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“He’s Adopted.”

That was one of my favorite lines from Avengers, but I have, in a weird sense, felt like I adopted someone. When I first met him, I have to say I did not really warm up to him immediately. He and I are literally from two different worlds. We were like two partially deaf people trying to talk to each other, and most days, this is the case.

However, if it is anything I am learning from this job, it is that even if there is a language barrier, we can still extend love and compassion.

When he first asked me to help take him to the DMV, I thought he would have everything else taken care of. As it turned out, I could hardly catch up on my reading as I had to hold his hand throughout the whole process, translating where I could (a few times via iPhone) general to personal questions about him, and then standing in line with him for everything.

I was very uncomfortable at first, taking some guy I hardly knew to some place, but I could tell he was desperate for someone to help him. However, I am glad I did. I got to understand him a lot better through talking to him and I learned about his situation—-and apparently he enjoys K-pop (which is always a plus). If it is anything I understand and have compassion for, it is those that feel a little out of place…and I can hardly begin to imagine how this guy feels. My early days of growing up amidst a heavily Hispanic community while struggling between my identity as an American or as a Chinese, and even as an age-appropriate girl (I am still VERY tomboy at heart) are nothing compared to what he must be going through. But I will not go into details about his details.

On a side note, it is this compassion for the minorities and those that are different that I hope will carry me far as a teacher one day.

Anyway…after I learned about his situation, my whole perception of him changed. Since he is taller than me and honestly looks about my age or even older, I sometimes forget that he is still a boy at heart. However, seeing him and 16 year-old D. and 19 year-old(?) J. throw ice at each other in the kitchen, and seeing all his weird Asian kwirks/jokes, I see that he is in fact a growing boy in a world that is very different for him.

In some ways, I feel bad for him, but more than that, I feel some innate duty to take care of him and lend him help where he needs it. I could not pinpoint my feelings about him until I described it to my roommate after work yesterday. About a week ago, he whiningly called me noona (Korean for older sister) my whole shift and jokingly insisted I call him oppa (the endearing term used by younger Korean girls on older Korean men). I refused to call him anything but his name, but I do admit that I did feel some happiness in being called noona. It was that same feeling I got when I tutored my (adorably cute) little 4th-grade cousin over the summer, or when my teenage cousin started a girl-talk with me about boys (and we agreed how stupid they were…me telling her that for most guys, that does not change until they are probably 25 or so). Or how I feel when I talk about my good friends who are practically like brothers and sisters to me.

In short: he is like that little brother I never had, as I had described to Steph.

Coming from an immigrant family, I know how hard it is to be an immigrant—-it helps to be in a community with people in a similar situation, but Irvine is NOT such a place. Yeah, the boy is a little over a head taller than me and has been mistaken as my brother before (and maybe to strangers, something else). Yeah, he and I have communication issues. But as cheesy and cliche as it sounds, I believe he is in my life for a reason, just as every pleasant and unpleasant encounter of my life was and is there for a reason. If I were in his situation, I know that I would appreciate the help and compassion.

Admittedly, my greatest worry is that my helpfulness will be taken for something else by him, but as long as he understands that I have some weird, almost filial duty to take care of him and connect him to this American world as a sort of older sister figure, I can continue to help him without feeling too weird about it.

That is that.

On another note…I cannot wait until this quarter is over. So many papers to do, yet so many things I want to get into. Bike rides! My story! Beach trips! Picking up crocheting! Improving my locking! Working out! Having a lazy, make-up free day against a wall in the living room reading books. Lunch with Grandma. Road trip with friends. Nevada/Vegas weekend with friends and family (not kidding).

But for now…I am kind of sad that my 16GB USB was left in the library. I do not trust humanity to be as honest as I try to be, but maybe the person who finds it will do as I did and turn it in to the lost and found.

Pfft. Yeah, right.

At least I did not upload my story onto that, although I have thought about it. I can lose articles, even papers that I worked my butt off for (and have thankfully already turned in). However, I would be heartbroken to know if someone got their hands on something I have been crafting for over a year in head and heart. That would be one of my ultimate losses.

In a strange way…I am thankful for that :) Life rocks when you look at the bright side of all things.

…Except I do believe that I will not find my USB in the Lost and Found when I show up after Memorial Day asking about it. It is sad that I can accidentally leave my car keys WITH my USB and bike lock keys resting on my obnoxious, pink/yellow mixte bike frame during class and still find it after class, but probably will not find it after a few days in the library.

Irvine really baffles me!

__________

2012-05-28, 2:38AM

His Name Was Duane

It seemed like any other Sunday night, albeit a little slow. Okay…VERY slow. It was Mother’s Day but the restaurant was drastically slow unlike the day before. I figured that everyone and their moms (literally and figuratively speaking) chose to come in the day before.

I looked at the time displayed on the cashier/menu screen and it told me that I had about 30 minutes until it was time to close up. The place was empty, and my waitress-self told me that my job was done.

Then came Duane.

From the moment I saw him, I felt an instant connection. As one of the few Americanized, non-Taiwanese workers, a part of me always rejoiced whenever an “atypical” (that is, non-Mandarin-speaking) customer came in to order something. It didn’t help that whenever a gueilo (as we Cantonese would call them) came in, the boss lady always had me talk to them as though they’d order in the most complicated, foreign dialogue.

He was pretty tall, slightly muscular in build and had a hair full of long dreads. In looks and attitude, he seemed like a super-chill person, but throughout our conversation, I had a feeling that my peeps thought otherwise. At one point, R.L. butt into our conversation, rather cautiously behind me, asking me in Mandarin if I liked talking to this customer. I sensed that he and perhaps others wanted this customer out so that they could close soon. Or perhaps they weren’t comfortable with him. I couldn’t blame them…the sad fact is that I imagine my parents would react similarly.

…Anyway, this customer first asked me what time it was and explained that he just came from out of state. Since we had Internet, he ordered a drink and two snacks so that he could use our it since the place he was staying didn’t have any.

Unfortunately, the wifi ended up not working for him, but it was a very uplifting conversation that we had.

I asked him where he came from after he ordered and he told me that he came from South America (forgot specifically where). I thought his English was superb for a foreigner, but then I learned that he was actually Canadian (from Toronto). He was a traveling musician.

The indie-music-loving side of me exploded. I started asking about his music, his style and his life as a traveling musician. I got more excited when I learned that a lot of his funds went back to the Central American music school he started. If he didn’t see the sparkle in my eyes, I’m pretty sure he (and my peeps) heard the ecstatic edge in my voice. This man was living my dream job…AND he was doing it for children!

My first response to his life description was an understated, “Wow, that’s quite a calling.” I asked what he played and he said he started playing guitar early on in church. A few lines into our conversation, I just had to ask, “I hope you don’t mind me by asking, but are you Christian?” He smiled and said yes, and I couldn’t help but blurt back, “Me too! Now I REALLY want to support you!” I realized how weird it sounded, but he just chuckled at my weirdness, saying it was “funny.” Regrettably, he didn’t have any CD’s with him, but upon my request, he left me more info about his music and ministry.

He asked if I was a musician because I apparently “looked” the part, but I confessed to being a newby-of-several-years in guitar. He then gave me the following advice:

  1. JUST PICK IT UP. He asked if I kept it in a case, and then told me to keep it out of its case. When I admitted that it was in a case in my closet, he suggested to keep it by my bedside, and even play it until I fall asleep (apparently, he used to do that).

  2. PRACTICE EVERY DAY. Try for at least 5 minutes, then slowly move up. It all adds up, and a few minutes a day beats a 3-hour drill once a week.

I thanked him for the advice and we parted ways when he couldn’t connect to the Internet and I had to start cleaning up.

Although a slow day, Duane made my day. Even now, I still consider that one of those significant, uplifting moments in meeting a stranger. Like the man at Panera Bread a while back. Like the man in Vegas who, while waiting for his wife to do something, helped my grandfather lift up my mom’s rental and change its spare tire, even offering his own carlifter tool when my mom’s was no good.

There are good people in this world, doing great things. We focus on the negative because bad things make good stories, but there are also lots of good things that happen. Good things as small as just a simple, kind gesture or a talk with a stranger.

Thanks, Duane, for being yet another good reminder of some of the good things and good people in this world. God bless you and the work and music you do. You have no idea how much you’ve inspired me to live for what really matters, and to use the passions and interests God gave me for His grand purpose…and that, I admit, I am still trying to learn.

If anyone’s interested in checking out Duane’s music (it has a reggae and acoustic sound to it)…

www.duanesguitar.com.


2012-05-26, 10:42PM

Off With Her Hair!

Three days ago, I had a family dinner at South Coast and loved my brother’s new haircut. A day later, I got my hair cut from past the shoulder blades to straight up at my neck—-but I kept my long side bangs and had longer hair in the front to frame my round face. In other words, I got an A-line haircut.

Many thoughts ran through my head as my hairstylist David was hacking off my less-than-healthy orange-ish (underlight?) hair from about a year ago. For one thing, I haven’t had a short haircut since fourth grade! I let David know that and he took it into consideration when he cut my hair, refusing to give it an all-out A-line for fear that I might find it too short. And right he was! In the end, it was already pretty short in the back that, if I tried REALLY hard, I might get an inch-long ponytail. He also took my comment about having wavy hair very seriously and did his best to give me what I wanted for my hair while also using his expertise. Ease of maintenance, wavy hair, thin hair, style of cut…all these things were taken into consideration. David was such a darling. Since my haircut, I’ve been working at my new cafe job every day (including later today) that I haven’t had a chance to do anything with or “explore” it but just to clip it all back. Some things I’ve noticed/things I’ve thought about these past two days…

Pros about short hair: *Dries faster *Less tangles while washing = less hair loss and better for my scalp *All split ends and orange hair gone. *Shows my personality: I’m a tomboy at heart despite my mannerisms and somewhat girlish dress. *…Earrings will show through better? *Fun with hair wax?! :D I’ve always wanted to try that stuff with my layers…but my hair was too long *Livelier hair and not a mass of “dry and prickly” (as a friend’s gf described it) stuff hanging off my head.

Cons *Must balance out hair with more feminine clothes and accessories—-time to bring out my collection! *More maintenance in the morning; a few brushes through the hair will NOT do! *Hair in face/mouth more likely if I’m not careful. *Looking 16 (but I got that a lot before anyway ._. ) *Still a little self conscious because of previous bad short hair experience. *Mom and probably Dad will not approve and can’t tell what others will think but heck—-I made this decision for myself!

So why the rant about my hair? It really is a big change. I haven’t had short hair since fourth grade and that wasn’t so pleasant an experience. However, I must say that I started getting bored and a little tired of my long, layered hair in college. I think the split ends and orange hair really got to me these past months, so much so that I began hacking some off myself and ultimately had David do it.

Lately, I’ve been putting myself out there and really striving to be the “true” me, the one I’ve always wanted to be but was afraid to be. I think this hair thing is just an extension of that. I did it already in dress throughout my college years, but I didn’t in action. Something always stopped me from putting myself out there. However, life is just too short and we’re blessed with this one life to really make it our best. Now I take dance classes with strangers, join seminars in public speaking/leadership and work my butt off in a Taiwanese cafe where I put my poor Mandarin to the test. All in 3 weeks.

Forget the past. Embrace the now. Look forward to the future. That’s my goal!


2012-04-22, 3:26AM

Locking the House and Breaking Into It

This first week back has been really great, so much so that I feel like time really flew! I love my classes and I’ve been pushing myself to get more involved this last quarter of undergraduate studies (not counting my credential). I don’t want to regret not getting involved enough, hence I want to make the most of my last months. I’ve also made it a point to get over my own shyness in approaching strangers.

In my positive psychology class, it’s a requirement to do 5 community or campus events that one has never done before. We have the whole quarter to do this and I’ve already partaken in four events this week.

For the longest time, I’ve admired dancers and wanted to dance, but I never really made too much of an effort. I watched some videos here and there, took a hip-hop class and most recently, a social dance one. For whatever reason, I’m really pushing myself to make this dream a reality this quarter and almost using my positive psychology course as an excuse. I figure that if I can get to the point where I can dance in front of people I don’t know, then I can probably talk to them :)

I tried a locking class on Tuesday and found myself both awed and scared of the cipher (dance circle). Everyone seemed to know their stuff when they freestyled, but they weren’t very scary as their dance moves. Maybe it’s the quirkiness or the fact that it’s good for stiff people like me, but that locking style suited me well. Breakdancing on Wednesday was a little awkward…I was the ONLY girl in the class and failed at doing the six-step and helicopter(?) smoothly and didn’t even try the baby freeze. Those power moves just weren’t my friends that night. Ballroom was alright, as we learned the foxtrot, but the locking class had whetted my appetite for street dance that would allow me to freestyle. Yesterday, I tried House and it was like a cardio workout with all its footwork. I have to say that that dance style, as I suspected, suited me more (and I’ve loved the music since my friend Oscar introduced me to it about two years ago). Allison (the instructor) proceeded to invite us to BBoys Anonymous afterwards, and I took the dive to check it out with my friends.

BBoys Anonymous. When I think of that, I think of all these gangsta, hypermasculine Asian dudes that think they’re all that with their hair spiked up like a rooster crest. I think of feminine yet tomboy girls who dance in eyeliner and makeup for whatever reason and let their hair swing with every head turn like some sweaty model. Despite this initial impression, BBA always appealed to me because it was a congregation of dancers, but it honestly intimidated me. I thought this was an exclusive dance crew that only improved already-pro dancers who had to audition to get in. However, I just learned yesterday that it was just a club that met at the ARC from 10PM-1AM every Monday and Thursday. For an $8 fee, you can go there and dance by yourself in the reserved dance room or get some help from fellow members in learning moves of different styles. Despite these BBoys, little ciphers and people that seemed to know stuff, BBA wasn’t too intimidating. There were obviously people of all levels. Heck, maybe not as many as crappy as me, but we all start somewhere. I saw some guys learning the six-step and I had, since the day before, learned all the steps (but cannot execute them smoothly). So everyone was coming from somewhere and people I didn’t know were willing to help out and give pointers. Talk about misconceptions! Everyone here just has a passion to dance and are really nice about helping out so much so that they come at 10 to work and practice until the ARC closes. Admirable!

I know I really want to learn more locking, house and to join BBA. To finally go from dreaming of being able to dance to actually doing it and making myself interact more with strangers. Now really is the time. I know I want to beat back my shyness and grow into a more confident person.

Today, I’m meeting with a public speaking seminar group and this is one more event to record in my positive psychology course. Yet, it is one of hopefully many more things I will get involved with so that I can end this quarter with a bang by fulfilling some goals I had prior to entering UCI :)

After all, we only live once on this Earth in this life. Why shouldn’t we strive to fulfill some goals before we go?

__________ 2012-04-06, 2:06AM