Things I Didn’t Appreciate – the 2011 Version

30 12 2011

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I’ve had sinusitis/phlegm/hoarseness for three months since my musical ended.  I thought the symptoms just needed to run their course, but since I came to Hong Kong and took steps that have been finally leading to my recovery, these are the things I realize that I didn’t appreciate before now (first of an annual series, perhaps =P):

  1. Thermal undergarments: Who knew a thermal undershirt can mean that you no longer need to wear a jacket, when before I was feeling cold even with the Canada Goose jacket?
  2. Chinese herbs in…
  3. Chinese soup: delicious and nutritious =).  I shall be regularly making my own soup from now on (hahah this sounds remarkably like a New Year’s Resolution – let’s see whether this actually happens)…

  4. Waterproof shoes (top photo): warm, weather-proof, and slip-ons to boot!  Woohoo: no more cold, wet feet in the snow, or ruining your shoes after six months (what was I thinking wearing those shoes in that weather?  I am way too lazy with these types of things!)!
  5. Hot meals: So I guess I kind of knew that hot meals are infinitely better than cold meals but I didn’t realize how much better they make me feel, physically and mentally. Mmm.
  6. Bathroom exhaust fans: I don’t have one at home and I didn’t realize how much steam build-up can hurt my eyes.  This one’s just good sense.

So yes, some simple things I never thought were important now will be adopted into my regular routine.  Maybe it’ll help prevent and reduce the amount of time I spend with sinusitis…

I will let you know if it works out!

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Traveling Time Capsules

16 12 2011

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As of December 5th, 2011, the Basis of Medicine ended, which means the 1.5 years of lectures are now over forever.  In January, we go into the hospitals as second-year medical students: naive, wide-eyed, eager.  Ready to be unready for the experiences that will shape our lifelong careers.

Although we still pay tuition, we no longer have summer vacation as we once knew, as we are thrown into work at the bottom of the hospital food chain.  I am genuinely thrilled.

However, January has not yet arrived.  As such, all of the colleagues in my class are taking full advantage of this last month off, each in our own way, before we essentially start our careers.

For me, this month is a month of traveling, and this is the first time I’ve traveled to multiple destinations in one trip, visiting friends and family literally all over the world.  I figured, when am I going to get this guilt-free month-long opportunity again?  Probably not for years.

Thus, I am now on the third leg of a little December journey, and I am having an amazing time.

The brilliance of traveling to multiple locations like this is that I realized that each place I go to ends up reminding me of my past – a specific time in my life and the specific person I was at that time; engaging different, specific parts of my being.

In New York City, for example, I stayed with a friend I admire tremendously, and we share a strong interest in theatre, so some might say we were in the right city, and my theatre side was entirely fulfilled by seeing three shows, critiquing them with him, singing theatre tune after theatre tune with him as we walked home down the streets of Manhattan, and meeting many of his wonderful friends who are passionate about (and in many cases working in) theatre as well.

In Pennsylvania, I spent some quality time in the suburbs with my family of friends there, and it was like I warped back in time to when I spent a year with them, picking up exactly where we left off and having those simultaneously intense and silly conversations and experiences that characterize our family.  The pancake-toast man captured in the photo above is characteristic of our silliness =P.

Now I’m in LA with one of my best friends, and, of course, the focus is on going to the theatre and owning Hollywood, but in truth, it doesn’t really matter what we do, because he ends up dragging me on adventures anyway – just like old times.

And when I get to Southeast Asia and I’m with my family, I know that I’ll revert back to being a child: being told what to do, but ultimately, loving being taken care of (as long as it’s for a short period of time).

And it’s just funny that when most people think of travel, they seem to mean traveling to new destinations in order to open up their eyes to new worlds and things they’ve never seen.

For me, traveling seems to let me do the opposite: to go back in time to relive the best parts of my past.  How awesome is that?





Being Chinglish

8 12 2011

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I had the pleasure of watching Chinglish on Broadway in Manhattan while I was there, and it was one of the few times when I enjoyed theatre without people breaking into song in the middle of it.  Chinglish works for so many reasons, in my opinion: because it presents accurate stereotypes of the Chinese while making characters complex and multi-faceted; because it transitions between scenes with Chinese hip hop and rap that seem to capture the juxtaposition of East and West; because it takes an old concept of lost-in-translation and somehow still makes it fresh, hilarious, and extremely authentic.  As the son of two business people who are currently running businesses in China, I found the awkward dialogue and ridiculous business dealings extremely funny because of how shrewdly reflective they are of reality as I’ve heard and seen for myself in China.

That five of the seven actors are Asian (and I think even authentically Chinese rather than Korean or Japanese playing Chinese, which is not absolutely necessary, but nice, I think), gives me hope and inspiration for my own mini-career as an actor.  It’s true that this show was about China, and Jennifer Lim, the amazing female lead in the show, talks in an interview about the double-edged sword of getting opportunities specifically because she’s Asian, but also cautious not to get pigeonholed for the same reason.  However, I think shows like this are extremely positive because they feature Asian actors in roles that allow for depth and range in the performances, rather than casting Asian actors in limiting roles that perhaps reinforce beliefs that these actors have limited range.

But what moved me the most in this show actually had nothing to do with the specifics of race.  Well, I guess it kind of did.

*Spoiler Alert* An American businessman falls in love with a Chinese Vice-Minister of Culture in a (relatively) small Chinese city while working on a deal.  Both of them are married, and after the affair goes on for a while, the American wants to tell his wife the truth about their affair, because he’s in love with her.  The Vice Minister, however, thinks that this is a ridiculous idea, and tells him that if they respect their respective spouses, they would continue lying to them.  She goes on to say, in Chinese, the most memorable line in the show for me, which was this:

“Love is an American religion.”

It gave me goosebumps because I immediately understood the difference between the two.  The Chinese Vice Minister then talked about this word in Chinese (“ching ee”), which I understand roughly as a commitment in a marriage based on time spent together, mutual sacrifices, and dedication even if you are no longer in love.  It’s in contrast to the notion of romanticism and love and passion and chemistry that I’ve grown up with in Canada, and I, in many ways, am a follower of this latter religion of love.

Regardless of whether it was the Valentine’s Day industry that initiated this religion, this line from the show really resonated with me, because I realized what the characters were talking about was a difference of what love means to them.  Words are the best we have, but so often it is unable to capture what people really mean when they use them, especially with such packed words as love, where individual definitions are informed by years of living and redefining the definition of love, so that it may take just as long to understand what the other person is trying to express through that word.

The beauty and tragedy of Chinglish, for me, was the universality of this lost-in-translation idea applied to the concept of love.  When two people’s fundamental beliefs on love and marriage are so different, could the result have been any different?

Surely no two people’s definitions of commitment, love, and marriage are exactly the same, so how far apart is reconcilable, and when is it irreconcilable?

This last question is the one I continue to struggle with.