Warnings in August 2006

I was in the bar again. Believe it or not, sometimes we magazine people get together. So I was sitting there with the folks from Navi, the local Japanese language magazine, and the dude from In Touch, the provincial English magazine. How cool is it when you’ve got two guys from America and one from Japan all talking in Chinese while eating burritos? Of course, my Chinese was the most superior, but at least the two of them can write in their native languages. Call me Editor. I should be called “Edited”. After a few beers, the other magazine guys had to go, and I had to get another beer. Luckily, unannounced, in popped another guy who used to contribute to both MORE and In Touch. He had moved to Qingdao, or Tsingtao for you beer people, to do some real money-making work. So I joined him for a Tsingtao, and he began lamenting the loss of all the people he used to know. Many of the people he used to be great friends with had left to other places. Where was the Hangzhou he knew? He knew the city changed rapidly, but now he actually felt it. I’ve been feeling it for years. This month, I’m warning all of you who are leaving not to tell those of us who are staying that you are leaving until just before you leave. How about that for a sentence?

“Why not?” you say. If someone has plans to go, they should tell their friends. Friends should tell their friends what their plans are. After all, leaving doesn’t mean friendships have to end. Come on now. I was in the bar on another day, and I overheard this conversation. No, I wasn’t trying to overhear them. It just happened. I’ve been trying to understand strange languages and dialects for so many years that my ears just do it naturally. It gets so bad that I’ve had to exit rooms full of English speakers. It’s just overload. On the other hand, I’ve been known to understand Wenzhounese. Over a few drinks, this one girl was telling this other how excited she was. Her boyfriend was coming to visit and they hadn’t seen each other in about a year. They had faithfully stayed together the whole time. You’ve got to admire the pair. Let’s be honest, and say that most of us can’t do those long distance relationships. It’s hard enough when you’re close. So basically, when somebody tells us they’re leaving in three months, they’re telling us it’s going to end. Alright, maybe for people like that girl, some relationships don’t have to end, but for me they do. When somebody tells me they’re going, it’s really hard for me to be as friendly as I would have had they not. If I get a terminal disease from all of my over-consumption, I’m not going to tell a soul. Then again, why the hell would anybody want to leave Hangzhou these days anyway? Did I mention the green tea? The summer hasn’t even been that hot yet. I don’t know why you say goodbye. I say…How you doing?