The 7 Year Laowai: Part 6 – Concentration Camp

– “How can someone who exists on the fringes of a society understand that society?” Jack said. “You’re a laowai, a wai guo ren, an outsider. You can’t understand pigs without shoveling pig shit, you shouldn’t even fucking eat bacon. How can you be an expert on death without taking the occasional life?” Read More »

The 7-Year Laowai: Part 5 – Lego Blocks

– …that look came upon his face. It stuck there as he went over and bashed the usurper right in the eye with a Lego block.

A black look grotesque enough on a five year old’s face, when seen on the face of a sixty-four year old man…I think Matt noticed too. Or maybe he was just hitting his stride. He took Xia Yu’s hands and started dancing with her.

He was fired a month later. Read More »

The 7-Year Laowai: Part 3 – Family & Regrets

Seven years of my life are gone. Looking back, it doesn’t seem that long, but I guess it was a long time. I always find myself nagged by a single, ugly feeling: that I wasted my time. That no matter what I did, I never used it wisely enough. For all the stress my rebirth in China brought, there was a lot it did away with. I had time plenty to write a novel, to learn a programming language, hell to learn a real language. What did I do?

The ‘what ifs’, those are the worst feelings. Those are the ones that haunt you. I read somewhere that you will regret your virtues more than your vices. I can’t say that I disagree with that. There are things I did when I was younger that I felt horrible about at the time, but as I grow older, I don’t feel so bad anymore. Maybe it’s the positive you can draw out of even the worst situations…or hell, maybe it is just getting older. Wondering what more you could have done.

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The 7-year Laowai: Part 2 – Wei Wei

Those first few years were the worst. You enter a period in your life where you can’t say for sure what you’re doing or even who you are. Each day the same as the last, they blur together like a flipbook. You can only see flashes of what you did, what you were. Little isolated fragments that do nothing to illustrate what happened and everything to add to the mystery.

“Why do you come to China?”, my students ask me, which is pretty much “What’s a nice laowai like you doing in a place like this?”. Well…I suppose I came here for a better life. I suppose. It’s hard to say. It’s hard to know what I was thinking. Look at it like this: I was treading water in the middle of the ocean, waiting for a boat to come by.

China just happened to be the first.

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A Riverside Meeting

– We took the 412 bus across the Han Jiang River and then the 26 电 down to a long wall. She led me off the bus and behind the wall. Two men sat playing cards, smoking, their puffs fast and panicky like a beached steamboat. They were sitting in the light and she took me … Read More »

There and Back

– I came to China on August 26, 2008. Before then, I took an inventory of what I’d packed. Clothes: 7 pairs of jeans, 14 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of shoes, 9 pairs of underwear, 11 shirts total, and 1 pair of glasses, no spare, no contacts. Toiletries: comb, brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, … Read More »

The Wedding

– I went to a wedding last weekend. I’m not sure if it was a traditional wedding, if there really is such a thing among these billion grains of loose sand. I do know it took place in the bride’s hometown, outside. In the summer. A Hubei summer, no less. The mosquitoes were on the hunt, … Read More »

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