---"The Ring of a Decade", Shanghai, 2019.12 | 《圈里圈外》摄于上海

Only a Decade

---"The Ring of a Decade", Shanghai, 2019.12 | 《圈里圈外》摄于上海

—“The Ring of a Decade”, Shanghai, 2019.12 | 《圈里圈外》摄于上海

 

“You are too short to teach.”

 

---"The View in a Classroom", Shanghai, 2019.10 | 《教室一隅》摄于上海

—“The View in a Classroom”, Shanghai, 2019.10 | 《教室一隅》摄于上海

 

A tall interviewer called me off the stage when I had just given my name. He gestured at me as if he was giving the death penalty. Teaching was the only iron rice bowl that would fit my circumstances. Now what was I supposed to do?

 

---"Teaching Kids Chess", Shanghai, 2019.11 | 《教小朋友国际象棋》樊老师摄于上海

—“Teaching Kids Chess”, Shanghai, 2019.11 | 《教小朋友国际象棋》樊老师摄于上海

 

Days before the 2009 Spring Festival, I desperately paid an agent who guaranteed me a teaching job. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, I took a smelly night train from Hainan to Guangzhou. It was a nightmare. I slept standing against a strange shoulder in the crowd without any awareness. Everyone was leaning against each other, except those who could afford a seat.

 

---"Teaching Kids Chess", Shanghai, 2019.11 | 《教小朋友国际象棋》樊老师摄于上海

—“Teaching Kids Chess”, Shanghai, 2019.11 | 《教小朋友国际象棋》樊老师摄于上海

 

The nightmare worsened when I arrived at a suburban dormitory provided by the agency. There were twelve bunk beds in a room and twelve people shared the same shower with a single toilet. Two days later, the toilet blocked. The shitty water ran all over the place. It smelled really good. No plumber would come till after the Spring Festival. Thus the daily instant noodles had no smell.

 

---"Teaching Kids Chess", Shanghai, 2019.11 | 《教小朋友国际象棋》朱老师摄于上海

—“Teaching Kids Chess”, Shanghai, 2019.11 | 《教小朋友国际象棋》朱老师摄于上海

 

This pushed me to get a job sooner. But they all rejected me for the same reason – my small size and my weak appearance. Not until one month later did I find a school that was calling for half-pay volunteers. I took it immediately.

 

---"Watching Sunset", Shantou, 2009.12 | 《看日落》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

—“Watching Sunset”, Shantou, 2009.12 | 《看日落》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

 

The school was the Migrant Workers’ Children School in Shantou City. It looked like a small factory, but it had a nice cozy feel. There were seven classrooms for seven grades of students. All desks and chairs were blue plastic. All teachers were either retired or fresh graduates. At 5pm every day, we would each carry a bucket of hot water to the toilet and together stand on the squat for a quick shower. Of course, the sexes were separate.

 

---"Observing Series I", Shantou, 2009.12 | 《观察系列一》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

—“Observing Series I”, Shantou, 2009.12 | 《观察系列一》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

 

During the first week, two school buses took us to the three main areas where most of the workers lived. We gave them handouts like a communist would hold a farmer’s hands in the Mao era. There was a fascination in that, on the bus, I was reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and, off the bus, I was experiencing a meditative moment of walking into the irregularly shabby tents that were home to them. Especially the moment when a woman bent over the waste digging gold with her face covered by flies.

 

---"Observing Series II", Shantou, 2009.12 | 《观察系列二》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

—“Observing Series II”, Shantou, 2009.12 | 《观察系列二》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

 

This sight motivated me to teach more responsibly and to seek more diversities in life. I noticed that the parents smiled often and the children were happy. I found my students’ neat resonant reading voices tranquilly peaceful. I was totally drawn by these books in Chinese: The Interpretation of Dreams and The Second Sex. Meantime I focused my weekends on writing my Chinese novel – An Oasis in Wasteland.

 

---"Observing Series III", Shantou, 2009.12 | 《观察系列三》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

—“Observing Series III”, Shantou, 2009.12 | 《观察系列三》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

 

Life then was fulfilled with originality and simplicity. I had such complete satisfaction that I felt no ending was needed by my Chinese novel. It was a perfect year of teaching. The perfection nurtured me as an oasis of spirituality. I was inspired to experience more.

 

---"Observing Series IV", Shantou, 2009.12 | 《观察系列四》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

—“Observing Series IV”, Shantou, 2009.12 | 《观察系列四》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

 

Therefore I moved to Shenzhen, working in sales till I quit to write two English novels within four years. I then came to Shanghai out of curiosity and tried to sell insurance. I stumbled into the art world.

 

---"To Be Remembered", Shantou, 2009.12 | 《学生留念》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

—“To Be Remembered”, Shantou, 2009.12 | 《学生留念》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

 

However, my family claimed that I was absolutely wrong. They repeated it during my August family trip morning, noon and night. Their biting criticisms almost crushed me. I had to compromise with the idea of returning to education. Actually it felt more like the sand in my hourglass was running out and it was time to start over.

 

---"To Be Remembered", Shantou, 2009.12 | 《学生留念》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

—“To Be Remembered”, Shantou, 2009.12 | 《学生留念》摄于汕头民工子弟学校

 

Now I’m officially working for New Stage English and teaching international chess at different international schools. Because of this job, I have seen remote parts of Shanghai that I would never have visited.

 

---"I Love China", Shanghai, 2019.12.25 | 《我爱中国》摄于上海青浦世外国际幼儿园

—“I Love China”, Shanghai, 2019.12.25 | 《我爱中国》摄于上海青浦世外国际幼儿园

 

All this happened from 2009 to 2019. It is only a decade. Only a circle. How would you like to begin a new life, if you happen to be at the starting line?

 

WeChat Image_20191229104559

 

Last article 上一篇: Our Pressures | 我们的压力

About Heather Cai:

Heather Cover

Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently teaching kids chess in Shanghai.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者蔡太莲所有!


Follow HeathersChamber for more original poems, essays, prose, drawings and pictures

关注阿太的密室,订阅更多原创诗歌、散文、随笔、画画和图片

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How Can Art Be Healing

--- A test says my spiritual age is 108 years old and my psychological age 48,

— A test says my spiritual age is 108 years old and my psychological age 48,

 

For once, let me pretend to be that skeptical 108-year-old lady, who doesn’t care about national boundaries, religion, politics, class, race, color, language, gender and age. Pretend that this is self-experimentation. You open up to yourself in the dark. Your body melts into nothingness and your soul wanders freely. If you see your true self floating like a white dot, you might appreciate art. If art is the ultimate lifestyle of human beings, art is universal.
---"Layers of Us", Shanghai, 2019.11.29 | 《层次不同的我们》摄于上海

—“Layers of Us”, Shanghai, 2019.11.29 | 《层次不同的我们》摄于上海

---"Shades of Us", Shanghai, 2019.11.29 | 《深浅不一的我们》摄于上海

—“Shades of Us”, Shanghai, 2019.11.29 | 《深浅不一的我们》摄于上海

 

That skeptical 108-year-old lady is fascinated by anything relating to people, like human touch and human nature. She believes that knowing what we are is essential for knowing what art is, and reflecting on what we’ve gone through is necessary for reflecting on why art is powerful. She also believes that understanding hurt people with empathy is helpful in understanding what healing is, and exploring the true self is vital in exploring how art can be healing. 

 

---The Healing Art Exhibition, 2019.11.16 | 平生第一个艺术展

—The Healing Art Exhibition, 2019.11.16 | 平生第一个艺术展

 

WHAT IS ART?

 

Wikipedia says, “Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts, expressing the author’s imaginative, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.” But what do the illiterate farmers and that skeptical 108-year-old lady think of art?
---Sold, 2019.11.19 | 已售

—Sold, 2019.11.19 | 已售

 

Like my father, farmers might say art is bullshit. For they don’t have the concept of art and so understand life more pragmatically. However, that skeptical 108-year-old lady thinks art is everywhere, even in the hands of the farmers. She thinks farmers have been creating natural artworks in all seasons, such as cultivating rice terraces, without learning about art. She thinks farmers lack knowledge but not feelings, they lack opportunities but not talent. She sees art as the unseen turmoil behind happiness or beauty before chaos.
---Available, 2019.12.02 | 可出售

—Available, 2019.12.02 | 可出售

 

WHY IS ART POWERFUL?

 

Someone once said, “Of all the things in the world, I’d argue that Art, in its many forms, is the most inspirational. Art has a phenomenal ability to make us feel understood, empowered, and less alone.” And that skeptical 108-year-old lady would agree, art dominates her life.

 

---Sold, 2019.11.19 | 已售

—Sold, 2019.11.23 | 已售

 

WHAT IS HEALING?

 

Healing is not treatment but the process of transformation: facing our true selves, seeing the emotions and limitations that our past experiences have brought us, and then returning to a naturally happy state of life. Dr. Dipak once said: “When we can uncover our heart and allow the light of happiness to shine, healing is taking place.“

 

---Available, 2019.12.02 | 可出售

—Available, 2019.12.02 | 可出售

 

HOW CAN ART BE HEALING?

 

We all have unresolved wounds or traumas. When we are unbalanced, diseased, damaged or spiritless, how can art help heal us?
---Available, 2019.12.02 | 可出售

—Available, 2019.12.02 | 可出售

 

For me, there seemed always an inner drive forcing me to act. When I couldn’t breathe, I took a walk. When I felt trapped in a tiny square, I went traveling. When I felt lost, I reminded myself to connect with people around me and so reconnect with my self. When I felt empty or horny, I fed my stomach or pleased my body. When I saw a beautiful pattern from a tangled mess, I would smile to add motion to it with my imagination. You might ask, where does such inner drive come from? Well, listen to your inner voice. Be self-aware. Be mindful. Be calm.
---Sold, 2019.11.19 | 已售

—Sold, 2019.11.28 | 已售

---Special wooden box package for shipment, 2019.11 | 个性特制木箱装运

—Special wooden box package for shipment, 2019.11 | 个性特制木箱装运

 

IINNOO GALLERY & ELEVATE

 

Once I had this crazy idea to call for an artist like those who called for a marriage in the blind date corners. It impulsively moved me to Shanghai, where I met many artists from many countries. Every time when I visited a gallery or a museum, I felt safe and alive. When having someone to talk to or to listen to, I felt loved. Gratefully, IINNOO Gallery is like my mother bringing me to this art world and Elevate my father watering me to grow. 
---IINNOO Team @ Exhibition: Infinite Repetition, IINNOO Gallery, 2019.03.01 | 《无限循环》开幕展小组合照@黑白之中画廊

—IINNOO Team @ Exhibition: Infinite Repetition, IINNOO Gallery, 2019.03.01 | 《无限循环》开幕展小组合照@黑白之中画廊

---With Elevate Team @ Exhibition: Confront Abstraction, 1929 Art Space, 2019.11.02 | 《抽象对峙》开幕展上与阿黎微忑小组合影@1929艺术空间

—With Elevate Team @ Exhibition: Confront Abstraction, 1929 Art Space, 2019.11.02 | 《抽象对峙》开幕展上与阿黎微忑小组合影@1929艺术空间

 

December 7th, ELEVATE will be hosting a whole day of events at one of the biggest and best theatres in town. And I’m very happy to be involved.
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Note: To build a mutual Literature & Art community, Heather has now opened her personal channel (WeChat ID: Heather69) to her fans, who are following HeathersChamber. No cheaters!
Last article 上一篇:  My Very First Publication | 平生第一次出版
About Heather Cai:
Heather Cover
Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently teaching kids chess in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.
Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者蔡太莲所有!

 


Follow HeathersChamber for more original poems, essays, prose, drawings and pictures
                                关注阿太的密室,订阅更多原创诗歌、散文、随笔、画画和图片
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My Very First Publication | 平生第一次出版

---"The Undiscovered Self", Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 《未被发现的自我》摄于斯里兰卡

—“The Undiscovered Self”, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 《未被发现的自我》摄于斯里兰卡

 

“Three year olds can play piano, can paint, can sing, but can three year olds write a novel?”
Thus, the B人BEL editor Luis questioned when he lay out his work on editing my short story – Traditions or Choices – my very first publication.
“三岁的孩子可以弹钢琴,可以画画,可以唱歌,但是三岁的孩子能写小说吗?”
B人BEL杂志编辑Luis在摊开讨论编辑我平生第一次出版的短片小说《传统还是选择》时这样质疑。
---"The Unrecognized You", Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 《未被认可的你》摄于斯里兰卡

—“The Unrecognized You”, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 《未被认可的你》摄于斯里兰卡

 

Certainly writing a novel is impossible for three year olds, and even for most thirty year olds. I had no idea how to write one in 2014 when I started drafting my first English novel. It was a call like no other –
“Writing is not a ‘career’. There is no salary, no job security, no promotion, no pension, no guarantee of work, no guarantee that anyone will ever notice what you do. Writing is a calling. If you are called, answer. Prepare for a life of intense work at curious hours, likely obscurity and regular self-doubt, punctuated by periods of wonder that somehow make it all worthwhile.”
三岁的孩子当然不可能写小说,甚至绝大部分三十岁的人也不行。2014年在起草我的第一部英语小说时,我还不知道该怎么写。只是很多久远深沉的故事从四面八方推压着我不得不去释放,可以说是绝无仅有的一次内心的呼唤。(如今庆幸自己这么做了,读个段子再激励一下)
有一天,在公园里·····
女:”有三室两厅吗?”
男:”没有!”
女:”有路虎,奥迪吗?”
男:”没有!”
女:”有7位数存款吗?”
男:”没有!”
女:”那你有啥?”
男:”我………”
女转身就要走···
突然男的说:”我是作家”!
女立刻回头抱住男的腰,满脸崇拜的说道:
“你不早说,写作压力这么大,如此辛若,你还没被累死,一定是个潜力股,这就够了!够了!”
——这是2019年度最励志的段子
 

---"The Unheard Story", Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 《不为人知的故事》摄于斯里兰卡

—“The Unheard Story”, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 《不为人知的故事》摄于斯里兰卡

 

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For B人BEL Magazine #2 launch information, please click here.
有关B人BEL杂志第二期发行活动信息,请点击这里

Note: To build a mutual Literature & Art community, Heather has now opened her personal channel (WeChat ID: Heather69) to her fans, who are following HeathersChamber. No cheaters!

备注由于时间和精力有限,为了建立一个互敬互惠的文学艺术圈子,阿太特向已关注此公众号的粉丝们分享她的个人微信号:Heather69 。骗子勿扰!

 

Last article 上一篇:  My Very First Exhibition in Life | 平生第一个画展

 

About Heather Cai:

Heather Cover

Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently teaching kids chess in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者所有!

 


 

Follow HeathersChamber for more original poems, essays, prose, drawings and pictures

关注阿太的密室,订阅更多原创诗歌、散文、随笔、画画和图片

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Ashamed or Proud? | 羞耻还是自豪?

---"Ashamed or Proud?", Malaysia, 2015.2 | 《羞耻还是自豪》摄于马来西亚

—“Ashamed or Proud?”, Malaysia, 2015.2 | 《羞耻还是自豪》摄于马来西亚

 

Why would we feel ashamed when we haven’t done anything wrong? For being poor? For being born in a poor family? For being born a tiny creature in a poor family? 
我们没有做错事,为什么会感到羞耻呢?因为贫穷?因为出生在一个贫穷的家庭?因为与生俱来我们就是个不起眼的弱小生物?
"Weirdos". Malaysia, 2015.2 | 《怪人》摄于马来西亚

“Weirdos”. Malaysia, 2015.2 | 《怪人》摄于马来西亚

These are half of the pieces of feedback I received on my last article Bumps. They are categorized into two groups: Westerners & Easterners.
 

以下是来自读者对上篇文章《颠簸》所作反馈的一半内容,分为两部分:西方人和东方人。

 

0

 

-Westerners 西方人-

 

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1

 

Interestingly, more women feel vulnerable in silence than men. More interestingly, we don’t even hear these stories from men. Believable or unbelievable? There are far more true stories to write than fantasies to create.

有趣的是,与男性相比,更多女性在沉默中感到脆弱。更有趣的是,我们甚至很少从男人那听到类似《颠簸》的故事。可信还是难以置信?我们的身边有那么多真实的故事可以写,却有那么多人绞尽脑汁去创造一些遥远的幻想。为什么?

 

2

 

-Easterners 东方人-

 

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捕获

4

 

From being ashamed to being proud, is like a revolutionary moment of fearlessness.

从羞耻到自豪,像是一个无畏的革命性的冲锋时刻。

 

Note: To build a mutual Literature & Art community, Heather has now opened her personal channel (WeChat ID: Heather69) to her fans, who are following HeathersChamber. No cheaters!

备注由于时间和精力有限,为了建立一个互敬互惠的文学艺术圈子,阿太特向已关注此公众号的粉丝们分享她的个人微信号:Heather69 。骗子勿扰!

 

Last article 上一篇:  Bumps | 颠簸

 

About Heather Cai:

Heather Cover

Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently teaching kids chess in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者所有!

 


 

Follow HeathersChamber for more original poems, essays, prose, drawings and pictures

关注阿太的密室,订阅更多原创诗歌、散文、随笔、画画和图片

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Writer’s Block

---Dancing in the Dark, 2015.7.10 | 《在黑暗中跳舞》

—Dancing in the Dark, 2015.7.10 | 《在黑暗中跳舞》

 

Imagine your head is empty and you are facing a blank wall. What conversations can you possibly have?

 

---Fashion, 2015.5.17 |《时尚》

—Fashion, 2015.5.17 |《时尚》

 

In the first half year of 2015, my brain was erased. I couldn’t read or write. Nor could I communicate with anyone, including myself. The only word that kept scratching my skull was “curse”. You might ask, what curse? What happened?

 

---Torture, 2015.5.16 |《痛楚》

—Torture, 2015.5.16 |《痛楚》

 

It was about my younger and only brother. When we were little, we already believed that the only hope to escape from poverty was to climb out of the mountains, go to a college and work in a city. And we did. He has everything that many Chinese people long to have – a stable career as an official Shenzhen teacher, a house, a car and a lovely child. But he has a drama-queen wife, or should I say, an ex-wife? Honestly I don’t know. They got divorced a year ago and now they seem to be together again. For what? I really don’t understand their love if there is love and their marriage if there is still one. Just like I never understood how she could storm into his class, slap his face in front of his students and argue with his headmaster, just for a Taobao password? Even when they just started a relationship? And how she could call the police one morning when he couldn’t drive her to work because he himself was running late? Don’t you think that is too ridiculous?

 

---Pray, 2015.5.1 |《祈祷》

—Pray, 2015.5.1 |《祈祷》

 

Almost every goddamn time, when I heard or witnessed something, it was all like a chicken fighting against a dog with no peace. How could my brother tolerate such a ridiculous woman over and over? What exactly has he seen that is so good in her? Does he actually love her? Is love really a bitch?

 

---The Dream Police, 2015.5.3 |《理想的警察》

—The Dream Police, 2015.5.3 |《理想的警察》

 

I asked him these questions during Spring Festival of 2015 after she had smashed glasses all over the place. But he kept silent. His silence made me feel that his marriage was a curse. And the curse almost crushed me. I became depressed.

 

---Man & Science, 2015.5.4 |《人与科学》

—Man & Science, 2015.5.4 |《人与科学》

 

Worse, the following month of not being able to write a single word scared me. The fear urged me to make a move. On Feb 28th, the same year, I traveled to Sri Lanka. Like magic, when I was using the toilet in the first hotel, a strange face popped out between my feet. I took a long look. The face became more and more vivid. I couldn’t help sketching it, and made it the very first drawing of my life: The Left Eye.

 

---The Left Eye - my very first drawing, 2015.2.28 | 平生第一幅速写:《左眼》

—The Left Eye – my very first drawing, 2015.2.28 | 平生第一幅速写:《左眼》

 

 

From then on, I started seeing faces everywhere and kept sketching them for months. Here are some of them.

 

---Queue In China, 2015.5.8 |《在中国排队》

—Queue In China, 2015.5.8 |《在中国排队》

 

At this point, I still couldn’t read or write. But luckily I could speak to nature when traveling and talk to some strangers on the road. They mostly encouraged me by sharing their stories or listening to mine. And, one of them actually pointed out that I was experiencing so-called Writer’s Block.

 

---Writer's Block, 2015.4.29 |《创作灵感障碍》

—Writer’s Block, 2015.4.29 |《创作灵感障碍》

 

I started searching it online. The more information I gathered, the less fear I had. Gradually, the wall of my mind cracked. I came to understand the reason why I had this writer’s block was not only because I had depression, but also because I was ignorant of the fear. As soon as I knew what was happening to me, in July, I could read and write again. This assured me: depression is temporary, writer’s block is temporary.

 

---Half Man Half Beast, 2015.5.9 |《半人半兽》

—Half Man Half Beast, 2015.5.9 |《半人半兽》

 

But do you find it easier to talk to someone you don’t know at all than to someone you know very well? Why? Why does it feel easier to chat in a shared taxi when you are traveling together but not looking each other? Why is it more difficult to have a conversation with yourself than with strangers? Are you afraid of a new place in a distant land or more afraid of the unknown possibilities in your imagination?

 

Heather Cover

About Heather Cai:

 

Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently living in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者所有!


 

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Secret Love

--- A quartz stone I picked on the way walking from Xiadang Middle School to my home village 19 years ago. Photo taken in Shanghai, 2019.7.22

— A quartz stone I picked on the way walking from Xiadang Middle School to my home village 19 years ago. Photo taken in Shanghai, 2019.7.22

 

You and I have been younger. We were almost as unpolished as this quartz stone. Our heart was little and vulnerable. When we saw a dragonfly, it wasn’t just a dragonfly. It was the whole fascinating world around the dragonfly. And when we saw a face that fascinated us, we might dream about it every night. The charming eyes. The fluffy voice. The sweet smile. All these would melt the ice in the dark. We wouldn’t feel pain when that person punished us. We would feel the joy of some strange connection. We would admire that person’s jokes or even bullshit. When we looked into the eyes, we would blush like a mystery.

 

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--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

At thirteen, I had this tender feeling for my Grade Three primary school teacher Mr Hu. He came as a volunteer from a neighboring town to teach us in 1999. Actually, each school year, there would be one or two volunteers like Mr Hu. The school was dirt-built, black-tiled and really old. There were no blackboards or white chalk, but wooden boards and charcoal. There were no windows in the classroom, but only a square hole. And there was no place to eat, but the families in turn would provide fresh food and firewood for the teachers.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

However, the playground was paradise. We would often skip and play the Chicks and Eagle game. Sometimes Mr Hu would play the Eagle. It was then I discovered that he was not as bookish as I had thought. His usually slow movements could be sharp, his usually toneless voice could be wild, his usually shy smile could be bold, and his usually calm eyes could be sparkling. Such a contrast just ignited my curiosity and attracted me like a magnet. When he caught me as the Chick and grabbed my arms with excitement, I couldn’t move or talk. My heart was racing, my face burning, and my eyes were afraid to meet his. When he let go of my arms, I wished he could hold me for longer. His existence had possessed my whole attention, and class time was not long enough to appreciate him.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

One noon, after school, I couldn’t help but stay longer to watch him cooking through the square hole that gave a view of the kitchen. He was clumsily peeling a potato. I laughed. Those smooth fingers were probably more suitable for holding books. By the time I had to leave, it felt the more I saw him the more impossible for me not to see him.  

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

Until one afternoon in the middle of the second term, something new happened. A pig squealed like hell during our break. It was dragged along the playground by a mother and a daughter. The daughter Miao had the most beautiful smile in our class. When she smiled, her eyes smiled too. And that afternoon, her laughter resounded through the Fungshui forest beside our school with the screams of the pig. Everyone was laughing, except me. I was staring at Mr Hu. He was smiling and sometimes laughing too. His hand was holding his chin, his face was blushing, and his eyes were gazing at Miao with the same admiration as when I secretly watched him peeling potatoes. That moment, my world turned blue. I didn’t know there was such a word “jealousy”, but I envied Miao. From then on, although I frequently raised my hand in class, Mr Hu would still call Miao. Gradually I lost courage, and cried at night.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

The pain accumulated till the end of the school year. On the morning when he said goodbye, he slowly crossed a stone bridge. When all the classmates had left, he turned his head with a smile that broke my heart, waving his hand for me to go home. I smiled back, one hand covering my mouth and the other waving goodbye. He moved on and never looked back. I watched him disappear into the distance. Tears flooded my face. I knew I might never see him again.

 

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Was it secret love? What was the most nostalgic story from your school life? Have you ever had hopeless love for someone even if you knew that person would never love you back? What if you could meet your secret love again?

 

--- Spring Picnic in Grade Three primary school (1999). Total sixteen students, six from a nearby village. My young brother and I were in the same class till Grade Two in middle school. And I did meet Mr Hu again when I graduated from high school in 2006. That was anoher story.

— Spring Picnic in Grade Three primary school (1999). Total sixteen students, six from a nearby village. My young brother and I were in the same class till Grade Two in middle school. And I did meet Mr Hu again when I graduated from high school in 2006. That was anoher story.

 

About Heather Cai:

 

Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently living in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者所有!


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Aftertaste


“I read what seduces me, I write what perverts me. “

– Heather Cai –


WeChat Image_20190611142757

–Tian’anmen Building (Beijing, 2015.10)

 

“The Chinese people have stood up!” These words were announced to the world by Chairman Mao on October 1st 1949 from Tian’anmen Square in the heart of Beijing. For that reason, exactly 66 years later, after writing my first English novel, I made a solo trip to the capital city. Standing on the grand Tian’anmen Building where Mao had stood, I wanted to feel the glorious moment with the thunderous applause. But there was no sense of glory, nor trace of history. The buzzing of the tourist commerce sickened me. My imagination was bombed. I was disappointed.

 

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–Inside the Tian’anmen Building (Beijing, 2015.10)

 

Instead of standing a long time on the grand Tian’anmen Building, I went down-to-earth leafing from one hutong to another. And in one of the many hutongs near Lemma Temple, I met Lysanne Thibodeau, a Canadian filmmaker. She came with a fancy camera and a bright smile asking me for directions to a place, which I was just looking for on my map.

 

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–We met outside this place (Beijing, 2015.10)

 

Delighted by such a coincidence, I wondered: have you ever had such a beautiful moment in your life with a strange person from a strange country in a strange city that you could never forget?  

 

WeChat Image_20190611142728

–What brings us together? (Beijing, 2015.10)

 

I couldn’t say that I had a crush on Lysanne, but her appearance gave me the impression of some romance. The afternoon sun seemed to have taken a shine to us in the endless blue.

 

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–It felt like the nacreous cloud that day (Beijing, 2015.10)

 

With much joy and talk, we headed to 798 Art Zone for a couple of wonderful hours. Till our legs were tired and our throats dry, we shared a taxi to enjoy a cheering drink at a pub in Houhai Park. It was during their Happy Hours, and time slipped through our fingers delicately. Listening to the mixed music, we looked around, talked about casual things and started making jokes. The coolness of the beer refreshed our minds, and Lysanne’s face blushed. She said the alcohol made her burn. I laughed. She laughed.

 

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 –Lysanne and Heather in Houhai Park (Beijing, 2015.10)

 

When the drinks were finished, our stomachs rumbled. We chose a seafood restaurant in a dark lane. All the loud music now sounded distantly behind us. Sitting in a cozy corner with a view of some layered roofs outside, we ordered three dishes very quickly and began to share ideas about what we had seen that day. Both of us were overwhelmed with gratitude as we discussed some possibilities of what it would’ve been like if we never met. Gradually, we talked more openly, and our conversations deepened to the very marrow of our personal life. Lysanne made a video of me, which later she asked for my permission to use for a documentary.

 

 

–The Seafood Restaurant (Beijing, 2015.10)

 

By nine-thirty, we finished our dinner and were both dying for a piss. The only toilet available was somewhere along the dark lane. We hurried there, and found it had no light, no door, but only two holes. One of them was occupied by a girl, who was playing on her phone like a statue. She must be reading something fascinating. The screen almost touched her big nose, and her small eyes were hidden by her neat fringe. The light played a beautiful pattern on the concrete ceiling. The stillness of the rough surface condensed her motionless face – a gorgeous scene that we wished to capture. But we couldn’t help laughing, and we just couldn’t stop laughing. With a muffled voice, Lysanne kindly let me pee first. Eyeing each other and at the “statue”, we laughed even louder. A strange chemistry was flowing in our blood, then steaming to the air. It was a stimulation of some excitement.

 

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–The stimulating lights in Houhai Park (Beijing, 2015.10)

 

The chemistry climaxed when we ran out of the toilet, with the striking image of the girl remaining as she was when we first saw her. We terribly felt like sharing a cigarette. But neither of us wanted a whole pack, nor a cheap brand. We started looking for one from some passers-by with smart outfits but failed. We then walked back to a cigarette store that was opposite the pub we had been in earlier. I asked the young owner: “Hey Boss! May I borrow a good cigarette from you?” Throwing us a suspicious glance but without uttering a word, to our amazement, he handed me a Marlboro cigarette and helped light it. After taking a long drag, I gave it to Lysanne. She sucked more slowly and more deeply, blowing two clouds of smoke out of her nostrils. In turns, we finished the delicious cigarette, only with more laughter. The night felt light and pleasant. We said goodbye with the aftertaste of a strangely lasting day.

 

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Technical Writing VS Creative Writing

Copyright@Heather Cai 2017

Seaweed Farm. Photo taken in Xiapu, Fujian (2016.12)

 

 

Finishing editing my second English novel In Between felt like a deep breath, and getting the submission package ready is a deeper breath.

Personally and frankly, initiating the synopsis was a hard birth. After doing some research and reading some examples with different genres, the thoughts kept fermenting for days and sometimes fighting annoyingly. There were times it felt like your period is wrong. I had to walk and walk, meditating and cleansing, then abandoning my usual way of thinking, like practicing the sense of direction. I forced myself to be practical for this once. As a result, I became practical and “cold” in doing other things too. Thus time and space, light or night, didn’t matter that much to me. My brain can think like a spider web, but only can move one spider across the star at a time.

Here, after the synopsis is finally done, I proudly represent this comparative table, to purely indulge myself. Wahoo, autumn is embracing. I’m relieved. It is always rewarding when you have seriously learned something new and valuable. 🙂

From Experience

Technical Writing

Creative Writing

Synopsis

In Between

neutral

natural 

 factual

 imaginative

 cold-blooded

 passionate

 heartless

 heartfelt

 colorless

 in colors

tight

 flexible

 skeleton

 plentiful

framed

free

inexpressive

expressive

 formal

 informal

challenging   enjoyable

 

Into Torture Porn

IMG_3719

Photo taken in Little Yellow Mountain, Guangdong – 2015.10.

Sorry, I have been away for so long. Having finished the first draft of In Between, the Goddamned Book, my second English novel, was a triumph in March, a personal history.

Less Than Mystery, the Fucking Book hangs my life between something and nothing. But this Goddamned Book has confidently lifted me up to a state of fearlessness. I feel taller than I am. I feel time is a revolver pointing at my back. I can’t stop the torrents of overwhelming thoughts of writing my third English novel while editing the second. Because I feel the need and must record what has been happening over the year and what is happening now. Because I may die if I don’t.

The horror of being nothing and nothingness is of dismemberment, of decay. Yet the faith of the ultimate lifestyle is art and the world is getting better never fades but only grows stronger as I write more.

And the extremes of this horror and this faith have dramatically pushed me into torture porn.

It is a feeling, an overcome feeling. The first torture porn I’ve “conquered” is Hostel, a splatter film, which, personally, means to splatter your soul with blood. Using the word “conquer” is not an exaggeration. For it took me nine years to finish the movie. It was disturbing and frustrating that I had to turn away every time when facing a bloody scene, like I couldn’t even look at my own blood when having a blood test. Why? What exactly was I afraid of?

It was a fear of dying with the intense redness of blood, which slowly consumed me till 2016. In the end, I found that the only way to overcome this fear was a philosophy. People make great profits out of torture porn like Hostel, because it is commercially successful. The blood is unreal, the act of killing is in fact a “mockumentary”, and the death fake. Go and feel pools of blood. Feel the fat thickness of gore. Feel the devil’s insanity. Feel yourself. You may suffer from trauma, but it is temporary. You are real and alive. Your feelings are strong. But you are the master of yourself, not a slave.

Therefore, torture porn has become the hands of a surgeon and a temptation.

And excuse me, I have to retreat again now.

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Big Breasts and Wide Hips

The Purple Blind. (I collected the leftover papers from the gift shop and created such a character.)

The Purple Blind is here to “bomb” something she thinks is not right. (I collected the leftover papers from the gift shop and created such a character.)

Maybe it’s a matter of time. Maybe not. 

Last year, before reading Wild Swan, I thought it might be a novel with some romance or something like that. But I was wrong. After reading half, I felt it to be boring, as most of the descriptions were repeating Chinese History textbooks, except for the part of Cultural Revolution which the textbooks didn’t tell any details. On the whole, to me, it was rather like an account book.

Now it’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips, a “book as thick as a brick” by Mo Yan, the first Chinese Nobel Prize winner and the author of Red Sorghum.

It has taken me about half a year to finish, going back and forth with other books. Not because it’s so “thick”- I could have read it more than one hour per night and finished it within a full month. But maybe I lost interest in continuing after reading the first chapter. After all, a Greek writer friend did tell me that he just had to give up, after reading less than one-third of it. Plus it would take much longer to finish reading a book that is not interesting to you than those you’ve read with great interest. Right?

The most interesting thing in the book is the “compelling” Introduction, which now seems to be a “trick” and in which, there are three things that caught my attention.

No 1, a dialogue from the book. –

First Sister was stunned. “Mother,” she said, “you’ve changed.”

“Yes, I’ve changed,” Mother said, “and yet I’m still the same. Over the years, members of the Shangguan family have died off like stalks of chives, and others have been born to take their place. Where there’s life, death is inevitable. Dying’s easy; it’s living that’s hard. The harder it gets, the stronger the will to live. And the greater the fear of death, the greater the struggle to keep on living.”

No 2, a sentence from the Introduction. –

“Mo Yan styles himself as a writer of realist, often historical fiction, which is certainly true, as far as it goes.”

No 3, Mo Yan himself has said: “If you like, you can skip my other novels, but you must read Big Breasts and Wide Hips. In it I wrote about history, war, politics, hunger, religion, love, and sex.”

However, when I finally finished reading the whole book the night before, it’s like a shit bag, full of shit. From the beginning to the end, the stories float everywhere and go nowhere, the characters don’t make sense apart from Sima Ku, and what he has said about the “history, war, politics, hunger, religion, love, and sex” are ridiculous. Alright, some details are OK. But the storyline is too far-fetched and no story particularly good. Why would people have tried to use such a “brick” to build something “great” for the literary world? I just don’t understand…