It's all about China
Life is full of odd threads and loose ends and can appear somewhat incoherent if one doesn't weave them together. These pages are an exercise in coherence, some form of self-structuring meditation - much like sitting down to play the piano.
There is a recurring and dominant theme in all this, which is easily identifiable: it's all about China. The arts and the language of China, it's culture and its people, have been one of my few persistent interests since I was a teenager.
That isn't to say I didn't have other dreams along the way.
When I was ten I wanted to be a pianist, until I realized that an hour a day is not enough practice. At fourteen I considered becoming a pastry chef: I made marzipan and chocolate sculptures inspired by Willy Wonka, and produced a dozen different cakes for my sister's confirmation. At sixteen I wanted to be a pyrotechnician - I blew several holes in my parents' garden in the pursuit of this goal, though I think I made up for that with the display that lit up the night on my father's sixtieth birthday.
At seventeen I was fed-up with learning Latin (after seven years of uninspired teaching it remained a dead language with a past but no future) so I thought I'd start to study Chinese instead. I signed up for a course and have never stopped practicing brush strokes and leafing through dictionaries. After high school I persuaded my parents to send me to language schools in Shanghai and Beijing, where my Chinese identity was coined: my Chinese surname 田 means the same as it does in German (a field with a cross in it) and my personal names are 明 (bright, obviously) and 亞 (Asia).
When I was nineteen I worked at a hospital and thought of becoming a psychiatrist, but then I turned my mind to China for good and read Chinese studies at Durham. Since then, I have worked as a bookseller, a waiter, a museum guide, an auctioneer, a traveling salesman, a China tour guide, and a university lecturer. I've performed as a clarinetist at Beijing University, as a minuet dancer at Harewood House, and in a choir in Bach's Mass in B minor. I have started up five companies on three continents, one of them being Colombia's first professional auction house. One thing led to another and here I am two decades later, living in Washington DC as a postdoc, still trying to make sense of this ever-changing world.