The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d'Hoffmann)


The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d'Hoffmann) is an opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, who is the protagonist of the story.

I’m pretty sure this was my first opera and probably my last. I was really confused the entire time and had a hard time understanding the translated subtitles. I was impressed that the actors/singers were able to memorize 3.5 hours of dialogue/songs and the set design was incredible. However, pretty sure opera isn’t my thing.

However, I was pretty excited to go inside the National Centre for the Performing Arts, which is super cool looking building surrounded by water.

China's Hutong Renovations: Yay or Nay?

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.

Taiwan Thoughts

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.

White Skin Obsession

An article I wrote for about China's love for white skin

WWU - Being Fat in China

I wrote an article for eChinacities titled, "The Trials of Being Fat in China". Check it out here


Not sure how to put this politely, so I'll just go ahead and say it. People in Beijing don't give a fuck. Me included. I think there are many reasons for this, so let's just dive right in. First, a lot of people who live in Beijing aren't locals. They come from all over China, especially surrounding cities, in search of a better life for their children and an opportunity to make money. That being said, there isn't any pride for Beijing. Someone throws trash on the ground "Not my city", smoking in public places "Well I'm not bothering people in MY social circle", letting their kid poop on the street "Not my neighborhood" - the list goes on. Now I'm included on this list of those not giving a fuck. When the subway open up, I push out (Aggressively) against those trying to enter before I get off. I yell at people to ride their bike on the right side of the road, and when I bump into people, I have stopped apologizing. In a restaurant, just as everyone else does, I yell "WAITER! WAITER!", I park my scooter wherever I want, and I have lost almost all of my patience. I'm almost scared to go back to America and interact in a social setting and have people ask "What is wrong with you?" China. China has changed me. 

Another reason for the lack of fucks in Beijing is because that's just how it is. If we take for example Tokyo, Japan. They similarly have a high population density, but have logically reasoned that in order to deal with so many people in a small space, there needs to be order and efficient systems. Many of you are now probably imagining Japanese people lining up for the subway in a neat and orderly fashion. Beijing, conversely, must have just said "Fuck it, they'll figure it out or they won't". We haven't. Example, cars pushing through despite the light having already turned red. I can understand if 1 car drives through as the light turns yellow, its a caution. But cars will go nut-to-butt and push through a red light and traffic PILES UP. I also don't understand why people drive in Beijing. I mean I get that China is a very external culture and a car is a status symbol, but the logistics don't make sense. Gas stations are hidden throughout the city, there are no parking meters on the street to control parking, and parking garages are a nightmare and often difficult to traverse. To limit traffic, everyday, Beijing chooses a number and if the number on your license plate is chosen, you cannot drive between (I think) 7am-7pm. No number is drawn on the weekends. A valiant, but fleeting effort. 

It baffles me that with so many people in such close proximity all the time, there is no social awareness. People are constantly staring at their phones as they walk and often times I'll stop walking and they'll run right into me. No one seems to understand the concept of a bike lane or that it goes up on the right side of the street and down on the left. People spit on the subway, smoke wherever they want, and my biggest pet peeve, will jump into line right in front of you and act surprised when you tell them to line up from the back. It's no surprise that people hate Chinese tourists because just like the attitude of those in Beijing, when they travel abroad its a similar mindset "Not my country, who cares what I do?"

The last example I can give of people not giving a fuck in regards to other people is their vagueness. This drives me absolutely crazy. I have gotten up from multiple dates and just left because I am so tired of dealing with it. For example, if I ask someone where they are from and they say "China", I'm out. I have no patience to deal with this. Now you might be thinking "Degen, don't be a dick, maybe their English isn't good". No, that's not the issue. The issue is that unless people are inside your social circle (Guanxi), no one has time for you, so vague answers suffice. In China, the popular greeting is "Have you eaten?" and the answer is "Yes" or "No". And that's it. In America I was so used to asking "Hey what'd you have for lunch?" or "What are your plans this afternoon?" compared to China "Do you have plans today?" and that's it. No follow up. So trying to get to know someone is extremely difficult in most cases. "What do you do in Beijing?" is a common question I ask and many people will say "Work" or "Student" and then stare at me with empty eyes. To which I respond "GO ON..." and I kid you not, their follow up answer was "At a company". I didn't think it would be difficult to say "Oh I'm a Master's Student at Tsinghua and I study Chinese Politics and Foreign Policy. I really like it!", but I would be wrong in that assertion. There also isn't a lot of follow up questions. If I ask someone what they do, there is no "And you?", so although I feel like an interrogator, that's a pretty typical conversation with a girl in Beijing. However, I take responsibility for this; maybe I need to stop going out with Basic Bitches. If you don't know what a Chinese Basic Bitch is, search youtube with that title and educate yourself. So once again, it comes down to too many people asking the same question too often and details have become bothersome. It's also challenging to assert that this is a culture difference, when in reality, maybe a lot of people in Beijing are just super boring. 

Despite this post portraying that of a whiny privileged foreigner in Beijing once again complaining about this city, I still, on my own accord, choose to stay here. Although I shit on Beijing, I won't put up with any outsider shitting on it. It's the city I have chosen to stay in for the past 3 years and although I might be one of the few, I'm proud to call Beijing my home. 

Mao Mao Mao


Roasted squid, cucumber, seaweed, yogurt


Men’s jeans in China


Forget boot cut or husky, finding a “straight” requires them to rummage in the back only to find a “straight” in the smallest size possible

Happy Mother’s Day from China! My buddy Yoyo said “With tongue!” So here ya go Madre. Much love from Beijing!


I’ve been going through this “phrase a day” thing and came across this entry


When asked “Are you married?” Chinese people don’t reply “No”, they say, “Not yet” which is such a Chinese thing to say. So many Chinese people have an expectation to get married. Notice the affirmative answer as well, “I’m already married”, as in “Yes I’ve already achieved this and don’t need to worry about it anymore”.

Although boldly stated that Christmas is not observed or celebrated in China, there seems to be a lot of evidence to the contrary


Noodles in a peanut sauce


Beijing can be nice when it wants to be


The weather is no longer warm and fall is quickly moving on as winter creeps in. So far, gym shorts, a soccer jersey, and a North Face shell seem to keep things comfortable.

I’m assuming it says, “Have a great Chinese National Day”


Celebration in Tiananmen Square for Chinese National holiday


The Chinese national holiday is next week which of course means it’s time to break out the lanterns


There is no such thing as gym etiquette here in Beijing


Dude brought his baby to the gym. As in, parked next to the machines he was using, and not checked into the gym daycare (if such a thing exists in China) The other day some guy was barefoot and I told him that this wasn’t his house and he should put his shoes on. My next course of action was to drop a weight on his foot. It’s unbelievable how much people in Beijing just give zero fucks about other people. Everyone is so focused on their individual lives, that everyone else becomes non-existent. This is quite apparent due to the lack of common courtesy and respect for other people. #iheartbeijing

Mid-Autumn Festival in China

Which of course means there is no shortage of mooncakes. Last year I was introduced to this Chinese pastry and quickly decided that they were not for me. But here in 2014, a full year without having tried a mooncake, I thought I should give them another chance. I realized all too well that my initial judgement had been right: Mooncakes are gross. The problem is I have at least 20 of them which were ‘gifted’ to me from various people. I know, it’s the thought that counts. Perhaps I’m pessimistic, so I’ll leave you with a hopeful thought. I’m sure there is a quality, tasty mooncake out there, but it remains to be seen, or more importantly, enjoyed.