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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Wrong number

When I first arrived in China I stayed in Nanning. From time to time the phone in my hotel room would ring. I figured there were two possibilities, either it was hotel reception or a wrong number. It was always a wrong number because someone would start yabbering away at me in Chinese. I would butt in and say 'If you don't speak English you must have a wrong number.' Then I'd hang up.

Sometimes it even happened after I'd gone to bed which was annoying. Then I disconnected the phone but I thought, 'If reception need to contact me urgently they can't.' So I reconnected it again the next morning.

It was even worse at the hotel in Wuzhou. 'What is wrong with these people?' I wondered. Can't they dial a simple number. So, I decided to make it fun and practise my Mandarin. 'Wey.' I would answer. That's the way Chinese say 'hello' on the phone. And when I was feeling really cheeky I would say, 'Wo ai ni.' 'I love you' in Chinese. But the response was always the same. They'd just yabber on.

Now I'm at the university in Hangzhou and I don't get those calls. There is a phone in the room. It almost never rings. But I've been reading my Lonely Planet and have discovered who was making the calls. It says:

'Male guests regularly receive phone calls from prostitutes, who ask whether anmo (massage) is required; if you don't want their services, unplug your phone, as they can be persistent.'

BTW, prostitution is quite open and common here. The girls operate out of shops thinly disguised as barber shops. When I was in Nanning the girls were quite friendly and would call 'hello' to me as I walked past. It doesn't happen here in Hangzhou. They ignore me just as almost everybody in Hangzhou does.

I asked my friend if prostitution was legal in China. He said 'no'.

'So, are the police receiving bribes from the prostitutes?'

'Maybe,' was his non-commital answer.

I think I've figured how to tell the brothels from the real barber shops. The brothels advertise 'foot massage' the symbol for which is two footprints. If you need a haircut I guess you look for a barber shop without the footprints on the window.

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