Xi’an and Beijing
I spent the first day of 2021 breathing out contemplative puffs of frost-fog at Ditan Park. The plan was to self-reflect and Think Big Thoughts, but I ended up spending the bulk of the hour wondering why the man walking in front of me had so many tiny labradors embroidered on his pants. It was excessive. His pants were single-handedly causing an unequal distribution of embroidered labradors globally. I didn’t get a picture. First regret of the year.(more…)
Posted from: Beijing, China
Couple of days ago, on my way back home, I walked past the old retired couple that live next door to me. I’ve been in this apartment for almost five years now, and though I’ve always been on wave-hello terms with the neighbors, we’d never really spoken. But this time, the wife, a Chinese lady in her mid-sixties, invited me over for a chat, and we ended up having a rollicking evening of midnight mahjong and Moscow Mules.(more…)
If you care to live a life without fear, for the love of snack cakes, do not study history. Or cosmology. Do not read about Rome or Influenza or the birth of our solar system. Do not form an opinion on how quickly and with how little forewarning civilizations cease to function. Do not read about wars, and about the many millions of slaughtered families who would not be uprooted by them, not because they didn’t have the resources to go, but because they chose not to.(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…)