Bye, 2019!

Thanks for all the reading time!

January

– Harry Potter y la orden del fénix by J.K. Rowling (author), Alicia Dellepiane, Gemma Rovira Ortega (translators)
– The Emissary by Yoko Tawada (author), Margaret Mitsutani (translator)
– Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
– Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (author), George Bird (translator)
– The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

February

– The Library book by Susan Orlean
– La familia de Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela
– Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

March

– Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
– The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
– A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage

April

– Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe by J.K. Rowling (author), Gemma Rovira Ortega (translator)
– Shackleton’s Boat Journey by Frank Worsley
– Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
– Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar

May

– The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams
– The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
– The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee
– North by Scott Jurek (with Jenny Jurek)

June

– El Little Príncipe by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author), Ilan Stavan (translator)
– Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer
– The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
– Preparing the Ghost by Matthew Gavin Frank

July

– Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
– The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaantje
– The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
– The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson
– High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
– The Sorrow Proper by Lindsey Drager

August

– Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos
– Crónicas marcianas by Ray Bradbury (author), Francisco Abelenda (translator)
– The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
– Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (author), William Weaver (translator)

September

– In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
– Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
– Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
– The Lost City of Z by David Grann
– A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
– The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

October

– When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
– Buzz, Sting, Bite by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson (author), Lucy Moffatt (translator)
– Normal People by Sally Rooney
– O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

November

– Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch
– Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
– Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
– Cantonese Love Stories by Dung Kai-Cheung
– Labrador by Kathryn Davis
– Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth

December

– Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez
– Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
– Harry Potter y las reliquias de la muerte by J.K. Rowling (author), Gemma Rovira Ortega (translator)

Shanghai: week 14 (Hong Kong)

Outside the wild boars root
Without bending a bough underfoot

Joanna Newsom

My fight-or-flight response system is heavy on the flight side. One time I was walking with my friend Danica when a big dog behind a small fence startled us with loud snarling. Instinctively, I placed Danica (maybe with a gentle shove) between the fence and me and took off running down the street. Another time, I saw a huge spider crawling on my friend Maren’s shoulder. I screamed and ran away, then screamed again from a safe distance, and wouldn’t even come close enough to tell her there was a spider prancing about on her.

The wiring of my sympathetic nervous system isn’t great for friendships (luckily I have very patient friends), or for being out in nature, because everything in nature is a little bit scary. Which is probably one reason I didn’t finish a 260-mile hike in July with my big brother, and why, when Josh and I came upon a small herd of wild pigs on a trail in Hong Kong, I reflexively ran the opposite direction, bopped off the trail and scrambled down a hill. After a roundabout go of it, we got back to where we would have come to a trailhead had we stayed on the trail, and saw hikers and joggers happily going through the group of pigs. One jogger got out her phone and went right up to a small pig to get a picture. So maybe I didn’t need to panic, after all.

Despite, and because of, the wild pig encounter, that hike in Hong Kong was one of the loveliest of my life. We started the walk from our hotel, wound our way over steep hills, on dirt, concrete, and brick paths, went up so very many stairs, and almost always had a view of green hills and bays with yachts and boats and barges. Our plan was to walk about seven miles from our hotel to a well-known trail called Dragon’s Back, and walk five miles on that trail until it ended at Big Wave Bay. Josh did the navigating using a very useful and mostly precise app called maps.me, but the distance it predicted was not quite accurate.

After eleven miles we hadn’t reached Dragon’s Back yet. We were a little hot and a little under-hydrated and hungry, when we saw stairs leading down to a mostly secluded beach. It was late afternoon and the sun on the sand and water was very inviting, and after getting in the water we sat on the stony beach and ate Lara and Kind bars and dried hawthorn fruit, which is my favorite treat I’ve found here. Shortly after that we found Dragon’s Back and saw more views and paragliders and people. We didn’t make it all the way to Big Wave, but the unnamed, unexpected cove was just as good (or even better, who the heck knows) and at the end of our hike we enjoyed a dusky walk toward our hotel, through a quiet and tiered cemetery, and into bustling Hong Kong.

The next day, we took the Green Mini Bus 40 along the coast to Stanley Bay. I really like seaside towns in the off-season. They are quiet and seem to move a little slower than normal and smell like sea salt. I assume, in addition to it being November, that the protests decreased the number of tourists. We didn’t see any of the protests (and didn’t seek any out, worrying a little about endangering our Chinese visas), and offered (impractical) mental solidarity to them, while enjoying the privilege of being carefree tourists. After a swim in Stanley Bay and a picnic with everything that a picnic should include, we hiked toward Repulse Bay.

It was a shorter hike, about five miles, and the first leg meandered past two Buddhist temples, quiet and with incense burning. We had gone about four miles when we came to some steep stairs that lead to a road that we would follow before jumping onto the last bit of trail. Josh was walking a little ahead of me and suddenly stopped short.

“That is a big mother—” he said, taking a step or two closer to get a better look. Blocking the top of the stairs were a stout wild pig and her two adolescent children. So I said, “Okay, we don’t really need to go to Repulse Bay, bye,” and turned around, because that’s what I do. Luckily, Josh was reluctant to turn back (we were tired and wanted to sit on the beach and were so close), and we waited until we saw the piggy family trot into the woods, then we continued up the stairs. I’m not sure what plans the wild pigs had, but I didn’t want to be included in them, and worried they might like to chase after and then eat a running human, so I made myself go slowly, but was very ready to fly.

And it turns out it was well worth coming close to battling the wild pigs. I swam in sunsetted water— one of the best ocean swims I’ve ever had—and read on the beach, and drank an overpriced vacation coffee and watched the sun do its thing over the hills and ships and water.



Things that I like, pt. 1

ferry-ride-and-jellyfish weekends


bullet train trips to cities with stairs and woods


Tintin store visits with the same friends on different continents


late evening flower purchases from a man on a scooter


fruit-shop cats: different colored eyes and apple-box naps


Star supermarKet! Everything you could ever need, plus the friendliest people


Shanghai: week 9

And Polo answers, “Traveling, you must realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form.”

Invisible Cities

Flying into the Tokyo Narita airport feels like flying into Kansas City, but not in a bad way. Even though I was excited to see Japan (and Asia, for that matter) for the first time as we descended toward Tokyo for a brief layover, I was sort of relieved to see the familiar bunches of trees and quilt-y farms and low-hanging clouds. It made Adventure feel a little more like adventure, which is, to be honest, more my type of outing.

Before leaving I was very eager to move to Shanghai. I felt antsy in Minneapolis and I wasn’t sure What I Wanted to Do (which disappointingly probably means how I wanted to make money), and I am very glad to have come here. I’m excited to explore other parts of China while here, and, in the future, to explore other countries. At the same time, I’m trying to figure out the value of having Experiences and Adventures versus being near people that I know and love.

To be sure, there is a lot that I like about Shanghai. There are bakeries and incredible public transportation systems and Mandarin lessons and fruit shops on every block, and there are tall, lit-up buildings, and parks with their park-cats and their denizens practicing musical instruments. There are the innumerable delightful daily interactions, like when the corner store clerk plopped two Chupa Chup lollipops in our grocery bag on October 31 with a grin and a very heartfelt: “Halloween!”

But China is also far away from a lot of people that I really like (for example, you, seeing as how you’re reading this [hi, Mom and Dad!]).

Shortly after starting my new job, I had a tremulous week of feeling wholly uncertain whether it had been the right decision to come here. I think a lot of that was getting adjusted to a great many things, including a very different type of work (so many children suddenly descended into my life). But even though the novel context magnified the emotions and now I feel much more at ease, I still want to unravel this desire to go out and about and see the world at large when that means geographically distancing myself from familiar and loving people.

I once had a college advisor tell me to abandon traveling because photographs just end up in the trashcan and to become a lawyer instead. I don’t think that there is any inherent merit in traveling over not traveling (in fact, if you don’t like traveling, it can probably be one of the most miserable things to subject yourself to), but I do like it, and it is what I want to be doing right now. It’s more than just photographs (even though I value those—I take dozens of really unfocused pictures a day); it’s about—and this is the part I can’t quite explain to myself—that shapeless genre of Experiencing New Things. I like the joyful struggle of trying to communicate in a new language and I like looking at a menu and pointing to a picture and seeing what I get, and sometimes I even like the jostle of walking among dozens of pedestrians and dodging scooters taking shortcuts across sidewalks.

But I also like, and miss, the smaller adventures of being closer to home: learning to fish and doing crossword puzzles in Broomfield; taking walks and watching fireflies in Columbia; playing pingpong and losing at chess in Lafayette; feeding chickens and eating in the fresh air in Boulder; drinking tea and talking short fiction in Denver; running along the Mississippi in Minneapolis; taking a reluctant dog for a morning walk and stumbling up the Great Sand Dunes in Alamosa.

Maybe it’s just that I’m realizing you have to choose one place to be in at a time, and that’s sort of a bummer when where I’ve chosen to be means being 6,000 miles away from quite a few places that feel like home. So, yeah, I’m glad that things don’t always look very different all the time.