Archive for the ‘Minneapolis’ Category

The Summer That Was ________…

Monday, September 26th, 2011

I’m back in Tianjin and, honestly, not loving it yet… “Tea and Gin” is just one of those cities that needs to grow on you. And it’s taking its sweet time this round. Oh well?

Let’s focus on the past 2.5 months, instead!

This summer was grand / busy / emotional / wonderful / sad / whirlwindy / needed / crazy / too short / worth it. Insert whatever adjective you want and it probably describes it perfectly! In an unexpected turn, I actually didn’t want to return to China. (Don’t worry, I did anyways.) I had a fabulous time with my family and friends and just didn’t want it to end. Alas, it was time to come back and continue my life.

I’m told that the first time going home after living overseas is always the weirdest, so I hopefully did alright? I asked some good friends who’ve lived in East Asia for many years, “How do you balance life in China and life in America?”

Their answer wasn’t what I wanted. They chuckled and said, “You don’t. You just have to get used to the imbalance.”

Here’s to imbalance!

*Leave a comment with what we did together this summer so we can always remember… and make notes for next summer.

Did it still feel like home?

Stone Arch BridgeTough question. The house I “grew up in” was long sold, my sister had moved out, and my dog had gone where all dogs eventually go… in that sense, it wasn’t really home. But my family was still the same, my friends and I picked right up where we left off, and Minneapolis was basically how I remembered it and loved. I just need to learn how to have two homes now.

The first day back, a soon-to-be friend pointed out that I used very simple English and a lot of hand motions and verbal cues when I communicated. He guessed that I must have lived in a foreign country before. Little did he know, I had just returned from one!

And another time, I pulled out some hand sanitizer before a meal (a must here in China!), and my friends looked at me strange and got a good laugh at my expense.

All in all, I’m still an American – I just don’t act and speak like one much anymore, I suppose.

Other changes I observed: Netflix. (I was just getting the hang of it, too.) Food trucks. (Maybe Mpls is trying to be more like NYC?) More bicycles! (My days of lone biking are over.) QR Codes. (I still don’t see the point.) Reality TV. (Out of control! But oh, so addicting.)

Get everything done you wanted?

Twins GameYes and no. Looking back at my calendar, I’m surprised I was able to keep track of everything! In fact, in the 65ish days I was home, I had about 140 different occasions or appointments that were listed. Hmm, that’s more than 2 a day! Oy vey. I’ll have to think of another way to do things next summer…

Some good friends lent me a car, a bicycle, and a record player, and I was so thankful to have those tools to help make my summer more accessible and awesome. I don’t know what I would have done without them, actually.

I had many meals, coffees, and walks around parks. I got to go up to my friend’s cabin on Lake Vermillion, MN, for a few days. I watched and participated in friends’ summer sports leagues. I got to see so many wonderful concerts, including a truly American bluegrass show at least every week. I had a couple weddings to attend. A bad run-in with Americanized Chinese food. I had a memorable day-long roadtrip to Wisconsin. I saw a show at the Guthrie Theater. I saw a MN Twins game at their new stadium. Lots of grilling out on my friends’ decks. Outdoor movies. A Chinese language and culture tutoring session for a business consultant. Lots of shopping for a needed wardrobe. Seeing people I didn’t expect to see. Meeting new babies. Making new friends.

But no, I didn’t get to do everything. And there were many people I didn’t get to see, either… all I can say about that, though, is start planning for next summer!

What’s up next for you?

My lovely studentsBesides readjusting to the wasteland that is Tianjin, I’ve had a great time reconnecting with my friends here and seeing how much of my Chinese has sunk into my language learning iceberg.

I’m teaching at the same university again this year, so my mailing address remains the same… hope that helps! Some of my students actually signed a petition to get me back and the admin gave me a nice little raise so I can live off-campus.

I will be living with a like-minded New Zealand guy who’s been here longer than I have and who’s known to be an excellent cook. I’ve only been moved in for a week, but I can vouch that this is accurate. Should be a great relationship! As long as I continue to do the dishes, I’m guessing.

Also, at the beginning of next month, I’ll be going to Seoul, South Korea for a week for a friend’s wedding out there. It’s during China’s National Day Holiday and I’m really looking forward to visiting a new country and seeing some old friends…

Summer Me Go Home Home

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

I apologize for my poor English skills ahead of time… I’ve really immersed myself in Chinese this semester and my native language has definitely taken a nose dive. Don’t tell the university where I teach English! They’ll never know.

Summer Me Go Home Home = Heck yeah, I’m coming home for the summer! (Is that grammatically correct?)

After almost two years of life in China and travels to North Korea, Western China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, I’ve decided to spend a holiday back home with the people that care about me the most.

And it’s long overdue!

Please check your calendars and let me know when you’d like to meet up… I’d love to catch up on your lives and, of course, share about mine. If you have a small group or a big group that wants to hear about “overseas life,” I’d definitely consider sharing with them, too. Ask me anything!

When and where will you be?

TutoredI’m arriving home to Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the end of June, to firstly spend some quality time with my family and friends for a few weeks. I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC, to spend some time with various friends on the East Coast maybe in August? Back to Minnesota for the end of August.

There will be a weekend somewhere when I go to Chicago. Maybe spend a weekend up north at a lake. Maybe short trips around MN and surrounding states? Any road trip ideas?

I will head back to China by September. Make sure all of our adventures are completed before then. I’m afraid my time home will go by way too quickly.

What will you do whilst home?

threegirlsI can tell you what I won’t be doing: having dinner with three beautiful Chinese girls at the same time! Hey oh! It’s possible, but unlikely.

Anyways, my options are really endless. What else would someone who hasn’t been in America for two years want to do?

Food (literally anything), Twins games (or any sporting event), Guthrie tickets (or any theater), live music (of any size or genre), cabins up north (or south or west), State Fair (self-explanatory), walks around the lakes (or rivers), more food (maybe not Americanized Chinese?), coffee/tea (or milk tea), and free things (like food!)…

And to be frank, I won’t have too much money to spend this summer, so if we’re deciding between things, I’d prefer the cheaper option… You know what I mean? Thanks. Good thing it doesn’t cost anything to just hang out!

How can I best support you?

Student CircleMany of you want to help in various ways and with various resources while I’m at home. Here are my thoughts:

Does anyone have an extra car I could use for a couple months? In Minnesota or DC?

How about a two-month SIM card for my cell phone?

Any spare frequent flier miles laying around?

Who’d like to fill me in on recent pop culture/politics?

Anyone like to help me go shopping? I desperately need an entirely new wardrobe. For lack thereof and for lack of fasion know-how. (My second to last pair of shorts just ripped yesterday. Come on!)

Anybody know a cheap doctor and dentist to get check-ups at? My Chinese insurance won’t cover things in the States.

How about a counselor? Being home might be a tad bit overwhelming.

Does anyone have a record player I could borrow for the summer? I sold mine before I left, but saved my favorite vinyls.

Oh, and I’m thinking about taking up the banjo.. Anyone have one they don’t want?

My Favorite Songs, Albums, and Live Shows from 2009

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

If you couldn’t tell, I love music. And I’ve only come to really love it in the past few years… way too late in the game, I tell you. In my opinion, appreciating and enjoying music is an art that can help you in numerous ways. For example – music increases brain function. It relieves stress. It could possibly start a revolution too. When I was younger I took music lessons but must’ve lost interest somewhere along the way. I wish I hadn’t given up on them, but this is something that can change! Maybe with all my free time here in China, I can pick up an instrument again and not just my iPod.

Do you think it’d be possible to go all of next year only listening to music made before my lifetime? It’s a nice thought but probably not. I have this dilemma that I keep “discovering” “new” music only to find out it came out in the 90s or something. I’m getting better at keeping up with current music coming out, but then there’s this Bob Dylan guy I discovered… … alas – it keeps me busy.

This year did wonders for my music collection! Lots of good tunes, and hopefully my vinyls will stay in tact as they wait until I find a cheap way to get them and a record player to China.

My Favorite Songs:
Animal Collective – My Girls
– The song I listened to 20 times in a row the first time I heard it
The Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
– From 500 Days of Summer, I think
La Roux – Bulletproof
– The song I listen to every time I meet a new girl here in China
Phoenix – Listzomania
– The song that introduced me to the The Breakfast Club
The Lonely Island – I’m On A Boat
– The best SNL song ever written and the best use of T-Pain
The Phenomenal Handclap Band – 15 to 20
– Redundant but memorable
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll
– The song I dance to down GuangDong Road
Amadou & Miriam – Sabali
– The first time I heard this song on the radio, I txted all my music-loving friends about it
We Are The Willows – A Funeral Dressed As A Birthday
– Best song when you miss Minneapolis
Andrew Bird – Oh No
– This reminds me of the roadtrip for some reason, probably the whistling

My Favorite Albums:
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
Derek Webb – Stockholm Syndrome
The Swell Season – Strict Joy
Mute Math – Armistice
Haley Bonar – Sing With Me (album cover art pictured)
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeaus Phoenix
Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You
The Temper Trap – Conditions
Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk

My Favorite Live Shows:
Lykke Li @ The Varsity
– Up front and close to the stage, this Swedish songstress impressed (pictured above); I heard it wasn’t so good from the back, though?
White Ghost Shivers @ Lee’s
– Possibly the best live show I’ve ever seen, and I didn’t even realize it
A Night In The Box @ Kitty Cat Klub
– All 11 times I saw these guys (truth) was a great show
Caroline Smith & The Goodnight Sleeps @ The Varsity
– My friend and I weren’t even there to see them, but new fans were created
The Tallest Man On Earth @ Turf Club
– I saw him here twice this spring… he’s not tall at all, it’s a metaphor
Haley Bonar @ The Walker’s Sculpture Garden
– Haley has long been the favorite part of my Minneapolis summers
Fleet Foxes @ First Avenue
– Hearing these harmonies come together live, is an amazing experience; and to think, I almost overslept this one
Phoenix @ First Avenue
– My last show in Minneapolis
Mute Math @ The Majestic
– So electric, so creative, so worth it… Mute Math continues to impress with their live shows
Au Revoir Simone @ Beijing’s Yu Gong Yi Shan
– First live show in China! And it was awesome…

Any thoughts? Am I totally off my rocker? What were some of your favorites this year?

An Epic Moving Sale – This Saturday and Sunday

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

For more information on specific items and directions, visit

I look forward to seeing you all there…

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Chocolate Chip CookieThese past two years, I’d like to think that I’ve perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I made a batch almost every week and gave them out to various friends and family. The only negative feedback I got was from my mother, who commented, “Too many chocolate chips!” Please disregard – everyone else has loved them. People have even done unimaginable things to get me to tell them the recipe. And now, I’m baring all.

My cookies aren’t your typical crunchy, crisp, dip-and-soak-in-the-milk, kind of cookie, either. They’re the soft, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hand, kind. And I will miss them greatly.

BUT… Now that you all know how to make them yourselves, I expect loads to be sent my way in China. Please don’t forget.

1 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 pinches of cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 generous squeezes of fresh honey
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of chocolate chips (my professional taste testers never could tell when I used the cheap ones)

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, put in the softened butter, sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Mix by hand. Make sure all the butter is smoothed out and that the sugar dissolves together until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and honey. Mix in by hand until all is incorporated nicely. Pour in flour. Sprinkle baking soda and salt throughout. Gradually stir it together by hand, until all the flour is mixed in. (Note to self: this could get messy.) Add chocolate chips. Place balls of cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8 minutes or until the edges are a nice golden brown. They will finish while cooling. Eat them right away for the best results.

Some might say the secret ingredients are honey and cinnamon; I say the secret ingredient is love.

You’re welcome.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of China…

Monday, May 11th, 2009

It’s official.

I only have two weeks of normal life left.

I’m quitting my decently-paying, full-benefits-giving, 9-5 job to become a nomad. Not just any nomad, I guess… a nomad with a destination in mind. For most of my life, I’ve known that I’ll be living overseas. And now that time is upon me!

These past two years living in South Minneapolis have been very beneficial, and I’m so thankful that I didn’t move out of the country right after college. The additional training, life experience, and friendships have meant so much to me and they’ll hopefully last for a long time to come.

China will be here by the end of the year, with a nice little journey along the way:

June 11 – August 7
Global Expeditions asked me to lead and direct another trip this summer – I gladly accepted! I’m taking a group totaling about 150 teenagers to Germany, Czech Republic, and Italy. We’re going to be working with YWAM and Operation Mobilization doing mostly sports camps in the surrounding cities and villages of Herrnhut, Torino, and Rome.

August 13ish – September 30ish
Working a temp job somewhere around the world… I’ve narrowed it down to 3 options. Feel free to give feedback! 1. Working on a salmon boat in Alaska. (anyone have connections?) 2. Working on an organic farm in Sweden. ( 3. Teaching [English] somewhere in South America

First week of October
‘Back home for some very important dates and to say my “last” goodbyes.

Depending on what job I get, I’ll either be going straight to China in October or taking other temp jobs around the world and get to China by the end of the year. If I get an English teaching position over there, that’ll most likely start with a new semester in January.

People have asked what they can do:
1. Write to me
This is a very surreal part of my life and I’m definitely questioning and second-guessing a lot of decisions. A little encouragement would be greatly appreciated!

2. Come to my Epic Yard Sale / Open House on June 6 & 7, 2009, 9am – 3pm
Write this on your calendars now! This will be my last hurrah before I leave the country. I need to get rid of all of my stuff! Come over to my house and take away my old junk… You might even find some treasures in there. Buy a little memoir from my life to always remind you of me. ‘Not looking for money, just a chance to get my stuff into the right hands. I wouldn’t even mind you offering to take things to the thrift store for me. :) Location: 2933 Park Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55407 (If you’d like to help out with this, let me know!)

3. Open a free online savings or checking account w/ ING Direct through me
If you use the link that I email you to sign up, and you deposit at least $250 up front, you’ll get $25 free and I’ll get $10 for referring you. How simple is that? It’s really a slick, secure online banking system and I’ve been using them for over 6 years… Their interest rates aren’t too shabby either! Note: this is limited to the first 25 people, meaning up to $250 for me. If interested, send me an email and I’ll send you a “referral” link.

That is all.

I probably won’t have time for a cup of tea with all of you before I leave, but you’re welcome to try. Also, you’re all welcome to stop by my house on June 6 or 7! Thanks for everything!

Pak Zam Zam

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Pak Zam ZamIf you’re in the mood for Pakistani food (and when are you not?), my friends and I found the perfect place. For this “birthday” dinner, we visited Pak Zam Zam on Central in NE Minneapolis. It’s completely worth it and highly recommended! The first thing we noticed, of course, was the décor – bright bright bright orange walls… it made us feel just like we were in Pakistan! Note: I’ve never been, but I’ve heard.

This local gem is owned by a man named Saud and his wife, with minimal staff. In my mind, this makes it a true, ethnic, mom ‘n pop shop. They cook all the food themselves, use paper plates and cups to keep the prices low, and are relying mostly on word-of-mouth to keep their little restaurant running.

They’ll have no problem keeping their restaurant running if their wonderful cooking stays the same! The food was absolutely delectable. Since we had a fairly large group, Saud came and helped us order. I’m so thankful he did… we ended up in Pakistan paradise, literally. We had biryani (chicken and rice), bihari kabab (beef on a stick), and chicken karahi (chicken in curry-like sauce). The highlight of the meal for everyone was the parathas bread, hot out of the oven. It made even the complimentary naan seem dry and flavorless. The meal ended with lots of leftovers that kept me and my buddies fed for days, I’m sure.

Oh, and he overheard we were celebrating birthdays, so he gave us three huge take-out boxes of biryani, free of charge. I love how this man thinks! Now that you’re salivating, you’ve discovered what’s for dinner… and it was all under $10 a person.

Maze karein! (For language lovers, that’s bon appetit in Urdu…)

Pak Zam Zam (map)
1839 Central Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55418
(612) 706-1941

Best Places to Buy Vinyl in Minneapolis / St. Paul

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Electric Fetus

The four building blocks of the universe are fire, water, gravel and vinyl.
-Dave Barry

There’s nothing like listening to a Keith Green record…. unless, of course, you’re listening to him on vinyl.

Last year, I just so happened to acquire my parent’s old record player. And it couldn’t have been better timing! It was in fairly good shape, but I decided to get a new needle for it anyways. I found a replacement at the first place I looked, The Needle Doctor in Dinkytown. It was a very friendly place with many knowledgeable helpers. I struck up a conversation with the guy who was ringing me up and we started talking about the best places to find vinyl in the area. He knew many more places than I did, so I asked him for a list.

These places are gold. I’ve browsed most of them. We’re not messing with garage sales or your local Goodwill here – these are the big guns. And yes, it’s true, vinyl sales had an 89% increase last year

Electric Fetus
(612) 870-9300
2000 4th Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am – 9pm, Sat 9am – 8pm, Sun 11am – 6pm
Genre: All kinds (new & used)

Eclipse Records
(651) 645-7724
1922 University Ave W
St Paul, MN 55104
Hours: Mon 11am-10pm, Tue & Wed 2-10pm, Thur 2-11pm, Fri & Sat 11am-11pm
Genre: All kinds (new & used)

Extreme Noise Records
(612) 824-0100
407 W Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Hours: 12-8pm everyday
Genre: Punk Rock, Metal

Fifth Element
(612) 377-0044
2411 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 11am-6pm
Genre: Hip Hop (new & used)

Hymie’s Vintage Records
(612) 729-8890
3318 E Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 1-6pm
Genre: All kinds (new & used)

Know-Name Records
(612) 869-1070
6009 Portland Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:30am-9:30pm, Sun ’til 6:30pm
Genre: Used

Landfill Books & Music
(651) 644-8612
1222 University Ave. W
St. Paul, MN 55104
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
Genre: All kinds

Roadrunner Records
(612) 822-0613
4304 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55409
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12-5pm
Genre: All kinds (rare, vintage, and used)

Treehouse Records, Inc. (closed down?)
(612) 872-7400
2557 Lyndale Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 12-6pm
Genre: Rock, Soul, Jazz, R&B (new & used)

Vital Vinyl
(612) 874-8892
3 W 15th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Hours: Mon-Fri 1-9:30pm, Sat-Sun 1-8pm
Genre: Electronic, House, Techno (new & used)

Cheapo Discs
(612) 827-8238
1300 W Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Hours: 9am – 12pm Everyday
Genre: All kinds (new & used)

What’s your favorite spot to flip through records? Any luck on craigslist?

Great Music Lives Here

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

The Current tshirtTwenty aught eight was truly a great year for music, regardless of which genre you prefer… Better than ‘07, I think, and close to ‘06. It’s all relative to your music taste, I guess. Tons of wonderful albums came out this year, and many that came out last year become prominent this year.

Even more notably, local music found a very special place in my heart this year… The Minneapolis / St. Paul music scene is fascinating, “the backbone of the area’s counterculture”… ( Even Mpls mayor R.T. Rybak says, “This is a great music town, and you can come in here and find something that is not out of some kind of box or the big chain stores.” ( And living in the city has given me many opportunities to see live music this year – and it hasn’t disappointed.

There are simply too many great venues to enjoy music that I couldn’t possibly get to them all in just a couple years, but I tried. My favorite venue, by far, is the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown. It has a retro feel with excellent sound and lighting systems. It’s also in a great location, walking distance from the Loring Pasta Bar and Annie’s Parlour.

If you’re interested in more of the history of the scene, here’s a great, all-inclusive article on music past here in the cities: And here’s a radio broadcast on the history of rock in Minneapolis:

Also, don’t forget to tune into The Current on New Year’s Day to hear all the top tunes of the year as voted on by their listeners. It should make for a good day of music-listening. Their annual music poll. Now on to my lists… Most of the web has their “top ten” or whatever, so I just decided to showcase some local gems:

Favorite Local Albums:
Haley Bonar | Big Star (1)(video)
Chris Koza | The Dark, Delirious Morning (1)
Doomtree | Doomtree (video)
Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago (sort-of local)(1)(video)
Jeremy Messersmith | The Silver City (1)(video)
A Night In The Box | Write A Letter (You just have to see them live…)
Atmosphere | When Life Gives You Lemons… (1)(video)

Most-Listend-To Album:
Kanye West | 808s and Heartbreak (only because it took so long to figure out if I liked it or not) (video)

Most-Listened-To Song:
M.I.A. | Paper Planes (video) Fabulously addictive song with a great message… And it was featured in the recent movie, Slumdog Millionaire, one of the best of the year…

Favorite Live Shows I attended:
Haley Bonar acoustic set in the rain @ Mears Park
Fleet Foxes early show @ The Cedar Cultural Center
A Night In The Box @ 331 Club – And they just so happen to be playing here again on New Year’s Eve!
Ra Ra Riot @ 7th St. Entry
The Fiery Furnaces @ The Whole

Favorite Radio Station:
(a given…)
89.3 The Current (listen online)

What was your favorite music this year?

Multiple “groups” of friends…

Saturday, January 7th, 2006

Straight EdgeBefore last night, I thought I had two separate groups of friends. You know what I mean? I had my friends that I’ve known since high school and through church and that have stuck around the MN area… AND, I have my friends that I’ve met at the Honor Academy in Texas. After a semester at Northwestern, I was kind of even acquiring a third group.

Is this healthy? I didn’t think so because it was kind of like having two personalities. Or maybe because I’m full of pride and don”t want the two groups to meet each other and… I don’t know, be disappointed in each other or annoyed or… something. A fear of what they would think. A fear of what they might tell each other! Why would I even think this? I’m beginning to see that all the groups are closer than I realize, though. (more…)