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Heaven’s here on earth

Hello all! As promised, here’s the non-Kickstarter and barely work-related update that I promised back in August. Hope all of you are well and enjoying whatever activities are filling up your days!

Right now I’m sitting outside with beer at a tranquil retreat called Natural Home, nestled in the bamboo forest of Moganshan, China. It’s about 5 hours by motorcycle southwest of Shanghai. This last week has been unbelievable, not only as a result of the scenery (which was magnificent), but also by reminding me of things I haven’t had time to think about recently. For some reason, Tracy Chapman has been on repeat in my head since we set off :].

There is something truly freeing about traveling by motorcycle that I’ve never experienced before. Your senses are somehow heightened and you interact more directly with your surroundings. Riding reminded me of the freedom an open road offers and I now understand why people are drawn to it despite the danger. I’m very fortunate that my friend offered to share this experience with me. We road gorgeous rural mountain roads, up into the misty yellow mountains, through lush bamboo forests, and even into knee-deep water (more on that later).

The trip also reminded me how truly giving people can be. We were invited to join not one, but two wedding parties along the way; provided with food, gifts, and of course baijiu (Chinese alcohol). Families treated us like honored guests, helped us find our way and even a place to stay. It was a great to be the recipient of these gifts in real life, outside the Burning Man gifting economy bubble.

Last night reminded me of nature’s incredible power and how often our man made infrastructure just can’t compete. Our attempts to arrive at this wonderful sanctuary were blocked by Typhoon Fitow and the resulting flash floods. We tried three separate routes, at one point riding into knee-deep water on a remote country road (almost flooding our engine), to reach our destination. Fitow had other plans for the inhabitants of Zhejiang yesterday. We thankfully found shelter in Anji just after midnight, but not before soaking up an incredible amount of rain water and receiving a high dose of adrenaline. Tomorrow we head back to Shanghai after recuperating.

At the end of August I went to Burning Man for the first time, which was another unbelievable week packed full of memories. I still can’t believe that I had the opportunity to go for work! If you’ve never been, I would highly recommend having the experience at least once. Unfortunately, like potato chips, it’s apparently hard to have just one :p. As I’ve told many people, if I could use one word to describe Burning Man, it would be serendipity. Let me share a couple stories to help paint that picture.

While sitting in bumper to bumper traffic in the middle of the desert, I told colleagues of my plans to get a tattoo with the word resilience. That word has always resonated with me, both because of my father’s death and my more recent divorce. Up to that point I had never knowingly met another person with that word written on them. As I was standing in line for an event, the person in front of me removed his bag to reveal that very word tattooed across his back. Turns out that he also lost his father when he was young and we shared many other life experiences that made the word meaningful to us.

As you might imagine, not many people go to Burning Man from Hong Kong and people are very curious about what life is like there. One afternoon I was describing expat life over coffee with a fellow camper. During the conversation, he asked about the social scene and if I had ever dated an Asian. I explained that while I was open to the idea, Asians weren’t typically aggressive and often intimidated by Western women. As I was walking along Esplanade that evening, an Asian man walked directly up to me and without a word kissed me on the lips. Turns out he has an apartment in Kowloon Station, which is about a 10 minute minibus ride from my home.

While these are just two examples, I felt that my days were filled with similar experiences at various scales. People seemed to enter my life at the right time in the right context, resulting in really memorable moments. I am confident I’ll be back.

My beer is long gone, so that’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll have another opportunity to sit down and type after product ships and before the holidays.

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