Chloe awoke swiftly to the sound of heavy knocking at our hotel room door.
“Who is it?” She yelled several times in Chinese. No answer.
She rolled out of bed, threw on some pants, and slowly slid open the door. The clerk had come to inform us that the police had called to let them know about a routine check to be performed the following day. As a small, newly-opened hotel, they weren’t allowed to rent to foreigners. They weren’t even allowed to rent to a Chinese who would have foreigners as guests.
Shanghai has become ridiculously strict in light of the looming G20 summit – a huge international meeting where a bunch of privileged big wigs talk policy – policy often designed to fuck over the poor and immigrants. My former customer’s friend had arranged the room for us so we’d assumed there be no problems. We were wrong.
I wish I could say this only happened to me once. However, this year I’ve been kicked out of places onto the street at least five times, usually for no reason at all. That’s China. After this, I decided I didn’t want to stay anymore.
When I first went to Guangdong in 2014, I was treated quite warmly by most everyone. I could stay in any hotel, even a hostel that only cost 20 RMB per night. I doubt that’s possible now. If I wanted to rent an apartment in Shanghai, I’d need to be certain I wanted to stay for a long time as they all require several months of rent in advance plus a security deposit, plus an agency fee. That puts the cost to around 10K RMB or higher. Rent in Shanghai is quickly becoming as bad as NYC and Chicago. And honestly, what’s the point? If I wanted to spend every ounce of my income on rent, I could have simply stayed in the USA.
I made up my mind two nights ago, as we were packing our bags with no place to go, for what felt like the hundredth time, that none of this was worth it. I booked a budget, next-day flight to Taipei. My last night in Shanghai was spent sleeping in an internet cafe. One of my Taiwanese customers put me in touch with a club on this side of the strait. Within hours, I made an arrangement with a local agent.
The Taipei hostel owner, Robin, greeted me with enthusiasm, even allowing me to check-in early. He gave me a bottle of soda and chatted with me in Chinese. I told him I can only read the simple characters because I stayed almost two years in the mainland. He said that’s still excellent and informed me that pretty much every Taiwanese person can also read simplified Chinese. I felt right at home.
Exhausted, I took a nap around 1:30 and woke up around 4PM with plenty of energy. Around midnight, I went out to the club. A suave Taiwanese guy caught my fancy. Before we knew it, we were in some hotel downtown making enough noise to wake the folks across the street. I have a feeling Taiwan is gonna be so much better.