Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

That Time

I've come to find two times of the year to be particularly difficult: 1- the second half of winter and 2- the second half of summer. There is something about staleness even though I know everything is constantly changing.

The summer is flying by as all of the days of the year. 11 weeks of internship at the law firm, check. Summer class, check. Now, the two-week long intensive workshop in documentary making. The truth is that I'm exhausted.

I broke my ankle trying to learn skateboarding in the park. It has been nearly a month since I ran. Inactivity is taking a toll on my mental health. I spend a lot of time alone. Sometimes I'm lonely. Perhaps movement and activity was my way of coping with loneliness. Running, for the most part, is a solo activity. When I run I focus on the way my body feels, my breath, the moving scenery. No music, no headphone, no gps watch. Just me and the road. And that's how I feel when I travel. There is no time for loneliness when all my senses are activated by a new experience.

Some people think I'm addicted to traveling and that I have no way of grounding myself. Frankly, I don't travel that much. And why should there be a conflict between movement and grounding? I am trying very hard to love everything I do. I am trying very hard to be grounded wherever I am. I must admit that during the last week of my summer internship, I fantasized about taking a year off to walk the most iconic trails around the world: Iceland, the Scottish National Trail, Kings trail in Sweden, Mont Blanc, Israel National Trail, Kilimanjaro, Australia, N. Zealand, Patagonia... It would be like Endless Summer except I'll be walking instead of surfing.

It's not uncommon for people to ask me why I'm single. I have no shortage of hypothesis. In short, I simply have not met the right person. Lately I'm starting to wonder what it is like from the other side. I dated all through my 20s and some of my ex-es are finally settling down. When I see their engagement photos on FB I can't help but to notice the lack of similarities between me and the women they eventually choose to settle down with. I am fortunate that no one has ever broken up with me. I was and probably still am, a person with many extremes. People liked my sense of adventure, tenderness, and zealousness for life. Yet underneath all the exotic extremes are the unsettling unknown.

I'm the wildcard. I move. I travel. I change careers. I acquire new hobbies. I meet new people. I grow. I change. I transform. I challenge myself and those around me. That's all great when looking from inside out as a single individual. I had no idea what that looked like from the outside until one day I joked with an ex that I'm going to pack everything up and move to Africa to build schools. He couldn't tell if I was joking. I suppose, to him, anything could be a real possibility with me. It is both a blessing and a curse, a complement and an insult. After all, a wife is the greatest investment a man could make. What kind of man would invest his all in such an unpredictable creature? Clearly not that ex. He's future wife is a Russian beauty with porcelain skin, a smile to melt any man's heart, and hands that never get dirty.

My smile is genuine. It needs not to launch ships as I am here to cast my own sails.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mess

Every morning I see men and women perfectly dressed for the office. The boy at the office showed me his perfect engagement pictures, two good looking you people with labrador retrievers.
No matter how often I remind myself that underneath it all everyone is a mess I still think other people's lives are more perfect, they look more professional, and they have more exciting and sexy jobs with trips to exotic places, frequent flyer miles, and free food.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

All My Time

All my time is mine. That's the beauty of being single, no one to answer to, plan with, or please. I can work as late as I want to, run as slow as it pleases, take classes, take the subway to Chinatown, or just wonder without an agenda or a curfew.

The thought of accommodating to another person is sickening. I'm one of those all or nothing kind of person. I'm either all in or all out. When I'm with someone, that person takes up all of my awaking thought even when I'm absorbed in something else, I'm watching the clock and making plans in my head. It's a stressful and inevitably resentful way to life. I always end up deferring the things I want to do in an effort to please the other person. I never learned how to balance a relationship with my sense of self. I don't know if that's possible. Maybe it will just workout magically with the right person. Maybe in won't. Life is too short to not pursue the things I want.

I'm the master of my time, my thoughts and feelings. I'm responsible for no one's mood other than my own. I can cry if I want to, be angry and be depressed without being questioned and pressured to fabricate proper answers. I can smile, laugh, dance, and be ecstatic for no reason at all without being shoot down. I have no one to rush to see, nothing to justify. I can dress up and stay out late without being subjected to jealousy or suspicion. I can dress down and feel no judgement or any standard to live up to. I'm liberated. This time is mine. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Very Cranky Monday

Lack of sleep turns me into a cranky three-year-old. But this is a small price to pay for a super productive weekend. Some people wonder why I'm constantly running around like a madman trying to squeeze every second out of my life while I wonder why they don't. I operate under the assumption that I'll never have more time than what I have right now. Now is the time. Save nothing for later.

I got done at the ED just before 6am and slept for an hour and half before I dragged my lifeless body to my lifeless office. Unsurprisingly, it was a very frustrating and unproductive day. I struggled to stay awake in the afternoon and to keep my crankiness to myself. I succeeded at leaving the office at 7pm without hurting anyone.

Marc left me a bottle of wine at his hotel, which I said I would pick up after work. The only small problem is that he never texted me the name or the address for the hotel. I walked around midtown for a while but nothing really clicked. Even though I appreciate the gesture of someone bringing me a bottle of wine all the way from France, I'm equally annoyed at the fact I have to go through this trouble even though I don't drink. I'm so tired of people getting me wine I wish there was someway to make a public announcement that I'm allergic! Please stop, just stop buying me alcohol! And what is it with everyone so obsessed with alcohol these days? Having volunteered at the ED for a few months I know see in real life the harmful consequences of drinking go wrong. I remember people calling me out at Criminal Procedure class last semester saying there's not relationship between alcohol consumption and sexual assault. I have yet seen a case at the ED where alcohol wasn't involved. That and my disdain for DUI and drunk people in general makes me not want to go to any place where alcohol is served except at restaurants, which kind explains why I spend all my alone time with my cats.

Ok, before I go further down the deep end, it's time for bed.

A High Productive Weekend








Friday, June 12, 2015

Work and On-Call

On most days I'm a cat lady but every couple of times a month, I become cat woman. Whenever I'm on-call I feel as if I'm cloaked in super power. Tonight was one of those nights. My super power came just as my work day ended at the law firm. I rushed to get in and out of the subway station so I can pick up cell signal. I turned the ringer to highest setting, as I've done obsessively for every volunteer shift.


Cuban Lunch and Movie Night

The most best thing about living in NYC is knowing that anything can happen at anytime, big or small. Today for example, I walked out to a full on salsa band while getting a Greek plate for lunch.
It's such a New York thing to do. I wonder where you would go after eating from the food trucks in Midtown East? We're not talking about the fru-fru fusion or vegan stuff. This is where the real office peeps get their real substantial lunches. A huge plate of grilled pork souvlaki or lamb or combo meal over rice and salad topped with grilled onions and sauces will run you $7 and it's the best $7 you can spend around here. Unless, of course, you go another block down where Jamaican truck dishes out savory oxtail over rice and beans. The lines are long but the service is fast.
I was in the mood for a movie after getting home at a somewhat reasonable hour. Still, after getting my act together it was getting late. Feeling extra heavy lately (not surprising if you see what I've been eating), I willed myself to go out for a walk. I've been trying to pick up running again in the park but this evening I decided to go for a stroll toward the river. Unexpectedly, I walked into movie at the pier.
Next thing I know, there was grass underneath me, the sky with fast moving clouds above me, and a refreshing breeze off the river around me.
Oh, how blissful it is to be here, at this moment. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Walk in the Park

This is one of the easier days of this summer. Once again I got up early enough to walk through the park to work. The morning was sunny and clear, which made commute even more delightful. The view of the city skyline from the park is breathtaking no matter how many times I've seen it.

The work day was hectic like all the ones before it. Fortunately I was able to wrap things up by 7pm and made it out of the office 15 minutes after that in full running gear. That's right, I brought my running cloth with me to try out a new routine. Running on busy sidewalks isn't the best thing but there is something satisfying about literally running out of work, or literally running home. In my book, it's always great to get somewhere on foot. I dropped of the backpack at home, fed the cats, and went back to the park for a very slow 6 mile loop. I felt extremely satisfied to have finished it in just a bit over an hour.

There's a scene in the Spirit of the Marathon, a documentary about a diverse group of individuals training for the Chicago Marathon, where one of the trainees observed another runner doing down the lake shore without a headphone and remarked, now that's out there. While it's true I've always run without a headphone, I'm now taking it a step farther by running without a Garmin. The little gadget was what got me out there on so many runs, to keep track of progress, to keep myself accountable, to showcase my accomplishment on FB. But by now, I know the exact distance for every combination of loops in the park. I don't need extra incentive to run after being chained to my desk all day at work. And lastly, posted exactly one update since May 18th just to announce my withdraw from a social network made up by an undergrad kid with no social skills. That's a topic for another post.

I'm running on my own now, with no tracker, nothing to show for, no one to share with. And it's feels liberating. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Wildly Productive Day

7:00am wake up
8:30am walk to work through the Park
9:00 - 12:00pm work my ass off

12:00 - 1:30 Economic Club of NY luncheon at the Waldorf featuring Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba, curtsey of tickets from the Professor. The Waldorf is exactly two blocks down from my office and it is as classy and opulent as I've imagined. Jack Ma's speech was described as "provocative" by the announcer, while my professor thought he was overly optimistic. But she also said she's never met an business person who's not optimistic during her lifelong career in the securities industry. To me, Jack Ma sounded like a very charismatic leader and his speech was so inspiring I thought about going to work for Alibaba myself.

1:30 - 5:20pm work my ass off

5:20pm got yelled by a partner for the first time and was excited to feel like part of the law firm culture. What might have been a bit humiliating or offensive interaction to some turned out to be rather exhilarating. Being a no nonsense person myself, I like it when others are straightforward with me as well, even if it comes out in unpleasant ways. Growing up surrounded by people with hot tempers, especially my grandfather, I take no offense for being yelled at for good reasons.

5:25pm rush to school for my evening class

6:02 - 7:50pm got to class late as usual and spent half of the class responding to my work email. I need to pay better attention during class.
7:50 - 8:00pm talking to a classmate working as a public defender for the summer about evil of materialism and waste while wearing a Movado watch, a new dress I just bought, and drinking a can of diet coke.

8:50pm got home completely famished and exhausted. Stayed on the phone with UPS on a package from Amazon that was never delivered and then to find out that it probably won't be delivered.

9:25pm insisted on going to the park even though it was late and I had no energy. Didn't feel like running a full loop so I cut across the baseball fields back to the west side.

10:00pm swinging in the dark in Central Park while feeling high on the fact that I'm swinging in the most amazing park in the middle of the most extraordinary city. I've run by this set of swings many times but they were always guarded by protective moms during the day time. Now they set empty at night, waiting for someone like me.

10:30 - 11:45pm get home, make dinner, eat dinner, watch clips of comedy shows on YouTube.
12:00pm shower
12:30pm getting into bed with my tablet to browse dresses on MyHabit
1:15am lights out





Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day at the Beach



  

It was a beautiful day at the beach. I'm happy to have been able to share it with my parents. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Getting to Jersey

With my days being so busy during the week, so many personal things have to be pushed to the weekend. It's true, I can't recall a day when I had nothing to do. Now that my parents are just a train ride away, I can feel more guilty for not being to visit them more often. With something occupying most of my weekends for the rest of the summer, I made a point to spend this weekend with my parents. And even that wasn't easy.

Somewhere there's an ad (maybe for StreetSmart) that in NYC, having a washer and dryer is considered making it. That can't be farther from the truth. Laundry days have always been such a big ordeal from making time to do it, to carrying ridiculous loads up and down stairs, and scheduling bunch of other chores to make good use of waiting time between cycles.

This laundry ordeal drastically intensified with my new work schedule, which is in total conflict with the schedule for the laundromat. We became like the sun and the moon, never seen each other face to face. The weekend is now the only way to catch up on house chores. Trying to start the weekend with my parents as early made me feel like preparing to charge into a battle field.

Things don't get easier. Time don't get more plentiful. There's a time to work, a time to play, a time to speed up, a time to slow down. There is no balance. There is no way to do everything well without descending into blend mediocrity. There's nothing wrong with being average. There is something not right about not taking advantage of whatever is presented in front of you. This is my time to take charge, work, and speed ahead. Times like this made me feel so proud of myself for having taken every opportunity to travel in the last two years. It wasn't easy but it was necessary and worthwhile. The same applies now, just in a different lane. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Late Night Running

Yesterday a police van pulled up next to me while I was running on the east side of the park. I thought maybe he was going to tell me to wrap it up since it was getting late. But instead, the police driver gave me the thumb up and shouted, "you've got this!" 

I knew this day would come sooner rather than later. That's why I tried to take every advantage I could to run in the park when I could, in the middle of a beautiful day while everyone else was working. Now I'm the working one and running has to be relegated to a some-time event at night.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Long Day

I decided to walk home after a long day at work. It was a chilly evening. I had no idea Grand Central lit up like that at night. What a place! We make small steps everyday hardly seeing any progress. Yet one day when we look back, it's astonishing how far we've come.

Tonight looking back at the last two years brought a smile to my face. It has truly been an amazing time in my life even though I started my 30s thinking that everything exhilarating had already been done. It's good to prove myself wrong. And what started as a vague concept in my mind is now materializing in front of my eyes.

In the last two years I studied one of the most demanding disciplines, volunteered for a worthy cause, traveled to fascinating places with extraordinary beauty, and worked in respectable companies. Two years ago I worked at an office in the soybean capital of the world. Today I work for one of the best law firms in my field in the most amazing city in the world.

I've come a long and there's a long way ahead. It hasn't always been easy yet I've loved every step.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

From a Taxi

Running late this morning I had to take a taxi to work. Unexpectedly, the driver took us though the Park to 6th Ave. How horrifying it was to see my normal running route now only from the window of a taxi.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Signings

From Left Forum to BookCon, it's the city for the busy minds.

Kristen and her daughter H are visiting from Toronto and are staying with me this weekend. I came across BookCon this morning and stopped H on her track. Being an avid reader, H immediately became interested and was thrilled to see a list of well known writers attending the event. I on the other hand, never heard any of the writers. Later on while I was waiting in line for an autograph, I mentioned to the woman next to me from Connecticut that I was only tagging along with some friends and that I don't actually read much. She looked a bit astonished. It didn't occur to me until I came home that I actually do spend much of my time reading, for law school.


I remember being an avid reader when I was H's age in high school. I spent all my time outside of school either reading in my room or practicing the guitar. I wasn't popular. No one ever called to invite me to parties or outings over the weekend. I recall being depressed over summer break haviing to spend all my time home, alone. I didn't even have cats back then. Thank god I'm not a teenager anymore.

I can't remember the last time I read a fiction. Out of all the names listed for the event, I recognized none of them. The only thing that looked remotely interesting was a panel discussion called "Telling Women's Stories." And much to my surprise, Candace Bushnell, the original Carrie Bradshaw, was one of the four panelists. And the even bigger surprise was the fact that the real Carrie Bradshaw was infinitely more fabulous, real, strong, passionate, and outspoken than the one portrait on the HBO series (which I love, as evident by the quotes on the right panel of this blog).

The show was glamorous, hilarious, sometimes provocative and other times soulful. Surely the show was edgy at the time but for the most part, it was entertaining. The real Carrie/Candace is someone outspoken with ideas of her own, a true modern woman, a feminist, if you want a proper label. She had no interest to regress back to girlish talks on cosmopolitans and fought back whenever the moderator tried to steer the conversation into the realm of glitz and superficiality.

Candace wanted to showcase that writing is a creative process, the fact that writers equipped with a rich imagination need not to write from real life, and that all the glitz is only a delivery mechanism to bring people into the conversation and to alter women's perspective even just a tiny bit. Candace pointed out that women have been told what and how to think for so long that they desperately need a perspective and voice of their own. And the traditional happy ending centered around a male character need to kick the bucket. An applause broke out when she said "your happy ending is with yourself." I too applauded. There's a woman I can look up to. Underneath the dresses, the shoes, the parties, there is a mind, a voice, and a calling demanding to be heard. I hear you.



Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Night Out

Guy at the bar: can I buy you a drink?
Me: Maybe
Guy: What would you like?
Me: Just cranberry juice
Guy: Are you pregnant?
Me: Not yet
Guy looking awkward and startled.
End of interaction 

My friend Serena convinced me to go out with her to a singles event at a bar near Time Square. I don't think I've gone to a bar or a club since I started law school two years ago and I rarely went out even before then. I can't remember the last time I felt so self conscious over the way I was dressed.

The event was a bust but at least it got us out. We took a short walk to Time Square before Serena took the PATH home. As for me, I didn't feel like getting all made up for nothing. It took a while for me to remember the one bar connection I made when I moved to the city. He couldn't meet up with me last night but told me to use Leila's name to get into the VIP Room. So I did. For exactly 8 minutes.

I got all kinds of cat calls on the way there. Guys screaming from car windows, stopping me on the street. I remember at least one guy asked if he could touch my butt. It's a stark contrast from the lack of attention I get in my daily environment (except occasionally I notice people check out my behind as I run in the park). None of it bothers me, nor do I find it flattering.

The bar/club scene is not for me, nor am I missing out on anything. It's like trying to smoke cigarettes after years of working at a tobacco factory. Whatever it is I long for doesn't exist in those places. I know because I've been there and done that.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Too Right for the Left

The great thing about living in NYC is the myriad of events that take place here on a daily basis. The Left Forum took place at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, including1300 speakers and 400 events. It doesn't take an anarchist conference for me to know that I'm too right for the left (and too left for the right). But when the opportunity presented itself I couldn't resist but to be the right-est person at the conference. Unfamiliar with many of the topics from Palestinian issues to neoliberalism, I decided to check out a couple of the seminars. Although the one on online activism was borderline interesting, the talk on 21st Century warfare was a huge disappointment. There's nothing worse than people intentionally spewing false information for politics. I walked out of the room after the first speaker and found respite on the roof lawn. It was a beautiful day. Just because we live in politics doesn't mean I should let it drive more of my life than it already does.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Here Comes the Train

9 am to 9pm. Time flew. No time for lunch. No time for a cup of tea, which was good since I had no time to go to the bathroom either. I thrive on new challenges. We'll have to see how long this one last.

The view of Park Ave from above is equality breathtaking at all hours of the day. It was already dark by the time we stepped out of the office building. We walked to the Lexington station together in a light drizzle, tired, but still in good spirits. We had worked on a rush project together in the afternoon. It was actually a very enjoyable experience.

The station was full. We joined the wait. Someone sung their rendition of Here Comes the Sun. When the E finally came the lyric changed to, "here comes the train, here comes the train, and it's going downtown, train, train, train, here it comes..."

Exhausted, I still made dinner. Now to bed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

First Day

Partner: How were your finals?
Me: Great! I answered with a huge grin on my face.
P: Great?
M: Yes.
P: They were great?
M: Yes, they were great.

The office is simple. One floor of an office building in midtown east with one side looking up Park Ave and the other looking down to Grand Central. The wide white doors with large glass panels for each office remind me of ocean side cottages on Cape Cod.  I share an center office with the another intern. We have no windows but at least no one is staring us down in one of those fishbowl open office setting that has swept the nation. My unfortunate access to a Keurig is offset by my lack of break time to actually access it, thus saving more things to be added to the landfill. 

I took sometime to clean my work station and assemble a tariff book. I'm one of those old school nerds addicted to the tactile feel of paper. There's certain kind of satisfaction in literally getting my fingers under the right numbers. Perhaps the only way to feel the things they represent a world away.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Changsha

I arrived at 2am last night and got up at 7:30am to have breakfast with grandpa.

I've been thinking about you. How you were like when you were here. What you saw. What you ate. What you thought of this place. I don't know anyone else who's been here (other than that guy I ran into while kayaking on the Hudson on the UWS last summer. He and his ex wife adopted a daughter from Hunan. What wonderful people.).

I don't know how in this day and age someone could just disappear without a trace. Perhaps that speaks to the fragility of our relationships these days. Two people could share the most intimate thoughts at one moment and be completely gone from each other the next.

Sometimes I wonder if I was made to live in this era. Mom said I've always been a sensitive child. She could tell even when I was an infant. That's why she was so protective of me. What mother wouldn't protect her child. But the longer I live the more I realize what she meant. I didn't know I needed to be protected.

It's too late to go back now now, after I've lived the thrill of it all. I can leap off a cliff, jump out of a plane, but there's nothing more exhilarating than to put myself out there time after time, shield-less, defenseless, over the ledge, without a safety cord. That's life. That's love, the ultimate frontier. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sick in Seattle

The unplanned overnight stay because I'm deathly ill. I can't handle the thought of being sick on the 10+ hour flight and having to deal with another layover in Shanghai. Thankfully Delta is offering free hotel vouchers. Time to rest and try again tomorrow.

48-Hour Countdown after Exams



Saturday, May 9, 2015

Last Concert

When the ticket office called me a week ago about another year of subscription to the Art of the Guitar series I said I'd think about it. Going to guitar concerts is tough. Every time I go I think that's it, no more. And tonight is the perfect night for the last guitar concert...in a while.

To hear the Assads on Humphreys playing Albaniz and Granada is like swallowing love wrapped up in sentimentality soaked in nostalgia. I kept wiping away tears. And when Nadia joined them with Piazzolla I just lost it. 

Music school didn't teach me how to play. It taught me how difficult it is to master something, really master something, anything. Tonight's performance, a celebration of 50 years playing together, is the mastery of all masteries. I'm so happy to be here. 

While reading the program before the concert I noticed Humphrey and Verdery used to live at 120 W 72nd St, less than a block from my apartment. For some reason I find that endearing. Maybe it's because I have a Humphrey too. In fact, when I visited Tom at New Paltz years back, one of the Assads' guitars were in the shop. I have beautiful memories of the ranch. 

D'Rivera joined the duo on the clarinet towards the end of the program. He's such a delightful character, a comedic relief. He said how honored it was to play with the brothers on their 50th anniversary. He'd kill them if they didn't invite him. "And you know what's the problem with Yo Yo Ma? Cuban envy." 

When the concert finally ended no one wanted them to leave the stage. It was a full house, standing ovation, the loudest cheers, we sung happy birthday together. It was a moving experience. They played Farewell for the second and last encore. I closed my eyes for a second and remember playing that piece myself at the George Eastman garden. What a beautiful and memorable evening. 

I texted Nick afterwards. He sent me a picture of North Shore. I sent him a picture of me and Odair, holding hands with a giant grin on my face. "This is great!" he texted back. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Walk in the Park

Because everything looks beautiful under the right light

Monday, May 4, 2015

Exam

The first exam of the season. Are we ever ready for the things we must do?

Herlin texted me last night out of the blue asking how's school coming along. He's at MP again, as always, he likes to text me when all the tourists have retired to their hotels. I told him my exams are coming up. He said he'll ask strength for me when he goes to MP tomorrow.

And then there's Jane, who always lit a candle for me whenever I have exams. She's been doing that since I met her a year ago. At first I thought she was joking but she wasn't. I feel comforted knowing she's thinking of me. I'm no longer that tree in the forest. I forgot to remind her of my exam schedule. When I finally did texted Jane on my way to school this afternoon she replied, I know your exams are coming up so I've been preparing. It brought a smile to my face. 

We're never quit ready for the things we have to do. But that's ok. We must simply go on and do the best we can. And when we are lucky, we have people like Jane and Herlin, who cheer us on and let us know that we're not alone. Everything I achieve I attribute to those who hold me up, challenge me, believe in me, and love me even when I achieve nothing at all.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Evening




The bravest thing I've done the day before a final exam. I danced, for hours, until the sun fell below the horizon, until the moonrise. It was the first warm day of the year. An embrace from a stranger has never felt so good. The perfect antidote to that ever present anxiety.

Sunday Morning


Saturday, May 2, 2015

No Longer Wishing

I no longer wish for a different life. I realized that when I saw a friend posting an article from Cosmo on FB about someone who gave up the corporate life for a shed on a tropical island. I used to read those articles and secretly wished it was me who got off the grid. I fantasized about different jobs, different cities, different travel destinations, etc. Those kind of daydreams didn't make me happy. They didn't inspire me. Instead, I felt trapped and discontent about everything around me and everything I was doing. Spinning out of control, I hastily moved from one job, one home, one thing to the next. The more I did the less satisfied I felt. It was a vicious cycle.

I haven't thought much about that since... well, since I got away from that office job two years ago. I guess that doesn't say much. Only time will tell. Russell Brand said "drugs and alcohol are not my problem - reality is my problem." Recovery is never over. I like the way things are not because I want them to say that way. I still dream about different things when I go to sleep at nigh. But I don't wish for a different life. If and when things happen, they will happen in this life. It's the only one I have. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The start to a very long way home:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Finals

I love final exam period. Like a puzzle, we gather the individual pieces during the semester and it's the final exam that forces us to piece things together to see where they belong, how they interact with one another, and what the big picture looks like. It's an unfortunate linear and sequential aspect of learning. The process is grueling under pressure and time constraint. Sometimes it comes together gloriously and sometimes a complete mess. But that's life. I love the idea of it all. And when I manage to put aside my anxiety I actually enjoy the process. 

Learning isn't about scoring exams. I've learned many things out of intellectual curiosity. However, focused learning, like many other processes, is a result driven one in the sense that it's the concept of a result, an end goal, or a destination that triggers the start of a journey. As it turns out, the end is the catalyst for a beginning that could leads to a myriad of different endings. The desire to run a marathon got me started on running. More than two years later I still have not yet ran a marathon but I have done many other runs along the way. And when I do run that marathon it will not be the end. Because you see there are no endings or beginnings. The idea of going somewhere, doing something gets us started. And from there, the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Update

Now I see, with every trip my heart expands a little, I learn to love a little more and the world gets a little smaller. It happens with every breath but in such miniscule amount. I'm checking updates on Nepal constantly as if something would change. I understand the logistics of it all. Everything takes time. I called Ganga. He sounded calm. They slept inside last night despite yet another aftershock. I started to tear up when he told me not to worry.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Volvo Tango


It's only a matter of seeing it. Because life is beautiful. 

The Call

Ganga called me this morning to tell me he's ok. I could hear his wife and son in the background. The boy said hello too. He sounded like he was in a good spirit. Ganga told me their apartment building was damaged so they're sleeping in a tent on the street. All of the stores are closed so they have no access to food and water. I felt terrible. There was nothing I could do, nothing I could say. I can only hope that supplies will get to them soon and that they stay safe in the meantime. I told him I loved him and his family. I told him to take care. I know he will. This is not the time for doubt.

Earthquake

I woke up to the devastating news on the earthquake in Nepal this morning. I haven't done anything all day except for a brief walk down the street and to the church.

I read every article about the earthquake, every FB updates. I recognize every image coming through the news, the people, the roads, the buildings, the temples, even the hospital. I walked by Bir hospital on the last day on my way to the post office and stood across the street from the Dharahara tower to wait for the bus with Ganga. I recognize the images from EBC, what the avalanches look and sound like from afar, what snowy condition must look like to prevent the helicopters from going in. I know the route through the ice fall must be completely destroyed with people stranded along the way and on the higher camps. I can see the valley cloaked in a heavy layer of dust stopping air traffic from clearing the high ranges surrounding Kathmandu.

I thought about you, what you must be thinking, the people you know there. I thought about the people I know there, what their conditions are like. Ironically, Ganga texted me last night minutes before the earthquake. I was so tired from studying Securities Regulation all day I didn't respond to him until much later. I haven't heard from him all day. When I stare into space I see him and his family. How awful for me to not have responded to him. Through FB I found out the two owners of the trekking companies are ok. I read about the Google executive. Of course, it reminded me of you. Why can't they deploy the balloons? The people on the ground have no phone, wifi, or power. I can see the faces of the people I met on the trail. I wonder if they're ok. And the people in Pohkara. There is hardly any news about anything outside of Kathmandu and EBC.

There is so much devastation I wish I could hug you. Times like this makes me feel so inadequate. I wish I could help, do something, even just to hold someone's hand. Maybe it's me who needs a hand to hold. I secretly hoped maybe you would send me a note. I wish I could hug you, another person who understands what it is like to be there, another person who in some ways understands me.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I'm Spoiled

When people hear that I'm an only child they often remark, oh, you must be spoiled. I always resisted such inference by the fact that we didn't have much or I had spent a substantially amount of my childhood away from my parents. Really. I was spoiled.

When I was in second grade, my father had already moved to West Berlin. Mom and I lived out of her office at the medical school, using a big tall drafting table as our bed each night and hid away our blankets in a closet each morning. Afraid that I would fall off the edge, mom made sure I slept between her and the wall. The table seemed big to a 7-year-old but now I wonder how many nights mom stayed awake hanging onto the edge. We didn't have a kitchen so we often ate from the cafeteria at the school. Mom felt bad about that so she got a little electric coil stove to make simple meals for us every now and then. Mom went to medical school, practiced medicine and made a measly income as the assistant director of admissions at the best medical school in China. Despite everything we didn't have, mom spent two third of her monthly salary on my dance lessons. She would take me to dance class every Saturday morning. I still have my bus pass as the only memento from that period of my life.

I loved music. I loved dancing. I loved performing. And I loved the fact that mom always took me out to eat something afterwards. KFC was just starting to gain popularity in China and it quickly became my favorite. I loved fried chicken and mash potatoes. I still do but not because they are luxury items as they were back then. I would get so hungry from the dance lessons that I'd devoured my food as soon as mom sat the tray down. It took me weeks to finally realize mom wasn't eating. In fact, she only purchased one meal each time we went to a KFC. It was for me. When I asked why she wasn't eating mom said she wasn't hungry. That was the last time I demanded to go to a KFC. The week after that I asked to go to a noodle shop. We both had noodles.

I know my childhood was filled with stories like that I just don't remember most of them. In some ways the less we had the more spoiled I was.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Grand Central

People ask me what Russian subway stations are like having heard that they're especially grand. They're palatial domes like cleaner and less ornate versions of the Grand Central Station, proletarian on full display. It's strange how something so open could feel so restrictive. There's something sterile about them. For me, I love the filth, the rush, and the roughness here. It makes me feel human.


I still miss you. I think about our conversations, what it was like to walk with you in those hallow halls. The way you watched after me like the night Kevin pulled the blanket over me thinking I was asleep. People who seem so careless on the surface can have such a sensitive and caring side to them. It's hard not to fall in love when you see that. If only you could see the you I see.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Scallions

On my way to a the Chinese supermarket in Flushing I passed by an old Chinese man holding a plate of sad looking scallions. Or was it him who looked sad. Or were those chives? Whatever those were I didn't want them. I despise scallions. The look of the old man haunted me. After I walked into the store I thought maybe I should do something on my way out. Then I thought, what if I miss him? I promptly walked back to ask him how much the scallions were. "$1 a bunch. $2. $2" I handed him $2. 

I didn't want the green things. For a second I thought about refusing them. Then I noticed that a boy came over to help him to put the greens in a recycled plastic bag for grapes. I saw his hands were shaking. My heart dropped. I froze. I knew I had to take whatever they hand me even if it was the last thing I did. That was my purpose. More than the $2, I was there to make him feel purposeful. I suddenly realized that no matter how hard things get most of us still want to feel like a useful member of our society.

Then I remembered what you had told me about your impression of the poor people in China, how they always looked for constructive things to do or make little things to sell to make ends meet, how they didn't just sit around and complained about their situation or caused disruptions to others. I've never made such distinction myself until today. You're right. It's a different outlook on life. There's this really strong sense of dignity and respect that runs thousands of years deep. I now recall seeing old ladies in Suzho selling bracelets made from flowers taken from trees nearby. I should have bought a few. They were beautiful and fragrant.

I wanted to do more for the man but I didn't know what. Would he have refused a donation? When I passed by him again later I saw another woman doing the same double take I did. I watched them for a few seconds from across the street. She looked like a real fan of scallions. There is hope in this world no matter how dismal things may seem at times. We have to believe that to get by.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Self Hatred

The retreat came and went. I haven't sat since I came back. I haven't ran in weeks. Something is brewing inside of me. I had mistakenly thought it was PMS. I feel anxious, restless, and agitated.

While other students looked for jobs I traveled half way around the world. And even though law school is demanding, I don't study all that much. Most of my time isn't spent on law related stuff. I half assedly applied to a few places for a summer internship not because it was the right thing to do. It gave me the answer people asked for. Oh, yes, I applied, I'm still waiting to hear back, etc.

I knew this day would come. Two years ago I took myself off the track for a restart. Now time's running out and I find myself going back to the same track again, but this time an even more soul sucking version. I feel a deep sense of self hatred coming up.

It's taken me nearly 32 years to realize what societal pressure looks like. Everyone around me cared more about my employment than I did. They asked me about it constantly, some sent me multiple listings to apply to. One professor expressed her concern so often that I had to avoid her glance. My parents, on the other hand, avoided talking to me about school or career related issues knowing that I'm under a lot of stress as it is.

There was no joy when the notification came that I was going to be employed over the summer. I'm not ungrateful. I know how difficult the legal market is these days. It's no small feat to get a well paid internship at a reputable law firm. In someways I was lucky, as I've always been. I didn't jump up for joy. I had already mentally prepared for an unemployed summer days prior. The news did bring a sense of relief, 30% for myself financially and 70% for everyone else concerned for me.

My mind automatically formed two lists: one for the people I need to inform and the other for the people I need to thank. There are people who expect certain things of me and people without whom none of this would happen. There's an overlap on that van diagram but I'm nowhere to be found in the picture. I'm that lifeless body being dragged by the current.

I went up to see my professor before I even called my mother. She said, "that's great news. I was really worried about you. Now all the fellows are employed." I felt an obligation to put her worries to rest. Everyone else kept saying congratulations upon hearing my news. While they were happy for me I was not. I'm that an unwilling bride being sent off to a loveless marriage. I wanted to scream, no, no, I'm not happy, this is not what I want! But that would seem ungrateful. Even if I felt that way about my employment there's no need to punished the concerned bystanders who genuinely cared about me. Besides, no one is sending me anywhere. I have accepted it all by acquiescence.

Later in the afternoon I did call my mother. I know she's proud of me. She even said so. More than that, I know she understands and sympathizes with how difficult things can be, mentally and emotionally. She knows that I'm strong. She knows that sometimes I take on too much and push too hard. She knows because she was there herself. She knows the pain, the long days, the lonely nights and the struggle of never ending self criticism. She knows because I'm her daughter. Her pain is mine and my struggles are hers. This is the deep bond between mothers and daughters.

 So there's nothing to do except to see what's in front of me and respond appropriately: sit, run, read, one breath, one step, one word at a time.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Last Station

I visited my parents for the first time since they arrived in NJ last weekend. It was nice seeing them here even though everyone was stressed out about different things. I took the 2:15pm train back to Penn Station. It was a sunny day. As the train moved backwards I thought about the 4-hour train ride with you. The second one, of course. We were too busy talking and laughing during the first one I had no idea whether the train moved forward or backward or if it was moving at all. I wonder if one day I will be able to take a train ride without the thought of you. Only time will tell.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Another day in the park

I like the fact that I start my runs where the marathon finishes. Every time I run up Cat Hill I can see hundreds of runners coming down. When I approach the flat stretch before Engineer's Gate I see Deena and Meb passing me in the opposite direction. And for all the steps in between I am reminded what a privilege it is to be here. Someday, years from now, I hope to come back and remember that I used to run here, and that it was a beautiful time in my life.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Catching Up

I talked to Rose for hours last night, recounting what happened in Russia. You're luck to have a friend but even luckier to have a cheerleader and a confidante. She was there with me, everyday, through all the excitement and agony. I emailed her the night things fell apart. She responded immediately like a paramedic even though I told her she didn't even have to read the email.

Last night she said, "what you wrote was so beautiful. When I read that I thought, that's it, that's exactly how it was supposed to happen." My heart dropped a little. I thought the same as well. What it is like to win the jackpot and have it taken away the next day.

I couldn't run much today. For some reason I'm feeling minor shin splits. I walked a small loop in the park. No green yet. I'll be sure to watch for it. Nature's first green is gold.
Went to a jazz show with Aparna. I went to the same music school with the drummer and recall seeing him play at Java's ten years ago. Ice cream at Herald Square. Catching up after a long winter.

I miss you still. Heart heals. It takes time.
Miss You

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pastries

I went to a fancy breakfast meeting this morning at the oldest clubhouse in NYC by Wall Street. The servers told me they were going to throw away all the leftovers. I asked for a box and took a dozen pastries with me. I hate wasting food. 
I could have left the box at the student lounge at school, where it would have been emptied within minutes. But instead, I carried it around with me all day knowing they could better serve someone else. I didn't know who but I knew I was going to see him at some point.

Binna and I went out for Vietnamese food in Chinatown after class. I wasn't hungry but I like her company. We come from very different upbringings but both feel strongly about women's issues. She asked why don't I take a women and the law class. I told her I'm no expert on the abortion debate. I just had two.

We didn't leave the restaurant until it closed at 10:30. I tried to shield the box from the rain, then onto the D train to Columbus Circle. I walked back and forth on the platform but didn't see anyone in need.

Finally the C train came. I stepped into the car and immediately noticed everyone stood at one end while two homeless guys sat at the other. I sat down across from them and handed one guy the box. 

Binna had drew a picture of an uterus on the top so I could show her what an IUD looks like. The guy was suspicious at first but he devoured a danish as soon as he opened the box. I'd like to think he wasn't hungry. 

He then woke up the other guy and told him that I just gave them a box of pastries. The other guy seemed weak and didn't respond. The first guy tired to pass over the box while pointing at me. 

I watched as the other guy struggled to take the box with shaky hands. "I got it. I got it" he said under his breathe. My stop came just in time for me to still say good night with a smile. 

I wish I has taken all of the leftovers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On Travel

Traveling in my 30s have become very different from that of my 20s. I don't know if the shift was a deliberate one but I do recall the feeling of wanting to get more or something different out of my trips. I wanted to do and feel rather than merely to see.

In my earlier traveling days, going places was about sightseeing. As much as I tried to take local transportation and eat at local establishments, I was still a passive observer. I went on photo expeditions and took beautiful shots. There are great photos in my flickr account from four years ago with my SLR. In the Himalayas, I took photos with my phone and even that was limited by access to recharge the battery. I did meet people and fall in love on the road in my 20s. But they were more coincidental. Things happened to me. They happened to me often. But I can't really take credit for them other than being at the right place, the right time and open to the possibilities. It was intoxicating.

Now traveling is becoming less focused on the destination. My to-do list no longer resemble that of Rick Steve's top ten. As I spend lesser time preparing for what to see before my trip I started to see more on my actual trip. It's easier to let go of other people's expectations. As I become less bound by the expectations of my own, I started to see more extraordinary things in the ordinary.

I now actively reach out to people to build lasting friendships. I've become more connected to people I meet on a spiritual level. Of course, that's predicated on me becoming a more spiritual person in my 30s. 

I was always authentic. But as I learn and grow I gain more realization into what that means and how to share it with others. I'm proud to say that I've graduated into a new class of travelers. And it wears well.

Perhaps traveling isn't about getting to a particular destination. But rather, the destinations serve as little markers, like buoys, on this aimless course to only one end we call life. And what a beautiful course it is. 

P.S. I had a dream about you for the first time last night. You had moved to Toronto like you said you wanted to. You were here visiting as a friend. You called your mom over the phone just as you were about to leave. She said she was going to Montreal. You asked why she didn't say something earlier so you could meet her there instead of going back to Toronto. I offered to drive you to Montreal (I thought I still had my Bug). You looked at me and asked, are you sure? I said, yes, this is what you do for people you like. And then I woke up. I would do anything for you.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sleep

I slept for 12 hours, not counting the two classes I slept through at school before I came home. I guess I was tired.

The soprano that terrorizes the neighborhood, reason 86 why I love this place.

I met with Dieter for breakfast yesterday. It was good to catch up with him. I love seeing people from ESM. They remind me what I consider as the best of myself. And it makes me happy to see good things happen to good people.


Later in the afternoon I attended a school event for scholarship donors:
Me: should I talk to people?
Gabe: No, you don't fit the profile.
Me: damn, I used to be able to stay normal for a lot longer periods of time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

3:33am

I wake up in the middle of the night, with the thought of you, as if some catastrophic event had just happened. The cut so deep I can feel it with every expansion of my heart, open and close, open and close. I wonder if if you think of me sometimes. But for the most part, I wonder how long it will take for this to pass. This too shall pass, just as everything else over time. And I wonder if I will ever feel the same again.

You talk about the space. I was there, for a moment, beyond the limits of gravity, there was expansive weightlessness, infinite possibilities. It was beautiful. I wish you were there. I can't imagine how it's possible to come back to earth after that. But here we are, back into our own little earthly bodies, carrying on with our own separate little lives.

You said I looked at you like a little kitten. I have no regrets. I looked into your eyes every second I had, even when they were not looking back at me. Even now when I close mine I can see yours.

I don't know how long I will remember. Someday I'll be able to think of you just as a fond memory. Today is not the day.

Gabe said, "you only fall in love with people you can't see again. I have no sympathy for you." 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Moral Standard

Anna: "Isn't it a shock when you find out that someone has such a low moral standard after you've held a high regard for them for many years?"
Me: "No, remember to keep a low standard."
Anna: "You? Speaking of low standard? How can that possibly be so?"
Me: "I've done some pretty bad things and I can't expect others more than what I can attain myself."
Anna: "What about that traveling guy? He was pretty great."
Me: "He was married."
Anna: "Yeah, yeah, we know he wasn't for you but he was a good guy."
Me: "He was with me."
Anna: "I don't understand."
Me: "He was married and he was with me."
Anna: "oh, you guys were together?"
Me: "Yes"
Anna: "oh, I didn't know that. Did he say he was in an open relationship?"
Me: "No, his wife was eight months pregnant."
Anna: "Well, at least he was honest."

NYC Half

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rainbow Tutu


If I can't PR I have to up the fun factor. Who could be happier than this girl running through Time Square? 13.1 miles went like a breeze even though I haven't been training all winter. It was exhilarating. I wish every day was marathon day.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Coming Home

Maybe one day I will able to sit through an entire return flight without crying. This wasn't that flight. For a while I sobbed like a baby and I'm ok with that. I don't want to say that this was the worst trip but it was pretty difficult. I had forgotten the immeasurable loneliness of being in the presence of someone who is not present. And this combined with being on the road was just insufferable. I felt sad, alienated, restricted, and even imprisoned. I wasn't free to express myself, to communicate, and to generate an exchange.

I felt instantly uplifted when the plane touched down at JFK. I could breath again! What a relief! On some innate level this is the land of free and there's nowhere in the country that exemplifies it more than here in NYC. I'm among my people, fellow believers. Anything is possible is our tenet. I realized that freedom and possibility isn't just in our ability to choose and pursue the things we want but also the fact that life, in whatever form it comes to us, could flourish here. I could feel the limitless potential of life in every cell of my very limited body as if it's about to explode. I'm home.

You can dislike me. You can reject me. But you can never tell me that nothing is possible for I am an eternal optimist. I believe in possibilities, not of my own construct but in the boundless force of life. Like the seed of a dandelion, may I stay light and nimble so that it could take me far.

P.S. On the question of whether or not I've been brainwashed by American society on the idealism of freedom and possibilities I must answer to the negative. The fact is that America doesn't make people hopeful but rather, people who feel hopeful come to America. Perhaps there's a positive reinforcement feedback loop. Studies have shown that individuals, who congregate with others with similar beliefs, become more fixated or extreme in their beliefs over time. For hundreds of years, people, including my parents, immigrated here because they believed in possibilities. They left everything they knew and built a new life here. And their decedents, including myself, feel the same way by ways of genetic inheritance and bearing witness to the transformation of life. Don't get me wrong, I can easily fill up a day's worth of complaints about this country. Still, I know for a fact that every positive thing that's happened to me so far in life couldn't have happened anywhere else in the world: two full scholarships, employment based on my own merits rather than family status, a passport that allows me to travel the world, and friends of countless nationalities. My mom couldn't run when she was younger. She had malnutrition for much of her adolescent life from famine as a result of war, political instabilities, and the cultural revolution. My stepfather didn't have sneakers even when he was in college. I can't help but to feel that every time I go running I'm performing a small miracle, especially on a sunny day like today in Central Park. May life always be filled with love, gratitude, hope, and admiration. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Parting Thoughts

I'm getting ready to go to the airport soon. Well, that was my Russian story. I'm OK, only because there is no other way to be. I learned two things on this trip.

One night when he was going through all the reasons why nothing could possibly come out of this he turned it around and asked what I thought. I heard myself say "anything is possible. I'm someone who believes anything is possible." It just came out of me, so clearly, as a matter of fact, like the sky is blue. I think it's always amazing to watch ourselves react in these moments, raw and unrehearsed.

I wasn't sure before but now I do believe there's such a thing as a soulmate. He could be anyone, anywhere, and I think searching for him is a worthwhile lifelong pursuit.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Unseen

When Dostoevsky wrote that hell is the place where a person is unable to love, he failed to consider what it is like for other people who are stuck in the same place as the said person, the not so innocent bystander. The two days that followed the first night were excruciating.

I watched it happen in slow motion. The window closed, screens came on. I was tuned out like a white noise. Each breathe more suffocating. Every second an eternally. What it is like to be buried alive in silence, drowning in your own screams. I watched myself disappear.

For two days I tossed and turned in my glass coffin. My tears, unseen. My pleas, unheard. It's as if I never existed. I had no idea one could be so invisible.

On the train ride back to Moscow I asked if he saw a shooting star while hiking in the Himalayas. He said, "there are no shooting stars. Only space garbage."

The Last Scene

The train ride back to Moscow couldn't have been more different from the one we took just two days ago. I sat in silence and counted backwards. Four hours, three hours, two hours... I looked at you but you didn't look back. I put my hand out for you to hold but I didn't want to impose so I retrieved.

You slept. I cried. This is it, the last time we'll be together. Don't you have anything to say to me? I watched the trees go by, fields, frozen rivers. As the train pulled into the station, you said, "it was a nice trip." I hesitated but nodded in agreement. You asked what I was going to do for the day. I said, nothing, just walk around. You tried to make some small talk. I couldn't respond. I knew we were going separate ways long before you spoke. You were gone from me 48 hours ago.

It was a sunny day. We walked together on the platform, side by side. Max the driver took my luggage inside the station. He had such a cordial look to him. I felt instantly comforted. I walked next to him with you behind us. He asked how my trip was and told me he's never been to SPb before. I tried to talk like a normal person.

I knew you were going to take the subway home and I wondered if you would just disappear. As we approached the exit I turned to my right to look behind me. There was no one there. My heart dropped. I kept walking. I was afraid to look to my left but I did. I must have seemed confused. I saw you but I couldn't see you. Then I heard you say, "I'm here."

We walked into the sun. I slowed down, lingering close to you. You stopped next to the subway entrance and said "I'm going to take the subway here." We stood half meter apart. I looked up and saw your eyes. "Ok" I said with a smile. "Don't cry" you said. "I won't, not here." Just as I wondered how we were going to say goodbye to each other you pulled me in and kissed me. When I opened my eyes again the only thing left to do was to turn around and walk towards the car. It took everything I had left to not looked back. It was moment I will never forget.

Once inside the car, I sent you one last text, "if you change your mind about anything, my flight leaves tomorrow afternoon at 2:40pm."

I asked Max to take me to the Tolstoy house. It was a nice visit, something I really wanted to do on the trip. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Full Disclosure

Dear Rose,

I haven't fully disclosed the circumstance and intent of my trip to Russia. I can't sleep tonight so I'm taking the time to recount the story to you.

You see, one night in January after I finished uploading all my pictures from Nepal, I browsed through a few random photos from other hikers. I inadvertently noticed photos that were extremely similar to mine, to a point where I could tell we were looking at the same sunset from the same angle because of the same cloud formation. So this led me to leave a comment for the photographer, something benign like, hey, nice photo, I've got the same one! At that point I had no idea who the photographer is. Two days later I received a casual response and then we connected on Facebook. Still, we had no other communication. Then I randomly saw the cheap flight to Moscow. And upon a closer look, I noticed the photographer is also from Moscow. I casually mentioned the fight to him and suggested that he could be my guide. So then we had a brief chat online about how he would be happy to show me around. 

By this point I had gathered that he works at [XYZ] Moscow, lived in a few different places, California, Dublin, London. He's obviously physically fit, an avid cyclist and practices meditation. He also traveled extensively in China, along with other parts of the world, and he is learning Chinese, even started a Chinese study group at his office. He also has a PhD in economics. I didn't know his age but based on his experiences I figured we were roughly the same. So somehow these factors started to form a rather attractive image in my mind. 

I hesitated on booking my flight to Moscow but I ultimately decided to go for it because I wanted a chance to meet this guy in person. I've never felt so strangely attracted to someone I hardly know but you have to admit that he's got a nice resume. After I told him about my trip he suggested we go to St. Petersburg for a couple of days. At first I thought he meant over the weekend but he said it would be from Monday to Wednesday. I was a bit surprised that he was willing to take time off from work to travel with me. I wanted to think he was interested in me but I wasn't sure.

My flight took off from JFK on Friday afternoon, just as he landed in Moscow from his business trip from Dublin. We met up on Saturday, the afternoon I arrived at Moscow. We were completely comfortable with each other. He showed me the city and we went to the ballet together. Nothing romantic happened but we really clicked. The next day we met again to walk around the city and then took an evening train to St. Petersburg together. The four hour train ride flew by as we talked and joked about different things. It was wonderful.

Misha's friend had booked us a nice room at hotel with a city view. There was one bed. We sat on the edge of the bed and watched the city lights. Then we started to talk about relationships. It was a beautiful and open conversation. The connection was unbelievable as we looked into each others eyes for the longest time. Sure I was attracted to him but I really didn't have the urge for sex. A while later, he leaned in and kissed me, very lightly. Even though it was a romantic moment, to me it felt more like a tiny gesture that said, hi, soul mate, I'm here, I exist. We laid there for a long time just being close to each other. I don't know if it's because I've been alone for a while but I can't even begin to describe the high.

There we were, two strangers who went hiking in Nepal a day apart, bumped into each other online by pure coincidence, one booked a flight to Moscow, and the other took time off from work, now holding each other in St. Petersburg, Russia! How amazing and crazy is that??? So fucking amazing I even started to tear to up from the sense of relief I felt when I realized that I have finally found what I've been looking for all my life. We were like one, transparent, fearless, vulnerable thing. It was a connection I never felt before and can't live without. He wasn't just my soul mate, but someone who is also logistically positioned to start a real life together!

Then things did happen. I was slightly reluctant, but we did. It wasn't fireworks but it was good. We were up until 5:30am. I woke up at 9:30 and went to have breakfast while he slept. Later he woke up and smiled at me. We cuddled for a while. It was so lovely. 

We eventually got out of the door around noon. It was a cold, rainy, and miserable day. We walked for a while, mostly in silence. I really wanted to be in a museum but everything was closed due to a public holiday. We had lunch together and struggled with our conversation. Afterwards I suggested we go back because I felt really miserable in the weather. We had a little disagreement over whether we should walk or take a taxi. I wanted to get a ride back because my shoes were completely soaked and it would have taken us 40 minutes. But I stayed quiet. Minutes later he stopped a taxi for us. I tried to be affectionate when we got back to the hotel and he completely froze on me, said everything is way too fast and he can't do this. I tried to hear his rationale, something about he didn't want to just have sex for a few days (which we weren't) and this is too fast for a relationship. He said he didn't want to have this because he never had it before and when I leave he'll never have it again. 

I wasn't imagining things. I tried to refrain myself from asking more questions because I realize that this isn't some kind of rational debate on logic, where if I win I would get my soul mate back. I would never win anyways. He's a professional and skillful debater. He had completely closed up on me. It was devastating. I cried. He turned on TV as he turned off the connection we shared. He said good night and went to sleep. I laid next to him motionlessly with a loneliness I haven't felt in a long time. I couldn't sleep so I wanted to write to you and document what happened. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

On Russia

I don't pay attention to politics. When I think of Russia, I think of legendary writers and musicians, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Shostakovitch, Glinka, Rubinstein, Horowitz, Rostropovich, Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gorky. The list goes on. Yet, on a closer examination, just about everyone was deeply effected by politics. Dostoevsky condemned to labor camp in Siberia, Shostakovitch composing under the terror of Stalin, Gorky and the socialist movement. Somehow political oppression seems a very Russian.

I was only peripherally aware of the increasing sanctions against Russia from my weekly sanction updates from a law firm, a leftover from my work in trade compliance. Since I have told my Russian contacts about my upcoming trip, I was promptly informed of the news on the assassination of the opposition leader. Ironically, I had just watched him featured on an Antony Bourdain's show two days before. He seemed focused on a cause and without fear. It reminded me of a scene from Sennea, when the Brazilian race car driver said during an interview that he'll have lots of time for a normal family life once he retires from racing. He was killed during a race at age 34. The problem is we think we have time, maybe out of optimism, naivety or arrogance. In a documentary on Khodorkovsky, either him or a commentator said, "you don't think things can happen to you, until it does, then you think it could have happened to anyone."

Going to Moscow wasn't in my plans for the year until I saw the cheap airfare. I hesitated for a couple of days before I pulled the trigger. But you see, this trip is long overdue. I have fond memory of making borscht with Misha on a cold winter day during my last year in undergrad. When we first got together I called Tanya, a lady from Ukraine I worked with at TJ Maxx, to teach me to make some Russian dishes. We made Russian salad and stuff cabbage at her apartment in Brighton. I carefully packed our artwork into Chinese takeout containers and called to tell Misha I'm coming over with Chinese food. I still remember the confused and surprised look on his face when he opened the paper containers. It was one of my more creative and memorable gestures. I sort of moved in with him for while, started to read about Russian literature. Eventually I took my first trip to China and then Buenos Aires. Misha sold the house, got married, and moved to California. We didn't talk or see each other again until three years ago when I visited Irvine on a whim. It was as if no time had passed.

Naturally, I emailed Misha soon after I booked my flight. He got me connected with his friend in Moscow. Within days my hotel was booked, along with a private transfer from the airport and tickets to the Bolshoi. I've always been lucky but there is something about Russians I find so very much endearing. I told a few Russians I know about my trip. The next thing I know every one of them and their friends and relatives offered to help. It's possible that I now have more contacts in Moscow than NYC. Nick connected me with Dr. Tanya at ESM. Irina met me for coffee. Natalia at school gave me her brother's phone number in Moscow. Another Misha chatted with me online on the art of negotiating a cab fare. And then there's Eugene, who I randomly "met" online because we posted the same pictures of the EBC trek on Flickr. He's agreed to be my personal tour guide in Moscow and we're taking the train to St. Petersburg together.

I had no idea about any of this when I booked my flight. That's the thing I love about travel and life. Things take on all kinds of shape once you make the first step. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On Sitting

The retreat is coming up in April.
I started to sit again. I need it.
If for nothing else, I need to condition my legs from falling asleep.
I can't count to ten without my mind racing like a wild animal.
I chuckle every time I recite the Four Vows.
"Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them;"
I can't save myself, neither can anyone else.
I think it's ironic that my teacher wrote a book titled "Hand Wash Cold,"
While I took scissors to de-tag every piece of clothing I own.
It's the way of lightweight backpacking according to Ray Jardine,
Cutting away the excess.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Run in the Park

I've been cooped up inside for much of January since I've been back from Nepal. At first I was just resting but now it's getting to a point where I'm starting to feel sluggish. I think February is the proper time to start wishing for the spring. It doesn't help that I'm behind on my training schedule for the NYC half that's taking place in just six weeks.

Running is the perfect antidote for an unproductive day. Even though the thought of going out in the cold is dreadful I know I'll enjoy the run once I get out there. And now, every time I get into the park I'm reminded of how joyful life can be. There are two creatures that love the winter and snow: kids and dogs. One can't help but to smile with the sight of kids running, laughing, sledding down slopes in their impossibly cute hats and snow boots. We used to how to be happy, even over silly and trivial things. Somewhere between being that little and growing up we lost it. Wouldn't it be nice to find that again? In the meantime, I'll try to remember to smile at the sight of these happy little creatures.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sunset

Suddenly as the 7 train emerged from underground a ray of pink light shined on my book. I looked up and my heart jumped with the sight of the most brilliant sunset. It had cast a red tint on everything surrounding it. And above it, a vibrant light pillar. I thought, one doesn't have to travel for to see beauty. The scene lasted no more than two seconds as lifeless condos came into my vision. I wish I could have memorized the view.

A friend turned me to the show Everest, Beyond the Limit. I watched the first episode online and then started to watch a documentary film, Summit, about a disastrous expedition to K2 that took the lives of 11 climbers. I feel thankful that I didn't watch these before my trip to Nepal. It would have made me feel entirely different about the Himalayan range. The pure sense of admiration would have been tainted with thoughts of deadly summit attempts and the inhumanity shown by the climbers as they pushed on while leaving others to perish in the brutal elements. The thoughts left me feeling unsettled and even depressed.

I scanned my bookshelf for something uplifting to read on the train ride to Queens and immediately gravitated towards the little book, Lift, a mom's letter to her two daughters. The fact is that you can climb a mountain or write a book but none of that matters when you are gone. Underneath it all, we all know the only true legacy we leave on this planet is our children. Statistics have shown spikes in birth rate after an area was struck by isolated and temporary tragedy. There's a sense of hopefulness and healing in bringing new life into this world, however imperfect our world is and however fragile our children are.

I met a new friend at a Nepali restaurant in Jackson Heights. The food was awful like it was in Nepal, which explains why I had so much Chinese food while I was there. I reminisced about the trip. It made me feel fortunate and nostalgic. Afterwards I went to Flushing for Chinese groceries. I've always known that I could save a substantial amount if I made a trip there every couple of weeks. This year I'm making an effort to make these trips. On the way back I finished the book on the 7 train. It brought tears to my eyes. Someday I want to be like Meg, not the author but her friend who went to the sperm bank at 40.

I've seen sunsets over the Himalayas, lakes and oceans, corn fields and snow fields, yet the one I saw today was the most beautiful of them all. I wish I could close my eyes and see it again but I can't. It had already dissipated like the 8,500 photos uploaded on Flickr of places I've been but can no longer see. They serve as a reminder that every moment is fleeting. What a relief. The sun has to set so we can have a new day.