A little downtime for the brain

A little downtime for the brain

There is a strange kind of happiness watching your resume grow to the point where you need to take things out. Once upon a time, not very long ago, I was struggling to fill in this one sheeter son of a b-. Perhaps the joy comes from seeing your experience accumulate arithmetically. 1 year and 8 months already in my “new job”! Felt like just yesterday I got the long overdue phone call from HR and just this morning that I was struggling with jargons like apk/sdk. Believe me, to date, I still picture a warm aromatic chunky chocolate chip cookie whenever I hear people mention the word “cookies” (in internet world). There is so much joy in acquainting yourself with new skills, eventually getting it and becoming good at it. I guess it is inherent in human beings to feel good about growth, to crave new concepts and challenge oneself with the unknown; otherwise civilisation and even evolution wouldn’t have happened.

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But it is not just this innate curiosity that guided me along the way. It is the people whom I have crossed paths with: the childhood friends that became soul sisters, the strangers that became reliable friends and the close companions that became nobody. But like what I’ve reflected after watching La La Land; every person happens to you for a reason. Their staying in and fading away from your life is for a purpose. Sitting on the rooftop at night, random conversations about our deepest fear and biggest hope. Trapped in a car under the pouring rain, small talks around our family and childhood. Strolling down the pier, winding speeches about the frustration towards life and the fascination of endless possibilities… These moments may have passed but it is everlasting in my heart. 97EB9F9B-975F-4E7C-95F0-091F34D06E8F

I’ve read somewhere that our brains’s naturally exhibited emotions only last for 90 seconds so what you feel after that is purely your choice. Whether you choose to dwell on the negatives; or get on. I’ve also heard some wise advice that “no one is responsible for your happiness but yourself.” One of my recent favourite quote from a book is that “inaction breeds fear and doubt. Action breeds confidence and courage.” I love this new sense of confidence and certainty that comes with age and the wisdom you gather from life. All the epic, the good, the bad and the misery accumulated through time; condensed and distilled drop by drop into precisely who I am today. Fresh out of college, there was nothing I wanted more than going back to High School. Now, I wouldn’t trade the years I’ve had with anything in the world for I am right where I’m supposed to be now. (that sounded a bit like a pop song) In retrospect, I realised you sort of discover things in life one step at a time even when you’re not necessarily looking.

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My 17 year old self would have wanted to be who I am today 🙂 I’d like to end with a famous quote by Primo Levi from Into the Wild: “How important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong.” I get my strength from words so I’ll continue to write; because I know- at least you are reading it.

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p.s. regretful but not apologetic for the scattered thoughts

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Random thoughts on a 14 hours flight

 

3I have always liked turbulence on planes (writing this on the flight to SF may be jinxing it since the entire plane is shaking even harder now). It’s like you always get it when you fly over Japan. It has just the right dose of danger within comfortable range that in those few seconds, you suddenly realize that your life is only hanging by a thread. There is no guarantee that you’ll live through the next millisecond.

4Despite knowing all the statistics about how unlikely the odds are, there is still that tiny sense of uncertainty, a hint of doubt no matter how many times I fly. Just WHAT IF my plane is the one that crashes? (at least I’d have higher chances of surviving since I’m poor I get to “avoid” the most dangerous front rows of the plane) What if this is the plane where co-pilots have high power distance? (No worries, even Korean Air has fixed this for a while now, I took it just 6 months ago) What if this is the unfortunate flight where someone absentmindedly brought along a Samsung Note 7? Or the one where mechanical teams made just a bit too many little mistakes that adds up fatal? If you are reading this now, by all means, I survived J and it wouldn’t even be surprising because you know and expect flights to land safely. Yes, we all take that for granted. A gigantic machine with WINGS that carry hundreds of people, fly over tens of thousands of kilometers over the ocean, the snowy mountains and the continental plates at 40 thousands feet altitude somehow made it to the destination! HELLO? How amazingly wonderful is that? Instead of complaining about the cold bread, the lack of wifi or bad taste in flight entertainment; shall we just be grateful that we reached our destination SAFELY? This not so simple act is almost a miracle in itself! And just because something incredible happens often doesn’t make it any less magical. Don’t wait until your plane flips over and land on the Hudson River to realize that.

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So perhaps just this thought of how fragile life is, just how easy we could vanish from this world, makes me treasure every single touch down and appreciates my presence in the world (however light weighted) to a greater extent. As I picture my not so perfectly shaped heart pumping just the right amount of blood that circulates my entire body with every pulse; I feel that much more alive.

Written on the 5th flight in 2017.

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Spread the love and fortune!

As I finished writing (actual words), I dropped my pen but my heart couldn’t drop the subject. Who knew this would turn out to be such a thought provoking experience?

9B573FC8-9E4E-4B37-A1BD-89CB52088441.JPGtl;dr (FYI, this stands for “too long; didn’t read” for adults) – You can be part of the change of someone’s life. Someone whose life depends on it. With a bit of money, and also with the power of knowledge and empathy shared amongst human beings.

3 months ago, a series of incidents led me to an epiphany – knowledge IS power. It is the most effective way to improve your life. This sudden and striking realization kept me pondering. My ridiculous brain came to the decision that the tiniest, most effortless thing to do is to sponsor a child! That way I will even receive handwritten letters on top of my monthly horror of credit card bills! Also, I get to use my beautiful letter papers. I must say what began with a really selfish motivation somehow turn into something rather meaningful.

Shortly after I filled in everything online, I received a call from World Vision volunteer who told me I should receive a package of the details of my sponsored child. I forgot about it as I travelled on business. When I got back, I received a letter from my sponsored child, written by her mom!E75E2ABA-1337-406A-88B8-7772B1AB13D1.JPG

She’s 5, from a warm and faraway country called Ecuador. Her favorite color is red.

I still haven’t gotten the package so I planned to call World Vision again but kept forgetting as I travel abroad. A while later, the responsible volunteer called me up again to check and made sure one week after I will receive it!

IMG_9819.JPGThen here I was, excited over a letter that is not urging me to pay up or borrow money. This packet told me my sponsored child has 2 sisters, her family works in agriculture and the exact city she’s in is Tixan. Wikipedia says that’s where one finds copper and gold.

So I put on Ecuador Top 100 from spotify and began filling in the questions in the default greeting letter. While latino music echoes in my room, I found it to be a rather daunting task to write this letter to my sponsor child.

“Her favorite food is rice.” – her mom wrote, as she is too young to write. Rice…plain, bland staple food.

I thought about my favorite food: sushi, uni, oysters, cakes, chocolates, ice cream… all these are beyond luxurious to her and many other underprivileged kids. It’s not until I spent several tough minutes going further down my mental list that I put down tomatos.IMG_9818.JPG

I checked out her horoscope and imagined her personality as a Pisces. As she grow up, she’d be “known for her passionate and experimental nature.” It is as if I have travelled into the future and imagined her to be my age. Would she already had all the education she needed to pursue her dream? Would she even be given equal opportunities to fight for what she want in life? For some reason, I already felt so attached to her. I want to learn more about her country. Does she get to study if she already has 2 sisters? Is Ecuador a gender equal society? Does she have pets with so many mouths to feed in her family?

80643C7B-AC31-49A2-B3BB-BBA02EEEA3F0.JPGThere is so much that I felt obliged to tell her: the beautiful vibrant city I live in that is slowly deterioating; my challenging and exciting job with so much possibility; the world that is full of promises and hope despite a weird 2016…but what will she understand as a 5 year old? So I wrote about my favorite color, my obsession towards giraffes and the origin of Snowy’s (my pet bunny) name instead.

In the end I just google translated my message into Spanish, in case the volunteers didn’t want to translate for me anymore as I wrote so much. Hopefully it made sense; in Google we trust. I carefully sealed it with my photo and snowy’s handsome baby portrait. Along with all my best wishes and goodwill, I mailed the letter to Ecuador, hoping she will soon be able to read the words herself.

In contrast to the humble and basic life she leads, I am splurging  excessively like Marie Antoinette while taking everything for granted. The difference between us also lies in that she doesn’t have a choice, but I do. And so do you.img_9817

With Valentine’s day coming up, it is the ideal time to make someone’s life significantly better instead of getting your special someone things (s)he already had or don’t actually need. For the indifferent ones with commitment issues, you can simply get them a gift that just might spare them from a life or death situation. Spread the love!

https://www.worldvision.org/sponsor-a-child

http://donate.worldvision.org/ways-to-give/gift-catalog

I’m obsessed with La La Land not only because I’m a musical lover, but…

I’m obsessed with La La Land not only because I’m a musical lover, but…

As if the movie itself isn’t great enough, the apt timing it premiered makes me anticipate my soon to come LA trip even more! I’m already itching to trace the footsteps of Mia and Sebastian.
img_6046The last time I felt compelled to write down my thoughts post movie was Begin Again, and that was probably 2-3 years ago. La La land was so delightful that I watched it twice in the theatre (still planning to go again if I have the time) and looped its OST hundreds of times and counting. The first time I watched it, the movie struck me by the glamour of its tap dances and songs (I mean who doesn’t love a cheerful musical?), the costumes and the wonderfully crafted ending (some hated the ending I know, but for me, it is precisely the ending that furthered my obsession of the movie even more). The second time, I’m less distracted by the joyful songs and dances; I could finally notice the subtle details in the way the lead characters interact (I totally get why they won best actor/actress) and the beautiful cinematography left me in awe again. The scene in the Planetarium is just breathtakingly absurd yet hopelessly romantic at the same time. Those dancing silhouettes are so beautiful it gave me goosebumps. The blend of mellow colors, sparkling lights and the splash of sharp vibrant colors contrasted so well it’s just pure pleasure to the eyes.

“I don’t know what your name is but I like it” img_5630

One of my favorite song is “Another Day of Sun”. The melody simply gets you grooving in your seat! The opening scene demonstrated the essence of American culture, colorful people (both in their costumes and skin color) jamming in all sorts of dances: Hispanic in flamenco, Africans joining in hip hop and break dance, Asians in acrobatics; even the slow motion scene of “Someone in the crowd” paired up cross-racial actors deliberately. The brilliant thing is despite these differences in exterior, they are very likely all Americans. This vibrant clash of cultures is exactly what made America such a unique place; it’s full of conflicts and compromises.. just like Jazz! To me, this is the most brutal irony under the current situation in the US. Anyways that’s too depressing to get into so let’s move on to the characters.

“Here’s to the ones who dreamed, foolish as they may seem”

It is such a cliché that those who chase after their dreams always face numerous failures, countless hurdles and huge buckets of freezing cold water pouring down their heads. Let’s not forget that every single chorus actor in the movie is yet another Mia praying for their own “audition” for Paris.

“Even when the answer’s no and when my money’s running low”img_5754

But if you think about it, even if you’re just living your day-to-day modest and boring life, struggling to make ends meet; it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re free from rejections and self-doubts. And if that is so, we might as well spend our time on things that actually matter instead of churning money for big corporations right?

“Somewhere there’s a place where I find who I’m gonna be, a somewhere that’s just waiting to be found”

To me the difficult part is finding a passion to truly seek after; that’s why dreamers and believers are always my favorite people. It breaks my heart to see them fail, again and again, yet it still inspires me every time they dust themselves off and get at it again. But just like the way Mia and Sebastian helped each other through their toughest time, this whole process is rarely done alone. Without her, he wouldn’t have put down his artist pride and stubbornness to eventually gain the capital and reputation to open his own Jazz bar; without him, well obviously she wouldn’t even make it to the audition that eventually made her famous. Neither of them could have done it alone.img_2727

“A voice that says, I’ll be here, and you’ll be alright”

Sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you, to look you in the eye, and convince you that you are good enough, you can do it. So you can zip up those muffin tops, take a deep breath, flex your muscle and take a leap of faith. There is never guarantee to success, but the magic and purpose must be in the attempt. That’s why I loved the ending. Everyone enters your life for a reason, and for those who exit, they must have left for a better one. What more can you ask for when you’ve already had the best ride together growing alongside each other? To me, Mia and Sebastian has completed their roles in each other’s life and when that’s done, it’s only inevitable that they must go on with their own lives, following their separate dreams and eventually fade out from each other.

Thanks Damien, for this romantic movie just cured my heart. I think this will continue to be my favorite movie for a while.

“Is this the start of something wonderful and new? Or one more dream that I cannot make true?”

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p.s. I’ve read an opinion somewhere that coined Mia as the typical selfish girlfriend who jumped from men to men…well I viewed it differently. The way Sebastian assumed Mia would follow him on his tour while her performance is 2 weeks away is downright selfish. The way he missed her play is yet another proof. The way she got pushed away by the crowd during his first gig is a metaphor on how he is becoming someone she no longer understands. The final straw is when he thought she wasn’t genuinely happy for his success… what kind of self absorbed lunatic would think their loved one could be jealous of themselves? I’m not saying Mia isn’t selfish because the absolute truth is that human beings are all selfish; I think love is just a by-product when that selfishness somehow happens to benefit someone else too. (Since this thought seems a bit dark I’ll just keep it at the very end :P)

Hola Barcelona Part 2 – Catalonia Culture

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Please excuse the title which lacks in creativity but honestly, who wants to spend hours dwelling on the perfect title? Let’s just get rolling 🙂 Barcelona is such a colorful city bursting with beautiful cultures and stories, desperate to be unfolded.

Festival

Let’s begin with my favorite story which is about love 🙂 Instead of Feb 14th, Catalans, like the Chinese, celebrates a different Valentine’s day which is Apr 23rd, St George’s day. A day where men give women roses, pretty standard procedures, and women has to return the men with a book. Yep, not a typo.IMG_3129

Once upon a time, there was a handsome young man on a white horse (duh, his name is George) who rescued a beautiful damsel in distress (argh, woman who always get themselves into trouble) by slaying a dragon on this day. So there you have it, Prince + Princess – Dragon = cliche, but no, the story doesn’t end here. As the dragon’s first drop of blood oozed out and fell to the ground, the vicious droplet transcended into a blood-red rose. George picked it and gave it to the princess and they lived happily ever after. So there we have the rose. But why a book? I don’t really think it make sense but our tour guide said it’s because Shakespeare was born and died on this very same day…erm either way, I’d love to receive a book as present in any day 😉

Religion

Christianity has always been a fundamental part of European cultures . You may notice that ancient Catalan chapels around here look quite different from how you picture a church traditionally. It is much more modest and squared; rather wide than it is tall. This is because 1) they wIMG_8184.JPGere poorer at that time, and 2) they believed these structures symbolize that God’s power is pressing down from above whilst more modern interpretation is that the taller a church rise and stretch towards the heaven, the closer we are to god.  That’s the beauty of religion; everyone can interpret it differently yet getting the same kind console from it nonetheless.

Going along with religion, let’s talk about death. The tower here is where the executioners lived in the old days and there is an interesting tale behind it. They have to live away from communities as his job is highly sensitive. He does his job IMG_8186.JPGwhile covering his face so no one actually knew who the executioner was. The bonus point about this job is: you get to keep the dead body you killed! YAY. Why? Because dead bodies are priceless back in the days. Especially the feet…creepy, but it’s because of a tradition where people keep dead people’s feet next to their door so bad spirits will walk away from their house. Hope that gave you a good visual 😉 Human bones, eyeballs and all sorts of weird parts were made for other useful charms too, well I mean back then it’s not like people can donate and transplant organs yet, so might as well put them into good use I guess?

Rituals

An interesting catalan tradition is the human tower. And it literally means, people stepping on each other’s shoulder to form a tower up to 8 storeys high! How tall is that you may ask, well check out the sculpture below.

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This practice is usually done next to the City hall or other government buildings as this signifies that when the working class unite, they can rise up as high as the Government/ upper class. This is serious business as people have died from it. Note that the person at the very top is always a young child, 7-8 years old who will climb through the adults without any safety equipment but a helmet. To me it sort of symbolizes that the kids, our future generation, has the ability to human race’s advancement and evolution. Not through pressurized, elite education system but their immense imagination and hopes that children are naturally gifted. (Yes, my dear twin bros, your sissy have high hopes for you dummies.)

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Food

I’m only good at eating, but not describing flavors, so just take a min and imagine the divinely salivating dishes by starring at below photos. Of course, there were much more but I was probably too hungry and forgot to take a photo14054631_10154026245151713_1913292151_n.jpg

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One last fun fact to end the post, did you know the Eiffel Tower was meant for Barcelona originally? The Government at that time thought it too ugly and out of place so they told the designer to bring it elsewhere. Well, now Paris has the Eiffel Tower forever 😉 Also goes to show persistent is the right attitude, if Mr. he-who-built-Eiffel-Tower gave up when he was rejected, the world wouldn’t have this iconic landmark today! Note to self: it’s always too early to quit what’s worth doing.

 

 

Hola Barcelona Part 1 – IESE MBA Summer School

(yes, the title rhymes on purpose :P)

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Introduction

After a rather dreadful long haul flight (which I normally enjoy; the undisturbed self selected movies watching and books reading, but Air China didn’t have that luxury and I forgot to bring a book -_-), I landed into Barcelona again after 3.5 years under the blazing Catalunya heat! I promised to be back but indeed it has been too long… I barely remember the places I have been to but Barcelona’s food and culture has yet again imprinted a flavorful and charming impression in my heart. It was and still is one of my favorite Europe cities 🙂

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Thieves, thieves everywhere 

Nonetheless, a city with thieves…sometimes I just ponder, what life scenario must they go through, to convince and justify themselves to cheat and steal? Lucky enough, we only ALMOST got picked pocket. It wasn’t a pleasant experience of course, considering we were at that time walking in a rather wide street with passerbys at merely 10pm or so. However, I think it is worth recalling the details to learn their stealing patterns to be more alert next time round.

First he asked if we have fire for his cigarettes, then he quickly came close and asked if we’re Koreans. We tried to ignore him and walk quicker but he just leaned in and started doing random soccer kicks…and there it was, the moment of truth.

I saw the guy’s hand was on the wallet already! Then I shouted and he just laughed and said he was joking…at the moment it was hard to react because we were both shocked. Anyways, note to self: STAY ALERT when in Europe! Or basically just anywhere you go unless it’s Taiwan 😛

IESE MBA Summer School

More updates are coming up now that I have completed the primary reason on why I am in Spain: IESE MBA summer school! Sadly, the 5 days course flew by quickly, but the great thing is I have met new people, made new bonds and germinated new thoughtsIMG_8324.JPG 🙂

It was also a long 2 years since I was in a classroom again so I really treasure the time I had in class: learning new thoughts from Professor (like the implications of Brexit from Econ and ethical motivation from management prof etc.); spending hours and hours on discussions that are otherwise meaningless if not for the case presentation (but I really enjoyed the collision of ideas with my team from different backgrounds). All these are luxuries that I simply do not have anymore now that I started working. So this week-long experience together with the career advisor of IESE go me thinking about “career”. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but aside from that, there isn’t really anything else going on in my life.

I always knew that your 13730655_10155030589992785_1428188748_olife only really begin after you go through the set path of academics: Kindergarten to Primary School, to Secondary School and higher education. Because once you really graduated from your basic “teachings” and enter the real world, you are solely responsible for yourself. You are basically free to choose from anything and there is no one for you to follow behind anymore. I used to think that the hardest part is getting a job, then I know the toughest thing is finding a job you love. But now I realized, THE million dollar question is: what else are you gonna do for THE REST of your life? Because a job is only a part of it. I am thankful for this week of learning because now, I am beginning to have some idea and will continue to work towards it.

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The Prologue (or wechat pay “THE GREAT” customer journey)

Let the writing spree begin again! First of all, let me provide some context to this travel. I am going to be a student again although for just a week. IESE is a top business school that currently provides a summer week of MBA experience in BARCELONA (wooooo!) for young graduates around the world. With a kind scholarship in conjunction with my university, I am heading off to a week of 8am – 4pm cases discussion. Oh, how I’ve missed school 🙂 can’t wait to feel like a sponge bob again.

So thanks to my understanding boss and a luxury of paid dayoffs, I get to do some travelling as well after Barcelona in Sevilla and London, two brand new cities I have never been to!

So now is a good time to write a little prologue as I have already experienced so much before even stepping foot in foreign land!

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Right now is 10pm and I am waiting to board my first Air China flight from Shenzhen airport. Shenzhen airport is way better than I expected. It is like the HKIA T2, both in size and traffic. Except police here are on Segway!

Did you know there are shuttle bus that brings you directly from Times Square to Shenzhen Airport? Actually there isn’t. You have to get off at Shenzhen bay anyways, get through immigration and take a bus to airport again. Luckily, I have buffered plenty of time and got to airport 3 hours ahead. This gave me the luxury to have a good leisure dinner.IMG_8156

Then I remembered, I didn’t bring any renminbi… but well we live in a digital era so I will just use a credit car…but oh wait, I saw a little sign saying they support wechatpay and other electronic payments hmmm interesting. Given that I have collected so many red packets through wechat, I have a good 200 something renminbi in my account but never knew how to use it; this seemed like the perfect time to try it out! I quickly entered my credit card details, and went to order food with an experimental mindset. I ordered my food and asked can I pay with this? (gesturing my iphone

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Then the cashier lady looked at me like I’m from the stoned age and just scanned right away with her barcode scanner. Voila! And it’s done! I was still in shocked when my food came. I mean…this is not the China I know…since when do they have more advance technology than Hong Kong? I’m sure this isn’t rocket science, but such adoption is still relatively low in Hong Kong. Imagine Chuiwah or Taihing supporting wechat pay 😉 I am still glad to feel like I have not paid a penny for this $41 RMB meal which tasted better than it looks! It was also such a seamless payment experience, without having to even reach for your wallet, let alone touch those disgustingly dirty full of germs and god-knows-what coins and notes.

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Dinner at this Chinese fast food chain “Real Kungfu” (which I highly doubt they own the IP to use Bruce Lee’s image but we are in China after all, so what’s an IP anyway :P)

Boarding soon and hopefully both the inflight meals and entertainment is good! (updated: meals were okay but entertainment system was shit…same as the ones I had when I was 8, fixed low res programs that kept looping -_-)

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P.S. ANOTHER equally if not even more mindblown moment: Wechat pay works on vending machines too! But instead of letting a barcode scanner read my wechat code, I use my wechat QR code reader to scan the vending machine screen. THEN magically, I got a bottle of water…what is this, a wechat marketing campaign to capture authentic customer satisfying journey in airport hahaha?

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P.P.S I couldn’t upload this in Shenzhen airport as I don’t have a China mobile no. to verify for wifi nor would it recognize my boarding pass…huge minus point for this shitty airport. LUCKILY I have wechat on my iphone, so I could verify via the mighty mighty wechat. At least got wifi on my phone.

Has anyone tried electronic payments method and how did you feel about it? 🙂

written in Shenzhen airport, updated in Frankfurt airport.