Friday, September 19, 2014


Yesterday morning some class of mine read an article about UNESCO and its bag of World Heritage sites, and in the end, while the students got to work, I found myself paging through the amazing cultural and physical sites in China and Russia, drooling and fantasizing. The Golden Mountains of Altai. Kizhi Pogost. Lijiang. Mount Wuyi. Mmm.

Later that day, some staff member invited me on a trip to Iran for Christmas, a trip that Ramon had already told me I should come on. I said I'd think about it, knowing that the ancient Persian empire and the adventures that surely awaited my friends as they went would be incredible and beautiful, and also knowing that I would not be going.

Tonight, as I walked home with a coworker from Serbia who happened to live in my building, we connected over the joys of the nomadic lifestyle, the go-wherever-the-wind-takes-you approach to living, carpe diem, "It's not how much money you make but how many stamps you've got in your passport," absorb and experience and live it up. Sweet to talk with a person who'd come to China to do all those things.

Here I sit now, thinking about where my life is headed. I am excited about where the future appears to be taking me, into a stable relationship and into a future that is pretty grounded and hopefully is aiming for marriage and family. Where will I be next year? Where will we be next year? China? America? Some place that offers opportunities for both Ellen and I to occupy the same space and be occupied, each with some fulfilling pursuit, if all goes as planned.

Am I ready for that place?

During most of the past seven months, a time spent pursuing and pouring into a relationship in order to make it work, I would definitely have said yes. I want to be in one place, enter a new phase of life, focus, live for more than just myself and my own ends. Do life with another person. And I am still there, deep down.

But old habits die hard. There is still that urge to go, to explore, to check out new places, to be in new situations and new scenarios, to get lost and find my way back, to find "the new." To check off every UNESCO site on China's list, and then on Asia's. And then on the world's. I doubt that urge will ever die.

Maybe a more healthy way to look at things is to think that since I have so rarely found myself bound for a relationship-centered, modern-adult, family-oriented life, this new, uncharted territory will also be full of exploration, new places, new situations and new scenarios, getting lost and finding not my but our way back, finding "the new." Every day. Perhaps an even more healthy outlook is to realize that a lot of places I want to go and things I want to experience can, in the future, morph into places that we want to go and into things that we want experience. Experiencing the journey with someone you love is undoubtedly more awesome and fulfilling than experiencing it alone. And I have seen plenty of amazing couples do just that. Pete and Kelly. Mike and Hilary. Even my own parents struck out for Scotland and Europe when they were, like, twenty-four and twenty-three or so. Go get after it.

But I also know that not everything that is on my to-do list is going to make it onto our to-do list. This is part of relationships, that is part of sacrifice and making decisions and committing to something great, I suppose. Letting smaller items fall by the wayside for the greater goal.

So I will pursue something great, we will pursue something great. And it will be good, and it will be the right thing to do.

There will just be, sometimes, not often, moments of unrest. Not of doubt or dissatisfaction, but just that restlessness. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Back to Beijing

All good things must come to an end, though. On August 6th I left the glorious Midwest and many folks whom I love, and a plane deposited me back in Beijing for my fourth year at BWYA. In the past month, a million things have happened. Ten of the most prominent items taking up my time include: 

(1) Classes at school. Three courses I have taught before (English 8 Language A, English 9 Language B Phase 4, English 10 Language B Phase 4) and one that I have not (DP1 English B High Level). All are interesting. The kids are awesome, the content is decent. Business as usual. 

(2) Community and service. In some year groups, this volunteering program is changing quite a bit, so that means changing people's previous image of it and getting them to view it in a new, fresh way. And making more resources. 

(3) Hanging out with other teachers from BWYA who are neat. There are plenty of them. Ramon and Nallely and I get dinner often. Liesl and Shannon had an afternoon brunch. David Haysom invited me to coffee. All good. 

(4) Investing in a small group. Or, in three dudes who make me laugh and who make me grow spiritually, depending on the day. Sam: Ugandan lion-hunter. Ben: Missourian face-melter. Ali: English water-master. The jokes don't stop with these three men. 

(6) Playing bass at church. Nothing new. Lots of good jams done been kicked out recently, including a sweet worship night a few Friday nights ago and a rainy jam session a few Sunday nights ago. 

(7) Trying to study Chinese. Nothing new. Lots of language exchange sessions ("Chinese/English Corner") with a coworker. Good stuff. 

(8) Running some miles. Regardless of the pollution, I give it a go a few times a week. The workouts began on the track by my school but, due to being boring there, got moved to everywhere in Wangjing. I like it. 

(9) My apartment got decorated. By me. It looks and feels more like a place I can sit/lay comfortably: more character, more atmosphere, more me. Come over. 

(10) Spending time with a young woman known to many as Ellen Wang. Cool lady. She bought me a bow tie. I bought her a stuffed elephant with a Twins hat. Duh. She bought my mom a very pretty scarf. My parents bought her an Emily's Lebanese Deli t-shirt. Duh! Unbelievably, there is more to our relationship than buying stuff, too. 

There's more, like not sleeping enough and feeling stressed because much is happening, but that is standard. Here's some visuals to round things out: 

Meat consumption/overdose in Huairou.

Moose and other wildlife are being sold at IKEA.

This is a bow tie. It's purple. It's a Friday. 

Some shirts from Emily's Lebanese Deli in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A bright moon high above the clear skies of 夏都家园.

Playing a rousing game of "Spot It!" in Langfang, Hebei Province. 

Bass and amp in tow, umbrella overhead, rain everywhere, I head from Yonghegong Station to the Krives' apartment for a Sandbox Session.

Mid-week WeChat photo collage.

Red, black, white. Do you have any questions?

The sun falls on Wangjing Soho, on the 2014 Mid-Autumn Day, September 8.

Chaoyang Park. Warm day. Pretty lady. Bearded man. Paddle boat. All the pieces are in place.

Night falls on 国风北京, on the 2014 Mid-Autumn Day, September 8