afarther travel photo
afarther travel photo
new photographs
the end of afarther
IE Warning

October 18, 2006 - Guyuan, China

The Unbearable Lightness of Buzz

Incense on a Grand Scale

Yet again the school is buzzing - in my limited putonghua I hear it in classrooms and halls, whispered - palapably.

Buzzes’ take on a special quality here - a groundswell of rumor, flitting in and out of classrooms and offices, changing tempo and meaning - an abstract quality.

A memeish quality - living, breathing and eating minds - that persists.

In a small, yet blinding, mist of hubris I mistook this latest buzz for my own doing. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that’s not the case. I realize my laowai super powers haven’t quite reached that level. Yet.


This small word carries in its two syllables the power of gossip, disbelief and a hint of fear. This is the word I recognize and catch in short, quiet student conversations.


My lesson this week was a unit on disasters - introducing tornados, blizzards, maelstroms, avalanches and the accompanying vocab, vortexes, surge and hailstones - and the homework I assigned was to make an imaginary disaster.

Try describing “imaginary” to somebody. I’m starting to think of my classes as a big game of Pictionary - point to your head, mention fake, false, not real and then take the suckers’ way out and use some putonghua. Jiade.

This homework formed the basis of my mistaken buzz instigation.



The students were buzzing about my homework. Silly students.

Then, this morning, walking into my office I heard it. From a fellow teacher.


My little happy shell of self-importance imploded. The teachers couldn’t possibly be gossiping about my class. I asked about the earthquake - and got the real story, the real buzz.

Guyuan is rumored to have had or is going to have an earthquake. The talk mentions this earthquake like it is planned - a train stopping in Guyuan. It might be a bit late or a bit early but it will come… That’s the Chinese way. We might as well make the earthquake an entity. Inevitable.

The Guyuan Earthquake.

The rumor has so inserted itself into Yi Zhong that this afternoon teachers were called away from classes for a school-wide meeting. The auspices of which were to promote a new school newspaper and rally the new troops - but the undertone - and the final proclamation by the headmaster was about The Guyuan Earthquake. He reassured the gathered staff that this was just a rumor - that no preparations need be made - and that the rumor should be forgotten.

He managed one thing.

Official recognition. And that is all a rumor needs to become fact.

Viva la Dizhen!”

New Member of the Family

The Link Lovin’ sections seems to have gone over fairly well - I get more commentary on that then the actual site - so I’m adding a catch-all section.

Henceforce, known as The Jetsam of Note. Not to be mistaken for flotsam, the jetstream or the Jetsons.

» Link lovin’

The Rabbit, The Knife and The Idol - Umm… I’m kinda at a loss here, but wow. Some phenominal editing, “camerawork” and use of omnipresent typographical elements.

Zippin’ PHP - ZIP and PHP sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Micropayment and the Nobel Prize - The Grameen Bank, a for-profit “credit union.” Loans made with no collateral and no signature, but 99% are repaid. 97% of borrowers are women, including the famous “Phone Ladies.” And the best part - they make a profit.

» The Jetsam of Note

Love Me Or Hate Me by the one and only Lady Sov. Hot, blaring, irreverant beats. Also explicit.

Tumbleweeds... and no comments. How 'bout livening things up?

Comment Seal

Your Response