Monday, February 28, 2011


months down and to go

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Lead-Up to Essays Considering the Grammar of the Englishes around Me

Grammar is easier to talk about than people. It's almost as though I know others by their usages, preferred or habitual.

Friday, February 25, 2011


I'm kidding, though, about learning Latin and Japanese. It's enough to think—shit, dream some nights, like last night—about English all day, teach it, rehearse all the names, list the tenses, contextualize a time, whether now covers now, as it were. Then to be reminded you use the same Chinese over and over when you don't recognize anything. Confuse one for to want and thus not recognize any other part of a sentence. The head would explode, which'd be OK, except. At least my Chinglish and Konglish are improving.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Head Explodes Soon

Supposedly, I'm to learn Latin and Japanese now.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Yesterday was lost to writing an article for Focus. I hated the whole time. Frustrated, I paced Koreatown and returned home to nap. At school on my day off so that I could work finally. This is the article about the company that hires disabled people. The deadline was moved up so that my story could be run past the government. As I worked, I was a little mad at myself: I hadn't allowed enough time to write the article in such a way that it could undermine its own content. I used versions of "He said" in an attempt to remove myself. I alluded only to the interviewed side, kept the "us" of it out. The story is basically a puff piece about how the government realizes that "in order to have a harmonious society, it must acknowledge the disabled," or some shit like that. What pissed me off more than my writing's being sent off to be scrutinized and probably changed, more than having a deadline come too quickly, more than having a hand in such a shitty story, was the not knowing. Perhaps everything I wrote in the piece was true. Maybe it was all a lie. There was no way for me to sort things out, no fact checking I could do. A government agent sat in on almost the entire interview, spoke English for the interviewee's Chinese, smiling, telling us how well the people were being treated.

And then the comparing of things to back home that is the plague expats inflict on themselves. As I explained the story, others, unqualified, spit out some version of "But you can't help people, because then they can never take care of themselves." Even the CEO of the company I interviewed, a guy in a wheelchair because of a medical accident when he was two years old, said something about how the governments of other countries cared too much about their disabled. Someone not from America gave a gloss of America's affirmative action in exchange, saying it was the same thing. All these quick summaries of what it means to be disabled or working class. All the statements about what a government should do, about what the Chinese government actually does.

I formatted the story according to the magazine's standards, attached it in an e-mail, and then I promptly quit.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Little White Day—the Black-and-White World Is Nonexistent at All"

This past week Bonnie Xue, fourteen years old, translated a story by Taiwanese illustrator Jimmy Liao:
Little White Day—the Black-and-White World Is Nonexistent at All

Little White Day was born at high noon time,
Her mother ached for 3 days and 3 nights, then fainted in tiredness,
Her father freaked himself out so much that his complexion went wan and he lost consciousness,
The baby deliverer suddenly had a heart attack
Fell into a stupor…
Little White Day wailed from morning till night,
Then got her first drop of milk…

Little White Day's life is black and white
Because her eyes can't see colors and her heart is gray.
After examining her body, the doctor said,
"The problem does not rest with her eyes but with her brains."
The doctor said definitely that her heart was pink,
But she can't see it herself.

Even if Little White Day wears beautiful delicate pink clothes,
Prostrating herself before the colorful windows,
Her heart remains a sheet of deathly stillness.
This resplendent, gorgeous, dazzling human world,
Seems to be unconcerned with her.

Don't think there's only black and white in a black-and-white life,
There's dark black, moderate black, light black, pale black and deep black in black,
There's dark white, moderate white, light white, pale white and deep white in white.
But don’t expect Little White Day to explain the differences between them,
She disdains having to tell the details of life to others all along.

The sunshine lights up Little White Day's body, warm and bright.
Her shadow mirrored on the wall clearly,
But the sunshine can’t illuminate the depth of her heart.
The shadow in her heart is like a drop of dense fog, hard to penetrate.

Don't be sad for Little White Day.
The riotous and noisy joy out of the windows
Is a kind of pain for her.
She likes staring at the monotonous gray wall, dazing,
She dazes, only dazes, genuinely dazes.
From cockcrow till night.

Little White Day's life is black and white,
Because her eyes can't see colors and her heart is gray.
But her dreams are colorful.
She never shares the happiness in her dreams with other people.
She firmly believes that these are secrets between the God and her.
All of the happiness in her dreams can be enjoyed only alone.
She keeps making herself sleep…

Every morning at the split second when Little White Day opens her eyes,
She suddenly understands that she can't see colors.
Because her dreamland is always colorful,
Little White Day likes the dim night, not the bright day.

If you feel sorry for Little White Day, there's no need.
She often likes sitting in the woods, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.
The withered and yellow leaves on the ground for her
Are just as beautiful as the green sprouts on the branches in spring.

Little White Day thinks that the zebra crossing has 7 colors at all times,
Always counting silently in her heart when she crosses the street:
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple,
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple…
Little White Day doesn't know while crossing the street
People's lives are black and white.

Only when it snows in the winter nights
Does Little White Day see the same colors that others do.
As though possessing the magic, she shouts loudly with happiness:
"The sky is black! The snowflake is white!"

Though Red Nose John and Little White Day are good friends,
He still feels that she doesn’t know him at all.
Little White Day's world is black and white,
Yet Red Nose John's world is full of blanks.
For Red Nose John,
The world of black and white is still too complicated.

The just-left-the-metro Little White Day felt depressed.
She saw that the people in the car were always unaware
to reveal their indifferent and tired and wearied and gray and depressed expressions.
She doesn't like to meet crowds like herself in the city constantly.

The autumn comes, and birds fly to the south.
Little White Day imagines that her heart flies along with them to the warm south,
But her body stays in the cold city alone,
Spending the severe winter in loneliness.

Don't feel sorry for Little White Day,
When the sunshine illuminates the afternoon in the room,
She knows and appreciates the beauty of the sway of the leaf shadow,
The achromatic and pure world,
Less noise, more elegance…

Little White Day likes singing loudly under the starry sky,
Her voice is graceful and moving, all the stars twinkle for her.
She doesn't know when she sings
Her world has had a bit of colors little by little,
"Please don't be impatient to tell her, or she will be startled."

Little White Day likes hiding herself in the dark corners,
Pondering the crumbs of life…
Because of that,
She will emit faint light
In the darkness leisurely.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


In the lobby this afternoon, a little girl ran toward me. "{Tim Teacher!}" Do I know you? I thought, giving her a hug. She pushed me. Sure, a taller, fatter version of— Holy shit. It was a girl I'd taught my first semester here, when she was only five or six, a little girl who in class would scream or rip picture cards or tear things away from other students or hit you. Her name was Angel, and compared with her, any other student who's ever given me trouble has been nothing. I learned a lot about behavior issues from her, though, mostly how to ignore somebody who's intent on getting you to drop everything just for them. She'd been gone for like a year. So I was a little worried when she followed Sunny and me to our class after break. Indicating me, she told Sunny, "{He used to scare me, so I became stronger and stronger in order to scare him.}" She turned happily away from the door as we shut ourselves away from her.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


This morning Sunny invited me to 人人 (Rénrén, "everybody"), aka the Chinese Facebook, so I joined. It took me about forty-five minutes just to translate the sign-up page. Perhaps my teacher is giving me a test, I thought.

At lunch, I thanked Sunny for the invitation. One of the new Western teachers, the same one from yesterday, said, "Oh yeah. Tim, weren't you the one telling me they stole the code from Facebook to make 人人?" The whole room turned to face us. I again made the killing motion, but it was too late.

The room:

"They didn't steal it. It just looks similar."

"Some college students created it."

"First only college students could use it. Then high school students. Finally everybody could use it."

(I'd link to my 人人 profile from here, but this blog is blocked in China, and I'm afraid that linking will result in my account's deletion. I'll link from the index; click on "人" at the bottom of the page.)

Friday, February 18, 2011


At dinner, a few of the teachers were arguing about whether you could use kung fu as a verb. "Sure: 'I kung fu you,'" one of the new Western teachers said.

"Yeah, and 'I fist you,'" Hillary said, punching the air in front of her.

"That has another meaning," one of the new Western teachers said and then started to explain it, and I made the killing motion across my neck.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Can We Say That?"

It's the beginning of the new semester, my fourth here. I was jazzed today when one of my students, May, a nine- or ten-year-old, pumped her arm and said, "Yes!" after I announced that we'd be reading silently for ten minutes. She and her class worked through Dr. Seuss books with the Chinese written next to the English, giggled at their drawings. "If we have this kind of book, we will always read when we are young," Betty said, grinning at our students.

There is little difference between writing a book and teaching a language. I still get nervous before classes. Obsessed too, wanting to explain everything away, wanting to categorize everything: our Englishes and the diminishing distance between them. May's speaking complete sentences, her eyes going to her head to think about what words to say next. Her speech is crossed out. "Betty, how do you say _____ in English?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another Year

Just found out that I didn't get into Hawai‘i. One more year here then.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Want to Keep Saying

My first impressions and first instincts are so often wrong.

Suck City

It's another night in Five Colour City, let's say, and we're playing the game What Were You Like Before You Came Here, which we all know we know is really the game Would We Be Friends Otherwise. Who is your celebrity crush? Well, Jesus, I haven't been in the West in a few years, so remind me again who's still around. Who's that? When did that come out?

It is suggested stated, in this little district where the bartenders attack every entering expat with attention (and not just here), that there is a fundamental right and wrong. Can you do good things by day and be a douche by night and still think good of yourself when you wake up in the morning? is asked. A single bartender is, with her left hand behind her back and while talking to other people, beating two men at foosball. I'm only on the edge of the conversation about—what is it, ethics? More like personal standards. We have heard of the sexpat—the man who, when you ask him why he's in China, answers, "The girls, man," or even sometimes, "The pussy—what else?"—and we do not like this sort of person, for example. I want to ask, though, in this particular bar, if the people out tonight are being indicted. The fat men, mostly white, enjoying a talk and a look at the staff, do you mean? Yeah. It's despicable, is the face and the summing up of the words. Some people are just talking. Not everybody's out trying to get their dick wet. I'm not out to change minds tonight.

We haven't been here in a long time, exactly because we do not enjoy it any longer, but that doesn't make this an area of vice.

It is suggested that one can say with confidence a sentence beginning with "I can say this with confidence…"

The longer you're here, the less you know you know, is good to know.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Send Me Music

No. Really. Send me music. lantztim at gmail dot com.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dance in Harbin

I admit I'm trying to hit on her. That's plain to see. Upstairs, earlier, as the bar warmed up, a couple people singing the bar into liveliness as it got its first few drinks in—"ATTENTION, FOREIGNERS: DRINKS ONLY ¥10 IF YOU GET DRINK FROM THIS COOLER!"—I followed a thin line of light to where it stopped at the head of one of the singers, as though she were being shot, the Chinese she sang the expression of her pain. Now I'm aware of the light, pretend I'm the one being shot. The woman I'm hitting on speaks Chinese so quickly, and only for a little while can I follow, but soon I run out of the language. "{I'm very sorry. Could you say that again?"} Very polite. But after the third time I say it, trying to pretend that the music is to blame, she smiles, kisses my cheek, waves, and says, "Bye-bye." Some of the men are getting a little aggressive, pushing us when we Americans dance near women. A guy with a bad combover nobody's dancing with grabs my arm when I dance near the stage, where undies-wearing men and women take turns occupying the attention, directing eyes. I twist my arm out of his grip. "{Don't,"} I say. When a woman grinds against me a few minutes later, the guy grabs me again. For once, I'm making so few initial moves, trying to figure out the appropriateness of bodies here. Tough, these customs you don't know. I haven't danced in something like a year, and I'm out for the immediacy of it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vacation 5

Vacation 4

These buildings are made out of ice.

Buddha of snow.

Banana, pineapple, strawberry.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vacation 3

Kinzie at a piano made of ice in a bar made of ice.

The temperature in the bar made of ice is 32ºF.

A guy selling hawthorns.

The Mona Lisa rendered in snow.

Us in front of da Vinci made out of snow.

Miles loves the snow.

I wish I could watch it melt.

Maria's from a warm place.

Eating instant noodles in a restaurant on a frozen lake. Why are you taking a picture of me?

The coffee was in a can first.

This snow sculpture is out of place in the Italian theme.


What's the liability on this slide? I'm kidding.

The park's rest area.

Kinzie about to eat her second fish eyeball of the day.

Vacation 2

To be eaten while watching the CCTV New Year's gala.

The best part of the holiday.


Culture lessons.

Time to make dumplings.

Before the filling.

Always takes a while before you can master it.

The uglier the dumpling, the likelier it was made by a foreigner.

Kinzie's first time lighting a firework.

A little sparkler action.

We lost the lighter, so we had to keep lighting explosive things with other explosive things.

Uh, try not to light my jacket on my fire, eh?

Shit, get the other explosive stuff before we lose the fire!

My turn to blow shit up.

The gate of Cui Zhu Nan Li, where some of the Western teachers live.