I Get Mail

Here’s a letter from a former student at Jiangnan University:

Hello David, feel happy for you knowing you have flied back to Canada with Ruth and Gougou. I just read your blogs (both themaninchina.com and  zaledalen.com) and thought about writing this email to you. You may not remember me. I commented about your posts twice and only emailed you once when I was taking your oral English lesson in Jiangnan University four or five years ago. I named myself Jerry at that time.

 This afternoon I was talking to my colleague about web control in Chinese web environment, and I remembered writing you an email about “五毛党” long ago. So I checked your blog. Themaninchina.com is an easy-remember site name and it’s still running! That surprises me. 🙂
I didn’t know you taught grammar! I thought you only taught oral English when I was at university. You posted two blackboard shots in your post Time for a Rant… so that was true… but why? You seemed to enjoy sharing interesting experience and topics with students more than reading and explaining something “dead” written on books. So I think teaching grammar may be a little tough…for you…? I only thought about passing the test of grammar and getting my grade at that time. 新华字典 is renewed every 2 years, but our grammar textbook takes more time. I think the author intends to fill the book with everything that he thinks “may be useful for students sometime”. So you needn’t care so much about the content of the textbook you were teaching. Students who use English in their daily lives will learn what they should know. I made a lot of mistakes and I know I will make more mistakes, but what I know is enough for me to read your blog and write this email to you. I feel good with that. XD
And about the websites blocking thing, I’m glad that you are so concerned with that. I want to tell you about my thoughts. I’ve been a twitter user since 2008, that is before the website was blocked in China. Many people in China still don’t know the government is blocking some websites.
Chinese government may be afraid of the connected WWW and some easy-irritated citizens. When I searched for the Tian’anmen Event in June 4, 1989, connection to the results was still broken in China (while I was using direct connection). Google refused to block some of the results as the government demanded, and Baidu agreed to do that. That was one of the reasons why Google left China in 2010.
Three years ago I was also thinking the government is making a huge mistake, but now I think a little different. True that people have the right to know the truth about their country. And a government has its duty to protect its people from riot and war. I came to believe that the government is blocking websites because they are trying to avoid civil conflicts. They are just too sensitive and have done more than they need. I hope the government will soon recognize that and try some different and milder ways to solve their problem, and believe in her citizens more.
Thank you for reading my long email and thank you for teaching me lessons. I’ve always loved your class (especially the one you talked about going to the island of Xiaolihu(小蠡湖) in campus with Gougou). You are really an interesting person… though your films don’t seem like my favorite type:)   (I found this! http://movie.douban.com/subject/1958782/ Was the movie directed by you? Wow I was born in 1990…
By the way I found a mistake in your post part “A Few Thoughts on China“…Here…
“They have their own version of Youtube (YouKu) Twitter (Weixin) and Facebook (XiaoNei) and Google (Baidu), and these have more users than any of the Western versions.”
Weixin is an interact messaging mobile client, like QQ, hangouts (of google+) or kik. And Twitter is a microblog website, for short blog posts within 140 words. Chinese version of Twitter, the most influential one, is Weibo(新浪微博  weibo.com). Weibo is one of the Chinese native website that accept network audit. Sensitive posts will always be deleted.
And of course I had to reply:
Dear 吴皓昱 Wu Haoyu Jerry:

What a great letter to receive.  You have become a very good writer in English.  I’m impressed.

Thanks for pointing out the mistake in my website.  I’m not sure when I’ll get around to correcting it.  Life is very busy these days, and I don’t even have time for new posts to my new Canadian website.

It was very funny to follow the link you gave me to the Chinese announcement of my TV movie, “Anything to Survive”.  That’s the movie where I got to work with Matt LeBlanc, who plays Joey on “Friends”.  It was a difficult shoot, but left me with great memories.  And 1990 seems like yesterday to me.
I’m a little worried that I will lose all of the Chinese I learned over the past nine years but there are many Chinese people living in Nanaimo now.  Ruth has started doing some private tutoring, and one of her clients is a young Chinese girl.  The girl’s mother is going to have coffee with me next week and help me practice speaking Chinese.  It’s good to be home, but I do miss my Chinese friends and my life in your amazing country.
By the way, I think the situation with China blocking websites may be more complicated than you think.  It’s possible that they block Youtube and Twitter because they don’t want the Chinese Internet to be dominated by foreign companies.  They wanted to give Chinese companies a chance to get established without the competition from huge foreign companies like Google.  Also, with the Chinese companies the servers are in China, so if there is civil unrest or information getting out they don’t like, they can shut down the service provider.  With the servers outside of China they can’t do that.
I am hoping that they will soon realize that Chinese Internet companies are already established and competitive, but that they need a free flow of information from the rest of the world.  Every time China has tried to isolate itself it’s been a disaster for the country.  Hopefully they won’t make the same mistake much longer.
I am very sympathetic to the problems your government has in governing a country like China.  China is urbanizing at a tremendous rate.  The gap between the wealthy and the poor is widening very quickly.  This is a dangerous situation, because when you have so many people drinking expensive coffee at Starbucks while many more are still struggling to eat and buy clothing and shelter, you have a legitimate cause for discontentment.  It can only go so far before the people rise up.
Thanks again for reading my websites.  If you don’t mind, I think I’ll post your letter to my new site.

Please write again when you have some time, and maybe you could tell me about your life now.  You must have graduated from university.  Are you working?  Are you married?

Warmest regards


David AKA Zale in Nanaimo, B.C., Canada

P.S. I’ve decided to go back to my legal name, Zale R. Dalen, or at least to use it for everyday life.  If I Google David Scott I get thousands of hits, none of which are me.  If I Google Zale Dalen I’m at the top of the list.  That alone is a good reason to keep the name.  There are things I don’t like about being called Zale Dalen – it’s not my original name and has no heritage to it, plus it connects me to silly superstitious beliefs that I dislike – but I do like being self created.  I’ll just have to have two names, like Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens).