Day 193 in Beijing: Waiting To Talk.

“There are two types of people in this world: those that listen and those that are waiting to talk.  Which one are you?”

This is a quote from a deleted scene in which Uma Thurman questions John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.  I can’t say I enjoyed this movie.  The violence, the anger and the almost comical way people died or were killed struck a very wrong chord with me.  I don’t know if movies can truly affect people’s behaviors.  But, I imagine people watching this and becoming inoculated to violence.  I heard a report on NPR that there were 854 acts of torture on prime time tv this year.  Last year, 100.  Torture has become more accepted.  They reasoned that torture is spoken about so much, and used so often, that people no longer care if they see it on tv.  This is not a trend that I want to be a part of.

When I heard Uma Thurman’s question, it moved me to think about my own actions and my inability to be present.  I often find that I’m not truly listening to someone else but waiting to find a place to jump in, state my point, and have it be heard.  It is an uncomfortable way to exist. I would prefer to be present for others, listen to what they are saying without forethought about what they may be thinking, and not feel pressured to state my own opinion.

I’ve taken meditation classes and have noticed that is is possible to achieve.  When I’m calm, I experience much less forward thinking or planning.  I notice that the sentence itself was not the point, but to hear each word as an individual piece that would tie into something greater is what seemed to matter.  I think I’m much more able to do this when I’m at my job working as a therapist.  I try to pay attention to each word the client mentions and this allows me to be more present with them and more patient with what needs to be said or attended to according to each client.  It is their space and time, which, in effect, gives me space and time to work with them.

The usual belief is that therapy sessions should be 50 minutes long.  I disagree with this.  There is no scientific evidence stating that a 50 minute session is more useful than any other time limit.  It is a constraint built on ideas and insurance.  I have learned that longer sessions are more useful and tend to have the desired outcome much more quickly, and with less pain.

Think of it this way:  If you had surgery for cancer, would you want a little bit removed each time, with the very real possibility of it growing back as you waited, or would you want it removed all at once and then follow ups every once in a while to make sure it is gone?  I know my answer.

By the way, John Travolta’s character responds with, “I have to admit, I am always waiting to talk, but I’m trying real hard to learn how to listen.”

I have to admit, I am quite happy I was able to hear the message and be present.

Day 163 in Beijing: To Infinity…And Beyond.

So, we checked into our room and after unpacking quickly and putting our stuff away, we jumped out to the 11th floor infinity pool.

The weather was a bit overcast, and that is normal for this time of year, and thunderstorms rolled through a little while after we finished with our swim.

We also had time to read, relax, and say hi to a few people.

It is surprising how easily it is to converse with people when you speak the same language.

Yes, this is an obvious statement, but it was something that I had forgotten.

It is equivalent to not being able to sleep for a few months and then getting a week of great sleep…you suddenly remember how wonderful the simple things in life can be in that instant.

The rain is actually quite amazing and I’m glad that we were able to experience that each day we were in Malaysia and Singapore.  I have a video and some pictures of a massive thunder and lightening storm that I will post on a future blog.  It was awe inspiring to watch the power of the Earth as it poured down for almost two hours straight.

Day 148 in Beijing: I Found The Tardis!

A red Tardis?  In China?  Yep, that makes sense.

A red Tardis? In China? Yep, that makes sense.

If you were raised well, you know who Dr. Who is and why his story is so enjoyable.

He’s a sci-fi fan’s dream persona because he travels time, saves the world multiple times, and is somewhat dorky and geeky.  In a way, his eccentricity allows him to be the adventurer and world saver because he thinks outside the box.

Cool doorknob. Notice the receiver on the floor.

Cool doorknob. Notice the earpiece on the floor.

What more could a boy want?

Anyway, he travels in a time machine called the Tardis.

The Tardis is a classic British telephone booth that is painted blue.

At least on the outside.

However, when one steps inside, there is a bunch of gadgets and controls that allow Dr. Who to travel through time.

Well, this Tardis isn’t blue but I thought it was as close to any Tardis I will find in Beijing or China.

I love the reflection of the buildings in the background.

I love the reflection of the buildings in the background.

In a way, travelling to China, is my Tardis.  I’m travelling through time, space and dimension to a universe that I didn’t have any notions about or any real idea about before I arrived.

Hello, is it me your looking for?

Hello, is it me your looking for?

If not for the job offer that I was given, I wouldn’t even be here now.  I’d be somewhere else.  Doing something else.  And probably not travelling the world, seeing things I couldn’t even imagine, or meeting people I’d never know.

Actually, I guess I’m my own Tardis.

To quote Doctor Seuss, “Oh, the places you shall go.”

Dr. Seuss was right.  As was Dr. Who.

Each day that I wake up, I’m more excited to discover the places I shall go.

You are welcome to come along and join me!

Day 110 in Beijing: Gay Straight Alliance.

"That's so Straight!"

“That’s so Straight!”

I was at a local school a few weeks back and saw this banner.

As someone that believes in equal rights for all people, irregardless of color, creed, race, religion, gender, or any other reason, I was quite touched by this sign.

I work as a therapist for a reason: I think everyone deserves contentment and joy in their lives and I’ve learned skills and techinques to help people reach both those goals if they want to work hard enough and make changes in their lives.

Nothing is guaranteed but I’m pretty sure that this method can work for most people and seems to work with different cultures and belief systems since there is a large amount of cognitive and behavioral work emphasized, which I would say is primarily Western culture, and then that is balanced out with acceptance, which is an Eastern perspective.

This banner made me proud to be human because I’ve actually talked to kids on the street, back in San Francisco, who would say, “That is so gay!” and mean it as a put down or a negative comment and explained to them why that is hurtful to others and not acceptable.

One would think in the bastion of liberal San Francisco, this would not be accepted.  Sadly, it still is and I hear it much too often for my comfort.

However, my hope is that more people will stand up, explain to others why exclusionary statements such as these are wrong, and the change will happen more quickly.

All I know is I’ll keep doing my part and I’m incredibly proud of these students for doing theirs.

Day 105 in Beijing: Butterly Effect.

The butterfly effect states that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a hurricane weeks later and thousands of miles away.

I can’t imagine butterflies causing such destruction.

As we move around our world, we never know what choices we make and what the consequences will be.

So, tread lightly as you spread your wings and fly.

We are all, it seems, the cause of our own butterfly effect.

 

Day 103 in Beijing: Fantasy Football Across Two Continents.

Fantasy Football is a yearly event for my friends and me.

I grew up with almost all of them and have known one of them, Nate Pile, since kindergarten.

We have a draft at a friend’s house and then celebrate the end of the season at his house in Tahoe during Wild Card Weekend.

It is always a wonderful time with great people, great food and lots of fun.

I was in Beijing when the draft went down this year.

Luckily, my friends made adjustments and they drafted on Friday night so I could use skype to video conference with them and be a part of the draft and party.

I woke up at 9 am, Beijing time, and got out all my draft materials.  It was a little hard to hear and the video feed went down a few times, but overall, it was fantastic and a great way to feel at home even when I was 10,000 miles away.

This is something I’ve noticed form talking to expatriates in Beijing:  Find a way to be at home even when you are not.

Beijing is an amazingly multi-cultural city and I’ve met people from China, Spain, Italy, Dominica, Indonesia, Japan, USA, Canada, France, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and so many other countries it is hard to remember.  And this in only 3 months.  Even though I salsa dance and have a fairly large circle of friends, i don’t remember having this many people, from so many different countries, come together and support each other.

It is the expatriate way of life.

We come together because we are from somewhere else.  There is an acceptance and support from each other since we all feel somewhat lost and we are all living in a strange new world, no matter how long you live here.

Add to that the complexity of the Mandarin language and it becomes even more daunting.  I have met people that have been studying Mandarin for 15 years and still feel as if they are failing and they have not achieved perfection.

As in any language, is there really any perfection?  I have spoken American English for 44 years and am constantly making mistakes, learning new rules, and becoming confused on commas, semi-colons, and dashes.

Languages are hard.  Learning anything worth learning is hard.  Living doesn’t have to be.

That is where my friends from back home, and here, come in.  I can find that support, and home, whenever and whenever I need it by just calling, skyping, or reaching out.

And, I have to admit, I’m very lucky to have the family and friends that I have because they are always ready to respond and be there for me.

On day 99 in Beijing, I am home.

Wherever I am.

 

Day 100 in Beijing: The Whirlwind.

100 days ago I left the Bay Area for Beijing.

It is all a little surreal.

I started a new life.

In a new city.

With a new job.

With new friends.

It has been mostly amazing and fun.

There have been some hard times trying to figure out issues with the apartment, a few travel issues, and other small things that really amount to almost nothing.

I just want to thank everyone that has made this transition so easy, so fun, and so positive. That includes my brother Robert, his wife, Shan Shan and her family, my boss, my family back home in the states, my friends here and back in the States, and last but not least, my girlfriend, Jill.

I actually don’t think I can thank Jill enough: Her sense of self is excellent.  Her sense of humor is joyous.  Her sense of what she wants, how she can attain it, and how easy things are if you just keep at it, is real.  We make a wonderful team and our support of each other makes life so much easier than it would be if we were alone.

And to think that we met only 8 days before I moved to Beijing.

Jill helps reduce the whirlwind to a soft and gentle breeze.

 

 

 

 

Day 98 in Beijing: River Walk, Part 3

I continued to ponder the idea of choice and circumstance as I wondered around the sculptures.

How does one decide to do art?

My mother, Judy Tuwalestiwa, is an artist.

And, I’m biased, but I’d say she is an amazing artist.

Her skill, work ethic, and depth of knowledge, always blows me away.  She works, on average 10 to 12 hours a day in her studio.  It is work.  Not play.

I always learn from her when we got to museums together because she has an understanding of why an artist, and it may be an artist with whose art she doesn’t particularly connect, was important or caused some change in the world by making their art.

I have very little knowledge of art history and so it allows me to see the world through her eyes while also learning and being able to change my perspective.

I remember going to the SFMOMA with my mom, about 7 years ago, and seeing the Phillip Guston: Contemporary Art from the Edward R. Broida Collection.  When I first saw it, I thought it was almost childlike in the “artistic sense.”  It is not like Picasso, Matisse or Manet in that the talent is automatically noticed.  At least not by me.

She explained to me why he was important, why so many of his characters were the hoods of the KKK and why they smoked their cigarettes and always wore big boots.

My mom mentioned in passing that Edward Broida had also bought a painting of her’s.  Maybe two.  I can’t remember.  She said that his uncle had made a lot of money and he had started an amazing collection of classical art.  As Edward Broida made his own money, he asked his uncle what he should do with it.  His uncle suggested he started his own collection, although he should start one by buying the type of art Edward loved.  Edward loved contemporary art and seemed to have a fantastic eye for it.  He started buying pieces that weren’t expensive, but he felt they were important pieces.  As he made more money, he

I have forgotten many of the reasons why but the memories still remain of my becoming more enlightened, knowledgeable and feeling as if I was finally on the “inside” of the artist’s mind and allowed to see his vision, hear his thoughts, and understand what he wanted me to know about his art.

This, to me, is what art is about.  It is about choice.  The choice to let others feel, see, and be a part of your world.  To amaze and open reality to others.   To let them touch your dreams in a way that most others are unable to make happen.

To create life out of lifelessness.

Day 97 in Beijing: River Walk, Part 2

As I contemplated my life and walked on, I decided to take a different route than usual.

Thinking of change, acceptance and how I live my life made me think of exploring the world and the people that choose to stay home compared to the people that choose to move on and live outside the box.

This is in no way judging or saying one choice is better than another; it is simply the choice I made that makes the most sense to me.

And that choice was to move on.

I loved my life back in the United States of America and did not have to leave it.

I was just offered a new experience, both in ways of work and living, and decided to take it.

At age 44, I felt it was time for a change.

This wasn’t a mid-life crisis as much as it was a constant life belief: I love to travel.

I love to learn, to experience new ideas, and to figure out new ways to deal with events that I never would have dealt with if I was sitting at home, doing my same old routine day after day.

As I was pondering these thoughts, I happened to run into this amazing sculpture depicting many famous explorers from all over the world.

I don’t really believe in synchronicity because I’ve studied cognitive distortions and how the human mind can make connections seem to be causational when they aren’t.  Correlation does not mean causation.

I’ve noticed that the mind happens to notice when things seem to align and ignore when they don’t.  I just take things as they come and keep working towards my goal.  Sometime things turn out as I imagined, most times not, and yet I always end up somewhere.

I ended up in this wonderful set of sculptures named Da Dua Ding Sheng.  It is the largest outdoor sculpture in Beijing and very impressive.

I will post a few pictures each day.

The park is so beautiful that I don’t want them to be rushed through and ignored.

 

 

Day 96 in Beijing: River Walk, Part 1.

Weeping Willows cover most of the walkway.

Weeping Willows cover most of the walkway.

The roundabout stage.

The roundabout stage.

I live in a slightly suburban part of Beijing.

Actually, closer to the truth to say I live in an area of Beijing that doesn’t seem to have a lot of expatriates living in it.

Fishing for dinner.

Fishing for dinner.

Below the hustle and bustle of the city.

Below the hustle and bustle of the city.

I like this because it allows me to feel like I’m living in a foreign country and forces me to expand my boundaries and take risks.

I enjoy smiling at people, saying “Ni hao” and having small conversations that are full of gestures because of my misunderstandings each day.

A peaceful meeting.

A peaceful meeting.

A bridge not too far.

A bridge not too far.

I’ve started to walk along the Yuandadu Chengyuan Ruins Park, and the Xiaoyue River that flows through it, and document my daily excursions.

There are always new people, new interactions and new visions to see.

I feel incredibly lucky to live in Beijing.

I am able to work at a job I love.

Live close to my brother.

Travel to parts of the world I’d probably never otherwise visit.

Meet people I’d never meet.

And have experiences I’d never have anywhere else.

I often forget how easy it is to travel and change your viewpoints on life.

I get stuck thinking that one way is the right way and travel allows me to remember that there isn’t actually any correct way of living.

Everyone has a right to live a life that is their own and be in control, as much as one is able, of their own destiny.

Choice is always an option and it is up to each of us to make a choice and then deal with the consequences.

Consequences meaning the results.  Those can be good, bad or an infinite amount of results in between good or bad.  In fact, I don’t really know of any definitively good or bad results.  They are all learning lessons and help me to accept what I can change and accept what I can’t change.

And them make choices on how I want to deal with those consequences.