Returned expat ‘won’t shut up about China’

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By HUI JIA
Foreign Correspondent

Berman, who says he now "eats, breathes and lives" China, later had his ass "thoroughly kicked" in a local community kung fu contest

CLEVELAND, OH (China Daily Show) – Friends and relatives of Geoff Berman, a US citizen recently returned from a six-month sabbatical in China, have revealed that the formerly mild-mannered businessman has become a “complete China bore.”

Berman, a 42-year-old former entrepreneur who now works as a freelance marketing analyst, set off for the Middle Kingdom in search of “adventure” in June last year, having sold his internet recruitment business.

According to his wife, Iris, Berman was barely through the front door before he was regaling her with tales of travails in the People’s Republic, including mishaps, regrets and cherished memories.

“He immediately announced he had two dear Chinese friends coming to stay next month – a yak herder from Lhasa and a software technician from Shanghai – and suggested that it would make for a fascinating symposium.”

Berman, who has  taken to wearing Qing Dynasty clothing and the occasional Manchu pigtail, was only available for a brief time for interview. Sipping from a flask of tea and rolling a pair of walnuts in one palm, he spoke of his plans for the future.

“I’m working on a couple of projects right now, if you don’t include the new moustache,” Berman smiled. “The first is a novel about a little girl growing up during the famines of the late 1950s. The second is a memoir about my time in China, naturally. That one’s going to be a real eye-opener – but I can’t give away much more than that at the moment. Look out for my new Mongolian throat-singing album next year, though. Right now I’m looking for a label to sign with.”

“Geoff was fine before he left,” neighbour Herb Winkleman, 43, told China Daily Show. “We used to talk about local politics, whether the Browns have a chance this year, that kind of thing. Now it’s all about yuan appreciation, human rights violations and authentic Hunan cuisine. It’s too much.”

“My son had a ‘Free Tibet’ poster in our garage window. No big deal,” said local resident Ted Fisher. “Frankly, I don’t think the boy even knows where Tibet is. But as soon as Geoff saw it, he was all, well, what about the feudal economy before China invaded, and the dilution of local customs through Han ethnic migration and Communist education propaganda, blah blah blah.”

Ted continued: “Then Geoff played his own devil’s advocate and asked my son whether or not he thought the economic benefits and rise in living standards outweighed some of the more egregious tactics employed by officials and, if so, whether that meant the Party was now taking a more enlightened tone toward some of the criticism aimed at Tibetan governance. And my son said, ‘It’s just a poster, dude. Chill.’”

One horrified witness reported that during a meal in local upscale restaurant with friends, Berman “broke out a pair of his own chopsticks and began dipping into everyone else’s dishes, explaining, with unilateral approval, that ‘this is how the Chinese do it.’”

Others in the neighborhood are more outspoken about Berman’s obsession. Speaking through his respirator, a wheelchair-bound but splenetic Carl Morris, 74, said, “I didn’t spend two years in a goddamn paddy field so that –” then broke into an uncontrollable coughing fit. His wife asked reporters to leave. “You get the picture,” she explained.

For now, Iris Berman is taking a diplomatic approach to her husband’s newfound enthusiasm. “He says he’ll talk for hours to anyone who’ll listen about China,” she said with a pinched smile. “And he means it.”

She glanced out of the window, where Berman was busily erecting a PRC flag on the front lawn.

“All I can say is, thank God he didn’t go to India.”

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