What I am doing.

Posted in Arts, Life in China on September 29th, 2007

This is the non-profit photography centre I work at. It’s called Three Shadows. The centre is the first art space dedicated to photography and video art in China. I translate, talk to international media and arts orgs, think of crazy, innovative exhibitions, and learn photography with some of the coolest young people in China.

Our last event, a Mid-Autumn Festival kunqu opera night

stuck in my head.

Posted in Randomness on September 29th, 2007

You held my head over the edge of the bed. I remember it now, but at the time I thought I was dead. You put a pan there, and held back my hair. How can I repay you for saving me? How can I repay for saving me and my hardwood floor?

And I’m back..

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7th, 2007

So, I haven’t written in um.. six months. Oops. It’s as if I’m writing to a jilted love — guilt and regret have thoroughly sunk in. But I swear, you’ve been on my mind all the time!

Life in these months have been amazing. I’ve traveled throughout the dirty south of China (what, what my roots!), learned deep lessons on love and loyalty, settled into my own apartment, and had my art and writing published. I’m enjoying every second of life. And so, as I sit next to this creepy European man, trying desperately to woo a Chinese girl on the pretense of a broken Chinese-English language exchange, let me tell you what I’ve been up to…

A few pictures of Thanksgiving in Beijing

Posted in Life in China on December 4th, 2006

Chinese kitchens are rarely bigger than that pictured below. With only a two woks, a microwave, and no oven, cooking Thanksgiving dinner can get pretty hairy. Nevertheless, Lynn and I masterminded a meal that included Peking duck/KFC fried chicken as turkey substitute, mashed potatoes, assorted veggies, roasted sweet potatoes, and sticky rice stuffing. I must say, we’re pretty damn resourceful.

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Prep in the kitchen.

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The beautiful main table.

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The kiddie table.

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Fretting over the pie.

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Lynn and pie.

The perfect fall meal

Posted in Randomness on December 4th, 2006

A bowl of rice porridge. Two vegetable stuffed bao zi (buns). A roasted sweet potato from the vendors outside. Cost: 5 kuai, or 60 cents.

Hangzhou 杭州

Posted in Life in China, Travels on November 5th, 2006
Xihu sunset

During the National Holidays, I traveled to Shanghai and Hangzhou. I should have known that traveling during the National Holidays is nuts — imagine a holiday that has no tradition of barbeques, or family get-togethers, or presents; all people do on this week-long vacation is travel. Nearly 1.3 billion people simultaneously deciding to uproot themselves and sightsee. Absolutely brilliant.

Hangzhou especially was a frothing mass of humanity. The city is famed for its beautiful lakescapes, which have supposedly inspired emperors and poets alike. My first vision of West Lake, however, was marred by a small child unabashedly leaning over and peeing into it.

One experience salvaged my impression of Hangzhou though. I wrote a story based on that one experience for my writing class. I’m quite proud of it, since it’s my first fully developed story in Chinese. To those who can’t read Chinese, it involves a hike in the hills above West Lake, a chance encounter with an elderly couple, and the lesson learned from a night of moon cake and tea on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Moon festival.

Interestingly, in discussing this assignment in class, our teacher brushed upon the topic of sensitive (敏感)subject matter. His suggestion to new writers: “Say whatever you want, but be extremely careful what you write down. Once you write something down, you can’t take it back.” In China, it seems, a slip of the pen is worse than a slip of the tounge.

Moon

West Lake on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

中秋节的一件小事

刚到杭州的时候,我感到有一些失望。人人都说杭州很漂亮,鼓舞了许多诗人和皇帝,但是我对杭州的第一个印象是讨厌。那时 是 国庆 节,所以观光客很多;想去西 湖散步也去不了,因为人太挤了。杭州的路也确实是一个瓶颈,交通拥堵问题特别严重。此外,在街上、湖上,到处有垃圾。杭州看起来很乱七八糟。

不过,有一件小事给我的印象特别深,完全改变了我的看法。最后一天晚上我跟三个朋友爬山。我们爬到很神秘的森林时,就发现我们迷路了,左找右找也找不到山峰。夜晚越来越黑暗,但是我们还惊恐地走来走去。

突然一对儿老夫妇从森林出现。老爷的手、臂膀,由于饱经忧患而粗糙了,但是他笑眯眯的小眼睛还像夜空一样深邃、神秘。老奶奶还很活泼;一手拉着她丈夫的手,另一手拿着很重的篮子一摇一晃地走。

我问这个老爷爷怎么走出去。他意味深长地笑一笑,回答:“噢,我知道你在找什么。我们一起去吧。“ 我们跟着这对儿灵活的老夫妇爬到山顶。从那个平静的山顶,我们可以看到整个西湖的热闹景象。城市的灯好像满天星斗的镜子。

老奶奶从她篮子里掏出一瓶子茶和一些月饼。虽然只有两个月饼,她说:“你们三个人好好儿吃吧!我们老头已经在这里过了好几个中秋节。现在你们也可以享受我们的故乡。“ 她说的话对我触动很大;虽然我们都是陌生人,我们都受到她的母爱。

我问她:“你们有孩子吗?“ 她仰头对着天说:”对啊,一个儿子,但是他很久以前到上海寻找更好的就业机会,现在不是加班 就是出 差,连跟我们一起吃顿饭也 没有时间。“ 老爷爷说:”我们两个不算是孤独的人,但是有时侯我们真怀念他。“ 这句话对我有深刻的印象。我想起来我的父母,我想起来我的奶奶,想起所 有的家人留在纽约。我认识到我也怀念他们。

我从杭州回来时,马上给我父母打电话,跟他们聊了半天。我目前想起杭州就不管表面上的乱,而记得那两位老夫妇的友好,母爱。

ReNao

The view above West Lake at night.

YeSanPo 野三坡

Posted in Life in China, Travels on October 11th, 2006

My friend Clifford recently pointed out the nature of the word ‘play’ in China. Play, or 玩 (say wan), is ubiquitous. Little kids running around after school — they’re going out to 玩. Old people playing cards or mah jiang — they like to 玩. Young people drinking themselves silly and dancing — oh they’re just 玩-ing. Plaything — 玩艺儿 — encompasses everything from dolls to fireworks to condoms. And of course, when you’re grudgingly coming back to work/classes on Monday, your colleagues ask you, “Was your weekend good play?”

Below are pictures from a weekend trip to “play” at YeSanPo (野三坡), a small village a little outside Beijing.

JuMa River

拒马河

Rocket Launcher

Rocket launcher in front of old town

Scorpion Man

The Scorpion Man. yum.

Horses on mountain

Horses just chillin

Smiling horse, smiling me.

Me and my horse, Xiao Baaaaaii

Long road ahead

The long road ahead.

Rachel

Rachel rocking the fireworks.

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Firework twirlers.

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Firework light writing anyone?

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This only looks dangerous.

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This is dangerous.

Living Conditions.

Posted in Life in China on September 22nd, 2006

I’ve finally settled into life in Beijing…after fully re-discovering Chinese bureaucracy’s penchant for long lines, official red stamps, and flimsy multiple receipts for everything from residence permits to pencils. I’m perpetually surprised that through the frenetic inefficiency of it all, things still get done.

Luckily, my room has been a safe retreat. In fact, I’m quite intrigued by the dorm, called 勺园 — literally, “Spoon Garden.” Mostly for the benefit of my mother, I’ve created something of a virtual tour. Field trip!

My Room Room 3-419

My room is quite small by Harvard standards, but luxurious in comparison to the local student dorms. Though the beds lack mattresses, there are only two of them (as opposed to six). Mine is on the left, while the other is occupied by my roomate Lynn, another Chinese-American from Yale.

All foreign students are placed into this dorm in the corner of campus, and so my neighbors come from all over the world — Germany, Russia, Nigeria, Uzbekistan…but mostly Japan and Korea. There’s not much socializing in the hallways though. Perhaps because it’s so dark, or because the refrigerators are too ominous. Or maybe because it just smells funny.

My Hallway The Hallway

The strange odors come from the bathroom facilities at the other end of the hallway. As I turn round the corner, inevitably clutching my own haphazard sheets of toilet paper, I can tell exactly when and if the trash has been taken out.

Women's Lavatory Women’s Lavatory

I’m not sure if the urinals were in the original design of the women’s lavatory, but I’ve discovered that they do still function. A faucet near the top of the contraption emits a small, steady stream of water, which of course splashes onto your feet. This has led me to consider whether these “urinals” are actually foot washers. I mean, doesn’t unavoidable splash seem to defeat the entire purpose of a urinal?

Adjacent to the urinal-foot washer is the lovely squat toilet. Enough said. Moving on.

Le Potty Le Potty

Directly across from the lavatory is the general washing room, where you can brush your teeth, do laundry, and wash pots simultaneously. Most students here buy their own washing machines, which take turns scuttling around the room like hippos in search of water. I’ve learned to use a washing board and pan to clean undergarments, as well as air-dry my clothes outside.

Wash Room General washing room

Sink Sink

Oddly, I think one of the most interesting rooms here is the shower room. It smells. It’s dank. And yes, also kind of slimy. But for some reason, I find it appealing. To enter the showers, you first pass a hot water tank that reminds me of a wizened red guard from China’s recent past. The sign says, “Don’t use the hot water to wash your dirty clothes.”

Hot water tank Hot water tank

I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of showers. Though it’s a grody little box, it’s one of the few places that you have complete privacy in the dorm. This sentiment only grew when I discovered that most Chinese students here don’t have showers in their own dorms; they trek to public showers, paying 1 yuan each time. I’m told that wintertime, people become noticeably smellier. (Notice the graff on the door, by the way)
Shower Showers

Shower view Shower view

Shower Door Shower Door

Obviously, life in Beijing is different. I’ve gradually become accustomed to the random smells, sights, even the smog. Adapting to China has been unbelievably smooth, and exciting. I enjoy never knowing exactly what’s around the corner.

There’s only one thing that I haven’t gotten used to: everyday at 6pm sharp, all the loudspeakers on the school’s campus crackle on. A woman’s smooth, calming voice streams through the system with the evening broadcast of happy news, happy music, and happy propaganda. I suppose some things that are best not to get used to.
Outside Outside

A brief note.

Posted in Randomness on September 12th, 2006

Apologies for the absence. Apparently, wordpress.com is not accessible from China. Hence, the salvaged entries have been post-dated.

Sol!

Driving. 08.18.06

Posted in Randomness on September 12th, 2006

I really enjoy the sound made when you drive under a bridge. Woosh woosh woosh as each pillar passes, then boom, free.