The Holiday Reconnect (1-17 Dec)

Holiday lights on the staircase leading to the moon.

Wednesday, Dec 2

Racism and racial biases are a hot topic in the past century, more so than ever, especially as we raise issues of racial inequality despite America’s claim of equality. Ever since the “equality” of blacks versus whites was signed into the American law, there’s a constant disconnect. Are we really supposed to follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated?

Today, I dared to venture out of my field of study and into one of my rare dabbles in one of my fields of potential possibilities. As a part of the various learning opportunities for staff on my campus, I’ve been given the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. John Dovidio from Yale University. He focuses his research on issues of social power and social relations, especially relating to aversive racism. So what? His studies show how racial biases can be detected through subconscious social cues given through — not just verbal cues (e.g. Talking slower to a minority, speaking with a tone of superiority) — but also through physical cues (i.e. Displaying negative body language) and actions (e.g. Prescribing less pain relief medication to a minority).  This can create a less trustworthy bond between people (e.g. Between white doctors and their minority patients) where a minority’s livelihood is at stake. However, when we set our minds on limiting our subconscious biases, there is a significant difference in how we treat other people, to the point where our subconscious biases may no longer effect our interactions, thus making our lives — and society — less biased — or, using the more negatively con notated word, racist.

So from this point forward, may we not function by the Golden Rule, but by the Platinum Rule: treat others as they would like to be treated. Our subconscious, afterall, can easily get the best of us, even if we have good intentions.

The Chinatown Gate here in Boston’s Chinatown.

Saturday, Dec 5

So, after all that humdrum marinating on racial biases and all that, I faced the realisations of my ethnicity with my middle sister. She and I had previously planned to grab some noms in Chinatown today. Boy was I in for a surprise. Not only did we go to Chinatown, but she also brought me to the Chinese supermarket/grocery store there known as C-mart, across from the Chinatown Gate. I didn’t expect much of it, but I sure was shocked when I walked in. Sure, everything was in Chinese, but they had some pretty darn good prices for some delicious goodies (e.g. These weird-looking seeds Chinese people love to snack on, persimmons). Afterwards, we went out for food and gorged our faces on some great, authentic Chinese food. Although, sadly, their chives box was not up to my standards. Alas, my picky, picky food preferences get the best of me at times — often to remind me how Asian I really am, despite my constant denials.

Thursday, Dec 10

It’s the holiday season — almost. You know what this means?! Holiday parties! Today is the first one I’ve decided to attend. My department is known to throw a holiday party every year. I didn’t know much about it, but decided to go based on my curiosity and desire to simply get out and socialise with people — at least a little.

I get to work today at my usual time to find my graduate student raving about how our department holiday parties always has great food. All the more reason to go right?! So off I went, after work was nearly over with. OH MY GOSH. It was mad! First off, it was on a WHOLE floor of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, so there were beautifully ancient skeletons and preserved insects everywhere! Then, lo and behold, my graduate student was right. The food was amazing; my favourite: the butternut squash ravioli. I would never have thought 1) to put butternut squash in ravioli, 2) that I would thoroughly enjoy a squash — the ones “we” consider vegetables when it comes to cooking — in any way, shape or form, 3) that I would enjoy another vegetarian dish THAT much — the first being my Italian flatmate’s mushroom risotto of course. The last and final thing I delighted in was definitely the fun “party favour” they had set up for us: a 30-second flipbook printed and prepared for us on the spot, by FunPhotoFlips.

Definitely worth going way out to main campus for.

Thursday, Dec 17

It’s been a while since I wrote, but there’s not many exciting things to write about in between holiday parties. So, holiday party number two: our Arboretum holiday party. Last year, I started my job during the winter just shortly before last year’s holiday party. This year’s was significantly fancier. Previously, we had a rather informal gathering and enjoyed a bit of fun with our — apparently — annual Yankee Swap, or as we call it in California: the White Elephant. This year, the lady who organised the holiday party decided to do away with the Yankee Swap completely. Instead, we had a holiday munch and chat. We had fancy finger foods passed around by caterers from our favourite catering company: Jules Catering. It was so much fun to just try a little bit of everything that went around. One of our administrative staff got smart about it all: after a few rounds of falafels and other goodies served on bamboo toothpicks, he began stowing the toothpicks in his shirt pocket. Why? To get more goodies at one time on a single toothpick — and also as to not get his fingers too messy if he wanted to dip things in the sauces provided. Smart thinking!

One single candle per window. Apparently, it’s a “holiday custom” here in Boston.

“Today” I Learned

  • When I was growing up, I loved to eat this delicious cake I had heard called a “checker cake.” Well, recently, I learned it has an even more official name: the Battenburg cake.
  • The nautical measurement known as a knot is based on when sailors used to actually tie knots on a rope to measure the speed they’re traveling through the water.
  • Matcha is — on a very basic level — ground up tea leaves.
  • Boston — if not all of New England — seems to like putting a candle in each window during the holiday season. I was curious, so I looked it up. Turns out, there are many theories behind this practice tied mainly to the Catholic church liturgies, Colonial Williamsburg or a custom brought over to America by the Irish. For all we know, it could be all the same story!
  • Different necklace chains have different names.
  • Minnesota is so big that it takes 8 hours to drive it from top to bottom!

Thanksgiving Weekend in Baltimore (25-29 Nov)

Some delicious treats I made for Thanksgiving at my girl friend’s house: pilgrim hat cookies and Kisses acorns.

Sitting on the concrete island, I discovered that pallet jacks/trucks often travel in the bike lanes in NYC’s Chinatown.

Wednesday, 25 Nov

Today, I set off to my girl friend’s house in Maryland for Thanksgiving. Maryland here I come!!!! This time around, my bus trip was taken with ChinatownBus. It was pretty cheap, but I can attest to the fact that it wasn’t a smooth ride. I left and rode into New York City (NYC) at 9am when Boston was barely awake. The first leg of my ride was spent with a busload of college kids who were either going home or going with a friend to their’s for Thanksgiving — aka it was a very quiet ride as these college kiddos were barely awake.

Upon my arrival in NYC, I stranded myself on a concrete island for a good 2-3 hours while I enjoyed my Trader Joe’s lunch I had brought with me from Boston. Yes, I said concrete island. What do I mean? Well, in this strip of Chinatown where I was to stay — you know, so I don’t miss my bus — the “two way” traffic was separated by a concrete “island,” — or as some people call it, a divider, or a median strip. However, unlike most islands with trees or grass or having just plain concrete, this island had a few planters and trees and several benches. It was essentially a walkway/park in the middle of a street. Strange, huh? But there it was and there I stayed for a few hours.

What next? I loaded up on the bus to go to Baltimore from NYC. Little did I know, I got lucky with my choice of location to get on the bus. The bus stop I had chosen was, as known by the frequent travelers of this bus line, the first stop in NYC where the Chinatown Bus picked up passengers. We were so full at this “first stop” that we completely skipped the “second stop” in Midtown and headed straight to Maryland. It made that second leg of our travel a little more comfortable, albeit a bit cramped. What more? I got to sit next to a girl who went to school in Boston and now works in NYC. We had a great chat about the most random things of life without even exchanging our names — not even joking. It was awesome and it made time pass by SOOOO much faster.

My delicious plate of linguine with white clam sauce at the Olive Grove.

Sadly, we were forced to part ways at Wilmington, Delaware where our bus had a stop along its route before its final destination in Baltimore, Maryland. There were so many of us that got off the original bus at Wilmington that the bus drivers had us move buses and consolidated two buses going along the route into one bus going to Baltimore. Thus, for the third leg of my trip — which was already delayed by this point — I sat next to an artist who had grown up in, again, Boston, and had moved out to NYC to pursue a life.

When I finally arrived in Baltimore, I was beat and happy to finally sit down and have my first meal with my girl friend at Olive Grove, an Italian restaurant. No, no, not the chain Olive Garden, but this lovely home-styled restaurant with the freshest seafood ingredients called Olive Grove. I ordered a scrumptious linguine with white clam sauce. Oh, it was so mouth-wateringly divine! The end…for the day, at least.

My girl friend’s cute little boy cat playing with catnip bubbles.

Thursday, 26 Nov

HAPPY TURKEY DAY! Today, I had a lovely second “real American” turkey day — the first being last year with my 4th grade teacher. Boy, little did I know what I had gotten myself into by accepting the invitation to spend Thanksgiving at my friend’s! First and foremost, I had a blast making some delicious, cute Hershey Kisses acorn treats and some pilgrim hat cookies. Second, I got to see how much planning went into preparing a Thanksgiving dinner alone, as she had a whole schedule set up as to when she was going to put certain dishes into their slow cookers and/or when the turkey had to go into the oven and other seemingly minor details. It was intense! Lastly, I got to really experience “Black Friday” shopping — ironically enough, on the Thursday Thanksgiving was on.

After all the food and, of course, more food, my friend and her cousin scoured through the newspapers for sales they wanted to shop, made a plan of what stores they were going to visit in what order and then we set off for shopping at 3-4pm — after I got a chance to wish on a wishbone with my teeth, as I had just washed my hands. Thankfully, our bellies were full of Thanksgiving goodness, as we were out shopping around and store-hopping until 9pm or so. Our first stop was Target for a new 55″ TV  for her parents and a few other things, mostly toys for her cousin’s kids. My, oh my, did we buy SOOOO many things for these kids. These two girls bought more than one present for each child, some to distribute among relatives to give to the kids — so the relatives didn’t have to do the shopping themselves — or to just spoil the child. It was intense! I didn’t realise such things happened! At the end of our shopping trip, my friend’s receipt read: “You saved $560!” or something along those lines. It was shocking how much money we “would’ve spent otherwise.” Ironically, on the other hand, my friend’s mother had already finished all her “Black Friday shopping” by 8am Thanksgiving MORNING! Either way though, it was fun to just experience a less crazy version of the Black Friday shopping rush I had heard about growing up.

Sunday, 29 Nov

After a crazy Turkey weekend, a dinner at Medieval Times with a colleague from my Dublin days, and some nostalgic visits to my favourite suburban stores (e.g. Kohls, Big Lots, Goodwill, Costco), I headed on home today. I left my beloved friend after a brunch at my beloved IHOP and hopped myself onto my bus home to Boston. I got to NYC smoothly and just barely caught my bus to Boston. Sadly enough, my bus to Boston ran into some troubles and traffic and we didn’t arrive as planned at 9-10pm. Instead, we had to stop just outside of Boston, as our bus was having issues, and switched onto a different bus, delaying us — after a slow chug out of NYC — until we finally arrived home in Boston at 11pm. From there, it took me an hour to get back to my apartment where I flopped like a fish out of water — then laid dead still — at midnight.

The USPS truck I saw in Downtown Boston as I was going to my bus to Maryland.

“Today”I Learned

  • The United State Postal Service (USPS) has mobile trucks that sell stamps and stuff! It’s so cool!
  • Those swirly energy saving lightbulbs are lit by “gas” instead of “filament“, thus they do NOT work with dimmer switches.
  • Turkeys come with their necks and innards (known as giblets) IN the turkey and their wings and thighs tucked into them, under the skin, to be taken out and untucked before the turkey is put into the oven.
  • There are MBTA buses that say “Instruction Bus” across the top, where it usually displays what bus route the bus is running on, for bus drivers in training.

Giving in to the Travel Bug (14-16 Nov)

A cute scenery on the side of the freeway/highway just outside of Norwalk, Connecticut.

The Megabus. Top: the sunroof. Bottom: the awkwardly numbered seats.

Saturday, 14 Nov

It’s been a while since I’ve been traveling and I’ve been getting pretty antsy. Conveniently, my friend suggested we hang out one more time before she flies back to the West Coast. I figured why not?! So I booked a ticket to meet her in New York City (NYC) for a weekend. Today is the day I set off on this lovely adventure!

Choice of transportation: bus.
Company of choice: Megabus!.
Boarding time: 12pm
Expected arrival time: 4pm
ACTUAL arrival time: 6pm

I thought LA traffic was bad. Boy oh boy is NYC traffic so much worse. Sure, not all of the delay was about the NYC traffic but rather how ever so slow our driver was driving (she kept driving in the far right lane and was traveling at the minimum speed allowable on a freeway/highway). But OH MY GOSH, there was stop-and-go traffic rather comparable to the San Francisco bridge traffic where we couldn’t move for a good 10-15 minutes sometimes! At least in LA, you’re inching forward every so often and it’s only in specifically congested areas.

A lovely view of Hartford, Connecticut along the freeway to New York.

Either way, I still enjoyed my slow crawl to NYC. The Megabus bus was a double decker bus. WOOOO!!! Double decker buses! Not to mention, it has a FULL sunroof on the top deck of the bus (too bad for the people who didn’t want that much sun). Not only that, but I go a seat in the front right corner and got to see a pretty good view of the landscape we were traversing through. It was beautiful seeing the various places we were passing by (i.e. Hartford, New Haven and Norwalk, Connecticut). It got hot towards the afternoon after we had been on the bus for about 5 hours, but otherwise it was grand.

Traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel from 5-6pm.

However, as we were nearing the city, the traffic got worse and our driver took a route different than the route that would have been a shorter distance to the city due to the fact that traffic on that route was — probably — intensely/absurdly much worse than what we endured entering from the Lincoln Tunnel, which goes under the Hudson River, from Weehawken, New Jersey (yes, that is a weird city name, I agree).We got on to the entrance to the tunnel and we didn’t move for a good 15-30 minutes. It was about here that people began getting antsy. Then, a few blocks from our drop-off point, people got REALLY antsy and decided to disregard the driver’s opening remark of NOT going down the front set of stairs while the bus was in motion — as a sudden stop could potentially send you FLYING through the front windshield and/or cause serious damage otherwise.

When we finally got off, I was tired of traveling, but it was good  to see my friend again. We were originally going to enjoy the city for the afternoon, as our arrival time was supposed to be at 4pm, but alas to no avail. We ended up having a night in and watched Philomena, which was quite the movie.

Our delicious table of dim sum in Flushing.

Sunday, 15 Nov

Today is my first morning and only full day in NYC. What to do? What to DO?! Okay, okay, yes I should go do the touristy things, but I’m not really all for that. Plus, the sad reality is that I’m running a high fever today and a nasty cough — and my poor travel partner has to deal with it. So, I popped some ibuprofen pills and went about my day trying to inhale just enough water to keep my cough down.

Our cute little mango pudding fish with sesame eyes! HE’S SO ADORABLE! ❤

What else? I did what I always do when I visit a place: visit with friends. Shortly before I decided to come to NYC, one of my longer-term friends had just started a PhD program at Columbia University. So, I hit her up. My NYC friend, originally from Connecticut, ended up inviting us to have some dim sum in a city/town/area in NYC known as Flushing — Flushing, right?! What kinda name is that?! — which has approximately a 70% Asian population. Oh my was that dim sum DELICIOUS!

Afterwards, my travel partner and I followed my NYC friend and her friends around for the day. It was quite a sight. We were three girls (my travel partner, myself and my NYC friend) following three guys for a good deal of the day. It was rather….amusing, if you will. Us girls had no cares in the world where we were. We just wanted to spend some time together and hang out. The guys on the other hand, they wanted to go shopping for some food at the Chinese market in Flushing, so we went there, and then go return — then shop in the area, funnily enough — some items at Uniqlo, and we followed them there too. This was how the majority of the day was spent: following guys doing whatever they fancied. It was an experience in itself.

My gorgeous panorama of the Columbia University courtyard at night.

At the end of the day, the three of us girls settled down at the Columbia University campus. My NYC friend took us to the nice picturesque courtyard — she said it was the only thing worth seeing on the campus — and sat in the area for a while just enjoying the night, while I did my thing and took a panoramic of the yard. Afterwards, we went and grabbed two nice, HUGE slice of pizza between three of us girls at Koronet Pizza. No joke, go to Yelp and search for Koronet Pizza in Morningside Heights, where Columbia University is, and look at the customer photos — these slices are HUGE. It was somewhat pricey for “a slice” of cheese pizza ($3.00) with each topping costing you a hefty $2.50, especially if you didn’t know that the HUGE slices in the pictures you see are considered “a small slice of pizza” at the place. It was crazy, but one slice is essentially a personal pizza — though I do wonder how that measure up mathematically.

Monday, 16 Nov

You know, I often hear people say, “What a small world!” When they meet someone who knows someone they also know. I think it’s funny, especially when they live in what I’d consider a close proximity. But what happens when you meet someone that looks like you, or like someone you know — or as some of us call it a doppelgänger?

Okay, so, I didn’t personally see anyone’s doppelgänger — or my own, for that matter. However, I did meet a pair of mugs in the apartment I was staying at, via Airbnb, that looked strangely familiar. They looked strikingly similar to the pair of identical mugs I had seen around my apartment — no, they didn’t just magically appear, they’re my roommate’s. The funny thing is, they aren’t signed the same way on the bottom so I wondered where the ones in New York came from, if not from the original artist or what the story is behind that. Oh the mysteries and curiosities of life! ❤

These similar-looking Italian mugs. Top: from the apartment I was staying at in NYC. Bottom: one of the identical mugs my roommate got from his parents’ trip to Italy.

*Update: Upon a little Google research, it seems like the set from New York might be older, as Larce Orvieto is listed as an “antique artist.” However, the terms “Pascal Ravello Italy” turned up a ceramics location in Ravello, Italy called Ceramiche d’Arte, which states that pieces bought there are made by the resident artist Pasquale Sorrentino.Then, while pursuing the Ceramiche d’Arte website, I stumbled upon a few pieces that had the human-headed dragon found on both the NYC and home set of mugs; it was labelled “Raffaellesco”. So Googling that turned up this site, it explains Raffeallesco to be a diety “brought to life” by the Renaissance painter Raphael and that this image of him is often associated with the the popular “motif” seen on many pieces of Italian artwork today.

“Today” I Learned

  • New York City is more south than Boston (yes, I’m American and yes, I suck at geography and thought otherwise).
  • I had only recently  learned — within the past few years — that the infamous Yale University is located on the East Coast of the United State. In addition to this, I add to my knowledge bank that it is in New Haven, Connecticut.