Writing online for the past year and a half or so has introduced me to a lot of new friends. But beyond that, it’s also had a certain way of dredging up the past.

It’s only natural for people to seek out others like them, online or off. On the internet, though, this effect is magnified. Offline, I usually share one major interest with whoever I spend time with. Here, on the internet, it’s usually three or four. Nearly everyone on my blog roll has learned a foreign language as an adult, most are interested in Chinese, nearly half are also students of Japanese, and of course, they all have blogs, too. In a setting where there are so many people, and so few constraints of distance, I suppose it’s only natural.

One site I used to read occasionally before I started this one, was Sinosplice. I’m sure one part of why it held appeal to me was the fact that John, the author, was a former Japanese major who moved to this part of the world to learn Chinese… just like I did. My very favorite site back then was the now defunct A Better Tomorrow, written by another American who had moved to China to learn Chinese.

A side effect of this tendency of birds of a feather blogging together has been that I keep running into old acquaintances, and doing so with far greater frequency than I ever could offline. In fact, one of my old TAs back at UCBoulder was a frequent commenter on both sites. After he posted a book review on Sinosplice [1], talking about teaching at UCBoulder, using the very book he used to teach my class, I realized that it was my old teacher. Soon after, he was sent to Taiwan as part of his Foreign Service work and we met up again. I’m glad I met him, and if it weren’t for John’s blog, we’d be living in the same city and have no idea.

I’ve also gotten emails from various classmates, college roommates and other old friends who somehow stumble across my site, but none have surprised me as much as the comment I received on my Chinese blog last week. It was from one of my very first friends in Taiwan, and the message was simple: my old teacher is dead. At first, I could hardly believe it. Just three years ago, she seemed completely healthy. She was barely even middle-aged. It was cancer.

Though can’t claim that Chen Laoshi taught me a ton, since I only had classes with her once a week, she was a very good teacher. She took me through the first 17 lessons of Practical Audio-Visual Chinese Book 1, in as many weeks. After I moved up to Taibei, I joined a class at that level at Shida. The interesting thing is that taking 10 class hours a week, instead of one and a half, we still only did about one lesson a week. Chen Laoshi was also very motivational to be around and she was a full time teacher at a public school. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sad she’s gone.


[1]: Unfortunately the review, and the comments in which we became re-acquainted were wiped out when John switched away from the B2E blogging platform.