Hui Lai Le


I spent my first full year out of college immersed in the study of Chinese, choosing to put the English language on hold for awhile. And there were a collection of daily linguistic encounters that I thought to be quite funny.

One of them is commenting on leaving or returning. This scene often plays out when someone is sitting on or around the stoop of a nearby apartment or a small corner store. Walking along you are invariably coming or going – and the appropriate comment would be – 出去 chu1 qu4 – something to the effect of, “leaving, eh?”

And on returning, which could very well be the same person commenting – 回来了 hui2 lai2 le – “back again.”

One night shortly after I had re-entered the English-speaking world, while exchanging stories over a hutong dinner gathering in Beijing, I recall a guy named Paul who made this simple interaction into almost a joke. I remember laughing and laughing with the small group that night, all of us enjoying the moment, as we each reflected on the part we played of participatory observers in this almost daily ritual.

And here we are – 回来了 hui2 lai2 le – I’m back again to continue writing after a healthy break from daily computing. Our class took a three week field study – half of us headed to the East Coast of the US (Washington DC, New York, and more), while half of us headed to China (Beijing and various spots through Yunnan Province).

Some thought (if not still think) it strange that I essentially found myself back, retracing steps I took as recently as just a few months ago. On the one hand, it’s true. To return to a place where I once spent a good dose of time could be viewed as not worthwhile or productive. Though flipping this thought process on its head, I heard different stories and perspectives from people I have known in some cases for almost a decade. I met a solid group of new and interesting people, including site visits to places that I might not have been invited to see had I just been living the daily in Beijing. And most importantly of all, I learned much from my classmates and travel companions given their unique way of looking at the world, and the common language / communication style we have developed together through APLP.

A return to China. A return to Hawaii. Lots of returns. And now we return to our regularly scheduled program.


Since nothing interesting came up for a Google image search on “return” and I was hesitant the movie references for “I’m back” would be a bit too overwhelming, I opted for my first Chinese language search with 回来了 (same as the title. I found this great work by 丰子恺 feng1 zi3 kai3, an artist where you can learn more about his selection of children’s cartoons, volume 1 of which the above is included here on Baidu.




We’ve returned to a familiar juncture. It’s almost as if we’ve circled the block, or taken a joy ride around the city, only to come back to something we know so well. I needed to get back into the public arena and face this problem of perfectionism.

I find myself circling back to the question, what would it be like if I really dedicated myself to daily writing? Whether it manifests itself in blog form or not, what is holding me back from this particular habit of reflection? The easy excuse is that the days are long and my energy is limited, and we have covered quite a bit of content in the past couple weeks since my last post.

But the real reason is something closer to that I am bounded by the need to write brilliance. For what I write to make sense. To connect it to some greater idea, lesson, or takeaway.

Is this getting boring? Maybe.

Am I writing about this idea a bit too much? Maybe.

Have I moved on? Not yet.

For the last two days I have written with ferocity. Much of it has been on paper, rather than electronic. One thing I have yet to share is that I participated in a writing workshop yesterday. It was fascinating. Short five minute spurts of writing intermixed with sharing among a group of 20. Profound. Powerful. Emotional. Interesting. An incredible session that invited sides of each of us to join the discussion that had not been present during the last seven weeks of getting to know each other through daily sharing and reflection. There were moments of great laughter and others where tears burned my eyelids. What the medium of writing can do as a form of reflection and expression is a powerful thing. Funny that we often deny ourselves the opportunity to think differently by speaking to paper.

But we don’t need to. Life is made up of moments. They can’t make sense at every stop along the way. But they do make up the journey and will lead somewhere. And it’s okay to wait for whatever is meant to be. Wouldn’t you agree?


Note: I’m back-dating this post to October 4th when I originally wrote it. Now more than three weeks later and after I already wrote a post earlier this evening, I’m wondering what the blog will start to look like if I back-date the posts I wrote while on the road in China.


One of the most fruitful Google image searches in quite a while, “Moments” brought out so many interesting images to choose from. I decided on the one above, which I had found through a blog post entitled, “Taking a Trip, but Enjoying the Journey,” by Tobi Fairley, an interior designer from Arkansas, with Oprah-to-be aspirations. This connected back to her resolution for the year, “Collect Moments, Not Things.”