Old Version

In the past we never would have bothered, because the old permits required permission from the neighbors, the village governor, the local police chief, and more. By the time we had lined up stamps from all those people, we would have been ready to retire

My friend’s assistant, Mrs. Wang, became something of a celebrity. Who knows if there’d ever been a foreigner there before. But he had strange ways, like wanting coffee in the mornings, and not wanting to listen to the TV blaring Chinese soap operas day and night

After so many years of unsolicited introductions across China on mountain tops, in ancient temples, ferry dormitories and countless public toilets, a part of my brain could just have decided it’s fine to strike up a conversation anywhere with Chinese people

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Unfortunately for me, one of the doctors taking a gander at my nooks and crannies was altogether too excited to be checking me out – I presume that foreigners are not his usual specimens and he was enjoying the break from the monotony

On the first day of the break, my neighborhood looked like something out of a movie, specifically the opening of a post-apocalyptic movie where the scene is set as the camera pans through empty streets of a ghost town lined with blown-out cars and discarded shopping carts

For the first two days of Spring Festival, I enjoyed watching my own home-based reality TV show, although I quickly became stressed as I realized my dog was howling constantly every night