Ce – Chang En – English name Brad. Nickname – The Sloth.
When Jaq returns to China, the official translator who failed to show first time around turns out to be more of an impediment than a help.
The giant statue of Guanyin towered above a sea the colour of mud. The gender-bending deity gleamed after an ill-judged regilding, the bright acid gold clashing with the subdued greens of the tropical vegetation and turbid sea below. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara shone with a harsh quality of mercy.
The journey to the island had been easier than Jaq had expected, a bus most of the way and then a short ferry ride, a trip she could easily have managed herself. But now she was saddled with Chang En, English name Brad. If he was named after the actor Brad Pitt, it had been an ironic appellation. She quickly developed an antipathy towards her SEITA* interpreter, and as far as she could tell, the feeling was wholly mutual. One of the first truly overweight Chinese men she had ever met, there was something floppy about him that went beyond his paunch. Everything she said made him screw his face up with puzzlement or cause him to break into peals of high-pitched laughter. When he spoke, it was to trot out stock phrases, whether appropriate or not. He put her in mind of a weak-minded sloth. And moved at the same speed.
Brad the Sloth slept through the bus journey and waited until they were on a crowded ferry before explaining to her that most of Shanghai and Ningbo would be converging on the island tonight for a grand karaoke party on one-thousand-step beach. This crowd were going to make the full-moon parties of Ko Pha-Ngan in Thailand look exclusive and refined.
*SEITA – Sino English Interpretation and Translation Agency
Emperor Qianlong treasure – Fat Jade Buddha
Cerium metal – Atomic number 58, atomic mass 140.116
Named after the dwarf planet Ceres, the element was discovered in 1803 by Jöns Jacob Berzelius and Wilhelm Hisinger (and independently by Martin Klaproth) and is the most abundant of the rare earth metals. It is used in cigarette lighter flints, self-cleaning ovens, as a catalyst in hydrocarbon production, in automotive catalytic converters, flat screen TVs and magnets.
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The Chemical Reaction by Fiona Erskine is published by the PointBlank imprint of Oneworld and is available here