Currently

Currently (May 2014)

I haven’t been doing as much day-to-day living blogging this month, mostly because I’ve been really busy with work and my long commute. I wanted to just give you all a quick little update as to what I’ve been up to!

Congratulating the graduating class of 2014 by sharing some of my never-before-seen graduation photos, like the one above.

Watching Sailor Moon on Hulu and loving it, despite how long the magical girl transformation sequence is each… and every… time.

JUST. SO. EXCITED.

Making flower crowns and quickly realizing that I should not feel insecure about the flowers being small; I like things better dainty and now my flower crown is absurdly humongous. (Photos will come when… my friend finishes editing them and sends them over XD)

Planning to make more, reasonably-sized flower crowns now that I’m armed with the confidence that I can.

Discussing the latest X-Men film and its gloriously frustrating continuity errors with fellow Marvel geeks.

Sampling the DC food truck scene and finding favorites.

Currently loving Crêpes Parfait, which is just adorable and delicious.

Settling on a new apartment so that I can cut my commute time down and spend more time with friends.

Welcoming my brother back from his first year in college.

Feels-ing everywhere over the season finales for Once Upon a Time and Hannibal.

Attempting to finish writing my Eurotrip blogs before my 2014 summer family vacation.

… Failing to finish all of those posts in time.

Preparing for my summer trip (and for disappointing you all with how delayed those posts come up ;P)

Deciding on a new watch to buy as a big-girl/working-girl gift to myself.

Declaring my current favorite Trader Joe’s salad to be the broccoli slaw & kale with chicken and dried cranberries.

Putting off baring my legs or arms (and shaving…) despite the ever-climbing temperatures.

Fuming about the Isla Vista shooting and some of the misdirected responses. (I will be writing about my thoughts on this soon, but I need some time to properly articulate how I feel in a way that is conducive to people being able to digest it easily.)

Enjoying my new domain name and my new business cards (unrelated to each other but both make me feel like the real deal).

Dreading going back to work after this week and a half vacation…

Appreciating hot water and electricity after a storm knocked them both out.


 

There you have it, a cute little update, inspired by Stephanie Pellet’s “Lately” posts over on Life in Limbo.

What are you currently doing/feeling/[insert verb]-ing?

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“You Would”

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

To wrap up the month,  I wanted to share a little list of instances that I, as an Asian-American and/or as a Chinese-American* flinch in preparation of hearing the phrase: “you would“. This started a rather… lighthearted list. But as I wrote, I felt a lot of bitterness growing inside of me. I started writing this May 1. It’s May 19 and I’m straight up angry.

I want to make it clear that this is not meant to be taken in any way, exactly. But I hate flinching when I hear someone say “you would” and knowing that the rest of that sentence goes “… because you’re Asian“.

  1. Ordering an Asian/”Oriental”-inspired dish at an extremely un-Asian restaurant. I don’t think my Asian-ness is what makes Applebee’s Oriental chicken salad so delicious, it’s that yummy dressing. Less common (although unfortunately not unheard of) is teasing Italian-Americans for eating pasta or Mexican-Americans for eating burritos.

    Don’t try to deny me the not-very-Asian goodness of fried chicken on a salad.
    (Image: Applebees)
  2. Owning anything panda-related. Pandas are universally accepted as being adorable creatures; my being Asian has nothing to do with that. They have a very scientifically-proven-to-be-cute head-size-to-body-size ratio regardless of my ethnicity. Would I own fewer panda things if I wasn’t Chinese? Maybe. Are there some non-Asian people who own more panda things than some Asian people? Of course, pandas are adorable.
  3. Introducing someone to a group of Asian people. Yes, I have Asian friends. No, not all of my friends are Asian, but so what if they were? I don’t really see as many instances of people getting a hard time for having all white friends or all black friends or all Latino friends.
    That is, of course, unless they’re Asian and have all white/black/Latino friends. I don’t think that an Asian person having Asian friends is really comment-worthy, and yet…
  4. Telling someone I play piano. You know what, I will admit that I have a difficult time finding an Asian person who doesn’t and has never played piano. However, for all of the non-Asian people that also play piano, this really shouldn’t be as much of a “you would”, or WORSE, an “of course you would kind of situation.
  5. Bringing Asian cuisine leftovers for lunch. I don’t understand. You’re bringing leftovers, I’m bringing leftovers. You’re eating pasta, I’m eating fried rice. Your family made lasagna, mine went out and had noodles leftover. Why wouldn’t we? Yes, I would. I don’t understand the need to have to comment on this at all, we should both be allowed to bring fried rice or pasta or sandwiches for lunch without getting sass about it.

    Quinoa fried rice2
    Since you chose to needlessly comment on my lunch, I’m choosing to interpret that as envy that my fried rice smells way better than your sad sandwich.
    (Image: thelittlehoneybee.com)
  6. Watching Mulan. Sure, you can comment on my Disney obsession (it isn’t a problem, go away) but I don’t see why watching Mulan has to merit some sassy comment about me wanting to watch the only Asian Disney protagonist. Am I supposed to watch everything BUT Mulan? That doesn’t seem quite right to me. Never mind the multiple layers of feelings I have about Mulan, from how excited I was that my dreams of being a Disney face character became closer to reality when the movie was released to how disappointed I am that Mulan was designed to not be pretty so that she could pass off as a man in the movie.
  7. Bringing SPF 50 or higher to an outdoor event. It seems that it’s only socially acceptable to take sun protection seriously if you burn easily and/or if you are a pale redhead with freckles. So if I don’t burn within 10 minutes, my dedication to SPF is a joke and due to my Asian-ness? While it may have been my Chinese family that initially influenced me to not let myself get severely tanned every summer, any dermatologist or cosmetician can tell you that sun protection is really important. Skin cancer is no joke, and if you’re going to be so vain as to do your makeup before heading to beach, I’d recommend sunscreen so that your beauty upkeep doesn’t get more difficult as you get older.

    Stay away from the sun: Chinese beachgoers wearing body suits and protective head masks, dubbed 'face-kinis' by Chinese netizens, on a crowded public beach in Qingdao, northeast China's Shandong province
    I could be wearing a face-kini, but I don’t.
  8. Taking photos of my food. I try not to do this very often, because I personally find the practice to be obnoxious. Just because there is an entire blog dedicated to this embarrassment, it doesn’t mean that I do it because I’m Asian or that it warrants comment because I am Asian. Look around, there are people of all races and creeds photographing their food. I often don’t even get to share it, I just have a hard time remember what I ate somewhere.

    From Wong Fu Productions’s “Food Pic War”
  9. Speaking Chinese to my parents on the phone. Don’t. You. Dare. People speak to their parents in their parents’ native language. Or in a language that they and their parents learned and agreed to speak to each other. It is not your place to judge or joke because I’m Chinese that I speak Chinese to my parents. I don’t and wouldn’t give you hard time about the fact that you don’t know any other language but English, or that your parents wish you could speak Portuguese to them or your grandparents but you can’t.

*Sometimes, these situations arise specifically because I’m Chinese. Sometimes, the microaggressions happen because someone can barely be bothered to see past my being Asian, let alone that I’m Chinese.

…I am a little more defensive in this post than I normally am in my blogs.

Because after all this time, I am really tired of defending myself over these really… LITTLE THINGS. I can’t even list any more because I started getting pretty upset thinking about all the times that people give me a hard time for… being Asian-American?

I think the worst is when this comes from other Asian-Americans, though. It’ll come from a “whitewashed” friend, who laughs at the fact that I’m on the executive board for the Asian American Student Union or that I carry my sunbrella outside even after I’ve come home from China.

I’m really tired of these microaggressions in the form of the phrase “you would“. It is one of the more offensive ones to me. It carries with it the stench of someone who thinks that they’re able to put me neatly into their “Asian person” box. That these behaviors, while often are not specific to Asians or Asian-Americans, make me an other from you. Or, as I get the impression from my Asian friends who commit these microaggressions, or they will outright tell me, that I embarrass you.

I am sorry that you are ashamed of certain qualities that are associated with Asians. It happens to me, as well. I’ll shake my head seeing someone wearing one of these (because I know that behind that visor is a middle-aged Asian woman; I have not been wrong yet):

But I don’t deserve to be given a hard time about these things.

I don’t deserve to want to order some Asian-inspired dish at a very un-Asian restaurant and deny myself the joy (or the hard lesson to learn, in some cases) of ordering orange chicken at a cowboy-themed restaurant.

I don’t deserve to say no to buying a panda plushie because I know you’ll be there, doing that “of course you would” exhalation through your nose, which you are looking down at me.

I don’t deserve to get nervous about introducing someone to my friends, stopping to count and oh crap, did I accidentally hang out with only Asian people today? and having my mind race about the kind of impression you have of me because God forbid my friends look a little more like me than the average student at our school.

I don’t deserve to be embarrassed about spending years learning piano, an instrument I asked my parents to let me learn because I loved it and before I realized that almost every single one of my other Asian friends was already learning it or picking it up at the same time.

I don’t deserve to get laughed at in a school cafeteria, a rough place as it stands, for not having this de facto standard school lunch of a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a Capri Sun, which was apparently the North Face, leggings, and Uggs of grade school. I am grateful that I have a lunch to bring, I am grateful that my parents made me a delicious dinner and that there was so much I could bring it in for lunch the next day. I don’t deserve to be pushing that gratitude aside for superficial concerns like having a “cool” lunch.

I don’t deserve to be forced to suppress my love for Mulan, my dream of becoming a face character, my excitement at being represented in a Disney animated movie, that Mulan is considered a Disney princess even though she’s not really a princess. I will not stand here and tell you that she is mine more than she is yours, but you cannot sit there and tell me that she cannot be mine as well as yours because that is simply wrong.

I don’t deserve to feel awkward about not wanting to get sunburned. I know the facts about sun damage. It’s serious business and melanoma is no joke. You spend a lot of time on your face, so you probably know what the effects of sun damage are as far as aging. But unless I’m a ginger (and I take issue with how you’re treating our redheaded friends), and I don’t immediately get painfully burned in the sun, I should just be okay with getting burned? You burned sitting on a rooftop bar; I don’t think I’m ridiculous for wearing sunscreen.

I don’t deserve to have my race brought up when I take photos of my food. I also don’t deserve to hear my race being used as an insult if you decide to, in one fell swoop, laugh at the expense of a non-Asian friend who is also photographing his/her food. My ethnicity is not the punchline to this joke.

I. Do not. Deserve. To believe it’s necessary to speak to my parents in English when they’re speaking to me in Chinese. To speak Mandarin in hushed, embarrassed tones while covering my mouth so as to reduce the possibility that my communicating with my parents might trigger some kind of response from other people.

I don’t deserve to flinch and expect to hear you say “you would” to any of these things.

St. Petersburg day 2

(People are asking me how I get to travel so much, and welcoming me back to the States, so I should clarify that these photos are all from 1 August 2013… I’m really bad at posting on time.)

Our second day in St. Petersburg was not as nice weather-wise. We had a light rain for most of the day, so we were lucky in that day 2 was a mostly indoor appreciation day.

First off, the Hermitage Museum, one of the oldest and biggest museums in the world created by Catherine I (remember her?). One of the palace buildings that was converted into the museum was formerly the Winter Palace and it looks out over Palace Square. One of my favorite things about visiting other places is thinking about the historical events that took place there, thinking about whose footprints I’m stepping in. For example, Palace Square is where Bloody Sunday and the October Revolution happened. Reading about these events in textbooks and even watching documentaries is one thing, but breathing the air there is an entirely different experience. I get overwhelmed by the feeling.

My view of Palace Square from inside the Hermitage Museum

In any case, the Hermitage is home to so much great art. I can’t even show you all the art that I have photos of, let alone all the art that they actually housed, but I’ll give you all a taste of some of my favorite pieces, some famous pieces, and pieces with interesting stories. (Included in the captions, which are maybe worth reading for once this time!) I have way way more, so let me know if you want me to share any of the other pieces I photographed. 🙂

Portrait of the actress Jeanne Samary – Renoir
She is best known not for her acting but for Renoir’s portraits.
Boy with a Whip – Renoir
(It looks like a little girl, but we were assured this is a boy, as it was custom for little boys to dress this way.)
Woman in the Garden, Saint-Adresse – Monet
We were told that this painting originally also had a man next to the woman, who commissioned this painting, but she then asked Monet to remove him. Drama.
Thatched Cottages at Cordeville – Van Gogh
Dance II – Matisse
This painting could take up an entire wall of my bedroom.
Le Café Maure – Matisse
Musical Instruments – Picasso
Two Sisters – Picasso
A rare original Da Vinci painting

Casually run out of room for priceless art and put it on the ceiling.
Rembrandt was the most popular artist in the museum.

More gifts from Egypt

The building itself, of course, being a Winter Palace, was also utterly magnificent.

Just… just look at that. Casually gilded and lined with priceless art.
Chandeliers are to the indoors what fountains are to the outdoors. Gotta love the opulence a little bit.
A lot of beautiful ceiling patterns, some that mirrored the beautiful floors.

From the Hermitage, we went to the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. The history of this church is amazing and fascinating. It was built on the site where Alexander II (who is maybe on of the most revered Russian monarchs) was assassinated. Literally, the very spot where his blood was spilled is preserved and enshrined in this church. The blood-stained cobblestones are exposed (although fenced off) and around them was constructed a glittering shrine of gleaming stones.

Today, it is no longer a place of worship, as it was used as a morgue during World War II and, well, if housing the dead isn’t a form of desecration,  I’m not sure what is. After World War II, rather than holding religious services, the church was used for storing vegetables (better than corpses) and was affectionately called the Church of the Savior on Potatoes. (Cute, no?)

Elaborate shrine marking the exact spot where Alexander II was assassinated.
The very cobblestones upon which Alexander II’s blood was spilled.
My neck started aching from looking upwards at all these BEAUTIFUL ceilings.
Vents to keep services warm during cold St. Petersburg Sundays
Alexandrite in the pillars…

Afterwards, we headed off to St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which is a magnificent Russian Orthodox cathedral. It cost so much money, time (40 years), and many lives to build this spectacular building.

The cathedral was filled with these meticulously created mosaics
The progression of the cathedral’s architecture

It was a good last day in St. Petersburg. I really felt like I had gotten in touch with my Russian roots. (If those are a thing…) I just really loved St. Petersburg and I would really love to go back someday.

The first “Venice of the North” that we saw

 

Stormy Commute

Why did you stay at work until 7?
Why didn’t you get to work until 10?

Both of these questions have the same answer: a commute from Hell.

Ironically, I was trying to get to work early today.

Let’s start with the morning. I’m dragging my sleepy self out of bed and trying to get washed up in 10 minutes so I can leave my house and catch the train. I like taking the train because I can really relax; whether I sleep or read, the last stop is in DC so I don’t have to worry about moving until the train stops for good.

The first hitch in my commute happens when my nose starts bleeding. Fun fact: I get a lot of nosebleeds. You may remember me complaining about them during my trip to Harbin. I also get them almost daily during allergy season. I usually get them in the morning shortly after waking up. This is inconvenient when I am trying to be on time for work. (I have already been a little late twice because of ill-timed nosebleeds.

Well, it’s a good thing I’m already bent over the sink washing up when my nose starts bleeding, I guess. Unfortunately, this is a big one and not a minor one that goes away quickly. I’m in the bathroom for about 15 minutes, including my crazy-fast re-washing of the face and attempts to style my hair into a sock bun. (It wasn’t very successful but it was much less of a failure than those of the past!)

Okay, well, I think the blood is off my face and hands and sink, my hair is up, I have my things and I’m out the door. In the car and, of course, with great flooding comes great amounts of traffic. What ordinarily is a 30-40 minute drive to the metro station — since I can no longer try for the train — wound up taking over an hour. UGH. Ugh ugh ugh. I call my coworker and ask her to put a sticky note on my desk and to tell my manager that I will be running a few minutes late.

Finally, I make it to the metro station and board the train. I thought I could relax.
Obviously, since my 3 hour total commute has 2 hours unaccounted for, this is not true.
There are many many stops and a transfer before I can start walking to work. My train passed ONE stop before it was stopped in-between two stations. The conductor comes on the speakers telling us that the train is not receiving signals so he has to get off the train to try to fix it. We end up sitting between these two stations (aka we were trapped underground in our train) for over 30 minutes. Just sitting there. At the very beginning of my journey. I’m realizing that the message I asked my coworker to pass to my manager was going to be quite wrong. I was going to be way more than just a few minutes late.

After over half an hour, we finally get moving yay! We reach the second stop on the path into DC.
There, we are dumped off to wait on the platform for another half hour. It would seem the train ahead of us is also not receiving signals and is stopped on the tracks. We now have to wait for that one to get fixed before we can move forward again. Eventually, they let us back onto the train and the rest of the trip goes relatively slowly.

Where’s the last hour? you’re asking.
The metro trip + walking to work takes an hour. Yes, even after overcoming all these frustrating delays, I still had a looooong commute to go. And I stayed late to make up for lost time.

Dang.

But you know what? My anxiety management has improved over the past 2 years. Even a year ago, I would have been panicking throughout each delay. Panicking through my nosebleed. Panicking while stuck in traffic. Panicking while trapped underground on the subway. Panicking during the “smooth” part of my commute knowing I’d be over an hour late for work.

And you know what, when I got to work, I forced myself to find the bright side. This wasn’t the worst commute I could’ve had. A lot of things didn’t happen that could have!

  • My car battery wasn’t dead. (It was dead before work yesterday, so I’m just glad my car started today.)
  • I didn’t get into a car accident.
  • I didn’t get pulled over by a mean cop.
  • My train’s lights and air conditioning remained on (while I was trapped underground).
  • I didn’t have to deal with invasions of my personal space.
  • I didn’t get creepily hit on by anyone.
  • I didn’t slip and fall.
  • I wasn’t mugged.
  • I wasn’t splashed by a passing car or truck.
  • I didn’t get hit by any cars or trucks.
  • I didn’t lose or forget any of my belongings throughout this entire ordeal.

If all of these things happened, plus my above struggles, then that would most definitely be in the running for worst commute ever.

But you know, all things considered… it could’ve been worse?

I am truly amazed by how ill-prepared Washington D.C. is for stormy weather. DC was built on a marsh! (Basically.) And yet, if we get more than an inch of rain, there are guaranteed delays on the metro. In a city built on wetlands. UGH WHY.

My coworker, who takes the same train (although usually on a different schedule from me) had a similarly difficult ordeal trying to get home on the train this evening. She was trying to take the 6:40 train home. The trains before were all delayed, and so was this one. She was originally trying to take the 6:23, so the passengers for that train were just corralled onto the 6:40. They were allowed to board, and were stopping and going for over an hour before even reaching the first stop. Apparently, there was some kind of police incident in the city of the first stop. And they kept checking the brakes of the train. (Not very comforting…) Also, apparently someone had been hit by a train earlier in the day, a tragedy that had the unfortunate ripple effect of creating even more severe delays.

So maybe I lucked out by not making the train this morning.

Tell me about one of your most frustrating commutes? We can commiserate together.

New Favorite: London Fog

I recently did a local event that was essentially like a local business/restaurant crawl? Several local area businesses (not my locality, but a friend’s) had special tasting menus, gave you a stamp for purchasing something off that menu, and you could turn in your stamped “visa” for a grand prize raffle!

One of the places I newly discovered was Kaldi’s Coffee Bar, which is a really cool coffee shop that definitely gives chain spots a run for their money. The ambiance is great and the offerings are yummy! I had some delicious macarons, they have the most decadent looking desserts…

But guys.
I have a new favorite coffeeshop beverage.

londonfog05
Christine at justbella.com knows what I’m talking about

I have never been much of a coffee drinker. It’s so bitter to me, and I have not really acquired that taste. This may be because I was over-eager for “grown-up drink” as a child and so my dad gave me black coffee when I was age 7. X_X

I do, however, love love love tea. Tea is my favorite. Tea soothes the soul. It calms my mind. It makes me feel like I can be a better version of myself.
… getting a bit carried away, but I love tea!

I started drinking Earl Grey tea with my trip to London this past summer. (That post is coming, I promise you guys it will be out before I die.) Before that, I mostly drank green teas, oolong teas, or whatever generic Lipton/Nestle tea was available. I really love Earl Grey because I think that the bergamot gives it just… the most delicious fragrant notes. Mmmm… one of my souvenirs for myself was a little tin of Earl Grey that is one of my favorite little gifts for myself after a long day.

Back to Kaldi’s. So I spotted “London Fog” on their tea menu. I had heard of this drink before and I just vaguely knew it as an  Earl Grey latte. I think lattes are all right, considering I don’t really like coffee, and I haven’t had some good Earl Grey in a while, so I ordered a small cup for myself. I actually didn’t know that they made lattes (“lattes”) with tea, so I figured swapping out bitter coffee for yummy tea would be a great upgrade.

DSC_5060
Sean of locallovesnanaimo.com knows, too!

OOOOOOOH YUMMMMM it was so delicious. Sweetened Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and some vanilla. Such a simple combination but so delicious. I will now ask for this wherever it is offered. It is up there with bubble tea as far as favorite beverages go, that’s how much I loved this. I would probably love it even more with steamed soy, since I don’t really like milk that much.

I am eager to try to recreate this ASAP at home so that I can enjoy more of this goodness, especially when winter inevitably rolls around again. Here’s a great recipe I found on Gimme Some Oven, who also is mindful of people who aren’t fancy enough to have milk steaming apparatus in their kitchens AND makes hers with lavender, which makes it somewhat more of a Lady Grey beverage but I love Lady Grey anyway! Lavender is an ingredient I’d really like to be tasting more of in my foods and beverages.

London Fog Tea Latte (Earl Grey Latte) | gimmesomeoven.com
Also, I need to get me one of these nifty glass mugs, they just make hot drinks look so great.

I imagine that other Earl Grey varieties would also make delicious London Fogs, like French Earl Grey with hints of rose…. mmm.

I’ve never really frequented chain coffee places, but I may have to see how Starbucks’s “Earl Grey latte” holds up.

I am so obsessed with this right now. The taste of this London Fog is still lingering on my lips…

Have you ever had London Fog? If so, do you like it?
What’s your go-to drink to order at a coffee shop?