

We invited King to the hotel as well and Sarah’s parents came too. Kung pow prawns, giant mushrooms with broccoli with a yellow statue of a Buddha, shredded stake with chilly, Sliced potatoes with vinegar. Traditional Shanxi noodles and a sizzling meat dish with vegetables. Dad brought along his home made 65% bie jiu. When King arrived we drank so quickly it was frightening. I began to worry for my safety. Friendly’s son and wife came and having all these people I knew and loved around me with food and drink, feeling warm and fuzzy from the wine I had to fight not to cry. I was touched and always have been at how well I am treated and how much effort and kindness is heaped a pone me.

Friendly also looks sad and so did Dad. After the meal Friendly left quickly after we had all taken some photos. I got the slight feeling that he didn’t like King very much and the next day he told Sarah “Kings Jokes aren’t very funny and he is so rough”, I laughed because those are the exact reasons why I like King; I also find it interesting that different friends will not get along. If you got all your friends in one room at the same time I wonder if it would be a party or a miss matching mess? I think different friends fulfill different needs so they have to be very different. Friendly and King arranged to meet us all again the next night and my heart sank for a moment. I had been gearing up for saying goodbye tonight and it was getting to be too much having these unrelenting goodbye meals were memories and sentiment ooze from every atom.

King, Mum, Sarah and I went to a KTV to do some singing. King turned out to be an excellent singer “My family and I have competed on the CCTV singing programs” He said proudly after signing a love ballad. I sung my Chinese pop song from the Taiwan girl band SHE, Mum battled with a few exceptionally hard Mongolian throat singing tunes and Sarah sang all her usually soppy love songs. King drove us home and I sat on the bed too drunk to lie down, gently biting my lip in surprise at how numble it was, trying to make up meaningful sayings about judgment. Here are a few I came up with

“Judging others is like eating your own leg”

“Judging others is like putting an alien in prison for a crime he has committed in your own world where he doesn’t even live or exist”

That settles it, drink writing is dangerous.


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