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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Worker to Watcher Ratio

Work in China gets accomplished only when 1-2 men doing the work are surrounded by 5-10 men who look like they could be doing the job but instead have chosen to congregate around said workers watching intently, not saying a word.

Consider how rapidly China is developing and new structures spring up out of no where. Now, with this ratio of workers to watchers–approximately 2:8–imagine how many people are actually needed to build up China at the rate they are at. Hundreds of thousands are getting paid to look on to construction, or “oversee” in some way. America should adopt this philosophy, at least it would create more jobs.

感想: Grace

“Grace brings contentment.”

I have to run this morning, so do not have time to contemplate this one much. Though two things came to mind immediately. Grace is my childhood nickname. For reasons that will go unmentioned for now, my best friends (Kathy, Becka, and Justine) dubbed me Grace one summer day on Nantucket. They are three crazy special ladies by the way.

My next thought is…in this phrase what would grace be defined as? Grace from God? Elegance? Favor or good will? Mercy? Moral Strength? (yes, I just pulled out the dictionary). I have always felt that grace is difficult to define. How can one truly grasp grace? I feel like it’s something that cannot be defined with words, but has to be sensed or felt. Someone with true grace would not doubt be content and make others so. But to define a graceful person does the word no justice.

Brief thoughts…anyone else disagree, agree, or have another reaction?

Bu Yao Ayi

I am not meant to have an ayi. Well this is more like a live in maid/cook/mom (except I can barely speak with her).

Day one in my new place…..I haven’t seen any of the other roommates. I woke up and made oatmeal and tea. Within one minute of being in the kitchen our ayi was in my room…making my bed, cleaning the desk, etc. Dude, it’s 7-something. Chill. By ten she knocked and came in with a vacuum. I left the room awkwardly even though I know I didn’t need to. Just feels weird having someone clean up after me. I don’t really like it. 11am, I was cold and my heat wouldn’t turn on. I went to her quarters, if you will, and said….Wo feichang leng. Ni zhidao….zenma..xiuxiu…. (I am very cold. Do you know…how…to fix…) and waved her towards my room. Ugh stupid girl! I need to study Chinese for 5 hours a day. But here I am blogging again! I said my thanks to our ayi and she disappeared into the bowels of our dim vacant flat again.

1pm. There’s a knock on my door. She’s come to vacuum. I fumble to move some stuff and end up shattering a lightbulb all over the floor. She ran out of the room and was back with a broom in 2 seconds. I felt bad. I really am not comfortable having people take care of me…I mean that in so many senses. In the home though, I like to do my own cleaning, cooking, etc. I also do not see a need for a live-in ayi. No one is every around! I am going to start having parties here just to give her something to do. She seems bored and will talk at me in Chinese and I just nod. I can barely tell if she is speaking Mandarin or Shanghaiese because it’s so fast and mumbled. I will say there are a few perks…I don’t have to do laundry. It’s one thing I really do not enjoy. Perhaps if I get my own apartment here I would hire someone to come in once a week (which is what most people do). I was thinking she could be really helpful with my Chinese…but when I asked her name I, again, could barely understand her. She drew the characters in the air with her finger and I pretending to understand. Oh goodness. I’ll continue my attempts a communicating with her. I plan to ask at least one question/day. Yesterday she taught me how to use the stove ventilation. Success!

A History of China via Posters

ChinaHush recently had a great post! Super super interesting visual history of China through posters and postcards. Credit to Maggie Glass, who got me into Chinese postcards (I have the cultural revolution ones from Yangshuo in my room). But not to get off track. This is an awesome visual commentary on the evolution of China, including topics of war, the cultural revolution, western influence, employment, censorship, human rights, Obama, etc. Hope everyone enjoys this one!

Along the years, China’s image in posters

Only in China: Crab Vending Machines

China, what will you think of next?

(reposted from ChinaHush) The UAE has vending machines for gold bars, Paris sells CK cologne with them, but what is on offer in the vending machines in Nanjing? The answer is… Hairy Crab!

See more here:

New Digs

I moved into my apartment today. I had been staying with Rob’s cousin Franco and his flatmate shannon the first three nights in Shanghai. They were so accommodating, I would have felt lost without them! After spending far too much time walking around the city trying to find a flat, settled on one. What I initially wanted was a very Chinese neighborhood, something that reminded me my old place in Dalian. Street food, kids running around, a variety of inexpensive restaurants…  What I got is an insanely nice apartment that does not feel at all Chinese except for some of the decor. It’s huge. I mean huge. On the 25th floor, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, balcony, kitchen, dining room, living room, private elevator entrance. Oh I forgot to mention our ayi (like a maid) lives here in separate quarters off the kitchen and her own entrance… weird. It is near People’s Square and Xintiandi, so very centrally located. My room has large floor to ceiling windows, a comfy queen-size bed, desk…etc (I’ll post photos). The flat belongs to a guy who actually went to the University of Southern California. He stays in the master bedroom and is super nice. An English guy stays in the 2nd bedroom, I’m in the 3rd, and the 4th will be filled soon. So thats the situation in the apartment. On the compound we have the most baller (to sound like Veronica) gym. It’s on the 29th floor overlooking the city (again photos to come), while on the 19th floor is the sauna and indoor pool. Immediately as i walk out of the compound I see Porche, Zara, Cartier, Subway, McDonalds. Western much? The area is pretty fashion oriented. I have more to explore. But like I said, I was going for a Chinese experience. How did I end up here? It was so much less complicated. I showed up with my suitcase, unpacked and I was home. Everything I could need was here. Whereas the other places I looked at were pretty empty. They had furniture, but I would have to buy so much other stuff…and I’m not sure how long I’ll be here. That’s another perk. I can do month to month. Overall this just worked out better for now–super clean, close to work locations, gym included, safe, and if I walk a few streets over I find myself out of western la la land and surrounded by some awesome street food. Happy with the decision. Time to go wander the neighborhood. Photos soon!

早茶: Balance

I had two cups of tea this morning and, interestingly enough, the wise little statements they provided had something in common. Balance. The good with the bad, the bitter with the sweet, the cycle of give and take and ups and downs that are life.

For every loss there’s an equal gain, for every gain there’s an equal loss.”

Notice the word equal. So true. I wrote in an earlier post that moving out of Centinela Ave. (with Rob, Angelica, and Steph) was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. This is because what I sacrificed this sense of  home for was such a tremendous, tremendous experience–an experience I’ve been craving for years. So, some discomfort/pain had to accompany it. A year as a Princeton in Asia Fellows is full of highs. If I did not have the lows of longing for what I lost (beit willingly), perhaps the highs would not have felt the same. I don’t know, but I can say without the loss, the gain would not be the same. And vice versa. Some people may prefer or try to fill their life with only highs or gains. Think about it this way…if you lived in a location where the weather was always exactly perfect you would likely forget how amazing this good weather feels because it’s all you know. You’d need to take a trip to Chicago in the winter to really remember how lucky you are to live in constant sunshine (or whatever your perfect weather may be). Similarly, gains and losses provide contrast and a way to gauge our feelings.

“The art of longing and the art of belonging must be experienced in life.”

I love this one because it’s something with which I am very much in touch. Having the tendency to check out of one life and into another creates some pretty intense emotions for me and the people I’m closest to. What has allowed me to come to terms with these emotions is simply that they are meant to be felt. That longing to be a part of your old group of friends or hanging out with them on weekends can be insanely frustrating. But there is always a reason you are not in a situation you may want to be in. For me, I do choose to be away…though I would kill to be out in LA with my friends. At times like right now, as I sit here alone in my room overlooking Shanghai talking to myself at noon, I know that Rob, Kiley, Scott, Joey and Courtney are out at a loud bar in LA. What good reason is there that I shouldn’t be there? My conclusion: I belong somewhere else right now even if it sucks to be away from those your love. While I feel intense satisfaction from the sense of belonging my friends and family provide me, I also find a sense of belonging two other distinct ways: 1) in not belonging, 2) in belonging with myself. Right now, I am belonging to myself, to a feeling of solitude, to not being able to always function in another culture….while longing for the warmth of family, friends and familiarity. At some point in the future, I know I will belong to the familiar and long for the unknown. It’s all a natural process you can see in almost everything around you…oceans, seasons, friendships, love…Oh the ebbs and flows of life. How enlightened one feels once this process of balance and contrast is understood (or at least…trying to be understood).  平衡.


I love Shanghai. It feels amazing to be back in China!

CNN Reports

Carter Larsen

Check out CNN’s article on Carter’s last performance in Shangahi. This is the reason I got to move back to China. I’ll post new music soon!


Carter Larsen in Shanghai: Music and the Movies


Carter currently resides in California and makes regular trips to China. He spent the summer recording his new album with Universal in Hollywood and finished editing and mastering this fall. He will be in Shanghai in November to hold auditions for a performance at the Grand Theatre. In 2011, he will continue to provide master classes in the states and Europe, while an Asian conservatory and master class tour is in the works. Much more to come!

早茶: Beauty

“The beauty in you is your spirit.”

Hmm. That’s a nice one to wake up to. I don’t know how to respond appropriately to morning tea compliments. Thank you? I was thinking about how everyone has such a distinct soul and spirit and how there are such detailed aspects about them that make each of us unique and beautiful. Thinking about my close friends, they all have such lovely little attributes and quirks to their spirits–some are warm personalities, while some are more guarded, others always make people feel comfortable, some have amazing intuition, others are brilliant spirits, some have unique talents, all have endearing insecurities and tremendous capacity for love and compassion–these are the things I love in them.