Most of the important things in the life of Chinese people happen over dinner conversations. The same goes for Waste Tide and I.
I visited Shantou, my hometown, in the summer of 2011 to attend a childhood friend’s wedding. It takes about three hours one way to fly from Beijing to Shantou down in Guangdong province, not including city transportation and the time spent waiting at the airport. The wedding dinner was costly in terms of both money and time: many attendees were flying in from different cities all over China.
Every Chinese person will experience dinners like this many times in their life. A lot of those dinners will end in people fighting over paying the bill (yes, sometimes even escalating into fistfights), drunken mess, or blatant obscenity.
Thankfully our dinner didn’t turn out like that.
My friend from middle school, Luo, mentioned a small town not far from where we lived: Guiyu (Gui means “precious” and Yu means “isle”, so the name of the town literally translates into “precious isle”; Gui, written as a different character with the same pronunciation, also means “silicon”, making Guiyu sound like “silicon isle”). Apparently, the American company he worked for had been trying to convince the regional government to establish eco-friendly zones and recycle the e-waste, but some local authorities had been standing in their way.
“It’s difficult,” he said, a little too mysteriously, “the situation over there is…complicated.” I knew the word complicated often meant a lot.