I realize I can be very critical of China sometimes. My critiques are often met with a lot of opposition, whether that’s in the form of a negative book review or an angry blog comment. Hey, it happens. That’s the risk you take when you have an opinion! What surprises me are the people who are so quick to jump to China’s defense. I’m not saying that, because I expect every laowai to vehemently hate China. Sure, there are antagonists out there who delight in lambasting China over everything from Tibet to dog meat. But there are plenty of sensible people, too, who recognize their home isn’t perfect, either, and China’s just another country with its own problems. Except that… some of the reactions I receive to my writing suggest that not even China’s allowed to have problems. Or is it that I’m not allowed to have problems with China?
The frustrating thing is that many of these “critics” haven’t even been to China themselves, or they have been, but they went to a different area for only two weeks instead of two years. Huh. Funny how we might have had different experiences. But that doesn’t stop them from proclaiming, “Well, I didn’t see any of the horror stories this guy talks about, so he must just have a stick up his butt.” Trust me, guys… it takes more than two weeks for China to wear on you. It’s like the commenter who called me a jerk for not liking China’s slow train. Hello! Nobody likes the slow train! Chinese people don’t like the slow train! When has slow, crowded transportation ever been fun? That’s why, once the novelty of your new city wears off, things like traffic become a huge bother.
Maybe that’s where I went wrong in writing my book. Originally, it was only about my first five-month stint in 2005 when everything was new and exciting. But I went back to China in 2008 for another 18 months and… well… your outlook changes after you’ve had to deal with certain “peculiarities” for over a year. Yep, too many rides on the slow train. That first teaching position is still the most memorable and meaningful, after all. It was hard to match. It’s hard to find a good teaching job, period. A lot of teachers bail on their contracts and go home early (or look for a new school). If you’re one of the lucky few who lived in a nice city and worked for an accommodating school with polite and eager students, then that’s great. I’m seriously happy for you. But don’t tell me I’m too negative when you weren’t there with me.