Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Travel & Luggage Paranoia - Packing Packing Packing For NY

I leave for New York in eight hours.


Nothing says I'm-so-relieved-get-me-away-from-this-thesis like a vacation. And the grad life needs a vacation once in awhile, no?

Esther, Lenita, Mishal, and I are taking a Porter flight to New York in the early hours of the morning, and will be spending the next four days frolicking under the New York sun. And, this time, contrary to our last trip to New York two years ago, we'll be staying at a hotel right in the middle of Manhattan, so this maximizes the opportunity for blog-worthy adventures, no? Marriott for the win.

I will definitely be blogging about this trip when I get back.

It goes without saying, of course, that I'm excited. However, as usual, because I'm a travel worrywart, I'm also a bit nervous. And not for the reasons you'd think.

Because, you see, I have a certain travel phobia.

Apart from my usual phobias (i.e. you know, failing at life, or failing law school, or tripping in front of crowds of people because I can't walk in heels), I have a weird, OCD-like tendency to think that my airline will lose my luggage.

Am I the only one who gets paranoid about this?!? I can't even explain the meltdown that would ensue if I ever lost my luggage. Meltdown to the nth degree, particularly if, for any reason, I lost my sanity and left my Kate Spade purse in my luggage.

I always worry, what with all the stories about airlines putting the wrong tags on luggage, and having your possessions end up in, I don't know, Australia or something. And inevitably, lost luggage has the ability to cause unwanted stress - something you don't want during a vacation.

Last year, when my friends and I went to Europe for a couple of weeks, I remember stuffing my carry-on backpack with all the clothes, shoes, and toiletries I needed because I was so paranoid that Air Transat would somehow lose my luggage.

Plus, there was that fear of potentially not having anything to wear in Paris. So I lugged half my wardrobe onto the plane. Oh, my. I would have had a meltdown if any of that got lost, I'm telling you. There's just something about not having things planned out, right down to every last detail, that gives me a bit of a nightmare.

I know I have nothing to worry about. My flight to New York only lasts two hours, and Porter has a great reputation for being reliable.

But, still. I worry.

Which is why I've decided to take certain precautions.

Fr example, I've attached three luggage tags to my suitcase, detailing the exact location of our hotel, emergency numbers, flight information, etc. I made photocopies of our itineraries, identification tags, triple checked the contact information of our hotel on my suitcase. Plus, I've included a travel itinerary inside the suitcase. I just thought I'd throw that in there. It never hurts to be prepared, no? Anyway, that's my tip for the day. Be prepared. For anything. A travel tip from your neighbourhood worrywart. Precaution, precaution, precaution.

But, anyway. Enough with the worrying. Enough with my paranoia. I need to stop being such a worrywart about, well, everything. I go through this everytime I travel, and it's second nature now. Bad habits, Barb. *slaps wrist*

So instead, I'll focus on sending positive vibes to my luggage.

Please pull through, Porter Airlines!

Because I'm going to New York in T MINUS eight hours!!! WOOOOOOOOOO.

The packing is done, everything's set. I'm leaving for New York in a few hours! Exciting! The Museum of Modern Art, the MET, Guggenheim, Museum of Natural History, Central Park, 5th Avenue, Broadway, SoHo, New York University, Times Square, Little Italy, Wall Street... Big Apple, here we go!


“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
- Saint Augustine

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
- Maya Angelou

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
- John Hope Franklin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Asian Sons Live (Keep Living) At Home - Why The Hate?!

I don't know why I keep blogging about Asian people. It just worked out that way, I guess. Last post about Asian people for awhile, I promise. *peace sign*

Okay, so, let me tell you about something that bothers me.

And bear with me here.

About a year ago, I was hanging out at a friend's house. No big deal. I think we were having a Games Night of some sort. But, anyway. It was an evening where I was hanging out with some of my friend's friends, who were a bit older than me. Most of these individuals were in their mid/late twenties. I think the oldest guy there was about 28. Which, whatever. I didn't mind. They were cool people. And it was a fun night.

But, ever meet certain people who just rub you the wrong way? I was chatting with one of the guys sitting near me, and he was telling me about how he had just bought his own place. A condo downtown, you know? Awesome. It's always nice to hear people getting places downtown.

But, this is when I started getting annoyed. Aside from the fact that I already privately thought he was a cocky, self-indulgent narcissist, he leaned over and started talking about a mutual friend of ours. In the absolute worst way possible.

Our mutual friend is in his late 20s. He's a really nice guy. He`s Chinese. A little quiet. But really cool. He works downtown, plays sports, into video games. The usual. But, you see. Here's the thing. Mutual Friend still lives at home with his parents.

So Cocky Narcissist (hereafter known as CN) leans over and says, "What is it about Asian men living at home even when they're older? The guy is 27 years old. Why doesn't he move out? I always notice this with my Asian friends, I don't understand it. That's weird, man. And kind of gross."

I had to resist the urge to lean over and smack him.

Here`s another story. I have another friend in his late 20s. Pretty cool guy. I`ve known him for years. Our families are friends. He`s Filipino. Etcetera. He works downtown, plays sports. He`s into boxing, video games. The usual. But, again. Here`s the thing. Friend lives at home with his parents. And has no plans on moving out.

Except, he`s been getting tremendous flak from the guys at work. Apparently, it`s "weird" that he doesn`t have his own place now that he`s older. Why aren`t you moving out already? You`re 28 years old, why don`t you live on your own? Why do Asian men tend to live at home longer than they're quote on quote "supposed to"?

By all means, I know this "living at home" business isn`t a racial thing. I know this can be an issue with non-Asian 20-somethings in general, men or women. But, for the sake of specificities, cultural implications, and focus for this blog post, I`ll deal with Asian men for now. And, mostly for the sake of dealing with the comments of the above mentioned CN, I`ll deal with Asian men for now.

In this grad life of ours, as we grow up, and many of us move away from home, I notice that we tend to pass (often negative) judgement on those who still live with their parents. Unemployed? Lazy? Gluttons who mooch off their parents? You know it crossed your mind. And I find that this sort of judgement is, at times, harsher on men.

But, see, sometimes actual reality is far from that judgement.

Let me clarify and explore a few issues here.

First, I'm not surprised (though nevertheless annoyed) that people make this a gender issue. Why zero in on men? If a 28 year old woman still lives with her parents, would it still be this much of an issue? The individuals I mentioned above don't seem to be harassing women in their late 20s about moving out, why are men being pressured to move out instead? Particularly by their friends? Is it some kind of "man thing" to have your own condo by the time you're 28 years old?

Oh, god. Please. Spare me the gender specific responsibilities. I already get enough flak from people who think I shouldn't go to law school because I'm a girl.

Second, and more pertinent to what I want to focus on today, I was initially surprised (or maybe not?) that people make this a cultural issue. Like I said above, isn't the move-out-you're-getting-old issue pertinent to any 20-something, regardless of cultural background? Yet, I've started to notice that people tend to assume that Asians are more likely to live at home in their later 20s than their non-Asian counterparts. Is there some truth to this?

And, in response to CN's comments above, are Asian men more likely to live at home in their late 20s (versus non-Asian male counterparts)? And if so, why?

Well, let's try to answer that.

Because, well, it`s funny. I find it ironic that my friend described above gets flak from his coworkers about moving out, yet doesn't hear a word of it from his parents. You`d think it would be the other way around, no? That his parents would kick him out because he's older, self-sufficient, and therefore ready to move out? Yet, from what I`ve witnessed with my own friends and family (and, uh, I have a lot of Asian friends), Asian parents don`t tend to mind if their 20-something son still lives at home with them. Even when they've reached their 30s.

In response to CN's comments above....

The truth is, Mom and Dad don't mind if he stays home. He may have a job, a steady income, and with the capacity to move out - but, he wants to live at home. And he most likely will for another little while, until he finds a reason to move out (i.e. job location, school, or perhaps just an urge for independence). Of course, if their son wants to move out, his parents wouldn't stop him. But, in general, I don`t think I`ve heard a story where Asian parents harass their sons to move out simply because of his age or because he has a steady income.

I have a 30 year old friend. Asian. Male. Still living with his parents. Perhaps even until he gets married. And both parties are completely content with the arrangement.

Some people find that disgusting. Or disturbing. I find it normal. His friends, of course, make fun of him mercilessly for living with his parents when he's clearly an adult. He makes good money. He has a steady job. So why doesn't he move out, you know?

We tend to assume that people live at home with their parents because they have no other choice. That they don't have the income to move out, that they just don't have the ability (yet) to independently buy their own property. That they would rather live elsewhere than home. (And sure, in many cases, this could totally be the reason why they stay at home). But the thing is, others who have the ability to be self-sustaining have a choice. And sometimes, they choose to live with their parents. Because they want to.

Can't you be independent and live with your parents? Can't you have a job, pay for your meals, pay for your clothing (or whatever independence entails) and stick close to your family?

Is that such a foreign concept?

I hesitate to make this a cultural thing. But I kind of, sort of, will. I think the pressure to move out for 20-something Asians is lower in Asian families, simply because of the huge emphasis placed on collectivity and family. To put it bluntly, culturally, I've noticed that many Asian parents see their children living with them until marriage (and even beyond that). Of course, if their kids want to move out, they wouldn`t stop them. If their son or daughter wants to move downtown for work purposes, or for other reasons, they wouldn't stop them. But, until their children make that choice, or until it's absolutely necessary, Asian parents quite rarely kick their children out of the house simply because the closeness of family will always come first. We've heard enough about Confucianism.

In response to CN's comments....

I don't think our mutual friend is weird at all. Sure, he has a steady job. Sure, he could move out if he wanted to. But he doesn't because his family is closer than you know. Because he loves his sisters and wants to watch them grow up. Because he would rather stick around and live with the comfort of his parents. He'll move out when he wants to, got that?

Reader, does this sound weird to you? From what I`ve witnessed growing up, it`s completely normal to see Asian men and women in their late 20s still living with their parents at home until the day they get married or move in with a significant other. It wasn`t until people started pointing out its "weirdness" that I started thinking about the cultural implications of all this. I've stressed enough times on this blog how important and emphasized family values are to Asian families. On keeping the family together.

So, why the hate and ridicule placed on Asian men (or, I guess, to a lesser extent, women) who live at home? If they choose to do so, is it really our place to pass negative judgement? It irritates me, it really does.

Third, on the practical level, on the whole, living at home is the cheaper, no? So, why the hate on living at home when you're older? If it saves money, cut these guys some slack, yea?

So the next time you encounter a friend (or, anyone, really) living at home - think twice before you judge them as lazy, good-for-nothing, unemployed sloths. There may be other reasons why they live with their parents. To some people, family is more important than you know.

But, anyway, I guess that`s my semi-defense of 20-something Asian men still living at home. I understand you, friends. I really do!

"I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich."
- Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, "Identity Crisis," M*A*S*H

"Our most basic instinct is not for survival, but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted."
- Paul Pearshall

"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you."
- Kendall Hailey, The Day I Became an Autodidact

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Why Asian Mothers Are Superior" & Why I Love My Asian Mother - Reflections on Amy Chua

Awhile back, I blogged about Asian parenting and my momentary exasperation with the Asian community's emphasis on image in order to be perceived as successful.

Honestly, this was one of the few aspects that used to annoy me about the Filipino community. I've grown up watching my parents' friends perpetually talk up their children to make sure their children looked successful. Back then, to me, it looked like the success, beauty, and ability of their children was validation of their worth as a parent. And I was sorely annoyed.

Image and success. It seemed to be everything.

And so, for their children, there was pressure to, basically, look and be perfect. You're always consciously aware of what people think about you: from the clothes you're wearing, to the type of designer purse (or lack thereof) slung over your shoulder, to where you are at in school, what career path you're taking, how your hair is styled, how you bow and shake hands with elders, etc. You exemplify how your parents have raised you.

Everything I'm describing sounds enormously superficial. And I admit, to an outsider, it really does. Why do you think knock-off Gucci purses are all the rage in Hong Kong? Why do you think Japan and Korea have the highest rates of plastic surgery in the world?

Because success and perfection. It seems to be everything.

But, as I grew up, I realized the true motivations behind the behaviour of this particular community.

To someone who hasn't grown up in this community, the strict parenting I'm about to describe sounds ridiculous and out of hand. But, you know. There's more to the Asian community than what meets the eye. And, while I complain about it sometimes, if you dig a little deeper, you learn something about why the community functions the way it does and why Asians parent the way they do.

So. Ever wondered why this community functions the way it does?

Image and success. It seems to be everything. But, why?

Here's the thing. I'm glad I was brought up the way I was. This is the world, the community I've grown up in. And, personally, I'm used to it. I'm accustomed to the rhythm and routine of social functions in the Asian community.

But, let me ask you a question. Have you ever wondered why the Asian community places so much emphasis on perfection? Ever wondered why Asian parents emphasize so greatly the value and concept of success?

Confucian values aside, I think Asian parents act the way they do because they know their kids can be the best if they tried their hardest to be the best. Emphasis on Try and the value of Hard Work. And they'll push them to perfection because they know they're capable of it.

Wait. Disclaimer. I'm not saying that Asians are ethnically superior because they're the only race that can be perfect. God, no. Don't misinterpret me.

I think the MacLean's article published a couple of months back speaks volumes. Where complaints were being lodged that the University of Toronto was "TOO ASIAN." CLICK HERE to read the article. Trust me, I know all about how UofT is too Asian. Ever been to Sidney Smith Hall? These Asians. They're everywhere.

I know the value of strict Asian parenting. I know it, because I've lived it. I've grown up with parents who didn't accept anything less than an A on a report card. Who put me in piano lessons when I was six years old. Who put me in ballet lessons when I was eight years old. Who made me practice multiplication tables, cursive writing, when I was in kindergarten. Who gave me extra homework assignments. Who made me practice said piano and ballet, even when I wanted to quit.

They knew I could do it. And so, they pushed me to do so. And, quite frankly, I'm glad they did. I was taught that I needed to try. That I needed to work hard. I was taught that I shouldn't be lazy. And, honestly? I'm so glad they did. I wouldn't be where I am today if I wasn't pushed the way I was.

Strict Asian parenting is a strange concept for individuals who didn't grow up in this community. But, let me tell you. There's method behind that perceived madness. Asian parents instill their love for their children by pushing them to work hard - because wishing and hoping for their success is a reflection of the hope and unconditional love they have for their children.

Pushing for success. It's a reflection of love. Ever think of it that way? That success is something parents want for you because they know you're capable of it?

So, are you yelling at me yet? People who haven't experienced this are going to freak out. I know it. I know what's been said behind my back. That I work too much. That I go to the library too much. Complaining that I shouldn't get ahead with my readings or my work. Encouraging me to skip class. Oh, really? Frankly, I don't care what you say about me behind my back. Because, sorry. I couldn't hear you over my law school acceptance letters.

I said above that image is everything. And it is. For a community that knows they can attain the best, that image of success and perfection, if the values of hard work and trying are exercised, if you try your best to pursue it.

This is a reflection of how I perceive the Asian community I've witnessed and grown up with. Others may have different perceptions, but these are mine.

Which brings me to a brief reflection on Amy Chua's article "Why Asian Mothers Are Superior." To read the famed article that stirred parenting wars all over the world, CLICK HERE. Honestly, I think the sexist and racial attacks on Chua are ridiculous. Yet, the scathing attacks on the motivations behind her strict parenting is something I disagree with even more.

So, here's the thing. I love Amy Chua. And, this article? If you're about to yell at me about how ridiculous it is, I have a few words for you: READ HER WHOLE BOOK. This article is merely an excerpt from her parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She depicts her failures as a parent and, most importantly, the need to instill Asian values in the education system today.

Personally, I wholeheartedly agree. To read her op-ed on US education today, CLICK HERE.

Amy Chua has been criticized worldwide for her strict parenting methods. She's received death threats. She's received numerous hateful comments and emails telling her what a horrible parent she's been. Commentators have decided her children are mindless robots, that they'll grown up psychologically impaired. That they aren't normal because they grew up this way.

Um. Okay. Almost 90% of people I've talked to about this article have admitted that they grew up in a similar environment.

Is an environment with high expectations so evil? For some people, it is.

Parenting touches a nerve for a lot of people. Especially crazy moms who think their way to parent is the only way to parent. Or for people who grew up in a different environment and think strict parenting is for nutjobs. (See: attacks on Amy Chua).

I'm not saying everything Chua did was right. I'm not saying the specific tactics she exercised should be followed to a T. I'm saying that I understand the motivations behind her actions. I understand why she parented the way she did.

Like Chua's own children, I'm glad I was given high expectations by parents very similar to Chua. Because I was taught that I could reach them if I put in the hard work to do so.

And this is why I love my own Asian mother.

When I was seven years old, crying that I hated playing the piano, yelling that I hated memorizing piano music because it was freakin boring, my mother made my practice piano for an hour everyday so I could memorize those classic pieces. Some people call rote learning ineffective. Others call it child abuse. But, to me? It worked. And I'll forever be grateful for being pushed to memorize piano music that I truly did love but was too lazy to practice if I hadn't been pushed to. I would have regretted not knowing how to play it, knowing I had the chance to.

And this is why I love my own Asian mother.

Two years ago, my mom took a day off work from her busy schedule and took the subway with me down to the University of Toronto campus. It was the day I was writing the LSAT. The test that would determine whether I was going to law school. Prior to signing up for the LSAT, I didn't want to take it. I dragged my feet for a year. But, my mother. She knew I could do it if I tried hard enough. And on that day, my mother. She sat at a nearby coffee shop for four hours while I wrote my test, waiting for me, giving me the support I needed when I walked out of the test room. She knew I could do it, even when I didn't believe in myself.

And this is why I love my own Asian mother.

When I was younger, I took a ballet test and failed miserably on my first try. I was eight years old. After failing, I wanted to quit ballet. My ballet teacher told me I had terrible posture and needed to fix it. I was humiliated, and I wanted to run away. I begged my mom to let me quit. But, my mother. She firmly told me to finish what I started. That I needed to do my best, because she knew I could be the best if I really tried. And a week later, I trudged back to ballet school, re-took the test, and months later, eventually fixed my posture. She wouldn't let me quit. And I'm glad she did that. Without my mother, I wouldn't have fallen in love with ballet.

I could go on, but I won't. This post is getting way too long.

Say what you want about strict Asian parenting. But, for me. It's a community I will fiercely defend and protect no matter the criticisms. Because it's pushed me to be what I am today. And I will forever be grateful for it.

"All the so-called "secrets of success" will not work unless you do."
- Author Unknown

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."
- Thomas Jefferson

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yes, I'm Alive & Writing this MRP - Is Grad School Over Yet?

I was camped out here for most of last week. My study/research/MRP writing spot by Lake Ontario when the weather was cooperating. Now you see why I get distracted?

I haven't been blogging much lately, friends. Sorry about that. Because, well, as per the explanation on one of my recent posts, I've been trying to write the last thing keeping me from this Masters degree: my MRP.

This is just an update to let all of you know that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. Well, yet, anyway. And that I'll return your calls, messages, etc., once I sort out my life a.k.a. my MRP. And that a regular blogging schedule will resume once a draft of this MRP is completed about two weeks from now. But, erm, my progress? Let's just say that it's going slowly. Very slowly. And, I'm starting to panic, given that I have about two and a half weeks until my first draft is due. Cue panic, shortness of breath, etcetera.

Also, I'll be in New York for four days next weekend. I'm assuming I'll be editing my draft on our flight there. Great. Now that's what I call a vacation.

But, I'll stop complaining. I'll survive. Thankfully, one of my case studies is a country I know inside and out: the one I was born and raised in. So, hopefully, the next couple of weeks won't be too much of a nightmare.

However, if there are two things writing this MRP has taught me (well, grad school in general has taught me), its the following:

ONE. We need to maintain some sort of balance. For the sake of our social lives and our sanity. Writing this MRP is important. But, you know, it's still kind of important to also have some sort of, well, life. My friend Diana pointed out on a Facebook comment earlier that, uh, our lives have pretty much revolved around this MRP. She's right. I'm pretty guilty of eating, sleeping, and breathing campaign finance reform.

It wasn't until I actually got some fresh air today that I realized how cooped up I've been the last couple of weeks. Erm. Not. Healthy. I didn't step outside my house all weekend (partly due to the rain, partly due to camping out in my room writing my MRP). And it wasn't until I went for sushi lunch and shopping with Belinda and Janice today that I, well, realized how long I went without face to face contact with other breathing human beings.

Fail on my part.

I come back to Toronto on Thursday, and I can't wait to do something about this non-existent social life of mine. And I promise you, friends, I won't bring a book with me when we roam downtown and go out on Saturday. I'm so excited for this weekend! Thank god I have most of my MRP somewhat written. Now I can finally sort of relax.

Balance. Your work and your life. It's key. To your health and your sanity.

It's okay to tear yourself away from your laptop, you know.

TWO. I've also learned that I perpetually need some sort of structure and schedule to my life. Otherwise, I'll procrastinate my life away like you wouldn't believe. And, basically, screw myself over until I realize my deadline is coming up.

It's been about four weeks since classes have ended. Meaning, like, we're pretty much not doing anything in Kingston other than writing our MRP. How we spend our time is our own responsibility. There are no schedules, very few meetings. Your time is your own time. And you choose what you do with it.

This is dangerous for me, friends. I have no discipline when structure isn't involved. Because then, I get dangerously close to procrastination territory. Am I the only one with this problem? I feel like all of you have much more discipline than I. I came back to Kingston last week and found a fellow MA in his office telling me he had written 50 pages of his MRP already. And he doesn't have to be done until August. Oh, boy.

This whole "independent work" thing is great and all, but I need to make sure some sort of structure is involved so I don't procrastinate enough that I end up pulling an all nighter everyday for a week. Thankfully, I wrote out an MRP schedule at the beginning of May to make sure I don't fall off track.

I'm pretty sure that Excel spreadsheet with my MRP research and writing schedule saved my life. I have it taped to the walls of my room to remind myself not to spend my day watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

Because, you know, I'm tempted. I'm always tempted. Structure and schedule. Grad school has taught me that I always need it.

Anyway, that's all for now. Grad school lessons for the day.

I head back to Toronto for two weeks on Thursday, it should be a great time at home! Cross your fingers I get my work done in time! I'm currently alive, my friends. And I hope I get through this MRP writing situation in one piece.

P.S. Thank you to all of you who responded to my previous post regarding information on campaign finance in the United States! I appreciated all your emails and messages, I found all of your suggestions incredibly helpful! Good luck on your MRPs, everyone!

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
- Albert Einstein

“Little by little one walks far.”
- Peruvian Proverb

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Your Girlfriend, Your Boyfriend, & Your Friends - Finding The Balance In Relationships

As we approach life in our mid-20s, I'm sure we've all noticed that we live in a world where our friends are starting to get engaged, or are settling into relationships they expect will last their lifetimes (clearly, we aren't 18 years old anymore).

I turn 24 years old in a month, and I've sure as heck noticed the engagement phenomenon. And the "coupling-up" phenomenon. You know, when the "I" turns into a "we" and you show up at every social event together. I get it. We're at an age where people are starting to realize that, university has ended (well, for most of us, anyway. Boo to me), we've settled into the working world, we've grown up, we're adults, and that, for some us, come a few years, we'll be settling down and starting families of our own.

Erm. Side note. I can't believe I turn 24 in a month. But, moving on.

Anyway, I understand that people are "looking." Lavalife doesn't make all that money for nothing. And I understand that, once people find someone they actually really, really like, they'll want to spend all their time with them. Spending all your time on the phone, texting each other at work, making weekend plans. I get it. And, I'm happy for you. There's nothing I love more than seeing my friends find a significant other they truly, truly care about.

But, let me share a story with you, my friends. A story that, I'm sure, many reading this can relate to.

This is a true story of a friend of a friend of a friend. Generic enough that, really, it could be about anyone. This is a story of a group of friends who have known each other for years. Since high school, in fact. A close group of friends, you know? The kind you'll know for the rest of your life, the kind who have lived your most embarrassing moments with you. But, you see, one day, things changed. Because, one day, one of these friends met a girl. A girl he grew to know and love. And as he began a relationship with said girl, he stopped seeing his closest friends. He stopped taking their calls, stopped answering their text messages. He just stopped. Cut off everything. And, it wasn't even on purpose, really. He just wanted to spend all his time with his girlfriend, you know? Said friends tried all they could to contact him, to get to know his new girlfriend. But, this friend. He stopped hanging out with them, stopped attending social events, dinners, lunches. He spent all his time with said girl and her friends that, two years later, upon his break-up with said girl, he picked up his phone and realized that... he had no one to call. He had grown apart from his closest friends, he had estranged himself so much for the sake of a relationship that eventually ended.

And so, here's another true story. Of a friend of a friend of a friend, of course. A story of a group of close girlfriends. They've known each other for years, you know. The kind of girlfriends who have known you long enough that they attended those horrid middle school dances with you. And yet, one day, things changed towards the end of their university careers. One of these girls met a boy. And, like all these stories go, she grew to know him, and to love him. And, just like the boy in the story above, she grew distant from her closest girlfriends. Spending everyday with said boyfriend. She stopped hanging out with her girlfriends, stopped taking their calls. She spent all her time with him and his friends. It wasn't on purpose, really. She was just so consumed and invested in her relationship that she just, I guess, forgot about her friends. And, upon their break-up three years later, she picked up the phone and realized that... she had no one to call. She had ignored her friends for the sake of a relationship that eventually ended.

Friends, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. I've heard these stories time and time again. That a friend spends wayyyy too much time with his girlfriend or her boyfriend. That a friend never comes to parties anymore because he/she is hanging out with his/her significant other instead. They don't come to dinners, lunches, annual camping trips. I have friends who have pushed their friends away to the point that they basically become strangers. Everything you are, everything you do is about your significant other. Nothing else.

Everything is a "we." The individuality is gone. And the closest, most treasured friendships grow distant and eventually fall apart because these individuals are so consumed in their relationships with their significant other.

Basically, there's no balance.

Now, I'm not disapproving of having a significant other. God, no. Please don't misunderstand. I'm not sitting here as a spinster grad student (god, I hope not, anyway) disapproving of young love. (Although I do have the granny glasses to pull it off!)

What I'm saying is, simply put. Don't forget about your friends.

The thing is, I completely understand where the two people in the stories above are coming from. I completely understand what it's like to be in a relationship with someone you care about. That your schedules revolve around each other, that you talk on the phone everyday, that you text each other while you're at work. I understand that. And that's normal, of course. And for those of you who have found this relationship, I'm sincerely happy for you.

But, life is complicated. And finding that perfect balance between spending time with your girlfriend/boyfriend and your friends can be difficult. And it's especially difficult when you and your significant other have separate groups of friends. Who don't know each other. Who don't hang out together.

I have no answers for you. Just plain, old, vague advice. Find that balance in your relationships. You can have your dates and hang out with your friends too, you know? Introduce your significant other to your friends. Hang out together. Party together. Have dinners, lunches, snacks, outings, together.

Because, you see, while you've found a girl or a boy you think you may want to spend the rest of your life with, there's something you may forget. That, if handled with care, you'll be spending the rest of your life with your friends too.

Don't carelessly forget about them. Don't let them become strangers.

I've seen too many friendships fall apart because of the above reasons. And, as we grow older, and it becomes increasingly difficult to make new friends in these busy lives we lead, treasuring the ones we have is essential.

These are the people who want to get to know your significant other. These are the people who you'll call to excitedly tell about promotions at work. Who want to be there when big changes in your life occur. These are the people you'll call when (if you choose) you get engaged. When you move into your first home. These are the people you'll call on those Christmases down the road, who you'll hang out with on New Years Eves in the future. These are the people you've grown up with, and, perhaps, you'll grow old with.

We've lived a sufficient amount of 20-ish years where we can say that many people have walked in and out of our lives, drifting in and drifting out. But, we have close groups of friends that haven't walked out.

And, if these friendships handled with care, perhaps they never will.

Find that balance. It's more important than we realize.

"If there is ever a tomorrow when we are not together, there is something you must always remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think, but most important of all, even if we are apart, I'll always be with you."
- Christopher Robin to Pooh

"I have friends in overalls whose friendships I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world."
- Thomas A. Edison

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”
- Mark Twain

Monday, May 9, 2011

Journey To Vietnam - A Friend's Summer With TeachOverseas

When I was eleven years old, my parents and I moved to Mississauga. And, being a shy, socially awkward pre-teen, I was beyond nervous about starting Grade 6 at a brand new school where I knew absolutely no one.

But, I didn't need to worry. On my first day of school, I sat by myself at the corner of the gym to eat lunch with one of my (many) current books, too shy to make any new friends. Yet, as I unwrapped my sandwich and cracked open my book, I looked up and saw a girl approach me.

She sat beside me, gave me a friendly smile, and cheerfully told me her name was Liz. She asked if she could have lunch with me, and over that hour, I made my first friend in middle school. I found out that she also loved to read, loved horses, horseback riding. We also loved the same TV shows. I was so relieved I made a friend that day.

Liz eventually became one of my best friends in middle school. And we went on to go to high school together, went through the IBT program together, taking many of the same classes in high school. We agonized over Grade 9 math together, spent a memorable year in Grade 11 Law, and even got ready for prom together with all our friends in our last year of high school.

Liz and I also went on to be university roommates in our first year at UofT, in our beloved Margaret Addison Hall (Vic College, we miss you!), and spent the next four years tearing our hair out, trying to get through university in one piece.

She has been a wonderful friend in the thirteen years I've known her. And, this summer, she's embarking on a trip to Vietnam, from June to August, with the TeachOverseas program.

To learn more about her trip, follow her blog by CLICKING HERE.

A brief summary of her trip from Liz herself:
"This summer (June 19 – August 3) I will be going with a group of 6 other teachers to Vietnam to work with Vietnamese students of all ages teaching conversational English. I will be going through a Christian organization called TeachOverseas ( The goal of this trip is not only to teach conversational English, which is a much needed and sought after skill to Vietnamese students of all ages, but also to develop friendships with these students and hopefully to be able to share the gospel with them through those friendships." - Excerpt from Journey To Vietnam

Liz is currently looking for supporters for this trip, and I encourage all of you to check out her website! She'll be spending about three months in Vietnam, putting those skills she's learned in teacher's college to the test, and building friendships with students who are lucky to have her as a teacher. Furthermore, she is also currently accepting donations to fund this trip abroad, so please click on the link above to learn about her trip and to help out, if you can :)

Have an amazing trip, friend!

"A good friend knows all your best stories, a best friend has lived them with you."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

To A Wonderful Mom - Happy Mothers Day!

Dear Mom,

I know you read my blog.

And so, here I am, hoping you will be pleasantly surprised to read a blog post dedicated just for you. Because, I'm here to wish you and to thank you for everything you've done for me. And for every mother reading this post, I hope you've all been having a wonderful, memorable Mother's Day.

And, to make sure I can head off and make this Mother's Day especially memorable, I'll try to make this blog post brief.

I know it isn't said enough, but, I'd like to say thank you. For being the mother you are, and the mother I know. For teaching me that love is both feeling and action. That love can be unconditional, sincere, timeless.

Thanks for always knowing what was best for me. And for your support, for patience, encouragement, and love.

Like, for instance. Thanks for teaching me how to write in perfect cursive writing when I was six years old. No, really. I'm seriously thankful for this. I have you to thank for my legible handwriting growing up - cursive or otherwise. And, thanks for teaching and drilling me with multiplication tables when I was just in kindergarten. And had me memorize them for a week. Because, seriously, the prep you always gave me at home helped me out with those painful math classes I hated in school.

And, thanks for always attending my school plays. And always giving a standing ovation even though I only had, like, one line. And for clapping enthusiastically even when I screwed that one line up. See: Grade 3 play where I was a pirate and cried on stage.

And, thanks for always attending my ballet classes, recitals, and tests. And thanks for hugging me and buying me ice cream when my ballet teacher reprimanded me for having "zombie arms" during practice runs of my grand jeté. I was so sad, remember? So, thanks for sitting patiently when I obsessively walked around the house with a book balanced on my head for a week, trying to correct that ballet posture. And for not flipping out when I kept asking (every hour, no less), "Is my posture better yet? Is it? Well, is it??"

Mom, you were so very patient with my random "projects." I was a strange child, clearly. Yet you were never fazed.

And, thanks for not flipping out when I quit piano the year I turned thirteen. Thanks for understanding me through my awkward, I-hate-everything-especially-piano-lessons phase.

Thank you for all the sports lessons, piano lessons, dance lessons, and all the lessons in between. They've all been valuable to me.

And, by the way, I've never mentioned this but, thanks for always teaching me from an early age what to wear, how to wear it, the designers to follow, and the ones not worth checking out. And for teaching me how to shop and for showing me what style is. Because you epitomize it.

And, thanks for staying up all night watching me on Christmas Eve when I was eight years old, sick with the stomach flu. I'm sorry I ruined Christmas for you! Thank you for always taking care of me.

Thanks for always helping me with my homework growing up. And for staying up till midnight all those nights I had a Calculus test, helping me prepare, even though you had early patients the next day.

Thanks for always feeding me the best food ever. And for cooking the best food ever.

And, about law school...

Thanks for teaching me the value of school and of my education. And the value of persistence. And for hugging me when I thought I could never get into law school. And for always believing that I would.

Thanks for setting aside a day in your busy schedule to wait for me at a coffee shop near UofT the day I wrote my LSAT. And for sitting there patiently, for four hours, doing work, as I wrote that dreaded test that would get me into law school. And for promptly encouraging me when I thought I didn't do well, taking me out to lunch to calm my worries.

Thank you for never doubting I'd get into law school. Even when I thought I had no chance.

I could go on and on about all the things I'm thankful for, but I'll stop here. This post is getting too long.

So, most of all, thank you for being a wonderful mother, a wonderful friend. Growing up, you have given me more than I've ever thanked you for. And, I promise, that I will spend the rest of my life thanking you and showing you how much I've appreciated your lifetime of unconditional patience, support. And love.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers reading this today!



"A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie."
- Tenneva Jordan

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life."
- Abraham Lincoln

"Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother's love is not."
- James Joyce

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ECONOMICS 101 - Getting Started??

It has come to my attention that I should probably learn the basics of economics (the terminology, the literature, etc). The last time I took an Economics course was in first year at UofT. ECO100, Introduction to Economics, anyone remember that? Clearly, I don't. I don't remember a single thing I learned in that course. Hey, it's been five years. I want to brush up on this!

However, it appears that I sold off my first year Economics textook (I'm not surprised). And, really, I'm not quite sure how to get started on this venture. I don't have time to take an actual course, so learning the basics will probably be something I'd read up on over the summer before law school (with, perhaps, friends who majored in Economics to help out, cough cough).

So, dear readers, if anyone reading this post can answer the following questions to help me with my dilemma, you will be my new best friend. And will be rewarded in lieu of cupcakes.

First, if anyone reading this went to UofT, took ECO100, and is willing to sell me their first-year Intoduction to Economics textbook, please, please, please let me know. I remember really enjoying that textbook (it was really easy to read and understand, moreso than other textbooks I've had). I'd really like to get my hands on it again. Curse my stupidity for selling it at the end of first year.

Second, if anyone reading this went to UofT, took ECO100, and still has notes from said course, would you pretty please let me borrow them?

Clearly, I'm trying to re-create ECO100 for myself all over again.

Third, and most importantly, if anyone knows of any online tutorials and links, that can serve as easy-to-follow (this is important!) comprehensive online guides to learning intoductory economics, please send them over!

So, please send me a Facebook message or an email if you have any information for the above three requests. I appreciate it, friends!

Whatever Happened To Roald Dahl?! - Remembering Books From Our Childhood

Does anyone remember this book? Please say you do. Or at least this one? And, surely, you remember this one too, right?

Someone, please tell me you loved Roald Dahl as much as I did. I still remember sitting on the class carpet in Grade 5, listening in fascination as my teacher read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out to us. Like, really, was he going to get that golden ticket or WHAT? And, who was that chick who kept chewing the same piece of gum all the time? I remember being so grossed out but fascinated at the same time. It was an awesome story, no?

So, a few months ago, while catching up on Skype with a friend in teacher's college at the University of Ottawa, she started complaining about how unfamiliar the children's book section is to her at all the elementary schools she had her placements at. Apparently, she and a number of teacher candidates found that a lot of the books we loved as children can't be found in many of today's elementary school libraries. At all. None of the following could be found in some elementary school libraries.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? No.

James and the Giant Peach? Nope.

The Giver? Nope. (By Lois Lowry, remember this one??)

Tuck Everlasting? Nope.

Matilda? Nope.

The Velvteen Rabbit? Nope.

A Wrinkle in Time? Nope. (By Madeline L'Engle, remember?)

Charlotte's Web? NOPE.

The Secret Garden? NOPE. I KNOW. Travesty.

The Hobbit? NO!!!

I know these books are hardly classics. And, of course, we all have different books and genres that we remember fondly, but the fact that copies of the above books are non-existent in some of today's elementary schools actually makes me really sad.

Because, you know what can be found in their libraries instead?

Apparently, there are copies upon copies of Twilight.

The entire series.

Now, I don't mean to bring on the wrath of Twihards (in fact, I call many Twihards my friends), I just want to lament the decline of 90's children's and teen fiction in today's libraries. I'm actually quite sad that the chances of a child reading The Giver is less today than they were ten years ago. They aren't life-changing, thought-provoking, classic literature, but they were books I really enjoyed when I was younger. And the fact that some kids these days won't get the chance to discover these awesome books, these unfogettable stories actually saddens me more than I thought it would.

I would assume that because new copies of these book haven't been published in years (probably for more than a decade), tattered elementary school library copies have been donated to your local Value Village, Goodwill, etc., and haven't been replaced.

Can you imagine? A student in elementary school never hearing about or getting their hands on a Roald Dahl book? Ever? They were staples back in the day.

I'm aging myself, I know. I'm old.

I may be the only one lamenting the loss of Tuck Everlasting in today's libraries, but if you share my love for 90's children's literature, at least I can rest on the fact that there are still lovers of Roald Dahl, Lois Lowry, and the like out there. Cheers to that.

And, I think I may go re-read my copy of The Giver now. Just because.

"It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves."
- John Bulwer

“In life and love, it is better to know and be disappointed, than to not know and always wonder.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Home For Another Week & Karaoke @ The Gladstone

So. Clearly, last night's federal election was momentous. Mind boggling. I blinked a few times, staring at CTV's seat counter (Sidebar: Nothing can take away from my undying loyalty for Lloyd Robertson). I couldn't believe it. But, my comments on last night's historic results will end here. My thoughts on last night's results aren't very popular among my age bracket, so in the interest of tapering down on possible arguments, let's just say I'm sitting here, very satisfied, as I type this message. No gloating, no satisfied smirking. Just very proud of my incumbent MP and the party he represents. If you'd like to discuss the results with me, feel free to send me a Facebook message, friends! :)

But, anyway. The point of today's blog post. I forgot to mention that I'm homeeee for another week! Clearly, I couldn't stay away from Toronto.


Amid all the Royal Wedding hoopla, I headed to Toronto from Kingston this past Friday afternoon, running on 1 hour of sleep. I don't know how I survived. I met Alicia and Mel downtown, and we proceeded to kill 8 hours in downtown Toronto, until a fried's birthday celebration at the Gladstone Hotel's Melody Bar at 10:00 pm that night.

What do you do at the Gladstone Hotel's Melody Bar?

Why, you sing karaoke, of course.


Story time.

When my fried informed me last week that we'd be heading to a karaoke bar for her birthday, I freaked out. In excitement. Do you guys know how much I love karaoke? More than life itself. But, I'm Asian. So clearly, I'm conforming to popular stereotypes. *flashes peace sign*

So, last week, before heading to Toronto, I casually mentioned to Janice that I'd be going to the Gladstone on Friday for karaoke. I was excited to burst into my own rendition of a Spice Girls favourite, you know? Don't judget me.

Except. Janice stared at me blankly once I mentioned the venue.

"You're going to the Gladstone for karaoke?" she asked incredulously, "Uh, do you know how they do karaoke there?"

"No," I was confused. I hadn't been there before. I just assumed it was, you know, normal karaoke. Full of low-key, lovers of everyday music with no hope of ever singing on the right key. Singing off-key, for the win.

"Karaoke at the Gladstone is HARDCORE, Barb!" she complained, "The last time we were there, we were booed of the stage. TWICE."

Okay. I know it was mean. But I giggled. Booed off the stage singing karaoke? I thought she was exaggerating. She tried to convince me that people who sing there are hardcore recording artists, but I brushed her descriptions aside.

I was ready to sing my heart out to old school N'Sync. You know? How could you boo someone off a stage when they're clearly so emotionally invested in classic 90's pop? I wouldn't have the heart to!

So, Alicia, Mel, and I arrived at the Gladstone on Friday night. It was cute. And I was super glad to celebrate my friend's birthday with her, since I missed her parties the last couple of years. And, I wanted to sing, damnit. Quit playing games with my heart. Ten points for getting that reference.

But then, it happened. The first karaoke participant stepped on the stage. She looked like any normal crazy about to burst out in an off-key, heartfelt tune. But.... she didn't.

Oh. She was really. really. really. good.

Um. This woman was talented. And, clearly, had tons of vocal training.

Janice was right.

As people came on and off the stage, singing their hearts out, I blinked. It was like an episode of Glee. They were really good. Almost professionals. I almost expected them to bust out a choreographed dance.

It, clearly, became evident that, uh, my penchant for 90's classic pop wouldn't be well-received by this audience. And, it also became increasingly apparent that we would be booed off that stage like no tomorrow if we even as much as stepped on that stage.

So, dear readers, we didn't.

We didn't make like Brian Litrell. We didn't put Aretha to shame.

Lesson learned? If you want to sing karaoke at the Gladstone, you have to be, uh, a good singer. Whoops.


But, no matter. I'm home in Toronto for another week! God, I love this city. I'll be visiting my old UofT campus libraries again this week to find books for this thesis, so it'll be nice to wander the area again.

It's times like these when I groan at the thought of going back to Kingston next week. Ah well, only a month or so until I can move back to Toronto for good.

Hope everyone is having a fantastic week! READ UP ON POST-ELECTION NEWS COVERAGE! Epic, epic, epic.

"The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves."
- Victor Hugo

"Nothing important was ever achieved without someone taking a chance."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Today Is A Special, Special Day! - PLEASE VOTE! - ELECTION DAY 2011

It's Election Day.

Dun dun dun dun.

Cue Rocky soundtrack.

I really hope everyone has gone out to VOTE today! I said it before, and I'll say it again. We live in a country where we can actually do this. People are risking their lives in other countries (including the one I was born in), praying for free elections. But, WE have this privilege! PLEASE VOTE! If you haven't already, there are still TWO HOURS till the polls close in Toronto (at the time I'm writing this post), so please hit up your local polling station and exercise this democratic right!

It's an important day, my friends. As I write this post, we're electing into power Canada's 41st Parliament. Not only is today important, it's historic. Whatever happens tonight, this election has been tremendously significant. See: the NDP's surge, vote mobs engaging young voters, coalition talk, etc. This election is going down in history books.

Want to read an interesting article? CLICK HERE to read yesterday's Globe article on "How This ‘Unnecessary Election’ Has Changed Canada For The Better."

It actually gives me goosebumps to know that we're watching history tonight.

I stocked up on piles of healthy snacks to happily munch on for election coverage tonight. These are exciting times, folks. I'm so excited, I don't know what to do with myself. No really, I actually don't know what to do with myself. Like, I don't think I've been this excited since I found my favourite Kate Spade purse on sale in New York.

And so, I'm currently surrounded by crackers and hummus (because that's where it's at), about to watch Nova Scotia's election coverage, since Toronto's doesn't start for another two hours. I love Satellite TV, don't you? My only disappointment is that I'm missing the department's Election Party in Kingston tonight. I forgot to mention that I'm back in Toronto for the next few weeks, so I'll be watching tonight's coverage with my mother instead!

CTV's coverage begins at 8:00 pm, and POLLS WILL BE CLOSING in 2 hours in Toronto. I'll say it again, PLEASE VOTE, if you haven't already!

Have a great evening watching history go down tonight, everyone!

"The ballot is stronger than the bullet."
- Abraham Lincoln