Farewell, New York: Back to Asia

After nine years in New York City, a period in which my wife earned her Bachelor’s degree and became an American citizen, we’re on the move again. Determined to keep the dual-continent lifestyle, we’ve uprooted our lives for the second time in a return to Asia that is not “forever”, but “for now”.

nearly empty room
Last day
Leaving was not easy, but it went nearly as smoothly as possible. I could have done a better job of last-minute preparations in the final week (when X had already departed), and I am deeply indebted to Piers calling me on my last day in town and inviting himself over to help out. “Bory,” he said upon walking into my apartment. “You are not ready to leave!” This was about two hours before my car to the airport would arrive.

My company made the move a comfortable one, by agreeing to my request to be transferred abroad. That meant keeping my job and steady paycheck, while also providing funds for airfare and shipping some personal belongings overseas. It also meant I was moving to Kuala Lumpur, instead of somewhere in China (the original plan).

5 suitcases
At the airport

bowl of noodles
Assam Laksa
For the last few years, X and I discussed this move (it’s always been part of our plan to move back and forth between our respective countries for the rest of our lives) without being able to definitively say where we’d go. On the one hand, her hometown of Chengdu is where her family lives, and we want to be as close to her parents as possible. On the other hand, Chengdu is a different kind of town than New York or Shanghai, where we’ve lived for the last dozen years.

Which isn’t to knock Chengdu – we like the things that make Chengdu unique – but it’s a lot easier to find office jobs in New York or Shanghai, over the internet, than it is in Chengdu. And this was a big priority for X, to have a job waiting. It was important for me, too, because we’ve got bills and there isn’t much slack in our budget.

bowl of chicken soup with beer
Chicken Claypot
I think we had a bit of a nagging uncertainty, Will we be bored in Chengdu?, that must have contributed to it, but either way, I stayed focused on my plan with my job, which was settled by the end of winter, while X concentrated her search in Shanghai, where offers were more plentiful. She also applied to jobs in KL in solidarity 🙂

In the end she had to choose between offers from both cities, and we agreed that she should take the Shanghai position. It was better for her career, and our long-term goal was to be in China, after all.

So are you guys, like, getting divorced? No! There has been some confusion over the fact that we will be living apart for some time. Well, we’re weird like that. We didn’t plan it this way, but it was the best option to move towards our goal, so we took it.

Lime Ice
Now I’m in an apartment in KL that was provided by the company for a month. It’s right next door to the office. The food here is good, and my co-workers have been nice about inviting me to lunch and dinner, knowing I’m on my own. It’s a new start, but also a sort of intermission.

Living alone (for the first time) will be a challenge, but also a valuable skill to have. We’re both looking forward to it. Of course we miss each other, but we’re strong, we know the plan, and we’ll see it through.

Meanwhile: Hello, Malaysia!

Late Screening

People are dancing to machines now. That’s what’s happening.

-Neil Young

I met Gia for dinner last night in the Village, and we had a great time catching up. She ended up getting some news that afternoon that would make the day a memorable one; the timing was perfect for a sibling celebration / commisseration over cocktails and antipasta.

Later, after she’d departed for her train, I came across the cinema with Neil Young on the billboard. X is back home for a spell and I thought, where have got to be? I bought a ticket for the 11:30pm show.

“Muddy Track” is a record of Neil’s 1986-7 European tour with Crazy Horse, at least half of which consists of his own personal home videos, shot on a classic 80s camcorder named Otto. Young keeps the camera rolling during band rehearsals and fights on the tour bus, and on the stage he places it on his amp stack, facing out to film the audience, as he and the band deliver massive, feedback-distorted rock and roll to rioting audiences.

Neil Young playing guitar
Neil rocking out
The film is rough and raw and depicts a tour disintegrating into chaos. It’s always raining. The band can’t learn a new tune, and argues over vocal arrangements. Television interviewers pepper Young with questions about his relevance, one of which sparks the quote above, where he complains about electronic  music.

The whole time, he keeps trusty Otto by his side, rolling tape. Alone in his hotel room, he films himself eating breakfast and talks about the last show. Crowds roar as he pans the camera across the audience, hundreds of arms reaching out from the mass of bodies crushed against the stage. And the steady, droning buzz of pulsing rock throughout.

I found myself watching with a smile as broad as the arc of the tour bus’s windshield wipers.

Life Imitates Farce

The military junta in Thailand arrested some youths for doing the “Hunger Games” salute outside a Bangkok theater during the film’s premiere.

The salute, which in the movies is a daring act of silent rebellion, began to appear here in the weeks after the May 22 coup. The authorities warned that anyone raising it in public could be subject to arrest.

A woman is arrested while doing the Hunger Games salute
Natchacha Kongudom, told reporters, “The three-finger sign is a sign to show that I am calling for my basic right to live my life.” Rungroj Yongrit/European Pressphoto Agency. Used without permission.

Talk about paranoia. The above image sort of looks like a group of friends going to see Mockingjay. But actually, the 3 women surrounding the protester are undercover cops. Who, apparently, were staking out the neighborhood cineplex.

The film was pulled from the theater. The kids were soon released from custody, but not before undergoing the kind of treatment which, in my day, my father often said I was in “serious” need:

Army officials later confirmed that the students were held for several hours for “attitude adjustment” and then released.


“The president should be ashamed it’s happening on his watch. Eric Holder should be ashamed… This governor should be ashamed… Every adult in this country should be ashamed that African-American children are being terrorized in the United States of America, [which] claims to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

-Pastor Michael McBride, of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, California, speaking in Ferguson, MO to DemocracyNow.org. I couldn’t agree more. The scene below is not one that belongs in America, or anywhere.

police dressed as soldiers, with automatic rifles, body armor and gas masks, aim their weapons at a black man
Ferguson, MO. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, used without permission