Thursday, April 30, 2015

The start to a very long way home:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


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


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.


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


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.