Lessons to Learn About Rain Outside Spain

How often does it rain in Beijing? Not much. And when it does rain, it's most probably man-made. Seed the clouds with silver iodide and you can forget about doing the rain dance. I love it how everything is ‘under control’ here.

However, a lesson I learned from a recent commercial shoot is that making rain is not so easy after all – especially in Beijing...

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Lesson 1: Nothing is Impossible

As part of a promotional video to demonstrate rain recycling technology at Beijing's National Stadium, my production crew was given the task in locating a watering can for the ‘raining’ scene. Piece of cake, I thought. “Just go get a watering can from Carrefour or Wal Mart,” I told my colleagues. “You know, those with a shower head in front,” I explained in detail.

After driving around for 2 hours and looking at various department stores and gardening shops, my Beijing colleague called me on my mobile phone. “Why do you need those watering cans? Nobody in Beijing uses those anymore. It's either a hose or those little spraying cans. You can't find those anywhere in Beijing!” he complained in Chinese.

I heard a bit of commotion on the other end of the line. “Hang on, speak to Mario,” he said. Mario was the Spanish producer who flew in for the project. He had this distinctive Spanish accent which I found pretty funny, especially when he said this (note the accent):

“Soooki…what is dis? Don tell me you c’nnot get a fucking watering can een China! They fucking make eet for the world! All our watering cans are Made In China and you c’nnot find eet een Beijing? This ees impossible…”

Well, I find it pretty impossible too. I know the watering cans in Malaysia are probably made in China. But what can I say? The Beijingers say they don’t have it here. And I do believe that there are many things that should be available everywhere else cannot be found in Beijing (such as toasters, blue tacks, dehydrated vegetable).

And mini pagodas.

Lesson 2: Everything is Possible

We were told to find, steal or grab a miniature pagoda for a last minute shoot. Ummm…we could probably get one in Wangfujing or the Silk Market downtown where there are hordes of tourists but we were in the middle of the university district and nobody there needs a mini pagoda. “You can even get it at a gas station in the US. Why can’t you get it here?” asked our US producer Erica. Again, I would say: “Everything is possible in China.” And which Chinese person would want to buy a mini pagoda?

Lesson 3: With Money, Impossible is Nothing!

Our final task on the last production day was to find a bird’s nest. Again, steal one, buy one, make one. Just get one.

Luckily for us, the artistic director pointed out a guy who was weaving crickets and grasshoppers out of grass shreds inside a little hutong. So we enquired if he could help us whip up a bird’s nest in a twinkie. Thinking that we wanted him to construct the Olympic stadium out of grass, the guy hesitated. “I’ve never done it before. Even if I could, it will take a few hours to make one,” he said.

Mario eyed the guy, turned towards me and said, “Tell him I give him 100 yuan. Make one in 5 minutes.”

The guy was still not confident about his nest-weaving skills.

“Tell him we’ll buy all his grass. We will make eet ourselves. How much for the grass? 50 yuan? No problemo,” Mario continued.

In short, we paid 100 yuan for a bunch of grass. The guy weaved the basic structure and Mario finished up the rest of it. So we got ourselves a neat little bird’s nest which did get a lot of attention from the local people. Who says money can’t buy love?

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