Monday, October 20, 2008


When trying to achieve something positive, it is adviseable to avoid vampires. That is, people who suck life out of things, but don't breathe anything back in.

The generation of Chinese born since 1980, especially those born after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 are widely known as "The Little Emperors."

The two obvious reasons are systemised birth control and an increase in prosperity that had once been unthinkable. Many children have four grandparents and no siblings, and grow accustomed to being pandered to. It's not unusual to come across a young Chinese person who has wildly unreasonable ideas about how important they are, and how much time you should give them.

I could go on about how the Chinese have historically placed a lot of hope in their children, but that's not what I want to focus on.

The world has many useless people who simply aren't going anywhere, but when it comes to kids what can one do? I tell myself that the only moral and sensible thing to do is to leave them the fuck alone and give them time to daydream, a much more effective study-method than the ones in practise here. But that's seldom an option in China.

Compared to the generation that was young in the 1960s, the young Chinese that I work with all day every day, are self-confident, hungry for knowledge, and low on hypocrisy. But I wish I could be seen by more people for what I am - somebody who came to this University JUST to do a job.

Friday, October 17, 2008

God's Grandeur
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Yesterday evening. I brought my guitar to a friend's house to give him and his friends a listen. His wife and son were out of town so they were taking the opportunity to have a mini school reunion and I was the entertainment.

I drank about half a bottle of brandy, and then started drinking baijiu.

I woke up this morning, in my own bed, but I have no recollection of what happened after I started drinking baijiu.

I must have had the presence of mind to make my own way home, or the Chinese-speaking ability to tell them where to take me, but I need to find out what happened

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

In River Town Peter Hessler wrote of his time livng in a remote, impoverished part of China:
“I had never had any idealistic illusions about my Peace Corps ’service’ in China; I wasn’t there to save anybody or leave an indelible mark on the town. If anything, I was glad that during my two years in Fuling I hadn’t built anything, or organized anything, or made any great changes to the place. I had been a teacher, and in my spare time I had tried to learn as much as possible about the city and its people. That was the extent of my work, and I was comfortable with those roles and I recognized their limitations.”

He lived there in the days before having a QQ number was as common as having hot water, and before it was the norm to own a mobile phone.

This evening, I entered a classroom that looked like what it was. The classroom of 30Students who have a barely qualified teacher, with greaseblock walls and a concrete floor.
Everywhere I go, people ask me a question I doubt they have ever asked before: "can I be your friend?" a question I don't have the energy to deconstruct several times a day. It's very much the opposite of the life Peter Hessler claims to have chosen for himself. He was hungry for knowledge, and I'm greedy for it. And I want everybody to know.

But as it is, I'm starting more friendships than I could ever possibly sustain, and getting more enviable opportunities than I could possibly take advantage of.
The only pressure is the pressure I put on myself, and it's great to live in a place where nobody talks about the good old days. Clearly for me, these are the good old days