“Local XiongXian Man Marries Beautiful Swedish Bride, an International Romance is Consummated”. I didn’t notice any reporters in the ravening fracas of 400 wedding guests, but there was the headline, writ large. And pictures of all fifteen of us, overdressed in the plaza. (more…)
Turtle Guy is finally gone. Every day for two weeks, he stood near the exit on Dongsishitiao, holding a dead snapping turtle in the air and fixing passing cars with an accusing, dead-eyed stare. I guess someone got wise and bought the thing off him, because he’s gone, and he didn’t look like a quitter. (more…)
I still don’t know who killed Pamela Werner. There’s two more chapters until that big reveal.
Midnight in Peking, by Paul French, is one of those quintessential China reads. It follows the true story of a 1937 investigation into the murder of a young expat girl, Pamela Werner, daughter of British envoy E.T.C. Werner, who was butchered, mutilated, and dumped at the base of the Fox Tower (now Dongbianmen) on her way home from the French Legation ice skating rink just a few months before the Japanese occupation of Beijing. Most of the streets, buildings and monuments from that time still stand in one form or another, and Kyle picked up some champagne and the official walking tour map for a gruesome grey Saturday following in Pamela’s last steps.
Three days into what has turned out to be the most scrumptiously adventure-free trip I’ve ever taken, Kyle and I had a conversation about the differences between traveling and being on vacation. Travel, we decided, involves night market tasting excursions and the word “intrepid” and when you read then immediately forget the entire Wikipedia entry about the Dutch occupation of whatever pile of picturesque stonework you’re staring at. Vacation is when the only way you can tell whether it’s Monday or Thursday is by trying to tally up how many times you’ve had to tear your sticky fingers out of the mango bowl long enough to open the door for the champagne delivery guy. I guess we’re on vacation. Hashtag tropicalxmas, bitches.
Seoul, South Korea
A friend of mine recently told me that no one had ever thrown her a surprise party. She’d never been to one, either. “That’s such a movie thing,” she said, baffled. “Does that actually happen?” Yes, yes it does, and whenever I hear someone say that, I have to suppress a giddy urge to break into their house and jump out from behind a potted plant with a cupcake. (more…)
Prague, Czech Republic
I might be looking in all the wrong places, but after four weeks, I think I’m ready to proclaim that Prague isn’t much of a party city. Unless your platonic ideal of the perfect night out involves gyrating to Ibiza trance in a sea of barely-legals, in which case you may count your bases scantily covered. Considering the most original vibe we could find in the music clubs was kinda avante-guard-Applebees, I’m gonna stop trying to avoid sounding condescending and really run with it: Czech, maybe *wince* this is just not your thing? (more…)
Trains and I have been romantically involved since before I could hold a pen. In the game of “do you love me more than…?” my nanny usually won out against all comers, but I couldn’t in good conscience say I loved her more than trains. She laughed about that story for years. Hey, everyone has priorities. (more…)
Decin, Northern Czech Republic
A year ago, the unthinkable happened. Marta the Czech seductress, wickedly smart jet-setting party girl, courted by oil sheikhs and private pilots, the same Marta who once took a quick break from being drooled on by a circle of admirers to come over and glass a guy in the face for me, got engaged. Last summer, shortly after getting the call, I went down to see her in Shanghai, partly to verify that an alien cockroach wasn’t wearing her body as a human suit, and also partly to explain the concept of bridesmaids, because I guess in Czech they don’t have any. (more…)
Prague, Czech Republic
I don’t know what else to call it: everything here is so Eastern European. A brief and ecstatic stopover at the grocery store revealed that the five Czech food groups are bread, meat, cream cheese, cake and pickles. I sat next to some kid on the 119 that looked like an even-more-albino-trance version of Yo-landi and my landlady answered the door in her underwear and sandals all like, “jah? what’s wrong with the internet?” There’s nothing wrong with the internet, per se, other than that it’s purple with red polka dots and it’s hard not to stare at. (more…)
Pingyao Old City, Shanxi Province
I got married at 25. Speaking globally, I guess that’s an acceptable average, but for a commitment-phobic white girl who spent as much time as I did listening to Kathleen Hannah, being the early adopter felt, on some distant level, like selling out. You lose your ‘men are all turds’ card because you have to end those sentences with ‘except my husband’. Surprise: none of your single girlfriends appreciate the prologue. On the other hand I was, and still am, kinda too busy being obnoxiously blissful to care so, satisfied sellouts unite. (more…)