Season of Super Savings for Veteran Singles Day Shopper – Pub’d on China Daily

push cart and a white paperbag

China Daily just published my latest column titled Season of super savings for veteran Singles Day shopper. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve already made my list and checked it twice-my shopping list, that is, for Singles Day, which traditionally falls on Nov 11 each year.

While some have compared Singles Day to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it has since eclipsed those two to generate more sales than both combined, becoming the world’s largest shopping event. It is also the most wonderful time of the year for many shoppers like me, with 2021 marking my eighth consecutive occasion to take part online through Alibaba’s Taobao platform.

After so many years of participating in the shopping spree, I’ve witnessed and experienced how it has evolved over the years, for the benefit of consumers like me.

You can read the full piece here. And if you like it, share it!

P.S.: To those of you participating in the shopping festival, wishing you a very merry Singles Day! 😉

Seeding a Lifelong Love of Autumnal ‘Super Fruit’ – Pub’d on China Daily

sliced pomegranate

China Daily recently published my latest column titled Seeding a lifelong love of autumnal ‘super fruit’. Here’s an excerpt:

The arrival of autumn has left me enchanted once again with its bountiful harvest of pomegranates. And as I savor this gem of the fruit world, I can’t help but reflect on how living in China actually introduced me to the wonders of this unique food.

While pomegranate juice had always been a favorite of mine, for a long time, I couldn’t say the same for the actual fruit. Admittedly, appearances played a big role in my anti-pomegranate prejudices. It’s a bunch of pulpy little seeds, I had thought. How could anyone possibly take pleasure in eating that?

But by chance, my bias was challenged, thanks to a family gift several years ago.

A handful of small, spindly pomegranate trees grow just outside the gate of the family home in rural Zhejiang, and the branches were pendulous with the fruit every fall. So one autumn, my mother-in-law gave me and my husband a bag heaped with pomegranates she had picked herself.

At first, I shunned the seemingly burdensome pile of fruit on our dinner table, as well as my husband Jun’s every attempt to cajole me into taking a bite. But with each passing day, where he continued to nibble on pomegranate and offer me a taste of the seeds, eventually curiosity prevailed.

I popped a handful in my mouth, preparing to be underwhelmed, and instead found myself stunned in the best possible way. The seeds were bursting with that same rich, sweet-tart flavor I had come to cherish about pomegranate juice, except it was superior to anything I had encountered in liquid form. These weren’t a bunch of forgettable, pulpy seeds-they sparkled that day as ambrosial jewels of fruit.

Just like that, one taste converted me into a lifelong fan.

You can read the full piece online — and if you like it, share it.

German Woman Makes Lantern on Mid-Autumn TV Special in China

Sabrina, a German woman with a Chinese husband who has lived in China for eight years, appeared on a TV special on China Central Television Channel 4 to mark the Mid-Autumn Festival. In the segment, which lasts 3 minutes and 30 seconds, she makes a traditional lantern and then showcases her handiwork during an evening walk in a park, all while speaking Mandarin.

You can watch the segment here on Youtube. Or, if you’re in China, catch it on the CCTV website here.

And for those of you in China currently on holiday, wish you a wonderful National Day!

Two-Year Engagement: Italian Woman Saves Up Money Before Meeting Indonesian Fiancee

An Italian woman and Indonesian man meet, fall in love and agree to marry. 

Sounds straightforward enough? But not if you include that the two met online, and that it took two years of hard work and saving money for the young lovers to finally see each other in person.

This pre-pandemic love story, published in the Jakarta Post, still had the power to tug at my heartstrings, with details like this:

Ilaria said she conveyed her plan to marry Dzulfikar to her parents in Italy and that they gave her consent to do so. “For two years, I saved money I got from working in a restaurant in Italy just to come to Indonesia,” said Ilaria.

The full story, which you can read online, includes photos of the two.

Wherever Ilaria and Dzulfikar are, here’s wishing the two of them the happily ever after they deserve!

What do you think of this story?

‘Love Nang’ a Souvenir of Affection from Heart – Pub’d on China Daily

China Daily this month published my column about the “love nang” I carried back from my trip this summer. Here’s an excerpt, which captures the moment when I just boarded my return plane bound for Beijing:

…I was still clutching to my chest a rather unusual package, wondering if it would even fit in the overhead compartment.

It was circular and flat, wider than the car tires on your average sedan, and more than 2 kilograms in weight-too heavy for the plastic bags around it, leaving one set of handles in tatters. Through the layers of plastic bags and the pink brocade covering, I could feel how a few small pieces had already broken off inside. This led me to grip it even tighter, worried it might not survive under the weight of someone’s carry-on suitcase.

After all, this was not your typical souvenir, but rather-as my colleagues had dubbed it-a stack of “love nang“.

Read the full piece here — and if you like it, share it!

My Story Made Front Page of China Daily!

I’m excited to share that my story recently made front page of the China Daily paper! The feature, based on reporting from my recent trip, profiles a number of up-and-coming women I encountered. Here’s an excerpt:

A photograph of 34-year-old Maryam Mamatali is positioned on a wall at a factory run by Nanda New Agriculture Group….

Her smile exudes the quiet confidence of a woman who has risen from working on a milk production line to become manager of an entire workshop.

“Since childhood, I have always been very hardworking. When I joined the company, I was really interested in learning and was a fast learner,” said Maryam, a member of the Uygur ethnic group. “The bosses noticed my progress, so they really believed in me. They felt that I could do this work and shoulder more responsibility, so eventually they made me a manager.”

Maryam, who has been with Nanda for 11 years, said many people admire her for joining one of the largest and most reputable companies in Kashgar.

The job also changed her life in a more personal way-she found love.

“When I joined the company, my husband’s father worked there as a guard. He saw me and introduced me to his son,” Maryam said.

The couple, who dated for just two months before getting married at a ceremony attended by company bosses, now has three children-a son and younger twin daughters.

“This job has been especially good,” said Maryam, whose salary has greatly helped the family. “We have renovated our home into a villa with a small fruit garden. When I have to buy something for my kids, I no longer worry about it, and before winter sets in this year, I’m planning to buy a new car.”

You can read the full story here, along with my reporter’s log from the trip. And if you like them, share them!

The Odd ‘Twilight Zone’ of Not Knowing When I’ll Visit the US Again – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

The group blog WWAM BAM just published my latest piece titled The Odd ‘Twilight Zone’ of Not Knowing When I’ll Visit the US Again. Here’s a snippet:

I have no idea when I’ll return to the US to visit my family.

Writing these words out feels strange enough, let alone allowing the reality to settle into my post-pandemic mind. But it’s the truth. I really don’t know when it might happen.

There are a lot of reasons why it just isn’t feasible, particularly the fact that for foreigners from the US, getting back to China isn’t a sure thing.

Read the full piece here — and if you like it, share it!

‘Blue Bayou’ Movie: Korean Adoptee Faces Deportation from US, with Interracial Family at Stake

Imagine being adopted by US parents, only to learn as an adult you never got US citizenship after all. And now, a criminal record puts you at risk for deportation from the only country you’ve ever known.

This is not a story, but a real nightmare faced by many, including Korean adoptees like Phillip Clay, who took his life after being deported.

Justin Chon highlights this immigration injustice in his latest directorial work Blue Bayou, a heartwrenching drama in which he plays a Korean adoptee with a sketchy past fighting to stay with his family, including his pregnant white wife (portrayed by Alicia Vikander) and her daughter from another marriage.

The movie, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and is set to open in theaters in September 2021, has already landed on Vogue’s Best Fall Movies of 2021 list, with the magazine saying: “the film features some breathtakingly beautiful scenes and colors and one set piece that’s a clear homage to Wong Kar Wai.”

Critics, while hard on the film for its heavy-handed approach, have still praised Chon for raising awareness through the production, with the Hollywood Reporter noting: “…there’s a lot here that’s good, starting with the honorable intention to tell a story about the travesty of immigration law enforcement that tears apart American families.” The film holds a 64% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

You can watch the trailer at Rotten Tomatoes, or on Youtube.

US-China Couple Weds in Beijing with a Little Help from Strangers

I’ve often heard that life is what happens when you’re making plans. Never have we had a more salient reminder of that reality than the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged not only our lives but also our best of plans.

For American Apryl Reagan, a singer and actress in Beijing, and Ma Yinliang, that meant facing a wedding in Beijing where, due to the pandemic, Apryl’s family could not attend in person. So she decided to add a little American flair to the special day by inviting some Americans she didn’t know to join in the ceremony, according to a recent report on the Beijinger:

When asked about her decision to invite strangers, Reagan says that the choice was simple.

“Of course, a wedding is a great place to celebrate our love, but it’s also just a great place to celebrate! And judging by the amount of energy these Americans brought to our group chat, they were guaranteed to make it a party,” explains Reagan. “I also really wanted to give my new Chinese family this opportunity to see how Americans party! But even more than that, sometimes I am afraid they see me as ‘America.’ Since they have never met another American, I worry that anything I do will be seen as what ‘all Americans do.’ So, I also wanted them to be able to have a chance to be around Americans other than me, meanwhile experiencing first-hand some of the cultural differences between an American wedding and a Chinese wedding.”

Americans filled two tables at the Beijing venue — the Palace International Hotel — with many of them meeting the newlyweds for the first time as they went around to personally thank all of the attendees. 

The couple’s romance amid the pandemic actually lifted the hearts of others, as the Beijinger article noted:

Despite the year’s Covid fears and border closures, however, Ma and Reagan kept their hearts open to love. At the ceremony, the maid of honor noted in her remarks that their whirlwind romance inspired many friends present who hoped to one day build a partnership on the same foundation of care and respect. 

You can read the full piece and peruse the lively photos from the evening — which included dancing to the Macarena! — at the Beijinger.

Traveling to Kashgar, Kuqa and Urumchi in Xinjiang for 10 Days

I’m on a 10-day work trip to Xinjiang that includes travel to Kashgar, Kuqa and Urumchi. This marks my first time to visit the far western province of China, so I’m looking forward to experiencing places I’ve read about for years in guides on China. As I’ll be very busy during and after this trip, I’ll be on break from the blog for most of this month.

Wishing you a jubilant July, filled with adventures of your own.