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)

My one and only full mark essay (on banks…)

Right, this may be a bit of a cheat…but since we’re doing a throwback on my previous poem 😛 why not let my essay join in the party!

So there is also a little story behind this. Throughout my freshman year, I probably got the lowest GPA amongst my comrades. Not only was Accounting and Finance my worst enemies; fellow classmates who had previously learnt these subjects only brought up the scoring curve even higher (or may be I’m just dumb, but let’s assume I’m not for the time being 😉 …just when I think my academic is going South by the end of Year 1, things start looking up in Year 2. And that’s when I start to do well in classes and received my dean’s list awards. So I guess the story here is very cliche but true. You don’t judge a fish by how well it rides a bike. Because fishes excel in swimming and forgetting things. That’s what a fish does best.

And here below, is the full mark essay that landed me my first A+ 🙂 I must say I did get a little help on understanding the whole banking system. However, the idea is indeed entirely original. That bank where my grandparents still keep those precious “heirlooms” (sort of), is where I roll down the stairs when I was 3. So here you go: 

When I was a kid, a “bank” to me is a financial institution and intermediary that provides time deposit, saving and lending services. I would think of the bank branches around the corner where my dad cash a cheque or withdraw money from ATMs; my grandparents also keep their wedding dowry in one of those banks’ vault. As I grew up, however, I start to realize a “bank” is just a general term and there are in fact many types and sizes of distinctly different banks. The type of banking services I had in mind is retail banking, provided by commercial banks.

Commercial banks profit from the difference in interest rates paid for deposits, and charged for loans. Deposits can be of foreign currencies and different time frame, loans can be in the form of mortgage or overdraft etc. To facilitate this mechanism, the bank needs to abide by a reserve requirement to ensure liquidity; hence prevent bank runs from happening. Apart from retail banking, business and private banking services are also offered. Business banking include assisting companies to fund their projects, collecting money from customers and paying suppliers and employees etc. Private banking is a more customized banking service catered for high net worth individuals including a dedicated banking manager, more favorable interest rates for mortgage, time deposit, and fee waiver for certain services.

As I entered university, my classmates start talking about their aspiration to work in a “bank”. What they often mean is an investment bank. Investment banks’ services are more geared towards the financial market such as the forex and bond market. On an individual level, investment bankers act as agents to trade on behalf of their clients. They trade stocks, commodities and other derivatives to make a gain in a certain time frame. Quite different from commercial banks, investment bankers mainly profit from commission. On a business level, investment banks assist companies’ IPO, raise capital by underwriting or issuing bonds and shares etc. They also assist in mergers and acquisitions. Therefore, another source of income for investment banks are the fees charged for these professional services.

In essence, all banks are built upon trust. We trust commercial banks to safeguard our money by lending to credible people; we trust investment bankers to act as responsible agents and trade in our best interests. Unfortunately, this is not always the case; moral hazards arise from irresponsible lending and trading that aim to maximize banks’ or bankers’ profit. In today’s financial world, most of the largest banks such as BNP Paribas, function both as a commercial and investment bank. These universal banks operate globally and are responsible for billions of assets. They are simply too big to fail. Due to the convoluted counterparty system, the mismanagement of risks in one division can impose threats to the global financial system. Thus, it is ever important that banks worldwide are well regulated. That way, my grandparents’ dowry will remain safe in the vault until I get married one day. (Hopefully.)

References:

Commercial Bank Definition & Example | InvestingAnswers. (n.d.). Investment Strategies, Education & News | InvestingAnswers. Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://www.investinganswers.com/financial-dictionary/debt-bankruptcy/commercial-bank-2364

Investment Bank Definition & Example | InvestingAnswers. (n.d.). Investment Strategies, Education & News | InvestingAnswers. Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://www.investinganswers.com/financial-dictionary/investing/investment-bank-598

Universal bank – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_bank

To my beloved mother, even though we are 505 miles apart, you are always in my heart.

To my beloved mother, even though we are 505 miles apart, you are always in my heart.

There is this old Chinese saying “每逢佳節倍思親” (Festivals double your longing for family) and on Mother’s Day upon seeing all the Facebook posts celebrating today, there is no one I want to be with more than my own mother (whom I have to share with my younger twin brothers unfortunately…).

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My first memory of her was her voice. From telling One Thousand and One Nights bedtime stories (which gave me the excuse to sleep with her so one eyed monster won’t come to me at night), to her pathetically weak scolding voice when I failed 4 subjects in 4th grade, she has undoubtedly the most comforting and pleasant voice in the whole wide world.

She also has the most elegant penmanship in the world; those secret notes in my school bag reminding me to be attentive in school (though I rarely do as I was an annoying kid).

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I was overjoyed during the few months she went jobless. (I know I am so selfish) We have had the best time playing made believe librarian and schoolteacher; fine dining restaurants with Ribena and play dough sushi. The only boundary in our world was our imagination.

Even though I have always envied my classmates’ mothers who are housewives; mommy made it up to me by surprising me from time to time. I still remember the birthday pancakes she prepared for my breakfast before school with Winnie the pooh and m n ms decorations; that time she surprised me to Sanrio workshop making Melody key chains… all these tiny bits became my most precious childhood memories.

Then puberty hits and I’m supposed to become the stereotypical teenage pain in the ass; but I didn’t. I could not bare being grumpy or rude to her because that’s just never part of our relationship. She knows just what I love from the card of ancient keys to my 21st birthday trip with GIRAFFES!!!!!! (OMGGGGG) There is no one in this world who knows me better. May be that’s because she always listens; during bedtime, in our afternoon and dinner dates and just whenever I need her. She is always interested in what I have to say from the bitch in high school to my puppy love crushes. Her words work like a charm and have never failed to solve my problems.

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In the end I just want to end on a bible class memory I had in my early childhood. My bible teacher lectured us that we as Catholics are supposed to love God more than we love our moms. That’s the precise moment I realized that it is impossible for me to be a qualified Catholic because I could not love anyone more than I love my mom. (I love you too dad, but let’s save that for father’s day 😉

On Mother’s Day, I want to thank you for being such a kind and loving mother, helping me along my life into becoming who I am today. I also want to thank you for giving me big eyes and a tall nose ❤ I know I am too blessed to be your one and only daughter.

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p.s. Yes yes you win, you were prettier than me when you were my age 😛

1 am on my phone

On an occasionally sleepless night I have decided to look at my archaic blog that I haven’t been on for months.  Not such a good idea because now I’m just even more awake. But nonetheless I have come to realise one very important thing, that is the original intention of opening this blog was to record my journey in life. But for the last few months after graduation, more specifically after my two exchanges, I have not really updated this site much. But the truth is this: my life goes on, it has not stopped just because I stopped travelling. Perhaps this is a good realisation moment to start picking up this habit again. Now that I am around 10 months into my job, my very first full time job, it is imperative that I start picking up good habits and hobbies I have always enjoyed. Because work shouldn’t consume everything, it is time to learn how to juggle and not lose myself along the way.

P.S. Special thanks to Apple’s new verbally typing system what ever it is called because that’s how I (typed) this whole passage. It is a miracle to people who hate typing on a tiny non-existent keyboard like me. This is actually kind of cute like I’m talking to my phone but in a retarded way. Toast to technology!