Dating in China – Mary

My dating in China continues, with the obvious next stage. Meeting a nice Chinese girl.

Backpacking summer ’09

It was a long, overwhelming summer. I haphazardly traveled to Shanghai plus Hangzhou to visit a Californian friend, I drank, I didn’t sleep, had to deal with high friends, had to deal with drunk acquaintances, had to deal with Californians visiting me and then getting their passports stolen. Then I moved, and I traveled some more.

All this and I was trying to put myself out there, but still mostly taking it slow with girls. (I made out with one girl at an epic club in Shanghai, that was it) After my “success” with a certain beautiful, sexy, glamorous adult woman, and subsequently discovering I really missed her, I suppose a part of me thought I should end up with someone completely different.

Mary was a girl, an English major at a university in Guangzhou. Junior or senior year, if I remember. 21 with medium-length hair and a very youthful vibe. I met her at a gig in Conghua, we hung out in my hotel room and played ping pong in the lobby. She very much had the cute thing going on. And she listened to Green Day.

After we crossed the threshold of fooling around, we vowed to keep in touch. Guangdong Province ain’t that big, and I needed to learn more about the capital megacity of Canton. Shenzhen is nice but that’s not all there is.

She proceeded to visit me, and I visited her. Actually she really made me feel better during the stressful days. We rotated visits every two weeks for a while. I enjoyed Guangzhou and having a bit of a guide. Go on weekend holidays, check out the Pearl River and the safari park. In a lot of ways GZ is better than SZ, it’s more massive and has a bigger scene and of course has more history and culture. Yet somehow the Special Economic Zone always suited me more. The Provincial Capital is too spread out, too much for me. Now, Shenzhen is a first-tier city and bigger than New York City and it’s not even one of the main big cities of China. Guangzhou may be a distant third to Beijing and Shanghai but it’s still incomprehensibly bigger than any Western city. I always thought of myself as a city person, but I must concede that places like Shanghai and Tokyo are way too much for me.

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SZ Daily: Expat cycles to India for good cause


Kaisa Ansper, biker and charity driver and all-around great gal’

BIKING thousands of kilometers across the high-altitude terrain of multiple nations is not for the average person. Few would even for a second consider the concept, but a unique sort relishes in taking on challenges of endurance while experiencing the unexpected along the road. And it’s a good thing for some kids in India and China that one of those sorts is in Shenzhen.

“Stay positive and good things will come,” says 30-year old Estonian Kaisa Ansper. On August 1 she will hit the road to raise money for her charity effort, Bonfire Heart, setting out to pedal from Shenzhen to Mumbai, India. The journey will take her along Friendship Highway through Tibet to Nepal. She expects the cycling trek will take about 77 days. Sponsorship and donations will go toward funding her trip, as well as to two charities: Shenzhen Min Ai Disabled Children’s Welfare Center which helps disabled children; and Amcha Ghar, a home for girls in India.

“I’m trying to bring attention to these charities,” she explained. “Min Ai is amazing! But they need new machines to help the children. They receive little money from the government, so they depend on private donations.”

Certified by the Shenzhen Disabled People Association, Min Ai is located in Futian District. The center offers specialized education for physically and mentally-challenged children, including rehabilitation training, psychological treatment, medical care, nursing and nutritional help. More information is available on their website:

“I don’t have children myself,” she explained while planning her arrival at the Amcha Ghar home in India. “Hopefully I can teach art and English there. It’s a good way to help the next generation. The center gives the girls a home, safety, an education and hope.”

Amcha Ghar home for girls aids abused and homeless children in India. A primary goal is to educate and transform the unskilled girls into skilled women, able to lead independent lives. Amcha Ghar’s website is

Ansper now teaches art and language to Shenzhen kids. “I came to China after seven years of international travel,” Ansper said. “I was raised bilingual. I had relatives in Sweden and Finland and my family traveled a lot between those countries.”

Ansper is of a diverse background. “From Japan I moved to Wuhan to teach English. Then I moved to Guangzhou and worked for a Chinese company in marketing. I managed to find an investor and I started In the Red magazine. It was great running it, but it was stressful and I gave it up.”

“I decided to settle in a new city. I’d visited Shenzhen many times. I liked the city, so I moved here.” Ansper says she has enjoyed her year in Shenzhen. “It’s clean compared to other cities. I love the access to beaches, it’s good for cycling and the roads are wide. It’s green with plants everywhere. The Shenzhen government is doing a great job building cycling paths, ramps, parks and greenways.”

Taking full advantage of the paths, she cycles nearly everywhere she needs to go. “I’ve always like cycling. It’s good for the environment, healthy and fun. Other people take the metro, I take my bicycle.”

On the evening of May 8th, Ansper will attend an open mic music event at Rapscallions Café Bar, Shopping Park, Futian District. There she will accept donations in person. “It’s a great way to help less advantaged kids,” she said.

More information about Kaisa Ansper’s charity drive and how to contribute is at

Dating in China – Julia

This one is gonna get sappy…

Dating in China would imply Chinese girls, wouldn’t it? Not necessarily. Behold, expat girls too, lost love, bittersweet memories~

I remember the first time I met Julia. I was at the usual pub with my pals, where we often frequented on the weekends. It was her birthday. I learned right away she was older than me. Up to four years.

She was so beautiful. And she still is. Tall, long legs, my height exactly. Bright blonde hair, dyed. She dressed casual, wore a white T-shirt and tight jeans. A very cute, very feminine face (sometimes tall women have more rugged squared-off faces, but not her). Perfect body, slim but not too much like that anorexic style of bar models.

Always elegant. She spoke English with a sexy Eastern European accent, a softer version of Russian. I have Slavic family and I know the general tone, but it turned out she was from an EU country. I wasn’t wrong in guessing that she studied in Moscow. She lived in Shenzhen as a classically-trained music teacher, and even performed at major concert halls on occasion.

I didn’t think I had a chance with her at all. Anyway, I was with Mona at the time.

I recall asking her how she felt turning that milestone age, and she said she didn’t feel different.

I probably didn’t make much of an impression the first time. I was just another white guy in the crowd. I tried to be funny, tried to be nice, but when you’re an expat you meet new faces constantly. Only a few stand out and prove to worth remembering. I wasn’t that special, not yet.

Well, we were in the same social and professional circles, and often crossed paths. From bar to bar, and even within the same garden, we’d bump into each other and say hello. I started seeing more of her. I started being more memorable. We’d hang out and text each other and generally be friends.

One day, I was dancing on a clean E pill and I flirted with her and made her laugh. That’s all, and it was a great night I remember it fondly.

The night things finally escalated. Me and another guy were at her apartment late. Perhaps we both had something on our minds, some subtextual competition. My American friend eventually got tired and left, while I stayed into the early hours of the morning. We sat together on her sofa and somehow I found the courage to kiss her.

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Dating in China – Mona


Me circa ’09, Beijing–>Great Wall

The dating in China officially begins.

After being situated in SZ, I was introduced to Mona through a coworker who was transparently playing the matchmaker. Mona was a 20-something independent office lady, an intelligent Hunanese (a common enough home-province for those in SZ) who studied in Beijing and came to Shenzhen to work and live near Hong Kong. She was good-looking, with long, permed hair and a nice figure and she liked to wear purple and green contact lenses. She liked Japanese pop culture and Marilyn Manson. Her English was good – which is kind of a requirement for me. I won’t date someone for language lessons with whom I can’t have a meaningful conversation. Which is one reason my Mandarin isn’t that good.

One day said coworker invited us both to a restaurant and then suddenly cancelled. We were left alone to get to know each other better. Obviously being set up, right? We ate and went to my apartment complex to talk about movies and anime and then we sat on a bench outside and made out among the soft evening winds. It escalated and we became a couple for four or five months and I started introducing her to others as my girlfriend.

Mona had a small apartment nearby; I’d often prefer going to her place to enjoy our time together and stay the night. She had a cute small dog, the poor thing cramped in a tiny apartment. We’d go on long walks with the dog, in parks and gardens and “mountain climbing” as the Chinese call hiking. I’d be the dog-sitter when she would go out of town. 2009 rang in and we celebrated the New Year at the stroke of midnight with a kiss.

There were some flaws in all this, some cultural and personality differences. Not all rainbows. But no big deals to get over. Most important of all, we had similar interests and she was nice and hot and she liked me. Though I did feel corny when she first held my hand at Dongmen, and I’ve since gotten used to how in China public displays of affection are a bit less public except for the ubiquitous hand-holding. It’s like primary school dating or something. Aw who am I to try to be so mature?

Occasionally I invited her to go to pubs with my friends, and she never seemed comfortable in that scene. Was it a mistake? Was I the one moving things fast, too much pressure? Is that something I do? When it was just the two of us we were fine. Usually we’d go out for dinner and stay in at her place on the weekends and watch bootleg DVDs. Celebrated my birthday like that. Other times she showed me around Shenzhen. I recall a great outing to Hong Kong, shopping and bookstores at malls and taking pictures at the Peak. Then, dangerously, we planned a trip to Beijing.

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Dating in China 1

Begins. September, 2008, I arrive in China. Fresh after reinventing myself, neural reprogramming with lysergic acid dymethelmide, plus introspective road trips and self-improvement strategies. Was I ever ready for a new start.

Firstly, it should be noted that I’m a latebloomer as is. I hadn’t had a girlfriend in quite a while, to be honest. Didn’t really do well for myself in Southern California those previous three years.

Long before even that era, there was the main hometown girlfriend of my youth. Back in Cincinnati, Ohio, my adopted homeland. Ashley was a former opiates addict with dead eyes and a kind heart. The timing wasn’t right and she still had further healing that I could not help with, but it was valuable experience for both of us. We had fun and clubbed and talked all night and we grew. Eventually apart. Kept in touch a while, then I’d decided to seek my fortune on the West Coast. Goodbye, Ashley.

And before her, a few. One older woman punk rocker who taught me various things comes to mind. For the most part there were various crushes that usually never amounted to much. If they amounted to anything in the distant future, then I’ll write about it later if I think it’s worth mentioning.

Some other occasional learning experiences, few and far between, this and that. The early years weren’t kind, that’s all.

As of the arrival, my most recent girlfriend did happen to be Chinese-American. Oddly enough. I never planned for this kind of fever, I swear. Lila was just my type at the time, slim designer, a cutesy sweetheart, a real innocent. We met on a film set when I was living in hipster Silverlake for a few months. We held hands on camera, so cute.

I think Lila may have only liked me for my wannabe bohemian starving-artist ways. Liked it as a phase. We went to shows and talked about comics and she drove me around. Eventually she left me to go back to her ex-boyfriend, an exceedingly-square law school student. Security, right? Sell-out. While we stayed friends when I returned to Long Beach, it was more than a little awkward when she would repeatedly introduce me to her boyfriend. Perhaps she was playing games, with either one of us sap guys, who knows now. After a crazy time in San Diego (involving salvia divinorum) I confronted her and it went more sour between us. Last I heard she married recently.

A handful of flings in between as well, but can’t say I had much of a successful love life during those cold sunny years.
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Intro to Dating in China

I think I’m old enough at this point to begin considering my memoirs.

How about a series focusing on that ever-fascinating subject: girls?

Please allow me to introduce this new blog category: Dating in China

After years and years of commitment issues, the stories have stacked up. The innocent, the naïve, the loved, the forgettable, and the mistakes. I could tell a few stories. Of the young, the old; the crazies, the addicts; the rich, the poor. Memories I will keep forever. Some were so breathtaking, others settling. Nice. Mean. Smart. Never stupid. And the one psycho who eternally holds a place in my heart.

Well. I’ve never really been one to high-five with the bros over my conquests. I’ve sincerely kept most of this to myself for greater part of my life. Now simply seems like the right time to put it all out there.

Still, I must admit this will get rather self-indulgent. Deal with it. I have made the decision to embrace my inner narcissist, and why not?

I do worry this may be pandering. I have always had goals of literary merit, but this is sure to be pure emo gossipyness. On the other hand, I try to take the writing process seriously and perhaps it’s good for the soul to share. I shall do my best to go over this subject matter in an intriguing and mature fashion. And people out there may even enjoy the read.

The names have been changed to protect the guilty as they say. Obviously.
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My historical novella, now on KDP

I wrote this historical novella a number of years back, and it has recently been edited and polished up a bit and I’d like to share. The Ghost of Lotus Mountain Brothel, now available as an ebook on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Press.

Not truly a ghost story, it is my humble literary take on the reflections modern world has with the classical eras we tend to needlessly romanticize. If you are intrigued and would like to read more, just ask and I’ll be happy to email you a complimentary copy.

Ghost 2

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Part 2: Doing LSD at Burning Man

Part 2, the continued story of How I Came to China: Burning Man


After my amazing week of sights and sounds on the Black Rock desert scene, the amazing people I met and the beautiful visuals and even a few hookups, it all culminated in the final night – in which they Burn the Man – and then I got to take LSD.

Now, the psilocybin mushroom is my drug of choice. I have the most experience with it, I am a big fan of Terence McKenna’s spiritual theories on the subject, and I believe that the therapeutic aspects of these experiences literally saved my life during a sensitive time in my upbringing. It’s natural, healthy [aminita muscaria is the shamanic poisonous mushroom, psilocybin is completely nontoxic, I do know what I’m talking about on this subject], and extremely powerful. It’s a psychedelic and obviously non-addictive (come on, a psychedelic trip is something to do once every few months at the most), and I’ve never even come across any law enforcement official who gives a shit about mushrooms. Something I certainly recommend for everybody, and hey to each their own.

I heard there were shrooms going around the Burner community, but I wouldn’t like to do it in a party atmosphere. It’s unfortunate that entheogens tend to turn up when you’re around loud noises and crowds, better to do it in times of quiet contemplation. Set and setting, very important.

Anyway, the twilight of the event and there were parties of dancing naked people around the periphery of the immense burning statue and I wandered as much as I could to seep in each and every sensory perception. I met some nice Australian couchsurfers and they mentioned acid and we actually did the barter economy thing. I traded my indie comic for a tab—how cool is that?

This was my first and only time with LSD, at least with good LSD. I’m not opposed and would very much like to try it more often but it’s just been so elusive for me. I’m just not that cool to have the proper vibe. Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something. That’s okay, I’ve had plenty other.

These days, South China tends to have a lot of party drugs, the kind that are more shallowly fun and dangerous. Sadly it’s not a psychedelically-inclined place. That’s Rising China, nothing deep of substance here. But I’m not complaining, the nice economical thing about true psychedelics is you can take it once every few decades that that can be plenty.

This was a plentiful dose indeed. I found the lysergic acid diethylamide chemical to be far more euphoric than psilocybin. Not scary, no bad tripping episodes. The hallucinations were more subtle, things bending and stretching and amazing colors when I close my eyes but not quite the intense melting sensations of organics. Less nausea-inducing than my other psychedelic experiences as well, such as ayahausca.


Back to the story at hand. For the next twelve hours I was gleefully rolling around on the sandy playa. Kind passersby would ask me if I was okay, and I’d say I was fine and had no self-conscious issues at all. I looked up at the stars to see one of the most stunning sights of my life, as you can see the real sky when you’re in the desert, and suddenly I understood how the ancients conceived of constellations. I saw infinite UFOs connecting the dots of star points with streams of light dancing upon infinity…

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How I came to China: Burning Man



The time has come for these posts to get autobiographical. I do have a few stories worth telling, and now’s the time to tell them.

Let us start at the relative beginning. By the beginning, I mean the beginning of my expat life. Not that it wasn’t interesting before that, but let’s have some continuity.

It’s like this: Whenever you go to a party and meet someone, after the obligatory questions of “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” are over with, one common question is to be asked is “How did you get to China?” It’s a fair query and I’ve asked it myself. My story is a bit complicated and concerns a desert rave festival. So here it is…


It was the summer of 2008 and I was a tad anxious. I’d lived in Long Beach in Southern California for three years, a cool city part of greater Los Angeles County, and I’d just finished a run at a lame office job. Before that, the proverbial server gig and college credits. Somehow my goals of becoming a famous screenwriter hadn’t come to much fruition. I was a bit in between things and trying to figure out my next step. Meanwhile, I was all set to go to Burning Man!

I had already been to Burning Man for the first time in 2007. If you don’t know it, google pictures of it immediately. There are already plenty of writings out there about this extreme music and arts festival, and now it is my turn to have a go at my own “this one time at Burning Man” story.

Firstly, one needs to know the basics. Continue reading

Book Review: The Exact Unknown

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Isham Cook is quite the blogger. The mysterious Beijing-based writer has completed a new book of blogs reformatted as literary short tales entitled “The Exact Unknown and Other Tales of Modern China,” a follow-up to 2012’s novel “Lust & Philosophy.” Full of grotesque universal truths, strange depictions of Eastern modernity, and the proverbial expats caught in the middle, the book can be flawed in sections but is always a compelling read.

In the introduction Cook explains to readers that he doesn’t want to write about the exotic, tragic China so popularized by fifth generation art films of the 80s and 90s. But rather, as the title states, it’s about modern China. He also clarifies why he uses the term ‘tale’ instead of short story, in order to have a broader outlook covering all aspects of writing from the semi-autobiographical to straight fiction.

The book is erotic, funny, and sometimes profound. Sexuality is a central theme, but doesn’t always take itself too seriously. Even the most philosophical elements are never dry or academic, but with just the right amount of absurdity to entertain as well as enlighten.

“The Persistent” is first, jumping us right into the subject of dating in China. The tale concerns an obsessive woman who won’t go away, and the narrator describes more than a few of his own experiences with Chinese women. The stalkers, the 30-somethings, the virgins. The line “foreign men in this country do tend to attract the psychos of the female population” sums up well what much of these tales are about.  As does a subsequent sentence, issuing no judgments: “This is not necessarily a bad thing.” That’s a bit of the point, wild things happen in China and that’s the reason to be there.

The namesake “The Exact Unknown” concerns seduction via vodka massage, the Surveillance State, a plot about blackmailing over a video which may or may not exist, and in a literally-anticlimactic ending it concludes with no sex. It could almost enter the realm of Philip K. Dick over the speculations upon reality, but ends too prematurely for that kind of depth.

“iProstitution” is one of the funniest pieces, ostensibly about the selling of one’s body for Apple products but really more about sexual frustration in general. “A Little Accident” is refreshingly not about foreigners at all, an original short story just concerning Chinese characters. Again portraying reality as ambiguous, it concerns an elderly man who may or may not be cheating a young woman (and/or doctors cheating her) and the subject of Chinese Medicine which may or may not work at all.

“Good Teacher, Bad Teacher” takes the oft-used campus setting as far as it can go, with an intense Western teacher expounding upon philosophy and culminates in mysterious naked yoga massage advanced courses. There is the unresolved mystery of “Paradox,” whereas an interesting premise is set up with mysterious nude pictures of students emerging yet in the end there is never is a true explanation, no resolution.

“The Curious Benefits of Neurosis” is about various massages, some of which get quite graphic. And hilarious at the same time! The first-person narratives are often the strongest, and (so one assumes) the closest to autobiography.

Some tales like not much of narratives at all. “The Mean and the Angry” is not so much a story as a description of various Beijing subway archetypes. At times it seems as insider knowledge of Beijing is required, and if a reader is not familiar with greater Middle Kingdom tropes then the whole thing may be hard to follow. Still, the audience is sure to mostly consist of expats.

“Let the Sunshine In” is among the best, a truly engaging work of drug literature about a naïve Chinese student’s first LSD experience. Very vivid descriptions of a bathroom setting, which tends to be a terrifying and confusing place when having a bad psychedelic trip. Not to mention the chronological distortions at play.

Two tales are written in play script formats are used, with “The Hickey” and the penultimate “Reset.” They read well as prose in of themselves. It’s hard to expect that anyone will ever act out the plays in real life, with the copious nudity and sex scenes and all; but it’s nice to imagine. “Reset” is the longest piece in the book, about sentient robotic sex toys. The tale is extremely philosophical, hard science fiction, and well-written social commentary/speculation on the future of China and all humanity’s sexual relationships.

The final story, “Injaculation” is written in the second person and mixes Taoist sexuality with hard scientific biological-psychedelic principles. There is a diverse range of writing styles, but same themes keep coming up…

The author clearly has a vivid imagination, and is talented at the craft of writing. Still, whether semi-autobiographical or not, it would be nice to not lean so often on the cliché of expat teacher in China. There are expats doing other things, and maybe more Chinese protagonists would be nice. While the setting is something that Cook is truly an expert on, and he really writes about it compellingly, it can get repetitive. Let’s hope Cook’s next book takes up more original territory. I for one am extremely anxious to read more.

Isham Cook’s blog can be seen at and the Exact Unknown is available on

Sketches of girls

Here’s a hobby of mine, I like to draw. I know I’m not quite good enough to ‘dream’ to become an artist (I have other unrealistic dreams thank you very much), but it’s something I like to do for fun.

Perhaps I do have a bit of talent, you be the judge. Yet, I’m too lazy. I don’t like rulers, dull backgrounds, or even color. If you contrast with my cartoon style that stems directly from the imagination–which to me is more about story-telling over purely visual craft–it’s a quite different style than with these live models whom I’ve been lucky enough to sketch. Well, I generally like drawing pretty girls… especially faces…

The materials are charcoal pencils, pens, sketch pads and bristol board. Please allow me to share a few of my drawings through the years:







she is asleep