I just came back from something pretty sad.
I'd been requested, earlier this afternoon, to attend tonight's meeting of the creative writing club at the Bookworm, which meets weekly to write and give feedback on writing. They had arranged for me to come as people had apparently expressed an interest in publishing in Chengdoo.
I turned up at around 8, which was the designated start time, and was met by the manager, who subsequently left, though not before introducing me to two Caucasian men, one who appeared to be in his mid-50s and the other in his 60s.
As it turned out, they comprised the creative writing club.
The writing was pretty bad (think sci-fi without even any new, weird, or mind-boggling innovations and narrative riding on the backs of tons of cliches) and the attitudes of the guys weren't exactly spirit-lifting, either ("Learning Chinese is something I've just been putting off," said the younger one, who coordinates the weekly meetings. He's been here for about three years total. The elder one, in the meantime, was having a field day discussing his Chinese girlfriend--the reason he goes to the Bookworm, he says, because he needs the staff's help to translate between them when they're talking on the phone--as well as other Chinese women he's gotten, shall we say, "friendly" with. Yippee. He stopped suddenly at one point, turned to me, and said in an almost-whisper, "Did I piss you off, Jane?")
But despite all that, I can sympathize with them on at least one front. Trying to get people here to participate in stuff is a pain. I don't know if it's the numbers, the culture gap, the infamous "lazy" Chengdu lifestyle, or what, but trying to get people (with the exception of a very diligent few to whom I am eternally grateful) to consistently help out with the magazine, or to get people to participate in activities at special-events nights I've co-organized, or, apparently, to get people to turn up to a creative-writing group on a regular basis, is no walk in the park.
A few months ago I'd pitched an idea for a workshop at the Bookworm--on making and using reusable cloth menstrual pads. The (male) manager there blinked, did a double take, asked if he heard correctly, and then sort of giggled. I guess I'd get the same enthusiasm as the writing club. Maybe I'll try organizing it with the international women's group instead.