notes on a conversation with the west

two months ago, i was blessed with intelligence and wisdom from a stranger.

every word that came from his soul and out his raspy voice was enlightening and humanizing.

his words brought me down from a mountain where I praised my accomplishments and settled me into the soil where my roots where buried.

here is a view into that conversation:

Optimism ≠ fueled by hope (understand the dangers and evils)

Our culture is getting weaker: integrity and loyalty fail – the ego and arrogance is rising

Listen to LEARN.

Bear witness in something bigger than yourself.

Keeping who we are in check with the varying dynamics of Life is challenging but is a pressing need

modern society is caught in a cycle of conformity – CANCEL IT!

Love your Enemies

he is a sign and symptom of our culture.

Skin pigmentation does not excuse courage or harm.

find your OWN voice (think, love, feel for yourself)!

Habitual Vision of the Moral and Spiritual Journey = (greatness)

now, it’s the light I seek.

photo credit:

Lost In Translation

Being someone who considers themselves a second language speaker, I have always found that my native-language of Mandarin (although no longer as good as my English), holds a few words or phrases that I realized couldn’t translate into English. I say this not because there weren’t words for them in the English dictionary, because there were plenty, but because of the meaning that is lost in translating them into another language.
Mandarin has roots that trace back 3,000 years to the origin of the Chinese language, more recently becoming the common language of China over 700 years ago. Because of this, over the centuries, Chinese characters have gone from simply representing ideas or objects, to imbedding themselves into the deeper meaning of these ideas, becoming symbolic of what they represented.
I really don’t know if that would make sense to anyone who doesn’t have a non-English language where they can find an example of this. But essentially, what I’m trying to say, is as time as progressed, these words have solidified themselves as the sole-identifier for these ideas, meaning that the word in itself evokes instant imagery and clarity on whatever is being conveyed, it is the ultimate adjective, noun, verb, it requires no follow up, the word is a definition in itself just from the emotions it lets off.
Below I have jotted down a few that I’ve heard over the past several weeks that I don’t believe could ever be translated into another language and hold the same significance that it does in Mandarin.
香- xiang, like very good taste, smell, just feels right on the palate
aīyō,nǐzuò dèfànhǎoxiāng a!
Oh my, this food that you made is so savory!
(Personally when I use this word, it evokes an image of that scene from Ratatouille when Remi takes a bite of the cheese and strawberry together and colors begin to swirl together on screen as he’s just in ecstasy. Just to give an example of what I mean by evocative)
情 qing, like very caring of, adoring, affection, lovey-dovey
Zhuǎn pàn duōqíng
a loving (or soulful) glance
辛苦- xin ku, working very hard, deserving of praise, worked to exhaustion, withstanding bitter hardships
Lùshang xīnkǔ le.
You must have had a tiring journey.
脑海- nao hai, mind, same symbolic connotation as a heart that just doesn’t exist in English
nǐ cúnzaì wǒ shēnshēn dè nǎohǎi lí
You exist, deep in my mind
存- cun, to exist, to protect it, cherish, withstand the test of time
aì chángcún.
Love will last forever
轻- qing, weightless, gentle, worry-free, relaxing
Tā zǒulù jiǎobù qīng.
She walks with a light, carefree step.

i solemnly swear…

a commitment, a promise to uphold: 

I swear to keep my head held high even when I am

against the current.

I promise to love my mother, my father, my sister, my brother 

for eternity. 

I promise I will represent my filipino nonnie and my black grandfather 

as I walk down the street with my hair as

big and curly as ever. 

I swear to be as spiritual as my grandmother, 

And to not let the stress overcome me.

I vow to teach my sister everything I had to learn alone.

I promise to heal those around me with love and joy.

I pledge to never bleach my hair. 

I  vow to not express through harshness but through 

my passion. 


I will never forget my heritage 

I will remember where I came from and be 


I will come home, 

wherever home may be 

I will always listen to soul and jazz music that comes from 

the heart of New York,

or the deep south. 

This is set of rules, guidelines, and obligations that will set a path for me in my near and far future. I may break or might not keep these promises but I will try. These promises and statements will shape me and prepare me for the unknown. 

Photo Credit:


Cult classic. Directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Named “The 100 Greatest Movies of all Time’ by Entertainment Weekly. It’s Psycho.

This movie is in my personal top 3 favorites. It’s also a pretty recent discovery for myself. It was a cold, rainy sad day. I was ill and spent the whole day at home, watching TV. After hours and hours of watching “Friends” and “Masterchef”, I decided to watch something actually meaningful. I wasn’t going into “Psycho” with much expectation, actually, I barely had any. I could never imagine that a black and white picture from the 60’s was going to scare me more than “Insidious” or “Conjuring.”

Also, before watching I somewhat knew the plot. I think almost everyone knows the famous shower murder scene from the movie, just from it being parodied in pop culture a lot. I couldn’t imagine that two hours later I would need to turn on the lights in the room because I’d get so scared.

The story is simple. Marion Crane, an office worker, steals $40,000 from a bank and leaves town to start a new life. Exhausted after a long drive, she gets caught in a late night storm. To shelter herself, she checks into The Bates Motel. The motel is run by an awkward, young man called Norman who lives with his mother next door.

Psycho is a real mind teaser, a murder mystery if you will. It’s full of suspense and paranoia. The black and white actually perfectly matches the mood of the movie. It’s raw, unnerving and gripping. Tense and horrific, it will haunt you for weeks. Psycho IMDBRotten Tomatoes Score


Photo Credit: Wicked Channel


Whitewashing and No I Don’t Mean Stucco Walls

Halloween brings with it a lot of feelings. Excitement, happiness, the “officialness” of fall, and the feeling that all those scary things that go bump in the night are real. All of those feelings are expected, but the feeling that isn’t expected but seems to be there anyway, is a certain insecurity and anxiety.

Recently, I have grown even more conscious of my choice of Halloween costume.

Last year I found myself having to explain who I was dressed as to a complete stranger who made a not so delicate reference to my race.

He said to me, with a quizzical eyebrow raised, “Are you, like, an Asian version of, like, Harry Potter’s girlfriend or something?”

I didn’t realize at the time how much this bothered me, but the more I thought about it, the more troubling it became.

Firstly, I was not a Harry Potter character – I had no reference to Hogwarts or Harry Potter on my person. Secondly, unless he was referring to Cho Chang, who most people forget dated Harry, he was referring to Ginny Weasley (Potter). Who is not/was not just Harry Potter’s girlfriend – she was a Weasley and a kick-butt heroine.

But it really bothers me that in order to play a character that I adore or admire, people have to specify that I am the Asian version of them. Admittedly unavoidable because I am Asian, but still bothersome.

As I thought more about this, I started to think of an Asian character I could be. I thought of all the books I have read and all the movies that I have seen. Very few came to mind.

Which brings me to light whitewashing. As I furtively searched for a Halloween costume this year, I found myself not wanting to have to explain to someone that I am an Asian-American dressing up as someone who is just American or just white in general.

So I ended up looking up Asian movie and book characters. It is disappointing that I had to search this in the first place, and almost as disappointing that I found even less.

This whitewashing issue is true for every “not white” race, but I put a stress on Asian because that is what I am.

Here are some examples of some of Hollywood’s whitewashing:

Photo Credit: Hollywood Reporter

I went looking for Asian screen characters that I could play, and the results were dismal. Then I looked for articles addressing whitewashing, and truthfully I found quite a few, but it was hard to find any that were specific to the Asian-American demographic.

I did find one by the New York Times though, which was nice because it wasn’t just about how whitewashed Hollywood is or how lacking in Asians it is. The article was also about how some Asian-American stars who had made it to recognition were fighting back (read more here).

Piggy-backing on the New York Times’ article, the Odyssey also published an article about the whitewashing of Asians in American cinema, stating, “The only difference between this generation’s whitewashing and the previous generation’s whitewashing is the gradual separation from the use of “yellowface.” (read more here).

Now Hollywood just neglects that the fact that the character was meant to be Asian.

But thanks to Buzzfeed, I can at least see what blockbuster films would look like with Asian leads. For example, this is only one of them:

Photo Credit: Buzzfeed

Perhaps part of the issue comes from my own insecurity of not looking “enough” like the people I look up to. But it does make me sad that I don’t find more people to look up to who look like me.


If I could live anywhere in the world, I wouldn’t limit myself to one location – I would backpack across the world and escape from society, exploring each corner of the earth. I would separate myself from civilization as I went from place to place, exploring my inner self and soothing my soul. Wherever I […]

Christmas in China

Lots of my American friends have been asking me about Christmas in China and how we celebrate the holiday. Well, since Christmas is not a Chinese traditional festival, we do not really celebrate it like the western cultures.

However, Christmas is becoming more well known and more popular. There are always Christmas tress near the big shopping malls and the trees on the roadsides will be decorated into colorful lights. There will be sales in the malls and Christmas music is everywhere.

Only some families opt to have a small Christmas tree during Christmas in China. Few homes have Christmas lights strung outside or candles in the windows. Malls, banks and restaurants often have Christmas displays, Christmas trees, and lights. Large shopping malls help usher in Christmas in China with tree lighting ceremonies.

As for the Santa Claus, it’s not uncommon to see a Santa Claus at malls and hotels across Asia. To draw some attention, some stores will have their staff dress up as Santa and probably do some performances. Chinese children do not really get gifts from people but everyone expects something from the mysterious Santa Claus.

I am really excited about this upcoming holiday. Hope it’ll snow this year!

The Better Food.

Recently, one of my American friends asked me about my perspective of the food differences between Chinese and American food. Well, it’s hard to say which is better but there are lots of differences. But since I am a Chinese, I would of course prefer mine.

Gourmets will like Chinese food more than American food even by only looking at the it. Chinese chefs put a lot of efforts to make their food look beautiful. Since the ancient times, Chinese people have considered food as an individual type of art. Food is usually made colorfully and sometimes is made into the shape of animals, such as a dragon or a phoenix. Great dishes do not only have taste, but also have gorgeous embellishments. On the other hand, American food also has its own style of appearance. For both casual dining and fine dining, American food is often layed in the plates in a simple and clear way. Food eaters do not usually get a large amount of embellishments other than small pieces of fruits or vegetables.

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Look Ugly and Be Happy.

The ugly Christmas sweater has become a unique feature of the Christmas holiday season, along with the Christmas trees and shiny Christmas lights. All of these holiday elements together can give a warm atmosphere of Christmas.

Although the sweater as a garment has already existed in the U.S. since the late 19th century, “ugly” holiday versions of those sweaters only began to come up in the last several decades. Bill Cosby was a modern-day pioneer of the trend and is revered as an ugly sweater icon. Thanks to Cosby, as well as Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the sweaters they wore experienced a resurgence until their popularity faded as the ‘90s began.

Later in the last decade, the trend has picked up the fashion once again. In the book Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On,there was a noticeable mention of the ugly sweaters which the tradition had snowballed from there. There was a parody of MTV’s teen documentary series entitled “True Life: I Love Ugly Christmas Sweaters”.

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Home of Soul.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to visit Lijiang with my parents this summer. And till now, I still believe that my soul has settled in Lijiang and it could not escape from there any more.

Lijiang, a popular destination in Yunnan,the southern part in China, is considered a fairyland blessed with fresh air, clear streams, breathtaking snow mountains and an undisturbed landscape inhabited by a friendly group of people. The Old Town there is graced by well preserved ancient buildings and the Naxi culture.

One of the most attractive feature is the way people live and the  mood of the city. I clearly remember the very first moment when I stepped into the Old Town which lied in the center of the city – the peace and comfort strongly flipped my heart.

The small-sized houses stand together to create an atmosphere of unity. The colors are mostly grey and dark blue that take people back to the past. People live in a slow  and leisurely pace. Most residents work as tour guides and the olds spend most of  their time dancing and singing. The whole mood of the town is peace but joy.

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