Saturday, August 08, 2009

Xiao Fei

One of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the lotus blooms in Yuanmingyuan is to jump on a flat-bottomed boat and get paddled across the lake. Bird's eye views of the lotus. The soft splish splash of the oars.

About half way through the ride, all of this wonderful silence was broken when our driver bent down and asked me, ba xiao fei gei wo, hao ba? ("Can you give me a tip?")

Now, this was a most unusual request, to say the least. Over the past year, about the only places where we have offered tips have been the luxury, western-brand hotels we have had a few chances to stay at.

My sense is that our driver would never have asked this question had the passengers in his boat been of Chinese descent. Certainly, this was a ploy to coax some cash out of this family of laowai. Regardless, I nodded and expressed my willingness to fork over a xiao fei.

Satisfied for the moment, our driver picked up his oars and continued paddling us toward our destination. A few minutes later, though, shifu stopped the boat for a second time, and repeated his query.

"Of course I will give you a tip. As soon as we get to the dock, I'll take care of it."

"No, no," came the reply. "You need to do this right now, before we get in sight of laoban (the boss)."

"Oh! I get it now! Here you go..." I mean, how can you not reward such a crafty, subversive capitalist in the making!?

~Steve

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