Warnings in June 2007

I’m thinking of moving. I’ve been here for a long time, and maybe it’s time for a new map to learn, a new dialect to struggle with, a new cuisine to get used to. I’ll go to a place where people are strange. This place has changed so much. How much more can it really improve? Maybe I’ll go to the Lishui that Peter Hessler wrote about in the June edition of National Geographic. That place looks like it’s moving, and real estate prices aren’t through the roof just yet. I can bang Hangzhou into the keyboard faster than any eight letter word in the dictionary. I can type it faster than I can type New York. I’ve been here for a while. Change could be good.

Maybe I’ll go to Suzhou. I took a trip there a couple of months ago, and the city is sprinting ahead. Ningbo even has its attraction. You’ve got the money flowing in there, and it’s just a boat ride away from the islands. Shanghai? Could be. I read magazines coming out of there and am so uninspired by their ‘professional’ critiques that I can hardly get more than a sentence deep into anything. They could use a tale or two from my nail-bitten fingers. Then again, maybe I’ll just start submitting work out there rather than move away. That’s it. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll keep myself in the city I call home and do little trips to surrounding areas. I’ll tailor my warnings so that they fit the different cities. Other magazines are bound to take them. Alright, maybe not, but I could give it a try. I warn you all not to be surprised if you see my stories popping up in places you haven’t seen them before.

I also warn you all that I’m not about to tone it down either. I’ll try to keep the errors out and get you better writing each month, but I’m not about to leave out the stories of how I smoke cigarettes and drink coffee while on the toilet. I might alter them a bit – now I drink pu’er instead of coffee – but I’m not going to be afraid of a bit of faint-hearted disdain. It’s all about being bold enough to get out there, not with arrogance, but with a smile and good intentions. Back when I first started writing these things, it was my original intention to throw a little light on my own shortcomings rather than harp on other people so much. I wrote about how this guy surprised me, how that one inspired, how I was wrong about this and misjudged that. You remember how I once told you all about an old dude I thought had only been here for a week? I thought he was some fool only to hear him go on in fantastic Chinese. It turns out that the guy doesn’t really enjoy speaking Chinese but instead loves reading Tang Dynasty poetry. That sounds nice. Maybe I’ll stop writing and go back to school… in Hangzhou of course.

By Tim Hoerle