When Filly arrived in the Dragon’s Lair, she had only the money that she had brought with her. Monkey had promised payment to her for coming over to help them, but she had no idea how the system worked. Was she surprised by the process. Commerce in general in the Dragon’s Lair was to become a fascinating venture.The Chinese agreed to several things in bringing you to their school through my organization. They agreed to house you in a manner as close to Western comfort as was available. They provided in many cases, a house-worker (to do washing, cook, basic chores) so that you had time for nothing but your teaching duties. You were to be always available for diplomatic purposes as well as teaching so being able to leave at the drop of a hat was easier. And they provided you with money…actual Chinese money.
I had been at the school merely hours when my airplane ticket was demanded of me. I turned it in as required and thought nothing else of it. About a week later, I was called in to the Foreign Affair’s office. I was told to bring a large bag or satchel with me. I had no idea whatever for and was at a loss to wonder how big was big? I brought along the biggest thing I could find and arrived at the Foreign Affairs office.
The office was rather sparse. Nothing but a table, a filing cabinet and chairs. I was introduced to Cole, the interpreter in training, who happened to be in the office to meet me. He was much younger than Eugene, yet slightly older than I. I met the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and her assistant. These were the people with whom I would spend a LOT of my time while in China at this school and traveling anywhere. But they were not all that was in the office.
On the table, stacked in absurdly neat little piles, was my entire year’s salary. THAT was for what I was required to bring the satchel. Somehow the price of my airfare over was doubled and worked through the exchange from American money to Chinese and therein was my salary! Foreign money or not, I don’t believe i have EVER seen that much money in one place at one time outside of a bank. (The actual sum was probably less than what would be earned with minimum wage here, but run through the exchange, it seemed larger. It was 1 US dollar to about 3 yuan at the time).
I hoped the one I had brought was big enough. I was commanded to count it to insure that it was all there. Good grief!! And as I put it into the bag, my head was racing as to where on earth I would keep it all. I had no idea where a bank was, let alone how one opens a Chinese bank account.
Well, first problem solved. I was walked from the building with bag in hand by Eugene directly to a building outside the front gate of the school. Inside, there were two desks behind a counter and a couple of filing cabinets. Chinese aren’t big on office decor. Everything is kept to a bare minimum. Well, it turns out this office, looking nothing like a bank, was the bank. Maybe because of the abacus’ that were neatly arranged on the sparse desks.
I was walked through the system of opening the account and traded them my bag of money. They played on the abacus faster than I had ever seen ANYONE work with one and I was returned a sort of bank book, listing in Chinese characters the amount in my account. I was shown the papers to use to get money out (withdrawal slips) and how to sign my name (it’s a little different in Chinese characters). Then we left. I had just completed my first Chinese banking transaction.
Filly went back to her stall, having learned a little bit of a whole new way of living.