non-fiction

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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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Ashes for Ashes

A Chinese funeral – by Kim Willcocks

 

It was a shock to us all when Lao Lao, my Chinese grandmother-in-law, died. She was 88, which was, as we say in England, a good innings. But she had been so hale and hearty until the end that most of her family felt sure she would reach a hundred. My wife was very close to her as Lao Lao had basically brought her up while my wife’s busy parents worked.

Lao Lao’s life offers a glimpse at how much China has changed.

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Red Mark

My childhood during the Cultural Revolution – by Jianguo Wu

 

In my early days at nursery school, in the late sixties, my teacher was Mrs Nian. She was a kind person. When the nursery school couldn’t offer any food to the children except boiled water, Mrs Nian sometimes brought fruit from her own home for us. But later she was denounced by the other teachers and was forced to stop teaching. I saw a meeting taking place in the school office, where Mrs Nian was standing at the front with a board hung around her neck.

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