Hello Uncle Foreigner

travel

Oct 11, 2018

Instagram always: Remembering Lijiang

A cold and beautiful place

The view outside of our apartment complex in Lijiang, 2015. We really were right in the shadow of the Himalayas. They started paving that road just before Chinese New Year 2016, but they had not finished it by the time we left in May.

Aug 8, 2018

Get away to an island that’s beyond the everyday

Lamma Island, Hong Kong

This was a fun one to make … Peter and I really let our imaginations fly as we virtually revisited our favorite place on earth. Lamma Island is one of the big-small islands of Hong Kong, I guess. We love it, and we gave it the green screen treatment here, because we aren’t traveling much these days.

It’s a double-edged sword (moreso, I’m sure for the people who actually live there), in that I think people should know about this magical place, but I don’t want to be a part of ruining the small-town charm with too much exposure, or badly behaving tourists. So, just promise me this: If you go, you’ll be cool.

Jul 16, 2018

Field Notes

Traipsing around the Chinese countryside

We posted a music video using footage from this trip out into the countryside shortly after we took this hike. But recently we were thinking more about rural China, so we revisited the raw material and edited together a new set of thoughts on China city and country. Enjoy!

May 19, 2018

Fly high above nature in the Bamboo Sea, Sichuan, China

Traveling around Sichuan province

Over the past few months, we’ve really pushed ourselves in the realms of storytelling and video production, figuring out new techniques and workflows. It’s been a lot of fun and really, well, productive. But it has made us look back at some of our older pieces and think, “We can do better.” Those old videos will always be treasured memories to us, but we can also now turn the footage into something a little more artful; something that could entertain and delight someone who wasn’t there when it happened.

The new Bamboo Sea (above) isn’t the first time we’ve done this. KTV and Egg Bar are both based on archival footage. Stone Sea also uses older video, but we never actually got around to telling that story at the time! And we’re looking forward to revitalizing many more of our old stories in the coming months.

Revisiting good times is one thing, but we also have the benefit of more China experience and a different perspective. They, in turn, enable us to tell deeper stories and take artistic risks. It’s been a fulfilling process so far, and Peter and I both hope you enjoy these new videos as well.

The backstory on this 2014 trip to the Bamboo Sea is here, if you’d like to enrich your viewing with a more straightforward written account of our adventure. The video remix above is a more poetic look at (wo)man’s relationship with nature and … bamboo.

I also use the word “susurrating,” so listen carefully!

May 14, 2018

It’s hot and cold, all at once!

Uncle’s Shorts #9

Springtime in Luzhou … it can be beautiful, but the weather can be very strange. The humidity makes it sweaty out, even when the temperature is not that high. But just wait a few weeks. From the time of taping this video to now, it’s already switched. Now it’s hot and humid. Get ready for that summer heat!

May 6, 2018

How can we get there?

Riding around Luzhou

Take a taxi.

Apr 11, 2018

We would follow the Pug anywhere in the world

Our favorite eating place has left China, but it's rocking in Bangkok

In China, watch on YouKu.

It’s no secret that we’ve been obsessed for years with The Lazy Pug restaurant in Chengdu. We planned entire trips to the big city, just for a taste of their Taco Thursday. Danny, one of the owners, turned us on to Carrefour, the French-owned supermarket with all the expat goods. Ah, we were so naive back then.

Sadly, the Lazy Pug closed down last summer … we didn’t even get to say goodbye! But, we revisit the good times — as well as the reborn Pug, this time he’s Smokin’ in Bangkok — in our latest Eating Places special. If you find yourself traveling in Thailand and itching for a taste of home while abroad, we highly recommend the new place.

Just watch the video, friends, and then head on over to YouTube to subscribe to our channel!

Mar 31, 2018

An adventure into the Stone Sea, Yibin, Sichuan

I finally make good on a student home visit

In China, watch us on YouKu.

The visit to a student’s home, we assumed, was an English-teaching standard. After all, Peter Hessler was close to all of his students. The offers must come flying, one after another. But after a solitary invite my first year teaching, that we were unable to take advantage of, I had to wait four years for my next one.

Lydia had been my student at Tianfu Middle School in my first year teaching and then again in my last year. From the very first, she was a hard-working young woman. The junior class she was in was somewhat rowdy, but I could usually count on her to answer my questions. Except for one day, when she wanted to do her homework in class. “We’re in the middle of my class,” I told her. “You can’t!” What I didn’t add, but was desperately thinking was, “I need someone to be paying attention.”

In our last year at Tianfu, Lydia and her friend Serena — who was Peter’s student — would spend their afternoon break at our office hours, asking us about our lives and practicing their English. When they found out I was studying Chinese, they’d bring me lists and lists of idioms and contemporary slang so that I’d sound cool. And that Labor Day, they planned a full-day event for us — an adventure out into the nearby Stone Sea geopark. It’s one of the lesser-known places to visit in China, but in our neck of the woods, it’s a big deal.

I had set Lydia up as a pen pal with my cousin in Minnesota, and the day of our outing, she was texting with him during our morning drive. “Have fun on the family field trip,” he wished us. It was great to have this time with the girls. I sat in the back between Lydia and Serena so that they could each have a side. It was reminiscent of family trips with my own sisters, when they would make me sit in the middle because I was the shortest. This time, I was not the shortest, so I could eventually request a window seat.

We got to talk about everything through the course of our day: boys, future plans, even specialized English vocabulary — Karst, limestone, sinkhole, cave. It was a long day, but the girls were so proud to have arranged it. They thought of everything, from car snacks for the early morning drive to a visit to a flower show while dinner was being prepared. After dinner, when the men started smoking, we took a walk down Jiangmen’s main street. Lydia’s younger cousin joined us as a tag-along. She hadn’t been interested in English before, but now that we were all speaking it, she was dying to know what we were talking about.

To cap the night off, all of us went out for post-meal BBQ with more friends and family, including Lydia’s former English teacher. It was funny to have a snack after such a nice meal, but it was a holiday! BBQ was much more relaxed than the formal dinner. Lydia and Serena relaxed, too, and the focus was finally off entertaining The English Teacher. Everyone asked me about the girls, for a change. How they were doing out in the world, in the big city high school. They were genuinely proud to see their girl speaking English so fluently, and I was proud too.

Feb 24, 2018

Eating the vending machine: America deleted scenes #1

There is a lot of talk of vomiting in this one

Way back when I used to live in New York full time, I participated in an eating contest with my buddies Max and Justin. The event was put on by an organization called LVHRD, now defunct, and if memory served, I believe one Mr. Joey Fatone was in the audience. (Or possibly Lance Bass — I know it was some ex-boy bander, but this all happened more than 10 years ago).

Anyway, on our most recent trip back to the states, I caught up with Max and Justin, and we remembered the good times. And how much we each threw up and when. And someone invented the term “therepuke.” It didn’t make the final cut for the “America” video, but it’s a fun little story on its own. Enjoy!

Feb 9, 2018

Vietnam revisited

A videographic return to our 2015 vacation

“Maps are all hand-drawn by maniacs.”
— Peter

I don’t think it was on purpose, but Vietnam 2015 was the last big trip we took.

Well, after that, we did move across China – twice – and we returned to America for a visit. And, most recently, Peter checked out of reality for a few weeks. But no, like, tourism.

We’ve written about Vietnam in detail here. To reset the stage, it was winter break, just before Chinese New Year. We were in search of good food and warm weather – both of which were in ample supply. I remember complaining about it a bit, but from this vantage point, it was a good trip! Let’s go back someday.

In the years since, we’ve been reckoning with that experience in an audio/visual capacity. And I will admit to a toddler’s worth of writer’s block and discarded drafts. Which is why I am so pleased today to present “Vietnam, a filmkreis in three parts: Saigon, Đà Lạt, and 广州.”

And, enjoy a bonus outtake of some hijinks in the highlands: