Laowai Fury

13 Jul 2003

Brendan is wigging out*. Adam is pissed his bike was stolen again. Hank has recently fought off the almost overpowering urge to flee China due to a few particularly bad incidences in Huaibei. Brad has had his share of frustrations recently too.

And me? Well, I’m just great! Of course, I’ve had my unhappy moments here in China too — I’ve posted about them quite a few times. Lately, though, the only things I could find to complain about would be 1) Hangzhou in the summer is HOT, 2) My summer class contains a few students who seem to think they know more than me about how to teach Spoken English, which is just so laughable for so many reasons, and 3) I don’t have much time to blog.

[Ah, blog guilt. It’s so ridiculous, but I think a lot of bloggers out there experience it. You haven’t written in a while, so you feel guilty. Maybe part of it is a twinge of anxiety over the possibility of losing readers? I’m not sure. Although I do feel a bit of this, I think I’ll have to choose a busy social life over a frequently updated, thoughtfully written blog at this juncture. Please understand, dear readers. I will have more time to write soon.]

Despite the fact that things are going nicely for me, I had a somewhat disturbing dream last night. It’s also kind of interesting in that it was entirely in Chinese. I’ll share it here.

> I was sitting on the couch in my apartment with a Chinese friend. She needed to take a shuttle bus from Hangzhou to the Shanghai Pudong airport, and we were examining a brochure which offered this service. As were were discussing it, there was a knock at the door.

> In came a middle-aged woman with a brochure for a shuttlebus to the Pudong airport. [This is the kind of person you normally bump into when you get off a train. Why she was in my apartment building can only be explained by the fact that it was a dream.]

> She started pushing her service when my friend pointed out that we already had the same brochure and were examining it right then. Then the lady started helping to explain how it all works. My friend made a small joke over some point in the brochure, and the lady laughed. I laughed as well.

> The lady said to my friend, “Oh, the laowai is laughing too.” Implicit was that I didn’t really understand because they were talking in Chinese, but I was just laughing along for the hell of it.

> I told the lady that I could speak Chinese, but she just got flustered, saying that she couldn’t speak English. Then I lost it.

> Grabbing her shoulders, I plucked her small frame off the couch and shook her.

> “I’M SPEAKING CHINESE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

> No response. I shook her again.

> “I’M SPEAKING CHINESE! DO YOU UNDERSTAND??”

> She was absolutely terrified. “I don’t understand you…” she was trying to say.

> “I’M SPEAKING CHINESE!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!?”

> She got out a weak, “I don’t understand you….”

> I was livid. Still holding her in the air, a rushed to the front door, which was still ajar, and hurled her violently from my home.

I’m not a violent person, even in my dreams, normally. There really seems to be something about China that drives people to the brink of sanity. Furthermore, learning the language seems to be a catalyst rather than an antidote.

* Postscript: This entry has since been removed by Brendan. In his own words, “I removed that post from bokane.org because, frankly, it was disgraceful and I’m ashamed of it…. I don’t want to hate China. I don’t want to hate Harbin. I’m not a mean or hateful person, but I see myself becoming one, and it is scaring me.”

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed this post. It’s nice that it was archived, as I am writing this comment four years after you wrote it.

    I lived a long time in India and believe that I could have had the same dream. I am sure that your love affair with China has matured rather than disappeared. Good for you. I love people who get immersed in the “Other.” They are truly well-educated.

    Jan

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