An Elephant Through a Microscope

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

pic (132) pic (133)

Is school the same in America? Is there the same pressure? Do children have to go? Are kids allowed to waste time and fall in love? 

Name:
Lao

Chinese Zodiac:
Mouse

Where do you live?
Shanghai, near line three. I live with my grandson and take him to school, and on the weekends he lives with his parents.

Occupation?
I’m retired now. I had a company in Anhui. It was a gas stove manufacturer. We made all the components, the tubes and everything.

Was it a state controlled store?
No, we worked with the big companies that made houses. We were a private company. Chairman Mao sent us to work out there.

Really? How did you like it?
Like it? I didn’t have a choice. It is hard to say. Looking back, now, I think it was a great benefit for us, a great experience. I didn’t like it then, but it was good, hard work. It was two years in the countryside. Employees came to Anhui near Nanjing after they did their fieldwork. Some went to work there, others were out in the fields the whole time.

Two words to describe Shanghai?
Very rich and very full. Big businesses. High rises. There is no good word for it. Gorgeous. And there is a big gap between the rich and the poor.

How will Shanghai be in 15 years?
I can’t imagine. It will change at the same rate it does now. It will keep getting better and better in the same way.
If the government invests more in the poorer people we can all get better, together. The gap will shrink. And I think that is starting now. We should work on this.

Greatest hope for the future?
Good health. Don’t get sick.

Greatest fear?
That my family doesn’t get along. Family harmony is really important. If pressure is high in your life, your family keeps you strong. Even if you don’t have much. It is It is so important to have a good home life because it can be so hard outside the home.
Too much money isn’t peaceful nor harmonious. It doesn’t help to make you happy. When one person is rich, don’t compete with the rest of the family. You don’t need money. We don’t need meat. We can all just eat cabbage and stuff.

What is your happiest memory?
From my childhood, just playing without any responsibilities. We were innocent and happy. We all went out to the park together, my classmates and I, and looked at animals in the zoo. There were tigers. Back then, it was so far away and it was inconvenient to get there, now it is so much easier. My grandson and I like to go there now.

Do you think it is important for your grandson to learn English?
It is becoming the world’s mother language. When I was young, we studied Russian, but I have forgotten it all. We had to take tests in Russian back then.

Do you have any questions for me?
Is school the same in America? Is there the same pressure? Do children have to go? Are kids allowed to waste time and fall in love?

laosig

An Elephant Through a Microscope

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

apple (6) apple (11)

At home, I am so busy even though I am retired.

Name:
Xing

Chinese Zodiac:
Cow

Where do you live?
I live with my children, so I can help them raise my granddaughter and get her to school. My husband drives her to school, and when things are too busy I take her on my bike.

What do you do?
I am retired now. I used to sell machines, optical cable lines, and electric cables. I liked it. I also did sales. I did this job when I lived in Yangpu district.

Shanghai in two words?
A huge and modern city, the Pudong part is.

What will Shanghai be like in 15 yeasr?
I’ll be 77! I’ll be almost 80! It’ll be very rich, very strong and rich. Definitely better than it is now.

What do you like to do in your freetime?
I go to the park and exercise and walk and hang out. At home, I am so busy even though I am retired. We are going to Hong Kong for Spring Festival this year. My granddaughter has been there before. She has been to Japan, too. We went to Japan after she finished kindergarten. Kids are so happy because they can go anywhere. We couldn’t do that we when we were young. The quality of life is much better now. We all have just one kid now, too.

Do you have any other family?
I have two elder sisters and one little brother and a little sister. I’m the third of five.

What are your dreams for the future?
I want my granddaughter to be healthy and study well. I don’t have a dream for myself. I just want good health. It is expensive to see the doctor. I want to be able to eat what I want and have good health.

What is your greatest fear?
That my kids will get sick. And air pollution, and water pollution. The environment is bad here. Seafood is getting bad. It is getting too cold. If you get sick, you have to wait at the hospital for two hours. You wait a half a day. There are too many people at the doctors now. The weather has been terrible recently. It is even snowing outside right now.

What is your favorite memory of your youth?
Just playing. Just playing. When we were young, right? Just playing. We went to theater and operas, too. It wasn’t hard to study hard back then, because we had our mom who made clothes and washed them, too. She fixed socks, too. We had none of those things when we were young. And now kids have tutors for their studies and specific classes for tests.

Do you have any questions for me?
Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you have any advice for my granddaughter? Are your parents with you here? Who do you live with? How do you spell your full name? How many siblings do you have?

applesig

An Elephant Through A Microscope

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

teddy (1) teddy (3) teddy (7)
teddy (14)

 We wanted to come to chase our dreams together in Shanghai.

Names:
Wang Family (Teddy and his Mother and Father)

Chinese Zodiac:
Father: Snake.
Mother: Cock.
Teddy: Monkey.

Teddy: Is the interview over already?
No, we haven’t started yet…

Hometown:
F&M: Guizhou.
T: Shanghai

Two words to describe Shanghai?
T: Shanghai is big and beautiful. Rich.
F: Modern, traditional, juxtaposition, really good. Home prices are too high.
M: Teddy says that everything is too crowded, too many cars. I think the stock market is falling.

Where do you work?
T: I go to school. I am a student.
F: His mother is a housewife. I am in management at Shanghai’s biggest private company. His mother watches TV. At the expo, my company had a pavilion. I was a soldier, too.
M: I used to have my own restaurant of Guizhou food, but I never worked in Shanghai.

What do you do with your free time?
M&F: We watch TV and play online.
T: I always do homework. I play with toys and practice my English.

What will Shanghai be like in 15 years?
F: It will be the best city in the world.
M: The best in China. Better than Beijing. Beijing isn’t the best now, but it used to be. Now it is Shanghai.
T: Everything will be the best. Stocks and economy all will be the best in the world.
F: May I smoke?
T: My Dad is always smoking. It is bad for him.

What are your dreams for the future?
F [smoking]: I want to start a charity fund to help poor people in Guizhou when I retire.
T: He wants to help his son!
F: On TV and on the internet, Guizhou always seems so bad. So I want to help and give money.
T: I want to be a scientist and invent digital eyes and then I want to make lots of bombs and destroy all of the other countries. Not all of them. Just the ones that are bad for world development and peace. The bad countries. It would teach them a lesson. It is very important to be nice to each other. I want world peace.
M: I want my baby to be healthy. I want him to study well. That is for me. And also I want world peace, for the world.
T: We could just destroy the whole world!

What is your favorite memory?
T: I got 100 points on my test. And once a 98. I think. Maybe a 99 on my Chinese exam. I am good at technology and science and I want to go to Tsinghua [the best university in China] or Harvard.
F: My army time routine was great. My relationships were so simple. I didn’t think about anything. No one would betray anyone. It was easy. Like a family.
M: When I was a child, when I was with my parents. I didn’t worry about life. I was happy. I lived with all my different relatives when I was young. When I was 10.
F: We met in Guizhou and we came over here when she was pregnant. We wanted to come to chase our dreams together in Shanghai.

What is your biggest fear?
F: War. In 20 years there will be a war. Not world. Maybe just in China. It will be due to politics. Things are developing so fast. The pressure is on from the foreign countries. It is an imbalanced world. We are developing the fastest and other countries are falling behind. But western countries won’t let China reach the top. To stay at the top. It isn’t necessarily America and Europe, not specifically. Also I think the retirement social security in China is running out.
I don’t know how the war will start. Which country will be the first to jump into a war that a small country starts? Like the World Wars. I am not worried about North Korea. America and China have a good relationship. EU doesn’t want to be in a war. It isn’t the way to solve problems. Maybe the Middle East? China won’t get involved. Korea doesn’t want another war.
T: Horror movies. Second, war in China. Third, Chinese economy being bad and things are bad and China fails.
M: When we have problems we need to talk to each other and not solve them with violence. Talk to each other to solve them, without war. I want this.
F: I don’t think there would be nuclear war. No one wants to use that, not for attack, they would only use it in defense. It would be terrible. No one would use it. No one would use it in big cities. When you use one you attack the whole world. You attack everyone when you use one. No one wants a war. We are all scared. We are all scared of the future. We are scared of losing our jobs. There is no unemployment pay. The medical pay is bad. Shanghai is getting better though. The health care is.

Do you have any questions for me?
F: How old are Americans when they start preschool? Do they have time for other things besides school? What about in high school?
M: Do the people who haven’t been to China just think everyone in the country is poor?
T: Are all foreigners left-handed?

teddy teddy3

teddy2

Elephant Through a Microscope 5

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

michael (8) michael (5)

I went to go visit my old teacher at another school, and I met a girl there. It was almost love at first sight. I can’t tell my parents. . . We both are choosing the same university and major.

Name:
Michael (as in Jordan)

Chinese Zodiac:
Monkey

Hometown:
Family is from Zhejiang but born in Shanghai, and I don’t know why they came to Shanghai.

What do you do?
I’m in my last year of high school. I play basketball everyday with my friends here. We eat KFC and we play basketball. Next year I’ll start university and I want to study law. I also work at the reception at my school for two days a week, part time. I don’t make much money, but I can’t because I’m not an adult yet.

What do your parents do?
My dad is a taxi driver. My mom is an accountant.

Two words to describe Shanghai?
Modern. Big city. Tall buildings. Flashy.

What do you like to do for fun?
Play basketball. Read. Sleep.

What books do you like to read?
Fiction books. Detective, mystery. I have three or four hours of homework to do every night, too. I have tests every day because it is my last year. Six days a week of class. No more P.E. classes.

What do you think Shanghai will be like in 15 years?
More international? Much more? I can’t say.

What is your greatest fear?
That I won’t be able to go to the school I want to go to. That my math grades will be embarrassing.

What is your biggest hope for the future?
To find a good job? Nothing more. I don’t really have a dream. I want to be an NBA player. No, star. I want to be number one at everything. You know I am already better at basketball than you.

Why do you want to be a lawyer?
I am good at talking to people. Also, I want to make a lot of money. If I could just play in the NBA I would have a lot of money and fans and followers, too.

What is your favorite memory?
I was with my best friends in high school. I played basketball and there was a huge fight and I didn’t talk to anyone anymore. I tried to fix everything but it didn’t work. It wasn’t my fault. My teacher left the school. And then, I went to go visit my old teacher at another school, and I met a girl there. It was almost love at first sight. My parents don’t know her. I can’t tell them because they will be scared it will hurt my grades. She would get in the way. We both are choosing the same university and major. My parents wouldn’t be able to understand us when we talked. They speak Shanghainese and they can’t speak Mandarin. I’ll text her right now to see if she can come meet us. [She wrote back later to say that she wasn’t allowed to leave the house]

When do you finish school?
July. We have two, no three, days of testing for university. We get to choose our major twice, once before we take the tests and once after we get our grades. If you don’t make it into the school of your choice, the government gives you a different school. The best students get to choose the first majors right after the tests. Different schools have different best majors. The best major at my school is law.

Can you change majors?
Maybe. Maybe you’ll get kicked out. It’s very hard.

What is your favorite class in school?
Including P.E. class? Probably both P.E. and Chinese. Though we don’t play much ball in P.E. We learn Confucius values in every class, too. And my school is really well known now. We did a really big prank and wrote a bunch of stuff in the snow outside and it was on the news. Before, no one knew where it was, and now all the taxi drivers know what street it’s on.

How is your English?
I can’t really say anything. Maybe “chicken” and “shrimp.” My English teacher is American and he only speaks English in class, so I can understand it, but I can’t speak it. My cousins are in America. They live in New Jersey and watch the Nets play. Their father works at HP and they go to school. I haven’t asked them about it much, but they say America is good. My girlfriend wants to go to Japan after university and my parents want me to go to America. I don’t really want to go. And I am scared of heights and of flying.

Do you have any questions for me?
Yea. What do your parents do?

michael (1)

An Elephant Through a Microscope 4

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

family (15) family (3) family (6) family (9) family (12)

Mao Zedong told us to go to the countryside to work and learn from the farmers after high school and then go back.

Names?
Zhou family.

Chinese Zodiac?
Horse, Chicken, Rabbit, Little Horse.

Birthplace?
Changzhou City, Zhejian, and Shanghai.

Why did your family come to Shanghai?
We have always lived here, since 2000. Mao Zedong told us to go to the countryside to work and learn from the farmers after high school and then go back.
Father: In 1990 I went to Australia to work and study abroad with English, but I couldn’t speak any of it.

Two words to describe Shanghai?
Youngest Daughter: [grabs English dictionary] Rich, flourishing, changing.
Older: Pressure, nothing else. Or, hopeful.
Father: Beautiful, advanced. More advanced than a lot of American cities.
Mother: Port city, busy.

What do you like to do with your free time?
Younger: I like to watch cartoons. And play. And watch TV.
Older: I like to bathe and go to the sauna every week.
Mother: I like computer games.
Older: No, I actually just like to rest. If I get bored, I just do more homework. I switch to another homework subject. I listen to music, too.
Father: I do stocks and factory investing. I have a factory in Chengdu with diesel engines and 5,000 workers. It is huge.
Mother: I am a housewife. Ever since we had our baby girl. I used to be an accountant.
Older: Do you think being an accountant is popular in America?

What do you think Shanghai will be like in 15 years, in 2026?
Father: An international finance center. There will be a lot more foreign investors. It will be a more international city. We would see a lot more foreigners as we walk in the streets.
Youngest: Bigger. It will run out of space. It will be busier. It will have a Disneyland.
Mother: I want our daughters to go to Princeton. I think it will be a little cleaner here.
Older: I think it will be quiet at night. I don’t know. There will be fewer cars and less rubbish on the streets. We will protect the environment more. . . Are the Americans happy in America? What do they do? Do they have free time?

What is your biggest fear?
Father: War. War between China and America. The world would end. South and North Korea are fighting even now.
Mother: Isn’t the world supposed to end in 2012? No?
Older: Scared that I won’t do well in school. That I won’t be the best.
Younger: Snakes. Nuclear war. Also caterpillars.

What is your greatest hope?
Father: Both of my girls do well in school. They want to go to Princeton.
Mother: 一家平, a peaceful home. One peaceful home.
Older: I want to go to Princeton.
Younger: World peace. My classmate wanted us to all die peacefully in 2012 when the world ends, but I don’t want that. I don’t want 2012 to happen.

Favorite memory?
Father: When my first girl was born and the nurse said it was a girl and she showed me. I knew it would be a girl.
Mother: When my daughter entered high school.
Younger: Playing with my sister growing up. Did your teachers like you? No! I also liked the Expo. And I came in first rank in grade two.

Do you have any questions for me?
Father: You want to be a lawyer? A law professor?
Mother: Our daughter wants that to be that. Will you come back to China?
Younger: Have you been to Disney? What did you think of China before you came?

Untitled-1111Untitled-1 Untitled-11 Untitled-111

Elephant Through a Microscope 3

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

maple (2)

maple (1)

A common Chinese lady like myself cannot go abroad. I thought I could work in a foreign country on a business trip but it seems like I was wrong.

Name:
Maple

Chinese Zodiac:
Dog

Hometown:
Shandong

When did you come to Shanghai?
2008, but the big question is why I came!

Why did you come to Shanghai?
I was studying in Qingdao. I wanted to know English and meet English speakers. I wanted a new experience and to learn new things from English speakers. That is why I studied it, but in the other cities there aren’t enough foreigners. Shanghai is very modern, many cultures and many foreigners. A common Chinese lady like myself cannot go abroad. I thought I could work in a foreign country on a business trip but it seems like I was wrong.

I moved to the French Concession in Shanghai. I was just a Chinese girl. I got a job at the 2010 World Expo but I couldn’t get a job after that.

What was your first job?
I was a teacher, of Chinese, not English. And I was in a marketing department. I was working in a shop called South Beauty and a high classical restaurant. At the restaurant was where I studied and practiced English, even though the pay was low. This was all one job, actually. It was one big company and the boss kept moving me around. I was moved to the marketing department after 7 or 8 months of practicing English at the restaurant. Then I became a Chinese teacher there, I loved it. It was a really good career.

Why?
Because I had good friends, but they were foreign friends and they all had to leave. Everyone kept leaving. It was international.

What do you think Shanghai will be like in 15 years, in 2025?
It will be more international, and taller and taller. I don’t know the English word for that. There won’t be anything wrong with the economy and there will be more foreigners. I don’t know. There will be no more problems. Right now, the Chinese aren’t satisfied with their incomes and their salaries. Things are more expensive now. They work long, but the don’t work hard, the Chinese people. And they stay in China. It’s not safe to leave, to places like Vietnam and Thailand. The businesses prefer it here. It will be peaceful.

What is your biggest hope?
For myself, first, I want to go to Europe to study for a masters degree. I want to improve myself. It will be Chinese studies. How do foreigners learn about China?
[at this point, very oddly, a beggar came off the streets and started yelling at us about how Maple was trying to use me, all the Chinese girls were trying to use foreign men, to leave the country. She wanted my money and my citizenship. We moved to another table]
Maybe I could stay here and teach Chinese. Maybe I could learn French and Spanish, too. I only speak English now. I teach French people English, but I can’t teach in any other languages. I need to find a husband, too, before I turn 32. I have four years. It has to be 32. Then from 34-38 I’ll have a baby. Maybe I’ll be too old to have a baby. Those are my hopes.
For the world, I want peace. Now, there is too much technology. It is not good for the environment and for nature. There is too much abuse now. Some day we will all treat each other fairly. We will have different cultures but we will all treat each other well.

I understand why all Americans have guns. And there is no pollution there. Maybe we won’t be that rich in the future, but we will be happy and healthy. And there will be less divorcing.

What is your biggest fear?
Snakes. And cheating. It is okay if a man has a relationship with his friends, I’m not a jealous person. You have to be honest. He can dance with other people. He has to tell me first. I am afraid of war. I was there when the Jing’an building burned down. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Shanghai_fire].

What do you do in your free time?
I travel to places nearby for a day or two. I take time to study languages. I paint and write. I also write publications in newspapers and magazines. I do karaoke. I could have been a professional singer. Ping pong. I walk daily. I write poetry, not like novels. Philosophical stuff, too, about the world.

What is your fondest memory?
Just one? I actually have a lot. Shanghai, two years ago, I met a French guy. He cheated on me. I was so disappointed. He changed my whole mindset. I was at Tongji University and he worked at Goldman Sachs. He still calls me every week.

Do you have any questions for me?
Why did you come to China?

maple (3)

An Elephant Through a Microscope 2

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

dancer (7)

dancer (6)

In my childhood, we used to make clothes. I had new clothes from my family every year during the Spring Festival. It was my happiest time with my parents. We had less things, so we didn’t get new clothes often, except for the Spring Festival.

Name:
Niao, Dao, Zhuan

Chinese Zodiac:
Tiger, Cow, Rabbit

Hometown:
Shanghai, Shanghai, Hubei

All three were in a dance class together and they invited me to watch their performance.
Dao was the teacher of the course, Niao was the captain of the class, and Zhuan was a student. We all sat at a table after the performance and chatted. Dao did most of the talking, while the other two listened respectfully and waited their turns.

Two words to describe Shanghai?
Dao: International, metropolitan.
Niao: Polite, hospitable, open.
Zhuan: Beautiful, positive.

What do you do with your freetime?
Dao: I am retired. I teach dance, shop, hang out, and go to the doctor.
Niao: I make children [laughs].
Zhuan: I perform shows, the same as all of us, and party.

What did you do before this?
Zhuan: I did factory work, and I did sets and props at a theater, and I was a sales woman.
Niao: I was an accountant.
Dao: I was a doctor.

What do you expect Shanghai to be like in 15 years?
Zhuan: More foreign. I have two kids and one of them, my daughter, married a German.
Niao: We have the world’s longest metro bus. It is 12 lines. It is convenient and fast. You can get anywhere in an hour. There will be more stuff like this.
Dao: A better life. A more political life. More tall buildings, more foreigners, more cars.

What are your hopes for the future?
Dao: We will have a richer, stronger, country. I will have a healthy family, a happy family, and I will be healthy and have no illnesses. I want to enjoy every day.
Niao: Read that back to me, what she said. [I read it back to her] Yes, I want that.
Zhuan: About the same as them. I want things to be good for my kids. I want them to make friends.

What is your greatest fear?
Niao: For myself? Sickness, bad health, not being able to go out, not being able to exercise.
Dao: Sickness, all of hers, too. These are the most important.
Zhuan: Same. We are here everyday and we all feel bad if we miss a day of dance practice.

What is your favorite memory of your youth?
Zhuan: You have a lot of questions! In my childhood, we used to make clothes. I had new clothes from my family every year during the Spring Festival. It was my happiest time with my parents. We had less things, so we didn’t get new clothes often, except for the Spring Festival.
Niao: It´s almost the same for me and my family. My happiest memories are when my parents were here.
Dao: Same! We always got such cool clothes. We were so happy. They cared about me so much.

Do you have any questions for me?
Zhuan: Will you come back to China? What do your parents do?
Niao: I want you to tell your parents to come visit and meet us.
Dao: What sort of exercises do you parents and other Americans do?

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dancer (13)  dancer (10)

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dancer (2) dancer (1)

capsig teacersig momsig

An Elephant Through a Microscope 1

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

Li (1)Li (2)

I used to live with my Grandfather. He died when I was 30. I miss him still. He cared for me when I was growing up.

Name:

Li

Chinese Zodiac:

Tiger

Occupation:

Jianbing (煎饼) maker [Chinese Pancakes]

Birthplace:

Shandong

When did you come to Shanghai?

I came to Shanghai in 1996. I used to be a soy milk maker but it was too tiring. You had to prepare all afternoon. Then I sold medicine, local medicine, and I was in the fruit business for a few years.

Where do you live now?

I live on Qinglin Lu. It is ten minutes from here [the workplace]. I live with my wife and daughter. We all came together from Shandong.

What do you do for fun?

I have no time to do anything. I go to bed at 8 at wake up early to get to work by 4:30. My wife also makes jianbing, on Baoan Lu, but mine are better [laughs].

I was the first jianbing seller in Shanghai, maybe. I have been making them here since 2000. I was the most well known seller in Shandong, they are very popular there. The trick is you have to control the amount of heat.

What is your hope for the future?

[At first, he didn’t want to answer this question. He just shook his head and looked at his hands in his lap.]

That things will be better. Much better.

I think we are the same as western countries. The quality of life is not worse here than it is there.

I used to live with my Grandfather. He died when I was 30. I miss him still. He cared for me when I was growing up.

What is your biggest wish?

That my son will study at university. In Chengdu. Get a good job. I have two kids. A boy and a girl.

What is your greatest fear?

No fear. I am bold. [He smiles big]

Do you have any questions for me?

I just wanted to answer your questions. You come to me for jianbing often and I wanted to hear what you wanted to know.

Maybe I’ll send my son to America someday. Maybe my daughter, too.

lisig

北方門前 Bei Fang Men Qian, In Front of the North Door by Haizi

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated.

In front of the North door,
a little lady,
shook a tiny bell.

I wish
wish to be a pagoda,
built sadly in the night.

At daybreak, she catches sight of me.
Her eyes looking from the high distance.
She watches me, embodying total beauty.

亞洲銅 Yazhou Tong, Asian Copper by Hai Zi

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated.

Asian Copper, Asian Copper
Grandfather died here, father died here, I, too, will die here.
You are the place to bury people.

Asian Copper, Asian Copper
That which loves to doubt and fly is the birds
That which floods everything is the seawater.
Your master is actually the grass, in lives on your tiny waist,
hold the wildflowers’ hands and secrets.

Asian Copper, Asian Copper
Have you seen? Those two white doves? They are the white shoes
that Qu Yuan left behind on the beach.
Let’s—us and the river—put them on.

Asian Copper, Asian Copper
After the drums beat, we will name the dancing heart in the darkness
the moon.
This moon is primarily made of you.

日記 ri ji Diary by Haizi

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated.

Big Sister, tonight,
I’m in Delingha, darkness enveloped,
Sister, tonight I only have the Gobi.

The grassland ends, my two hands,
emptiness.
Grief can’t hold a single tear.
Sister, tonight, I’m in Delingha,
This is the desolate city in the rainwater.

Besides those roads passed
and places lived,
Delingha…Tonight
This is the only, the last, expression.
This is the only, the last, grassland.

I gave a stone to a stone.
Tonight, the barely only belongs
to itself.
Every slice grows,
Tonight, I only have the beautiful Gobi,
emptiness.

Sister tonight I am unconcerned with humanity.
I only think of you.

Rain by Hai Zi 海子的雨

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated.

make a fire and walk it to the boat to see the mountaintop, rain soaked, wheat field.
such small, weak, grains.

then extinguish the fire in front of the idols.
we rely on each other in silence.
you are a fairy, you live in the hamlet’s depths.

o moon, you frigid flame, the ever ripe maiden in your rain coat.

tonight’s flame is dressed to appear as a fresh flower.
to swim in the sky’s south.
to swim in the night, rise above the top of my head.

the little village in the highlands is small, impoverished.
it looks like a grain, like an umbrella.
the naked maiden in the umbrella silently doesn’t speak.

the impoverished, lonely, maiden looks like a queen, lives within the umbrella
sunlight and rainwater can only give you dust and mud.
you hide from everything in the umbrella
refusing tears and memories.

Facing the Sea 面朝大海春暖花开 mian chao da hai chun nuan hua kai

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated. It was written in January of 1989.

面朝大海春暖花开

Facing the Sea, Warm Spring Flowers Blooming
by Hai Zi

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be fortunate,
greet the horses, split firewood, travel the globe.
Starting tomorrow, I’ll connect with the grain and the vegetables,
have a room, facing the sea, warm spring flowers blooming.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll talk to the bitter;
I’ll tell them about my happiness
and what the lightning strike of fortune tells me.
My desire is to tell everyone.

I’ll give every river, every mountain a warm name.
Strangers, I wish also for your fortune.
I wish you all a bright future,
wish you lovers and that love will find a way,
wish you’ll find fortune in this life.
I just wish to face the sea, and that warm spring flowers bloom.

Tagore’s Birds

This is a poem that I worked on translating last summer by Rabindranath Tagore. It is about a forest bird and a caged bird asking each other to come over and play. I just found a photo of my translation and my favorite part.

my book and my work

বনের পাখি বলে “না, শেথা কোথায় উরিবারে পাই!”
The forest bird says, “No, how shall I find the chance to spread my wings!”
খাঁচার পাখি বলে “হায়, মেধে কোথায় বসিবার থাঁই।”
The caged bird says, “Alas, where on the clouds shall I find a safe place to roost.”