CARTER: One of the main characters in “Eating Smoke” is a Filipina prostitute named Apple who, after being your friend, sells you out to the triads. Filipinos are the second largest ethnic group in Hong Kong, however their career paths seem to be limited as nannies for wealthy families, cover bands, or bar girls.
Why is that, and do you think their situation will ever improve?
THRALL: I think it’s because the Philippines’ economy is relatively poor when compared to Hong Kong’s. Even with the pittance they receive in wages, these women are able to send a lot of hard-earned dollars home to their families, while getting a travel experience they likely otherwise ill afford.
As to whether their situation will improve, Filipinos are generally humble, in my experience. They don’t complain and seem to appreciate the chance to earn money abroad.
Of course, wherever there is inequality, they’ll be incidents of exploitation, which isn’t nice. But if their union – if there is such a thing – pushed for higher pay then perhaps the demand for their services would drop off as there are Hong Kong locals who could fill these jobs.
CARTER: Another reoccurring character in Eating Smoke is an expatriate named Cameron who insists on trying crystal meth despite your warnings of its highly addictive nature. Cameron shows up later in the book exclaiming how much he loves the drug even though it’s obvious that he, too, is now addicted. To quote a passage in your book, “Unable to stop and not wanting to anyway.”
What about methamphetamine makes it so popular even though everyone knows that it can, nay, will destroy you?
THRALL: I can only speak from my own experience. Some people try meth and say, “Ah. It’s OK. But nothing special.” Then get on with their life. For others it seems to be the key in lock, the answer to all of life’s insecurities and problems. Perhaps people in the former category have had more stable upbringings and hence less insecurity and the resultant need to feel “right” for a change.
A drug that makes you feel cool, calm and supremely confident, in addition to giving you a massive surge of creative energy – allowing you to discover abilities you were told you were a failure at in school – is always going to be in demand.
The problem is, like Superman with his Kryptonite, you begin to crave that feeling more and more to the point where you no longer feel normal without it. That’s called addiction. Either you beat it or it destroys you.
Chris Thrall was born in the UK. At eighteen, he joined the Royal Marine Commandos. Following active service in the Northern Ireland Conflict and training in Arctic warfare and survival, he earned his parachutist’s ‘wings’ and went on to serve as part of a high-security detachment onboard an aircraft carrier. In 1995, Chris moved to Hong Kong to oversee the Asia-Pacific expansion of a successful network-marketing operation he’d built, part-time, while serving in the Forces. Less than a year later, he was homeless, hooked on crystal methamphetamine and working for the 14K, Hong Kong’s largest triad crime family, as a doorman in Wanchai’s infamous red-light district. Eating Smoke, a humorous yet deeply moving first book, is his account of what happened.
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