Come with me to China. Sit across from me with a mug of loose-leaf green tea cradled in your hands. Feel the insistent humidity, the sour stink of tofu, the distant cough of a cook taking his last puff between shifts. We are in Shanghai learning how to tell and—perhaps more importantly—listen to stories.
The "Storytelling & Storylistening" project started back in May 2017. First, I was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying behavioral neuroscience & trying to sort out my own brain in doing so. A few weeks later, I was at the Yale Writers' Conference at Yale University, studying my craft & laughing a lot with people who loved stories as much as I do. I rediscovered how to read for and with pleasure. I wrote about traumatized ghosts and cactus people. I called myself a writer and, for the first time in years, really believed it. Now, in the last leg of my Exploration Summer, we have crossed oceans and timezones to arrive at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in southeastern China. Since coming here, I've gotten stuck with more acupuncture needles than I can count, struggled to order food in Mandarin, practiced traditional Chinese medical techniques on my classmates, meditated on a rooftop, and spilled a variety of liquids on myself. I've laughed so hard that I cried and wanted to cry so badly that I laughed. As the end of my summer draws nearer, I'm finally sitting down to think a little. This poemblog & its readers are witnesses to my reflection.