Sweet Saturdays

Today was a happy, relaxing, and family-filled Saturday. I spent most of the day lazying around as a couch potato, reviewing my old freelance writing portfolio, and playing with Happy. In the afternoon, I finally rolled out of my old lady couch potato attire and got ready to visit A in the hospital. After a turbulent drive, harrowing parking experience, and lots of scary crosswalks, I successfully surprise visited A!

I de-hoboed for A!

She’s healing amazingly, and getting her game on to start chemo and radiation. I chatted with her for a bit, and then caught up with A’s husband. Things are looking better, and we remain incredibly hopeful for full recovery.

At dinnertime, I headed to City of Flower’s Restaurant & Bar for a mini-family reunion. My grandparents, aunt, uncle, Daddy, Michael and I gathered around a big round table and feasted on 11 sizzling plates of tasty Chinese cuisine. It was a very delicious and extremely happy dinner.

Despite all the hectic recent occurrences I think I’ve successfully adapted to life here in China. One minute its peaceful, and another minute its chaos, but things are finally starting to settle in place.

Besides, I have the cutest kitty soulmate in the world.

Meow ❤

Even Michael has been Happy-fied.

Shh. Good thing he doesn’t know I keep a daily blog. Teehee 😛

M

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Insightful Words: Can Art Change the World?

Last night, Michael and I spent hours re-watching our favorite TEDTalk videos. Out of all the inspiring videos we watched, one of my favorites from 2011 still stood out to me the most. I thought I’d share JR’s amazing project and wish for those who may not have seen it yet.

Art is not supposed to change the world, to change practical things, but to change perceptions. Art can change the way we see the world. Art can create an analogy. – JV

Truly inspiring. A year later, the project has exploded all over the world. I’ve been following JV’s project website at http://www.insideoutproject.net/, and I must say its reshaped my perspective on the power of art.

M

Coffee Shops, Photography & Wanderlust.

Coffee Shops

A few nights ago, Michael took me out to a cafe called MeToo. Designed and launched by 6 esteemed interior designers, the cafe screamed alternative chic. As it quickly became apparent, this was the cafe I’ve been translating marketing materials for. On a rainy Tuesday night, business was booming.

We slipped into cozy white sofas near the window on the second floor, sipped MeToo’s signature creamy Winter Wonderland coffee, and sat back to soak in the cafe’s unique ambience. MeToo is one of the city’s first successful forays into the realm of organic lifestyle themed cafes, and I must say they know how to do it well.

I think I’ve found my favorite cafe in Hangzhou. Despite my love for traveling and adventure, one of my most favorite pastimes is to sip a cup of coffee and curl up on a corner sofa with a good book.

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MeToo Cafe

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Rainy Tuesdays

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A creamy cup of coffee

Photography

When I was in Jejudo, my new friend Yuandi was shocked when I told her I’ve using my IPhone 4S for all my photography. Armed with her Canon 5D, S100, and IPhone, she was quite horrified at my complete lack of a ‘real’ camera. ‘Girl, don’t waste your travels!” Haha.

While I’ve been extremely happy with my IPhone and its slew of photo apps for effects and filters, I do agree it’s time to step it up a notch with a real camera. Any suggestions?

On Wanderlust.

Today on RenRen (China’s answer to Facebook), I read an incredible account of a Chinese guy’s solo 87-day journey from China to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Tibet and back. He saved up for a whole year before embarking on his journey, and went for it despite intense disapproval from his family. Having grown up in a typical Chinese family environment and received a typical rigorous Chinese education, Bao Long Xiang wanted to go out and see the world on his own terms. He represents a new sub-group of the ‘Little Emperors’ Generation – those who have not given up on the Chinese education system in favor of Western countries, but are looking for more. They have acquiesced to the will of their parents and society’s expectations, and most likely enjoy relative success with school and possibly work. However, with heavy exposure to international media, technology and social media platforms, and an extra bit of spending money, more and more young Chinese people are aspiring to the backpacker lifestyle. Popular routes range from following the Silk Road, the popular Southeast Asia track, to Europe. For many, its the first time they are completely on their own. With a backpack, some money, and absolute freedom to go wherever they want and do whatever they want…its exhilarating, terrifying, and liberating.

My wanderlust is back. Oops.

Bit by the travel bug. Again.

M

Our 1.25 Anniversary

Last night as the clock ticked close to midnight, I received an email from K regarding a 5-page essay he needed to write for an advertising job opportunity. The length made me wonder a little, but I decided to read over it before heading to bed. It turns out, the advertising assignment was just a fluke. It was an essay on us, our relationship, trials and tribulations, and reflections…inspired by our 1 year and 3 month anniversary. I was so touched!

These past 15 months together have been quite a ride, with our fair share of ups and downs. We’ve left footsteps together all over, grown tremendously, and learned just how much weight you can gain when you pig out constantly with your significant other. Just kidding! Except… not really. 😛

We’ve been long distance for a month now, and I want to thank K for always being there for me in his own way. Although now the only positions I see him in are

Zzz

or

zzZ.

I cherish his presence in my life. 🙂 Happy 1.25 BB!

My early 22nd Birthday Present to K. Potatohead Power! 🙂

M

Memorable Day with the Grandparents.

This morning I rolled out of bed at 6am, tried to fit my head through my pant leg, and tripped over Happy. I grabbed my backpack and a few biscuits for a hasty breakfast, and sped downstairs to catch part of a ride with my uncle.

30 excruciating minutes of traffic later, he dropped me off at the K25 bus stop. I dosed off while standing, only to be jostled rudely awake by a horde of angry obasans racing to be the first onboard the bus. During rush hour in China, the law of the land is PUSH PUSH PUSH. And push they did. I do not want to think about how many times I got molested by sweaty arms.

Finally, I made it onto the bus and waded through the sea of human body parts. 15 stops to go. Disheveled and exhausted, I finally arrived at my destination and embarked on the daunting task to cross the road. 15 minutes later, I was rewarded with my grandparents and their surprised smiling faces.

All of a sudden it was all worth it.

For the rest of the day, I made myself useful and volunteered as their slave/housekeeper/maid. I went crazy on the alcohol wipes and wiped down all door knobs/fans/phones/handles/remote controls. I cleaned around the house, watched (suffered through) Cantonese Opera with them, and enjoyed a lovely lunch together featuring cucumbers from my grandma’s mini garden.

In the afternoon, I bathed my 92-year-old grandpa for the first time. My grandma was exhausted and finally dozed off for her afternoon nap, and for the first time ever I was completely and solely responsible for taking care of my grandpa. Due to complications from his illness recovery, I needed to ensure he was warm and clean at all times. Since he vacillates between moments of lucidity and a state of hazy confusion, I had to teach and help him undress, turn on the shower, bathe him, change him, and instruct him on how to slip back into his slippers. Then I half-coaxed, half-led him back to bed for a ‘beauty nap’. It was a very humbling experience.

Before I dashed out into the vicious rainstorm to return to my current abode, I provided my ‘professional’ massage services to each grandparent. After 30 minutes each, I kissed them goodbye and started my return journey with sore hands and a heart filled with warmth.

Precious.

M

Family Moments

These past few days have been dedicated to moments with family.

Rushing home from Shanghai to eat rice dumplings with grandparents for Duan Wu Holiday. Watching Chinese military dramas with aunt and uncle. Visiting A in the hospital. Giving relatives souvenirs and gifts from Korea, and enjoying their happy faces. Helping cousin with translating business plans.

Gathering around an IPad playing air hockey with my aunt, uncle and cousin, screaming and laughing like a bunch of little kids.

Simple, happy, precious moments.

Family.

M

Insightful Words: Tidbits of Wisdom from Sugar

I regularly follow a columnist named Sugar. She is like a feisty, raw and R-rated version of Dear Abby, and I am in love with her writing. Today, I decided to do an Insightful Words post sharing excerpts from her column. The piece is in response to a reader’s plight on paying back college loans. It touches upon college, studying abroad, finances, and coming to terms with the cards one is dealt in life.

Many years ago, I ran into an acquaintance I’ll call Kate a few days after we both graduated college. Kate was with her parents, who’d not only paid for her entire education, but also for her junior year abroad in Spain, and her summer “educational opportunities” that included unpaid internships at places like GQ magazine and language immersions in France and fascinating archeological digs in God knows what fantastically interesting place. As we stood on the sidewalk chatting, I was informed that: a) Kate’s parents had given her a brand new car for her graduation present and b) Kate and her mother had spent the day shopping for the new wardrobe Kate would need for her first ever job.

Not that she had one, mind you. She was applying for jobs while living off of her parents’ money, of course. She was sending out her glorious resume that included the names of foreign countries and trendy magazines to places that were no doubt equally glorious and I knew without knowing something simply glorious would be the result.

It was all I could do not to sock her in the gut.

Unlike Kate, by then I’d had a job. In fact, I’d had sixteen jobs, not including the years I worked as a babysitter before I could legally be anyone’s employee. They were: janitor’s assistant (humiliatingly, at my high school), fast-food restaurant worker, laborer at a wildlife refuge, administrative assistant to a Realtor, English as a Second language tutor, lemonade cart attendant, small town newspaper reporter, canvasser for a leftie nonprofit, waitress at a Japanese restaurant, volunteer coordinator for a reproductive rights organization, berry picker on a farm, waitress at a vegetarian restaurant, “coffee girl” at an accounting firm, student-faculty conflict mediator, teacher’s assistant for a women’s studies class, and office temp at a half a dozen places that by and large did not resemble offices and did not engage me in work that struck me as remotely “officey,” but rather involved things such as standing on a concrete floor wearing a hairnet, a paper mask and gown, goggles, and plastic gloves and—with a pair of tweezers—placing two pipe-cleaners into a sterile box that came to me down a slow conveyer belt for eight excruciating hours a day.

During those years, I sometimes wept with rage. My dream was to be a writer. I wanted it so badly that it made my insides hurt. And to be a writer—I felt sure—I needed to have a big life. Which at the time meant to me amazing experiences such as the sort Kate had. I needed to experience culture and see the world. I needed to speak French and hang out with people who knew people who worked at GQ.

Instead I was forced, by accident of birth, to work one job after another in a desperate attempt to pay the bills. It was so damn unfair. Why did Kate get to study in Spain her junior year? Why did she get to write the word “France” on her resume? Why did she get her bachelor’s degree debt-free and then, on top of that, a new car? Why did she get two parents who would be her financial fall back for years to come and then—decades into a future, which has not yet come to pass—leave her an inheritance upon their deaths?

I didn’t get an inheritance! My mother died three months before I “graduated” college and all I got was her ancient, rusted-out Toyota that I quickly sold to a guy named Guy for $500.

Bloody hell.

So here’s the long and short of it: there is no why. You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding. And dear one, you and I both were granted a mighty generous hand.

What I know for sure is that freaking out about your student loan debt is useless. You’ll be okay. It’s only money. And it was money well spent. Aside from the people I love, there is little I value more than my education. As soon as I pay off my undergraduate debt, Mr. Sugar and I intend to start saving for college for the baby Sugars. My dream is that they’ll have college experiences that resemble Kate’s more than mine. I want them to be able to focus on their studies instead of cramming them in around jobs. I want them to have a junior year abroad wherever they want to go. I want them to have cool internships that they could only take with parental financial support. I want them to go on cultural exchanges and interesting archeological digs. I want to fund all that stuff I never got to do because no one was able to fund me. I can imagine all they would gain from that.

But I can also imagine what they won’t get if Mr. Sugar and I manage to give them the college experience of my dreams.

Turns out, I learned a lot from not being able to go France. Turns out, those days standing on the concrete floor wearing a hairnet, a paper mask and gown, goggles, and plastic gloves and—with a pair of tweezers—placing two pipe-cleaners into a sterile box that came to me down a slow conveyer belt for eight excruciating hours a day taught me something important I couldn’t have learned any other way. That job and the fifteen others I had before I graduated college were my own, personal “educational opportunities.” They changed my life for the better, though it took me a while to understand their worth.

They gave me faith in my own abilities. They offered me a unique view of worlds that were both exotic and familiar to me. They kept things in perspective. They pissed me off. They opened my mind to realities I didn’t know existed. They forced me to be resilient, to sacrifice, to see how little I knew, and also how much. They put me in close contact with people who could’ve funded the college educations of ten thousand kids and also with people who would’ve rightly fallen on the floor laughing had I complained to them about how unfair it was that after I got my degree I’d have this student loan I’d be paying off until I was 43.

They made my life big. They contributed to an education that money can’t buy.

Yours,
Sugar

Original Article: http://therumpus.net/2011/12/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-91-a-big-life/

This article deeply resonated within me. I have had the best of both worlds. I was given the opportunity to travel the world, to open my eyes and get out of my comfort zone infinite time. Simultaneously, I have had my fair share of Sugar’s frustrations. My first job was in 6th grade when I helped out with my neighbor’s in-home nursery 3 times a week. I start working part-time a month after my 14th birthday, and stayed at that startup throughout high school. After I started college, I would BART the 14 stops to Fremont and transfer 2 buses every Friday to clock in my weekly 8 hours. Until it went bankrupt 6 years and 5 days from the day I started. On the side, I’ve consistently worked 2-3 jobs on the side to support myself financially. While my parents contributed room & board in high school and   helped me out with educational expenses in college, I was financially responsible for pretty much everything else in my life.

I was dealt a good set of cards. Grants, scholarships, and loans made my exchange abroad in Hong Kong possible. My savings from my jobs supported the rest of my traveling, shopping hauls, and daily expenditures. Every day I see my bank account drop sadly since I currently have no income. But its all worth it.

Travelling and going to see all these new exotic places isn’t the biggest reward. Its the wisdom and appreciation you gain when you meet people from all walks of life and learn about their stories. When you walk outside of your bubble and look into your old life from a fresh perspective. The discipline and budgeting aptitude you gain when you are traveling on a limited budget and trying to make the most of your time. The satisfaction that you were able to pay for all of it with those long hard hours of slaving away in a cubicle…or half of one.

I will be embarking on the journey to pay back my hefty student loans soon. But every penny has been worth it, because I received a hell of an education no money can ever buy.

M