Three smoking sticks in my hand

Recently, my friend’s mom has been gravely ill, so last Saturday I decided to burn some incense at a temple, thirty kilometers outside of Suzhou (太平禅寺 in Taiping Town). And all the time while doing this, I wasn’t sure whether I actually believed this works, but I also wasn’t sure whether that mattered or not. […]

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How to know whether you’ve found a good language teacher

I’ve done over 600 class hours learning Mandarin Chinese, the vast majority with teachers from GoEast, but also with several from other schools, freelance teachers, or simply Chinese people functioning as teacher but without the proper education for it. Throughout these lessons, I’ve been making notes about my learning observations and my relationship with teachers. […]

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Healing

This week, I removed all antigen test photos from my phone. For over two months, we had to do self-tests and share them in the building’s WeChat group, and cleansing my phone of them felt almost therapeutical. It’s not just our phones that are healing, so are we. Now we have our freedom back for […]

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Long distance calls while looking out of the window

I haven’t traveled to the Netherlands now for almost 3 years, hindered by 1) insane flight ticket prices 2) two or three weeks of quarantine 3) insecurity of whether I can make it back to China if I get covid abroad. Compared to if I’d be living in the Netherlands, of course this influences my […]

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A jar of stones, sand & water

There’s this famous anecdote of a professor who fills a glass with rocks, pebbles, then with sand, and then adds water, and there’s some life lesson in that. Well, I think Shanghai is such a jar as well. Everything is decomposed on the ladder of wealth. On the top people are buying mansions and supercars […]

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Buying poultry

An old guy says: “The top one, give me a big one. No no no, the one to the left”, to which an old lady yells: “C’mon it’s all the same.” The next person wants half a roasted duck: “A small one please”, but when the staff shows a tiny duck she’s: “No no no […]

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Chinese language in The Wire

During the Shanghai lockdown, we took up watching The Wire for the first time. We even joked we were released too soon (after 61 days) because we only finished the final season a few days after our release. We semi-binged it with Chinese Hanzi subtitles, under the guise of making it more educational. It’s interesting […]

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Day one

Today we had sushi, walked, and cycled. The best part is seeing everyone outside & friends sharing photos on WeChat and knowing that they feel the same relief. It’s only shot with my phone, but I wanted to document the streets, even if only for myself: Being back very quickly feels normal — familiar at […]

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We’re out

And just like that, we’re out after 61 days. The baoans have been letting people slip out — hours before midnight — saying “Don’t go too far”. People are on the street, energized, happy, looking at everything for the first time. Stores are open or stocking up for tomorrow’s opening. It feels monumental, the way […]

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Should you learn Mandarin despite China’s zero covid policy?

There’s a huge overlap between politics, culture, and language. And even though I’d like to focus on the latter, China’s future will also affect many potential Mandarin learners — especially those not in China now, but looking to study or work in China in the future. Regardless of whether you agree with zero covid or […]

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