Monday, August 1, 2011

Small Victories

True fact: You can rent bikes in Shenzhen for about 25 cents a day. Here's how!
  1. Search the internet for "Shenzhen bike rental." For best results, use the finding-a-plausible-set-of-characters-via-Google-Translate technique.
  2. Have your Chinese roommate (who speaks a little English) call them and see what the deal is.
  3. Upon discovering that it is indeed a real company, head to the business park where you believe their office might be. It doesn't look that big on the map, really. I'm sure you'll find it.
  4. Wander for a bit. Upon finding what is surely a locked-up kiosk full of tiny bikes, call the number your roommate gave you for Mr. Zhao. Give them the name of the building you're sweltering under and say "I'd like to rent a bicycle" in English and unintelligible Chinese. Repeat as necessary. Eventually, they might transfer your call to someone who can speak a little of the Queen's Tongue. Do your best to explain your whereabouts and desires.
  5. Have a McFlurry or something while you wait, hoping someone will come to where you are and rent you a bicycle.
  6. Realize that this is not going to happen and begin looking for other places where a bicycle kiosk might be. There will be several, all in out-of-the-way places, and all closed.
  7. As you realize that this Hi-Tech Park is far too large to be searched thoroughly on foot and prepare to give up this snark hunt, you will receive a text message with an address that you can show to the delivery guys, auto mechanics, and wealthy businessmen you see. Become encouraged when they all point in more or less the same direction.
  8. Praise the Gods, old and new! Off in the hazy distance there's a little shack with bicycles out front! Watch elation turn to dread as you realize the man staffing the kiosk speaks no English, and his forms are entirely in Chinese characters.
  9. Take a slow breath. You are so close. But this is a rather more complex transaction than ordering barbecue with grunts and finger-pointing (which you are so good at, by the way). You must now draw upon the bike karma you've earned in Portland and your local guanxi and get someone who speaks Chinese to interpret your desires to this man. Watch your phone's battery level drop precariously low as you telephone everyone who has ever offered to help you out with translation in China.
  10. Success! Ali's incredible friend Nick and his incredible Girlfriend are on the line to help you! Make sure you understand what is happening. 200RMB for a deposit. Fair enough. One hour for 3RMB and one day for 15RMB? That's a steal! One month for 30RMB? Are you serious? Is anyone even making money here? Who do these guys rent to, anyway? And why is this service only offered in the Hi-Tech Park?
  11. Stop asking questions! Just give the man his money, scrawl what you suspect is the information he wants on his form, and ride off into the sunset! Be sure to thank everyone who helped make this successful transaction possible. And remember, now you owe them one. Such are the rules of guanxi.
For reals, though:
There are four locations in the Tian An Cyber Park area. We had success at the Tian Parking Service Point station. It is located on the side of that building that looks exactly like all those other buildings, near that road that smells funny.

Stay tuned for part 2: How to Look Cool on a Bike in Shenzhen


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