Monday, December 30, 2013

12 in 2014: The Master List

My life motto, on my planner. Artwork by Yoshitomo Nara. 

Well, Dear Reader, after much deliberation, agonizing, and drinking copious amounts of coffee, I have come up with my 12 New Year's Resolutions. 

It was much harder than I thought it would be. As a person with clinical anxiety, I have generally have that classic background narrative of criticism and doubt running throughout my day. Given that I find about 40 things to improve about myself everyday, I thought 12 in a year would be a simple task. Ha.

Friday, December 27, 2013

12 in 2014

New Year's Eve is almost upon us. It's the time of the year where, in the afterglow of the holidays, anything seems possible! And since, everything is possible, why not pick something it? A resolution is born, ready to be honored through 12 months of hard work! Right?

See? Gaudy, boastful success could be just around the corner! 

Well, maybe. If you're lucky. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

6 Months, 30 Thoughts

Ah, travel!

It happened. I have officially reached the halfway point of my time in China. Looking back, I am astonished. Where did the time go? On the one hand, it seems like the blink of an eye. On the other hand, I've been here for at least 20 years, right?!

To celebrate this benchmark, I've decided to make a list of some of the things I've learned since arriving in China. Additionally, some of the things are beliefs and practices I had previously that have served me well here. Hopefully some of the things on this list will be elaborated upon in their own posts.  They are lessons about travel, about China, about people, and about myself. I hope those of you with your own lists will be kind enough to share them with me!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


I was always one of the kids who loved school. Even when I got bad grades, didn't have friends, and had low self-confidence, I loved school. I took pride in being a good student who paid attention, did her homework, and asked questions. This attitude no doubt came from my parents. My father is a college professor in the sciences. My mother is a writer. Both are wonderfully creative, nurturing, intelligent people who can make the everyday into a fantastic wonder to be learned from. 

I have always taken that attitude to heart, so school, even when difficult, was something I enjoyed. 

Until it wasn't.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


What is good art? I came across a poll recently that asked “Is quality in art subjective?” to which an overwhelming (71%, or 42,655/60,463 at the time or writing) number of artists responded yes. For those of you, like me, who need a refresher on the difference between subjective and objective, the Oxford Dictionary of American English defines subjective as “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.” 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Neighbor Girl

The other day, I stood outside in the frigid cold, waiting for our dinner to be delivered. A young girl, dressed completely in purple fleece, came running out of our apartment building and then stopped dead when she saw me. Then, she ran up to me.

"Hello!" she said, as she observed me in the way children do. Openly curious. What a strange person.

"Hello!" I smiled. The instincts I developed while teaching English kicked in.

"How are you?" I said slowly and clearly. The girl looked fearlessly into my eyes. In China, it is considered rude to make continued eye contact.

"我听不懂" I don't understand, she replies.

"你不会说英语吗?" You can't speak English? She shakes her head.

"没关系" That's alright, never mind!

We stare at the the trees in the planter in the courtyard. She asks another question. I don't understand and she repeats herself.

"我听不懂" It is my turn to not understand. I search for something else to say. I am pitiful at small talk, even with small children. And here, in this city, all the Chinese I've learned evaporates, leaving me with only the most basic of things to say.

I ask her if she lives here, gesturing to the building she just ran out of. She gives a sort of yes. I live here, I say. She looks at me a moment longer, then runs away a few yards, looks at me, and continues on, sneakers pounding the cement.

I wonder, if many years down the road, she will remember the odd foreigner she met outside her house. I wonder if she has met hundreds like me, or just one.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Let’s talk about materialism. Humans, woman especially, like to have things. This is not because we are selfish, shallow creatures, ruined by the conveniences brought on (at the root of things) by the Industrial Revolution. Our desire to accumulate goes back to our very ancient origins as hunter-gatherers. If your next meal hinges on picking up the right plant or fruit, you’ll naturally want to maximize your chances of eating by maximizing the amount of things you gather. Collect now, sort out the details later. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks in China

(Just an aside: I have a degree in history. I know about the extremely inaccurate cultural narrative surrounding Thanksgiving. All I'm examining here today is a modern day expectation of Thanksgiving).

Today, I celebrated my first Thanksgiving abroad. Even in a city as massive and global as Shanghai, celebrating Thanksgiving felt like a small bastion of normalcy against the chaos I encounter every time I walk outside. It seems we are not alone in this feeling. NPR recently ran a series of stories on Thanksgiving as part of their Project Xpat series. Writers from Seoul, Chile, and everywhere in between chimed in on their Thanksgiving celebrations. Some had a traditional meal, while others turned to local cuisine. Some ate with fellow expatriates from across the globe, some with local friends, and some ate alone. Yet all the expatriates seemed united in one aspect: a deeper appreciation for what matters, and all they had to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dear Reader,

Here I am typing to you about the beginning of this blog. Here’s the thing. I don’t know what this blog is for. I began with musings…aspirations. A travel log? Photography? Fashion? History? Crafting? All of those things are dear to me, but I am an expert in none of them. Yet they are my passions. I have others as well, newly discovered, forgotten, or developing quietly in my brain. This blog is a space for all the those things. A place for pieces of a life being lived. I am just one person. I am not particularly remarkable in any way. Yet, here is my story. I want to share it with you. Join me, and we will see what develops. Share the thoughts floating around your head, and I’ll share mine. We might come to a greater understanding of humanity together. Or, perhaps, we’ll just laugh at cute animal pictures. Either way, it will be fun.