Commentary on Hong Kong protesters

I was sitting at lunch today with my mom, aunt, and their miserable and depressing Jehovah’s Witness friend, who now, unfortunately, is living and paying rent for a bedroom upstairs with my aunt. Every time I see her, I get a little miserable myself, wondering how someone can be this outwardly morose every single time I see her. What exactly causes this to happen to someone?

I think I realized that I was definitely ready to head back to New York (tonight is my last night in San Francisco) when my aunt, who is originally from Toisan in Guangdong, China, who also lived in Hong Kong for 8-9 years, started complaining about the protesting happening in Hong Kong now. She has Hong Kong residency since she lived there for a good chunk of time, and because of that, she usually likes to go back a few times a year. Given the protests, she is not planning to go back until things calm down.

“All this protesting is so terrible,” my aunt said. “These people are ruining the country and causing so much destruction! It’s so selfish!”

My aunt is a sweet, kind, well-meaning person. At the same time, she’s uneducated, delusional, brainwashed, naive, and not particularly deep. Her mentor, a Jehovah’s Witness, was imprisoned in mainland China for over 20 years because she tried to spread the word of Jehovah, which is illegal in communist China. She looked up to this person, respected her and even wanted to emulate her (and actually does now by keeping her house as a hotel for all visiting JWs who pass through San Francisco from around the world). Yet, she is saying that these protestors are being selfish and their efforts are pointless? How can she possibly not see the connection here? The values she has are the same values that these protestors have; they want a free and separate Hong Kong.

Since President Dipshit got elected, it’s hard for me to listen to people who complain about protesters without feeling my blood pressure soar. The people who protest around the world, particularly in places like Hong Kong, are willing to sacrifice their lives so that future people and generations can have a better life; that is the complete opposite of selfish. I have nothing but respect and admiration for these individuals who are truly fighting for what they believe in.

Domestic violence and grudge holding

I haven’t even been at my parents’ house for three full days until I realized my mom’s hatred and jealousy for my aunt has really reached an all-time high, or maybe she’s just being even more open with me about it than ever. My aunt had a difficult marriage; she was verbally (and maybe physically, unsure of this second part) abused by her husband, my late uncle. Their relationship got so violent that he started threatening to kill her, and finally one day, she truly feared for her life and called the police to report him. They arrested him and put him in jail… until my parents bailed him out. My aunt ran away, eventually relocating to Boston, where her mother lived. She stayed with her until she passed away about 3-4 years later. She moved back after her mother’s passing, and then about a year later, my uncle passed away suddenly from a heart attack in his bed one morning. That basically marked her complete freedom from treachery and abuse.

My mom has always been jealous of my aunt. My aunt was always the favored daughter-in-law of both my grandparents because she was Chinese from China and had lived in Hong Kong; she knew the culture better than my Vietnamese mother from Vietnam. The rest of my family also had racist tendencies toward my mom, so in general, everyone always preferred my aunt whether they explicitly said so or not. It wasn’t fair, but what in life is? It was terrible and racist, but that’s the world we live in. My aunt has been known for her generosity and kindness, which somehow lent itself to a random elderly woman up our block in San Francisco leaving her entire inheritance, including her three-unit San Francisco home, to her. This old woman had no children and no next of kin she really cared about, so she bequeathed everything to my aunt. And so, that adds to the list of endless reasons for my mom’s jealousy; why did she and my dad have to work so hard for their money and comfort whereas my aunt just had it “handed over” to her? That house marked constant future rental incomes that were essentially “free” until the present day.

My mom complained no less than three times in three days about this. “She got that house for nothing!” she fumed. “Your father and I worked for everything we had, and she just gets it for free! And she used to give food we gave her to that woman!” I always assumed she was implying that she believed my aunt should have shared some of that inherited wealth with my parents, but that idea is completely ludicrous to me.

“What kind of wife throws her own husband in jail?” she continued on. “She’s a terrible, selfish person! Only someone terrible would do something like that!”

Once we touched upon the domestic violence, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut anymore. I was literally just having this discussion with a friend a few weeks ago about exactly how prevalent domestic violence is in homes across this country, and now my mom is saying it is no big deal?! “He threatened to kill her!” I raised my voice back to her. “That’s illegal and wrong! What is wrong with you? Do you think that is okay?!”

My mom laughed. Truly, it was a cackle. It sounded so evil that it actually shocked me. “He just threatened with words,” she responded. “That’s nothing. It doesn’t mean anything! He didn’t kill her, so what is she complaining about?”

Wow. I couldn’t even say anything for a moment. I just stared at her, suddenly realizing the exact depth of her hatred and jealousy of my aunt. She truly has brainwashed herself into believing my aunt is a horrible human being who does zero good in the world, and she’s resorted to this type of thought and talk. I told her she was wrong for saying all this and that I refused to hear anymore.

And if he killed her, she couldn’t complain anymore, could she?

How can hatred and jealousy be this deep? I’ve certainly had moments and periods of anger against old friends and of course, members of my own family, but I don’t think it has ever been this ongoing, this lingering, this deep. After Ed passed away, I realized I had to start re-examining a lot of things about myself, including the things that bother me about the world and realizing what I had to let go, and what was actually worth keeping my life, whether that’s people or feelings about certain things. I find it nearly impossible to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge means you are holding onto anger, and holding onto anger means you have to hold on to so much negative energy and resentment, and it just isn’t worth it mentally or emotionally. I still find myself getting ticked off by things that friends repeatedly do that I think are stupid and senseless, but I forget them much more easily now than I used to. It’s a tiny improvement, but it’s still something.

I suppose what worries me the most in my parents’ case is that whether it’s my mom’s hatred and jealousy of my aunt or my dad’s resentment against both of his living siblings, I am most fearful that their hatred of others will worsen their overall health and life outcomes, and possibly even cause a premature death. Therapy will never be an option for them.

What Asian parents say at aquariums

While walking through Golden Gate Park this morning, my parents and I completely lucked out when we passed the California Academy of Sciences (which also includes the Planetarium and the Steinhart Aquarium) to find out that admission was free for us this weekend given our zip code (I still have my San Francisco driver’s license). It is normally about $40 for adults and $35 for seniors, so this was a pretty lucky and substantial savings for us today.

We wandered through the aquarium, and while my dad was getting oogly-eyed over all the beautiful colors of the fish, my mom was more focused on the size of the fish and whether they would be good to eat. “This would taste delicious!” she said, while pointing at a big fish that could easily be compared to a sea bass. “And this one,” she gestured towards, “this one would be good to cook!” I was smiling to myself and laughing on the inside, thinking, this is the shit that Asian parents say when going through an aquarium. “This one is a monster!” she exclaimed. “Would this be poisonous if we ate it?”

“WHAT?!” I said to her. “You’re not supposed to be looking at all these fish thinking they are tasty! These are for you to enjoy watching them!”

She laughed and patted my arm. She just wants to eat them all.

Garden Creamery

Every time I come back to San Francisco, I am pretty overwhelmed with all the options, both old and new, for food. It’s definitely a fun “problem” to have, but I look forward to planning my trips around who I am planning to see, and what I am going to eat and drink. One of the fun places I knew I had to go to this time around was Garden Creamery, which was conveniently located just two blocks away from the restaurant where my friend and I were going to have dinner. It’s known for having a delicious and fun combination of Hawaiian and Asian flavors that change seasonally, from ube and pandan to matcha with toffee bits to kaya flavored ice cream. They use grass-fed, organic and local milk, and they also have a pretty large variety of vegan flavors to choose from, as well.

I chose the ube and pandan, plus the matcha gold (which has toffee bits), and I loved every last bite of each. The owner was actually scooping herself and was really friendly, and I just loved the variety of flavors available; it was so hard to make a choice! I couldn’t remember the last time I just kept licking my spoon after I finished my ice cream — it was that good.

It excites me to see that ice cream parlors are branching out with flavors that encompass how global of a world we live in now. There was not just one, but two varieties of green tea ice cream (the other one was genmaicha, toasted rice with green tea!), black sesame, ube, kaya, and many others that were so tempting and (naturally) colorful).

Conference party time

Day 1 of our conference was officially today, and on the main conference night, we always host a big party with food, entertainment, drink, and dancing. This year’s was at the August Hall venue, and it was pretty well done other than the fact that each floor had a temperature difference of at least 10 degrees each.

I was chatting with some customers who were coming from the same company, and a few of them were hovering around one of my customers, who is a known social butterfly and party animal. Last year at our conference, she partied so hard the last night that the next morning, she missed all the sessions and did the walk of shame out of the hotel room elevator bank at around noon, right when lunch had started. This year, they are all trying to look out for each other, so they told me that they have to keep a watchful eye out for her to make sure they don’t lose sight of where she goes.

This is when I laugh a little to myself about conference culture in general. There’s always going to be booze, and where there is booze, there will always be a threat or hint of inappropriate behavior. So while we say they are great learning experiences and some of the best opportunities for networking, they are also prime places for total debauchery.

Conference socializing

Today is technically day 0 of Opticon, but our festivities have already begun with training sessions, happy hours, as well as customer dinners that we’ve organized, which involve getting similar customers into the same dinner venues for mingling and networking. I sat at a dinner table with various customers and colleagues from AT&T, Cricket, HBO, and Showtime tonight, and what seemed to be the unifying theme among all of them is that not only are they all happy customers who love our technology, but they also all seem like very smart, well-rounded, well-traveled individuals who love to share stories and learn. Overall, it was a very engaging conversation.

It was a fun but exhausting dinner. What I’ve also noticed in hosting customer dinners now is that I seem to enjoy my food less at these events. I used to be able to enjoy the food a lot, but now I feel more focused on ensuring there is customer interaction and engagement that I tend to get more sidetracked with my food. We went to a pretty nice steakhouse, but for me, I felt my steak was too rare, but I didn’t want to send it back since I didn’t want to make a fuss and wait to eat.

It made me feel a bit ungrateful. I get this nice, fancy, expensive meal fully paid for, but I’m not even fully enjoying and appreciating it the way I should.

Elementary school friend meetup

Last night, I met up with one of my best friends from elementary school for dessert in the evening when I got into San Francisco. She had seen me post years ago about losing my brother to suicide, and given we both spent a lot of time at each others’ homes growing up, we also inadvertently knew each others’ brothers pretty well. At the time, she had sent me a heartfelt message about his passing, and since then, has loyally donated money to my AFSP fundraising drive year after year. I never expect anyone to donate to my drive, especially people who are that distant from me, so it’s always been a very heartwarming and touching surprise for me each year. Facebook has certainly allowed for a type of connection that everyday people would not have normally had in my parents’ generation, and I was happy to meet her this evening. Without Facebook, this definitely would not have otherwise happened.

I wasn’t sure how much time we would spend together, nor was I sure if we’d even still feel a connection to each other, but as soon as I saw her, I immediately felt comfortable and like we genuinely were old-time friends. We ended up chatting nonstop for over three hours about everything: school, work, moving (me), our families, now-husbands, our living situations, San Francisco, travel. But as much fun as it was to catch up, I realize that in leaving her tonight, I actually felt a bit sad.

Her family life seems pretty bleak: she lives in a cramped, rent-controlled apartment with her husband, and it was passed on to them from his family, who originally lived in the place when they immigrated from the Philippines. The house is dilapidated, filed with junk to the point where no one wants to do anything to change it. There’s barely even 12 square inches of counter space in her kitchen, so she feels like she can’t even cook or live properly in her own apartment. She has a brother of the same age as Ed, but they are pretty strained in their relationship, as there’s been a lot of verbal abuse in the past that she hasn’t been able to navigate. They’re constrained by money and dysfunctional relationships.

I can definitely understand the dysfunctional family relationships part, but I guess what made me sad the most is that even though we’re older, some of the things that bugged me about her are exactly the same now as they were then. I started remembering what really caused us to drift as friends, and she openly admitted she still did the same thing: since then, she pretty much has made zero friends because she’s spent all her time with her boyfriends, one guy after the next, and so whatever friends he had, she’d gravitate towards, and no one else. I remember the time when we were in high school and I tried to have her come to some events with me, but she refused because she said she’d rather spend time with her then-boyfriend; this was for my birthday that year, too. I was so angry then; we hadn’t seen each other in months, yet then, even though she saw her boyfriend every day, she’d rather blow me off to spend even more time with him. I gradually stopped making an effort to spend time with her, and because I was the only one making the effort, we drifted in our own directions and away from each other. We occasionally reached out to call, email, and then Facebook message, but that was it.

I guess the other thing that made me sad was that it was clear from the lives we lead exactly how different we are. She seems like she has been paralyzed into indecision and thinks she is fully unable to change all the things that have made her unhappy. I feel like I’ve made massive strides in improving a lot of things to ensure that I’m making progress in my life, emotionally and mentally. Here I am, back in San Francisco on work travel, clearly privileged in so many ways, and she’s never left even San Francisco (and has zero desire to and said she wouldn’t know what to do with herself) and is struggling to make ends meet with her rent-controlled apartment payments.

While it was fun to catch up, I don’t think seeing her again regularly would be the best idea for me. I really need to make an effort to spend time around people who exude positive energy, who are confident enough to take control over their lives, and sadly, she is not one of those people.

When your editing eye just dies

As someone who has always enjoyed writing and once edited for middle and high school newspapers as a student, I’ve always been pretty anal when reviewing anything that is going to be published. I obsess over grammar, and with photos, I obsess over lighting, contrast, and brightness. Yet somehow, despite being this anally attentive to detail, I somehow missed in my last two video posts that my end title template had spelled the word “follower” with three Ls. One of my very detailed friends caught that immediately and called it out to me, and I just started groaning. How did someone like me miss something as basic as that? I was way too eager to hit “publish post.”

Chris refused to let me edit and republish, partly because re-exporting the media file would take ages, but mostly because these tiny errors show growth and can also give way to engagement and comments. So, I sucked it up in the spirit of testing and iterating, learning and growing, and have moved on…. painfully. .

Video editing, continued

I’m nearly close to wrapping up four fully edited videos for my new YouTube channel. It only took about three months of learning and working on this on and off, but I think I finally at least have the hang of basic cutting of clips, and now I need to focus more on adding variety, music, different angles, to make my videos more interesting. I think the big thing is really to do this more regularly so that I don’t forget basic tips and tricks.

I’m planning to upload the fourth video by tomorrow, so before I leave for San Francisco, and then gradually share information about this to friends and family. It’s kind of exciting, but also anticlimactic because it’s not like I have some massive PR team helping me. We’ll see how it goes…

When friends move away again

Two years ago they came, and now two years later, they are leaving. Not only are they leaving, but they have a little one on the way and are packing their bags to go all the way back to Melbourne. It’s always exciting when friends move to New York and then sad when they leave because it feels like the friend group just starts dwindling and dwindling. At this point. I don’t even think we have that many friends left in New York to do a Thanksgiving gathering that I’d want. I’m even thinking about forgoing it this year. The friends we have remaining… I really do not want them to be under the same roof again. It was too much the last time for me, and I think I ended the night feeling more agitated than happy about how the food turned out. That’s never a good thing.

I have never enjoyed large friend groups or cliques. I learned from an early age that that just wasn’t for me. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s harder and harder to meet people I not only click with, but also who live nearby and are willing to commit time and energy to spending time together. Time is the one commodity we really need to cherish because it never feels like we have enough of it, and it’s also the one thing that most people can be quite stingy about.