I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve noticed an increase in traffic from China. Despite the slanty eyes, I’m not Chinese—I’m Japanese (yes, white folks, I know we all look the same to you). I guess you could count an association by marriage: my two brothers both married girls of Chinese descent, but my blog readers can’t have known that (till now). I’ve been to Hong Kong and Taiwan a few times, but never to the mainland. I can’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese, except for hello and thank you–oh, and I can count to 10 really quickly, which is a really useful skill if you’re, say, angling to report at the 2008 Olympics. I can sort of read a trace of written Chinese, only because my Japanese ancestors copped many of their characters for ours.
What’s interesting is that my Chinese readers don’t just comment; they write me e-mail. Usually in English, though sometimes in characters (which my computer at work for some reason mashes into just one character, gaku, which means school or learning). The content, though, is puzzling. They’re not writing to tell me about the $60 million they’ve been given by a deposed dictator, of which they’ll give me 10% if only I would reveal my bank account number. They’re not telling me deeply intimate stories of nightlife in Shanghai. They’re not haranguing me to join a religious or mathematical cult.
In fact, they don’t ask me for anything. They just state their enthusiasm for the blog, and usually somewhere in there mention that they’re working on their English language skills.
It’s weird, isn’t it? Who are these perfectly nice, earnest people who read strangers’ blogs in foreign languages and then write them personal notes? Do they not have jobs? Do they not have lives? Do they not have better reading material?
So then I wondered: maybe other bloggers out there are experiencing the same thing. Maybe this is one of those 100th monkey thingies, where suddenly a whole nation has decided that a good way to learn English was to contact obscure bloggers and strike up a correspondence. (Now that I think about it, this makes sense: of all the endless reading on the Internet, perhaps the pickins are somewhat slimmer over in China, where the more provocative and interesting blogs are probably censored.)
If that’s the case, well, welcome. I don’t really have it in me to be e-mail buddies with all of you, but it’s nice you’re checking us out. While you’re here, read our excellent China blog, if you haven’t yet. And when my potty mouth runs rampant, just ignore–creative cursing is the work of trained professionals and should not be tried at home.