"I love to watch things change." — Karl Lagerfeld.
OK, I could've said Weltanschauung, but, you know.... I see things through the lens of social progress. So, depending on how you see things, I'm either a progressive, or an immoral leftie. I have confidence in the innate goodness of humankind and maintain that it is only particular conditions that throw us back towards the animal state. We are inherently capable of improvement.
Basically, I didn't listen when advised that I think too much. Now I'm suffering the consequences in that I'm addicted to the news and can't resist commenting on stuff, mostly social progress and the restoration of human beings to full, multidimensional complexity. If you'd like to put in your penny's worth, or think I deserve to be brought down a peg or two, here's your chance.
Social and Fun
"Lesbians are fabulous," it says on the lesinshanghai yahoo group (actually, that's true). We have a fantastic time on the very active Shanghai lesbian (la la) scene, both during PRIDE, and during the many months in between. There are brunches (naturally), bars (goes without saying), and organised events. Acquaintances are made, friendships are formed, love is found and marriages are entered into. Nothing less than you'd expect from a fabulous city!
Exploring the City
My job is highly rewarding and stimulating. One of the best parts is exploring the city to find teaching material for my lessons. I do this mainly on my kick scooter. It's light, fast and robust. It folds up and I take it on the metro, which goes everywhere—perfect combination. My Shanghainese students confess that I know their city better than they do. I'm earning my living by doing my hobby. How cool is that?
Shanghai is a great point from which to explore East and Southeast Asia. My "go-to" chill-out place is Bangkok, a four-hour flight away, but I once did it by land (because you have to do stuff like that at least once in your life). But there's also Phuket (tick), Kuala Lumpur (tick), Hong Kong (er...), Taipei (er...), Jakarta (er...), Manila (er...), Kyoto (er...), well, you get the idea.
Call it active citizenship, if you like. I serve on the Board of Directors of the US-based Serendipity Foundation. We provide financial assistance to progressive social causes, victims of natural disasters and individual activists. Last year I was the Faculty Advisor to the student Queer & Ally Society at NYU Shanghai, including several inputs to Ally Week. I hope for the opportunity to do so again this year.
Last year, together with a colleague, we put on City Screen, a series of weekly film screenings. This year, together with several colleagues, we're doing the same with Friday Night, Movie Night. One thing about my intellectual life at NYU Shanghai is that it has a very lively social component: real ales; live music; annual jazz and literary festivals; readings; talks; shows; debates; walks; reviews and recommendations; etc. Most of what's going on in and around NYU Shanghai I actually miss, since there're only so many nights in a week.
It's odd: I live in Shanghai and can get great Chinese instruction virtually free of charge around the corner my office, yet I can't fit it into my schedule. But I can fit in the NYU Speak Freely Online Arabic class on Sunday nights. So, in Shanghai, I'm picking up Arabic where I last left off! The really interesting thing I realised is that although there's no-one in Shanghai I can speak Arabic with and I never hear it around me, learning it enhances my imagining of the Middle Eastern scenes I'm creating in my novel. I would never have expected that. :-)
At the moment I'm looking for a suitable Shanghai venue for hosting a monthly open mike for emerging writers. Stay tuned!