A Good Bad Example?

On one of the my missions trips to Thailand, I recall a story that bothers me, even to this day.

As you know, we visited an orphanage that was kind enough to house and feed us for about a week.  I imagine they did this often as there seemed to be more than enough rooms for our small team.  These rooms were unused by the kids themselves, but were certainly optimized for guests.  Not too long after we arrived, the orphanage welcomed in a group of missionaries from Hong Kong.

They arrived in a mini bus, similar to how the rest of team and I did.  But as they disembarked and unloaded, I couldn’t help but conclude that they were all very well off.  Lacoste polos, Gucci bags, among other designer brand things.  We were informed that they had their own agenda, so it’s not like we would interact with them.  The rest of the day and evening was spent settling in and acclimating to the heat and humidity.  Of course, as if a natural instinct, most of our team spent time playing with the kids despite the language barrier.  Admittedly, it was so hot and humid, I couldn’t function unless I was standing in front of or under a fan when outside.  

The next day was Sunday, where we woke up early to join the service held in the orphanage’s main hall.  For some context and visual aid, the main hall was set up like this:

Notice that the chalkboard and podium were on the right, in front of the right section of chairs.  And even as we got there, many of the kids were already sitting in the right section, where one of the orphanage leaders was also standing in front of.  I think you get the point that everything is on the right and that’s a natural prompt for you to sit there (on the right).

So, the Hong Kong missionaries came in and sat in the left section…  They certainly stuck out with their bright yellow team shirts as well.  Now, it all could have been a simple misunderstanding, and they could have migrated over, but no, they stayed there despite the urging of the pastor to shift over.  They elected to turn their heads to the right.  And it wasn’t an slight head turn either, it was an inconvenient chin hovering over your right shoulder head turn.

So service started with a couple of canaan hymns.  Afterward, there was a moment where we greeted those around us.  Despite some people on the right side greeting those on the left, the Hong Kong missionaries mostly remained to themselves.

Notice the word “mostly”.  Their saving grace?  ONE of them took the prompt to come over and sat with us during the sermon.  She spoke English and even translated most of the message.to me and others sitting nearby.

A couple days passed and we only really saw them in passing.  But there was one afternoon where we came back and they were gone.  I stumbled upon this information as I went to one of the rooms our team stayed in.  I was putting some things down when I heard a faint but constant noise.  We were in the mountains, so unless its the noise of big trucks driving by or kids playing, it was often pretty quiet.  I went outside and went over to the room next to ours to investigate.  It was one of the rooms the Hong Kong missionaries were staying in.  The room was cleared out, yet the fan was still on.  Upon closer inspection, they left a bunch of ash on the window sill where they had been burning their mosquito coils.  They also left a stack of mosquito coils and the room was a mess.  After turning off the fan. I still heard something.  It was the bathroom their room was next to, and the shower was left running.  For context, the first day we got there, the orphanage told us go easy on our water usage, as they were running low on it.  It’s as if they left in a hurry.

I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they had a sudden change of plans or they were being hunted by the Thai police, and one of them had to leave mid-shower.  Maybe they were diseased and that’s why they didn’t want to sit or interact with us or the kids.  Or maybe they actually were a group of pretentious snobs.  I’ll never know

And it’s at this point in writing all of this, that it might just be me.  So, after those encounters I decided that as much as possible, I will do my best to not come off the way they did.

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Spanish

As mentioned a few times already on this blog, I was kind of an idiot in high school.  But despite it all, there were still a few classes that caught my interest and that I genuinely enjoyed.  One of those classes was Spanish.

Rewind back to 8th grade where we were first given an opportunity to take Spanish as an elective.  Although I don’t remember the criteria to qualify for Spanish 1-2, (it was probably just to be “smart” or something silly like that) us regular folk could freely elect to take a semester of Introduction to Spanish.  The beloved Senora Norberg did a great job of garnering our interest of Spanish in 8th grade (whether introductory class or not).  Yes, it’s a pretty easy language to learn, but I still picked it up quick and enjoyed learning and studying new vocabulary.  I thought it was such a fun subject, I actually contemplated being a Spanish translator when I grew up.

Moving on to high school, my joys of learning the subject carried over as I was taught by Señora Snider.  Conjugating verbs, practicing conversations in class, the Spanish alphabet.. It all came naturally to me.  This was probably the only subject where I could say I didn’t study but aced all the tests and quizzes.  Learning Spanish was fun for me; the cooking projects and watching movies in Spanish were just icing on the cake.  It was more of the same the following year with Señora Cobos.

And then junior year came around and I would be taught Spanish by Dr. Graciano (she prefered that we address her as ‘profe’).  Up to this point, every Spanish teacher’s classroom I’ve been in or simply passed by was decorated from floor to ceiling.  Posters, projects, pictures of food, pictures of the culture, anything and everything covered the walls of those classrooms.

I stepped into her classroom on the first day and there was.. nothing.  I didn’t know the walls were white until that day.  The whiteboards were spotless.  She had a small desk and podium in the front of the classroom, clear of any knick knacks, figurines or clutter.  The only thing that sat on the tables along the windows was a CD player boombox and this framed poster of Enrique Iglesias that leaned against the wall:

(I’m a little surprised I was able to find this poster via google)

Needless to say, there was nothing fun about this classroom.  I probably should have taken that as some sort of foreshadowing.

I want to say it was a culmination of the classroom, her teaching style and just her personality in general, as I didn’t do so well.  In fact, I’d venture to say that she sucked the fun out of Spanish for me.  More likely to be the reason would be trying to learn how to conjugate verbs in the tenses I didn’t even have a firm grasp of using in English yet (like future perfect continuous or future continuous tense).   I could no longer do well on tests without studying and my grades took a hit.  Although, my classmates actually did a pretty good job of convincing her to lighten up.  We got to watch some movies and have a food party in class.  By the end of the year, there was one row of projects taped to the wall.

But it wouldn’t be enough to reignite my joy in learning the language.  To my credit, I still remember some of it; I was able to use it the few times I went on trips or cruises to Mexico.  Later, I took one quarter of Spanish as a GE to get the easy A in college.  Other than that though, it’s all just another thing I learned now.

My Brother’s Alarm Clock

As probably mentioned before, my brother and I shared a room while we grew up together.  At some point he got a new alarm clock.  It was a fancy one that was also a radio and a CD player.  It was pretty bulky, as the built in speakers were loud enough to make it double as a boom box.

As we all know, right out of college, he got a job at Raytheon at a location that required him to wake up at 5am to make a reasonable commute time.  So, naturally he used the alarm clock mentioned above with it set to CD mode.  To prevent himself from getting too comfortable with the song being played, he would cycle through his songs and CDs.  This nostalgia trip is brought to you by the songs that I can recall hearing all the time:

Even though I woke up about an hour later to get ready for zero period orchestra, he was still pretty good about waking up and turning the alarm off within a few seconds.  Some days he woke up to the sound of the CD player starting up and he was able to disable it before any music played.  Other days, the whole intro of the song would play out and then he would wake up.  And once a blue moon, he would turn off the alarm and fall back asleep.  Several minutes later my dad would come in to wake up him up, followed by an audible “oh shoot!” as my brother sped through his morning routine.

It’s hard to fault him on it though, waking up at 5am is no fun.

A Snapchat Study of Sacremento, Day 2

4/23/17, Sunday

Commentary: (Read along as each picture or video appears)

-It was cold that night, so I curled up in my sleep, causing this to happen.  It’s a blister of some sort I think.  It has since healed.

-As a thanks for letting us stay in his house, we did his dishes while he was still sleeping in the morning.

-We wouldn’t have time to pack up after church, so we had to do it now.

-Cruising in his FJ Cruiser.

-City Bible Church, a church plant that meets in a high school auditorium.  Great church with solid teaching.  Also coffee and bagels every Sunday.

-My mom special requested that we go to this place after seeing it on Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives.

-Too much cheese.  Just the way I like it.

-No odd balls here.  Everyone got the squeeze burger.

-After lunch we still had time to kill before our flight, so we walked to this place.

”Take a look, it’s in a book..”

-When in Sacramento, see the capital, right?  But first, stop by the rose garden in front of it.

-Supposedly, this was a good spot to take a picture since it’s in the background

-We walked all the way around it to get to the front

-If Epic Meal Time ever needs another “Muscles Glasses”, I know just the guy.

-Do it for the snapchat.

-Only because everyone else was doing it.

-It was time to catch our flight.. And say bye to the giant airport bunny.

Never gets old.

-I bought one macaron from Ginger Elizabeths.  We ate it now as a snack.

-We sat next to this man.

-Back in Southern California, where my nose is safe from Sacramento allergens

-We had Chinese food, since we had non-Chinese food all weekend.

-Lots of sitting that day.

A Snapchat Study of Sacremento, Day 1

4/22/17, Saturday

Commentary: (Read along as each picture or video appears)

-Woke up at 6am.  You’d think it would okay since I wake up at 7am every morning for work.  But since it’s Saturday, waking up at any time before 9 can be hard.

-We arrived at John Wayne airport.  We got there early on purpose so we could have breakfast and Starbucks.

-So accustomed to dealing with LAX security and traffic that we arrived too early.  Note to self that we can sleep in an extra 20 or 30 minutes next time.

-Unfortunately, I can’t sleep on airplanes.

-Sweet Snapchat filter.

-What’s the story behind the giant bunny in Sacramento’s airport?  Beats me.

-Got picked up by my sister who was “running late”.  As always, she’ll never turn down an opportunity to pose for a picture or video.

-I not so secretly pinned that MTG advertisement card there back in July 2016.  I was pleasantly pleased and surprised that she kept it.

-Met up with our parents who arrived the day before and sister’s boyfriend for brunch at Cafe Rolle.

-Foie Gras Sandwich.  What more need I say?

-I don’t drink coffee, so instead I snap the moment.

-My sister lead us to this really nice rose garden, but unfortunately it was closed/reserved for the day due to a wedding.

-So we proceeded to walk around it instead of through it instead.

-The perfect season for roses.

-A mouse’s mansion.

-Casa Yu = sister’s boyfriend’s house.  This is where I would be spending the night, in his office.

-We watched Planet Earth in his home theatre and had tea while my nose recovered from Sacramento allergies.

-Apparently, just around the corner of his house, is the Sacramento River.  So we walked along it.

-Had to seize the photo opportunity of course.

-We found a dock.  Imagine what this might have looked like a year ago during drought season.

-Persian food for dinner as our parents met his parents.

-Some people just have to take a picture of everything don’t they?

-8:30pm on a Saturday night and this place is still quite packed with a line out the door.  Vanilla ice cream sandwiched between mango and strawberry fruit freeze.

-15,435 steps.  I normally have to do some jogging to reach that number.

 

Macaroni and Lots of Things

It was another lazy Saturday afternoon at Stu’s house.  Matt and I were over and the three of us were having a blast doing nothing together.  Relevant Calvin and Hobbes comic.

At some point, we moved over to the piano to “jam” a bit.  I say “jam” because we’re 12 or 13 in this story and our musical potential had not been unlocked yet.  Stu still barely knew how to play the drums, I knew nothing outside of my classical music training and Matt hadn’t found his passion for jazz yet.

“Are you guys hungry?”, Stu asked.

Matt and I looked at each other before agreeing, “yeah, we could eat.”

“Okay cool, be right back”, Stu got up and left us as Matt and I continued experimenting on the piano.

Not too much time passed as Stu returned with a giant bowl of Mac and Cheese with cut up hot dogs and 3 spoons.  It was one of those big bowls you would normally use to toss or serve salads in.  And looking back at it now, Stu cooked that up really fast; is there a boy scout badge for speed cooking mac and cheese?

Anyway, we moved to the kitchen area and gathered around to eat his creation.  After a few spoonfuls, Matt spoke up and said “It tastes like it’s missing something..”  I thought maybe he meant a little salt and pepper, but he and Stu went into the fridge to see what we could add.  Matt found a small container of gravy from KFC.  “This!  Let’s add this!” Matt exclaimed.  Stu was hesitant about it.  After a small Benny Hill chase sequence, Matt was finally able to pour the gravy into the mac and cheese.  To Matt’s credit, it actually tasted pretty good.  After a few more spoonfuls, Matt once again posed the question:

“What else can we add to this?”

And right here is where we should have stopped this nonsense.  Instead, we went down an exponentially faster descent of adding things and then trying to save the integrity of the mac and cheese.

There were a handful of things we mixed into the mac and cheese at first that made it taste good.  Forgive my memory as I can’t quite seem to remember them (it was so long ago).  I think it was salt, pepper, ketchup, some hot sauce and I think eventually more cheese and more hotdogs.  The part I remember vividly was when things took a weird turn.

“Cap’n Crunch!”

Stu and I barely had a chance to stop Matt as he poured some into the bowl.  It might have been fine if it was regular Cap’n Crunch, but it was actually the berry version.  So now our mac was a weird savory mix, and from this point forward, it was gross.

In an attempt to bind the flavors together and mix savory with savory, Matt added a big spoonful of peanut butter.  Good idea, but still gross.

It was around this point that Marty joined us.  We filled him in with our current dilemma and he tried his best to help.  He found a bottle of thousand island dressing in the fridge and poured some in.  Still no good.

Finding a plate of soft boiled eggs I threw those into the mix.  For a moment, we thought the mac and cheese was saved as Marty tasted it and let out a satisfying “mmmm”.  It was then pointed out that he just had a spoonful of egg without the other elements.  Not too long after, I had a brilliant idea:

“Soy sauce saves everything, right?”

The others applauded my idea as I poured in what looked like just the right amount.  We each took another spoonful only to find that though it tasted better, it was still gross tasting.

We were just about to abandon it before Matt said “Wait! I think if we add more Cap’n Crunch it’ll taste good!”

Nope.  Should have just stopped at gravy..

Locks and Key

Growing up, one of the house rules was that we were not allowed to lock the doors to our bedrooms.  Well, actually my parents allowed themselves to lock their own door, because they’re the parents.  And, it didn’t take long before my sister gained the privilege to lock her door “because she’s a girl”.  And there would be times I would be locked out of my own room because my brother was studying.  So really, unless I was in the bathroom, only I was not allowed to lock a door.  I never really asked for the real reasons behind it; even to this day I chalk it up to being the middle child.

My sister made a habit out of locking her door.  Whether she was taking her daily 3 hour nap or just on her computer, it remained locked.  It was such a habit, that she often locked herself out of her own room.  To which, she would always come bursting into our room and walk through the conjoining bathroom.  It was pretty annoying at times.

The locks on our doors are actually simple button door knobs.  That is, all you need is a toothpick or paperclip to stick into the other side to unlock the door.  Unless my mom was in a hurry to wake up my sister, she would try to refrain from coming through my room to get to my sister.

So, when I was still into Gundams and building its models, I had an Altron.

You can actually remove the fancy the blades from the ends of its weapon, and you would be left with a ~3 inch gray stick.  I found that stick to be quite effective in unlocking doors.  I showed my mom this when she had trouble finding something to get my sister’s door open.  One day I came home and my mom told me the stick had snapped in half.  I wasn’t mad or sad or anything as I was pretty much growing out of Gundams at that point.  Over the years, it’s broken a few more times and is still being used.

Now that my sister has grown she takes 4 hour naps and as small as that stick is, it’s still has enough reach to unlock the door.

Strength and Honor

Like many stories about us, it all kind of started as a joke.  It was a typical Sunday morning at church and we were doing the usual messing around in between services.  We were done being seniors in high school and were enjoying the last few days of Summer.  On this day we conversed with our Sunday school teacher, Ben, as he indulged in our nonsense.  This was somewhere around the time we were transitioning from calling him Ben-Dover to Ben-gaged to just Ben (because now he was married).

I forget what lead to it, but Ben just started grabbing each of our arms and saying “strength and honor” in a deep raspy voice.  Of course, a couple of us caught his reference to the beginning of the movie, Gladiator.

We chuckled and played along with Ben, trying to do our own impression of Russell Crowe’s voice.  For various reasons, this stuck in our minds.  

Later, on one of our last hangouts at Stu’s house before college, we were getting ready to go our separate ways, when, instead of saying “goodbye”, I extended my hand and said:

“Hey, Strength and Honor…”

There was a small pause as we all looked at each other with smirks on our faces.

“Yeah.. Strength and Honor..”, Matt said.

And so, it became it our thing.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Matt, Stu, Caleb, Marty and I went to schools that were still pretty close to home.  So it was very common for all of us to be at church together on a given Sunday.  After a week of school, homework, projects and tests, it was a joy to see one another again.

“Strength and Honor”

It was a greeting, a goodbye, an exhortation.  It kind of encompassed it all as we said it and made eye contact.  Eye contact that was akin to heading off to another battle (ie. another week of school).  Though it was just jokes, it felt very brotherly and real.  It was pretty cool.

We were college freshmen when this all began and it carried on until we were juniors.  Not so much because we grew out of it, but probably more so because we each started to spend more weekends on our respective campuses.  We enjoyed the novelty of it so much that it actually inspired the College Winter Retreat theme for one of the years I was the director.

“Strength and Honor: when Beauty and Religion just don’t cut it..”

Again, this was our thing.  So of course we wouldn’t acknowledge Jackie when she extended her hand for it.  She parodied it with my sister and the rest of their friends by making up their own, “beauty and religion”.  Hence, the tagline for the winter retreat theme.

I kind of miss those days where we used it so liberally.

The Last Summer Break

Summer 2012

This would be the last Summer break for me, and others like me that were taking a 5th year in college.

Kevin and Caleb were gearing up to go to Thailand again.  Marty was already working a little bit and getting ready to go back to school to get his credentials.  Stu was done with school, but still actively looking for a job.  Matt had a free Summer (for once); free from studying abroad or going on medical missions trips.  Me?  I failed to find an internship before the school year ended, yet I still tried putting my application out there.

This Summer is actually encompassed by one day in particular.  It was quite hot, so of course Matt and Stu rode their bikes over to my house to utilize the pool.  Stu was tired of applying to jobs, I was tired from finding an internship and Matt was tired from working out everyday, so we just used the day to relax.  We didn’t need to be adults quite yet anyway.

We got pruny, so we went inside.  Matt and Stu brought out their laptops, while I turned on my desktop.  It was around this time that Matt jokingly suggested that we find a game that we could play together.  He reminisced on all those times we played the Gauntlet series together.  Even pulling some late night sleepovers to enjoy it.  I then remembered downloading and playing a cooperative game from Steam a while back.  I pointed it out to them, and told them what the game was like.  Honestly, I didn’t even sell it very well.  After all, this was a game that didn’t excite me enough to want to keep playing then, why would it change now?  I figured it would be one of those times where there would be a unanimous “naaaaw” and then move on to the next idea.

That game was Spiral Knights.  And as it turns out, I was wrong.  They loved the concept so much they began downloading it immediately.  The funniest thing happened next:

Not too long after, my brother came home from a long day of work.  He was probably slightly annoyed at the fact that he came back to his room (we shared a room) and saw 3 half-naked guys (from swimming) playing computer games.  He questioned us on what we’ve done all day as he turned on his own computer.  Glancing at our monitors and hearing us out, he got really interested and began downloading Spiral Knights as well.  He even told us to wait for him.  We spent the remainder of the evening completing some missions together.  It was great!

Really, the title of this blog should be “A Summer of Spiral Knights” or “The Adventures of poostu, Maluweee, smhappyguy and gimsh”.  This was pretty much what we did for the rest of the Summer.  Exercise a little bit, have some fun in the sun and then play Spiral Knights (which we later codenamed “pumping iron” to sound less embarrassing when talking about it in public).

Perhaps more so because it was the last, but this Summer break was easily one of my most favorite.  I wouldn’t have traded having an internship for fellowship with friends during those months.  Alas, the nights came quicker and Summer came to a close.  As school started up and we did our respective things, our digital adventure came to an end.

Operation Cheesy Cat, Attempt #2

Our college days were over.  We graduated, got jobs and started growing up a little bit.  For Eddie, Lauren and I, our friendship continued in the form of a Facebook message thread and scattered hangouts.  At some point, Lauren would introduce us to the game Hearthstone.  An online collectible card game that was free to play, who could resist?  Not me.

Naturally, if I found out a friend played, I would add them to my friend list in the game.  One of these friends was Katrina.  She posted on Facebook that she played too, so I messaged her for her game ID.  I was a little surprised that she responded, I was afraid she would ignore me because the last time I spoke to her, we were sophomores.

Once a blue moon, I’d log on and see that she was playing too.  We’d chat a little bit, though it never moved too far from small talk.  It was kind of weird talking with her, because she basically didn’t exist socially from 2010 to 2013.  In those sparse conversations, I learned one piece of vital information; she had a boyfriend.  No, it didn’t mean she was off limits for me; rather she was off limits for Eddie.  At least for now.

Months would pass and the conversations continued.  And then something happened.  Since our conversations were usually 1 – 2 months apart, the question of “what’s new?” often had legitimate and fresh answers.  On this particular evening, I happened to ask how things were going with her boyfriend.  She said that they had broken up a while back and I expressed my sympathy.  At this point, a trigger went off in the back of my head.

DING ding DING! Operation Cheesy Cat Greenlighted! Go go go!

But I needed a catalyst of some sort..

Another grade hangout!

I just knew if I could get those two in contact again, something would happen.  All the magic, romance and cheesy stuff they experienced as Freshmen would come surging back.  I just needed them to look at each other again or something like that.

But first I needed to test the waters.  The next time I saw Katrina on Hearthstone, I talked to her about the idea of helping me plan a grade reunion.  She liked the idea too and I asked her to also help me hype it up and promote it too.  As soon as that Facebook event was made, I messaged Eddie.  Being upfront, I told him “I’m getting you back together with Katrina”.  I think he was skeptical again, but Lauren supported my idea.

The plan was simple.  Have a grade hangout, let them reacquaint and let the magic happen.  I even went as far as essentially structuring everything around her.  That is, scheduling the hangout on the only night and time frame she was free and such.

Little did I know there was still so much energy between them.

Again, not so much my story to tell, but before we even got to our grade hangout, Eddie and Katrina got back together and became official.  She ended up messaging him to make sure things wouldn’t be weird.  They met up for coffee and reconvened.  The grade hangout still happened, but it was now just a formal presentation of the new Eddie and Katrina.

Operation Cheesy Cat was a success.

After Eddie thanked me profusely, he told me I won the award for Wingman of the Year 2015.  I jokingly told him to commemorate that with a trophy or medal.  And now that they’re married, he did:

One of my finer moments in life, I’ll treasure this forever.