"so you're not a local?" he asks
i smile
"where are you from?"
today, i say i come from taiwan
"do you think taiwan is better, or china?"
i say both have their highs and lows, like any other place on earth
"but doesn't taiwan have more money?"
i laugh. money doesn't bring happiness right?
we look out over the landscape of rows of crops lined into the rows of trash, wedged among the broken buildings with new buildings under construction and skyscrapers in the background, smoke rising from two piles of trash and the dull roar of traffic in the distance
"but life is harder with less money"
but it doesn't matter where you go in the world. it's all the same. everywhere, people experience immense joy and deep contentment. everywhere, people experience immense sadness and deep pain. everywhere, we go through life one day after the next, and we all try our best to live it to its fullest potential.
he looks me in the eyes. his eyes are bright. i like the crinkled corners, bearing years of laughter and tears, and endess stories, "you are so young. i am glad you see this."
my heart rises over the crops, roof, and even airplane.
we understand each other.


letter to students

i'm having trouble composing what feels like a suitable "china-synopsis" letter to share with you all, regarding my journey here in china over the past three months... this morning, sitting on the train and sharing old music with students, watching the landscape roll by so quickly, a letter came... for my students. it sums up a few of my feelings regarding being here. maybe another letter will come before i leave china... and maybe not. i hope you enjoy this one :) (note: i wrote this for my students)

- jiling

barbie, maria, patrick, seon woo, dae yeong, jose, jamie, edwin, akane, tony, sok hwan, seonjin, carly, nakyung, emily, jiho, jisu, dickson, anthony, will...

21 students. i know. we keep counting and recounting to make sure you're all still here. 21 individuals. 21 teenagers around ages 16-17 in grade 11, taking a really heavy courseload of difficult classes, and spending one precious week with us and a school, a village--- an experience in a small village in the relative backwaters of china--- changing lives, moving hearts, and re(creating) your own young lives.

who ARE you? you'll ask this question an infinite number of times throughout your life--- you'll ask yourself, your family, friends, strangers. you've experienced this question as hordes of small children flock to touch your shoulders, shake your hands, give you a hug, as for your autograph. how do you answer to "who ARE you?" what do you see when you look into your own eyes in the mirror? when you look into the eyes of the "other"--- loved ones, strangers--- who do you see in there? and, who is reflected back?

kayaking is and was not just kayaking. going blindfolded through the jungle, you're not just trying to "see" with your feet, and illuminate your sense of hearing. the stones you trip over, the waves that seek to wash over you--- how do you get over them? because, you have done this. you know how to do this. you have an irrepressible strength that carries you through all your young (highly brave, highly inspiring) travels. you carry a bright pearl inside of you that no dust of this world will ever cover up, because you can see it. you KNOW it is there. even when you think you forget, well no--- it's still there. it's always been there.

who ARE you? (more amazing and full of Heart than even you could ever imagine).

xing'an, this trip, is only a small chapter of a long story. what is next? well ofcourse twelfth grade, and then for most (all?) of you, college. and then...?

you've traveled. you're lucky to know the triumphs and challenges of many realities of this life: saying goodbye (metaphorical deaths) to loved ones, beloved places, and the comfortable securities of routines, familiar faces and places, etc--- and then the bittersweet (oftentimes brief) hellos again. you know different cultures: different traditions, different ways of looking at the world, different languages--- but (somehow) basically we're all the same. you know more than i could ever (possibly) even imagine because the complexities of our minds and individual experiences wrap together into beautiful dances, each time unique and utterly indescribable... all this language only an attempt at describing the indescribable (how am i doing?)

i'll try to be more literal--- i've loved every moment with you "kids." (in some ways, already more adult than i will ever be). i have renewed hope for our future, and trust in our youth (that's you! our youth. our future... wow, yeah?) i see beautiful visions for the future with all your bright eyes, bright faces, and bright optimism in your young lives.

"BE the CHANGE you wish to see in this world," said gandhi.

you're so much fun, so full of life and light, and more--- i'm grateful for this week with you young world-changers, beauty-bringers, and laughter-sharers. i'm grateful to you for so bravely walking your strengths into this world... and encourage you to continue looking as deeply inwards as you look outwards. so much beauty in every direction...

thank you

兴安- more images

the family- i traveled with the mama (left) and papa (right) for a weekend to visit their old home (老家) in conghua (从化)
they grew up in the countryside, knowing each other as kids, then later moved out into the city of shenzhen (深圳) for a better life... know these people thru taiwan friend alder :) big gratitude. not pictured, but pictured at some other time: their kids. amazed at the tight knit family community, and how when they go back home to their old town, they just jump right back into the village life: the mama's family processes medicinal herbs as a family business; the papa's family farms

the rooftops- eye over xin'an (兴安). this was my view from my window in xin'an. these old chinese wooden buildings can last for such a long time. they remind me of old barns in new england. (bill, is your barn over 100 years old?) a melding of old and new: construction everywhere, all over china. this old town is getting torn down and rebuilt in places to create a new tourist industry here. most of the population are farmers and construction workers. bamboo harvesting and cultivation is huge here. chopstick and other bamboo manufacturing taking place night and day. landscape here like in connecticut woods... many people fit into the landscape, but a great majestic landscape also. rivers everywhere. wetness. trees and so much life in the forest. jungle, really. humans have greatly altered this landscape. most of the hills covered with cultivated bamboo trees

the kids- an example of my (teenage) students' interactions with the local (elementary school) students... the local students thought the world of our students. treated them like heroes. asked for our autographs every moment they could. give one autograph, and we immediately get mobbed by children wanting more autographs. we play games, paint a mural on their wall, teach some english, give them lots of time and attention... and the kids connect so deeply with these students within the small space of three mornings... that by the time we leave the school at the end of our journey, there is not a dry eye among our students or staff. our students are reluctant to leave the school, and the local kids hang onto our students. everyone is crying tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of connection and farewell, tears of being deeply moved by something indescribable... profound moment. so grateful to these children. always so grateful to them. moments like this make every challenge feel worthwhile

the forest- the girl- this was one of my favorite places to come sit and be in xin'an. i didn't make a photo of my absolute favorite place, which was where all the previous photos of the plants came from (except for the mossy sorrel photo). but here, i love the bamboo. i loved their knocking sounds when wind strongly blows them together. i love the gentle sounds of the soft yet tough leaves as wind moves through the forest. you can hear when wind enters forest, and exactly where she enters from. love looking up and watching the various small birds and identifying which beautiful sound came from which beautiful bird. i love the dragonflies and butterflies winging about. and then at night... oh, the fireflies!!! (magic in its most primal form)

兴安- look down

yesterday, said goodbye to most of my coworkers as we left them in guilin
today, said goodbye to the rest of my coworkers
today, goodbye to a home of two weeks in xin'an, beautiful china countryside enveloped by mountains
goodbye to villagers i have come to know by their smiles and kindness
and ciau ciau bella to my talented brave teenage students of a week
they, a tearful farewell yesterday to the local elementary school students
tomorrow, i bid kendal farewell
tomorrow, adieu to my home base of three months here in shenzhen
tonight, a farewell to a circle of strangers-turned-friends united by me and kendal

why do we fall in love
and then say goodbye
so painfully?

love of varying degrees yes
but love nonetheless


4:30 am

i hear the first bird of the dawn chorus
another bird answers
and then with excitement
a third bird joins in
the fullening moon had brightened
the entire night sky
and now
all this birdsong
sends night dispelling quivers of
springtime flowers
and more birdsongs on the wind
through my barred window
breaking down the bars
grassroots style
i can smell the rain
how can one sleep
when one's bags are completely packed
and so much awaits on the horizon
as all the birds
to sing alive the sun?



just a normal day on the job... :)

we're heading to xin'an (above guilin) for the next two weeks
then back to shenzhen for 5 days
then june 1= wings sprout me to thailand, and kendal back to usa


big M

me and kendal have been in china for 3 months


- soak the beans in a glass jar for 2-3 days... until they start to sprout and are chewy and soft. during this process, change water every morning and night.
- find a basket. lay down a soft porous cloth like linen or cotton (cheesecloth is great). i used a bandanna
- pour your beans into basket!
- every morning and night, give beans a bath. otherwise, let them sit there all day in a room temperature out-of-sun place. covered with another cloth that you rubber band or rope to the basket, so that it doesn't fly away, and no curious bugs get in
- wait and watch... it will take about a week. you can munch them all along the way
- yum!!!



reality as we know it is but a reflection of reality

fuzzy caterpillar

hanging on the end of a perfect leaf
i prepare to make something i've never seen before
and i'm not sure just how to do it
but every cell in my body screams
now is the time
you are exactly where you need to be
so i am hanging on the end of a perfect leaf
waiting for instructions to arrive
and trusting
that they are on the way



sunsets are radiant
and so are your eyes

i saw a shooting star last night
reflected into the pond of a thousand frogs singing mating songs

why is the strongest answer of all
merely just another why


tree of life

us with a gorgeous old ficus religiosa
what is portrayed on either side of this tree feels to me like a good synopsis of china, to jiling

more photos!

from the art village visit :)
thanks qizi for photos!


love and support

you are so thoroughly supported
even when you feel utterly alone
even wind always has earth below her


i don't know how it will all work out
but i must trust
it will all work out perfectly

it will all work out perfectly



what if the tools needed
to turn visions into reality
keep eluding me?
do i keep reaching into the empty air
do i keep waiting for that perfect moment
or do i move the vision
and tweak it into a more "realistic" something else?
what do we do with our dreams that are "too" beautiful?



blue skies flocked with birds
owls, crows, eagles, and more
they are waiting to see when
turtle will rise from the waters
bringing with her

magical one
sweet beautiful music making

this world
awaits your


meat factory

just because all is silent
doesnt not mean that nothing has been said
hands that touch and eyes that see
don't always connect
how can i truly touch you
if you cover yourself with such a blanket
i can see the blanket
this waltz we dance
you step on the same toes over and over again

just because all is silent
does not mean that all the thousand little songbirds
will not sing
and spread their songs of truth
over the dead mess of silence
that grey coats the rainbow people

rainbow landscape shuttered in grey
yet all is not dead

feet getting trampled on over and over
some get to wear thick leather boots
some get to wear nothing at all
bruised soles, bruised souls

all the eyes that peer through the dead carcasses can still see
they see in different forms
all the screams muffled out in the countryside
where presumably no one hears
the red lanterns that light the path of the (un)dead

a ladder raises itself up to heaven
a big knife awaits up there

all the little birds are crying
you wonder why they keep making that sound

all the winds know

and all the prayers lie also (un)dead


dafen and dalun art village

pietro (italy), new friend, photos from today

thanks qizi, local tour guide and new friend
thanks kendal as always for companionship and more
thanks marina (russia), new friend and much laughter
and thanks everyone else who showed up all along the way :)


photo technicals- some basic geekery

wrote something for Work. it might be helpful for anyone who's asked me anything about photography (like you, uncle!)
this is not edited, and is part of a larger course-planning document for a photo workshop. if you're interested, read. if you're not, go admire some jiling poetry or photography, instead. by all means, do enjoy yourself. :)
Draw a diagram. Explain that the camera works just like the human eye… basically, you press the shutter release (camera button). Before you press the shutter release, the shutter (the camera "eye") is closed. When you press the shutter release, the camera eye opens, then closes again. During the opening and closing process, light is allowed into the lens (camera eye). Behind the camera eye, there is a detection mechanism. On film cameras, it's the film, which is sensitive to light. On digital cameras, it's a technical mechanism which is also sensitive to light, and translates into pixels. The more sensitive the detection mechanism, the greater the "ISO" of the film, or the higher the number of the ISO. (this number ranges usually from 80 to 1600). How quickly the camera eye opens and closes is called the "shutter speed." This ranges from holding the shutter down for as long as you want on some cameras (infinite time), to as quick as 1/6000 of a second. The shutter speed varies according to your camera and what lens you are using. The kids most likely won't need to know about shutter speed/ aperture/ ISO/ WB, but this is for your own info, and in case they ask you questions. The aperture the size of the camera eye's opening. The smaller the number of the aperture, the more light is allowed in (the bigger the opening). Aperture numbers typically range from f/2.5 to f/11. The larger the number of the aperture, the sharper the entire image, the greater the "depth of field." With a small-numbered aperture, on the other hand, one part of the image may be in great focus, whereas the rest of the image may be out of focus. Playing with shutter speed and aperture gives you great power over the image on the whole. A photograph is not just a "copy" of real life. The photographer is an artist, and every photograph carries an imprint from whoever made the photo. A good photographer has a solid technical knowledge of the camera and just how to use it for each situation, is flexible to changing circumstances, understands weather and lighting (mornings and evenings make the best photos), and has an "eye" for catching moments and framing them in just the right way. Basically, a good photographer is a light-moment-and-camera ninja.


r i s e
from humble
g r o w