Of Mice and Xiamen

by B.

Things work a little bit differently in Fujian, so it doesn’t surprise me much when a young Chinese guy stops me at the intersection of Hexiang Xi Lu and the old bomb-shelter tunnel to display his vast assortment of porn VCDs: ‘the kind that laowai like’ he assures me. ‘Fair enough’ I think, and good to know for future reference; however, jintian buyao de. I’m on my way down to the waterside to cure my hangover with coffee and sea breeze.

“But I have all sorts of things,” he continues, “all the things laowai likes, big blond tits porn,” he flashes a badly photoshopped cover of a truly big blond girl from the 80s, “japanese sexysexy” more dated covers. All the while he’s sidestepping along next to me, attempting to force me to closer inspect the shabby discs on offer. “Sorry, hai shi bu yao my friend, maybe next time”.

I’ve continued walking into the old tunnel now, where the local taitais offer their vegetables and mysterious little warehouses are visible left and right in the side tunnels, storing what?…corn and carrots? These tunnels are the product of those crazy years in the 70s where for a brief period of time the entire population of Xiamen were mysteriously compelled to dig bomb shelters. The little fellow is still running after me, his voice getting more eager as he keeps trying to find a porn genre to my liking (“Groupfucky? Black man? You like-uh?”). A rat runs across the floor and dives into the carrot storage, and I’m starting to find his porn rant rather surreal in this environment, particularly now that the taitais are also up on their feet, trying to push their vegetables onto me in their unintelligible local dialect. “Bu yao” I tell him again, accompanied this time with the all dismissive hand gesture, head turned away, and he stops his rant, visibly disappointed. I guess he thought I was a sure customer. For a moment I feel sorry for him, this business can’t be easy. As he turns away from me, in one last attempt he says “dongwu A-pian, laowai like.”

I freeze. Really? Animal porn? The kind that laowai like…What kind would that be now? “Yesyes,” he says, “exactly the kind laowai like, girl with the animal, with the horse, with the dog, with the water buffalo”. He’s on a roll now, and embarrassing as I find this he’s caught my attention. Water buffalo sex? That just might cheer me up on a rainy hung-over Sunday afternoon. He has his whole selection out in the open now, and the vegetable taitais are crowding in, commenting loudly on the big blond laowai girls on display, while I haggle on the price for some Sunday afternoon water buffalo flicks, ‘just the way laowai likes it’, as promised. Oddly, the situation seems perfectly normal to everyone involved. Just another case of supply and demand in a forgotten old bomb-shelter tunnel in Southern China. I pay 10 kuai for 3 discs and the taitais all laugh and comment loudly in minanhua on how inept laowai are at bargaining for animal porn. One of them gives me a handful of carrots for free out of sympathy I can only assume.

The little fellow compliments me on my choice and good taste. I’m not sure I agree with him on the good taste part, but it is what it is. Another rat comes strolling out from the carrot storage, sniffing about, and one of the taitais give it a surprisingly skilled kick, sending it off flying back into the carrot pile. They laugh wildly as I turn around toward the exit again with my laowai entertainment.

Home again, I insert the first disc into my DVD player. A three part complete history of the Chinese Communist Party begins to play on the screen. Surprisingly high quality image. Munching on a carrot I watch the Red Army storm the Luding bridge. ‘Shame on me’ I think, and wonder briefly if the little fellow is part of a secret campaign to educate laowai on the essentials of the glorious Long March. With my finger I scrape a piece of rat shit from my carrot and insert disc 2.