Monday, February 28, 2011

People, Places and Things


Dear Makoto: Congrats on the win.  But why the need to be the one who retrieves the soccer ball from the net after a goal?  (P.S. When you do so, you run like a little boy.  It's hilarious/adorable)

Dear Matt: It was nice meeting you in Kroger the other day.  Who knew that a BYU sweatshirt would bring about such a conversation?  Best luck to you in the JAG School.  Despite your confusing upbringing, I promise BYU really is the team to cheer for.  :)

Dear English Class: Thanks to you I spent last work trying harder to be a better cook and also to really analyze how I live my life.  You're right - I've neglected a lot of the traditions of my parents and grandparents.  I will do better.

Dear Chinese couple: It feels like a small world when I see you at two different stores in my series of errands, almost as though the next time we meet we will do more than nod and smile.  Perhaps even a 'hello'.


Dear DC:  We meet so often that I sometimes forget how much you have to offer.  Thanks for always surprising me.  

Dear Taipei: I found a map of you the other day in my car.  What it was doing there, I have no idea.  But it was nice to pretend for even a split second that I would need to know how to get from YongHe to Beitou.


Dear Kato 'Makoto-son': I'm giving you a yellow card.  And I'm letting you sit the bench.  One of us likes spending my money and it's not me.

Dear Jackhammers: At 7:30 twice?  Really? My high school Spanish teacher once taught me- the way to call someone a jerk in Spanish is to call them a jackhammer.  I'm starting to agree with her.

Dear Spring: The warmer air, the rain and the sound of birds in the trees all make me anxious for your return.  Either come quickly or stop tempting me.


Friday, February 25, 2011

In a word

Here is a list recent events regarding language:

(1) A friend's blog posted the latest craze of using 6 words to describe your love story.

(2) This week in English class we discussed the origin and use of the word 'OK'.

(3) Henry of Super Junior M discussed on Strong Heart that one of the hardest parts of adapting to Korean culture was understanding the Korean pronunciation of English words.

(4) During an activity, I asked a friend to describe himself in 3 words.  His choices? "White trash vagabond."

(5) Eunhyuk, of Super Junior -ness, upon hearing a translation in Chinese of an answer he had given in Korean, thought he heard them say a bandmate's name, "Shindong" and corrected them with, "No!  I'm Eunhyuk." Which made the translator laugh and explain that she had actually said, "心動" (xin dong).

(6) In the play I read yesterday, the list of characters is given with a very short explanation of their personalities.  E.g. Chambermaid ... an astute one, Mrs. VanAustin ... a social climber

Isn't language a fascinating thing?  When I compare Charles Dickens to modern literature, I find modern literature is written in short, brief, concise sentences.  The descriptions are short rather than elaborate.  However, on the flip side, in our modern use of language, one word can have many different meanings so that the word 'awesome' which used to be something that inspired an almost reverential awe, it can now describe anything that someone finds interesting.  Along with countless other words.

Add that to the idea that English is now an international language whose words and uses have been pulled into languages across the globe and we have a language that is vibrant and changing, a language where we can describe ourselves in perfectly succinct vagueness.

But when it comes down to it, are words really adequate to perfectly capture a person?  a moment?  a memory?  or a feeling?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sobering Thoughts

Why is it that I can care for someone I've only just met?  And even if I never see them again, they will always occupy a place in my heart and in my thoughts.  

I simultaneously feel both trapped in my situation and free to do anything I feel.  But in both extremes, I fear what that means for my future.  

If I had the time and money, I would take a long trip and visit every person who has ever affected my life and sit with them and have a real heart-to-heart conversation.  As it is, I struggle to even keep up with a handful.  And I kick myself for not doing more.

My dear friends, I love you.  I miss you.  I think about you often and wish that somehow I could be the friend that I feel I should be.

Instead, I wonder if I truly understand what it means to love.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Blind Leading the ...

Dear Lucy,

You probably view me as the source of all knowledge when it comes to American culture.  And why shouldn't you, you wonder.  Here I am, an American, born and raised.  I wear jeans and t-shirts.  I sing children's songs about holes in buckets, dear Henry, dear Henry and bringing home baby bumblebees.  I elaborate on the wonders of American home cooking known as the casserole and homemade bread and apple pie.  And I tell you all about the different regions in the United States outlining their distinct cultures and accents.

But when I went home and told my friends about how I told you that Americans bow to their teachers like Koreans do, they all burst out laughing.

Maybe you should stop listening to me while we're both ahead.


P.S. English is not my forte either; I mess up on idioms all the time.  "Run around with my chickens" "Stop pulling my tail" "They were at each other's necks"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sweet Thursday

Dear World,

It's the little things about life that can sometimes just make me appreciate being alive.

Here's some of what I saw on Thursday:

What Thomas Jefferson (TJ) would look like on a cellphone.  I'm sure it's supposed to be some great thinking pose but nope, he really just looks like he's chatting away with some friend (maybe James Madison?).  Seen in the UVA Hospital Lobby.

While picking out a movie to watch with my roommate, I was anxious to find other movies for her to watch while on bed rest.  I was thumbing through the foreign films looking for something martial arts-esque but was not finding anything especially interesting so I asked Ashley, "Are you seeing anything?"  She had been unusually quiet while I had been looking.  Her response, "Um... No.  The movies in my area aren't quite what I think we should get."  And then she showed me what she saw:
And we laughed at the weirdness of it.  Seen in the UVA Undergraduate Library - Clemons.

Also, weird movie! Perhaps Love (如果愛) with Takeshi Kaneshiro.  It's like art film meets Singin' in the Rain/West Side Story/Moulin Rouge complete with Takeshi singing, some other guy singing operatic style and the main lead girl singing breathy voice style.  While I giggled over the joy of listening to Phantom of the Opera type singing in Chinese, my roommates scratched their heads over the horrible English translation.  So I had to actually stop and read the subtitles and correct them where I could.  But we never were quite certain what was a flashback and what was a cut from the movie they were making in the movie.

And one more thing: Walking back to the car at 4:30 am on the return from the ER (again) was glorious.  The world smells so clean and wonderful.  Whereas walking into the ER reminded me of the chaos and smells of Taipei at night (which I love) the morning reminded me of my walks to work in the BYU Library back in the day.  I was reminded of how much I missed those times in my life.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Human Condition

Yesterday, I spent large amounts of time in the hospital.  Whether it was in Radiology or the Emergency Department or even up in one of the rooms, the theme of the entire day was sitting and waiting.  And since I finished the book I brought about one hour into the day, I had the opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes: people watching.

And this is what I encountered:

(1) Strength in the face of tragedy: A family who was near me in the emergency room all counseled together and decided to send the mother home to shower and eat something and take a nap while her daughter took over the watch in the hospital.  I didn't realize how serious the situation was until I heard this daughter calling up her daughter and tell her that "Grandpa's lungs have blood and pus in them.  There's nothing that can be done about that so if you would like to come to see your grandpa while he is alive, now is the time to do so."  And then, while I stared in absolute shock, the woman continued to relate to her daughters details about the events that had transpired since the early hours of her terrifying day.  And she even managed to concern herself with her daughter's care in the details of travel and accommodation.  How could she manage so calmly I marveled?  And then after the cheerful phone call, I saw this woman's eyes start to mist a little as her heart caught up with the knowledge that her father was not going to be with her much longer.  This woman has some long days and nights ahead of her, no matter how much longer her father fights to stay alive.  I am in awe of her strength.

(2) Camaraderie in spite of unfamiliarity: Put a group of strangers together in unexpected and even hard circumstances and they will draw close together.  When one individual proved to be absent when called over concerning their loved one, I was impressed that multiple people spoke up to state the individual's whereabouts.  Somehow everyone had been taking quiet notes about each other and we all were cheered by anyone's good news: when one woman's father came out of surgery okay, I felt my own heart lifted.  And then when we all had to move to another waiting room, we all squished (literally) onto the elevator and laughed at the silliness of our situation before moving into a smaller space together.  Laughter - despite the fact that each of us inwardly was worrying and worrying about the surgeries our loved ones were undergoing.  It was not strange to laugh with strangers but it struck me that it possibly should have felt strange.

(3) Kindness in spite of pressure: Even though hospitals are stressful places, I was impressed by how often people would stop in their busy lives to remember those who very much needed a friend.  The doctors and nurses and attendants were all very nice about letting me stay with my friend until the very last moment and to let me come see her as soon as it was safe to let people near her.  And then there's the poor receptionist in the waiting room who always leaves late because she keeps hoping that our families will be out of surgery before she has to leave.

(3) A realization that life is not about work, not about money or even about all of the many activities we fill our lives up with.  The hospital was filled with people all waiting, waiting, waiting.  And why?  Because their own loved ones were sick or injured.  And despite the fact that on any other normal day, those loved ones might feel the need to compete for our time and sadly, sometimes even, our hearts, on a day like this, it was enough simply to sit nearby just in case they might want us near.

Thank you roommate for giving me the chance to pause.  It's been a stressful few days but I am glad you are okay.  And thank you world for letting me see once again that despite everything, being alive and being human is a marvelous thing.  We are kind yet.  We are good yet.  And we will love yet.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Gratitude this week

Dear Intramural Soccer,

I have learned a lot about myself from our short stint together.  (1) Putting me in the goalbox turns me from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde.  Don't try it unless you want to listen to me chastising myself (i.e. screaming at the universe)  in Chinese.  (2) Injuries are a matter of course.  (3) I'm so bad at this game that I can't even pretend to have illusions that soccer is in my future or that I will one day impress some already professional soccer player with my mad skills <cough, cough>.  

Thank you for being a voice of reason.


Dear World of Kpop,

Nothing helps me realize how normal I am as much as you.  I don't understand why you are impressed with Nichkhun's English skills when he was born and raised in America.  I don't get that you think it newsworthy to take pictures when Yesung rides the subway.  Or that you think it's worth mentioning when an idol smiles at, shakes hands with or hugs a person of the opposite gender.  I don't understand your fashion sense or why the most random of lists that some 13 year old girl makes up about, "Top Twenty Idols that I would Build an Igloo With (or insert other random activity here)" get passed around the interwebs as a scientifically based study.  

Thank you for letting me be a voice of reason.


Dear "Albert",

I thought I had met you before when you walked into the activity late.  And I wracked my brain, willing it to remember why you were so familiar to me.  And then it hit me: You looked like Bae Soo Bin.  

Thanks for the reminder that I like Kpop more than I care to admit.


Dear Mr. Children,

Your music is fantastic and inspiring.  It's easy to listen to while I'm working away the hours in the lab.  And it even impressed my friend who speaks Japanese.  

Thanks for helping me get through this week. 


Dear Fei's Mother,

It was wonderful to meet you and talk with you.   I really glad to have a chance to talk with you, even for just a minute.  And your compliment was extremely nice even if it left me slightly wondering, "Your Chinese is good.  I can understand what you say ergo your Chinese is good.  I mean, I can understand you much better than I can Cantonese or Shanghaiese."  

Thank you for setting the bar of good Chinese: It gives me the illusion of improving.  


Dear Mom and Dad,

I once had a friend tell me that one of the greatest things a parent could give their child was the gift of literacy.  I realize that I take it for granted on a daily basis but it has proved time and time again to be one of the best and most important influences in my life.  

Thank you for making my world.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Skewed Perspective

Last night my roommate came home with a huge smile on her face and a picture in her hand of her brand-new baby niece.  And what a darling baby it was.

Thinking about my own dear niece and the trips I have made in the past six months to see her, I asked my roommate casually, "So, I guess we won't be seeing as much of you."

My roommate just stared at me.

I continued, "I mean, because you'll want to go see your niece so much and all."

She spoke up this time, "You're the one that we never see."

Me: "Really?  I just assumed that we all run on different schedules and so we just miss each other."

Roommate: "I was home pretty much all last week and I never saw you."

Is it true?  I am really busy and gone all the time?

I wonder what else I'm missing because I see things through my lens and not through others'.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Half thoughts

Dear Makoto,

I'm not sure why my first conscious thought these past few days always includes you.  On Sunday morning it was, "I need to go vote for Makoto to win MVP from Singapore"* and this morning it was, "Makoto can't waste away his best playing days sitting the bench."

I blame your poster/calendar.

* I can't claim that it was a coherent thought even if it was a conscious one

Dear Steve McClaren,

Sure, I was upset that you didn't put Mako-chan in the game on Saturday.  And I bemoaned your decision-making all weekend.  But I never expected you to get sacked.

I'm wishing I never thought anything even close to negative about you.  Good luck.


Dear Kato,

You know I love you right?  Turning on your check engine light only a week after getting you out of the shop is a little much.  But three months in a row???

In this relationship, why do you get to be the one who is "high maintenance"?


Dear Lab,

Let's pretend that you love me.  And that you really want to work.  And give me good results.  So that I can stop getting angry in Chinese and cease throwing ice on the nice trees outside.

Think of it as an early birthday present.


Dear Sub-conscious,

Sleeping these past few days has been exhausting.  Could we try a plot line that doesn't involve me getting chased and hunted down?

At this point, I might even accept folding socks.


Dear Life,

Since all of my career plans from the past 29 1/2 years have failed to come to fruition, I am now opening the floor to suggestions.

Accepting: open doors or windows of opportunity.


Friday, February 4, 2011

My Life in Music

Let's face it; I love music.  In lots of different forms and in lots of different languages.  Here is a glimpse of my life through my most recent most played 'playlist'.

These are the only two songs I can keep in my head while running.  I don't know why but at least I never tire of them.
Beautiful by B2ST - Great steady beat and nothing is better than running to the words of "YOU are beautiful, YOU so beautiful, YOU my beautiful, Nothing better than YOU are beautiful, YOU so beautiful, YOU my beautiful."  And the misheard lyric of "I'm a good Mormon guy" cracks me up every time.
【謝謝你的美好】Thanks for Your Greatness by Yen-j - I don't know why this song always runs through my head - I call it the ultimate break-up song and the rap makes me laugh A LOT.  "Girl, please don't cry like this is a surprise, Crying will only make it more difficult, My love hasn't changed but the timing is all off, Girl you know that right?" But for some reason it keeps me in step and smiling while my feet plod along on the pavement.

Research (in the lab): 
Let's just say with the frustrations of realizing that I have a LOT to get accomplished while running out of time/patience, it's no wonder these are the songs that have resonated with me.
Can You Hear Me by Evan Yo - "Can You Hear Me, Did You Hear It?  Don't wanna hang like this. Please set me free."  For some reason those are some great words to describe my plea with my life.
Change by Monkey Majik - This song is mostly in English so no need to explain it.  One listen through and you'll know that again, life as a researcher lately seems to be one mass of frustration.  But it's nice to listen to these songs to release that frustration.

On the computer: 
Glee's version of Train's Hey Soul Sister Sister - You were just waiting for an English song sung by an English speaking group weren't you?  I promise I haven't forgotten my American roots.  
Dog Days are Over by Florence + The Machine -  I don't entirely get the meaning of this song but I love it anyways.  (I guess that's kind of ironic since the rest of my songs are in other languages right?) 
So Close by Jon McLaughlin - This song is the best song to do anything with.  While watching soccer highlights with the sound turned off, suddenly the whole soccer world is magical and I'm practically fighting back tears when Hasebe makes that perfect goal in the Syria game and then rejoices with the whole team.  

While thinking: 
 終わりなき旅 Endless Journey by Mr. Children - This is Hasebe's favorite song that he always plays before he heads into the stadium for a game.  The beat is not upbeat but the words are amazing: "Don't be someone's shadow or try to be imitate; being yourself is enough."  as well as a message about always looking forward to the great things in store for you.  I think Hase and I could be great friends.
明天晴天 Sunny Day Tomorrow by Stefanie Sun - "You can't hurry eternity.  At the beginning who can comprehend that there will be fierce winds and heavy rain?  Instead believe that tomorrow will be sunny." 
你看不到的天空 The Heaven You Can't See by Evan Yo - So I thought I understood this song until just now when I went back and realized I might have misunderstood it.  So what I THOUGHT it meant was that, "If only you could see the heaven right beside you.  If only you could hear the promises that I've made.  But you don't and as a result, the whole world is lonely." I'm sure the real message of the song is just as nice.  

With Alexis, my adorable niece:
There's only one song that has ever come to mind when she's in my arms.  So, dear one, this is for you.
Baby by Justin Bieber:  :) 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Letting it Out

Dear Trees Outside my Office,

Yes, that was me taking my anger out on you.  I'm not entirely sure why I've been so "angry Hase" lately.  Seriously, someone give me a red card and take me out of this game.  Let me sit out a few or something.

All I know is that I couldn't take it anymore.

It really was rather boy-ish of me to want to take out my anger using physical means.  It was satisfying to crush large piles of ice under my feet and then to scoop up the ice in my hands, form a crude iceball and chuck it your direction.  I promise I didn't do any damage at all.  Aren't you glad I'm a poor shot?

You see, it's not that I don't like you or that I'm mad at you.  It's more that I'm mad at me.

Well I ran out of ice before I ran out of anger.  So I stopped to stare at you for a while.  You remain stoic, unfazed by my frustrations.  While I screamed out, you echoed back only quiet and stillness.
Watching you, I realized that life is bigger than the petty setbacks of a lab.  The world continues to function.  And outside of myself, outside of my research, there exists great peace and even joy.

Thank you for showing me that.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Worth A Smile

Dear Shinji Okazaki,

Congratulations on the move to Stuttgart.  It's nice to have more of 'my boys' in the Bundesliga - easier to keep track of you that way.

Congratulations on the new baby boy.  It must have been hard to have to win the Asian Cup 2011 in Qatar and  sign with Stuttgart in Germany before finally rushing home to Japan to get a glimpse of your new little one.  A whole week apart - but what a week!

But finally,

Congratulations on your ability to have a photographer snap a picture at just the right moment to make you look as awkward as possible.
It's nice to know that awkward people can still go on to lead productive successful lives.