Inflection

The semester’s done. How quickly time flies.

Reflecting on the things I learned and did this semester, I found myself growing and changing. The blogging process, especially how to find what you’re interested in and how you can keep learning more about it, helped me revamp my view on life. Life, and living it, is what I really love. I am a drama student. until recently, I had forgotten about it. I had been clogged down with finding a job, my student debt, my family problems, and what am I going to do for a career, that I completely forgot I wanted, more than anything, to play. To create, to weave the imagination and fabricate illusions. That’s what I want. But that’s for later; after the student loans, and the job, and the financial stability thing. But at least I have a direction. I found what I need to run towards. And looking back, I’m living. My semester, as un-creative as it is, was filled with interesting things and events. And I learned that I’m happy with my life, now and the future.

One of the things I truly and wholeheartedly enjoy about this class is the blogs; the freedom to write as we would, in our own voice. I think it gives the writer a chance to really be creative and true, while the readers the opportunity to flex their mind muscle as they try to understand how the voice of the author as they read. For so long, books and essays only give you a limited understanding on how an author view something. Or at best, how the author perceive a character’s perception of something. While it’s true to the form and structure of informing or storytelling, the readers are left completely on the outside, as if they’re intruders and stalkers, sneaking peeks through the portal of the pages. That’s why I enjoying writing these blogs. Thoughts and idea are free forms. They don’t necessarily fall under academic terms and should not be read as one would a book, especially if the writer is simply expressing their view and what they learned.

I really appreciate the grammar lessons and getting back to the fundamental basics. I don’t believe we were taught enough as children on how to phrase certain things and how to combine sentences. I certainly didn’t, and I learned English from people who specializes in teach it to non-natives. I feel like the modern vernacular is slowly seeping into our culture; and while academia has its validity and formality has its values, the system of education needs to be adjusted to that we could close the gap of generations, and bridge the rift between the intellectual and the common. Because I have seen numerous times, something that completely trumped a group of smart people be solved by a simple person, not even providing an answer, but asking a simple question that sparked a train of thought that solved it in matter of minutes. It’s not about being smarter or dumber, it’s about points of perception and how you approach things.

And frankly, I enjoyed really knowing what the rules and guidelines are, so when I throw them out, I know precisely what I did wrong and that I did it deliberately in its entirety.

 

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Live your life

The End is just a new beginning
On the side of his bed, my friend Tyler has this display set up. I had taken to calling it a shrine, and he happily agreed with me.

Tyler’s room is a wonder in itself. He has a large branch displayed in one corner, with necklaces and trinkets dangling from it; and recently, candy canes. He has watches that won’t tell you the time unless you know how to read it, and weird yet fascinating gears that does nothing at all except look cool. On his wall, other than posters and art works, the most jarring thing, yet somehow fits comfortably in place is a deer’s head. He would proudly tell you his dad shot it and he ate it. He’s from Minnesota. And alongside of that, memorability and souvenirs from his friends and love ones he’s arranged hang and attached all over the wall.

It’s been a while since I had since a quirky friend, and we instantly bonded. Most people have trouble keeping up with my hyper enthusiasm but Tyler and I, we’re on the same level; happy, energetic, snarky, and we both laugh out loud without care ūüôā

Tyler has HIV.

He told me one night as we’re going out. Just casual, “Did I ever tell you about the Issue??”

“No.”

“I have HIV; my ex-boyfriend and I. We did stuff; stuff that normally would go against my morals, but I agreed to do it with him. And so…yea….I thought you should know that since I consider you one of my good friends now.”

“…………..Ok. thanks for telling me that.”

It took me by surprise, and a significant amount of shock, to say the least. I was proud that I managed to keep a calm face, and I fought the urge to ask him the onslaught of questions that bubbled to my mind. In fact, to this day, I still haven’t. Because I saw the look on his face and hear the words, the rehearsed and carefully arranged words, that he had no doubt recited and practiced many many times before even saying it; and I can appreciate that and keep my questions for my friend.

Over the next few week, I was there to partially witness a significant transition in his life. Tyler broke up with his boyfriend of 11 months. They were together one day, and not the next. I can tell he was uncertain about his decision, but I did what anyone good friend and kept quiet and just listened. Next came his letter to the Aids Lifecycle organization. The purpose of Tyler moving up here 3 months ago was to train for the Aids Lifecyle, a fundraising bike trip from SF to LA. Tyler, who has some notoriety in the several films he did in LA, decided to use this opportunity to come out with his HIV status, to his friends, family, and fans. I was asked to read the final draft of his letter. It was beautifully written, and I read it out loud back to the nervous and terrified author who sat balled up next to me with a glass of wine. I helped title it as, “Here’s to you.” It was chosen as one of the leading story pieces and the editor re-titled it as “Here’s to us.”

I had never met anyone with HIV before. I never even given it much thought. What is it to me? I’m careful and I’m not promiscuous. Even as I’m writing this, I still have the powerful conviction that I will never get it. Just as surely as people who walks around everyday without thinking they might get hit by a bus or lose everything in a day. But even if I won’t get it, what about others? Tyler was a wake up call to me. He made me see my world in a new light; to learn to cherish my time, to savor the joy of living, to learn from my mistakes, and to be strong when your whole world crumbles in around you.

What do you do when someone tells you you’re going to die??
You take a breath like the world is out of oxygen, and you use to it just to laugh.

Tales of a journey

It started out in¬†Hyosis, the stranger was quietly tracking the progress of Prince Keiris. Secretly and determinedly, this watcher followed Keiris as he traveled the sea, first in search for the hope of his people, an heir to his mother’s legacy, and later as the quest turned into a journey to find his father. The man was there when Keiris discovered his father’s people, and his heritage among the sea. He was part of the entourage that followed Keiris’ return to claim his new title as the new heir to Queen Amelyor and the Sounder of the Horns.

 

 

 

 

The quiet man, happy with what he’d seen, sailed onward. For a while, he was drifting among stars; taking parts as a crew member aboard a great ship called Voyager. Lost 75 thousand of light years away from home, Voyager and her crew were determined to come get home regardless. The stranger greatly admired the Captain, a woman of great compassion and a strong will, who lead her crew bravely and takes them through many dangers. The tenacity of a crew who would follow their captain through Hell itself. Their journey took them through many perilous part of space, where foreign beings and hostile forces were unkind and often deadly. Yet along the, they made friends and allied, discovered new world and new cultures, found old ruins and part of their history. From Voyager, the man glimpsed the strength and passion of pursuing something you truly believe in.

 

Next, the man came upon a land that he stayed the longest. From Elmond’s Field to Fal Dara, he traveled with Aes Sedai and gleemans. He took part in celebrations that had little to do with celebration and more with the political power play of Daes Dae’mar. The worse was when the Aiels came over the Dragonwall yet again, and slaughtered entire towns and villages he crossed in the past. Yet the most significant was the time he spent on the isle of Tar Valon, that housed the White Tower, seat of the Aes Sedai. Since Aes Sedai are both revered and feared by nearly everyone who knows to look for their ageless faces, the stranger quickly took up a job as a servant to large number of Aes Sedai; moving from one sister to another. While normally this would cause suspicion among the weary channelers, most of them are used to servants wearing the liveries of the White Tower. From the messages from pigeon towers to the carefully sifted through rumors that circulates the Tower, the man hears more of the world than any single Ajah combined. He took special interest in Moiraine, an Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah, as she lead the young naive Dragon Reborn away from the trollocs, and causing many ripple effects in their journey. He watched in shock as the mighty White Tower split, and ¬†again in awe, as within the course of a year, there’s an army, backed by rebel Aes Sedai, lead by one of the Great Captains, camped out within sight of the Shining wall. He took pity on the young Amyrlin Seat as she struggled to regain her power, and felt proud when she managed to gain the respects of some of the most venerated Sitters in the Ajahs.

Yet even as he follows closely the unfolding of the White Tower and the destruction bought by the Dragon Reborn, he would occasionally skip out to other realms. To Elantris, the city of Gods, the stranger would travel. There, he watched as the former merchant class try to rule a people whose gods literally died a decade ago and are slowly being turned into serfs. He stood by and observed as Fjorn warrior monks rampaged the streets of Kae and slaughtering innocent defenders. And bowed when the Elantrians returned, lead by King Raoden and the foreign Aeolen princess of Teod.

 

 

 

He even visited Azeroth, a realm close to the heart of millions. He visited the dwellings of the Night Elves, fought Orcs and Taurens, even rescued countless lives from the corruption of the Scourge and the merciless command of the Lich King. He stood along side the rash King of Stormwind, Varian Wynn, and paid homage to the beautiful Tyrande Whisperwind, High Priestess of Elune, who is as a queen to the Kaldorei, though they would never again hail a queen or any monarchy. Magni Bronzebeard proved to be a powerful warrior and good humored Dwarven King. And lastly, the man found the Prophet Velen, who lead his people through the Twisting Nether for eons beyond counting, to be rather reclusive and a little boring.

 

 

The stranger also visited the Final Kingdom, whose people dwell in ash and mists; until Kelsier, the survivor of Hathsin and his pupil, the street urchan Vin, managed to lite a powerful flame in the heart of the people of the capitol of Luthadel. So powerful were the resourcefulness and persuasion of Kelsier that he even managed to taught Vin how to slay the the Lord Ruler, the immortal God King of  Luthadel. The man struggled as he tried to comprehend the complex usages of Allomancy and Ferugamy. He only got more and more confused as the convoluted system that governs the power of Allomancers in the Final Kingomd was altered. As the struggle intensity, cumulating in the death of Vin and coming of the savior Sazed, the stranger sailed away to return to the comfort of the White Tower.

 

 

(Everything I read in books powers my imagination and allow my mind to soar. It also taught me lessons and prepare me for the way of life. Fantasy is my genre and these people and their stories are part of what taught me to be who i am today. When’s the last time you visited another world?!?!)

Mulled wine and Christmas

I decided to write this post after seeing My Week with Marilyn the other day with my friends. 

It was a really good movie, with an immaculate performance by Michelle Williams. The plot revolves around a young ¬†Englishman who was working on a film that starred Marilyn Monroe and his fantastic encounter with her. Despite how the movie was advertised, she was married at the time to Arthur Miller and they never did anything more than kissing. It was about companionship and human interactions. In fact, the movie reminded me of my own encounter in England. And I’d like reminisce my story here.

It was four years ago. I was 21, a study abroad student, spending a whole school year 5000 miles away from home and anything familiar. Kingston-upon-Hull was a whole new world. It was scary, unnerving, and positively the best thing that ever happened in my life til that point. I remember vividly going to my friend Adonis’ house party. (And let’s just say with a name like Adonis, the poor man, who’s half Greek by blood and not by feature, was a disappoint.) It was packed! Adonis was a popular guy. It took me 3 minutes to get to the kitchen where Adonis was. And there right next to him, were two 6 feet tall men, both beautiful, with long blonde hair, and the same welcoming smile. I was quickly introduced to Luke and Alex. At this point in my life, I was still very naive. I was barely comfortable being gay at home; now here I was in a new place with no awareness of this new culture or people, so I settled on just being a fun student. Luke and Alex took me aside during the party and mentioned that Adonis told them they should show me around Hull, maybe even take me out to a gay bar. Luke and I were the same age, and Alex is only 20. Yet I had to remind myself, maturity and age wise, they were the equivalent of 21 when they were 18, which means, mentally, they’re about 3 years older than me. And they act the part. Luke, in particular, took a shine to me. He taught me that “pulling” means to kiss someone as he demonstrated pulling me close to his face by the waist.

Within the week, we were hanging out. I was asked to join their group of friends when they go out. They all liked me, because I was a exotic Asian-American from California. During these hang outs, Luke would talk to me the most. Luke had speech problems when he was a child; he took speech classes that gave him a perfect accent. You can practically write every word he speaks. Alex also liked me, and so soon I was invited to every dinner party and every outing. I even overheard their friends Emma asked once discreetly, “Are you guys going to have a threesome?” Alex said no. Luke caught my eyes, knew I heard, and smiled knowingly at me. One night, I was invited over to theirs, and almost routinely, I obliged. Only there were no dinner, no party, and ¬†most noticeably, no Alex. Luke had simply invited me over to keep him company. We cuddled in their bed that night as we watched a movie, and he asked me to stay over. “Not used to a cold bed.” he said. I stayed, even obliged when he told me to get out of my clothes to get comfortable in bed. We sp0oned in our underwears. By this time, Luke was beautiful to me. Smart, knowledgeable, charming, witty, even had the perfect body. I turned and kissed him once. He whispered, “We can’t.” and went on to hug me tighter. I fell asleep in that embrace. Over the course of the next 2 months, Luke and I had a connection. One that I’m sure everyone within the group knew, because whether or not Alex was there, there’s always a place for me next to Luke. We played footsies under the dining table. He would randomly show up at my house with mulled wine or cook me food. There’s a Christmas present for me under their tree. Yet never did I tried again to cross that line. Luke and I even took a day trip to York, where he explained the wonders of history and the beauty of botany. I mean, who knew you could identify how old a roadside hedge is by what plants grew within them? He even squeezed into my tiny twin bed once. Yet never did I tried again to cross that line. Except once when, for¬†the first time, he kissed me was in private at the Christmas party when I gave him his gift.

It was almost magical, everything that were happening. Alex even invited me over to his family home in Leicester for New Years Eve. I slept in a giant guest room in a house that was built in the 12th century. Before I went to bed that night, Luke came in to give me quick kiss good night. It was cold and freezing in that old leaky room, but it was wonderful and magical. I spent 4 days in Leicester and amid the happy times and people, I suddenly realized that I’m alone. Sitting in in between Alex’s mom and stepfather, Alex and Luke, and the visiting couple, I was the odd one out. Furthermore, I realized I was slowly but surely falling for Luke. I kept attending the parties and outings for another 3 weeks. And then one night, when Alex was away, and I was out with Luke and one of his friends, I left.

I don’t remember how, but I remember I left with as much determination as I could. I never really said much to Luke or Alex, but I think Luke understood the message, because the frequency of our hang outs dropped. And soon I didn’t see much of them again.

It was a long time ago, but the kindness and what I learned from those two and half months will be a part of what I cherish for the rest of my life.

Holidays

It’s thanksgiving this week!! (And the food keeps coming….) Since it’s the season of the holidays, we’ll have holiday blogs!

Anyhow, when is Thanksgiving anyways? The final Thursday of November, according the Google. Now why is that? Because it was declared so by presidential proclamation? A closer look at Wikipedia, the go-to information source of college students, told me that Thanksgiving haven’t always been celebrated on the same date. In fact, different people celebrate it on different dates. The Canadians did it way earlier in October. But what about Halloween? Did they just skipped over that? We’ll get back to that in another paragraph.

So it turns out that Thanksgiving was, more or less, celebrated throughout the world; generally, i’m guessing, by farmers and communities celebrating a good harvest of crops or legumes and what-not. It’s gives thanks to….what? Oh, apparently, God, for letting these poor religious exiled settlers in the New World and have enough food to eat. Which, I hasten to add, they didn’t. Thus prompting my favorite explanation I’ve ever heard from a mother to her son in a store, “Thanksgiving is about giving thanks to the Indians who gave the pilgrims food when they first came to America.” In a short sentence, the mother managed to boiled the concept of Thanksgiving down to a very simple idea, which, to be fair, sound perfectly reasonable and historically accurate. It, of course, completely bypassed the real idea of thanksgiving. Communities, sharing, and rewarding yourself in the fruits (or frozen turkeys) of your labor.

Now, I know I’m merely speculating on this part, but I like the sound of it, so I’m sticking to it. Just like how the mother explained it to her son and cemented an whole different reason in his head. And, reasonably speaking, that child would very likely never actually farm or grow anything that would sustain his livelihood anyways, so that’s okay. In fact, most children nowadays only touched dirt when it’s time for petting zoo or pumpkin patched, which is followed (quickly!) by 5 layers of hand sanitizers and 2 different kind of soaps to obliterate any sort of bacteria from said children’s hand. And effectively robbing the poor developers of their immune defense against goats, llamas, pumpkins, and nature. How many allergies do you have? How many allergies will they get??

Similarly, Halloween, or Samhain as the Celts call it, celebrates the harvest and the end of the “lighter” half of the year and the beginning of the “darker” half. The Celts were among the first to celebrate this festival. To them, it’s the end of season of harvest, trade, and warfare. During this period when nature itself rests, tribes and clans are gathered together to share food and keep to the hearth. Without delving too much into a very complex Celtic mythology, Samhain is dubbed “the Celtic New Year”. It is said that the druids of Ireland gathers together to celebrate the end of life and honors the Tuatha De Danann. With the arrival of Christianity and the assimilation of pagan religions, Samhain was quickly adopted as All Saint’s day; and the previous night dubbed, the Hallow Evening. The All Hallow Eve was first celebrated with bonfires and a festival where the bones of the slaughtered livestock given as a sacrifice to ensure that the world would awake again and the next harvest would yield. It’s both a ceremony and ritual to honor the “death” of mother earth and prayer for a new year.
I completely enthralls me as I remember working on Halloween and watched as children march straight at to the candy bowl we put in the front of our store, grab a handful (or “one only!” said the mother standing 5 feet away) of candies, carefully put it in their bags, and mutter or shouted, “thank you.” to the air (or maybe the bow of candies) and walked off to their next destination. I think it’s interesting to note that despite the lost of its original mean, both religiously and culturally, the modern adaptation of Samhain somehow still retain a sort of sacredness to people. Families, people, businesses, and of course, the children. As the harvest festival part II (aka, Thanksgiving) fills us up with tryptophan and carbs, the “now” Samhain loads us up with processed sugar and a healthy respect for the dead as we flip through a costume catalogue to pick between slutty cop, sexually implicated appliances/objects, or a superhero. Oh, the holidays!!!

Out of this world.

So my phone went out of service two days ago. The result of  my brother being too busy to pay the phone bill. So far for the past two days, unless I consciously made an effort, no one has been able to get in touch with me.

Today, everyone has a cell phone. To be without one is almost akin to being deaf. How are people supposed to get in touch with you? How are you going to get in touch with people? Not sure about you, but I know I felt weird and uncomfortable when I first realize my phone was out of service. I kind of didn’t know what to do. My first thought was to call someone, but I can’t!

My phone’s doesn’t work!!!

I panicked. That is to say, I sat perfectly still because there was no one around and I can’t call anyone to panic to. So I breathed and meditated a little bit in my head and then I saw the home phone, aka the landline, the thing that’s fasting becoming the way of the CD’s and handwritten letters, sitting literally 2 feet away from me. Calmly and collectedly, I pulled up my brother’s phone number. (Do you remember the once-upon-of-time when you actually memorized your family member’s phone number so you can dial it from anywhere?) After a quick 5 minute chat, the essential boiled down to me not having a working phone for 4-5 days. 4-5 DAYS!!!

After another 2 minutes of silent panicking, I decided that it’s a good thing. I have been meaning to try living life without a phone for a while now, but never had the chance to. (mostly because I get into a state of panic after I’ve turn it off for more than 30 minutes.) What if someone calls me? What if I need to get a hold of someone? What if I need to take a picture? How am I going to text my friends?

All of these things stressed me out more than I can say. And then I reached my zen. Luckily for me, I have a lot of wise and awesome friends who over time have taught me many insightful lessons and how to be resourceful. I learned that I could do all of those things that freaks me out.

If someone really really need to get in touch with me, they will eventually find me. My co-worker stephanie once told me:

Cell phone created emergence. Do you what people used to have to do when they got a flat tire or got lost somewhere and there were no cell phones? They deal with it. They work it out themselves. Nowadays, if anything happens, they just stand there and start calling people. Cell phone created emergence.”¬†

So I will deal with this crisis with a calm mind and no cell phones. Thought i’m sure I’ll have a lot of people to call back and apologize…

And I learned that I can call people, from my home phone, a pay phone (if i ever find one of those), or even better, skype them or use facebook. The social media, another emergence creator, can take over the cell phone function for now.

Thank the spirits I don’t use my phone to go online or I would feel completely crippled.

What if I need to take a picture or use the other functions? Just use it. Since my awesome phone device does more than calling, everything else not involve calling still works. It’s still a calculator, a hand held watch, a camera, a converter, a virtual dicebox, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t really use.

How am I gonna text my friend or receive texts from them? That’s the hardest part actually.

It involves me getting in touch with them either in person, or actually set a time to hang out with them. No last minute change of plans or flaking. And I actually have to listen carefully about where they will be or what they are doing after should I be late. When is the last time you listened to a carefully given instruction? Or planned with some forethought what’s going to happen in the next few hours?

The past 2 days has opened my eyes to the luxury I had and the disturbing attachment I’ve formed with my phone.

We as a people are evolving to a point where we constantly need to be able to get in touch with everyone else. We need to know, to say, to join, to a fix ourselves to something. That to just have the ability to is better than not at all. We are fully integrated as a part of an electronic age of constant interaction and communication.

So much that to be disconnected from this great gestalt for a lengthy period of time is to not exist, to be invisible, out of this world…..

In memoriam of the future

Earlier this week, my great aunt passed away. She was my grandfather’s only sister; and of the 3 siblings of her, my grand father, my great uncle, she was the last one to pass away.

Almost as a tradition, my family would gather together and have a great dinner and just chatted, for hours on end. Mostly to help each other mourn the lost of a dear family member, other to share stories about old times. Of my many cousins, the ones in their teens know what’s happening and are unsure and somewhat sadden by the passing. Among my younger cousins, poor them, they did not know what is happening; only that mom and dad and all the aunts and uncles, even their older siblings, are oddly quiet and doesn’t want to play.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow”, as shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet. I disagree. Parting with someone is a long void. It’s quiet, and uneventful. It doesn’t make a sound, not a scene, not even a instinctive gut feeling about anything. It’s just…..empty. And then a period of time passes: a minute, an hour, a week, a year, a blink of an eye, and all the feelings and thoughts come rushing at you. That nothing will be the same again, that all the memories you’ve ever shared with this person will never come again, the unfinished story about your one class, the interrupted thought about her trip overseas, how old she was, the excitement about her grandson’s school, how annoying it is that she shows affection by pulling your hair to bend you down so she can hug you, all gone. That…..you will never speak to this person again, ever.

So, no. There is no sweet in this sorrow. There’s a profound loss, when it comes. There’s a sense of disembodiment, a feeling that something should be happening and it’s not. It’s almost like you’ve forgotten something and don’t what or where it is. It’s like being adrift somewhere somewhere far away while standing perfectly still at your home.

My first memory of my great aunt was when i was about 6 or 7. I grew up in Vietnam with very vague memories of my grand parents, so it was interesting to have this old lady coming to visit my house. I remember I was expecting a present, no, I wanted a present. She has a present in that giant suitcase. And it turned out she doesn’t. But that’s ok, cause she’s nice. She liked to ask me questions and I liked her, because no matter what I say, she always chuckled. She had trouble hearing though, i remembered. She had this listening device thing in her ear, and even then, she had trouble hearing sometimes. So I became her little helper. When we went on trips to various places, I was at her side, telling her what the tour guide said and pointing out things that she missed. And there were times when we just hang out, the two of us, when my mom and my aunts and uncles were having boring conversations. We would go for random walks and explorations. There were time when she would wake up early in the morning, and while normally I would make whoever woke me up give me a piggyback ride, it’s ok because it was she who woke me up.

I think she visited us for about a month, and then she left. But I still remember her and how much fun she was. I remember how annoying it was that she couldn’t hear what i say sometimes, and then how I felt bad that I got mad at her because she couldn’t hear, and it’s not her fault. I remember her among the faces that greeted me when I arrived in America. I remember how it was nice to have someone I already knew well and not be shy with. I remember at family gatherings, how she would punch me in the stomach and yell at me for not saying hi to her even though I just did. I remember how annoying it was when her hearing problem got worse and you practically had to yell in her ear for her to hear you. I remember feeling bad that I got annoy at her because of her worsening problem. I remember how much I love her.

I don’t remember the last time I told her that. Nor do I remember the last time I said goodbye to her, but I genuinely hope she heard me.

Someone told me once, that life is a dream. That when we dream, sometimes, we see the actual world and real life. And as with all dreams, it will end. And that’s why we called the ceremony A Wake.