At the Death Cafe in New York (credit to Death Cafe NYC)

I’ve never been close to death. Though I’ve written about palliative care in China during which I visited palliative care centers and talked to end-of-life patients, I’ve never been to a funeral or experienced the loss of closed ones.

Or I have.

I was fifteen when I learnt about the loss of my brother, who passed away from a car accident when he was fifteen, two years before I was born. I remember the shock I felt when I confronted my parents about this tragedy they had concealed from me for so many years. …

France has TGV, Japan has Shinkansen, the US has Amtrak (though not really in the same league because of speed), and China now brags about its High Speed Rail (HSR).

Every time I visit China, I feel amazed by its speed of development, especially in the case of HSR.

Now I can pretty much get to anywhere in China via HSR. Moreover, the distance between New York and Washington takes only 1 hour in China by high-speed train. On top of that, it is relatively cheap (a one-hour HSR ride costs less than 2 USD), clean, and comfortable on board.

In Havana, we saw queues everywhere.

Upon arrival, we joined other foreign adventurers to queue for the only currency exchange outside the Havana airport. To purchase wifi cards, we queued for half an hour with local Cubans in front of the Etesca outlet. And during the entire five days of traveling in Cuba, everywhere we walked — wherever there was a store, there was a queue.

Our route

Road trip has always been on my bucket list. I have to admit that it is an idea that I romanticize like a rite of passage, a celebration of freedom, and something mythically American. From the first “road trips” of the pioneers marching to the west to the California gold rush, the brave and unbridled chased the sun and conquered the wild land. Thus it was with curiosity did I embark on this journey from New York to Los Angeles. With my college roommate Evie, we traversed 10 states and logged 3500 miles for 8 days, spending every single moment…

In Jigoku, Unzen, Japan

I lingered long enough in the wooden room to disrobe. It had been years since I took a public bath. And in a foreign country, I am always more conscious about myself. All around me naked Japanese women untied their shoes, took off their knee-length dresses, put their belongings into lockers and chattered into the hot spring room. It was strange to see so much flesh and skin, and I felt uneasy to witness so many strangers naked like animals.

Without my glasses and with the dense steam upon entering the next room, everything was in a blur. After slathering…

a Chinese painting that comes alive

Back in the kitchen, Adam, a Briton and the owner of this top bar on TripAdvisor, was grilling sandwiches. It was Poker Night and in the middle of the bar, a circle of Europeans were playing cards. Holding a bottle of ginger ale, Nick, a Croatian in his late thirties, asked me if I want to play pool in the other room.

From the wooden-framed windows, I could see contours of rolling hills, which reminded me that I was volunteering to teach English in Yangshuo, a small town near Guilin city in China famous for mountains and rivers. It is…

Is it a haven against this wrong world?

A Saturday Sabbath picnic

On the 10th day, the noble silence was dismissed. The quiet yard suddenly became a raucous market site. Everywhere students exchanged their insights and joy, like volcano ashes gushing up after eons of silence.

I met a charming auntie from the nearby city Xiamen, who has come for the retreat for 3 times and volunteered once. She had such bursts of life that I could not help gaping and laughing while she talked about her experience. Her daughter, who is the same age as me, is now studying overseas; her husband is busy with business, so she is left usually…

The following days I had one and only one task — to practice Vipassana. It is in fact, all about Anicca, the impermanence of everything. Sensations arise and fall, in a mere matter of time. Some pain may last longer, but one day they will always disappear. There is never anything that can remain constant, because everything is just energy. Even the universe we reside in is created by a huge bang from nothing, and has always being shrinking and expanding.

As a science student, I acknowledge that it is really a universal principle. …

“Work diligently, work ardently, work intelligently, work patiently and persistently, and you are bound to be successful, bound to be successful.” This is the sentence Goenka always repeat at the end of his audio. As a girl who have gone through both Chinese and Singaporean education system that focused on drilling, I agree with that with total conviction. By the third day, I did find my straying thoughts nearly all disappear. …

Q (Quanzhi) Guo

Unabashedly rational yet helplessly whimsical. Peripatetic life and musings.

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