Monthly Archives: April 2014

Couch Life in the Gobi, How Different Can it Get?

As the dramatic photos from my previous post (part 1 of this series) revealed, I took some time on my most recent business trip in China to get as far away from “factory” China and “tourist” China as possible. In my wanderings I was invited onto the living room couch of a complete stranger—a mechanic named Mao, whom I met by happenstance in a back lot, off of a side street, in a town that is off limits to foreigners and not even accessible by normal means.

The couch life of people worldwide is a modern, unifying lifestyle

Mao & Shawn

Mao & Shawny on Mao’s couch inside of his home in this town on China’s western frontier

Mao was kind enough to show me his home, and even let me film part of our conversation. I asked him some of the same questions I like to ask everybody about their couch life. Sure enough, Mao had a life on a couch too. Watch the clip!  You tell me how different it is from yours….

Shawny as a 5-year-old

I got to travel the world as a singer and dancer from a young age

The first time I visited China I was five years old. This was in 1982, just four years after Nixon made his historic visit opening up China again to the west. I was part of a children’s choir called The Small World Entertainers….And my parents, for various reasons, couldn’t even make the trip with me!

Shawny at 19

I learned Chinese at 19, as a missionary in Taiwan for 2 years, and later as a management consultant living in Shanghai

I have watched China grow up. I have observed its relentless modernization. I travelled there again at ages 10, and 15 and lived there for years between the ages of 19 and 23. I’ve been blessed with this opportunity to become fluent in Mandarin Chinese and that’s allowed me to really come to know the people. China is not just a place where we make some of our Lovesac products—it is a place that we know and love.

That said, nearly all of our new product growth at Lovesac, is made in the U.S.A. This includes Made-in-America Sactionals. MIA Sactionals, by Lovesac are now made in California and Lovesac Sacs have always been Made in America. The pieces that we still make in China are not produced by some faceless “factory” with smoke-stacks. Surprising to many, nearly all Lovesac furniture is hand-made and sewn-by-hand, by very talented people who we know and love. These are real people too and Lovesac is proud to provide jobs for many people in a good environment over there and in the US alike. These are people who, believe it or not, have a life on a couch too. As you can see from my video interview above  even in the farthest reaches of the most forgotten places on earth—our life on a couch is not so different. We are not so different.

— Shawny

Founder of Lovesac and LifeOnaCouch.org

 

“My Couch Life” Mao the mechanic Interview Video transcript:

Shawny: What is your earliest memory on a couch?

Mao: It was especially old and pretty beat up. Back then life was pretty tough.

Shawny: What color was it?

Mao: That sofa was made of all wood—you know the kind. That old Chinese style. Nowadays, we’ll often have friends over to eat here—parties.

Shawny: How many people can you have on this couch, at this table?

Mao: At least seven or eight people right here…This is our kitchen table. The Chinese love to eat.

Shawny: And your wife?

Mao: My wife is in the hospital…She’ll be alright. Its really not a big deal.

Shawny: Your son is seven years old? What is his name?

Mao: His name is Jiang Tao. We watch TV here…he does his homework here. We eat dinner here and then usually go on a walk. We’re really close. Not just like a father and son only, but like friends. He’s my best friend. Even though I’m the dad and he’s not just my son. He’s my friend.

 This is life on a couch—and it is interesting, because you are.

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Signs of Couch Life Along the Silk Road?

On a recent trip to China I made an effort to take a couple of days to “get off the grid.” Having lived a full 1/10th of my life in China, I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese and I have a great love for the people and culture.

Gobi Desert, Gansu Province

Road with no bends–runs straight through the Gobi Desert, off-the-grid, China

I have traveled to most parts of china, including many parts unknown…but I had never been to the Gobi Desert in Gansu Province—along the path of the ancient silk road in the great northwest—where few foreigners go. YaDan National Park, Gansu Province

Rock formation inside of YaDan National Park, Gobi Desert

This jaunt took me to Gansu Province, one of the harshest and most beautiful places I’ve ever stood. There I discovered that even across this vast gap of distance, culture, and climate—our life on a couch is more similar to theirs than you might think.

 

Kids are kids, Gansu Province

This chair has seen some life — maybe their grandparent’s favorite perch

Shy to be photographed, but definitely intrigued by a group of Americans walking by, these children remind me of my own in the way they play. And check out that chair. It has clearly seen many years of a grandparent perched there, watching the world modernize before their eyes.

 

Shack, Gansu Province, China

Imagine the life that chess table has seen

Rather than spend much time gawking at the tourist attractions near tourist-ready towns that the Chinese Government has carefully prepared for outsiders to see, my favorite kind of travel involves going to no-name places that most tourists never could go—to see how life is really lived. This photo of a shack, built between two high-rise apartment buildings was taken in an un-manicured mining town that is technically off-limits to foreigners. Unless you can speak Chinese, find out about a town like this one, and then convince a local driver to take you there—you wouldn’t know the town even existed.

 

Off-grid, SuBei, Gansu Province

One of about a dozen pool tables lining a side-street market of this nowhere town

There may still be dirt roads in some of these developing towns—but their life is no less complete than ours. Entertainment, shopping, and even a friendly wager over a public pay-to-play pool table are clearly universal past times.

 

Open air market in SuBei, China

2 stalls down from the open air pool-hall

While in America you can walk next door to most pool-halls and grab a fountain drink or lottery ticket—the market connected to this pool-hall just stocks its shelves with their own local favorites.

 

Front stoop, Gansu Province

Life on the front porch couch

But no matter how far you get off the grid—there is always evidence of couch life everywhere you look. At home, here in the US, you can imagine this same function being served by some version of a wicker outdoor patio “conversation set” (Shameless plug: Checkout Outdoor Sationals by Lovesac).

Humble dwelling, Gansu Province

What do you do with a couch that has run its course?

And what to do with a couch when it has finally just worn out? The solutions are just as clumsy and unsightly there as they are here. (Shameless plug: Lovesac Sactionals are built to last a lifetime—and will never face this problem)

 

Couch at curb

“Free Sectional” — What to do with a couch that won’t fit in your new place?

Or what about when you move, and your old sectional just doesn’t fit in your new place? You leave it at the curb of course. Isn’t it just supposed to disappear somehow!?

Couch outside shop, Gansu Province

Mao the mechanic’s waiting room couch

Or what to do when the fabric just gets so dirty its just embarrassing? (Shameless plug: Sactionals all have changeable covers that are totally machine washable—and will never face this problem). But this particular couch has seen plenty of life—parked outside of my newfound friend’s shop, Mr. Mao, the local mechanic.

 

Auto shop mechanic, Gansu Province

Mao the mechanic outside of his humble auto shop

This is Mr. Mao. I met him while wandering through a vacant lot displaying a smattering of older cars, trucks and scooters that I reckoned I might be able to gain access to as a means of going even further off-grid.

 

Urban dwelling, Gansu Province

Entering through the alley – a peek into life on a couch in backwoods, China

As it turns out, Mao the Mechanic could not rent me one of his vehicles. But he did invite me back to his home for tea, and a rare peek into his humble life on a couch. Tune in next week for an intimate look into Mao the mechanic’s “Couch Life” interview, from the inside of his own home, all the way from one of the harshest and farthest removed environments on the face of the earth.

Rock formation, Gobi Desert, Gansu Province

Don’t get lost out here

I was blown away, not only with the stunning local scenery—but by the fascinating details of Mr. Mao’s life on a couch. Check back next week to see it, as one of my series of “How’s Your Couch Life Interviews,” at Lifeonacouch.org.

 

YaDan National Park, Gansu Province

Reminds me of home (southern Utah)…but as far away as it gets

The dunes of MingSha Mountain

Two steps feel more like four, and only take you one forward one in sand like this

Are you like me? Do you like to get off the beaten path? What is the coolest place you’ve ever travelled to? Tell me about it!! Comment here.

— Shawny

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