Here in China, we’re experiencing the worst nationwide COVID-19 outbreak ever since the pandemic began.
Of course, “worst” might be subjective for those of you who live in a country that has been continually ravaged by COVID-19 since the pandemic first swept across the globe.
As I write this post, in China we’re seeing around 1,500 to 2,000 new confirmed cases and over 2,000 asymptomatic ones across the nation per day. That’s in contrast to what previously used to count as a “severe” outbreak — around 100 to 200 confirmed cases daily nationwide.
A heavy “goose feather” snowfall had dusted the landscape outside our window, drawing my husband out of bed with a childlike thrill as he stood there, aiming to capture the magic of the moment in the lens of a camera.
And of course, he couldn’t help deeming it a propitious thing, with that traditional Chinese saying: 瑞雪兆丰年 (ruì xuě zhào fēng nián) — auspicious snow heralds a good year.
Such a warm embrace of snow deep into February would surely find a chilly reception in my hometown of the Cleveland, Ohio area in the US.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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“.
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.”
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.
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.
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