Attempting Redemption

A while back I posted a story I titled “Betrayal.” I visited Yunnan and promised some friends that I would send them a photo when I returned to Hangzhou. But I never did. What’s more, I discarded the address so that I never could.

Well, it turns out I got some of those facts wrong. I moved to Shanghai in early 2004. I have moved twice since then. I am now in the apartment where I will begin my married life. Since I’ll be living with a Chinese woman, it’s necessary that I get rid of a lot of my old crap. I have some packrat genes, and it’s a part of myself that I detest. I never feel bad for having a lot of books, but it’s the other miscellaneous odds and ends that I need to do something about. A lot of it is old papers of questionable value, but I actually have to look at them before I can be sure they’re safe to throw out.

Anyway, I was going through that process recently when I found a familiar-looking old scrap of paper. It was the address of the restaurant in Jinghong, Yunnan! I never threw it out after all… I just packed it with everything else and lost it for over three years.

I have finally printed the photos and mailed them, as I promised I would. It’s been over 4 years, so I’m not sure those people are even still there, or if they’ll remember me at all. But whoever receives the letter will have a photo and a short note explaining it. I hope they see it.


John Pasden

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


  1. “Since I’ll be living with a Chinese woman, it’s necessary that I get rid of a lot of my old crap.”

    Why, because Chinese people are the worst packrats in the world and there is only room for one under your roof? 🙂

  2. Practical packrats though – my damn apartment is full of assorted original boxes (and packing material) for every appliance I’ve purchased. They’ll be here until the 1yr. warranty runs out. 🙁

  3. ah, how sweet 😀

  4. this could be a good script for movie that trys hard to claim a good relationship between Chinese people and visiting Westerners. Many these propaganda-like movie have been done by Chinese government.

  5. V,


    Seriously, I’ve learned a lot about making do with fewer material possessions here in China. (That never includes a computer or books, though.)

  6. Ryan,

    I can’t say I’m that practical. I keep things like my class notes for the English classes I taught in Hangzhou in 2001. Not the most useful thing to keep. And what’s truly useful should really be digitized.

  7. marco,

    I can’t tell you how rewarding it is for me that basically my entire life post-graduation has been “a good script for movie that tries hard to claim a good relationship between Chinese people and visiting Westerners.”

    Mmmm… fulfillment.

  8. That’s touching. Your first post about that photo was one of my very favorites.

  9. last king Says: April 8, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    A good story. Maybe a new story will start when your mail arrives Yunnan. For example, all of your friends there have left the restaurant in Jinghong. The new boss who receives the mail tries her best to look for these four people. Suddenly she came back to 4 years ago and met John and his friends there……

  10. Truly awesome. A happy ending to a good story.

  11. Always nice when a wrong is righted. I must say, even though I read that original post over a year ago, it lingered in my subconscious and festered away, reminding me of all my own shortcomings. I can now vicariously exorcise my demons through you. I exaggerate, of course, but only a little. (Really!)

  12. Mark in Dunan Says: April 9, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    John, what a stroke of luck, and good on you for finally sending it. I remember reading that story and being shocked by its ‘ending’ — having put off writing to various people myself from my adopted home in Japan, using excuses like ‘well, I can write to them after the holidays; they’ll think I went back home or something’, it always feels good to finally get that missive off to them, not just as an individual but because you feel like you’re representing your own country and you don’t want to embarrass it! Now hope those people are still there!

  13. I would have been tempted to put a stamp mark on the envelope saying, “Found in supposedly empty mail bag” just so it didn’t look like I was the irresponsible one. 🙂

  14. That’s sweet of you to do. I hope that they are still there to receive it. And who knows, like a previous poster said, maybe someone other than the intended will get the parcel, and go out on a personal mission to find them. Now, that could be a movie.

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