In Quotation Marks


There is some distance.
But slowly, because blood is thicker than water, we’ll eventually get close to each other again.

 

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Descriptions to Moutern


Not certain if my memory of Phongsaly is real or fake.

Because the ends and starts of the conversations I observed in Moutern seemed similar enough that I think I might be misremembering the whole thing.

In my memory, discussions followed a schematic: a greeting and introduction (delivered in a particular fashion and with particular physical posturing), then the conversation proper (when the back-forth of the speakers’ exchange falls into a repetitive pattern where one person speaks while the other listens and performs reactive acknowledgement), and finally the winding down of the speaking (when sentences are short and staccato until one party chooses silence).

The beginnings and ends, with their apparently more defined behavioral rules, seemed to resemble each other because of those rules — likely because I couldn’t understand a single word being spoken.

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R


And on Tuesday I came to the realization that my biggest “R” is Remember.

Because the actions that our ancestors took directly led to our choices, and therefore, for better or worse, we’re invited to reconcile themselves with ourselves. In order to do that, I think we’re supposed to remember to perceive people as they were and are, remember their singular goodness as well as their bad. We’re taught to remember that we are not them even though they are, by nature, part of us.

But we could also remember that in the beginning there was only what was and eventually we wilt as much as climates change, our words are written down but then lost in time, and the gardens we tended for years on this Earth — both young and old like seasons — flourish and decompose and soon afterward only mushrooms and iridescent varieties of fungus remain.

Nonetheless,

what will be depends on how we choose to manifest our Remembering through our thoughts, words, and deeds. I want to honor our human capacity to Remember by just trying hard and giving my damnedest attempt to make the people who inexplicably love me proud. In memoriam, I’m going to keep hoping that my neighbors feel contented and well.

:

‘I had once been bidden, “Stand! Endure! Remember!” and that was what I determined to do.’


For Zyanya

You tell me then that I must perish
like the flowers that I cherish.
Nothing remaining of my name,
nothing remembered of my fame?
But the gardens I planted still are young—
the songs I sang will still be sung!

HUEXOTZIN, Prince of Texcóco, ca. 1484

Lunch (Thoughts of Shanghai)


Late lunch was xiaolongbao from the original spot on Wudong Lu.

Still didn’t take a picture — ate them all with dark rice vinegar (the Zhenjiang variety of legendary origin) before I could even pull out my smartphone.

Later that day I would take a taxi to Pudong with several large bags and check in for a red-eye flight direct to LAX. First, I’d eat these eight dumplings — minced pork mixed with spring onion and aspic set inside circular unleavened dough wrappers then folded and pinched shut — directly from the bamboo steamer. These were the same ones I tried after arriving in Shanghai last year: the ones with vinegar poured in the same saucers, red chili sauce served with the same tiny spoons.

Exactly eight dumplings; no more, no less.

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On Earth: Leaving Here


What a year it’s been.

Around this time last summer I gave up a teaching assistantship in Austria to come to Shanghai and learn Mandarin. Never would’ve guessed that I would get to see more of this country than my own, meet some incredible people, flip my brain upside on a daily basis learning this language, and understand myself a whole lot better than when I boarded the plane at LAX.

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Travel, in Quotation Marks


[Bilbo] often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien in The Fellowship of the Ring