Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shanghai: Halloween

There was no excuse for my laziness and utter apathy. It was 6:00 Halloween evening and I was collapsed on my couch, unwilling to move after an arduous week at work. Some friends stopped by, put a beer in my hand, and began discussing what my costume should be. All of the usual getups for the unprepared were mentioned: homeless person, punk-rocker, or California Raisin (i.e., tights and a garbage bag stuffed with newspapers). None of these were acceptable. There was a witch's hat available, so I consented to some heavy eyeliner, pulled on a black dress, and jumped into a cab.

The evening's destination was a club hosting a Clash cover band. There are many magazines and websites catering to the expats in Shanghai, and their reporters were out in full force. Before I could order a drink I was accosted by three magazine photographers, all in rapture over my costume. Not long after that came all of the glittery, cute Chinese girls wanting their picture taken with me.

My friends, all in far more imaginative costumes than myself, were bewildered by my popularity. I wondered myself why I was getting all of the attention. Is it that witches are iconic, a Halloween staple? Was I, at that moment, the embodiment of western Halloween tradition? Or was it the irresistible way I tilted my pointy hat and smiled wide for the camera? I hope that the next issue of City Weekend will have the answer.

Download Shanghai dispatch #2 as a PDF

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kyoto: Seven years later, half a world away, closer than ever

Sept. 13th

It is a weird time to be an American citizen abroad right now. The election is big news here. There is coverage of it on the news shows and in the newspapers. I have been reading the coverage of both conventions and the aftermath on the web.

(The Japanese version of the BBC is NHK. They are completely publicly funded. An NHK representative comes around once a year and if you have a TV in your home you pay a fee. No questions. There are no advertisers.)

The world is watching America. I caution anyone who thinks otherwise. The September 11th memorial was covered. There was even a documentary of the events from September 11th to the Iraq war. I was a bit surprised because it was on TV in Japanese with English subtitles. The sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995 came right to mind. The trains and subways are the life lines of every city here. Spurred on by the anniversary of September 11th, I found myself talking to the people around me, and their terror and fear sounded the same as mine had been. I remember every moment of that day, in clear detail. What does it mean that I am comforted by talking and sharing with a person here, just as much as those that lived through it with me?

Read the rest by downloading Kyoto dispatch #2 as a PDF