Breakfast at 7:30 at our favorite wonton restaurant with the strident waitresses. It is packed in the early morning with people on their way to work, about US$2 each for all we can stuff in. This whole block has been marked for demolition, with most of the stores we visited last year just a hulk, and the vast area behind already mostly cleared. Huge buildings (based on the huge billboard sign with the pictures) will replace these, and the area is quickly transforming. China is like those time-lapse, speeded up stills-turned-to-video (Koyanaaskotsi) (sp?), morphing from a third world place to a first-world one in double-quick time. An altercation broke out between a guy (who looked like he lived on the streets) selling a local newspaper in the restaurant and the waitress-in-charge (Dawei said with authority that there is no manager on duty, the owner only occasionally comes to collect money). She shouted at him and chased him out, but he was back within minutes for an even louder assisted exit complete with flying plastic dishes and chopsticks. Unflappable, he stood on the side outside and accosted people as they came in to buy the papers. We decided there must be a history to this, no chance this was the first time he had come in. With the rules changing so rapidly, what people’s rights are, on both sides, some people getting very rich and others eeking out a bare existence, conflict is inevitable. Security guards are even more prevalent than in paranoid post-9-11 America.
On the way home Dawei was drawn into bargaining for another watch, and then Linda bought the pashmina she had been looking for. Of course, that flagged us for other roving street vendors to ply their wares, these are actually the best deals one gets, so we dropped a few more yuan. You have to have great resistance or you end up with a lot of useless stuff, albeit beautiful bargains. We talked about L&D renting an apartment in the area, for about US$200 a month, in a three-month contract, you get a pretty nice three-bedroom (not luxurious). That foreigners are tempted to do this puts a crunch on rental rates for the residents, who earn so little. It IS a bit far to come for a second residence, of course.