We’ve put the hours in, pleased the fans. At times it seems they could’ve rolled out the red carpet for when we’d stepped off the plane… See, westerners in China are to them like direct descendents from a qing dynasty bloodline, or to us, like Jackie Chan wandering through the streets of Hull…
Please forgive us for indulging our newfound celebrity status, we’ve been in the country for little over 3 weeks now and not a day has passed where one of us hasn’t been coerced into a Chinese family photo. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the tourist traps, we’ll get caught in frenzies of excitement as tourists and locals flock towards us for photos, marvel at our height, touch our hair for good luck and occasionally yell ‘You like James Bond?!’ in very broken English.
As a famed western citizen in China therefore, you will face a choice. Do you remove yourself from the reverence as best you can and enjoy your time as an undisturbed tourist? Or.. Do you embrace the novelty that you undoubtedly are for a limited time only and rinse it for all its worth?
For us the answer was easy. When those chubby chinese faces grin at you from across the hotdog stand, 10 yuan notes reflecting in their eyes, you can’t help but grin right back.
Poor struggling travellers as we are, this was now presenting itself as a business opportunity. Only in china.. With the help of our hostel receptionists, we boshed out a cheeky sign (the one and only asset to our business name) and headed out early to local tourist hotspots to earn a bunch of kuai.
The morning yielded nothing. Long drifts of time pass as curious, gawking faces noticed our sign, giggled, pointed, deliberated but ultimately wandered off. Nobody was willing! Perhaps we’d charged too much, expected too much, came on the wrong day… We resigned to feel content with one or two customers across the halfday stint and sat down to share some oreos.
Resilience boys. Resilience… All it took was for a single swaggering chinese fella to bounce in at noon with his 10 qui, rile his group up with excitement (bring down the threshold of confidence for surrounding purveyors) and the onslaught began. This was a task that demanded momentum.
We knew our enterprise was booming when we caused a raucous early afternoon with a crowd of chinese ladies; pushing eachother out of camera view, arguing over who’s turn it was, literally stuffing notes into our jacket pockets to secure their place next in line.
Noticing the frenzy, an occasional chap would shuffle in with a big old grin on his face expecting a free and easy photo to show the grandkids, wandering off with no more to offer us than a handshake and a pat on the back… Oh no. Keen eyed onlookers dont hesitate a second to remind a crafty peer of their thievery, pointing frantically at our cardboard sign and raising the crucial question of the dollar dollar qui qui. We owe both our business and personal integrity to the aid of chinese tourists
An unfortunate business oversight: Intense muscle pump in the jaw resulting from hours of incessant smiling and grinning. Need a rest day before we go again – reduced returns..
A wide reaching legacy: Considering our market consisted mostly of far residing tour groups, we marvel at the sheer number of phones that Roobins faces would soon inhabit across the length and breadth of China.
The competition arrives: Surrounding bands of chinese folk take up the Roobins call, setting up their own mock photo sessions across the platform. In beards and blonde hair, we still think we have the edge.
Money money money: After slipping the cash into our hands and before readying themselves for the photo, most of the customers pick up our ‘2 qui for hugs and photos’ sign and launch it far out of view of the camera. We realised most were happy to pay but not to be seen to. From the outskirts, many seemed to nod and gesture with approval at our enterprisal spirit but if money and business enter the frame, we noted duly that it sullied the experience a little.
We earned 130 qui all notes in – not bad for a day of hugs and snaps…