Jiuzhaigou & Jewel-Colored Lakes

As autumn deepens in Sichuan, the fall weather combines with increasing pollution to make blue-sky days seem a treasure of the past. I’m left reminded of the profound difference a glimpse of pretty sky can make.

As humans, we have an amazing talent for artificially modifying our surroundings.  If our weather’s too hot, we craft machines to infuse our homes with a cool breeze. When we want to work beyond the hours facilitated by the sun, we invent electricity-powered lighting. Even for non-potable water, we have a solution: buy a distiller.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a huge fan of such creature comforts. My air purifiers are all set on high. Already I’m fantasizing about my favorite winter luxury–our apartment’s in-floor heating.

Nevertheless, there are some things for which man’s best substitutes are a weak approximation. The sunshine is one of these. Continue reading “Jiuzhaigou & Jewel-Colored Lakes”

Tailors, Qí Páo & Silks… Oh My!

Given the haul I collected on my trip to the Hongqiao pearl market, you may be surprised to learn that my main Chinese vice is not pearls (though probably only because I’m not living in Beijing). In fact, custom tailoring snags that title–as my poor, bursting-at-the-seams closet can attest.

It isn’t that I’ve never spent time with a tailor before. As someone whose height tops out at 5 foot-nothing, I’ve paid my fair share of visits to have pants, dresses, and blazers nipped up along hem, sleeve, and shoulder.

But prior to my move to China, that’s all tailoring meant to me–someone to trim normal-adult-sized clothes down to fit my oompa-loompa-sized body. Post China-move, I see the tailor in a whole new light. Continue reading “Tailors, Qí Páo & Silks… Oh My!”

Big Buddhas & Tang Era Tales

The secret no one tells you about living adventurously is this: sometimes you get lazy.

Living in China, I have at my fingertips some incredible opportunities to explore, to experience new things. Some days I’m great at availing myself of them; when last I attended hot pot (for more on this unique eating experience, peruse here), I said, “Hey, when in Rome” and tried the cow tendon and throat our Chinese friends had ordered up. I was actually disappointed when all the duck kidney got snapped up before I could give it a go.

Other days, however, I become incredibly slothful. Just tired in that unique way only intercultural interfaces can make you. Those days, I’ve no interest in practicing my Mandarin. I don’t want try exciting new food. I cannot even face the thought of going to the dry cleaners, knowing the visit may be riddled with land-mine-style language barriers. These are the days I’m in danger of sleeping my way through our China tour, closing my eyes when I should be jumping on opportunities that may never come my way again. Continue reading “Big Buddhas & Tang Era Tales”

The Style & Times of Alice Hoffman

By sheer accident, I wound up reading two of Alice Hoffman’s novels simultaneously: Practical Magic, from the earlier half of her canon, and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, her most recent novel until The Marriage of Opposites‘ publication just this August.

This reading coincidence was by no means deliberate. Rather, it was born of two quirks of mine.

No. 1–I’m nearly always reading 2-3 books at any given time. I’ve been doing this since I was a wee lil’ reader. I think it comes from wanting to have a book pre-positioned in any room I might enter. That way, in true lazy American fashion, I can plop into a seat with whatever volume happens to be nearest. Continue reading “The Style & Times of Alice Hoffman”