Kilometer 25 339: show business in China aka the consequences of Piotrek’s becoming a star
– That face! We must have him! – the director took out his phone and stealthily snapped a picture. – Just look at his profile and the depth of his eyes!
The camera man gasped and nodded his head. The decision was made.
– I’ve always considered you too handsome for a career in science – I affirmed when Piotrek presented me with his job opportunity as actor/model in a commercial. I had barely finished my sentence when the costume designer, way more excited than the future star, kidnapped him for fitting. Then the hard work began: according to European standards, Piotrek is neither NBA tall, nor has overly huge feet, but there he was, attempting to fit into any suit, which resembled trying on first communion outfits. Finally, they found one that was right for him: apparently this season skinny trousers and 7/8 lengths are in. There was no chance of finding him shoes though, so the company had to invest in a new pair, one that was only 2 sizes too small. After all, they hurt less than 4 sizes… Showbiz is no fairytale.
The artistic concept was Piotrek playing a romantic musical instrument. Quickly it became apparent that in those trousers it couldn’t be an instrument that requires sitting down, so they chose violin. The director stroked Piotrek’s exuberant beard gently, then with a tear in his eye demanded a trim, so that the hair wouldn’t go between the strings. The fitting came to an end.
In the meantime, in a nearby student dormitory, it was discovered that along with the man of the divine profile came an English teacher with the best accent and qualifications in 50 km radius. This opportunity could not be missed, therefore a photo of myself went online immediately, together with an ad presenting all the amazing advantages of my 2-day English workshop.
And thus, Leshan, which lured us with a supposedly easy to obtain visa extension and a giant statue of Buddha (the Leshan Buddha is even more massive than Rio’s Christ the Redeemer!), offered us significantly more attractions.
Piotr was running in slow motion, drinking virgin whisky with his best Don Corleone expression, married a Chinese girl whom he had met by the Buddha statue, sang a Polish folk song in an opera version, was playing his violin and dancing the waltz, proved to the director that sitting down would result in his pants tearing, he was pointing to the horizon with a nostalgic look and guessing what the director meant when translating the tasks on a phone and telling him to “go sit over there and enjoy himself with himself”. The latter one was rather disturbing, since Piotr wasn’t exactly sure what he was supposed to advertise.
I was playing charades, walking blindfolded through obstacle courses, making presentations, doing individual and team work, role-playing, guessing and onomatopoeing with the most motivated and disciplined group of students I’ve taught so far.
And then we were called to a police station.
Whether someone felt the need to brag about working with a gallant and enigmatic model whose passport was waiting for the visa extension approval in the immigration bureau, or whether this someone just wanted to help out the local authorities – that we’ll never know. Nevertheless, the result exceeded our wildest expectations. In the course of two days (luckily without a sleep-over) that we spent at the police station, the situation escalated from us having lunch and tea with the officers to being threatened with fines and deportation.
The whole film crew was called in for questioning, each of us was interrogated for 1.5h, and there was an interpreter hired especially for us foreign delinquents. We signed thirty-something pages and stamped them with our finger prints, each page in four locations. We were told that we had jeopardized the Chinese nation by staying with local friends instead of a government-approved hotel. We were officially reprimanded, our visas that were initially supposed to be ready after two days, were put on hold and we only got them a week later. Problems with tourist registration were invented, once we already had moved into a hotel, the ad producer was fined for hiring a foreigner illegally and Piotr was threatened with a 50-day jail time.
Finally, everyone calmed down, the producer paid his fine, the police officer promised that our passports would soon be ready, and the interpreter took me aside and offered a position at the university. An illegal one.
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