Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The American Dream of not being here

In the next couple of years, my husband and I will have to decide whether to move to America or stay in Germany. If we move to America, we'd be in Berkeley, CA, where my family has its roots. 

But, even though Northern California ranks as one of the most desirable places in the United States, I have my hesitations. Because of one thing that I, as an American, just can't get over: America is ugly.

I don't mean the landscape; the amber waves of geographical eye candy turn every tourist into a hobby photographer. I don't mean the people, either. I mean that daily life in America is ugly, the drabness that we face because the little oases of architectural and civic beauty are choked off by parking lots and freeways. 

Take Berkeley, for instance. The legendary university town actually has a bayshore waterfront that boasts a million-dollar view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. If any European city were so blessed with this geography, without a doubt that waterfront would have been built into an appealing esplanade with cafes, boutiques, and tree-lined parks for the enjoyment of life. But we Americans? No. We built I-80 with 5 lanes of traffic in each direction. 

I-80 Eastshore Freeway/Minesweeper, wikimedia commons.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Story Addiction

image: audrey mei/wikimedia commons

Story is a drug. We crave it, we binge on it, we go through withdrawal. We get our fix and are hungover from it for days. 

Every society in history of mankind has its drugs. Every society also has its stories. These days, Americans spend more on story than they do on narcotics. Read these facts about story and you'll realize that writers and storytellers are actually dealing the most ubiquitous drug there is.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Om Chemo: When my yoga teacher got cancer

image: audrey mei
This post was originally published in elephant journal on October 12, 2012.

Back in the aughts, I was an aspiring yogini in San Francisco. But it was a commitment that came with a snag: I couldn't stand pretentious yoga teachers. I was raised in an Asian Buddhist home, hence my skin prickled whenever a 20-something yoga teacher lectured spiritual blah-blah. How much could one know about the Dharma after a one-year training? Or even three years? All snarkiness aside, these young teachers in 2002, I thought, might have been Jazzercize instructors in 1982.

But then I found Karl, an advanced Iyengar teacher. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

The strictly flakey Germans

photo: wikimedia commons/mathias degen. image: audrey mei

"The person you are calling is temporarily unavailable."

Again?! It's lunchtime, I'm in Berlin waiting outside a Himalayan restaurant for Mike. He's 20 minutes late and I can't reach him. Just as I start to leave, he appears on his bicycle in his usual attire of flowing flax pants and Egyptian shirt. Mike is a fire dancer and travels around Europe with friends, earning his daily bread (literally, as in food for one day) with street performing. Reaching him is hit or miss since the pre-paid credit on his phone averages zero if I'm not lending him money. His girlfriend is about to dump him because she can't imagine how he'd ever contribute to household finances. 

The thing is, Mike is German. Now, I love living in Germany because things work: public transportation, the Autobahn, electricity, postal service, lost and found. German doors, windows, appliances and cars are glorious because they function so smoothly. They're German. Precise and efficient. But then there's Mike. How does he fit into this picture?