Personal history

Tonight, in the midst of cleaning the apartment and doing laundry, I sat down to do one of my original favorite pastimes of coming home from work while living in New York City: reading the New Yorker. Some of my all-time favorite articles and spotlights on quirky famous individuals have come from this magazine. Nora Ephron is one of them. And she just happens to be a Wellesley alum. In this Personal History piece originally published in this publication back in 2010, she wrote:

“I always hoped that he (my dad) would show some interest in my kids, Max and Jacob, but he didn’t even remember their names. One day, Jacob answered the phone and my father said, “Is this Abraham or the other one?” I consider it a testament to Jacob that, at the age of seven, he knew it was funny. Still, it made me sad. You always think that a bolt of lightning is going to strike and your parents will magically change into the people you wish they were or back into the people they used to be. But they’re never going to. And even though you know they’re never going to, you still hope they will.”

You know what’s so funny about this? This is kind of how I imagine my dad will be with my future children, his grandchildren. I imagine that my mom will remind him of their existence by her endless obsessing over them, but that without her, he’d be clueless and not really outwardly care. Like Ephron, I also still imagine my parents will be something else they aren’t, think about things they don’t think about, and want to do things they have zero desire to do. These thoughts come into my head at the most random times: when I am running on a treadmill, perusing books at a bookstore, or even hiking in Cape Breton. It’s like hopeless undying hope.

Travel banter

I love it when I meet people who find beauty in the things that others tend to ignore. This morning, a colleague and I were talking about our long weekend travels, and he was curious to learn more about Nova Scotia. Since he and his fiancee have a friend who is from Cleveland, they went out there for the long weekend to visit her. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of Cleveland, but after I gave him some suggestions and told him the food scene there is actually quite good, he went in with an open mind. And he came back beaming and saying he really enjoyed his time there, from the general vibe of the downtown area to the food scene.

“I never thought I’d like it, but I had a lot of fun!” he said.

That makes me so happy.

Long weekends

Long weekends rarely feel long. Three-day-weekends always fly by too quickly. And even when we took off two extra days to stretch our three-day-weekend into a five-day-weekend to Nova Scotia, it still felt like it ended too soon and we didn’t have enough time to see all the beauty that is this beloved province. So I hate it when people ask about your “long weekend” as though it truly was long and felt like some great rest period.

But sometimes, the weekend may be too long for your skin, or at least, maybe the diet you are giving to your skin. I noticed on Sunday morning that i was developing bumps across my forehead, and I wondered if it was because of the lack of vegetables I tend to get during travel, or if it was because of all the seafood I am eating. No one ever said seafood was great for skin.

Cape Breton

We had breakfast with Chris’s colleague yesterday, who lives and works here in Halifax. He was telling us about how Halifax was still fairly under the radar but of course, as with any up and coming city, is becoming more expensive. As we could see from the Halifax seaport where we ate together, a lot of construction is actively going on throughout downtown Halifax, with everything from condo and apartment high rises to new office buildings. One very old and tall building looked as though it would soon be knocked down.  And while Canadians certainly travel to Halifax, Americans certainly don’t en masse (no surprise). And even with the people who live right here in Halifax and Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is not a place that people go to often or even at all given how far to the east end of the province it goes. It is literally at the very tip, and it’s considered to many to be no-man’s-land. Chris’s colleague said he’s only been there about three times ever, and once was for a wedding.

So after breakfast, we drove the 4.5-hour drive out there and settled into our cozy little cabin in the woods, and by the time we left today, we completed three hikes that overlooked the gorgeous Nova Scotia Atlantic coastline. We hiked through dirt, water, massive and unstable rocks, and thorny bushes, and I got my legs all scratched up in the process. The weather was also quite cold, as I realized I had slightly under-dressed. Although the sun just came out as we left today, I’d only imagine that on a sunny blue-skied day, the water would be a brilliant blue against the bright green that is literally everywhere in Cape Breton. That’s kind of the way I imagine Scotland based on the travel photos I have seen. This province is so underrated with so much natural beauty, and since it’s not touched much, it will probably continue on for quite a long time.

I’m happy we’re visiting it at a time when pretty much no one I know has gone here. It’ll be one of those places that will probably become more popular and well known, and we’ll look back and say that we went there before it became all the rage, and we advocated for it long ago. 🙂

“What are you doing there?”

Whenever we’re traveling, at some point when I’m taking time off from work or seeing my friends in the time leading up to the trip, colleagues and friends will ask me where I am going. Whenever I’m going to a popular place or a place that seems high on the “it” list for travel, like Australia, Thailand, or Spain, people will inevitably respond with oohs and ahhs, respond positively, and say things like, “I’m so jealous!”, “I want to go there so badly!!”, or “OHMIGOD, HAVE AN AMAZING TIME! TAKE TONS OF PICS!” When it’s places that are a tad bit off the beaten track to those who either don’t travel a lot, don’t travel at all, or only go to “popular,” well known attractions, I get questions like, “why are you going there?”, what are you doing there?”, “what’s there that makes you want to go?”, or lastly, “do you have relatives there who you’re visiting?” (this last one, I got a lot for Korea and Taiwan from white colleagues. I am not Taiwanese. I am also not Korean. And Chris is obviously neither). I realize they don’t mean any harm and aren’t trying to be judgmental, but why should Paris get oohs and ahhs while Halifax gets quizzical looks, and Taipei gets the relatives question?

I was having this chat with Chris, and when I told him a colleague who is actually from Canada (suburbs of Toronto) asked why I was going to Halifax, he looked at me plainly and said, “Because I fucking want to go there. And I don’t care what you think or what you think you know about it.” No one informs his travel decisions. We inform our travel decisions. “I don’t take travel advice from morons.”

Well stated. I love my fierce darling.

Lobster roll goes MIA

Before this trip, other than the greenery, the mountains, and the water of Nova Scotia, I was thinking about eating lobster. Chris and I rarely eat lobster while in the U.S. unless it happens to be part of a dish. It’s so expensive and oftentimes not very fresh, especially in New York City (for the record, I think Luke’s Lobster is just okay, and their crab roll is far better than their lobster roll). The only time I’ve had lobster and been extremely satisfied was the one time I went to Maine, and being in Maine, of course the lobster was extremely cheap and cooked just as I ordered it, so it was perfection. The second time I had it and loved it, it was in a lobster roll (buttered, no mayonnaise) at the famous and well-acclaimed Neptune Oyster in the North End of Boston, and I was so turned off by not only the wait to get in (2+ hours), but also the rude and surly service I received.

Well, when I was doing research for this trip, across the board, I found that seafood was (not surprisingly) far cheaper in Nova Scotia, bordering on Maine lobster prices, and with the added benefit of the U.S. dollar strength against the Canadian dollar, I was so excited to get our lobster fix for (relatively) cheap here. There’s lobster rolls on pretty much every menu, and some are as cheap as $15 CAD (that’s just over $11 USD!). I told Chris that I wanted to eat as much lobster as possible, the glutton I am.

Well, we drove out to Lunenberg, a UNESCO world heritage site town just over an hour west of Halifax, and the places that were supposed to have lobster rolls… had none. In fact, they were completely removed from the menus that I had seen online. When we asked the place we ended up eating lunch at about this, she said that the price of lobster was far too high at this time, and that they couldn’t sell lobster rolls at a reasonable price in order to actually make a profit, so they decided to remove them from the menu completely for now. We were both crushed.

It was fine in the end today. We had delicious seafood chowder and local scallops at rock-bottom prices and high freshness, but the lobster lust continued.

Nova Scotia

Today, we arrived in our fifth Canadian province, Nova Scotia, as part of our goals to hit every Canadian province (and territory). After an annoying connection and long layover in Toronto due to American Airlines not having any direct flights between New York City and Halifax, we pretty much spent the whole day traveling and arrived just in time for dinner. If we had flown direct, the flight would have only taken about two hours, so I guess that’s the price of loyalty sometimes. Luckily for us, Halifax has no shortage of good food, and being right on the Atlantic, seafood is plentiful, local, and fresh throughout the entire province, and at prices that are relatively economical.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about eating and viewing menus in countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is that there is a very strong Asian influence across menus, and it’s usually done tastefully and well. It’s not like when you’re in the middle of the U.S. and you see “peanut noodles” on a random Western-style restaurant, and you’re completely repulsed at the idea of what they mean when they say “peanut noodles” (what they probably mean is that they’ve mixed Skippy peanut butter with some oil and tossed it in some noodles, and who really wants to eat that?). Tonight for example, we ordered tikka masala mussels as a starter, and the curry sauce tasted legitimately like tikka masala, and the mussels were local and extremely fresh tasting. These mussels were definitely not frozen, and that tikka masala really tasted Indian-British, and could have potentially been made in a tandoori-type oven.

In Canada as in Australian and New Zealand, there seems to be a larger respect for Asian cuisine and culture in general. It’s not just about General Tso’s for Chinese, and people don’t just assume that when you want Japanese food that you want sushi. In these countries, when a non-Asian person gives you Asian restaurant recommendations, you could actually trust that their recommendations will actually be good and up to your standard. Sadly, I could never say that about the U.S., even though I’ve lived in three very metropolitan areas.

Food photo shoot

I decided to not get food delivery for lunch today and instead pick it up (what a hard working life when your company pays for your Seamless order every day) — it would get me out of the office and give me a little more exercise. So I ordered takeout from Laut, a nearby Malaysian fusion restaurant, and picked it up during lunchtime. When I walked in, I noticed a commotion near the windows with over a dozen dishes all lined up with specific lighting and multiple DSLR cameras nearby. It was a food photo shoot! I’d never seen that happen before. And of course, because natural light is the best, they were placing each dish individually by the window to shoot.

I made small talk with the people doing the photo shoot. They work for a corporate food delivery service that makes it easy for companies to do group orderings for different dishes at different restaurants, all in the same order. I asked them if they actually get to eat the food after they’re done shooting. They said that occasionally they’ll take a bite or two, but they never ask to eat for free and don’t want to impose on the restaurants by asking to take the food to go, so they leave the food at the restaurants… which eventually throw the food out.

That is so freaking wasteful and made me so upset. We’re a world full of waste everywhere when there are literally homeless people down the street who are starving.

High school hell

You know how sometimes, people reminisce about high school and say it was the best time of their lives? Those people must seriously be losers. Why would you ever want to be back in a time when people were going through growth spurts, awkward photo poses, acne breakouts, and SATs?

Four episodes into 13 Reasons Why, and I am feeling so grateful that that period of my life is so far away. Also from my perspective, it was so tiring being around a population of about 80 percent grade-obsessed Chinese Americans, most of whom had no personalities and were generic, and probably still are generic and bland.

13 Reasons Why

After hearing about a disturbing Netflix TV series called 13 Reasons Why, I decided to try watching it. In a nutshell, the show is about a teen girl who suddenly commits suicide, leaving a package of tapes to each person who is a reason why she killed herself. She leaves instructions to each recipient of the tapes: each person who receives a package needs to completely listen to all the tapes, and then that person must pass along the package to the next person. If anyone breaks the chain, a separate set of tapes will be released to the public.

So tonight, I watched two episodes, and it’s clear how bad bullying can be with kids in real life. Everyone at some point gets bullied in school, but the extreme cases can and do result in suicide and lasting ramifications on people’s lives and psyches. I realize that this is all fiction, but I can also see how real it can be. In a lot of ways, and maybe it’s because I was confident from an earlier age than average, but I never really got bullied in middle or high school. I was always school or journalism obsessed, always studying. Going to an academic high school, I feel like I may have been shielded from a lot of the usual sex, drugs, and alcohol abuse, bullying, and popularity contests that the average American high school has. And maybe it was a good thing because I don’t know how I would handle even a fraction of what’s in this show.