Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nihao, Pardner

Ah, good old Shenzhen, China! Though it started as a poor village, its establishment as a Special Economic Zone in the 1970s created a flourishing city populated (as of 2010) by over 10 million people. Many foreign companies base operations in Shenzhen, and it's one of China's busiest container ports! If the name sounds familiar to Western readers, perhaps it's because the Apple-contracted manufacturer FoxConn bases its factories there--

...what's that?

I'm sorry. Uh, on further inspection, this postcard is from Shenzhen's sister city. Houston.

Houston...China. Right! Um...back in 1836, some very confused settlers sailed out of the Gulf of Mexico, only to somehow, against all odds, shipwreck in the Guangdong province of China and found a city--

It''s real Houston, isn't it? Actual Houston. Why do I have a postcard from Houston?

Oh!...OH! This explains the mysterious new narrator in those last few cards! Jessie went AWOL! To Texas! From...China. For a job interview. And then she pretty much immediately flew back. Which, wow, I wouldn't trade my worst five freshman year hangovers for the jetlag she's gonna go through. Jetlag, hell, we're talking jetwhiplash.

I have no particular memories of Houston, but I do vividly remember visiting San Antonio as a child. Our hotel room porch overlooked the River Walk from several stories up, and I thought I'd never seen such an exciting view.

Until my brother started throwing down ice cubes at the tour boats, showing me how much more exciting the view could be. I joined in with glasses of water, and finally it was the two of us, flinging high-velocity ice shards harmless little ice cubes at the people below. In our defense, they were so far away, they couldn't really be people. I'm pretty sure we laughed when one of us--I propose my brother, though my memory remains fuzzy--struck a bald man on the head.

We stopped laughing when the knocking came.

My brother stood poker-faced as the hotel employees demanded information. Wish we'd had time to work out our cover story more, because even as he insisted we hadn't thrown anything off anywhere, I blurted out: "We didn't mean to hit him!" as though that would explain everything.

Well, in a sense, it did. It explained that we were responsible for the angry, bleeding passenger of a tour boat, and the employees in turn explained we were lucky to stay in their hotel.

Sometimes I remember the moment of impact: no sound, not even visible blood, just a distant bald man grabbing at his head in shock. I feel bad. Then I remember my brother and I couldn't have any soda for the rest of that week-long trip, or buy any souvenirs, and I ask you: who got off worse?

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