Seeking folks of both Alpha and Beta dispositions to read and comment on the 2nd draft of “LaoWhy?” my novel on underground expat culture in China. Originally the idea came to me while jogging in rural Rhode Island after returning from a three and half year stint in China. Looking down beer cans and crumpled leaves on the road, I realized I was littered with nostalgia and wanted to encapsulate my China experience in a new and “relevant” manner. Though I’m often critical of best-sellers on China’s great Rise” taking on titles with a kung-fu imagery of “Awakening a Sleeping Dragon” yet written by a stale western beaurcrat or graying economic advisor. Rather than just paraphrase, I’ll snip a paragraph from my intro:
I’m a bit skeptical of China books, yet they litter my shelves like debris in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Ever since professing an interest in China, family members and friends dispatched a tractor beam, a seismic vortex to suck any and all “China” titles and thrust in my general directions. After reading a few of these novels, it wasn’t hard to reach several broad conclusions: 1) China is rising, 2) China’s real trajectory is an enigma 3) China is a land of unparalleled ancient history 4) China is big smelly place. Then as if following a recipe, the author will take a dash of those four ingredients and try to bake something entirely new and refined, embedding a small morsel of wisdom from the same damned flour. Let’s be honest here, no one can actually offer insight as to China’s true direction or global footprint. Nobody. Not even the Politburo Standing Committee, and even if they did, there’s no way in hell that information would leak from Zhong Nan Hai. So before we ask ourselves about the recoil when “A Billion Chinese Jump,” we need to realize that yes, there will be an impact, and yes, we can make sweeping generalizations based on economic and sociological data, but not one soul on the face of the earth can actually lay it down in plain English, indented 1.5” margins, in black text, pages stacked, bound, and paired with a shiny cover.
Here we have the sex, drugs and rock and roll of the China books. These are the lives of laowais, and, many adhere to that order of self indulgence. The cast of characters we’ll be revealing range from global nomads smoking DMT, to Business exec’s perched high on their MBA. From Mandarin masters, to “Ni hao, shay shay,” I’ll be taking you on a bare-no- frills ride through the who, what where, when but most importantly WHY foreigners are coming to China, who, after seeing the Great wall, decide to carve out a lifestyle over in the red slab of financial frontier.
I’d love to bait you with tales of sex, treachery, deception and disco balls, but if you know me chances are you know what you’re getting into. Cheers. If you would like to eyeball a draft Please contact me by leaving a comment or hollering at @iseastars on Twitter and I’ll try to send you a copy.
On February 15th I had the privilege of returning to the enchanted Isles of the Galápagos after a loveless day of supervising high school romance in Spanish class. Some travel the world shuffling from base to base as army “brats” – I grew up on marine labs bouncing around in pursuit of biodiversity rather than battle stations. I’m a science brat. My first trip to the Galápagos was in the winter of 2001, an 8th grade wannabe skater en route to the Equator with a packet full of Algebra problems and 4 weeks of English journals to pen; “TODAY I SAW BLUE FOOTED BOOBIES, AND THE NAME MADE ME LAUGH” such were foundations of my eventual pursuits of travel writing. As the years passed, I stopped growing horizontally, perked from with a vegetarian diet I shot up to 6”1 and thus my scientific responsibilities evolved from that of snorkeling and splashing on the surface to taking an active role in biodiversity quadrats and phytoplankton samples. In 2003 and 2004 I made trips with my “mate” from back home, the two of us passed the scuba diving class at the Woonsocket YMCA with flying colors, patiently waiting as the honeymooned couples en route to the Bahamas tangled up in regulator hoses and fresh romance.
On the first trip to the Galápagos us neophyte divers sucked through tanks in twenty minutes and mixed up our salt water samples while senior divers (padre, Franz, Jean Carlo) embarked on drilling barnacle recruitment plates into underwater cliffs. We enjoyed “über diving” and fascinated by the RPG like status of scientific research, but as fifteen year olds with a patch of stubble, were keener on lying about our age and diving into drink-fueled discotekas. Hard to say if we were more mature the next trip, we had a harder living conditions—no showers, no a/c leaking roof, monster cockroaches, but still copious quantities of Caña Manabita, a famed local aguardiente, a fire water which lead us down paths of late night discovery, sophomoric searches for weed uncovering crack addicts, pool-house drunks and women with impure intentions. Afternoons spent playing fútbol or lounging on the white sands of Tortuga bay, us lethargic whipper snappers on a less rigorous diving schedule— me recovering from a tropical toe nail extraction, spurred by said “mate” dropping a 30 kilo scientific instrument on my foot. As a vegetarian turning my nose to all meat- even fish, I deflected calls of “mujer” and “maricón” while friends smoked imitation Marlboros to fan the flames of teenage angst.
Marine Iguanas sunning themselves in the surf.
Returning as a twenty-something in year two thousand ten, I’d amended my ways of years past, getting the ya-yas out of my system after an undergraduate degree in the psychedelic capital of the Northeast. By then I was a stronger and more capable diver and understood the ecological and oceanographic concepts of studying the El Niño/ La Niña cycles. Though there were a few wrenches; a suspected tiger shark sighting freaked me out, coming back to devour my dreams and chase me into late night perspiration, the green LCD flashed from 3:59 to four, another hour before trudging out to the dock, suiting up and facing the uncertainty of the dark depths. I didn’t quite get along with my father’s student an extroverted Ivy where I was more of a sharpened evergreen. Yet my spirits were lifted by a chance encounter turned week-long romance with a salsa dancer with a wicked sense of humor who taught me a thing or two about South America which I won’t soon forget. Continue reading
don’t decry the life you are living
for when you’re — nothing but ash or rot
all the time to wait, whisper, and wallow.
But to wonder?
break free of cerebral slumber
disrobing its red veil
the fish may swim out to sea.
From wreck diving in Malaysia, to street discos in Cambodia, 2012 has been an exciting year for me. Thoughts of murder and marriage flickered through my mind while thumbing through Tibet. It pained me to wrap up my laowai lifestyle in China, but I turned over a new leaf in “maturity” ahem, as a substitute teacher in my local district. Though based on my days in “high” school, one would rarely think of me as a role model, I’ve come full circle, circumnavigating the globe to plop myself back at Ponaganset. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty weird, especially with WBRU 90′s week on the radio, kids in the hallways with their OSIRIS skate shoes, I expected to see Hardy, Ben or Chris A leap out from hallway.
So I reached a goal I set for myself last year, I finished a novel. Although I started 2 last year, ~25k words deep into my made up eco punk sub genre, in November I started from scratch and wrote Laowhy? summing up with 75,307 words ~ 280 ‘book’ pages. Much editing is in line, but I’m hoping to push it onto publishers and self publish if need be. Psyched about Germany, I’m set on started a masters program sometime in 2013, and patiently awaiting tech haus at Tresor. I have about 133 days of subbing between now and my plane ticket. There’s no techno send off like Panda last year, hobbling around on my wounded knees, happy to be squatting like a champ now, bring it on 2k13 its gonna be we wee weeeeee!
Funny that my last post was the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of noveling, yet this month I’ve embarked on the http://www.nanowrimo.org writing quest for 50,ooo words in 30 days. With a current word count of 41,253 I’m clearly going to make the goal, but expect the book to be around 65,000 to 75k words.
About the book…
I’m expanding on the whole WhiteMonkey thing I wrote about a while back on chengdu living. The working title is Laowhy?: Languid in the Land of La, with er’body trying to write the “next best china book,” mine takes a bit of a detour. This isn’t about gov’t predictions or economic boom, history yada yadya, it’s about all you guys (and me too) who chose to live in China for the long haul. Sure it has laowai memoirs from yours truly, but also many a story from the cast of colorful characters I’ve met in my Sichuan tenure from 2008-2012.
Overview of chapters:
1) To Study Abroad, or to Study Broads
2) Long-Term English teachers
3) White Monkeyism and the Russian Invasion
4) Engaged Entrepreneurs, Workaholics, and How the hell did I land this job?
5) Global Nomads and Freegans
6) Mandarin Weeabos
8) The Plight of ABC s and neighborly Asians
9) Not So Starving Artists & Non-Profit Slaves
10) Missionaries and Business Execs with families in tow/ “Dad, do we really have to move to China?”
11) Yellow Fever
Over the past year I’ve been slugging out fragments of a novella-in-progress. The working title is “Breathe Deep” but I’m actively brainstorming new ideas in term of something more hip and succinct. I think this may go in the direction of illustrated novel (as reccomended by Sascha ) perhaps even bordering elements of a comic book as it is a pretty cut and run sadistic action story of betrayal and revolution doused with ecological themes set in a post globally-warmed world. Now that I’m officially “working” (8 parts diablo 2 parts novella-writing) on the 5th installment I felt that it would be beneficial to compile it all in one chunk of .pdf file so that you lovely readers could hack away and tell me what’s resonating with you. Of course I have my own vision for this piece of fiction but what I value is some feedback from you endeared cyber stalkers and internet trolls.
Again the link to the story is here
Let me know if you can’t download it and would like a copy sent via email
BTW Bonus points for IRL trolls. Heh heee