non-fiction

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Best Buddies

There's no place called home – by Nick Compton

 

Jake’s house wasn’t much to look at. He rented a weather-blasted two bedroom on the edge of town for a couple hundred bucks a month. The roof was caving in and the exterior scraped clean of its white paint by winter winds and too little attention.  What remained was gray lumber streaked white by curling chips. It looked mean. Haunted, almost.

He was my best friend growing up, but I didn’t know where we stood now. I’d left for university, moved around, ended up working in China and never really looked back.  It was rural America. A tiny town in the hills of Northeast Iowa. My home, but no place I wanted to stay.

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Post(ing) Mao

The revolution lives on – by Vincent McLeese

 

I found the post office hidden in an alleyway a couple of hours before my flight home. A single electric light bulb threw long shadows across the room. A scent of cardboard and black tea filled my nostrils. In the darkest corner, an elderly woman with sleepy eyes cleared the counter of the pile of torn gloves she was mending. It must have been hours, maybe days since her last customer. I affectionately greeted her as ayi, auntie. She smiled and amicably referred to me as tongxue, classmate.

“Can I still send something back to my parents in America?” I asked. “Just a little gift.”

“No problem,” Auntie almost eagerly assured. “Just put what you wish to send on the scale.”

I did.

“Oh.” Auntie exhaled as she stared at my intended postal passenger.

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Getting the Picture

Barlife anectodes by Robert Black

 

A young Australian guy turned up at the hostel. He told me back home he was a boat captain. We agreed to have a beer. I was on tight budget, and so I took him outside to the rou chuan'r place on the street with cheap zhapi, right opposite Beijing Station. We sat in the warmth of the summer night and drank beer and talked, mostly about Australia and China. He said he had to make a call, but he was keen to continue on, and so we agreed to meet in the hostel bar, thirty minutes later.

At the bar we had nearly finished our second handle of beer when a very drunk Chinese guy stumbled over towards us. He did not appear to speak any English and so I had to translate. Like many Chinese I have met in bars, he wanted to drink with us. Except this guy was rude and obnoxious, and pretty much demanded it. He pointed to the bar. We agreed, he was paying after all. But when the three bottles of beer arrived he did not make any moves to pay. So we refused to pay. When he realised this, somewhat annoyed, he got his cash out.

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Bright Lights, Big Dreams

Inside the world of reality TV dating shows – by Alec Ash

 

When rock didn’t make him famous, Lucifer tried TV. Rustic had burnt bright but short. D-22 club had closed in early 2012, and the scene had moved on. But talent and dating shows were booming, and here he looked for a new adoring audience.

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Black Cell

Life in a Chinese detention centre – by Dylan Levi King

 

I left Guangzhou in a mess. I had rolled in a year before, coming from Shanghai on a thirty hour train with no seat, slumped beside the bathroom door, but had picked myself up and scraped together a near-perfect life: a job doing nothing, a girlfriend, an apartment in a luxury compoud and trips to Hong Kong on the weekend. But had trashed it all in the space of a few weeks. I became nocturnal, haunting the clubs downtown. I would wake up in the apartment of my dealer, huddled up with a girl and a blister pack of pills, or sleep it off in a spa and wake up at noon. That summer I looked up a friend of a friend, found an email that had been in my inbox for months, and lined up a job in Datong, Shanxi. I took the slow train headed north, carrying only a backpack with a change of clothes and my laptop.

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