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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The Two Rivers of Luang Prabang, Laos


Evening, approaching the Mekong/Nam Khan confluence.

Tucked in the far back corner of an outdated sleeper bus headed toward Luang Prabang, an impatient American passenger searched through the dirty window for a sign — any sign — that might suggest an end to his 27-hour journey from Kunming, China.

Bumpy, unpaved dirt roads had led him here: cramped and sweaty, peering into the darkening of North Laos. His bus, now hurtling at about 45mph on a thin, one and a half-lane highway in dusk, couldn’t arrive fast enough. A series of yellow-white lights off the left-hand side of the bus peeked through the blanket black night; the passenger blinked back at the shy lights. Air whistled through his opened window, damp like breath. Two left turns separated by a stretch of road resulted in a bus station where he alighted.

Shoving his shoulders back and stretching his arms into the sky, he stepped into the blacked-out indigo-blue of Luang Prabang.

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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

China, in Quotation Marks


“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more of it I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it — how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.

Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, such as it is for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

– Anthony Bourdain in Parts Unknown (Peru)

Essay, Vitae, Resume


Life isn’t your resume.

Floating around in the gray matter beneath my skull are 750+ shape-shifting Chinese characters, 350 lingering GRE words, a dozen grad school application statements and essays, two timezones, assorted emotions, mixed feelings, and a baffled sense of being.

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A Quick Thanks


Now that I’ve settled in and gotten my bearings, I can’t help but think about what it took to get here.

It took quite a bit of time, energy, paperwork, and a 14-hour flight to get me to this very spot. Not least of all, it took the efforts of professors, mentors, family, and friends to help me understand the role I want to fill in the world.

For that, I owe them quite a bit of gratitude.

So thanks for the honest truth. Thanks for being in my corner. Thanks for having a hand in all this — this predictably unpredictable journey. It was a twist of fate that spun the world under our feet exactly enough for us to coincide, and it will be another unfathomable turn of events that will cause us to reconvene.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.