Pandora’s Box

Today when I was coming in to work, the postman stopped me in the hallway and shoved a box at me. (It had to be mine because it was addressed in English!) I just stood there for a moment, looking at the return address label for a while, thinking it had to be some kind of collossal, intercontinental mistake.

I opened it in the office, and it was a box of books! Not just any books, although any English texts would have been amazing, but a dozen children’s classics. Including some of my personal favorites, like The Lost World and Around The World in Eighty Days. Sturdy hardcover editions, unabridged but with annotations for unusual phrases, the best editions for a school library.

“Who’s that from?” the two office secretaries asked me as I opened the box.

“Um, my ex-boyfriend,” I said.

“Does your boyfriend know that your ex-boyfriend sends you long letters and books?”

I decide not to get into an explanation of the difference between know and worry about, and I say “No, the letters are from my friend Eric. This is from someone else.”

“Is it the one who send you the poems that made you cry?”

“No, that’s Marcus.”

There’s a brief conversation which I’m sure involved the Chinese for “what a slut” and “crazy American girl”.

“It’s from someone else. I may not have mentioned him… we don’t really get along very well.”

“The ex-boyfriend you’re not friends with sent you this box?”


They confer again in Chinese before saying “I don’t understand Americans.”

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0 Responses to Pandora’s Box

  1. Stuart says:

    By the way, I like your blog. I hope you don’t feel I’m trying to be argumentative or anything because of the tone of some of my comments.

    Anyway, it seems like the Chinese don’t understand the concept that men and women can be friends without it constituting anything romantic. It took my girlfriend quite some time to get used to the fact that I had friends (and that’s all they were) who were girls. I guess girls and guys don’t chum around as much in China.

  2. Pastey White Guy says:

    Hehe… when I was working at GM, I found out that I had developed a reputation amoung the Chinese staff for being a Playboy. I couldn’t understand this (as I am far from it), but found out later it was because I had told them I had had 4 girlfriends since high school. Four gfs in 8 years! I don’t think that quite qualified me as a Don Quixote, but according to them it made me a male whore.

  3. Stuart says:

    The Chinese definitely don’t have the same attitude towards dating that we do. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that most Chinese men are too timid to approach women and therefore don’t have many relationships throughout their lives. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. Casual dating just isn’t a concept in China.

  4. Aorijia says:

    Stuart, why do you always talk about “The Chinese” as if you were stating a Universal Truth?

    Come on, generalization (what the person who inquired Meg about her romantic past/present seemed so fond of) seems a quite widespread sport!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Since when was Don Quixote a playboy? :-O

  6. Stuart says:

    Aorijia–look, man (or woman or whatever), don’t start jumping all over me if you don’t agree with what I’m saying. I just call ’em like I see ’em. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. The things I say, I believe, are generally true. That’s why it’s called a generalization. Because it’s “generally” true. If it was meant to convey a “universal truth” then it would be called a “universilization” not a “generalization”. Of course, not everyone in China is the same. Not every Chinese person perpetuates hatred or thinks that every westerner is a slut. But many of them do. And if you think that fostering hatred is a good thing (regardless of the excuse for it), then I feel sorry for you. And I will never apologize for making a general statement about something. If someone can’t understand that generalizing isn’t meant to include every single person within a group, then f**k ’em and their useless PC attitude.

    BTW, your comment about the Germans admitting their guilt in WWII… that’s crap. Yes, the Japanese killed thousands of Chinese and haven’t officially apologized for it (and conveniently left it out of some history texts). I believe they should apologize, of course, but that has nothing to do with the fact that teaching your children to hate is just plain wrong. Anyway, how do you explain the fact that Mao is responsible for 70 million Chinese deaths. The government doesn’t acknowledge this, and Mao is still revered. Does that make sense to you?

  7. Stuart says:

    I believe he means Don Juan not Don Quixote. Interesting that he should say Don Quixote, though. When I was taking classes at Beijing University last year, I noticed they have a big statue of Cervantes on the campus. I never did find out why though. I think it might have been a gift from Spain or something.

  8. Stuart says:

    One more thing, and then I’m done. The Japanese slaughter of the Chinese is known as the Rape of Nanjing. The claim that most Chinese had relatives who… this or that… is bogus. It’s impossible to think that the majority of 1.4 billion Chinese people all had relatives living in and around Nanjing more than fifty years ago. My point is that the hatred focused toward Japan is nationally encouraged and doesn’t come from personal experience for the majority.

    Also, it’s a fact that Mao did little or nothing to impede the Japanese invasion. In fact, evidence shows that he saw the Japanese occupation as a way to further hinder the position of the Nationalist army and Chiang Kai-shek. Mao stayed out of it. In fact, the Reds only fought one or two battles against the Japanese, leaving the Kuomintang to repell the majority of the Japanese forces. AMERICA did more to battle the Japanese in China than Mao did. Ever hear of the Flying Tigers, the American air squadron stationed in China to help fight against the Japanese invasion? If the Chinese hate the Japanese so much, they should love the hell out of us. There’s a museum in Chongqing in honor of the Flying Tigers and General Stillwell. Theirs is a fascinating story.

    My point: if the Chinese people want to blame the Japanese for what happened, fine. They should blame Mao and the CCP as well. But hate? Hate only breeds more hate, causing more problems in our world.

  9. Anonymous says:


    I don’t understand why you are pulling two completely separate issues together. Yes, Mao is responsible for many deaths in China, but that doesn’t mean if that is not recognized in China the Chinese cannot blame Japan for what they did in WWI. Stop rambling and think for a second!

  10. Stuart says:

    Again, why don’t you put your real name, anonymous. What are you afraid of? Who are you? What are your credentials? If you think I am wrong, then tell me why you think so? Support your reasons with factual evidence and logical statements.

    Anyway, did you even read what I wrote? My argument has never been that the Chinese should not “blame” the Japanese for what happened. I am merely stating that the proliferation of hatred is evil and wrong. Hatred only hurts those who cling to it. My argument is based on logic, and it is obvious that you have a very limited grasp of logic. I support love and mutual understanding? What do you support? Are you in favor of hate?

    My point, as I said, is that if the Chinese expend so much energy directing hatred towards Japan, they should also expend just as much ill feeling toward Mao and the CCP. More died under Mao than in Nanjing during the Japanese occupation. 70 MILLION DEATHS! Do you understand that number? And yet, Mao is considered a hero, a great man. And how many Chinese were slaughtered in Tiananmen 17 years ago at the hands of the People’s Army for that matter? I’ve read several books on the subject, as a matter of fact. I spend a great deal of time studying Chinese politics and history. Maybe you should try reading more (and I don’t mean CCP propagand either). Actually, I find it rather shocking that you would be so supportive of hatred. It is attitudes like yours that keep our world from being unified. Your attitude reminds me of the doctrine of groups like the Ku Klux Klan who teach their children to hate blacks just because they are black.

    I have presented facts to support my argument, and you have presented no facts, only biased thought. Only the truly ignorant person resorts to name calling in place of intelligent discourse. I’d say it’s you who really needs to think about it. Oh, and it was WWII, not WWI.

  11. Aorijia says:

    Stuart, I am not the anonymous commenter. However, you are omniscient enough; I wouldn’t like to argue with someone of such deep wisdom.

    And now, I am going to cook. Enjoy your books, Meg!

  12. Anonymous says:


    One Question: What’s the problem with you?

    Looks like you just discovered the Internet yesterday. Lesson #1: You know what? People can post anonymously.

    Time to wake up. It’s the 21st century.

  13. acidelic says:

    “Pandora’s Box” indeed. Just think this conversation started as a benign post about books.

    Is it really difficult to get English books in China? I find it difficult to find good Chinese Language textbooks in US. Most of what you find here are geared towards the “quick” and mostly “inaccurate” learning of Chinese. The best books I own were bought in a book store in Shanghai.

  14. Stuart says:

    Aorijia, I never said you were the anonymous poster and never thought you were in the first place. And anonymous, are you insane? Do you even know what I’m talking about? Of course, I know that people CAN post anonymously. I merely am saying that you are a coward for doing so. Well, since you haven’t said anything of substance to refute my arguments, just shallow insults, I’ll take comfort in knowing that I stand unchallenged. Anonymous, I think English must be a second language for you, since you obviously have trouble understanding my words. Keep practicing; you’ll get better.

  15. Meg says:

    Whoa! 14 comments! And not one of you is deciphering my ex-boyfriend’s secret book message!

    Get to work, flamers!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Jeez, what a troll. If you want to talk about Chinese politics or history, go to Peking Duck, I am sure you will find plenty of people who are more than willing to support their arguments with concrete facts, but leave Meg’s site alone!! I want hear more stories and discussions about her spending 18 kwai on one tiny melon, or being labeled as a promiscuous American girl, not the tide of extreme nationalism in China. Just because nobody visits your site does not give you an excuse to be trolling around someone else’s. Please have some respect for other people’s work product. You don’t want your site to be jammed with penis enlargement ads, right, or do you?

    And attacking a fellow poster for his/her English level, that’s just soooo classy. You can speak your mother tongue, wow, that’s, like, so hot.


  17. Stuart says:

    You didn’t have to respond to my comments, but you did, “Fuzz”. Did you think I would let your rudeness go? Not a chance. So, why don’t you just let it go, and I’ll do the same.

  18. Stick says:

    Wow! Pandora’s Box was a perfect name for this post. What seemed like a thoughtful package turned out to be Evil Incarnate (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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