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: Beijing
Sunday morning, just barely 6:30. Kyle and I sat bolt upright in bed as the room was invaded by ultraviolets. All the hotel rooms at East are fronted with a floor-to-ceiling window looking out over the suburbs of Hebei and are positioned to catch the sunrise. And what a sunrise. I don’t need to be an astronaut anymore: I’ve already seen the intensity of the turning earth reveal the sun ray by ray as it pours over the edge of the planet. Which is good, since between you and I, I wasn’t looking forward to peeing in my space suit. (more…)
People keep asking me what it feels like to be 30. It feels like 29, except that no one asks you what it feels like to be 29. Birthdays, shmirthdays. I only hope that as time goes on, I’m able to muster the grace necessary to embrace the aging process without breaking down and boo-hooing into a botox clinic. Let the Me of then remember what the Myself of now already knows: buy a giant pair of sunglasses and a huge turquoise brooch, and leave the defeat of physics to physicists. (more…)
Sure is nice to wake up in the morning and find out your work won a snazzy first-place award in a contest you never entered, like we did here at the Pixellary this morning. So many thanks and congratulations to U.S.-based Pixellary collaborators Riggs Partners for sending in the ADDYs application and then – lo and behold – winning the darn thing. (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: Beijing
Before we get around to the veggie walking tour, a breaking news update: Rumor has it there are weasels in the hutongs. Kyle says he saw one, and the thought of furtive hutong weasels hiding in the drain pipes and making legends of themselves pleases me. I spent at least four seconds brainstorming how to feed them whole coffee berries then harvest the digested beans from their poop like they do in Vietnam. SARS, SHMARS, that coffee is ah-may-zing. (more…)
Posted from: Beijing
I bought a fancy new camera that I don’t know how to use and always forget to bring anywhere except restaurants, which is why I pretty much just have pictures of food, the subway, and me in my bathroom mirror. It’s also why I don’t have pictures of the two tiny Tibetan village women who wandered into the UNIQLO at Ginza Mall, apparently fresh from a day of hawk-training on the wild steppes. (more…)
Posted from: Beijing, China
The twenty-minute tirade of cursing, every filthy syllable of which passed with sparkling clarity through the shuttered windows of the second-story balcony, started in the hutong moments after the empty moving truck pulled away, leaving the last load of our boxes stacked on the living room floor. (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…)