Since I'm tidying up today, I started filtering through my navy linen passport wallet removing air ticket stubs, old residency permits, passport photos, receipts, business cards, etc. In my actual passport I counted my entries and visas, which amount to the following:


1 scary, giant American homeland security stamp
3 Thai entry/exit stamps
1 entry/exit stamp to Hungary
1 entry/exit to Italy
1 entry/exit to Czech Republic
1 small Turkish visa
2 pages of Cambodian visas
1 full page Vietnamese visa
1 entry/exit to Bulgaria
1 entry/exit to Romania
1 entry/exit to Slovakia


7 full pages of Chinese visas and countless stamps, filling the majority of my extra pages.


(photos taken by Ariel)

About two weeks ago outside of our apartment, a lamb was slaughtered. This is atypical in the center of a big city like Beijing, but still happens. The man with a white cap is a 回小民族, (Hui minority) who are converts to Islam during the days of the Silk Road.
Last night I had a dinner party and invited a few friends. The menu was a simple salad, stewed rabbit in prunes and beer on pasta and a coffee cake. Lots of chatting, eating and wine drinking later and I've been recovering most of today.

Hours ago, Silvia treated me to a much wanted foot massage at this place right by our house. The woman who massaged my feet was impossibly strong, and so my feet have become wonderful jelly. She also did "heat cupping" on my heels and trailed the cup down the sole of my feet, which is like a high powered vacuum pulling as hard as possible. Really great!


(From an ad on The Beijinger)

I'm looking for a language exchange partner on a popular posting site in Beijing, which is where I found this awkward image. I'm opting for this rather than a tutor, mostly because it's free. However, the majority of the respondents thus far are either too pushy, professional, or cutesy girls looking for boyfriends.

Teaching is going well, to a point. My classes are comprised of woefully mixed levels, especially in my 8th grade classes. I had a show-offish student ask me how to spell "ideology" today, this in a class that really can't form sentences. Again, levels are terribly uneven so you're forced to employ this sink or swim tactic. Maybe my mood is off because the weather's been teeth-gnashingly freezing.

Silvy and I went earlier this week to see Jens Lekman at MAO Live, a venue that is a brisk walk from our apartment. (We're central.) It was fun and everyone sang along.



Since we both don't work Tuesday morning, Silvy and I decided to wake up early and make it to the fabric market outside of the city center to pick up nice patterns for drapes. This friendly woman from Hubei province took us back on a bicycle rickshaw, something rare in the city center. We tipped her and asked for her photo.



Ariel posted a lot of photos of our apartment on his blog. Check them out and be sure to bookmark his page.



(On the lower left hand corner is a coffeshop. Near 苏州街 in extremely west Beijing)



From our north facing balcony on a particularly sunny day.
(Click to enlarge and pan)

I live in a 小区, or gated community, like the overwhelming majority of Beijingers. Most of these neighborhoods used to be 四合院儿 ("
si he you-are"), or traditional north Chinese four room courtyard homes. Our neighborhood is called 香饵胡同 ("she-ang are who tong") which means "fragrant cake alleyway." A hundred years ago, our alleyway was the place to get yummy steamed flour cakes, apparently.

--Address 房子地址--

Xianger hutong
5 hao lou, 11 dan yuan, 501 shi
Dongcheng district
Beijing, China




Yesterday Silvia, Xin, and I went to the newly opened Qianmen main street, a street with a long history but which had been neglected or bulldozed over the years. Construction hasn't been too long, or at least it seemed to have started a few months after we got to China, but the results are impressively impossible in the way that Chinese construction speed can be.

Although not totally finished, the street will soon be a great alternative to nearby 王府井 (wangfujing), which is the designated shopping zone for tourists only under the actual Communist era near the venerable, Stalinist architecture Beijing Hotel to the east of 天安门 (Tiananmen). Qianmen main street will focus on being a mostly historical recreation with famous tea houses, dumpling shops, hat makers, cobblers, silk qipao dressmakers, etc. while Wangfujing will continue to expand on it's Oriental Plaza, one of the largest malls in Asia, with less state owned eyesores and more Nike museums. (Really.) It's a very wise investment and helps to break up the hideous crowds that seem to focus on a few areas in what is the most visually impressive part of Beijing.

Besides the walking and light shopping, we also had Tianjin's famous 狗不理 dumplings ("Even the dogs ignore (him)" dumplings) in a Qianmen shop. The tongue-in-cheek name comes from one of two possible stories: it's ether the original chief's childhood name, which is designed to scare off spirits or illness that would attack him, or was a joke about his attitude or personal appearance.

The dumplings had been given an English name just in time for the Olympics: "Go Believe," which is similar in pronunciation, but lacks purpose, interest and undermines the colorfulness of the actual name. (Do they actually check any English they use anywhere here?) At any rate, they are deservedly famous; the ones we had were filled with shrimp, pork and sea cucumber and had a rich, fragrant, seafood taste.


正阳门 (Zhengyangmen), which is the traditional 15th century main south gate into the central walled city of Beijing. A huge archery tower, rebuilt with German elements in the 19th century, stands directly north of this entrance. The wall that now stands used to circle the entire central city, along with a moat, during the Medieval era.

A warm dog on a side street in part of the restored area.

The restored 前门大街 (qianmen main street) directly south of the 正阳门. The restored street is a copy of the same street in the early 19th century during the end of the Feudal era, and many of the original buildings on this street were left to decay once the Communists took over. It is brand new and starting to fill up with businesses, which is impossibly different from the surrounding 前门 neighborhood; all decaying state-owned businesses, abandoned buildings and hutongs.

Me with friend Xin, who I met in Vietnam.

Silvy in front of the resorted Qianmen main street. This would have originally lied outside of the main gates, so it would have been filled with shops, restaurants, banks, wealthy homes and businesses.



The trio plus our friend Ruby went to a party held at a friend's apartment. The place was really upscale with an actual bathtub and balcony furniture, things that are nearly foreign to me in my string of cheaper, Chinese apartments.

一个故事:A few days ago while riding the bus, I gave up my seat to a woman who looked really tired, who was clinging weakly to the bar above her head. We started a conversation very much in the mold of conversations I've had many times before: Where do you study? What are you doing in China? Are you French? (I get this one a lot) When I told her I was American, she asked which city. She didn't recognize Miami, but when I explained I was from the southern part of America she excitedly told me about a book she'd been reading about, as far as I could understand, the movement of Northerners to the South and a lot of loss in a family. She attempted the English name, which I couldn't understand, and so I handed her a piece of paper. On it she wrote: "Gone with the Wind" and 漂风, meaning something like "drifting in the wind." It was somehow surprising and cute.

My current life is a lot of studying, a bit of painting, and not spending my limited money. Tonight I'm heading to a German art event with my friend, Xin.



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I'm here in an Internet cafe looking for part time, very basic tutoring work. There are a lot of ads up and a lot of tutoring companies rushing to find teachers, as usual. I'd like to freelance, so hopefully that'll work out. I'm only looking to teach about 10-12 hours a week for the next few months while I concentrate more fully on classes.

My life here is great, very much back to some kind of normal. The apartment still needs a lot of work, but is at least clean and feels like our home now. We have a very IKEA dining room set-up, but it's really very welcome and I'm glad we decided to spring for a more expensive apartment with a high roof and space in spades.

Classes are just great. My teacher is jokey and speaks slowly and clearly. A lot of tough Kazakh guys, a shy Colombian girl, two even more shy Korean girls, a Brazilian with a terrible speaking accent and a Costa Rican guy who seems constantly frustrated are randomly present in my class. The pace is very, very fast, but I'm trying to stay caught up. (比如"跟得上"是一样的意思,是就记得生词.)


Silvia, Anna and Ariel at Nanluoguxiang, a great walking street of cafes and shops near the Central Drama Academy.

The messy, not-moved-in-yet living room with kitchen, bath and two bedrooms nearby. (Every Chinese kitchen does not have a refrigerator inside and never has room for one, so it's always in the hall or living room near the kitchen.)

The currently very cluttered, but actually very spacious top floor with two great balconies, high ceilings and plenty of space to paint large.

Class notes.


A lot has happened.

We have a apartment now, actually the penthouse, in a massive, very Chinese apartment block in the old city center. Wooden floors, two stories tall, three bedrooms, two bath and lots and lots of studio space for painting. I'm actually going to finally paint bigger since I really have the space for it now. It's by far the nicest place we've rented in China and the three of us completely love it, although it's a bit more money. (2000RMB each for a much less sparse, cell block, cheaper, concrete and fluorescent overhead lighting deal like we had at Dongzhimen.) Tomorrow we move all our stuff, which is currently in storage in a hospitality management school's dormitory, although I don't know why. I'm so happy we made this decision for a nicer place and we've already paid three months up front, so no money worries.

For work, it's going to be simple. There is an even bigger lack of foreigners than before, it seems, and I've already gotten job offers even though I haven't started looking yet. I want to work less than before, and since my pay was too low for my last job, I think I can get more for my hours with tutoring or part time school teaching.

In more interesting news, I started Intermediate Chinese classes full time and absolutely love my teacher. She's funny and witty and constantly proposes marriage and dating advice to all the male students; anything to get the rest of the bookwormy, mostly South American and Kazakhstani class to talk. I never brag about my own abilities, but I have the best pronunciation in the class, by far. I am surprised as some of the students who are going to major Chinese language universities for over a year that know so many words and have great grammar, (which I don't) but sound terrible and mispronounce everything when they speak. However, I also get nervous too easily and speak far too slowly, but I've been way too hard on myself as far as pronunciation goes.

We don't have a working Internet connection yet, so until we do posting will be sparse.



And so, we're all together in Beijing. My last days in Cambodia were incredible and I love that country very much. Afterwards, I flew from Bangkok; the protestors around Dusit park were broken up, and Kao Sarn road was crowded with tourists. Southeast Asia was a great, albeit longer than planned, trip.

It's strange to be back, but instantly familar and nice. The trio of us went apartment hunting today and will continue more tomorrow. Silvia and Ariel are jetlagged, but managing to juggle work. I lingered in a teahouse cracking open sunflower seeds and reading, waiting for their afternoon classes to end.


shopping cart
oil on canvas
4x6 inches


Chad bought a few things last February at Lucky's Oriental Market the day before I flew back out to Beijing. I remember the day being bittersweet. Forgive the glare.


So, news: I'll be in Beijing on the 26th. I should get my visa either Monday or Tuesday, so it's not an issue of rushing to Bangkok right after I get my passport back. (Yes, my flight's out of Bangkok due to economy, but no one is to worry.)

Soon this blog will belong to China again, to that life I had nearly three months ago. More apartment hunting then exotic sights, more practicalities than paintings, more job hunting than musings. I can't believe I've been on this aimless, drifting, beautiful trip for so long. Travel like this is a gift and I encourage everyone who's able to do it.

Possibly a sign, Ariel's laptop crashed, meaning thousands of pictures from months ago in China and from Vietnam are lost. I've saved a few, but most are gone. Somehow this doesn't upset me as much as I'd expect. At least I have some nice, incredibly low res images on this bog and lots sloshing around in my brain.

As usual, more to come.


There are many non-for-profit or community friendly restaurants in and around Siem Reap that donate profits to build school, provide wells for villages and the like. One such place, The Butterfly Garden restaurant, is located near my hotel and has thousands of butterflies buzzing around while you eat. The problem: they seem to be constantly dying. The second time I went to this place was a massacre, with wing damaged butterflies twitching in corners, huge yellow and red butterflies slowly expiring, surprisingly loudly, on the garden tiles. I know that they don't live long, but it seemed like something was particularly wrong. Mass butterfly deaths are rather disturbing.



I pressed one in my book.


The Bell Project
oil on canvas
4x6 inches


For those of you who were there, mom hosted a bell music project that created a complete cacophony while we were all sitting on a pretty carpet. It was one of the highlights of visiting home last February. (note: The light on the upper right hand corner is a error on my part from the lamp I was using.) I'm really liking the small paintings again and have a third coming up soon.

I love it here, but I miss everyone, especially a certain tall someone with big ears and fuzzy hair. I'm writing a short story about waiting out my Chinese visa here in Siem Reap, which I'll post in the future.

In unrelated news, I'm excited about dinner. There is this small Thai place I just found where I can get a delicious fried snake head fish topped with green mango salad for $2.50. Simple pleasures.


Korean holiday package tourists hurriedly leaving Bantey Srei, north of Angkor Wat.

The Cambodian countryside at dusk.

Cloth seller

Waterfall near an incredible site; thousands of 1000+ year old phallic carvings, or lingas, in the actual riverbed.

Hideous, giant ants covering the rainforest near the northern temples. One bit me and it hurt terribly.

A worker in the "Lady Temple," or Bantey Srei.

The beautiful hills and rainforest area north of Siem Reap. Sandy and I hiked for a few thousands meters to get to a special Angkor "temple" carved into the riverbed.

Some of the before mentioned riverbed carvings. These stretched for a few hundred meters down the river, although much has been worn away or damaged.


In other news...

YESTERDAY, I sent my entire hideous Chinese visa application (all 6 pages with printouts of flights, hotels and travel plans plus my precious passport.) to a service center in Texas. The shipping was really expensive with DHL, but safe and trustworthy. Within two weeks I should receive everything back, along with a 60 or, hopefully, 90 day renewable visa.

TODAY, I met an American girl who lives and works in Siem Reap. She invited me to visit her modern apartment that she shares with her boyfriend in a nearby village, which has a pool and a nice view, so I may take up the offer.

TOMORROW, I have a Khmer language lessons with a monk at Wat Bo temple. He's going to teach me the alphabet and some basic phrases. I'm looking in the markets for a tape recorder, but the prices are high and I skeptical of their authenticity. Other adventures are planned, including going with Meth and spending the night in a disputed Khmer temple near the Thai border, an uphill impossible thing with no ticket counters. Hopefully it's possible.

ALSO, I've been wandering the city and it's surrounding villages, eating, drinking bad coffee, doing crosswords, writing (surprisingly), painting less and watching too much of the National Geographic Channel.


Motorbike family

Wat Bo temple, Wat Bo village

Sandy gives an English book as a gift

Me and my new Aussie friend, Sandy on Meth's tuk-tuk

Houses on stilts, Tonle Sap lake

Fellow traveler, Leena from Austria
and my Cambodian friend, Sa Meth

I've been having an incredible time in Cambodia and am glad to be away from the pleasant, but Disney-worldesque carnival that is Bangkok.

I can't sum up Cambodia without sounding cliche, so I'll stick to description that borders on cliche anyway: Cambodia has had a terribly dark century but is now experiencing some profits from the tourism around the breaktaking Khmer wats and exotic culture of this place. It's still entirely a nation of farmers with decaying French colonial architecture in the cities and wooden houses on stilts or shacks made from abandoned debris in the countryside. The air is musky with fermented fish sauce and hard water buffalo cheese stored in plastic tubs and wooden barrels in the villages that dot this landscape. Naked children play in streams, some filled with cellophane wrappers, wadded paper, foul things and soda cans. Men wear sarong while hauling firewood and women mash papaya and slice vegetables for dinner on open air porches. Older women have krama scarves tied around their sweaty foreheads while they lug baskets filled with fried crabs with chili wrapped in banana leaves. At the end of the day, workers dredging wells sing Cambodian covers of Thai and Chinese pop songs in outdoor, impromptu karaoke sessions. Gaggles of children wearing uniforms and sandals rush into non-for-profit schools in the morning to study English and math while sitting on wooden benches. It's crushingly poor, but so beautiful.

I'm privileged to be here.


Traditional Cambodian porch

Mr. Meth's motorbike

The neighbor's baby, whose name is pronounced "Lee Na"

Watching TV



Yesterday I met up with my old tuk-tuk driver (a tuk-tuk is like a motorcycle rickshaw) from when the three of us went to Angkor Wat. He, Mr. Meth, took me to his family's house to eat dinner and then out to drink. I met his mother, who is a nun, and was primed beforehand on how to greet her in Khmer and wai to her. His family makes extra money off of a betel nut plantation behind their house. It's a lot of boiling and peeling then slicing before you can chew the soft insides, which have huge amounts of caffeine and work as an appetite suppressant. Chewing it is not although unpleasant.

Being the only white guy in the village, the locals came to say hello, the children practiced their English and I ate more than once. The night was cool, the palms swayed and the hum of prayer and conversation came in from nearby homes.


Red Shorts
oil on canvas
4x6 inches


More to come...
Back in Cambodia.
So I'm back in Siem Reap, Cambodia to see more of the Angkor Temple complex and some of the surrounding villages. The city itself is a tourist town with lots of comforts and I'm around a 10 minute walk outside of it. It's the wealthest area in Cambodia, I'm supposing, which is still not saying much, but doesn't feel as sad as other parts of the country.
I'm near the French cultural institue and some NGO schools and groups. It's great to see kids leaving class and their moms and dads picking them up on motorbikes and zipping back to their wooden houses on stilts. It's still so completely traditional here; women wear sarong and carry baskets of baguette (former French colony...) on their heads while the men work the fields.
View from my hotel in Wat Bo village, Siem Reap province, Cambodia

Karaoke Laundry, Cambodia

Siem Reap City, filled with tourism

Breakfast and crosswords at The Blue Pumpkin


Dad in art school

Chad and Catalina



(Again, forgive the quality problems if they exist. The middle painting might have a high contrast issue due to the poor quality of the monitor I'm working with.)

The first is a picture of my father in an art school ID photograph. The second is a highly embellished copy of a photo booth picture. I've been into this idea of decoration and patterning, and so I added some to the background of Silvia's image, which I think improves it immeasurably. There is something vital and fun about it now, more explosive.

I'm working a lot on repainting the portrait of Ariel in a more stoic, expressionless kind of face study way. It reminds me of a folky painting of an American GI in Japan during the occupation that I once had hanging in my room in Miami. Here are the results so far.

detail of Ariel

I painted the background in a deep, hunter green, which is nearly impossible to tell on this monitor display since it appears both too contrasty and dark. (I need a calibrated monitor or a mac!) I enjoy trying completely new ways of painting, even at the risk that I won't have a specifically signature style. I'm thinking of adding a tight, patterned background to this one as well, but I'm going to shelf it for a little while.

Let me know what you all think.



Isa buys me a drink

blood oranges

Some paintings I've finished over the past few days. I'm going to do a few portraits since I have a few new passport and ID photos to work from. Also I can flesh them out more satisfyingly and less aggravatingly.

The middle one may need work. It's, by far, the most worked of the three. My limbs are jaundiced, but I need to let this painting sit for a while. The "flash" effect is in the painting itself and not a result of my digital camera.