One of the things we learned while living in China was how important it is to have plenty of plants in the house to filter and clean the air. As we mentioned in a previous post, the air pollution in China had adverse effect on our breathing and well-being, so we had to make some changes. We began by filling our apartment with plants found by NASA to be effective at filtering the air. Some local friends came to visit our place and immediately exclaimed, “your house smells like the forest!” which was true! Unfortunately, since we were novice plant lovers, we found it difficult to make the plants last throughout the different seasons. When Suzhou's damp winter came around, we were blasting the heater all the time, which dried out the plants within a few weeks. During the summer the terrace got too hot and burnt the plants there. Some plants that prefer shady spots developed mold. There was definitely a learning curve, since the plants couldn't walk around and choose a comfy spot for themselves .
We headed to Myanmar’s famous U Bein Bridge in the late afternoon to catch the sunset. Many tourists and locals were there for the same reason, as was this monk taking a sunset-selfie with her friend.
Suzhou, China is famous for silk, pearls and BiLuoChun (碧螺春) tea, a popular variety of green tea. On one of our visits to the Suzhou countryside, we came across a tea field filled with goats casually grazing between the tea bushes. We had no idea what the goats were there for, but by that time we had become used to seeing animals in unusual places in China. As we got closer to the goats, we noticed a mama goat watching us carefully without making any noise. We acknowledged her, asked for her permission, and picked up a baby goat. She gave a nod of approval and looked away. The baby goat was so cute we could not get enough of her. Later we found out these goats were being used as an organic weed control solution. They eat the weeds without damaging the tea bushes, and their droppings act as fertilizer, reducing human labor in both cases. In other parts of China, where PuEr tea is grown, we met farmers who employ geese for the same purpose, because goat droppings can sometimes give a 'goaty' note to PuEr tea. This was one of many surprising things we learned while in China. We loved the idea of humans and animals working together in this way.
We were walking down a barely paved street with open gutters on each side in Mandalay, Myanmar. We were greeted with these beautiful smiles around us, the ones you see in this picture. Then we noticed a truck zoom by with about 30 people being carried on their way home from work. Some of them waved at us and said "Hello!" with big smiles. Why are they so happy? They just worked all day, probably in physically demanding situations, and got crammed into a pick-up truck with 30 other people. Where does your social energy come from? Aren't you tired and crabby by this time of day? Then it hit us, they probably spent their whole day chatting about something and nothing with their friends while working. The more time we spend with others, the more experiences we share, the closer we become to the point of finishing each other’s sentences. Whatever we need to get done in our day, if we can do it with our close friends, then it would be a pretty good day wouldn’t it? This lesson will stick with me for a long time.
The men sat around the kitchen table with their backs turned toward me while they smoked. In a few short minutes, I had lost their respect.
I was choking... I had not prepared for this.
After 5 years of working for myself, I finally made a decision to take a full time job. Zaic Design will continue to operate as a small team of talented contractors, with high level oversight from me.
I have to fight the urge to look back with longing at my previous life. I have to remember the pleasant days, the warm smile of friends, the feeling of being somewhere foreign and unexplored, without regret. I am *home* now, that is all that matters.