Category Archives: Chronicles of the Dancing Laowai

From September 2008 – January 2011

The Seven Year Laowai – Annotated Edition (aka the Director’s Commentary)

Hi there!

I’ve uploaded the full Seven Year Laowai with some annotations. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, and if that 99 cent pricetag was holding you back, rejoice! The whole story is available for free.

Check it out:

The Seven Year Laowai – Annotated Edition

I like what I see

I haven’t been to Knoxville in four years, and I don’t think last weekend’s drive through on I-40 counts as a visit.

Last time I was there was not just four years ago, but the weekend before I left for China. August, 2008. Just four months prior, I knew where I was headed: to France, for the assistant d’anglais program. From there? To a good graduate program, a tenured professorship coupled with a solid writing career. I was twenty-two years old, in my last year of college, taking the best class I’ve ever had with the best teacher I’ve ever had, with the best friends I’ve ever had, and all that good shit.

I’ve written two articles, one a column for the Daily Beacon, the other an article for Lost Laowai. The Lost Laowai article is a “sequel” to the Daily Beacon article, and it deals with how you change when you go abroad. When I wrote the Daily Beacon column, I had told people I was going for nine months. They asked. They asked, How long are you going to be over there?, and I had to answer them. My contract was for nine months, so that’s the answer I gave. Nine months.

Well, friends and neighbors, we all know the rest of the story, don’t we? As I was driving through Knoxville, old memories and feelings returned to me. I felt a sense of longing, for those old times, a life that has vanished.

You aren’t him anymore, that guy. Two and a half years in China, and it’s come true. What you said would happen in that initial column.

In some ways I’m still him. We like the same things, and we still like studying foreign languages. But on a larger level, it works; I’m not him anymore — I’m a better writer than him, more focused on what really matters. And though the times come when I miss the days I had to hunt change just to buy a coffee, those days when I had nothing in the fridge but some carrots and a few scraps of meat, you have to put aside the nostalgia. Look where you are now.

I do. I look where I am now, and you know what?

I like what I see.

This is a de-duction

At the second university, they decided whether or not to renew a foreign teacher’s contract by observing a class twice, or for Jarrett’s class, three times. They had two lists of what they’d seen and what the class monitor had told them. They called the good stuff Yes Points, the bad stuff No Points. First time Jarrett had heard the name was in Orientation, where they gathered all the Chinese and foreign teachers in a conference room and made them watch a Powerpoint on the dos and donts of teaching English in China. This was one of the few times all the foreign teachers would be together, just as it was the only time every Chinese and foreign teacher would be together.

Jarrett’s Yes Points were as follows: nice, not late, friendly.

Jarrett’s No Points were as follows: late, strict, and once he’d given a hard assignment.

He asked about that last one. The woman in charge of giving foreign teachers their evaluations, an auntie who covered her smiles with her hand, said, According to the monitor, you make the students write some words.

Yeah, I assigned them an essay.

She looked at him.

That is, I had them write about either their high school, their families, or –

It is not a writing class, she said, shaking.

It’s an English class.

It is oral English.

Yeah, but these students are all going to study abroad, right?

She looked at him like she didn’t know what he was talking about, despite at the beginning of the semester having told him that this was a special class, for students who were going to the Czech Republic to finish their degrees. They talked up how important this class was, how these students had been specially selected to do this.

Now . . .

Never mind, he said. Is that all?

This is a . . . She sought the word. So did Jarrett, and the word she found surprised him: De-duction. This is a de-duction. Is this okay?

Is it okay?

This is a de-duction.

Now it was Jarrett who sought his words, trying on different ones and settling for: Yeah. Sure. That’s fine.

Okay, she said. This is a de-duction.

She took a red pen and made a mark on a paper. Okay, she said. Now we must discuss why you are late.

Old blog imported

I’ve imported all the posts from my old blog, Chronicles of the Dancing Laowai, all under the aptly titled category, Chronicles of the Dancing Laowai.

You are now free to wince your way through my early China columns, ruminations, rants and general musings.

>guo jia

>In this comments section,  I found this:


I was a little confused by “郭家” until my wife pointed out that he actually meant “国家”. Was it a mistake? No. Apparently, he chose 郭 over 国 to avoid possibly having his post deleted.

Like 草 泥马,Chinese homophones and characters give people many options for circumventing censorship. Interesting.