When your heater breaks down in the middle of winter

I always wear slippers and a sweater while in the house. Maybe the sweater thing is a habit from my parents’ house, where I was always wearing a thick layer of a button-up sweater or a robe, but I always feel cozy in it. So when something like the heat suddenly shuts off while we’re on the couch watching TV, I don’t notice it as quick as Chris does, who tends to wear a t-shirt and shorts/his underwear while in the apartment regardless of what time of year it is or what the weather is. Chris picked up on the lack of heat immediately and was in a fit of rage. It was actually kind of cute to watch; he’s so anti-cold.

He noticed in the last day that not only did our bedroom heater stop working, but our living room heating unit would randomly turn off and occasionally come back on. This is not what you want when it’s below freezing outside.

 

 

A series of unfortunate medical labels in this glorious country

I always think about how complicated things like taxes and healthcare are here, and I wonder.. does it really have to take so long? When I hear of how quickly people do taxes in other western, developed countries, particularly those in Europe, I think about how they probably laugh at us when they hear that so many Americans don’t even do their own taxes, that instead, they hire tax accountants to do this for them. I also think about how other western countries laugh at the state of our healthcare system — how expensive it is and little we actually get out of it.

Let’s think about this: I made a doctor’s appointment for this morning primarily for an annual physical with a primary care physician, but because I told them I had questions about my cold, which has unfortunately included violent coughing fits, they labeled my visit an “office visit” instead of an “annual physical,” which means that I had to pay a $20 copay. All because I had a couple questions, really? Annual physicals have no copay with primary care physicians; illness/office visits do. I made sure with the office receptionist that all my blood work taken should be coded as “annual physical” and NOT as “illness” — yes, because this is something you need to verbatim say, otherwise, your insurance will bill this as reactive/medical treatment, and then I’d have to pay out of pocket expenses. Then, as the lab technician was drawing my blood, I asked her if I could find out my blood type. What was her response? “Well, evaluating your blood for blood type is not considered ‘preventive,’ so we’d need to bill your insurance for that, and then you’d have an out of pocket expense that you could apply to to your deductible.”

I don’t even get to know my own blood type and need them to charge for that, as well? Doesn’t that automatically come up when they draw my blood?!

The lab technician didn’t even give me as much of a smile. She was dead serious.

The doctor I saw today, who was pretty unengaging and didn’t seem to have the greatest bedside manner, was forgettable. She said they’d only use my blood for the bare-bones preventive tests, so this would not include vitamin levels or blood sugar, as those were considered not preventive and would be reactive.

So… if my blood sugar were super high or super low, and we identified that during a test,  that would then have negative ramifications on my health. So then, in what reasonably intelligent mind would you not call that preventive medicine? The doctor shook her head. “It’s just the way the insurance works, and we want to make sure you aren’t getting charged for anything that isn’t fully necessary. So, remember to take a vitamin D supplement.”

It’s just the way the insurance works.

Thanks for the great explanation, doc.

Now, I’m even more crystal clear about the sorry and pathetic state of healthcare in this system. And if I, a privileged white-collar professional working at a tech company, have issues with what is getting billed and not getting billed, how do others far less fortunate than me feel getting nickeled and dimed for every little test or exam? It’s no wonder some people rather just be sick and avoid the doctor at all costs. It’s because of crap like this.

 

Clean apartment

We spent about three hours cleaning the apartment today. When I say we were cleaning,  it means that Chris tidied up all the things we brought back from our trip (mainly his Australian biscuits and our Vietnam magnets), and I deep cleaned and dusted the bedroom, living room, and hallway. We weren’t even here for nearly a month, yet somehow the apartment got so dusty and the floors seem like they have smudges all over them. Or maybe it’s like this because we hadn’t cleaned thoroughly since before Chris’s aunt and uncle’s visit in mid-November.

These are the moments when I think… these are some of the benefits of a small apartment. Having a one-bedroom apartment means that there’s really only three rooms to clean, and that’s pretty manageable for a couple and doesn’t take an entire day to finish scrubbing clean. But once the living space gets bigger, there’s more to clean, and even if you outsource it, that person may not do a thorough enough job for me to be satisfied with.

Vietnamese food coma

I’ve always had an endless number of dishes on my to-make list, but I think it’s only gotten longer since we’ve come back from Vietnam. I’ve also joined an Instant Pot for Vietnamese food group, which is reminding me of all these delicious things I enjoyed growing up that my mom would buy and feed me from Vietnamese delis and bakeries in San Jose and Westminster.

One dish that was already on my list was a Vietnamese-inspired chicken and lemongrass meatloaf from an Asian-British chef I follow on Instagram. She loves many flavors and cuisines, and her food is both colorful and tasty looking. She said she was inspired to make this meatloaf because of her love for banh mi, one of the most glorious sandwiches that ever existed. So I pulled out my frozen organic minced turkey from the freezer, bought more lemongrass from Chinatown, and made this extremely fragrant and delicious meatloaf tonight. It pretty much puts American meatloaf to shame with how multidimensional the flavor is — it’s salty, sweet, savory, and sour at the same time from the lime. The Asian spin always makes everyday American or western food taste magical.

 

Back to the Northern Hemisphere

I came back to the office two days ago to the usual banter, the same annoying people, and the same warm and friendly souls that I actually found myself happy to see and chat with again. Even though I may have had some very mind-boggling, thought-worthy, and even emotional moments during my three weeks away, it was as though none of that really happened once I walked through the doors of my office. I spoke briefly with a few colleagues about my trip, but that was really it. No one really wants to hear that much about anyone else’s trip anyway; it was my moments, my time to enjoy, not theirs. But I did manage to convince one of my colleagues to put Vietnam on his travel list, and not just for a quick trip, but for a planned two-week trip in the next 12-24 months. We’ll see if it really happens.

When you come back from an intense trip, everything else seems like a bit of a bore, like it’s slow and possibly too steady. Oh, reality.

 

Holiday party drama that I missed

At the time my office’s holiday party was supposed to begin tonight, Chris and I departed JFK for the first leg of our flight to Melbourne. We arrived at LAX just after the party ended, and as I turned my Airplane Mode off on my phone, my phone buzzed with text message alerts from multiple colleagues, all telling me that I missed the most ridiculous drama at the sit-down dinner that evening. They both ended up calling me to recount the horrors of the evening while our plane was still on the tarmac, waiting for our gate to open up (which ended up taking nearly two hours).

One colleague became so drunk that she couldn’t even walk properly and had to have the restaurant call her a cab to get back to her hotel. A colleague’s husband, apparently jealous of all the men she works with in our office, punched one of my male colleagues upon meeting him, and then interrupted another colleague’s mini speech to yell out that he wanted another male colleague to stop calling his wife at 7:30am on weekdays. This same husband hit on multiple female colleagues, including one new hire who started just this week, and attempted to kiss one of my female teammates on her lips before she backed away.

I am not sure whether I would have wanted to be there or not. I originally felt a bit sad that I’d be missing our office holiday party since last year’s was pretty enjoyable. I like the fact that our office is relatively small, less than 25 people, which means that when you add the plus ones in, it’s a nice, intimate crowd where you can actually talk to the people you want to talk to over the course of five-plus hours. But after hearing about all this tense and awkward nonsense that compelled colleagues who live in a day and age where texting reins, yet they still felt compelled to call me, I think it was actually better I was on a flight headed west watching Crazy Rich Asians. It was fake drama instead of real-life drama I could watch.

Volunteering time is not enough.

I’m organizing a team volunteer event for January and have been spending time looking into new organizations to lend our time to. One of the most recent ones caught me a bit off guard when they asked that in addition to the time we’d be donating to this organization that they also requested a $75/volunteer fee to cover the meal costs of the food we’d be delivering to senior citizens.

Granted, I am aware that we’re volunteering as a corporate entity, but it just leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth that they believe our time is not valuable enough, and that in addition to our time, they want our money, as well. If we are going to the trouble of spending business hours volunteering to alleviate them of labor responsibilities, can’t they find the funds to actually supply the food we would be delivering? I have been looking for nonprofits for my company to support for the last year and a half, and it is disheartening to me that many of them expect to get free everything instead of just our free time, which really is not free. I understand that they face a shortage of both funds and labor resources. If I weren’t empathetic to this, I would not be leading volunteer and charitable activities for my office. But to require us to provide both seems excessive. So, I told them this over email, and they consented that our hours would be enough.

Yes, because otherwise, I’d keep looking.

A hairstylist and a therapist in one, and women’s lib

Although I had a 5:30 cut and color appointment with my colorful and vibrant hairstylist today, I was delayed by over half an hour because the person she was working on before me was going through a very long and nasty divorce… and we all had to hear about it, everyone within a 15-20 foot radius of my hairstylist’s chair. They were married over 24 years, no children. She said she was in her mid-50s, in a lucrative career where she’d soon have to be paying her husband alimony payments as a result of her higher salary.

“He’s set to inherit over $5 million when his mom dies… granted, it probably won’t be for another 10 or so years, but he will be set!” this soon-to-be-divorced woman exclaimed loudly. “Yet I, because I earn more money than he does, I have to pay him alimony! That women’s lib… it’s a bunch of bullshit! Women thought they were going to be better off, to work and be men’s ‘equals.’ Well, here you go: you want equality? Then you have to pay your ex-husband alimony if you make more money! Is that what you want?” 

She was going off, saying that it would have been better to just be a stay-at-home wife, with basically no job opportunities. Because this way, if she went on this route, she’d be getting payments from her husband today.

I had so many things I could have said to her, but I decided that I wanted her out of there ASAP because she was already delaying me over half an hour, and I did not want her delaying me even further. Did she really think she’d have this lucrative career if the women’s liberation movement never happened?! 

She eventually left. My hairstylist looked at me apologetically. “I’m so sorry,” she said to me as she hugged me. “What can I do? She needs someone to listen to her who is unbiased… I can’t just kick her out.

“You’re basically a therapist and a hairstylist in one,” I said to her, smiling. “Except… maybe you should be charging therapist rates on top of your cut and color rates?”

It had never occurred to me to ever vent or rant about life’s frustrations to my hairstylist, or really anyone who did a service for me, whether it was a haircut, a massage, a mani/pedi, or anything. When I used to see a Japanese stylist for my haircuts in the East Village, they were practically expressionless mutes who never said anything to me other than asking what I wanted, if I would like more green tea, or if I wanted a blowout. With my current hairstylist, we just talk about random things like work, travel, our families, and most recently, our cultures and upbringings. But ranting? It seems too much to ask of a hairstylist. Don’t they have enough of their own problems that they shouldn’t be made to listen to ours?

At least I saw this divorcee give my stylist a fat tip. It’s the least she could have done for all her venting and free therapy.

 

Exceptions

I was sitting at the very first unagi (eel)-based restaurant that has opened in New York City today with Chris and our two friends at lunch today, and we were talking in general about people who are picky eaters and not. Chris was spending time hating on vegans and vegetarians, saying their lives suck because they are consciously making the choice to deprive themselves. Our female friend was critiquing quinoa, saying it’s tasteless and when it does have a taste, it seemed off or stale. Our other friend, who is this woman’s husband, gave me a sly look, saying he knows for a fact that if anything comes out of his mouth that he claims he doesn’t like that my response will be to turn him on it immediately and prove him wrong. He recounted a time not too long ago when he insisted to me that he wasn’t a fan of Indian or North African spices — so he meant spices like cumin, coriander. So I made a North-African spiced red lentil soup and asked him to come over and try it. Not only did he like it, but he actually loved it and was tempted to have a second serving.

It’s not that I cannot handle rejection or the fact that everyone has at least a short list of things they refuse to eat (I have yet to be turned on regular mainstream Heinz ketchup and will very likely spend the rest of my life refusing to touch it). It’s more that I feel that most of the time when people say they do not like something, it’s because they’ve had a bad version of it. That’s how I was, once upon a time, with things like organ meat or congealed blood. So I think it’s more about the tolerance of increasing one’s exposure to foods and trying to approach foods with an open mind, even if you think you do not like it.

What is also amusing is when people hate on picky eaters’ choices of things they do not like, but then do not call out their own. Our friend was appalled that one of my good friends hates shrimp and refuses to eat it (well, when she knows she is eating it), but she was completely fine when I said she used to have an aversion to oysters. We always make exceptions for the things we agree with, don’t we?

Rockefeller Christmas tree

Every Christmas season, as we gradually approach the day we are departing for Australia (or, last year, the UK and South Africa) to celebrate Christmas with Chris’s family, Chris and plan a special dinner out from our curated Yelp list, and then, we will have our annual “trip” to visit the Rockefeller Christmas tree. Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s crowded as hell with both tourists and locals. But it’s our thing, our annual Christmas time tradition. And this year, I really did not want to go tonight. It was so cold and windy, and I felt cranky and irritable from the cold weather as well as the chaos and busy-ness of work and catching up from traveling this week. But when we actually arrived at the tree, all the complaining in my head stopped. It really is a spectacular sight every year. I get why people want to come to New York during the holiday period to see all the Christmas lights and experience the festivities. There’s something really magical about seeing this insanely tall and fat tree lit up with what is probably thousands of colorful lights that flanks the Rockefeller Center. When I saw this tree tonight, I thought… wow. I’m really lucky to live in this city that others marvel over, that others travel thousands of miles for just to see this freaking tree. There is really nothing quite like New York City.