Archive for August, 2010

Bay Area

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Amber Waves of Grain

I took the Amtrak from Fresno to the Bay Area. I wish I could have taken a picture of the early morning sky as the train was pulling out of the station because it was glorious. I was still groggy and trying to figure out seating situation (only elderly and disabled on first level — everyone else second level). But 2-3 hours into the trip, I looked out the window and saw the plains that looked like yellow dancers that moved with the wind. This must be what Katharine Lee Bates meant when she penned the words “amber waves of grain.” Across the horizon, I could almost see “purple mountains majesties above the fruited plain.” Indeed, America the Beautiful.

Purple Mountains ... ?

This was my first glimpse of the waters as the train approached the Bay Area. I love the view of the water, especially in the backdrop of what looked like purple mountains on the horizon. There are fewer things in this world more peaceful than seeing the beauty of nature on a train ride. Visiting the Bay Area just caps it all off for me.

Get-together with the Chens and Lows

One of my stops in the Bay Area was a visit to the Chens. Besides preparing BBQ chicken and ribs, they also ordered an all-time Berkeley favorite: Zachary’s Pizza. It meant a lot to me to see these former partners with whom I worked during my early years in China. Though they have moved on to a different season, I know that, in Him, the bond we have is a deep one, strong enough to stand the test of time.

Another Movie

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Brilliant, Creative, Unpredictable

One has to see the movie to know what the spinning top represents. On a free night, my brother and I watched “Inception” (complete with popcorn and drinks — just like old times) choosing this one instead of the lighthearted and much less intense “The Other Guys.” Thanks to Kristen for holding down the fort!! Much appreciated!

Would I recommend the movie? Yes. I had an idea what to expect going in because of the reviews that I’ve read, although I tried not to find out too much because I knew I’d watch it eventually. It is one of those unconventional films that tries to do too much with the plot twists and actually succeeds. In literary analysis, I teach my students that if an author manages to engage a reader in a “suspension of disbelief,” the book is most likely to be remembered. This movie definitely drew me into its story line which is built on the premise of very abstract notions as memory, imagination, and choice. Because of its complexity, I was amazed that I even understood what was going on. Without giving away too much, I would compare it to “Minority Report,” “Matrix,” and “Memento” (hmmm, all “M” words). Like these movies, there are many layers of ideas to analyze and one is left thinking about plot development and the implications of certain events in the story long after leaving the theater. In fact, we ended up trying to clear up questions and discussing various elements in the film on the way back. If this were a book I was teaching, I would have a grand time deconstructing it with my students.

Other Visitors

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Wanna Play Uno?

It’s always interesting to watch babies interact. It’s almost as though they have their own language. My niece is only two weeks old and I sometimes wonder if she “sees” us, literally. Her eyes are so big and expressive that I sometimes think she really does!

A-pe and A-um Visit

What is it like to have a baby girl in the family? Here’s hoping for another niece in January!

Angkong and Ama Visit

Traveling from far away, doting grandparents with their only granddaughter. Still have to figure out her Chinese name!

Finally in Fresno

Sunday, August 15th, 2010


There is nothing like watching cousins play with each other. In actuality, this picture is precious because it was so hard to get the four of them in one place at the same time; it was a challenge to have all their features showing in the shot. I really like this one after my many attempts. One second after I took this picture, I think they dispersed and played with their own toys!

me and Jackson

This boy has one of the most photogenic smiles that I know. He is so charming and so sweet — irresistible! I’m so glad to see him again. Before he went to bed, he said, “I love you, Koko.” Whose heart would not melt?

me and Nia

I’d like to think that this smile was for me (because I was holding her) but I think it was really luck that we caught this expression … or maybe it was gas. Either way, soooo glad to finally hold my new and only niece!

Eyes Wide Open

One more picture … can’t get enough of her. She is such a cutie!!

Eat Pray Love

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

At the Movies

It was a free Saturday so me and my parents went to watch “the new Julia Roberts movie” … at least, this is how they remember it in the trailers. As for me, I’ve read too many reviews (more like criticisms) to be completely objective. However, I did try my best to simply enjoy it just like I do any movie that I pay $9 to see. This entry is not so much a movie review as it is my general impressions. Would I recommend it? Probably not. I haven’t read the book, and the movie did not inspire me to pick it up, either. Usually, when I watch a biopic, I’m intrigued to go deeper. Not this one.

I did like the cinematography, though! The locations are beautiful — Italy, India, Indonesia (all countries starting with “I” — rather suggestive of the author’s self-absorption). I also like the use of colors in each scene, the presentation of the cultures, and the clothes that Julia Roberts wore in her travels. The food scenes (esp in Italy!) were nicely done as well. It was all pretty much delectable eye candy! I didn’t care much for the script, though. The love stories fell flat for me and I could not completely relate to her travails. Even though I’m supposed to be part of the target audience (given my age, gender, station in life), the message of the movie did not inspire nor move me in any way. And though I am a traveler myself, I do not find the protagonist’s “adventures” to be particularly meaningful. I came out of the movie having been entertained … but just like candy, it was sweet for a time but left much to be desired by way of substance.

California Cuisine?

Friday, August 13th, 2010

The Veggie Grill

My friend Nicole had a 5-hour layover in Los Angeles on her way back to Alabama. Since it’s her first time here, it would be a shame if she spent those hours inside the airport terminal, so I took her out for “California food.” Is there such a thing? Because she had been flying for long hours and still in daze, we opted for something light, so we got salad from The Veggie Grill — the kind of healthy salad one would think Californians would eat. This is what we ordered (according to their menu):

Chop-Chop Chef – Chopped romaine, tempeh, veggie-stake, chillin’ chickin, green onion, roasted corn salsa with chipotle ranch dressing.

Thai Chickin’ – Chillin’ Chickin’, romaine, red & green cabbage, roasted corn salsa, green onion, mandarin oranges, toasted sesame seeds, cilantro, wontons with spicy Thai dressing.

Sweetheart Fries – Scrumptious sweet potato fries, seasoned and served with chipotle ranch.

It certainly was a light meal … and it felt healthy. I liked my salad, but I like my fries salty. I don’t know if it’s something I would eat regularly. I don’t imagine real Californians would either (at least the ones I know). Maybe we should’ve gone to In-N-Out Burger.

Dockweiler Beach

What would a visit to LA be without stopping by the beach? The nearest one to LAX is Dockweiler Beach and it was only an 8-minute drive (courtesy of GPS). By the time we got there, the sun was setting and it was freezing! We would’ve wanted to dip our toes and play along the shore, but we could only stay long enough to take pictures. What’s up with 60-degree weather in Southern California in the middle of August?

Boys will be Boys

And what would a day be without writing about my nephews? I’ve always wondered what would happen if I tried to “sell” the appeal of a Barbie doll or cute Sanrio items to my nephews who are crazy about cars and trucks. We had just come out of a toy store where they reveled in Woody and Lightning McQueen. As we entered the pink world of the Sanrio Surprise store, their excitement was visibly tamed. I tried to give them cute furry stuff animals but they batted them away in indifference. Instead, they busied themselves with the gumball machine outside of the store, probably fascinated by the colors and with trying to get something to eat. I guess boys will be boys.

Faithful Friend

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Julie, Lauren, and Nathan

“How on earth do you manage to have so many friends??” My friend’s incredulous husband asked her once. Her response was memorable to me. She said, “I work hard at my friendships. I make sure I keep in touch with them. I call them, write to them, and check to make sure they are doing alright.” How many of us have this kind of friend? For that matter, how many of us are this kind of friend to others?

Especially in the last couple of years, responding to emails and phone calls has dropped lower in my priority list. I have to admit that my work responsibilities had become more important than my friendships. Today, I visited a friend who did not give up on me even though I’ve pretty much neglected to keep in touch. She keeps writing, insists on hearing from me, and asks me the tough questions. When I left the first time, she was the one who organized the farewell party and assured me of her support even though I’ll be living far away. When she got pregnant (both times), she made sure I met her little ones when they were born. As we enjoyed our avocado burgers and fries over lunch today, I thanked her for her initiative and consistency. It is a treasure to have this kind of friendship — someone who keeps on keeping on. It certainly is an example of what it means to be a faithful friend. Thanks, Julie! :-)

Sunset at Bonelli Park

On the way back from my visit, I dropped by my old stomping ground. I once trained for and completed a triathlon in this park. It was also a place where I’d go running and spend many extended quiet times. Today, there were people jet-skiing, feeding the ducks, jogging, and watching the sunset. It was as peaceful as I remembered it. Nothing like the sunset to punctuate the end of another summer day.

San Gabriel Mountains

Much as I love the mountains of Guangxi in China, there is something profound about the mountains of San Gabriel. Especially against the backdrop of dusk, they are like symbols of my past — high school years, familiar routines and habits, old thinking patterns, random events, significant relationships. Even though I’ve grown older, moved away, and have seemingly become another person, the memories of my past are as rooted as these mountains. As I spent some time admiring them, I’m reminded that there are things in this world that remain the same. There is something reassuring about that.

Lacy Park

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Family Picnic

It was another beautiful summer day. This time, we went to Lacy Park to enjoy the sunshine and the cool breeze. There were many other young families there, as well as dogs on leashes and summer camp girl scouts playing tug-of-war. We brought a mat to sit on and had subway sandwiches, chips, snapple drinks, and fruits for lunch. It was a peaceful afternoon in the park. We met this Indian family who had a one-year-old of their own. It was fun to watch the boys run around the park, and when they saw the playground, they broke loose.

The Slide!

Among their many activities at the park, I had a chance to observe them at the slide. It’s interesting to see how each boy approached it. One was hesitant and asked me to slide down with him but enjoyed it so much that he wanted to do it again. Another was a bit defiant and went down the twisty slide instead of the straight slide — and never went back. Yet another went down gleefully, enjoying the ride and openly asked to slide down again. Such different personalities!

All in a day's work

I hadn’t even turned on the engine and the boys were already fast asleep in their car seat. It was an afternoon of activity. They actually napped a couple of hours on the couch when we got back. If I hadn’t made dinner plans, I would’ve napped, too!

Ama’s 94th

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Co Clan

In keeping with tradition, everyone wore red to celebrate Ama’s birthday. She looked good even though she sat on a wheelchair with oxygen tank in tow. We sat in two tables — one for the older and another for the younger crowd. It was good to see everyone again; there was certainly a lot of catching up among relatives we haven’t seen for a long time. At the end of the party, we took pictures (of course) and Ama gave everyone “ang pao” (red envelope) starting with the great-grandchildren. During the meal, there was some discussion as to how many great-grandchildren she actually has … but I think we lost count. In the party alone, there were two expectant mothers, and we just found out that a cousin in San Francisco is also expecting. Would that we all live long enough to see our great-grandchildren!!

In the past, grandma used to request birthday candles with the number 100 on her cake. This time around, she said she wants the number 120. She blew on the candles with all her might. Knowing grandma, she just might reach it!

Happy Birthday, Ama!

I thought this was a good picture of the family. Grandma looks very happy. Everyone greeted her with a kiss and she acknowledged each one. One funny anecdote I heard that night had to do with her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Even though she seems lucid enough, she can get confused at times. A cousin said to me that when he greeted her, she seemed happy to see him but then she stopped and asked him, “who are you?” I thought it would happen to me too, but she actually looked me in the eye and said my name, though she stopped short of asking me when I was getting married (which she usually does). Thankfully.

Downtown Disney

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Lightning McQueen- every boy's bestfriend

Today, we took a stroll in Downtown Disney. It was a nice and sunny day, perfect for going into Disneyland. Alas, we did not spend the $76 per head for entrance to the park. Rather, we just walked around downtown where the boys enjoyed the Disney store just as well. They were mesmerized by the sheer size and number of toys in the store. I was impressed by the boys’ self-control. They merely looked, and while they could not help but touch the toys, they did not break anything. In fact, they were conscientious about putting them back in their place and saying “bye” to the toys on their way out. Really cute. We made it out without a single purchase. In matching striped shirts, the three of them said goodbye to Lightning McQueen against the window outside the store.

California Adventure

We did not go into the park but we took a picture next to “I” of California Adventure. The boys were really good the whole time we walked around the area. We think it’s because of the Disney atmosphere … not to mention the music that seemed to set the mood for everyone in “the happiest place on earth.”

Rainforest Cafe

For lunch, we went to Rainforest Cafe. The food was just okay, but I think the effort put into the decor makes up for it. We sat under two monkeys that made sounds throughout the whole meal. I thought the kids would get scared but they were very amused, excitedly pointing to them. It “thundered” a few times and those were the highlights for them … I’ve been to this cafe many times, but there’s nothing like experiencing it with kids to appreciate its artistry!