Thursday, September 24, 2009

L'Abri One


I’ve been in Greatham, England for about a week and a half, but it feels like I’ve been here for months. Not in a way that’s good or bad—I just feel like I’m in the rhythm of it, I’m learning the place that I’m in and I’m learning it quickly. When I wake up, I expect to wake to a light breeze coming in the window, a dampness, a morning whose grayness brings out the thousand shades of green that we’re surrounded by at the Manor House.

There’s too much to say to tell it all. We work: laundry, gardening, cooking, cleaning, etc. We study, which for me means reading Marilynne Robinson’s Home. We discuss and debate, and the discussions and debates have depth, and weight.

Yesterday, we had a work day. The apples were ripe, and the workers were worried that if we waited any longer, we’d lose some. So we spent the whole day picking apples, peeling them, chopping them, rinsing them in salt water, and packing them into bags to be frozen. But then, some of the apples went to Louise and she made a streudel for the coffee break; and then Edith used the red parts of the peels to make jelly.

The food here is amazing. Every single meal thus far. All of it’s cooked by the workers and helpers, who are from Hungary, South Africa/Holland, England, and Sweden, with us helping them in the kitchen.

One of the workers from Sweden said that she doesn’t understand why anyone ever buys bread, as opposed to making it. Just thinking about the implications of that statement delights me to no end.

Most of the meals are served and eaten in the homes of the workers. And the whole place speaks of hospitality, of welcome.

It hasn’t been without its difficulties, which I think will become much more pronounced as the term goes on. You live in a house with 30 people or so. You eat every meal with them, you live with them, you debate with them, you work with them. You see them all day, they’re in the room with you as you go to sleep, and they’re there when you wake up. There’s a lot of room for discord.

But at the same time, there’s a grace in it all. It’s hard to explain.

It’s going well, I suppose, is the best way to say it all. It’s going really well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Country Roads

To say that things have changed over the past weeks would be a vast understatement. Right now I'm sitting in my parents' home in Knoxville, reflecting on the few short weeks I've been in the US. Tomorrow, I leave for England.

There's a lot to say, but I think I'll leave most of it unsaid. I've enjoyed so many cups of coffee or tea, so many important conversations. I've shared so much life with people, really, since I've been home. I don't think I could have asked for more. Thank you all for your kindnesses. Ultimately, for your love.

For a long time, my heart hadn't been in a very good place. Many were praying for healing. Be glad to know that their prayers, like mine, have not gone unheard.

And being here--something about this place still commands my attention. A country road. Horses standing against a fence. A line of trees on a hill, perfectly straight, across a meadow. Forests that swallow your car whole, sending down only speckled sunlight. A broad lake. The mist that rises from it, the life that moves inside it. And all those same things by the different light and scent of night.

There is something significant about knowing a small, winding road. How your hands move the steering wheel in anticipation of a curve. How your body articulates a reaction before your mind knows to need it. And how it can be this way with not only roads but people, not only routes but communities. And somehow, in a way that's difficult to describe, they become home, and seeing them feels like pulling into your parents' driveway.

I'm ready to see the life of the English countryside. I'll be glad to learn to live within it. And hopefully I'll have time to share here a little about the new roads I'm learning. Far away, yet again, from the ones I know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Strange Purposes of Winds

Today I saw an elderly man with a cane, standing among piles of rocks near a construction site. He was looking around in melancholy, almost as if measuring what had been lost. 

As I watched, the wind picked up pure green leaves along with the dust, and they all hung suspended in the air around him. 

It was like a hole had been opened in him, one that the sky swept down to fill. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Good Morning

"Sometimes I wish that I could sing or dance or paint or compose symphonies or build cathedrals to express somehow what all of this means to me. I wish I were a priest or a robin or a child or a sunset."

-Robert Benson

Yesterday I went home a little bit early. Threw the windows open to a strong wind, in spite of the layer of dust that it would inevitably leave in my house. Laid on the couch, made a cup of coffee. And waited for a storm that ended up passing us by, listening to my doors slam open and shut in turn and the wind howling around corners and through cracks. I watched the Princess Bride, which I hadn't seen in years. I couldn't help giggling throughout the whole movie like a delighted child, just like Justin talked with me recently about doing. I made some chicken noodle soup for dinner. Read late into the night.

This morning I woke up early. Or, earlier than I had to.

I got up, made a cup of coffee. Put lots of cream and sugar in, which is a little unusual for me. And I had some local snacks like graham crackers to accompany it--half covered with roasted sesame seeds, the other half with pieces of peanuts. I sat looking out my window at the still-white sky, before the afternoon's blue. Just quiet, still, but feeling something leaping inside me that just might be life. I prayed off and on. Drank slowly. Ate slowly. Just slowly enough to be late for work.

The waitress was sitting on her bike waiting for me when I got here, wearing a yellow jacket and the perpetual black head covering. When she saw me I made a face, and she laughed. I threw open the sliding metal door over our glass entrance, and walked in. The shop always has a sour smell when I first get in, so I turned on one of the fans upstairs to help it air out.

I swept the coffee shop barefoot this morning. Danced around to old 90s songs while I worked in the upstairs, while the waitress scrubbed dishes in the kitchen. Sang along to the best parts.

When I swept the narrow band of tile outside our storefront, a woman looked at my feet, and looked up at me like I was some sort of savage. Maybe I felt a little savage this morning--I was dreaming of running barefoot through soft grass.

Maybe I was dreaming of childhood. Maybe I was remembering a piece of some sort of home I had once. Or maybe I was looking towards what is ahead, a different kind of existence than this one. It was one of those moments that you snap awake and remember the deeper life whose streams flow generously under the small paths we walk. Their waters run underneath all the cities we've seen, and will see, through the course of our lives and ever after. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Baby Panda Dive-Bomb

As many of you know, my dear college friends Rob, Michael, and Amy visited me in March.

While they were here, we took a trip to Xian, which ended up being pretty much perfect, from Michael dancing with a noodle which we later ate, to a sing-along of '90s pop songs while riding bikes on top of the city wall. 

Much of it will have to be cherished solely in memory and photograph, but thankfully the following was captured on video for posterity's sake, and for yours.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Place to Stand

I wrote the following last winter, in an e-mail to a friend.

"Today I went to the park, and the lake was frozen. Something about it really surprised me, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is. I thought about how lovely it will be to someday go ice skating again.

"There was a woman there, standing with her eyes closed against the sunlight. It was cold, even in the sun, but she stood unmoving for the thirty minutes that I was there, as if gathering strength for the rest of life. I understood, because I feel like that sometimes. Except, most of the time I don’t have any really good place to stand, if that makes sense."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.

Today, I walked around the Red Park for awhile. I was surprised to see that the lake had frozen. Now it's littered with bricks and rocks tossed to test the ice. It was cold, and there were few people there. All the businesses that normally sell eight treasure tea inside had shut down for the winter.

In spring I often spend my mornings in one of the painted, open-air corridors, sharing the early light with peonies and fresh yellow buds on trees that, before coming here, I had only seen in dreams. I sip tea (whose eight treasures are some dried mix of the following: bright red fruits the shape of raisins, dates, dragon eyes, jujubes, and flowers), and leave an empty notebook in front of me. I can only rarely think of anything to write--my time there is more of an emptying than a search.

One thing that I appreciate is how life is cyclical here. It looks drastically different in the winter and summer. I love the first day that those small winter clementines appear. The winter squashes that follow. The first day you can go to the park and bear a whole early spring morning in the cold. The fleeting summer mulberries, just like the ones that purpled our young feet in Knoxville summers. The first sweet taste of strawberries. I love when the square starts filling up with people again at night. And then I love, in its own way, when these things disappear. When the whole world turns back to waiting. To sleep. To tapping its watch, making sure the seconds are still ticking by.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


All last night the curtains in my bedroom filled and twisted with wind coming through my poorly-sealed windows. It purred as it dove in through the hole in my kitchen window and curled around and under the kitchen door.

Today was the first cold, blustery winter day. The first one like I remember from last year, when I wore the Russian-style fur hat that my parents bought me for Christmas the year previous. I wore it when I first met my current landlord, and the next time I saw him, he didn't recognize me. Remember, I'm not exactly forgettable here. But the first time he saw me in that hat, and it alone had curled up in his memory like the small animal whose fur it bears.

This evening a friend came in wearing the same style of cap. It had been given to him by the Police Department long ago, when he worked for them. Now he's a teacher, sixty-seven years old, having twice come out of retirement, now teaching maybe the last classes of his life. As he's talking about his work, even the difficulties of his work, you can often catch him smile.

And then tonight, trying to fix the blender at the coffee shop, I cut my finger, deep. Only then did I realize how long it had been since I'd last seen my own blood. So red, so alive. I am so alive, really. It made me smile to see it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Here, fruit and vegetable carts float through the city like shrimp trawlers. Some always go to the same place. Some are more dynamic, moving all day, loudly yelling the name of their wares.

"Corn! Corn! Corn!" and on, and on, all day.

Today, I passed one full of the tiny winter clementines that we have in our city, that seem to taste sweeter than anything I've had at home. They're not much bigger than a quarter, and for maybe twenty minutes a day I'll carefully make a cut with my pocketknife, peel and eat the tiny wedges one at a time like the sections of a clock. Left will be a pile of orange peels, the fragrance of oranges, a sweet acid taste, and a burning on my tongue like fire.

The man I passed was yelling as usual. "Oranges! Oranges!" And his three-year-old daughter was moving back and forth to the rhythm of it, the familiarity of it, swaying and precisely moving her hands in a dance probably thousands of years older than she is, or will ever be.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Red Park Cafe Couple

The shop had been open about a month and a half when I finally sat down with some regulars, a couple who had often come in.

They told me that they'd only been dating a month, and that every date had been at my coffee shop.

Kind of cool.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The street here, on both sides, is lined with tiny shops, florists or art stores or small dirty places with meat standing on hooks. Shops with gifts for friends, knick-knacks, things that spin and light up and, ultimately, gather dust on your shelf. And restaurants, restaurants everywhere, a few square meters chalked off where you sit and wait for steamed buns stuffed with carrots, or plates of noodles to fog your glasses.

And the people. When you walk down the street, all you need to do to see people living their lives is turn your head. Intimate moments, too--families yelling at each other, old couples grazing hands. People's faces lit up by a TV screen, laughing or incredulous. An old man sitting and staring, and seeing nothing.

Actually, in this the city opens to you like a book. In these shops you can read it carefully, read the families as lines in the history of this place, the streets as chapters. And each person, ultimately, only a word--a word left on a pillow the last time one wakes, or pressed into a son's hand in the final moment.

It is yet to be seen whether you, the traveler, have planted yours here to grow, or tossed it in one of the many small rivers that criss-cross underneath the city.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Right now, this city's biggest holiday of the year is going on. Rams are being herded through the streets, are being sacrificed and eaten. Families are gathering together here, and individuals are returning to the places from which they've come, from which they've been sent.

It's these times when we can clearly both see and feel the wires that bind us all to our homes. And in those moments when we can't quite follow them to our origins, it's easy to see how we tangle ourselves up, choking (if only a little), straining to get just one glimpse of a blood relative or familiar road, to detect a vague scent of honeysuckle, to hear even distantly the groan of a cider press slowly bearing down, the one from the orchard our class visited when we were yet very young.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I suppose I would say, to start, that one of my passions (and duties) is recording my life here. Trying to really capture it. And I know that lately, I have done a poor job of that.

Part of it may be that it's just been so long. What could help you best to understand? The fragrant pile of orange peels on my desk at work? My breath, quick and white, in the unheated concrete room where, in the mornings, I practice tai chi? The small clinks of forks and plates and cups, the sound of laughter coming from an upstairs room?

Would it be the boisterous conversation over cards, or the hushed tones of lovers in the corner? The crunch of snow, or the flush of a face at sudden warmth?

Holan wrote, "If there were no silence here / the snow would have dreamed it up." Maybe the silence, maybe the sleep, the solitude would speak it all best. I like to think that there was no silence here, and the mantle I bear nightly is a dream of the snow.

Regardless, all of these have been, and for a while yet will be, close companions. From these common seeds, each day blossoms differently.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sofas ahoy!

The title of this post looks vaguely like something from a different language.

But! We got our sofas in today, and I thought I'd post the pictures. This first one is mainly to let you see the art we're going to be using along that wall upstairs. That couch isn't going to be there--under the art will be four tables with chairs.

And then, here you can see the two sides, and then the overall view of the couch area by the window. This part is basically finished--it should look the same when we open.

We went with dark brown and light yellow for the couches, which match the dark wood trim/brown ceiling and the light yellow floor. We also got a few small red pillows for accents.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Renovation Pt. 4

Lately, all the work I've put into the coffee shop has been really... draining. I've been tired, and it seems like at the end of every day, there's more work, not less. More problems I don't know how to solve. (In honor of this, here's a picture of Mark looking a little down.)

However, the past couple of days, things have really been moving. It was awesome getting our speakers installed so that we can play music now while we work, we got the last of our lights installed, and the place is really cleaning up nice. Our sofas are supposed to come tomorrow, and tables and chairs should be maybe this weekend.

And overall, I'm proud of how it turned out. It's really not easy to do renovations in China. Basically I had to choose the dimensions, the design, the style, etc., for every single thing in the shop. For instance, for the bar, I needed to decide the height of the first level of the bar, the height of the top of the bar, how wide, how long, I had to draw the curve for the corners, decide what the top (as in, the part toward the ceiling) of the bar would be like, how far it would come down, how tall that part would be, what materials all these things would be made out of, draw the shelving behind the bar, etc. All using the metric system, of course. I'm lucky the place doesn't look like something out of a bad dream.

Not only that, but I had to decide every material that we used. As for wood sheets, do we buy the ones that are 40 yuan, 65 yuan, 70 yuan, 90 yuan, or 102 yuan? In case you're interested, we went with the 90 yuan ones. And I had to decide that for everything: both types of ceiling materials, the darker wood we used to overlay everything, the colored metal we used for our sign and part of the bar, the stone we used in the kitchen, the glue we used, plaster, everything. We picked it out, bought it, had it shipped to the coffee shop, and sometimes hauled it in ourselves. It took us four days to find paint and have it made, for goodness' sake (including three hours when they didn't get it right of saying, "Okay, add a little more red to that one. Now a little more green to the other one. Okay, let me look at them.").

Anyways. I thought that I would put up some more pictures, in honor of the renovations being almost completely done. Let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

KFC Throwdown

Okay. So I was the bad guy in KFC today. That happened.

Basically, I had just finished hauling an eight hundred pound box of pots and pans on and off of buses for like four days, okay? It was like a tunnel of buses that you get on and off of. And then at the end of that tunnel, the shining bastion of hope in that dark night of miserably crowded buses was a KFC that I was going to grab a quick bite at before I came back home (this was all in the big city).

So, I went in, lugged the box of miscellaneous cookware up the stairs, put it down, and went back downstairs to order. I got two chicken sandwiches, an ice cream sundae, and a coke. This is a meal to relax to. This is a meal that you order in preparation for some serious sitting and doing nothing. The addition of the ice cream sundae basically makes this fact a no-brainer.

Well, I took my food back up the stairs, and sat down at the only table that I could find--which is right in the middle of the room. It's fine, but honestly, I just don't like to be so public when I'm eating Western food. You can disagree with me all you want, and talk about vanity blah blah blah, but there's no one who looks good eating a chicken sandwich slathered in mayonnaise. Maybe in the next life.

Anyways, I sat down, and immediately this guy, probably eight feet away, is staring at me. Like, no break of eye contact whatsoever, he is focused, his eye's on the prize. The prize of watching me eat that ridiculous meal. I don't know if you guys know this about China, but if staring at white people was an Olympic sport, China would have won it every year since they started participating, and in acknowledgment of this the countries that won the medals before then would have to also give them up, all the way back to their inception in ancient Greece. It is shameless. I bet if a foreigner were packed into a huge box, everyone would be staring at it as it was wheeled down the street. No one would know why. It would be all instinct.

Unfortunately, being on the receiving side of this isn't always awesome. Most of the time it's fine, but there comes a time when it is not okay. This light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment was one such time.

First I did the most polite thing, what I normally do: look directly at them, for a few seconds. When they actually see that you're staring back at them, they know that you know that they're staring at you. And usually they get a little embarrassed, and you can give them a polite smile (yes, I know, you were blinded by that rock star quality that I seem to have--it happens in America, too), and it's all over.

But this guy had clearly not had enough. I guess he thought, "Oh! The foreigner looked at me!" And he got all his friends to stare at me, too, but they thankfully weren't so mannerless--they glanced, but then resumed their business. He, though, kept it up. I gave him pleading glances, lowered my hat, slumped down in my chair. Through all of this I was still trying to eat. But I was getting more and more frustrated.

Finally, after seriously not looking up for about twenty minutes, I glanced up, and he was still staring at me, absolutely shamelessly, without even glancing away. So finally I threw my arms up, like, "What do you want from me?" And he just smiled that irritating smile, and so I absolutely bellowed at him, "HEY, I'M NOT AN ANIMAL!" (My Chinese isn't good enough to say anything much more interesting than that.)

SO I WAS SO SO ANGRY AND SO I GOT UP AND I SNATCHED UP MY TRAY AND MADE A BIG DISPLAY OF STORMING OVER TO A DIFFERENT TABLE WHERE HE COULDN'T STARE AT ME but actually then I saw that there were no other tables and I could only move to the other side of my table where he could only stare at my back. Which was somewhat embarrassingly anticlimactic, but it worked well enough, I guess.

They left soon after, and I was happy to see that the guy didn't glance back at me as he was leaving. I guess he got the message?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Signs and Wonders

A few days ago, an old man sitting on the side of the road, smiling out from under his broad-brimmed hat, blew me a kiss. 

Fifteen minutes later, in a restaurant, a two-year-old boy did the exact same thing, exact same gesture. 

I smiled and smiled. 

Yesterday, a stranger stopped me in the grocery store and asked when the coffee shop is going to open, and we chatted for a minute. 

In fact, a lot of people yesterday appeared to know who I am, or at least were much more friendly than normal. I felt very known, and wanted. 

Monday, September 1, 2008


For those of you who weren't aware, today was the beginning of Ramadan--a pretty important time for our little city here.

I took a walk tonight and took pictures of a couple of mosques near my home. They didn't turn out very well, but I think you can get the idea.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


There are some coffee shops in America that sell cups of coffee not too much smaller than this one. 

However! That's actually part of our sign, which was designed (or the logo was, anyways) by the illustrious Katie Sholler, a true patriot. Also, if you feel, like some people, that I look older nowadays than I did, oh, a month ago or so, it might be best to keep that to yourself. 

I thought I'd post a picture so you'll know it when you see it on the street. 

In other news, Mark told me that today he took a taxi and told them to go to the Red Park CafĂ©, and they knew exactly what he was talking about. Took him straight there. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Renovation Pt. 3

So. We were in the big city for a while this week, and when we got back I took a few pictures of the current renovation for your benefit. While we were away, we had the paint shipped to the coffee shop, and when we got back they were already almost finished painting. See for yourself!

Here's the way that the counter turned out. On the sides is the same type of wallpaper that we used along the stairs. 

Here you can see the full room, the way the colors look together. The ceiling isn't yet the way it'll be--under the grey paint will be a ceiling that looks like black plastic squares. I think that's the best way I can describe it now, but I'll take pictures later. You can tell here that the color isn't a true red (it's a little light), as I unexpectedly discovered that it's impossible to make red paint in China. Note that this is in spite of the fact that everything in China is red. It's not so obviously light when you're there, though (in these pictures the lighting was strange, and it looks washed out), and I think ultimately it'll help the place not feel overwhelmingly dark. 

Here's the view obviously looking outside from deeper in the first floor. You can see a couple of the tables we made attached to the walls, as well as the way the bar looks from farther away. 

Here's an above view, where again you can get a good view of the bar and the tables.

Here's a closer view of two of the things I'm actually most proud of--the bookshelf that looks like part of the wall, which I got ideas for from the internet and then designed and decided on. The design of the left side eliminates the need for bookends, and looks pretty awesome in the process. The under-stairs shelves were designed and made by the workers without us even asking, but they turned out to be very useful and awesome-looking. 

Here's the upstairs, looking towards the outside window. The columns on the right were a surprise, but not a terribly unwelcome one--it'll help the wall-space to not look so terribly empty, even if we don't put that much on it (which we will).

Here's the view back in on the top floor. Again, the ceiling will be the black plastic squares, and the lights will be on the brown part. We'll also have lamps hanging over each table. 

Here you can see the way the stairs look, with the border of wood and wallpaper on the wall. The wallpaper, again, is the same as that of the bar. 

Let me know what you think! Hehe, but only if it's good, because most of this is non-negotiable at this point (what's done is done--forget dissenting opinions). 

Edit: I should probably note that the most interesting part of the bookshelf, the way of holding books on the left side, is completely someone else's idea. My part in it was only to modify it slightly, put it with the normal-bookshelf-type right side, and decide to make it look like it's part of a wall (originally there wasn't a wall there at all).

I got enough compliments on it that I thought I should give credit where credit is due. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wall Color

So. I think, for the walls, we're going with a color similar to "Rapture," the color that I painted my room back at 110 Finley in Clemson, for those of you who have seen it.

For those of you who are more acquainted with the Chinese Dulux brand, you may note that it's about half-way between "Flaming Sword" and "Party Place."

For everyone else...

Well... It's red.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Tonight, as I did laundry by lamplight, I threw open my windows to a storm. The wind that rushed through carried, unmistakably, the scent of perfume. Even now, later, the house still smells faintly of it. 

The lingering scent reminds me of something Pessoa once considered (or should have), under the moniker Bernardo Soares. He wrote of a kind of nostalgia for a memory that never happened. 

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Kodak Moments with Mark

Here are two conversations that Mark and I had a few days ago:

Me : Let's order a pot of tea.

Mark : But you like red tea. I like green tea. You say tomato, I say tomahto. Let's call it off.

Me : Okay. Forget it. 

And that night, walking home from the bus stop:

Mark : You know, you really are handsome. Especially at night.

Me (laughing) : Ahhh. You mean in the mooooonlight?

Mark : No. I mean in the dark. 

Renovation Pt. 2

Here are some more shots of the construction:

Here's the storefront. You can see the way the sign will look, though of course it'll have Chinese characters, as well as English words, made of metal soon, and with lights to shine on it at night. 

Here you can see the counter pretty clearly. We're going to need to make a lot of changes to it, but the structure's there. Also, you can get a pretty good look at the rest of the room--the bookshelves I'm especially pretty proud of (I'll include some more shots when they're closer to being finished). You can see a little bit of the ceiling work (the wide part that wraps around the sides, which will later be black and contain lights and speakers). 

Top view of the first floor, especially the counter. 

Here you can get a better view of the ceiling work, and you can also see where they took out the old windows. They put in large panes of glass this morning, and they should finish with it tomorrow morning after I talk to them about a couple of the specifics. 

Here's a few of the street right in front of my house, when the sun came out a little before sunset. It's been raining a lot lately, so the low today was 47, even though we were in the 80s last week. 

Tomorrow I'm taking a mid-day break (working out a few things at the space before, doing interviews after) to go to a park with some friends that's a little outside the city and sports our very own Great Wall, in miniature. I'll try and snap a few pictures. 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Renovation Pt. 1

So. To be honest, at times this renovation has come pretty close to driving me (not to mention my contractor) crazy. Twice I've caught the workers rushing through a job and doing it poorly, and we've had several communication issues about what exactly I want him to do with the different things I'm having him build. It doesn't help that I don't have enough time to dedicate just to being at the space and making sure everything's going smoothly according to plan.

At times I worry the end result will be terrible, and at times I think that it's going to be the best coffee shop that ever was. Right now I figure it'll probably lie somewhere in between. And I'm excited. 

Regardless! You can see here what the construction looked like a few days ago.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Moments Away

Okay! So! I have figured out a way around this whole thing to where I can post text, but not pictures. Stay tuned.

This week has been busy. I've been tired, and, honestly, in a bad mood or stressed out a good bit. But, in the other moments, I've been striving to keep up a healthy exercise routine and appreciation for the beauty that's around me. For a few days, I would walk down the street listening to music, and whenever a certain song would come on, I would take short notes of the things around me that I enjoyed for the entire length of the song. Here's one example:

trees trimmed, branches the same length, to look like upside-down bowls (quick sketch)

3 generations sitting together - dad child & g-dad

a dog rooting in the grass, looking up at me and smiling

a man, suit jacket off, pants rolled up, sitting on a ledge and watching the sunset

an old man enjoying the cool of evening sitting in front of traditional Chinese gate

under it, a woman and her two sons play badminton in front of a stone carving of the buildings in Red Park

a lit-up sign for the China Construction Bank that's strangely evocative

all the flowers growing on all the ledges of apartments and in yangtais

birds playing in a circle, passing overhead again and again

Do you ever feel as if you wouldn't so much like a picture of what you're looking at, as a picture of you, doing what you're doing, looking at it? I had that feeling last night, brushing my teeth, watching through my window the last few late-night taxis find their ways home in the rain. Maybe it boils down to a desire more to capture a state of mind than anything. Or maybe mark some sort of moment, a turning point that you don't yet know the meaning of, but that maybe later you'll recognize in the changing lines of your face.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Being Blocked

So. The blogger site's been blocked here, and I'm not sure how much I'm going to have access to it for the next little while. I wanted to put up a few pictures, but it looks like that's not going to work. Regardless, I'll try and keep people appropriately posted on our progress through e-mail, Skype, etc.

I wanted to write a quick explanatory note during this window of time, and I hope I manage to get it up.

But, our first two waitresses were also hired today! It's pretty wild how fast everything's moving now. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Running #1

Okay. So. I have been running sometimes.

This week, I ran on Sunday for about 3 miles, and did the same run today (Wednesday). Unfortunately, I was having problems getting my Nike+ thing calibrated.

But I figured out the problem. So all the runs from today on should be correct, and you'll be able to see my last five runs at the right to make sure I'm keeping up with things. Especially as busy as I've been lately (yesterday I worked an 11-hour day), I want to make sure that I find time to get some exercise to keep my energy level up.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Of course it's good for you, it's all-natural.

Mark and I were in the big city today after a setback involving the wrong business scope printed on some of the certifications we got from the government.

On the way out, we picked up some medicine for Mark's cousin, and while I was waiting, I was absent-mindedly reading the labels of some vitamins behind the counter when something caught my eye. As my eyes wandered down the row, here's what I read, all of the pill bottles looking exactly the same and carrying about 100 pills each:

Calcium & Vitamin D
Vitamin C & Vitamin E
Jean & beautiful
Sheep Placenta
Compound Vitamin
Amino Acid
Galcium + VD

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Red Park Cafe?

Well, last Thursday we got our business license! A huge step. After we actually pull the money to a Chinese bank account at the Foreign Investment Bureau and get our official stamps made, I'll be ready to come home for a couple of weeks for my brother's wedding--which I'm wayyy excited about.

Things have been busy the past few months. I worked hard to find a commercial space and work out a lease, spent some time in a different city helping some friends, have been sorting through the process of getting all the documents necessary to start the business as well as dealing with all the government bureaus involved. I've been making a lot of trips to the big city, staying with my friend there. And it's been good, though I haven't had near enough time or energy to maintain the relationships I have in my own city.

And, well--lately, I've been feeling a little off. I think I've been too busy to really deal with everything going on now. I think that I need more time to reflect and re-sort through everything. Not only are there some big changes coming up not only in my day-to-day but also the level of responsibility I have, but before and after trips home there always tends to be a lot of soul-searching. Such is the nature of having an interesting relationship with the concept of 'home.'

I hope that you've all been doing well! And I'm including some pictures of the space that we're renting.

The potential name is Red Park Cafe. One difficult thing for me has been finding names that sound good in both English and Chinese (the Chinese is obviously more important, which is the one that I'm clueless on). But, regardless, suggestions are welcome (and needed!), so I can run them by some friends.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Don't Give Up

Seriously. Don't you dare.