the best is yet to come

Recent Posts

Snow falling on Shanghai

Snow falling on Shanghai

I haven’t seen snow since I landed in China in July of 2014. It just hit me that I haven’t seen even an inch of snow on the ground in almost three years (D tells me that we saw snow from the airplane when we […]

I went to Florence to see Renaissance art, but all I got was this lousy pneumonia

I went to Florence to see Renaissance art, but all I got was this lousy pneumonia

I haven’t liked my writing much recently. I feel that I have so much to write about, so much that I have observed around me, so much that I want to put into words. But when I start putting these ideas on a page, a part of […]

the overwhelming devastation of 'getting' Russia

In lieu of everything that has been going on in the US, I feel like I have been going back to this post in my head, thinking of what it means to have been an immigrant to the States, what it means to have something that is part of my heritage but something that is not part of me be persecuted by the country that I love, and what it means to no longer understand the country I was born in.

Christmas in Vietnam

We made our flight by four minutes. We survived death by motorcycle-related homicide in Ho Chi Minh city. And now we’re spending Christmas on the beach. Happy holidays, wherever in the world you may be!

What is a normal Shanghai experience?

What is a normal Shanghai experience?

I can never really put my finger on what it means to live in Shanghai. And I mean, live in Shanghai, to get the most out of this city, while still remaining honest to my identity outside of it. A few friends came through town this last weekend. […]

The AQI Blues

The AQI Blues

The air tastes like burned rubber and cellophane.

Today is one of those days where as soon as I open my weather app, it tells me the air quality is ‘very unhealthy’, which means that as soon as I step outside, the air will burn my throat raw and my lingering cough will return with the ferocity of a mom looking at the 2 for 1 sale at Bath and Body Works on Christmas. The bad winter ‘air’ has returned to Shanghai for the season.

We’ve a string of bad smog days here in the city, and the AQI (Air Quality Index) has gone up as high as 260. For those who live in places where pollution is not a daily concern, an AQI of 260 is really bad. 0-50 is where you want to be on a good day in Shanghai, 50-150 is where you start reconsidering that bike ride to work. Anything above 200 makes me want to stay at home and lock myself in with my air purifier, mulled wine, and my puppy.

The thing is, we don’t even get the worst of it. There’s been times when the AQI in Beijing has gotten into the 500s. I’ve been to Beijing when the Air Quality hovered around the 300s and after minutes outside it felt like my throat caught fire and my breathers were coming out in gasoline gulps. Honestly, I cannot imagine what a 500 index would feel, but I have a feeling this Shanghai winter is just getting started.

I’m having the kind of lazy Saturday where the smog and the cold weather are giving me the perfect excuse to pull up under my quilt and catch up on my blog and a few other (maybe more exciting?) things I am working on. This morning, I hoisted myself to a spin class (biking to a spin class? not the greatest idea) and then went to pick up mulling spices at the Jiashan Christmas market with C (we didn’t stay for the pierogi or the almond butter, because we’ve just had nachos, or at least I did). Right now, Shanghai is in that kind of weird lull where people haven’t yet left for Christmas, but they are about to, and so there is very little incentive to leave the house, other than to stop by the fake market to pick up gifts for your relatives (‘No no Dad, these are real Yeezys (or is the plural of Yeezy Yeezies?), I’m really making it big in China!’). And so I’m having the lazy kind of Saturday I’ve been meaning to have for a while. So here’s to putting those mulling spices to a good use.

The Chinese man selling popcorn

The Chinese man selling popcorn

On Tuesdays, my apartment becomes a Civil War reenactment. From the third floor, we hear the crackling fire of a hand-cranked oven, a voice yelling a signal, and the BOOM of the popcorn machine that follows like clockwork. We’d spent the last few weeks trying to figure out […]

What we write about when we can't find the words to write anymore

What we write about when we can't find the words to write anymore

It happens again. I’ve sat down to start writing this entry several times in the past few weeks, or honestly in the past two months, but everything I’ve written is charged, angry, calamitous, and then resigned. I feel this surge of emotions but then nothing […]

What we write about when we write about New York

What we write about when we write about New York

I used to dream about New York. When I closed my eyes, I dreamed of pillowy snow heaps falling outside my window in Astoria, about the hum of the radiator warming up the apartment. I used to dream about the entire building smelling of that one greek restaurant downstairs, about frozen-over fountains in Bryant Park, Singlecut brewery, Negroni machines in Bushwick, taking the subway two hours just to see Flushing Meadows.

I don’t dream about New York the same way anymore.

The first few hours back home are never comfortable. I can’t remember the right way to make small talk with the border control officer in Newark (“So I guess you build websites, huh?” “yeeeeah…?”), I put my elbow out defensively at Penn Station to avoid the crowds (which is unnecessary, New Yorkers hate touching other people). I scowl at the man who tries to ask me to take his taxi and he gets the point. I ask for a cup of coffee at a corner deli and I don’t understand why the man asks if I want cream and sugar and why the coffee only costs 75 cents. I get for directions twice, so I must give off a city vibe, I just don’t know which city exactly.

I am still trying to understand what it feels like to visit home from a foreign place, when that foreign place feels like it has become my home. I have gotten so used to China that I crave the comfort of being in a place where I know how to behave (though a place with much more expensive coffee). I have another post that I’m working on on the way that I feel like I’ve been made worse (playing with using the word ‘ruined’, but that sounds harsh, doesn’t it?) by being in China, but being here, looking at the people standing next to me on subway platforms, I can’t help but think that I don’t see the world the same way I used to.

Tonight, I’ll be dreaming of Shanghai.

 

When life gives you lemons, make yourself do push-ups

When life gives you lemons, make yourself do push-ups

I guess I should take some time to explain what a Tough Mudder is, because it’s one of those things that is also particularly American in a “we’re very macho, but will still sign a dozen safety waivers” kind of a way.