In Mallorca we have an excellent Facebook page called I Have a Question where all your enquiries about Spanish bureaucracy, parking fines and the opening times of supermarkets are quickly and succinctly answered.
The other day somebody was asking about an area of Palma called Son Gotleu. "...does anybody live in the area. How is it? I hear it has a bad reputation."
An avalanche of answers ensued, ranging from "It's great, I have lived there for nine years, never had a problem, can walk home at night" to "avoid, it's full of squatters, dangerous, a ghetto".
I had to see this mysterious place for myself, and legged it over there the next day. As I thought, it was completely calm, quiet (admittedly it was All Saints' Day, a national holiday but all the shops were open) and, to my joy, with waving and greety people.
There was a lot of what looked like four and five floor government housing, and I was immediately transported back to my beloved China whose cities and towns used to look like that. Surrounded by mature trees and a couple of little parks, the public housing in Son Gotleu looked very village-y and neighbourhood-y, not at all the Irkutsk anno 1972 that I had been envisaging. There you go - reputations are important but one must also look for oneself.
It made me think about Shenzhen, the Chinese mega-city just across the border from Hong Kong. It was my favourite overnight or short weekend trip destination, with its Lo Wu Shopping Centre directly connected to the station through tunnels and walkways.
My tailors and I.
You could spend a month inside that shopping centre. It had tailors and cobblers, even a hat maker. It had everything in food and spices, electronic toys and phones, and all for a 10th of the price in Hong Kong. It had several shops where you could have your eyesight tested and get designer glasses - but they cost 150 HK$ instead of 4000.
Fake handbags, often made in the same factories as real ones, were a must, as was a lot of fake jewellery and somewhat real semi precious stones, as well as a jewellery shop that made sparkling stuff for dancers and other entertainers:
There were foot massage parlours, full body massage parlours with and without happy endings, a "western" restaurant (shudder) and at least four large dim sum places. Yummeeee!
You could have a full set of bed linen and several cushion covers made in a couple of hours, and a shirt overnight.
I used to take my students there on "language seminars" to have clothes made and learn how to haggle. Oh, how I miss haggling. What's the fun in paying what it says on the price tag? Price tags are just there so you know where to start haggling, namely at a tenth of what it says. No one respected the foreigners who just paid up, thinking it was already cheap.
Anyway, that place, like Son Gotleu, also had a terrible reputation among people who had never been there. You would get robbed, killed, yes eaten alive. One particularly stubborn story had a foreign woman, nationality unknown but, you know, white, abducted from the staircase between the 3rd and 4th floor. Or was it the 4th and 5th?
Several people told me this, wide-eyed and in all seriousness, when I said I was setting out on one of my hundreds of trips to this shopping and enjoyment paradise.
But no matter how many hours I spent inside that shopping centre and how many kilometres I wandered into Shenzhen itself, I never saw or fell victim to any crime.
So that's why I took the Son Gotleu stories with a pinch of salt, although it has to be mentioned that during lockdown, that area was twice as locked down as other areas, with a cordon around it. It is densely populated, that's true, and not everybody there seems to have caught on to the idea of rubbish bins.
But I didn't see any human poo anywhere, which is more than I can say about the very nice, high reputation neighbourhood I live in!
Talking about poo, here is the latest Podcast from CantoNews from Exile, featuring my dear former student and friend ah-Bek. I recommend seeing the poo of others ONLY under glass in the Viking museum in York, and NOT in the street where you live.
Learn cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian!
Today's Cantonese:屎 - Si - poo