January: Largest Starbucks in the World
In December 2017, the 30,000 Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened in Jing’an district of Shanghai (West Nanjing Station). Early in January, I visited. The massive two-story museum-like establishment serves beer and libations, including coffee cocktails, as well as coffee. I enjoyed a Manhattan with Starbucks’ special touch.
February: Spring Festival
I went to a friend’s hometown for Spring Festival. Off a provincial road, Baichi village (in Henan province) consisted of dirt roads lined with cement-walled courtyard homes. Everyone seemed to know their neighbors and most of the villagers. Few foreigners ever visited, and I was a source of interest. They were passionate and hospitable during the Spring Festival season. Each even began with me eating dinner with my friends and his family, followed by us walking to one of his friends’ homes to drink beer, and invariably, their family would prepare a second dinner for us.
One afternoon, friends and family came over for the Chinese New Year feast. Tables were set up in two rooms, and there was little room for any more food to be placed on them. Every adult who came, it seemed, brought a bottle of rice wine. If one’s cup was empty, it wouldn’t be empty for long. Someone would come along to fill it, and then it would be emptied again.
Children played with small gunpowder-filled toys in the courtyard. Popping things that you throw at the ground for the littlest ones. Exploding ones for the older boys.
Midnight on new years eve was a cacophony. Across the village, people launched firework out of their courtyards.
In June, I visited Singapore for the first time. The city-state is known for its posh, hypermodern central business district. The variety of cheap food at hawker stalls was delicious.
My favorite part was the vibrant street culture of Chinatown. I wrote about the dancing,
But there they were on the corner of New Bridge Street and the lantern-adorned Smith Street at 8 pm shaking their hips, swinging their arms, and doing the twist. I began watching and talking to a local, and soon enough the woman had convinced me to join in singing and dancing.
July 4: Fireworks in DC
Sitting on the National Mall with people from all of the United States–and the world–you have the best view of one of the best fireworks shows in the country taking place in front of the Washington Monument.
August: Counterprotesting Unite the Right II
When the alt-right racists came to Washington, DC on the anniversary of their 2017 rally in Charlottesville, friend and contributor to my political blog, Bombs + Dollars, Patrick Rincon came from Korea to counterprotest. We’d be joined by thousands of others from nearby and across the country–mostly individuals who detest racism but also radical groups like the Revolutionary Communists and antifa. And also a lot–a lot–of media. Patrick, dressed as Captain America, was mistaken for an alt-rightist twice due to his flag.
At around 4:55 pm, a commotion could be heard near the entrance to the subway station. People started shouting, “Fuck you, Nazis!” … Along the protest route, there was less of the chanting often heard at the protest site from members of organized groups and more homemade cursing and insults. Marchers were mocked about how, for example, their status as unemployable losers with no girlfriend is their own damn fault.
“No one wants you,” someone said.
“We are replacing you!” said another.
I did some digging on one of the featured speakers, Charles Edward Lincoln III, and found that he had a criminal conviction and long trail of court cases against him and reported on him for The Daily Beast.
My column that week: The alt-right’s lasting impact
Late August: Eating Hongeo
At the end of August, I went to Korea to meet friends during the final week before the new semester of my masters program at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies began. In Busan, I met up with a classmate from my program in Nanjing, and we ate one of the most infamous dishes in all of Korea: skate (홍어 – hongeo). Here we are featured on the restaurant’s Instagram account:
Why is hongeo so infamous? It is an ugly fish with a bony texture that is fermented in its own piss.
It was the third time I have eaten it–always for kicks. Taking a friend who has never eaten it, going on a quest to find the small restaurant (the only one in the vicinity of Busan Fish Market that served hongeo), and then having enough makgeolli in your bowl to override the taste is a good time every once in a while.
November: International Dinner
At SAIS, I became Social Media Director of the SAIS Korea Club. The Korea Club hosted various events this past semester celebrating Korean culture, and we also participated in the International Dinner, an event where multiple clubs prepare food representing their country or culture. I served food while wearing traditional Korean clothing (hanbok). There’s also a contest for most popular food served. Korea Club placed third. Congratulations to Taiwan Club for winning.
December: Visiting the Old Korean Legation
This old house in Logan Circle of Washington, DC, the former home of Civil War hero Seth Ledyard Phelps, became the first diplomatic headquarters for Korea in the United States in 1889. It was only 1905 when Japan occupied Korea, however, and denied the country its sovereignty, later forcing Korea to give the property over to Japan. The Korean government finally repurchased the building in 2012, and it opened to the public in 2018, after years of historical restoration.
Writing in 2018
In February, I was published in Silkwinds, the inflight magazine of Silk Air, for the first time, offering travel tips for Xiamen in the “Postcards” section. I have also written “Postcards” features on Changsha and Shenzhen for the magazine.
I reported on the criminal history and legal troubles of an alt-right speaker for The Daily Beast.
Can you read Chinese? I had a Chinese-language article published in JiangsuNow about woodblock text engraving. (Can’t read Chinese? There’s an English translation at the end.)
I began working for The National Interest and had multiple articles published on its website.
That’s just a sample of some of my big articles and interesting experiences this past year. Subscribe to my email list (use the form below or menu above) and follow me on Facebook to see even more.