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…)
North Korea / DPRK
8:30 a.m., April 5, the Mansudae Grand Monument. North Koreans get the day off to celebrate QingMing Tomb Sweeping festival, a national holiday of ancestral worship all over Asia. Myself and four other travelers approach the towering bronze statues of Great Leader Kim Il Sung and his son, Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, Shining Star of Paektu Mountain. We lay flowers at their feet before returning to the rest of the group. “One, two, three, and now we bow,” announces our guide. We do. Somewhere in the bushes, tinny speakers pipe out rousing revolutionary choruses to a vast public square, empty but for us.
Good morning, Pyongyang. (more…)
Posted from: Chengdu, China
The Year of the Snake kicked off this February 10th, sparking widespread depression amongst product designers tasked with making grotesque cold-blooded reptiles look like warmly adorable harbingers of prosperity. (more…)
Posted from: Dalian, China
If I’d known that accepting an invitation to a Chinese wedding in another city meant the bride and groom had to pay for my hotel, my guilt would have certainly forced me out of DaLian a day sooner. As it was, I didn’t find out until I arrived that the room had been covered, and threats to sneak into the newlywed’s home and stuff the money into their socks were met with solemn shakes of the head (“It is our duty”).
LiuChi and LiuKe put me up in a Chinese military aviation hotel northwest of the city center, which turned out to be exactly like a regular Chinese hotel, except the ladies at the front desk were in PLA uniforms, and everyone assured me it was safer somehow. (more…)
Posted from: Beijing / HuaiRou
I have very few written records of my first year here, but I can remember almost every minute, because almost every minute was a fist full of formative experience in my psychological groin. I remember seeing the school chef at the outdoor market picking out a slimy haunch of rotting beef – “the best meat in a 30-mile radius”, he said proudly. I remember waking up covered in a blanket of ladybugs during the annual infestation. We picked them out of our hair for days.
And I remember realizing that the nice white bedspread I was so indignantly haggling over at the village shop was expensive because it was actually a funeral shroud. I’m pretty sure I accused the shopkeeper of overcharging foreigners and insisted I “knew how much a duvet should cost”. I’m really kind of an ass sometimes. (more…)
Posted from: Shanghai
For anyone who’s expecting to hear about exciting forays into the highrise mafia dens of Pudong: I was in Shanghai to see an old and very good friend from college, so my trip involved about 137 minutes of sightseeing and about 42,021 minutes of sitting in French Concession wine bars talking about boys.
Posted from: Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a never-ending commercial paradise of pristine luxury goods, tiny cakes, delicate food and refined, respectful manners. No one shoves their way onto a packed subway car, smokes in enclosed spaces, spits gobules of phlegm in your general direction, breathes in your face, bothers you while you’re reading, screams in restaurants, or pokes you just to see what will happen.
“This city is lame,” I said to Charlie, as yet another person politely waited their turn for the escalator. (more…)
Posted from: Beijing
The staff of Seven Treasures Pond, our local Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, greeted us with such enthusiasm us that Kyle was sure they were secretly cannibals. “No one’s that happy to see you unless they plan to cook and eat your bubbling flesh,” he insisted, sniffing the appetizers. They fattened us up on a ginormous, boiled-at-the-table bowl of watercress, fake meatball, jujube and five spice soup. If this is Buddhism, I thought with a face full of lotus root, then namo-freakin-amituofo. (more…)