I think part of what is making schoolwork so difficult is the post-conference lethargy associated with nostalgic longing—which of course, is exacerbated by daily monotony. It’s the trough after the peak, the low levels of endorphins after too much stimulation—the emotional flatline. So here I am blogging, reminiscing about a short-lived high jammed into the middle of a tough [albeit last] semester.
April 2, HoChie Tsai and I drove down to LA for the ITASA West Coast Conference held at USC. Because of MMIAF’s slight relevance to Asian American issues (think cultural gaps, identity issues, communication barriers), I was invited to hold a workshop for a college crowd, despite being a college student myself. Fast-forward two weeks, and on April 17, I flew to Champaign, Illinois by myself for the ITASA Midwest Conference held at UIUC.
To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect. I always assumed cultural clubs consisted of first and 1.5 generation students—the “fobs” on campus with distinctive hairstyles and fashion tastes who always cluster together in Asian food courts and speak loud but authentic “dao di” Mandarin at 200 wpm. You know, the loaded parachute kids with parents back in Taiwan who send them wads of cash to rice up their M3s and buy Gucci messenger bags to make up for not being there. No? view more →
Because I was battling my crapass battery, I left out all the golden highlights that made the experience truly worthwhile. The lucky Firefly crowd seriously bonded during our “time of crisis”—we were the modern version of…The Grapes of Wrath family—French, American, Chinese and all. When the last few were able to clear customs immigration and step on our bus an hour after everyone else, we cheered. During that one-hour bus ride from the rugged outskirts to Kuala Lumpur’s city center (well, airport), I felt at peace for the first time since the riots in Bangkok broke out. My mom compared us to refugees fleeing political turmoil from one country and seeking refuge at another, for added dramatic storytelling I guess.
While we were all sitting on the ground waiting for our plane ride, one woman asked a long blonde-haired boy what his job was. His response was, “I’m getting a doctorial research position at Carnegie Mellon in December—I just graduated from UC Berkeley with a Ph.D in May and I’ve been traveling all over the world since then.” Of course, my eyes widened and I immediately felt this odd connection with a total stranger and exclaimed, “Wait, you went to Cal? I go to Cal!” We both had incredulous looks of amazement then. How two Cal students manage to be stuck in a place like Phuket at the same time in the same airport on the same tiny emergency plane is beyond my comprehension. view more →
Because of the protests urging the current Thai Prime Minister to step down, the international airport at Bangkok closed down—ruining travel plans for many. Our flights from Phuket to Bangkok and then to Taipei this morning were both canceled. All flights for the next few days out of Thailand (Pattaya, Phuket) to international hubs in Southeast Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, you name it) are all booked (including waitlists). My mom frantically called our Thai agent at the business center while I called various airlines from our room—to no avail. The phone charges to our room probably span five pages and we even considered taking a bus with a honeymoon couple to Malaysia just to get out. What hurt the most was when our Thai agent exclaimed out of exasperation, “I hate my country” and the honeymoon couple complained, “I’m never coming here again.” To hate your own country and be hated is just such a…heartbreaking thought.
Despite not being with a tour group this time, we still played the roles of true Bangkok tourists: we bought local gemstone jewelry, we had dresses and suits custom-tailored by Indian businessmen, we went for a boat ride along the Chao Praya River, and we hunted down the coconut vendors to combat the heat.
Bangkok was amazing, but Phuket’s breathtakingly beautiful. We’re staying at the J.W. Marriott Phuket Beach Club because my mom traded our Newport timeshare villa for a week here instead. We’re essentially chilling on Marriott’s private beach during the day and sleeping in our spacious villa fully equipped with a kitchen, laundry room, two bed, two bath, living, dining, and patio space at night. I’m thankful for the calming waves and virgin shores filled with seashells, the sounds of exotic birds chirping on our patio, the scent of lemongrass in the bathrooms, even the spontaneous drizzles in 90 degree weather. Yes, I’m thankful for my globetrotting mom and stamp-filled passport, but I know that I don’t need to live or shop at a place where the only choices of water are Voss or a Christian Lacroix-designed bottle of Evian to be happy. view more →