Fishermen of the sky

As soon as I got outside my apartment the other day, I stopped in my tracks.  It was clear I wasn’t going to get milk anymore.  I jumped on my well-loved bike — easy to spot with its very unique I <3 NY sticker plastered on the frame — and set off.
I think I knew that that would be the last pure day of autumn, before the air starts to smell like winter as you try to breathe in through a stuffy nose.  The sky was a brightly back-lit blue, and as I hurled through the archway of generous maples lining the street in front of the Canadian embassy,* I could feel every ridge and bump in the pavement clearly through my handlebars.  It was the kind of day that makes you notice the beauty in ordinary things:  the mini-thrill of a trunk pushing up the pavement into a baby jump; the comfort of the old ladies in well worn clothes sitting with their ankles crossed on a banister in front a sign encouraging studying; the man swept up by the flood of people leaving the subway but so satisfied biting into a steaming soft spring roll; or the women with bamboo poles along the river bank walking between the reeds.  I rubbernecked at the guy looking in incredulous and helpless awe at the invisible dent in the front of his pulled-over car. I slowed down to stay behind and watch a rollerblader listening to his headphones and waving his arms gracefully to the music. And I nearly got hit by a car when I realized the air in the alley ahead of me was full of spinning yellow leaves making their slow and final descent toward the yet untouched black asphalt.
People say that China’s economy is built on cheap labor, but it’s more than that:  this country is built on optimism.  It’s not just that people work for little money, it’s that they work hard for little money, and in large part because they think that it will lead to something better.  It’s one of the reasons I came here, actually, rather than Russia. Continue reading

How to avoid tendinitis from typing

Six years ago tomorrow, I was typing happily away at my computer when my hands stopped working. When I say I couldn’t use my hands, I mean that for the next many months I couldn’t:

  • cut food with a knife and fork
  • tie my shoelaces
  • turn the key in the lock
  • squeeze the hand brakes on my bike
  • wash my hair very well
  • hold a pen or write
  • type a single word on my computer
  • push buttons on a cell phone
  • and much much more!

Here’s the thing: this happened to me one day in November, suddenly, while I was basically a healthy person, and completely changed my life my senior year at college. Looking back, Continue reading

Fresh eyes on China

My good friend who was transferred 6 months ago to Beijing, working at Microsoft, wrote a note about China that I thought you would really enjoy reading. So without further ado, here are some excerpts:

“At this very moment, I’m sitting in the Industrial Bank of China, trying to pay my credit card bill.   The venue is like the Chinese version of the DMV, where you take a number and then spend forever waiting for your turn at the teller window.   The bank is packed with people; sophisticated folks with designer clothes, school children in their track suits, and even my favorite ma tuan (sesame ball) vendor with a wad of bills so thick I wonder how really makes his living.  What an inspiring place to write about my new life! Continue reading