Blesok no. 90, May-June, 2013
Prose


The Silk Route

Eduard Pranger


In the small village Lizhou, of the Chinese province Sichuan lives a slight dark-haired girl named Mao. She is seven years of age, and the only child in the Fang family. Apart from her school duties Mao helps her mother and father in assembling plastic toys. Every day she works extremely hard for several hours. Rises early and goes to sleep late. This week she assembled over three thousand little multi-colored horses, and only cut herself once, on the sharp rim of the plastic.
Twice a week, in his van, Huang Hao drives around the surrounding villages, collecting all the toys, and returning back to the city of Chengdu where he lives and works. His family, wife, eleven-year old son, uncle, his wife and an old father sort and pack the toys in the big plastic baskets. At the end of the week, Zhang Zhongwei comes with his big truck to pick them up and take them to the warehouse of a company called Shantou Chenghai Chengdu Plastic Toy Co. Ltd. The pay is not all that, but he is single and therefor content.

Thirty-year old JihanYanli, works in the big factory hall with thirty other women, supervising and finishing goods. She is married and in her third month of pregnancy. She wasn’t completely sure, so she left the good news for next week, after seeing the doctor. Her best friend from school days, ZoiXianhu, on the colorful boxes of packaged toys, attaches the declarations, and puts them on the assembly line that sends them into the next hall. There, Xiao Xuemei, one of the ten packing workers, quickly and proficiently lays them in the big boxes. He seals them with a wide tape, wraps them in a plastic foil and places them on wooden pallets. Before they all end up at the central warehouse, the boxes are checked by Mr. Zhifeng, the main quality controller. On every examined box he puts his own personal stamp. He is very pedantic and strict, and just seven months away from retirement.

Su Ganjun is the youngest of all the forklift drivers, just turned nineteen. Despite of the extremely tall and bulky cargo, with his vehicle, he deftly maneuvers through the maze of corridors in the main warehouse of the company. He stacks the pallets one on top of the other onto the eight meter high metal shelves, sorts them if needed and loads them into containers. In the afternoon, after work, he takes evening lessons at the college. He pays for it on his own. His wish is to become an IT programmer. Liu Dongsun, with his trailer-truck, transfers the two containers full of toys to the Shanghai custom house. Those long rides are very well paid, and he reckons that he could pay off the loan for the truck within five-six years.

In the huge open warehouse of the custom house in Shanghai harbor, Yuan Qun, works as a driver of the tall container crane in the Red sector. He is one of the few who can orientate in the forest of thousand containers with his eyes closed without a problem. He is in constant radio contact with the custom officers Lan Ying and Zhou Laizhen. They work on the final export clearance, where, after the careful examination of the goods with the freight forwarders, they seal the containers, sorting and preparing them for transport onto the ship.

First officer Jan Coenraad, for two years already, with lesser breaks, is serving on the Dutch container ship. His task is, amongst other things, to care for the freight. Only when he gives green light, containers can come aboard the ship. Here they are taken over by Filipino Jackie Lou Ping and his crew who are sorting the freight according to the plan. Jackie is extremely pleased with his job and his pay. He’s engaged and is planning a big wedding in a year’s time, after his return to Manila. The ship Emscarier needs exactly twenty two days to sail into the port of Amsterdam, where the container with plastic toys, along with the others, is taken over by inland customs.

On the container crane resembling a large spider and equally powerful as the one in the Shanghai harbor, works Erhan Serhat. His family emigrated from Turkey to Netherlands, in distant 1956, so he is already the third generation. With few other, identical crane-vehicles, Erhan and his colleagues, yearly, from the ships that come from all over the world, unload about six thousand tones of various goods. Lies Janssen, a shipping agent personally checks containers with toys and declares them to the custom officer on duty which stands a tall, attractive blonde, Mary Olman. The two of them cooperate for many years, they know each other well and takeover is going smoothly, without any delays.

In the harbor, from early morning waits Mladen Baće, representative of the Croatian company Grand Ltd. He has, the day before, traveled to Amsterdam by airplane and here waited for Nusret Fehirović who drove from Zagreb in the company truck. The two of them checked all the paperwork and loaded the container on the truck. Mladen stayed in Amsterdam on business and Nusret one more time checked the load, sat in the truck and started her journey towards Croatia.
He stayed the night at his brothers, who for fifteen years already, since the war, lived in Rosenheim, a small place near Munich. Fresh and rested, the next day, already by noon he is at the border crossing Sežana, and two hours later at the customs control Jankomir in Zagreb. There he handed the paperwork to the freight forwarding agent and sometime later together with customs officer Marko Bogdanović examined the load. In the company compound on the edge of town, he drove and parked the truck just before dark. It’s Friday and apart from the porter on the entrance there’s no one in the firm. He locked the truck and put the padlock on the container door.

On Monday the warehouse keeper Franjo Rački, together with Nusret, patiently and thoroughly examined the delivered goods and its documentation.
Everything was fine and he explained to Mladen Grdović, his fork driver, where in the warehouse to place the goods. Larger portions of the stock were stored by specification on the tall metal shelves at the back of the warehouse, while the other, smaller stock was left at the entrance. It will be immediately distributed to several shops in town. After checking the paperwork, he showed the young driver, Stjepan Grgec which boxes are for immediate delivery, signed for invoices, and locked the warehouse for the company of Franjo and then went on lunch break.

Stjepan loaded around twenty boxes into the big white van and drove to town.
He was hungry too, so he parked near ‘Kaptol Centre’ and ate a kebab, smothering it with chili spices. An hour later he unloaded eight boxes in the shop on Ilica, and rest on Kvaternik square. There, as a manager, worked with two other girls, Marina Ivković, a middle age divorcee. With an odd joke or two, she received the stock from Stjepan. She was truly sorry that Stjepan is not older and that she’s not a little younger. She called the girls in the back storage and explained where to put the stock. To the younger one, Lea Ivančan, she gave the task to put some of the toys on the shelves. It was also required to place larger declaration stickers in Croatian over the smaller Chinese ones, and stick a bar-code on every box.

Lea did all that in less than an hour. After she stacked the shelves neatly with pretty plastic horses, she went out in the courtyard to smoke a cigarette.
She finished journalism and is only working here for the time being, until a position becomes available in a News Agency.

Vlasta Jurić halted in front of a shop window in Ilica. All morning she was searching for a birthday present for her seven year old daughter and her feet were starting to swell. She bought her some hair clips; some hair bands, some socks and a top in Benetton, but it seemed inadequate. She went inside and strolled along the shelves. She pick up a Barbie doll. Gabi had had ten of them already; maybe more, but this one was special and considerably more expensive than others. It was because she came with a complete hairdressing set; tiny hairdryer, miniature hair curler, a set of mini brushes and combs, rollers, little bonett hair dryer and some other tiny implements. A pretty black and white horse on the neighboring shelf caught her eye. Gabi adored animals, so Vlasta decided on them both.

Gabi is the only child in the Jurić family. Pretty blond and blue eyed girl, she’s first grader and a very good pupil. That day she was especially happy because she celebrated her seventh birthday with the whole class at McDonalds. She collected a lot of presents and she just couldn’t wait until she got home to have a look everything she received. Apart from some scrapbooks, photo albums and two books, there were few notebooks; bits for school and some small toys. Her best friend Ana Sabol got her a computer game Gameball. Granny and granddad gave her a hundred euros; she’ll go shopping with mum and buy whatever she likes. From her father she received a beautiful pink Nokia, a mobile phone designed especially for children, and from mum, a gorgeous Barbie doll, ‘Hairdreser’.

“Mum, come! Mum! Mum!” Called Gabi from her room.
From the tone of her voice Vlasta knew something was not right. Worried, she rushed to her. Gabi was sitting on the bed, and next to her, was just the opened box;
“Look!”
With an angry tone, and eyes full of tears, she was pointing her finger to the floor.
There, on the ground beneath her feet which was thrown, lay a toy.
“I don’t want that horse mum! It’s dirty! Yuck!”
Vlasta picks it up and stares at it carefully, on the neck of the pretty black & white toy, she spots a dark stain of dried blood.

Translation: Karima Shebani




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