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Hawaladar: a broker in the Hawala system of money transfer. Relying on an honor system, it uses a series of go-betweens to transfer money from one person or organization, to another. Hawala is illegal in a number of states in America because it can be used to avoid taxes and move wealth anonymously for criminal purposes.Pai Gow: A Chinese gambling game played with a set of 32 dominoes. The name loosely translates as 'make nine' or 'card nine.' Seven players all play, but each player only plays against the house, not each other.Snakehead (She-Tou): A criminal organization that smuggles people from China into Europe or The United States.Premium Rush: Bicycle Messengers are paid on commission. The more packages they deliver, the more money they make. All deliveries are considered rushes. A premium rush is special high priority, usually with an agreement that if the delivery is untimely, the commission is forfeited.
While Nima was raising the money to bring her family into America, a paper she wrote in school was found and published on the internet. Displeased with the contents of the paper, the Chinese government put a mark on Nima's name and family, thus blocking Nima's mother and young son from escaping China. Sister Chen, the smuggler, refused to take direct cash payment and referred Nima to Mr. Leung, the Hawala broker. This allowed the money to be transferred without any paper trail or bank records. This is exactly why the hawala system is illegal in much of the United States.
It's merely a token (in the movie's case, a movie ticket stub with a smiley face drawn on it) that signifies the money being held in custody of the hawaladar (Mr. Leung). When the token is brought to the recipient, it authorizes the recipient to collect the money through their own agent.
Given the time difference, 7 PM Eastern time equated to the time of day in China when Sister Chen's ship left port. Nima's family could not board the ship until payment was made. If the ship left before then, Nima's family would remain stranded.
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