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Celebrating the Moon: A Pre-Pandemic Adventure in China

As the full moon shines in all its glory, memories of celebrations of the past dance in my mind. The Harvest Moon as we call it in “The West” is a special cycle of the moon. It’s the time of year that we prepare for the transition to winter. It’s not surprise reverie strikes me at this time as I feel the daylight of summer slip away, recalling moments of excitement, challenge, romance and tremendous growth.

HUGE thanks to Lucas for the music, and for your beautiful soul, and to Jo-Jo for her free spirit and impeccable ability to show up.

Much respect to China, Taiwan, Japan and all of the other countries who have been so gracious to host me in my travels.I truly am blessed to have felt at home in these foreign lands. Blessed to travel to a country inaccessible to most. Welcome to China!

Below is the tale of my adventures in China during the Mid-Autumn Festival in 2019, through the filter of three years beyond…

August 30, 2019 - Taipei, Taiwan

There was a buzz in the air the hot, wet August air - a feeling of disease, tentative of upcoming travels to China. Tensions were heightening with Hong Kong, and America’s relationship with China was tentative. After a whirlwind visit to my favorite island on Earth, Taiwan, I grabbed my ukulele and good friend and colleague Jo-Jo, and flew of to Shanghai. This was a familiar itinerary at this point - I knew the best airlines, the best airports, cashed in on all the perks of being a frequent flier. With trepidation, we landed at Pudong International Airport in the heart of Shanghai, ready for the two-hour drive to a small in-land industrial city called Kunshan.

August 30, 2019 - Kunshan, China

We met our favorite teacher friend Lucas in Kunshan for the start of another dazzling school year. International tensions being what they were, we all agreed to “lay low” during this trip. The bottle of Japanese whiskey I picked up at the airport had other plans.

The barely-furnished, musty apartment I was provided quickly drove me out with my pals, and we were off for a grand adventure! Much like Vegas, what happens in Kunshan, stays in Kunshan. For the most part…

Transcription (8/21/18 from a journal entry one year prior):
Taipei came & went so fast! Every day filled to the brim with work & social interactions. Surrounded by kindred spirits, teacher brave enough to take the leap into foreign land. So grateful for the family of misfits I have acquired. The changing of the guards has taken away some of my very favorite people: Lucas & Joanna. Such unique, inspiring, endearing souls. For me, the landscape always changes, morphs into something totally new, and entirely special. Life's different when you build a dream team around you. The greatest fortune of my world are the people around me. With a heart full of gratitude and love, I welcome the same in China. A country so big and deep, I've only begun to find the magical parts. May this adventure bring light & joy to all those I touch.

September 2, 2019 - Back to School!

Although everything was familiar after so many trips to this city, something in the air was different…everywhere…with everything…and everyone. There was an eerie sort of caution.

I noticed much more focus on cleanliness & hygiene at the start of the school year - I was grateful to see the city had turned a corner. Hand sanitizer at the schools, trash properly disposed of around town, far less public urination. It was a whole new Kunshan! And I was very ready to explore!

The kids at school were out-of-this-world fabulous!!!

Life at home was…challenging. The stove top especially - when you just want a home-cooked meal after a hard day of work and you can’t get your stove to work, it’s a special level of frustration.

September 6, 2019 - Teacher Appreciation Dinner

Teacher appreciation dinners at the school were always a big deal. It was no surprise that we were asked to perform at the dinner - all of the staff are expected to - but this was my first time! I was super nervous, but had two pro’s on my side. “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston was familiar to Jo-Jo, no stranger to the stage as a talented musician and singer. My dancing partner was none other than The Lucas Salazar, who choreographed the life out of our short 2-minute number.

Many courage drinks later, we did it!

September 7-12, 2019 - A Teacher’s Work is Never Done

Make no mistake, I worked hard EVERY day. Very hard. Working with 3, 4 and 5-year olds in a foreign country that don’t speak your language takes a lot of energy. Tensions were so high were worried about being corralled at bars or arrested for minor infractions. Work hard, play harder!

The hype of the Mid-Autumn Festival was in the air. This celebration as spirited and ubiquitous in China as Halloween is in America, the entire city was a-buzz with a vibrant energy that I hadn’t had the great fortune to witness before.

Transcription (8/27/18 from a journal entry one year prior)
Another day in a surprisingly beautiful China! A light jog around Jintan Park at sunset in the heat of August did my body good. Although I did nothing all weekend, I'm still exhausted starting the week. At least I finally have my health back. Eating subpar asparagus at a subpar Japanese restaurant at least gives me more rest before I head back to my work inside the computer box. 5. more days of China life. More cha the [sic: tea] to survive. Even the tea is subpar. "Good enough" seems to be the Chinese way. Yet almost nothing is good in the sense of being high quality. Third day in a row of dinner alone, though I can't say I'm lonely. I truly value the quiet time to myself. A welcome respite to the madhouse in LA known as Lola. No more home to me than China.

September 13, 2019 - Mid-Autumn Festival

At long last, the Mid-Autumn Festival had arrived. “Laying low” thrown into the canals of Kunshan when the báijiǔ 白酒 came out dinner. Lost to the digital world is a video of me upside-down on a pole in a seedy bar on “foreigner alley.”

The disease all in vain, we had an amazing night, which ended for me with a trail of rose petals to one of the most beautiful homes I had seen in Kunshan with a mysterious gentleman known only as “Fast Eddie.”

September 14, 2019…and beyond…

It started with a scratchy throat, then a full-blown cold descended on me like a train. I remained sick for many months after, but the adventure I have from the remarkable pre-pandemic time in China was well worth the recovery.

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