Hutong Life

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The Chinese says “My House”

The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d'Hoffmann)

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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.




Broken Bikes

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Scenes from Beijing

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Colorful Beijing Sunset

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Yonghegong - Llama Temple

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2019 Beijing Burger Festival

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Around the 京

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Dating In China

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

 “Already Ate”

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: …

 

 “Oh, Actually”

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

“So Strong”

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

Me: …

 

“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

Me: …

 

“Height Requirements”

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?

Me: 180

Her: Sorry, that’s not enough

Me: What do you prefer?

Her: 190+

Me: Out of curiosity, how tall are you?

Her: 150

Me: If you want to date a giraffe, go to the zoo

“Couldn’t Wait”

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

Me: …

"Laborotics" Published!

Laborotics published by Degen Hill
 
Zealot Script - Emerging Worlds

My short story “Laborotics” has been published on Zealot Script - Emerging Worlds! You can read it there, or download a PDF copy for free here. You can follow their Twitter @ZealotScriptUK


Tsinghua iTalk Grad Speech

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Tsinghua University iTalk
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Had the opportunity to speak at Tsinghua’s 2019 graduation and farewell party. Lots of interesting speeches and congrats to all the grads!

Sunset So Pretty

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Tsinghua Grad Speech

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Got asked to speak at Tsinghua’s 2019 graduation commencement on Tuesday, focusing on life in China after graduating.

New Year's Resolution - Read 12 books in 2019 - DONE

Happy 2019 Dragon Boat Festival!

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Literary Submissions

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."

Cheers, thanks…

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.

Here Then Gone - a short story

Here Then Gone - A Short Story

Just finished my first short story, “Here Then Gone”, about a microchip in the future that automatically ends a person’s life when they turn 75 years old. You can download it for free here

2018 Timelapse

2019 Spring Festival

Travel in Southeast Asia for 2019

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.