My hotel concierge put me in touch with Ma Guoming. I had earlier tried contacting a number of translation companies, but it was peak season in Yiwu city. Their Arabic translators were busy. I thought the hotel concierge might be able to help, as the hotel was full of foreign traders. He could, but said to expect a fee of 500 yuan for the day. I agreed. So he made a few calls and finally found a translator for me. Together we caught a taxi to meet Ma. It was cold and, as we pulled up the curbside, Ma was breathing steam, his hands stuffed deep into his jacket pockets. He opened the passenger door and climbed quickly in. I introduced myself, and we chatted a short while in Arabic. Then I asked a price. “Two hundred yuan ($30). For the day,” he said, replying in Chinese. There was complete silence in the front seat. Finally the concierge turned to me. “Good price,” he said as a sickly grin spread across his face.
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