Beijing photo diary

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Finally past the Great Firewall and belatedly posting pics from my week in Beijing, the cultural and political capital of the People’s Republic of China.

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The last time I properly visited the Mainland capital was 4 years ago. Back then, my stylish friend who was living there at the time introduced me to 798, the arts district. I must have forgotten how far out of the city it was or the traffic situation has gotten a LOT WORSE, because it took forever to get there and was impossible to find a cab back from on a Thursday afternoon. Anyway, among the many shops there was this one in particular with a wall of ukeleles.

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For the week I spent in Beijing, I stayed with a friend who lives in a hutong. Hutongs are basically shacks in back alleyways that look really dilapidated from the outside, but many of which have been beautifully renovated on the inside as residences. Despite being the epitome of old-school Chinese, the feeling of community in the hutong was not unlike being part of an extended family. On one jetlagged late-night after completely missing my dinner plans by taking a “nap” at 6pm, I grabbed a chuan-r dinner by myself (skewers of meat, usually advertised as lamb or chicken, but probably cat or dog) with drinks and fried bread and seafood for a grand total of 56 RMB or approximately $9 USD. Not wanting coins for change, I handed the waitress 60 kuai and walked out. About 5 minutes later I hear breathless panting behind me – she had come after me to hand me the equivalent of 65 cents in change. “Hope to see you tomorrow” she smiled and walked off. Definitely not the typical mainland Chinese city attitude.

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Although I can speak Chinese proficiently, having a notebook for the week was crucial to communicating with people. Especially since my VPN drained my phone battery and google maps is basically useless in China anyways. Writing characters for addresses made getting around so much less painful. Thanks Mom for sending me to Chinese school all those Saturday mornings!
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While I prepared for PM2.5 with N95 masks and even brought a box over from Hong Kong for my China hosts as a thank you gift, the skies were “APEC blue” for the week. In light of the conference, the government shut down factories and created a holiday so locals would leave and decongest the city a bit. As a result, pollution wasn’t a problem (ostensibly) and traffic was bearable. I picked a great week to be in Beijing, albeit not representative of typical living conditions there. Let’s hope the next time I’m back there’s some important international meeting going on again!

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ZAOZAO Pops Up in Seoul!

Heading to Seoul to curate a jewelry pop-up corner for Level 5, a retail shop in Seoul that showcases the best emerging Korean clothing designers.

Been wanting to share this exciting piece of news but had to keep it under wraps as we were in discussion mode for a few months. We were invited by Level 5, a retailer in the ultra hip neighborhood of Myeongdong, to curate a jewelry pop-up corner this fall. Level 5 showcases dozens of Seoul’s best emerging clothing designers, including past participants of Project Runway Korea, in individual concept shops on the same retail floor. I was blown away by the variety, quality and workmanship of the designs when I first visited Level 5 last October. For someone who frequents fast fashions chains, it was such a breath of fresh air to be able to shop pieces I knew no one else would have, without breaking the bank. Naturally, I was thrilled when I learnt of this opportunity to collaborate and give Seoul shoppers a taste of what ZAOZAO has to offer.

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Unexpected lessons from exploration

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For Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, and non-Portuguese explorers alike, their voyages were more or less shots in the dark. These intrepid travelers set out with lofty goals in mind, aided by some funding and supplies which in many cases proved insufficient. Little did the explorers know, the journeys would be met with attacks, delays, letdowns, but ultimately discoveries that proved significant (like the Pacific Ocean) even though they were not part of the original plan.

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In search of Muggle Magic

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A few weeks ago, after being given abrupt notice to leave the West Village apartment I was living in, I packed my bags and decided to take a break from New York City, working remotely as a solution. I did not have any particular destination nor duration set in mind, just the goal of temporarily disappearing to focus on the business and myself – things which go hand in hand. And, of course, to do so within a certain budget. Fortunately, thanks to miles tickets and AirBNB, I ended up in Spain, and now Portugal for less than it would have cost to maintain my old living situation in Manhattan. Beyond that, traveling in a way that I have never done before – in shared accommodations, without google maps, and completely solo – has proven to be yet another new and enriching learning experience (though admittedly, at times, painful).

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It never stops

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Landed in New York last Tuesday at 10pm. Unpacked a little, read over questions for a tech chat for Silicon Dragon the next day. Attended speakers’ luncheon and promptly entered food coma…cut out early to nap before the actual event. Snoozed twice before rushing to midtown to make it in time for my slot. Did 3 TV interviews and then went on stage. Wore hat to cover up bad bangs, threw on some makeup to look alive. Executed tech chat with no major glitches. Stayed afterward and met a gazillion promising contacts. Success.

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