Where do people even get shirts like this?
The Chinese says “My House”
After going on so many “bad” dates, it’s tough to get the willpower to go back out there. Sitting at home alone half-naked under my air con watching Netflix and eating Chinese Cheetos has started to sound a lot more appealing than going out to dinner on a date.
This is our first date
Her: So, you want kids?
Me: I’m not opposed to having them
Her: What about living in China the rest of your life?
Me: Definitely not
Her: So, you hate China?
Me: Not at all, I just don’t want to live here forever
Her: Then this isn’t going to work
Me: Sorry what?
Her: I need someone committed to me, and that means living in China forever
Me: Should we just get the bill now or…?
A typical WeChat conversation
Me: Hey any plans for the weekend?
Me: You’re going to sleep all weekend?
Her: Yes, so tired from work.
Me: Do you want to grab a drink or something?
Her: No, sorry, I’ll be sleeping
This is also a super common response from colleagues I work with. ‘Sleeping’ is often replaced by the word ‘resting,’ which for most Chinese means laying in bed playing around on their phone and not leaving their apartment all weekend.
We go to a nice Mexican restaurant around 6pm and both get food and drinks. We both get a substantial amount of food plus chips & salsa (which are not free in China) and no, she’s not fat. After we pay, this happens:
Her: I want a salad
Me: Why didn’t you order one?
Her: Well, I don’t want one from here, I want one from this little café I know
Me: You’re still hungry? I mean, I guess we could ride my scooter there
I just rode 12km to get to the Mexican place, and now I’m taking this girl 10km to some café because “they have the best salads.” We get there, she wants to sit on the rooftop, but their lights aren’t working, so we’re literally sitting the dark while she’s munching away on a salad and I’m drinking a beer. I’m not super excited to be in this situation. After she finishes her salad, she makes it abundantly clear that she wants to go home, so we walk outside.
Me: Well, that was super weird, but nice to see you! Are you going to get a Didi or take the subway home?
Her: You’re not going to drive me back to where we met?
Me: My battery is running low, plus I’d have to ride back here and I’ve gotta be getting home
Her: That’s so rude
Me: You chose this place
Her: Ya but it’s your responsibility to take me back
Me: I’m sorry?
Before the date, she explicitly told me she was a vegetarian and she’d only go out to dinner if I took her to a vegetarian restaurant, but not Indian. I love demanding girls, off to a great start.
Me: I don’t usually eat vegetarian, but I thought that was pretty great!
Me: You didn’t like it?
Her: It was terrible
Me: What didn’t you like about it?
Her: I just didn’t like it
We did get separate dishes, but we also shared pita bread and veggies with hummus. She also ate all of her food, so I’m a little confused at this point.
Me: My fault then, I’d never been here before but it has good reviews online. Next time we go out, you can take me to a place that you like
Her: There won’t be a next time
Her: Because you took me to the worst vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to
Me: Are you serious?
Her: You’re a bad restaurant chooser
I think I dodged a bullet on that one
You ever get so busy that you forget to update your blog? Ya, happened to me. I leave for Egypt on July 30, so expect lots of photos of me with my hands in the air surrounded by sand.
Here’s an article I just recently wrote for Expat Guides.
Since I broke up with my ex in October 2016, I’ve given the dating game in Beijing a shot and it’s been a whirlwind of funny/awkward situations, and moments where I can’t even think of how to respond. Here are some of the more “interesting” things that have happened while on a date
Her: Let’s grab dinner at 6 on Saturday
Me: Sounds good!
In the restaurant on Saturday
Me: I’m starving, you hungry?
Her: No, I ate an hour ago
Me: Umm, I thought we had dinner plans
Her: Ya, but I was hungry an hour ago and didn’t want to wait. It’s ok, I’ll watch you eat
Me: So, drinks on Friday?
Her: Ya, perfect.
At the bar
Me: I think I’ll grab a beer. You?
Her: Oh, actually, I don’t drink, but I am so hungry, I think I’ll get Pho
So I sit there, drinking beer, listening to her slurp up Pho while puffing on a vape every other bite and blowing it right across the table. Before I can even start to wonder how I get myself in these situations, she says:
Her: Do you want to buy a vape? I sell them, it’s my side business
Me: Thanks for the offer, but I’m all set
Her: No worries! Anyway, it’s so nice of you to buy me Pho
Me: Sorry, what gives you the impression that I’m buying your food?
Her: That’s how it works, guys always pay
I’ve gotta start vetting these girls better before agreeing to go out
Her: Oh my gosh, this mojito is so strong
Me: You can order something else if you want
Her: No, it’s ok, I’m just feeling like so drunk already
Me: Alright, well just don’t throw up on me
So we keep talking, and between stories she keeps commenting just how strong the drink is and how’s she feeling drunk and laughing a lot. This is her first drink, so I’m not concerned, but find it odd that she keeps talking about it. After we finish, we head down to the bar and the bartender says “Table 10, one beer and one non-alcoholic mojito”, at which point I turn to the girl and say “Sorry, what the fuck?”
She looks at me and shrugs: I thought you’d like me better if you thought I was drunk
“Don’t Do Scooters”
Me: Hey, so we can meet around 8 at the subway station and I can pick you up on my scooter and then ride to the restaurant
Her: Sounds great!
At the subway
Me: Hey hey, ready to go?
Her: Actually, do you know any places close to here? I don’t do scooters
Me: … I already made a reservation, I thought you said riding on a scooter would be fine
Her: Ya, but I don’t do scooters, too scary
Talking to Chinese girls on Tinder (which you need a VPN for) can be tricky, but there’s one thing for certain - they’ll ask you how tall you are
Her: How tall are you?
Her: Sorry, that’s not enough
Me: What do you prefer?
Me: Out of curiosity, how tall are you?
Me: If you want to date a giraffe, go to the zoo
Me: Hey I’m outside of the KFC where we agreed to meet. Where are you?
Her: I’m inside, hold on a second.
Her: Hey sorry, I was hungry so I got a bunch of stuff.
Me: We are literally headed to a restaurant right now
Her: Ya, but I wanted KFC
Writing is the easy part. The submission process, on the other hand, is an entirely different ball game. Whether you're submitting to literary agents, a publishing house, a literary magazine, or an online journal, they're each going to have a different process and want things formatted just the way they like it.
Here's the process:
Let's say I want to submit a short story for submission. First, I need to find who publishes short stories and in what medium (some are only print, only online, or both). Then, I'll need to go through the list and first check if they are interested in publishing stories in the genre I've written. If yes, I'll find "Submissions" on their website, and the first thing I do is look at the top of the screen to check for this:
"There are currently no open calls for submissions at this time."
If that isn't on the screen, read through the criteria. Often, word count is the biggest hindrance. Also, I’ve noticed that almost every site seems to be looking for “LGBQT writers/content”. Just an observation. If you manage to meet their requirements, you then start reading how they want the story submitted. Generally, they'll want an e-mail, have an online form, or some type of submission account like Submittable.
Formatting is the biggest pain, especially when trying to find a literary agent because each agent wants a specific amount of pages in a certain format, either as an attachment or pasted into an e-mail. Short stories are easier since you're sending an entire piece of work and most follow the Shunn formatting guide. However, there are often weird requirements where you'll have to go in your document and change things. For example, some want no personal information on your work while others want everything, including an address. Some will only accept a .doc format while others want a .pdf or .rtf. Some want a single - and others want double --. Once you've managed to fiddle with your original piece according to the specifications, you can move on to the cover letter.
The cover letter is generally the body of the e-mail you send to those you're submitting to. It should include your name, title of your work, word count, genre, and previous publications. Some magazines/agents/journals want a short bio written in 3rd person, while others don't. Some want your nationality, others don't. Once you've finished with that, and attached the perfectly formatted file, recheck their site to make sure you type the e-mail subject line exactly how they want.
Once you've finally completed all of this and press send, you'll immediately be sent an automatic reply that goes something like this:
"Thanks for your submission! Due to the number of submissions we receive, we don't have time to respond to every e-mail. If you don't hear from us within 2-6 months, please consider submitting your work elsewhere."
Then you do this again, and again, and again. There are a lot of free submissions out there, but there are also lots that charge a “$3 reading fee” and writing contests that charge an entry fee. Sometimes, you'll get lucky and people will want to publish your work, and other times, they won't. In any case, it's worth going through such a tedious process because it gives you the possibility to share your work with a larger audience and at the end of the day, isn't that what we're all trying to do? It’s a hassle, and I’d suggest making a sheet in Excel to keep track of everything, but ultimately, it’s better than not going for it.
Just got back from a three week trip with my Canadian friend and here’s how we did it.
Fly from Beijing to Hanoi. Drink beer from kegs on the street. Bus to Halong Bay. Stay the night on the boat. Laugh hysterically as a Korean sings Gangnam Style on KTV. Bus back to Hanoi. Eat Pho and Banh Mi. Sleeper train to Hue. Hostel party. Bus to Hoi An. Get Bronchitis, but see the Old Town anyway. Sleeper train to Ho Chi Minh. Check out Walking Street and talk to a German Michelin Chef. Fly to Siem Reap (now in Cambodia). See Angkor Wat. Bus down to Phnom Penh. See Killing Fields. Bus to Sihanoukville. Wonder why everything is in Chinese. Boat to Koh Rong. Enjoy the beach. Boat back to Sihanoukville. Bus to Koh Kong (border city). There’s no seats so we sit on a step-stool in the aisle. Tuk Tuk to the border. Walk across the border (now in Thailand). Taxi to Pattaya. Enjoy the beach and fight off ladyboys. Taxi to Bangkok. Fly back to Beijing. Complain about the cold.
All three countries, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand are all unique, and I liked each one for a different reason - but all three had great food. It’s easy for a tourist to say they liked the country they visited because they’re there for a short amount of time and often, the people you interact with are in the tourism industry and are being polite so you’ll spend your money. With that being said, I really enjoyed traveling to all three countries.
This year, I traveled without my computer, which was a choice I’m glad I made. I could still handle e-mails and flight stuff on my phone and saw no real reason to bring my laptop with me. It was a liberating feeling, mainly since I use my computer daily when I’m in Beijing, and before my trip I thought, “how am I going to go three weeks without a keyboard?” Overall, I’m happy I didn’t bring it with me, and I think having a travel buddy made it easier since there was always someone to be with, taking away the need to ‘kill time’ by surfing around on a laptop.
The more I travel, the more I realize there’s so much to see in this world, and no matter how much I enjoy the stability of my routine and daily life, I like bouncing around, staying in different places, and experiencing new things. I also really liked that the weather in Southeast Asia was around 30 degrees while Beijing was still -4. There’s something about sweating in a tank top that’s preferable to being bundled up in a jacket and scarf.
It’s tough to spend such a long time traveling and eating good food and being in a place you want to be, and then returning to the cold and the mundane and settling back into a routine. That’s life though, and I imagine if I lived in Bangkok, I’d have similar thoughts about having to return to the noise and the heat. “The grass is always greener” is something I’m always dealing with by acknowledging that nowhere is perfect and that instead, perhaps the grass is green where you water it.
As with each passing year, it’s customary, at least in the US, to make goals/resolutions. So, as is tradition, here are mine for 2019:
$5,000 to retirement
Sign new contract at Xinhua
Visit 3 new countries
Write another short story (sub 15,000 words) - Current short story “Here Then Gone” is with editor
Benchpress 125kg 5 times - Currently around 115kg maybe 2-3 times
Read at least 12 books - I’ve started writing a 10-word ‘thing’ for each book I’ve read since last summer, which can be found under my About me section. So far this year, I’ve read “Fatherland” and “The Chrysalids”
Here are some words I liked from 2018:
Capricious - Determined by chance it whim rather than by necessity
Rube - A person who is not very intelligent or interested in culture
Copacetic - Completely satisfactory
Louche - Disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.
Cogent - Clear, logical, convincing (of an argument / case)
Remonstrate - To make a forcefully reproachful protest
Indefatigable - Persisting tirelessly
Persiflage - Light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter
Inimical - Tending to obstruct or harm
Viviparous - Bringing forth live young that have developed inside the body of the parent
Pernicious - Having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way
Bumptious - Self-assertive or proud to an irritating degree
Recalcitrant - Having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline
Incipient - In an initial stage; beginning to happen or develop
Taiwan was great. The food, the people, the weather, the public transportation - everything was just so nice. Maybe I’m easy to win over having come from Beijing where things are loud, noisy, and not so clean, but having spent a week in Taipei, I was really impressed with the city
As everyone kept telling me, the food was amazing. The city has a large Japanese and southeast Asian influence, especially on the food. There were a ton of Japanese restaurants, as well as curry places, fried chicken, and tons of street vendors selling an assortment of both sweet and salty snacks.
In addition to Taipei, I also took a day trip to Jiufen, a small village situated in the green hills of Northern Taiwan, overlooking the ocean. It’s especially popular with tourists as it resembles the village from the anime Spirited Away. There are lanterns, tall staircases, and shops packed together selling tasty treats to the throngs of tourists. It was windy, beautiful, and somewhat serene when imagining where exactly I was.
Whatever preconceived notion I had about Taiwan before I went there was shattered as soon as I landed. When walking through the streets, I imagined my life living there and of all the places I’ve traveled in Asia, I could see myself starting a life there. Lots of people speak English, there is a good mix of cultures, there’s no need for a VPN, and it’s an island, which ticks off my “close to the ocean” box for potential places to settle down
As expected, the controversy or “sensitivity” concerning China and Taiwan is alive and well. Both Taiwanese and Chinese have opinions about the island, as do I. However, since I work for Xinhua and was told to keep my blog “appropriate” and refrain from controversial opinions, I’ll keep it to myself. Regardless of the political nature concerning Taiwan, I can’t recommend it enough. I spent a week doing the sightseeing thing and there was plenty to do, including memorials, temples, night markets, and food/bars.
Now I understand that Taiwan is unique, but here’s how I would describe it: a cleaner Hong Kong, a less busy Tokyo, a more fun Singapore, and a more polite mainland. There are less people than the aforementioned places, which obviously makes things easier, but the combination of culture, unique architecture, and the people make Taiwan a must-see travel destination.
- Squat - 115 - 2 reps
- Squat - 120 - 3 reps
- Deadlift - 130 - 4 reps
- Squat - 120 - 2.5 reps
- Deadlift - 110 - 5 reps
- Deadlift - 130 - 4 reps
- Deadlift - 135 - 2 reps
I'm at a bit of a stalemate with my gym. I haven't set any solid gym goals recently, so by the end of December, I'm aiming to get into the 1,000-pound club - my squat, deadlift, and benchpress should cumulatively be 1,000 pounds.
Current Stats (7.21) @ 90kg
- Benchpress - 115kg - 253 pounds - 1 rep
- Squat - 110kg - 242 pounds - 5 reps
- Deadlift - 130kg - 286 pounds - 3 reps
- Total - 355kg - 781 pounds
I know, my legs are weak, but I'm also working to not bulk up too much because I don't want to look ridiculous when I wear pants. Will update every few weeks or so and see what progress has been made.
Current diet - I recently bought a lot of canned salmon, tuna, oysters, and sardines and I try to eat at least one tin per day on top of regular meals. I stay away from sugar, soda, and fast food, but everything else is fair game. I'm working on trying to cut beer out of my diet, but I'm not a UFC athlete, few beers are still ok. Every two weeks, I'll buy a bunch of fruit and vegetables, blend them in a blender with a bit of water, put them in small ice-cube trays, freeze them, then in the morning, I'll dump a handful of them along with a can of coconut milk into a blender and make a smoothie. I use a silicon ice-tray and the process couldn't be easier.
Supplements - I have a protein shake following my workouts along with two servings of amino acids. After lunch, I take fish oil, a vitamin-B supplement, and a green tea extract pill.
- My current visa expires in 5 days, and in that time, I need to apply for a new foreign expert's card and a temporary 3-month visa, which will give me enough time to then later apply for a year visa.
- Started my new job at Xinhua News Agency which is a completely different atmosphere than the last place I worked. There are a ton of people constantly moving about, TVs are on, and lots of work to be done, but I like being busy.
- Signed another year contract at my apartment in Andingmen. It's still a 20 minute scooter ride to work, and moving is a pain.
- Listening to a lot of Caloncho lately, a talented Mexican musician
- World Cup games in China play at 8pm, 11pm, and 2am. So far, I've caught most of the 8 and 11pm games, and stayed up to watch Germany barely beat Sweden. I've got France this year, but I hope Mexico wins.
- I designed and printed out a giant calendar (2x1 meters) that covers the next 16 months. Every time I look at it, I think about what I want to accomplish in that time.
- Trying to plan next trip, but can't start figuring things out until I get my new visa
- Feeling a bit isolated lately as I think about how long I've been away from family and friends. I've always been independent, but lately I've been thinking of settling down and what I want to do with my life. Currently, I've gotten as far as coloring in countries around the world that I don't want to live and slowly narrowing the list. Sorry China, but you didn't make the cut.
- Thinking about buying the new iPhone in September, but I think Face ID is fucking stupid and unless it has a fingerprint scanner, will most likely stick with my current phone. A life update about my thoughts on a new phone, riveting stuff I know.
- Started watching "Peaky Blinders". So far, so good. I also recommend "The Rain", a Danish Dystopian tv show. After watching it, I fell into a blackhole on Wikipedia about the linguistics and origins of the Danish language.
- Overall, things are going well. A lot of goals were accomplished recently, such as finding a new job, saving money, publishing my book, and getting a new visa. With so many long-term projects finishing at the same time, I sort of feel a bit empty, almost like I have nothing to do. Besides work and gym, I really don't. With that said, I'm working on flushing out an idea for a new book and aiming to finish a short story soon. Once I get my new visa, tangible evidence of stability, I'll work on setting some more long-term goals that I can work on throughout the year. I'm results-oriented, I thrive on achieving things.
Thanks to everyone who bought my book, talked about it, or liked my post online about it. I never expected to sell a book, it was always about seeing if I could create a physical manifestation of an idea. Now I know I can, which for me, means a lot more than selling 1,000 copies, which would also be cool but let's be real, not likely to happen.