Mosaic of China Season 03 Episode 10 — The Mongolian Teacher (Tsogtgerel BUMERDENE)
Today's episode is with Tsogtgerel ("Tsogi") Bumerdene, a Mongolian national living in China, who wears this mantle of identity every day. But more than that, she's an artist, designer, teacher and mother.
OF: I couldn’t sleep! My brain couldn't understand what the hell was going on.
OF: Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. I’m your host, Oscar Fuchs.
Some episodes are hard to compartmentalise, and today’s is one of them. We talk about teaching and art and fashion and entrepreneurism and Mongolia and sustainability and family… Honestly it’s a bit all over the place and I can’t really summarise it in this intro. But in these episodes where we don’t focus in on just one key aspect of someone’s life, that’s what makes the conversation much more ‘natural’. It’s the kind of conversation that you can imagine having over a coffee when you meet someone new. And yet it’s also deeper than that, so I hope that you enjoy the ground that we cover today.
OF: Thank you so much for coming.
TB: Oh, thank you so much for inviting me.
OF: The first challenge I have is in saying your name. Because there are some people who have names that I can't get my tongue around. And you are definitely one of those people. So let's start by having you say your full name.
TB: Sure. I heard that a lot, since it is complicated to pronounce. So my full name is Цогтгэрэл [Tsogtgerel].
OF: Say it again, but slowly. Like, this is your first name only, right?
TB: It’s just my first name only. Цогтгэрэл [Tsogtgerel].
OF: Цогтгэрэл [Tsogtgerel].
TB: Yeah. Since it's very hard to pronounce, I have a short name. You can use Tsogi.
TB: Or my English name, Ruby.
OF: Thank you. I did know that because since I've known you, I've been calling you Tsogi.
TB: Yeah Tsogi’s definitely fine.
OF: It's a very cute name, actually.
TB: Oh, it is? Thank you.
TB: Like, the Mongolian language is quite a harsh language. We have a lot of “rrrrr” sounds.
OF: Yes. And then what's your family name?
TB: My family name is Бумэрдэнэ [Bumerdene].
OF: Бумэрдэнэ [Bumerdene].
OF: Цогтгэрэл [Tsogtgerel] Бумэрдэнэ [Bumerdene].
OF: OK, I've said it once. I probably will never say it again. I'm gonna call you to Tsogi. And you said that actually you also have an English name Ruby. But which do you prefer, do you prefer to Tsogi or Ruby?
TB: Oh, Tsogi is fine.
OF: Yeah, good.
TB: It’s natural.
OF: Well now that I've said your name, we know a little bit about you already. But the first question I would ask - to find out more - is “What object did you bring that in some way defines your story here in China?”
TB: So it took me quite a long time to think of like what object might represent my life in China. It was a very last-minute decision, I brought an apple. There it is.
OF: There it is.
TB: A green apple. I'm a teacher here in China.
TB: So I teach Visual Art, and Design & Technology. The two subjects at the same time.
OF: Visual Art, and then Design & Technology.
OF: I see.
TB: Actually I’m a designer. Before I became a teacher, I was a fashion designer. I even started my own fashion brand. And at the time, I was just a little bit lacking in experience, since I had just graduating from university. And I was almost like a bankrupt.
OF: Oh gosh.
TB: Yeah. And I had to find a different job. Teaching: I was not into it. But my family has a teaching background. I mean, both parents are professors, and my grandparents are professors at the university, like they're all teachers.
TB: So I just thought “I'll just try it out. I'll go get interviewed.” And I got interviewed by the director. And then they just offered me “Why don't you get observed? You can have a trial lesson. Just choose a topic that you would like to teach, and then come tomorrow morning.” I didn't have any plan, any experience, I had no idea what to teach, and no idea whom to teach. So I just picked like Grade 11 at the time.
OF: Which is what? How old are the children in Grade 11?
OF: Uh huh. And I'm still trying to work out…
TB: …Why the apple?
TB: It will come out. So here's the thing. The next morning, I went to the school, I didn't prepare anything, I couldn't think of anything. I just grabbed some pencils and papers. My mom gave me an apple in the morning. And I just needed an object, to teach students about how to draw. As an example, like how to draw using different lines. I drew the apple, because I only had an apple in my bag.
OF: Oh how funny.
TB: And then I asked the students to tell me the description of an apple. And here they started with very basic descriptions of an apple. Like “Green” and “Soft.” And then I tried to expand their thinking of an apple. “How about where it has grown?” Or "How did it come here? How does it smell? And so on. How their imagination can go beyond the apple. And then I just asked them “OK now let's say how Picasso or Dali would see an apple.”
TB: And then they saw an apple from very different perspectives.
TB: It was just an apple. But the way we see things actually defines that thing. And how we see things is more important. I didn't plan that speech or that process actually, it was just what was on my mind at the time. I just created an engagement between me and the students.
TB: And I actually like felt “Oh wow! I’m good at it!” And it was so wonderful. Ever since that time, teaching has felt more important and more meaningful. Being a teacher is influencing those who will be living in the future.
OF: Absolutely. And it's a job which doesn't get very well recognised often.
OF: But it's nice to have this excuse to talk to you, especially because you're teaching art and design. And that, for me, was actually the hardest topic.
OF: Because I'm a terrible drawer. And the problem I think I had with the way I was taught was that my teacher didn't say “Oh, it's all about how you feel.” Actually when I was learning art, it was like “No, no. Draw it correctly.”
OF: “Draw that apple.”
TB: That’s how we were all taught.
OF: Right? So do you feel pressure to also teach like that? Or from the beginning, did you already have this idea of “Draw what you feel, draw what feels right to you”?
TB: Well, things have different purposes. If you're a designer, and if you would like to communicate with your clients, then your drawing should be accurate, right? As it is intended. It cannot be super abstract.
TB: Because it cannot be understood. But if you're an artist, the expression is more important. It can be anything. So you need to understand the concepts.
OF: And out of the two - so the abstract artistic emotional side, versus the realistic design communicate-what-you-mean side - which of those two do you prefer?
TB: Both! I like both of them. Freedom as an artist is a nice thing. But for me, it's a little bit chaotic sometimes. I mean, I'm a fashion designer, so maybe 60/40, or like 70/30. 70 more into design, and 30 more into art.
OF: This is it, isn't it? Because fashion can be very avant-garde, you can be very creative…
OF: …But then you have to be reasonable, people have to wear it.
OF: So you mentioned in your brief introduction that you used to actually have a fashion brand yourself, and then it didn't work out. In the U.S, the culture is ‘fail quickly, fail often, keep failing, one day you’ll make it.’ I sense that in China if you fail, actually it's a little bit tough on you and your family and your reputation.
OF: How was it in Mongolia? Is the culture more like the U.S. or more like China?
TB: It's very mixed. We have freedom and we accept failures. But at the same time, we have this culture of respecting - or living together with - the families. Family-oriented.
OF: Right. Well, why don't we jump into this topic. Because this is where I'm going to ask you to represent your entire culture…
TB: Oh god.
OF: …In a way that is completely unfair. But before I do so, there is a recording I want to play for you, which is our mutual friend DJ BO…
TB: Oh yeah.
OF: …When he introduced you to this project.
[Start of Audio Clip]
‘DJ BO’: I really love the Mongolian community. And I find that - in China, especially - there’s a lot of confusion about who they are. They have their own culture and stuff. And there's a very great designer named Ruby, who does some very interesting work. And I think it's important for that community to be recognised as part of the Mosaic of China. So I would recommend Ruby.
[End of Audio Clip]
TB: Wow. Thank you so much.
OF: And he calls you ‘Ruby' by your English name.
TB: Yeah. ‘Ruby’ is a funny story.
OF: Oh, go on.
TB: My son used to call me Ruby. Like, he used to watch a cartoon where one of the characters was named Ruby. A pink raccoon.
OF: Oh, I'm gonna have to ask you to research this.
OF: I want to see this pink Ruby. Because many people, they don't even choose their English name. They get given that English name by a teacher, right?
OF: So I'm glad that yours has a more personal story. Speaking of people with unusual names, DJ BO…
OF: How did you meet DJ BO?
TB: Oh DJ BO is my partner's friend.
TB: And when we were together here before the pandemic happened, we met DJ BO in Shanghai.
OF: There you go. And of course, he has this insider/outsider perspective, because he was a foreigner in Mongolia. That's why it's nice to also hear the Mongolian perspective of your own country. Because you've been there most of your life, right? How long have you actually been in China now?
TB: It’s my third year.
OF: OK. So relatively short.
OF: So we know where Mongolia is, it’s between Russia and China.
TB: Correct. The funny thing is, China has a Mongolian part, and Russia has a Mongolian part. And we are not Chinese or Russian. So that's the thing.
TB: And at the same time, right now, we have around eight different ethnic groups in Mongolia.
TB: And we're still living the lifestyle which was inherited from Чингис хаан [Chinggis Khaan]. Still herding animals, living in a nomadic style across the four seasons. And in each season they move around. That is also considered a very sustainable lifestyle, that we're not ruining the ecosystem. Mongolians are very straightforward, good hospitality.
TB: And I'm quite proud of being Mongolian. I mean, we've been through a lot since we’re just a small population situated between Russia and China. And our whole economy is based on these two borders.
TB: The borders are like in a completely closed for almost two years.
TB: Maybe just once or twice, it opened for just a few days, or maybe one day.
TB: So it's been very tough for Mongolians.
OF: Interesting, yeah. So that makes you sort of dependent.
TB: Very dependent.
OF: Yeah. Which is funny, because it's just the industrialisation. We’re now almost going full-circle, and we're trying to do things that are more sustainable, that are more true to how humans should exist on the planet. The way that Mongolia lives on the land. I wonder if that will become more important again in the future. Maybe we'll start to need to copy you, rather than you being dependent on other countries.
TB: Exactly. We have a lot of value, and we’re still keeping that value for a long time.
OF: It's unique, you know. And I went there, 22 years ago, for six days. I still remember it. There was such a blanket of stars in the sky. There was complete silence. And I remember, I couldn't sleep. I couldn't sleep, because it was so quiet. My brain couldn't understand what the hell was going on.
TB: Yeah, it is. I missed that.
OF: It's hard to find that in China, right?
TB: That’s true.
OF: And the look of the people. So you were saying that it's not just one race in Mongolia, right? How would you describe it?
TB: I speak general Mongolian as a Халх [Khalkha] Mongolian. The Халх [Khalkha] is the ethnical group.
TB: No, K-H-A-L-K-H-A.
OF: Халх [Khalkha].
TB: Mmm. And then we have different ethnical groups, who have different religions, they talk differently, I can barely understand them if they’re talking.
TB: They look a little bit different from each other. My mother’s side is from the west side, and they look Turkish or more European looking. And my father's side is from the Gobi side, they look totally different. And my father's mother's side is from the Russian side. They don't look Russian, they completely the look Asian. Even compared to other ethnic groups, I would say.
TB: So they just look different to each other. And even for Mongolian costumes, each ethnical group has its own different look. There are many different hats, gowns. Like, it's just Mongolian diverse clothing.
OF: Well since you do have a fashion background, were you inspired by that traditional side or were you trying to be more international, more modern?
TB: For my fashion designs, I was focusing on the usage of the materials. Mixing up wool and cashmere, even silk. And mixing up different cultural styles. And my artistic intention was mixing up the man-made concept and the natural concept. We're just part of nature, so we can be as sustainable as possible, based on Mongolian styles. I was invited to design a collection for one of the oldest fashion companies in Mongolia, for their annual fashion show. So my last collection was focusing on that.
OF: Nice. Well, we've talked about your family, and we haven't gone into too much detail. But you've mentioned your son before.
OF: But I know that you're here in China and you're not with your son, right?
TB: Yeah I'm not with my son. My son got diagnosed as autistic when he was in Grade 3. When you say something, they wouldn't respond. As if they were like “No, I don't want to do it.” He actually speaks a lot, he’s a very open person. His navigation skills are quite high, higher than normal people I would say. When he was just three or four years old, he could draw out exact accurate maps - which features even the signs and the crossroads, rivers - from home to a shop, or school.
TB: So that was quite impressive.
TB: I was like “Wow!” But the problem is, he doesn't actually communicate.
OF: I see.
TB: That’s the problem.
TB: It’s just difficult.
OF: Right, so you didn't feel comfortable to bring him to China…
TB: Yes, I didn't know the environment, and the circumstances. Like what everything would be like. I actually decided to bring him after a year. At the same time, the pandemic happened.
OF: Oh, so that was when you were actually go to bring him down?
TB: Yes. So we were just so unlucky.
OF: Where is he now, then?
TB: He's in Mongolia with my family.
OF: So you've now been separated from your son for so many months. How long altogether?
TB: Almost two years.
OF: Yeah. And I'm looking at the apple in front of me. Do you think that this is now actually your calling? Because you really fell into this profession. But are you increasingly finding that actually - just like your parents, just like your grandparents - this is kind of who you are?
TB: I would say yes, definitely. My philosophy of living is: life shouldn't be depressing. You shouldn't be stressed out, when you're doing anything. It's just makes my life more meaningful. It just makes everything make sense.
OF: Well, good luck.
TB: Thank you, Oscar.
OF: Thank you for everything you've shared about Mongolian culture. I'm sure there was plenty we didn't cover. But let's move on to Part 2.
TB: Let's do it.
OF: OK, Part 2. The 10 questions. You know what we didn't cover? I should say thank you to you for coming all the way to Shanghai, because originally I was supposed to come to you. And you don't live in Shanghai, you live where exactly?
TB: So I live in 昆山 [Kūnshān], which is right in between Shanghai and 苏州 [Sūzhōu].
OF: So it took you how long to get here by train?
TB: Like, an hour and thirty minutes.
OF: Right. I'm annoyed because I wanted to come to you. I have never been to 昆山 [Kūnshān], we have to do that next time.
TB: Yeah, let's do it next time. It's shame that I couldn't invite you any more. The area that I'm living in right now is getting stricter and stricter. Like, the guards checking our green codes and the pass codes…
TB: …And it’s just a little bit convenient for us to bring you to my place.
TB: Maybe next time.
OF: Yes. This is what happens during COVID here. I hopefully will come and visit you in your place at some point. But for now, thank you for coming. OK, Question 1, which comes from Shanghai Daily: What is your favourite China-related fact?
TB: One of the contemporary artists, you might know him, 艾未未 [Ài Wèiwèi]…
OF: Ah yes.
TB: Yeah, one of his impressive works ‘Sunflower Seeds’ is 100 million seeds. Life-sized porcelain sunflower seeds. And do you know how those were made?
TB: It was made by craftspeople over the course of over two and a half years.
OF: Oh wow.
OF: I’ve never seen it. OK, I’ll..
TB: It's like a magnificent work, I would say, of his.
OF: That's really interesting, I will look it up. And of course, 艾未未 [Ài Wèiwèi] is most famous in China for doing the Beijing Olympics building, right?
TB: Yeah, yeah.
OF: Question 2, which comes from Rosetta Stone: Do you have a favourite word or phrase in Chinese?
TB: Well, it's 哎哟 [Āiyō]. It's like “Oops” or like it's “Oh my god,” or like…
OF: Oh, you mean 哎哟 [Āiyō].
TB: I don’t know ‘Haiyo’ or ‘Aiyo’.
OF: Oh so you hear it as ‘Haiyo’.
TB: Yeah. I hear it ‘Haiyo’.
OF: I know it as 哎哟 [Āiyō].
TB: ’Aiyo’, ‘Haiyo’… It's just very Chinese, right? I hear it a lot. It's not a word. What should I say? Is it a word? Or what is it?
OF: It's a word, it's a sound, it's a feeling…
OF: It's actually… it's not the first time that that's been said on the podcast.
TB: Oh really?
OF: There was a historical researcher called Yael Farjun from Israel in Season 01...
TB: Oh I didn’t know that!
OF: She said it for the same reason, just the sound. And it's the rollercoaster, it goes from up to down. You can say “哎哟 [Āiyō]!”, “哎哟 [Āiyō]!”
TB: Chinese language is something like the fluency between sounds going up and down, so it's very Chinese.
TB: 哎哟 [Āiyō].
OF: It's like “You wanna know about tones? This one word can teach you.” What about Mongolian, are there tones in Mongolian?
OF: Next question, which comes from naked Retreats: What’s your favourite destination within China?
TB: For scenic views I would say 张家界 [Zhāngjiājiè].
OF: Ah, 张家界 [Zhāngjiājiè]?
OF: I haven't been.
TB: Incredible. You should. The beautiful glass bridge, and all the nature. And the scenic view is amazing.
TB: You should go there.
OF: Alright, it's on my list. Although those glass bridges… I get very scared about anything with a glass bridge.
TB: It's not scary. There’s nothing scary about the glass bridge, it’s so thick, it's just beautiful.
OF: I don't believe you. Next question: If you left China, what would you miss the most and what would you miss the least?
TB: I would miss the early routines of China. Their daily routine starts very early. You can just start your work at six if you want.
TB: And you can get the breakfasts from the street at six.
TB: I like Chinese street breakfast.
OF: Like 煎饼 [jiānbing], like 油条 [yóutiáo]?
TB: Yeah! Soups, like everything I can get from the street is very delicious. I would definitely miss that.
OF: Well said. And then what would you miss the least?
TB: Least I would miss… access to the global information on time. It's just annoying.
OF: Yeah. Next question, is there anything that still surprises you about life in China?
TB: The purchase level of every single person in China, especially during 11/11. It's just full of packages, full of packages every day. It feels like exceeding their need.
OF: Yes. Yeah, this is exactly opposite to the kind of Mongolian nomadic culture. Where you just use that land for a small time then you move on. Everything is in perfect harmony. It's like the opposite of how we should live, and yet it's so convenient at the same time.
TB: Oh yeah, it is. Yeah, I admit that is very convenient.
OF: Yeah. Next question, which… It's from SmartShanghai, but of course for you this might be more relevant talking about 昆山 [Kūnshān]. But where is your favourite place to go out, to eat, or drink, or hang out?
TB: Small nice places like ‘Calita’ or ‘Emily’s’. They’re in 昆山 [Kūnshān], if you go there.
TB: And here in Shanghai, I went to that Mexican… What was the name? ‘Pis….’
TB: Oh yeah yeah, Pistolera.
OF: This is it actually, I can imagine when you live in 昆山 [Kūnshān], you get some kind of variety of food. Then you come to Shanghai, and you can get food from all around the world, right?
TB: Yeah, exactly.
OF: What about Mongolian food? Do you recommend any kind of Mongolian restaurant?
TB: Waah. I cannot recommend any to you!
OF: Yeah. What is the best or worst purchase you've made in China?
TB: The books I purchased on Taobao maybe were good.
OF: Do you have a worst purchase?
TB: Yeah, I have. I have a lot, actually. Especially when I first came here. I didn't know how to use Taobao and then didn't know the range of the prices actually influence the quality, and so on. So the worst purchase was, I ordered a cover for the bedding, which looked very decent. And the colour was beige. But it ended up lemon yellow, and not even a bed cover. Totally 100% polyester, which was for a sofa. It’s just not the thing that I ordered.
OF: I guess you don't have it anymore.
TB: Yeah, I don't have it.
OF: Did you even use it once?
OF: And next question, what is your favourite WeChat sticker?
TB: The little raccoon. The farting little raccoon.
OF: Oh my god, is that what he's doing? That is adorable and disgusting at the time.
TB: Yeah I know. I use that sticker a lot with my son.
OF: Do you know what he's saying?
TB: I can guess, it's just like ‘ignoring’.
OF: Yes. It's saying 懒得理你 [Lǎn dé lǐ nǐ]…
TB: What is it?
OF: …Which I think is “I'm too lazy to notice you.”
TB: Oh, so it's exactly what I guessed.
OF: I need someone to double check that, but that's how I interpret what that Chinese means.
OF: In any case, it's a farting raccoon. Next question, what is your go-to song to sing at KTV?
TB: Ah, that's embarrassing. Keane, ‘Somewhere Only We Know’.
OF: Oh, ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, yeah.
TB: Or maybe one of the Coldplay songs, I used to listen to them a lot.
OF: This makes me ask you about singing in Mongolia, because there's that famous Mongolian throat singing, right?
TB: Yes, there is.
OF: Can you do it?
TB: No! You need to practice a lot to make that sound.
OF: Are there any KTV songs that include that kind of singing?
TB: I don't think so.
OF: No, right? And finally - and this comes from JustPod, which is usually where I would record these interviews at the studio, but today we're in my home - what are who is your biggest source of inspiration in China?
TB: The one thing that crossed my mind is just Chinese people. Like, I admire them. They're super committed and consistent to what they are doing. And that creates China. It’s impressive.
OF: Excellent. Tsogi, thank you so much.
TB: Thank you so much for having me, Oscar.
OF: My pleasure. You still need to barbecue some Mongolian lamb for me next time.
TB: Yeah, I owe you.
OF: In the meantime, I would ask you, out of everyone you know in China, who would you recommend that I interview in the next season of Mosaic of China?
TB: One of my friends’ husband, Stefan Ulrich…
TB: …Who works in the UX team of Bosch in Shanghai.
OF: The UX team, so that's ‘User Experience’?
OF: Oh, that's interesting. Yeah, this is where - when you talk about design - the user experience is the most practical side of design, right?
TB: It is, isn’t it.
OF: Excellent. I appreciate that. And if there was one question that you would ask Stefan, what question would you ask him?
TB: How would you describe Mongolians, as a German who has a Mongolian wife?
OF: There you go. So again, the Mongolian connection will continue. Thank you so much lucky, Tsogi.
TB: It was really nice talking with you.
OF: Tsogi mentioned 11/11, which is the big day of online shopping every year on November 11th in China. Well we’ve just had it, so right now many of us here will be wading through piles of packages to get through the entrances to our buildings. As with every year, I personally ordered precisely nothing, which is more out of sheer laziness rather than on any grounds of sustainability or as a protest against over-consumerism. But in any case, from now on every November 11th I’m going to proclaim that I’m ‘going Mongolian’. Which is a totally inaccurate and reductive thing to say, but when has that ever stopped me before?
If you’re wondering why we didn’t take more time to discuss other aspects of Mongolian culture, there are two reasons for that. The first one is that this podcast is called ‘Mosaic of China,’ so it wouldn’t exactly be on brand to spend too long talking about the separate country of Mongolia. And the second reason is that actually we did discuss more about Mongolia - specifically the differences between the country of Mongolia and the Chinese province of 内蒙古 [Nèiménggǔ], or ‘Inner Mongolia’ - in the PREMIUM version of the show. So if you want to hear more, please check out the Mosaic of China website for how you can subscribe. Here are a few clips from that version of today’s show:
TB: Many people told me “How come you don't understand Chinese?”
TB: We used to have only the vertical Mongolian script until we changed to Cyrillics.
OF: At that time there would be a direct flight, right? Between Shanghai and Улаанбаатар [Ulaanbaatar]?
TB: Sure. It was so easy. Two hours and something. Less than three hours.
TB: They’ve been taught at their high schools that Mongolia is part of China.
OF: Oh! OK.
TB: And even though we use Russian Cyrillics, Russians wouldn't understand our Cyrillics.
[End of Audio Clips]
Check out social media for all the extra images from today’s show. There’s Tsogi’s favourite WeChat sticker, there are some photos from her days as a fashion designer in Mongolia, and a bunch of others too. And in researching the pink raccoon called Ruby, from where her son gave her the English name, Tsogi discovered that it’s from the Korean animated series called 'Pororo the Little Penguin', and that actually it’s not a raccoon called Ruby, it’s a beaver called Loopy. Which in my eyes makes her story all the more adorable. The big update since we recorded our episode is that Tsogi is no longer living in 昆山 [Kūnshān], she is now in 重庆 [Chóngqìng. And also her family finally got their visas so her son should be coming to live with her in China very soon.
Speaking of Tsogi’s son, to hear more on the topic of autism - specifically, autism in the workplace in China - be sure to check out the episode with the diversity advocate Sebastien Denes from Season 01 Episode 11. As for other connections with Tsogi, there’s the artist Nini Sum from Season 01 Episode 16, the fashion designer Octo Cheung from Season 01 Episode 30, and the teacher/student coach Seth Harvey from Season 02 Episode 19.
Mosaic of China is me, Oscar Fuchs, with artwork by Denny Newell. Stick around for a couple of catch-ups from previous seasons. Firstly the person who referred Tsogi, which was DJ BO from Season 02 Episode 23. And secondly, the person who referred DJ BO, which was Abe Deyo from Season 01 Episode 27. And we’ll be back with another episode next week.
[Catch-Up Interview 1]
BO: Hey Oscar.
OF: Hi DJ BO.
BO: How are you doing?
OF: I'm doing well.
BO: Lots of changes. Lots of different stuff has happened.
BO: I’ve got a bunch of tattoos now that weren't there before.
BO: I’ve even retired the name ‘DJ B-O’.
OF: What the ****?
BO: Watch your language, Oscar! First of all, let me say this. I love the idea of having different names for different things. You get a chance to approach yourself via the eyes of other people. And so my name still looks the same, I just go by ‘DJ BO’ now.
OF: DJ BO. And this was part of some kind of renaissance for you? You mentioned there were new tattoos, what’s going on?
BO: Do you remember the recording date, for the first time?
OF: I can check. I don't believe you had tattoos at that time.
BO: I got my first tattoo in January 2021. I had a DJ gig and 哈尔滨 [Hā’ěrbīn]. And then all the gigs got cancelled in 哈尔滨 [Hā’ěrbīn]. But I don't like to not follow through. I was able to meet up with a guy named Sion. We met at a Russian restaurant, which is what you do in 哈尔滨 [Hā’ěrbīn]. He was like “Hey, so you're here, and there's really nothing happening with me and stuff, do you want me to give you a tattoo?” It was a unique opportunity, and I always lean towards saying “Yes” anyway, for everything. What I realised was, this almost makes me more responsible for my body. You have something valuable here, don’t **** it up too much.
OF: Don’t mess up the canvas.
BO: Yeah, exactly.
OF: Well, what does the future hold for you right now?
BO: I have no idea. Who knows? The future ain’t what it used to be, Oscar.
OF: Yeah! Well said.
BO: I don't know. I’m still doing a Master's degree, but it's kind of on hold.
BO: I don't know where things are heading, I don't know what opportunities are here.
BO: I don't know if I want to let things cool down here in Shanghai. So, leave and come back. You know, it's not going to be what it was before. But wherever it's going to be, give it a chance to least get its footing a bit here.
BO: Or try to finish what I want to do, as quickly as possible.
BO: So I'm not quite sure. I'm really at an uncertain point.
OF: Yeah. I'm going to obviously be releasing your catch-up at the back of my interview with Tsogi, who you recommended…
BO: Oh, yeah!
OF: …For Season 03.
OF: So have you been in touch with her?
BO: Honestly, I haven’t. Partially because she's not here, into Shanghai.
BO: But also, even more than that, she would do some artwork for Mongolian events that I was doing. Well I haven’t been doing any of that.
BO: So we just weren’t able to play a little catch up with that.
OF: I think what it is, is everyone has a lot going on in their mind. And for you and someone to connect, you both have to be in that right state, at the right place, at the right time. And that's what's hard actually, especially when you don't live in the same city. So I have many many friends like that, who I also haven't connected with. It's a shame, and I hope that once borders do finally dissolve again, we can reconnect with people in the same way we used to. Which also makes me ask you about Abe Deyo…
OF: …The person who introduced you. How about Abe from Season 01? Same story?
BO: I haven't spoken to Abe in a while. But Abe is a fellow traveller, a peripatetic. And those people have a special sort of relationship, where we understand that we're criss-crossing paths. And it could be a week, it could be years, and we can just look at each other in the eye and it's fine. So I don't even have to worry about him in that regard.
OF: I know what you mean.
OF: The way I've heard it mentioned - and I've adopted it for myself - is like an elastic band. And friendships have a different elasticity. And some people, you know if you've stretched it beyond capacity then it will break. And there are some people - like you and Abe - where you can stretch that band indefinitely.
BO: Although I would love to stretch that rubber band and snap it back on his skin and make him say “Ouch” every once in a while.
OF: Well, thank you so much DJ BO. I have to get used to calling you that.
BO: You call me whatever you want, Oscar. Thanks for having me!
OF: Thank you.
[Catch-Up Interview 2]
OF: Hello Abe.
AD: Hello Oscar, it’s been a while.
OF: It has been a while. And let me introduce you to people who may not have heard our original episode. Back then - and that was in Season 01 - you were a China tour manager and promoter for international indie bands. And then the second time we caught up, you were taking some time out on Lamma Island in Hong Kong. Since back then, live shows had basically stopped around the world at that point. So what is your situation today?
AD: Live music has come back a little bit. Me in the meantime, I started an MBA. And then as of June, I rejoined Live Nation.
OF: Oh goodness!
AD: Yeah, so back with Live Nation. And now I'm not working with the emerging artists, but the touring team.
OF: OK. When we talked last, I think you were saying about how Live Nation at that point had grown to the extent that it was quite unsustainable. Do you see a pared-down version to what it was before?
AD: It is a large corporation. They have pared down some of the emerging markets, focusing on ones with more potential or ones that are less risky, which I think was a smart idea.
OF: And with your background, are you keeping your hand in China?
AD: Someone else is doing it. Things change so fast. And to be fair, for the few years that I was out of Live Nation, I wasn't really paying attention to much. Hibernation, so…
OF: Oh, I totally get it. In fact, I do remember when we had our original interview back in Season 01, I did sense that there was a bit of weariness in the way that we talked about how you had been to the same places, with so many different bands, on so many different tours. And I'm wondering if that's part of it. Or actually, now that you haven't done it for so many years, do you miss that part?
AD: I miss it a little bit. I think I was travelling a little too much. That wore on me after a while, you know, when you take 100 flights in one year.
AD: It’s a little too much. With my new role, it should be better, centred on a specific market.
OF: Got it. Well, switching over to the second thing you said, which was you're doing your MBA. How did you find going back into that kind of classroom situation?
AD: It was a big change. It’s been a very long time since I had to do any academic work. A lot of lectures are online, but then it's centres around workshops, which is nice. We're on the same level.
OF: You're all scratching our heads wondering “What the hell, how did I do this before?”
AD: Oh yeah, that was a lot of that. How to do like Harvard citations and stuff like that.
OF: Oh god, citations. Anything which involves a footnote, it’s like a nightmare.
AD: Yeah, yeah. You never have to do that in the business world.
OF: No, you can just spout off anything, and just say “Citation: Me.”
OF: You introduced DJ BO to the podcast in Season 02.
OF: Are you in touch with DJ BO? I know it's tough.
AD: We message each other occasionally.
OF: I should say that he's renamed himself now. So you don't say ‘DJ B-O’ anymore, you say ‘DJ BO’.
AD: Has he?
AD: You see, because when we message each other, it'd be kind of hard to message that out.
OF: It's still spelt the same.
AD: Yeah, so I did not know he's now ‘DJ BO’.
OF: You heard it here first.
AD: Yeah, that’s good to hear.
OF: And I will be including an update alongside the episode in Season 03, which was DJ BO's recommendation, a Mongolian teacher and artist called Tsogi. Do you actually know this person?
AD: I don’t, I don't know. I'll be looking forward to that.
OF: Well, this is how it works now. So it'll be like weird Russian doll to see exactly how far the connections end up. Each time, I hope there's a good excuse for me to give you a call.
AD: Oh yeah, for sure. See how far it goes, before it gets all the way back to me, right?
AD: Season 100. That might be a little far…
OF: Oh dear. Er, no. I can categorically say that now: No, there will not be that many. Well, thank you so much Abe, always good to speak to you. And I hope that the next time we'll be on the beach on Lamma together. I think I said that last time, but fingers crossed for the future.
AD: Yeah, hopefully we're getting closer to that date.
OF: Thanks man, all the best.
AD: All right. Good talking to you.