History repeats itself again

In Trump’s America, history is repeating itself once again with white supremacist rallies and violence, leading to the death of an innocent equality seeking woman and the injuries of many more. What is really shocking is not what the self-proclaimed neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and people-of-color hating white racists say and do; what is really shocking is the people who you’d least expect defending these rallies as being representative of “freedom of speech” and opinion, or the people, whether they are colleagues, former colleagues, or people within your professional network, who think a quote like the one below are delusional or “total crap”:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love… …For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

This was originally said by Nelson Mandela, and Tweeted by former President Obama after the Charlottesville act of domestic terrorism that happened this past Saturday. And someone posted this quote in my LinkedIn feed today, to which one very ignorant white woman responded that this quote was totally crap and all lies, that as if lions and zebras just “learn” to hate each other, that it’s instinct, so how are people any different?

So, I have a couple responses to that: 1) I didn’t realize that black people, white people, Chinese people, whatever ethnicity you want to name, were actually different species of animal the way zebra and lions are. That’s probably one of the most insulting and inherently racist things someone can say – that white people are innately different from any other race, or a comparison of any races in that sense; and 2) behavior towards people, towards things, thoughts, anything is very much learned, especially when it comes to expressing emotions, and it’s sad to see that people aren’t educated in school or in life enough to realize that. We’re not born thinking or knowing we are Christian or Indian or Muslim or anything; we are taught all those things. And in the same way, we are taught that one religion or race is superior to the other. Babies don’t have a clue what race they are or what religion their parents practice, and neither do most kids under the age of 5!!

It’s as though every day of 2017, I am becoming more and more aware of how delusional and short sighted my fellow Americans are. And every day, I kind of just want to bury myself under my sheets and not deal with reality.

Donor drive, year 4

It’s about that time of the year again when it’s time to start fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The organization has walks throughout the year, but the New York City ones across all boroughs always tend to take place between September to November of the year. I usually try to give myself about two months to fundraise. There are always the early birds, the ones who donate as soon as I send my first outreach email, and then there are always the people who donate at the very last minute because I suppose they like the thrill of being the last ones. I’m grateful to get any last dollar I can get.

I’ve been increasing my goal every year by a thousand dollars. The first year, I was so shocked that I reached my initial goal of $1,000 so quickly. This year, now that it’s at $4,000, it sounds like it will be far more challenging. I work in a remote office now, so I have less face time with the majority of the colleagues I work with. There’s also the weariness to consider of people who have always so graciously donated, but may think that they’ve already contributed “enough” to my cause. I wonder what this year will turn out to be.

I wonder if Ed is watching.

Clean floor

In the last apartment we were in, I always felt like the floors were dirty. Since I was little, I’ve always worn slippers in the house. Part of the reason was just in case I stepped on something sharp (when your dad can’t live without his tools, you inevitably will step on something sharp on the floor at some point during the day), and other times, it was mainly because I just like wearing slippers. But at the last apartment, it was because I always felt the floors were dirty. There was always something crumbly on the floor. Even after I scrubbed the floors, they felt dirty. It was probably because the floor boards were old and coming up, resulting in actual dirt being uncovered from underneath the boards. And then there was the issue of random nails sticking out of the floor boards, especially around the kitchen area, which was obviously a place I spent a lot of time.

So now that we’re in this new apartment, it feels strange that the floor actually always feels clean now. I rarely feel anything under my feet when I am walking barefoot, and even though I really haven’t cleaned the floor much at all the last two weeks, the floor… actually feels almost the same. I vacuumed for the first time today, and it didn’t seem much different than before I did it with the exception of a couple dust balls.

Does this actually mean I will have to clean less here? Is this what it’s like to live in a good apartment?

Luke’s Lobster

When I first moved to New York City, the biggest craze around lobster was at Luke’s Lobster, this little shop in the East Village that was famous for lobster and crab from Maine, brought in fresh daily from the state that is famous for these delicious, rich, and expensive crustaceans. Luke’s aimed to make lobster “affordable” for the New Yorkers who couldn’t always shell out the $25-45 for full lobster or lobster roll, and when I first moved here, that sounded really exciting. I think back in 2008-2009, the cost was around $15 for a lobster roll.

I wasn’t very experienced eating lobster or lobster rolls then, so then, I thought, wow, that’s a good deal. So my friend and I went, and although we both preferred the crab roll over the lobster roll, neither of us thought it was small.

Now, fast forward nine years later, I have this work perk where I can get free lunch at work. My colleague organized a group order for all of us to get lobster and crab rolls. And I hadn’t had these in ages, so I was just excited to try it again.

When the delivery came and I opened my box, half a crab roll and half a lobster roll, I was shocked by how small they were. Each half roll was literally three bites. I made it into six bites by taking the tiniest bites possible to savor it longer. But the rolls just looked so sad and puny.

I realize these are first world problems, but now Luke’s, having expanded throughout New York in multiple neighborhoods and having increased their prices, really doesn’t have any spark for me anymore.

Time may be up

It’s hard to feel positive about living in the U.S. when you have an orange racist, sexist, ignorant fuck in the White House, but I’ve tried to limit the amount of news I digest every day without becoming too ignorant of current events myself. There truly is a fine line between staying informed and going insane/losing complete hope in society.

But I almost found myself in tears at dinner tonight when I found out that my friend’s girlfriend, who is originally from Japan, may not be able to stay in the U.S. past September 9th. She’s on an H1B visa, and because she’s already had her visa transferred twice, she can no longer have her visa renewed, so she really has two choices left: leave to go back to Japan, or get married to my friend and file all her Green Card paperwork before September 9th. She was considered for a diplomat visa (I have no idea how that works, but found it odd given her organization that she could even qualify for that given her work has zero involvement with the government or being an actual diplomat), but she was told that given the current political climate, all applications for that are on hold. “Current political climate,” huh? Gee, I wonder what that means?

I could see the pain on her face when she was describing how upset and scared she was. Given her original demeanor at the beginning of the evening, I could already tell she was a bit on edge about everything. It’s terrible how little awareness the American people have about immigrants who are here on work visas, and because of that, it seems little will be done to help the plight of hard working, educated or uneducated immigrants like her and my own Chris. The system is basically set up against them and forces them to consider marriage to an American as the only viable option to move forward and continue living here and contributing to this society that doesn’t even value them or treat them like real human beings. I myself had no idea how hard it was until Chris and I started dating, and he educated me about everything he had gone through and what it’s like for the average educated immigrant here in the U.S. Unless you are good friends with people on H1B visas or are dating/married to someone who has had to go through the process, chances are that you don’t know crap about the process. And how can anyone really blame you? There are so many misconceptions of visa-holding immigrants to this country, and the media doesn’t help at all…. and that is how people are getting the very little information they have.

These are the moments when reality hits you about how hard immigrants have it, and how easy people like me have it in this country.

Dim lighting comments on race and sex

To celebrate the last quarter, our New York-based sales team went out to celebrate at the popular tapas restaurant Alta last night. Oddly, I was the only person not on the sales team invited, so you can imagine how annoyed all the other people in our office on the customer success team felt when they found out I got invited and they were excluded.

At dinner, our SVP of sales made the toast of the night, and I recorded via Instagram Story the meal and the round of cheers. The lighting was quite dim, yet despite that, I had two different people message me via private message on Instagram, first to ask me if I was the only female there, and secondly to ask me if I were the only person of color at the dinner. It’s amazing what a 10-second video can capture and say to different people.

Conference room discussion

The business world is a white male-dominated world. The tech world is a white male-dominated world. Pretty much every lucrative industry is a white male-dominated world. It’s changing at a snail pace gradually, but it is changing. My new company, which isn’t that new to me anymore since I recently passed my 90-day mark, is far more diverse than my last one. When I was in the San Francisco headquarters back in May for two weeks, I was happily surprised to see that we had black and Latino people across teams, that Asians (south and east) were represented across the organization, and that we had females at our leadership level. Much progress still has to happen, though, but I’m pretty confident that our HR team is doing what it can to increase diversity and inclusion as much as possible given the many channels in which we are constantly discussing this (even I’ve been an active participant).

But our New York remote office still has a ways to go, as well, and probably a longer way to go than our SF office. Since I’ve arrived, two of our (white) female sales people have left. Our office manager is (predictably) female, but she’s black. Other than her, we have four females in our office as of now, and of those four, I’m the only person of color. Of the rest of our small office of about 26, it’s a sea of white males… one Indian-Jordanian, one East Asian male, and one black, gay male. I add to the diversity of this office. And I’m very cognizant of that.

But I’m confident also when I say that I think people here are aware of the bubble we are in within the walls of our seventh floor office in Flatiron. Today, I was invited to participate in the enterprise sales east team quarterly business review, and as someone who is part of the enterprise team but not the sales side, somehow, I found everyone actively seeking my opinions on everything, even things I didn’t even have an active opinion about. People across the conference room were soliciting my advice or point of view on this and that, and as they asked, it was clear that every single one of them was eager to hear what I had to say, and they were actively listening and digesting what I was saying. It felt so odd, but in a good way, that all these white men wanted to hear what little ol’ Yvonne had to say. This is probably a result of being at a company previously for too long where my opinion was rarely valued and where I felt like people spent more time waiting for their turn to speak rather than listening to what was currently being said.

It feels really good to feel valued, like people are truly listening to you and care about what you say. It seems like such a simple thing, but sometimes it’s the simplest things we need to feel good about ourselves in life.

AA response

So AA’s Twitter responses were paltry. Then, their original email response was unacceptable. So I responded with an additional email with even more details and told them their response was egregious and ignored the core concerns I had, and they called me to formally apologize… and also gave me 15,000 miles to help me reconsider moving my loyalty elsewhere (which is what I threatened. You have to threaten businesses to get what you want. This is a capitalistic world we live in here in the U.S.). So I got the compensation I wanted. And we’re even filing a claim through the travel insurance provided by our credit card to get our hotel reimbursed.

It feels good to win and be vindictive.

Stranded in Dallas

Airlines should really be banned from allowing such tight connections. Our flight from Bozeman down to Dallas was delayed for weather reasons, and so that caused us to miss our connecting flight back to New York. Then, in one of the most appalling airline customer service experiences ever, we were denied compensation for our hotel or meals, and treated in a condescending manner by an airline agent and even her supervisor.

It’s all right. I attacked them on Twitter, then told the Executive Platinum AA agent on the phone about the experience, then wrote a detailed account of our encounter to AA’s customer relations portal. I will get what I want out of these people – they have no idea who they are messing with.

the less traveled roads

When it comes to the national parks of the United States, everyone loves to talk about wanting to visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Rocky Mountain National Park. At least one of them would be on the average person’s “bucket” list if s/he enjoys nature and natural scenery even in the slightest bit. All that makes sense since Yellowstone was the first national park of the U.S. (and the world), Yosemite is easily accessible in California, and Rocky Mountain is famous… for its rocky mountains. But what about national parks that are lesser known? Are they somehow less worth visiting or exploring?

Take Seoul or Jeju Island in Korea, for example. Ten years ago, Jeju Island was pretty much unknown to most of the non-Korean population, and it was famous only domestically for being the honeymoon destination spot of Korean newlyweds. I knew about it then only because of the Korean dramas I watched alongside my Taiwanese dramas, and because I had a Korean-obsessed friend who studied abroad in Seoul for a semester and traveled around the country every chance she got. Travel magazines and people who make an annual international tri once a year never visited Seoul much then. Now, it’s on the top destinations list for pretty much every travel publication, and people rave about Seoul, its nightlife and shopping scene. Jeju Island is also a destination that tops the well-traveled wander’s list, as so many articles mention it.

I resent judgments that certain national parks, cities, or countries of the world aren’t worth visiting. Some just have yet to be discovered by the rest of the world. And why would you just want to visit places that are oftentimes talked about and constantly visited – so you can be like the rest of the masses who do what “everyone else is doing? Wouldn’t it feel good to go some place that was gorgeous, untouched, where in a decade or two, “everyone” started going to and discussing, and you could say you’d already been there before the local environment started dying due to our carbon footprint and the hoards of followers started coming?

That’s why Grand Teton was so incredible. It’s known for being untouched, with flora and fauna that have continued to exist for the last thousands of years because of lesser human foot and car traffic. It’s what makes the place special, and it’s also a reason Glacier National Park is so spectacular (even though global warming is causing the glaciers to slowly melt away permanently, but that’s another story for another day).