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little did I know, about Turkey

Such as: Turkey is the fourth largest Facebook country in the world, and tulip originated from this country. I also did not know about Turkish food. During the past four days, I’ve gone through a culinary fast course. And I am in love with tastes.

Day 1 – Ciya

This restaurant, located in a busy alleyway in the Kadikoy area (Asia side), was small and crowded. There was no menu. Food was displayed in the cafeteria style near the entrance.  Most waiters did not speak English. So it took us a while to find out how to order. Appetizers were self-served and weighted by the plate. Main course can be chosen in half or full portion, and brought to the table after being ordered at the counter. The restaurant was buzzing with activities. Under the seemingly crazy business, guests were greeted, seated, attended to, and served.

The food looked simple, but had flavors I had never tasted before. There was a pickled vegetable dish so unique that I could not recall anything tasted similar. I asked the waitress for the name. She was not sure. A few minutes later the manager came and explained the dish. It was made from a bush unique to the region, grown in soil irrigated by both fresh and salt water. I told him I was impressed by his knowledge. He simply said that understanding food was his job.

I could feel this place was filled with such love for not fancy but just good food. I didn’t want to leave even after finishing everything on the table. Just as I was wondering what else to taste, I saw Lahmacun, a thin crust topped with minced meat, and knew I just got to have one. It did not disappoint.

Coming out of the restaurant, we ran into a corner shop where Baklava glowed in warm light behind the glass window. Four pieces cost less than $3. Tasty, juicy, fresh, and deadly sweet ;).

After the desert, my colleague and I walked toward the water front in the cool summer breeze. On the street, a few teenagers stood around a mussel stand, eating, talking and joking with the stand owner. The stand owner, a boy with a shy smile, noticed my curiosity and camera lens, handed me one mussel. The mussel was stuffed with rice and spice, cooked in its own shell. I offered him one lira but he refused to take my money for just a single try. When I insisted, he gestured me to give the money to the teenagers, and went on handing me the biggest mussel he had.

We told our first self-guided food experience to our local colleagues next day. They beamed with happiness in knowing we had really enjoyed their native taste.

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You know you’re in Zurich when

  • The sparkling water is called “fuzzy”, while the still water is “silenced”.
  • It took you 10 minutes to figure out how the gym locker works. A coin is hidden inside. Insert the coin into a slide to activate the lock. Then lock from outside and take the key on a wrist band with you.
  • Water cooler dispenses water at room temperature, icy cold, as well as fuzzy.
  • Nobody checks the ticket on short-distance trains.
  • Dollar worth less.
  • Everyone dresses up for dinner.
  • Gentlemen help the ladies with their coats.
  • Chinese stir-fried rice from a small take-away costs close to $20.
  • You hear birds singing outside the office window. In US you’re surrounded by the parking lots.
  • The train is packed, clean, and on time.
  • Sunday shopping? No way. You’ll be lucky to find a restaurant open.
  • Riders “park” their horses outside the bar, and have a beer.
  • Smart car does not look ridiculous anymore.
  • Hotel left this note on my bed. “Ideas should be clear, and chocolate thick.”
  • Dried meats are tasty. So is boiled egg.

Spin 旋 – Chinese ceramics

喜欢了新都里无二的瓷器这么久,终于有机会到Spin去。很不显眼的地址,进的屋去,软软的黄色射灯下,似空又不空的放着瓷器。风格,依然是减一便无了。 不管是大件小品,件件之中竟有些同样的味道。我见了那外层不上釉的粗糙,那釉红一笔的确定,那将极圆做成的随意,不竟伸手一一触摸。地方虽有艺廊的灯光和 摆设,但却不是纤尘不染的高高在上。屋子的中间两张大台,铺着包装的纸张等等。屋里摆放着博物馆里的皮沙发,可茶几上也堆着杂乱的东西。还可以闻见烟味。 我进门时,并无人同我打招呼。等我一圈看下来,也没人来打扰我。倒是有个穿着中装棉袄的中年人,问了我一句:“你楼上看过了吗?”
“没有。”
“好的在楼上。楼下的不算什么。”
“是吗?!”

上的楼去,一屋的瓷与紫砂,只我一个人细细品来。看完了一圈,坐在靠墙的黑色沙发凳上,对着满屋在灯光下闪烁的静。感觉像在纽约大都会博物馆的一角,坐在同样的黑色沙发凳上,对着偌大的玻璃墙,墙外中央公园冬天的树木轮廓,墙内顶天立地的一尊非洲雕塑。
如果满屋子的东西你都想拥有,选择倒容易了。给你带来一丝丝不同感觉的那个。有些,要大的空间来显。有些,不可再多一笔或少一笔,完美的让我有点负担。我 最后挑的那个,斜放的立方体挑一支树干或花草,在我的白色小柜上。每天醒来看到,是可以天天承受的完美和变化。

东西在包装的时候,和那位中装的先生聊了几句。他在整理一排紫砂的茶盏。我说我一直想来是因为自己也做陶器。我拉得了这个胚,修的出这个底,却做不到这么 干净。他说紫砂却不能拉胚,土质不同。这样聊了开去,竟坐下来吃了一杯茶的功夫。才发现茶几上堆的,都是他常用的东西。他烟一根接着一根的抽着,我虽然这 几天的被烟熏的喉咙痛,但谈着谈着竟不觉得。说到中国的缺乏独创性,说到文人的不能操守,说到现代文化的空大,说到瓷器的深,说到他要将Spin这个牌子 和意念做100年。他给了我一本书。我回来读了,才知道他就是郭先生。

上海,虽然每年回来让我牵挂的东西越来越少,Spin会成为一个新的理由。这个城市和国家,由郭先生这样的独立思想者,将传统和现在天衣无缝的过渡,在浮躁和大众思维中,开了一个天窗。
明年我再访时,希望郭先生能允许我到他的作坊里去看一看。

我回的家来,喉咙完全发炎。文人也是有他们的任性。就是这种任性,让他们在众多的噪音中,看清一条路。

To remember who we were all once

the emotions were pure, unfiltered, unpretentious.

Babies

Why custom & social shopping will both work in China

My mom’s generation is a “lost fashion” generation. In her best youthful days, the country was going through the cultural revolution. Individualism was suppressed, not only in thinking and speech, but also in clothing. The whole country was clothed in gray, black, or army green. Any show of lace, color, or design was considered “corrupted capitalism life style”. When the revolution ended in mid 1970 after a decade, any fashion sense my graceful grandma put in my mom’s mind was washed clean.

Then came the introduction of “market economy with Chinese characteristics” – basically a re-branding of the free market. Then entered the first western movie. Then returned the memories of silk and embroidery. The interruption of fashion for ten years left almost all women at my mom’s age clueless. They adopted whatever they saw in the movies. Today the release of a Hollywood blockbuster in China is synchronized with US. In 1980s the Chinese were so behind that we were watching movies five, six years old, if not older. The few movies that passed the strict censorship became the golden rule for women all around. Color slowly returned to the streets. Many colors of the similar style.

In 1979 the single child policy was in place. The first batch of the single children found themselves at a crossroad when they entered their teens. Growing up the single child, with attention from six adults (parents, four grand parents), they were treated as individual, they were told they were special, until they left the home. Suddenly, they found they were among the hundreds of millions of other single children, who grew up being told the same thing. And to compete, they needed to stand out. Being different also included dressing differently.

However, the market at that time did not offer many choices. Large part of the movements in its society is driven by collective opinions. China is fundamentally a community based country. It is hard not to follow. Hence the waves of hot trends – trading stocks, buying real estate…Everyone is afraid of “missing out”. If the skinny jeans are in, you can barely find a pair of straight legs in fashion shops.

Comes the 21st century. The Web eliminates the time lag of information exchange with the outside. The accumulated personal wealth for the past three decades allow consumers to go way beyond the basics. The mighty production industry hums all day long to produce the fashion for Milan, New York, Tokyo, while saving enough raw materials and is spot on at copying the styles. Chinese consumers are buying the designs at a fraction of the price.

The variety of information and its easy accessibility through the Web provide the educated Chinese alternatives to the mass media; and giving them the space in their mind to form their independent thinking. While they sit in front of their computers to do so, they also lose the touch with real people, an element that was inseparable in their parents and grandparents’s lives. Fortunately, Web also provided them the venue. Before the air conditioner days, at summer nights the whole families would get out their small places and flock to the public parks and town squares to catch the cool breeze. The view of a whole square covered with people in every inch is still vivid in many people’s memories. They were talking, exchanging information, listening to the radio, sometimes flighting over the best spot. Now, the town squares are social networking sites, blogs, instant messengers.

The combined desire of keeping in touch and being an individual makes customized social shopping a natural fit for the Chinese consumers in their 30s and 20s. Teenage’s purchasing power is not to be underestimated, either. By limiting the social interaction to shopping, hopefully it will not draw unwanted attention (FB is blocked in China.). And by giving the consumers the power to customize based on template designs, and with access to the factories in the back yard, the cost of customization can be kept efficient enough to maintain mass market price. After all, the skyrocketing real estate price in cities is a towering shadow over the money earners, who are finding every possible way of quality but affordable living.

Examples of customized shopping:

Gemvara
custom jewelry

10/10/10

In China, this should be a perfect day – 十全十美. The Chinese charm may not carry all the way to the other side of the ocean ;-). So my day is not perfect. However, through the imperfectness I realized the following.

大慈悲,不显。大智慧,不外露。大恩,不言报。大事,要从小事做起。

天水围的日与夜

It’s easy to make a great movie with big stories. This is a movie describing very ordinary life of very ordinary people. The scenes are so ordinary that you’ll be surprised that they can actually become a movie. A surprisingly captivating movie. A master piece. A true demonstration of the power of cinema story telling.

To watch.