Saturday, February 25, 2006

Looking back, looking forward


Last Friday was the year anniversary of moving out of my old apartment I shared with my ex. I always like to take note of the landmarks and see how far I've come--that's one thing I like about New Year's, it's a time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the new. It's hard to believe it's already been a year, but at the same time, so much has happened, so much has changed. And I'm not one to regret things or wish things could be different, and as traumatic as things were, I don't really wish that the events hadn't happened the way they did.

I did something symbolic last week, and I almost didn't go through with it, but in the end I'm glad I did. I think it will let me truly move on. I feel better, I feel freer. And I also feel sad and guilty and selfish. But I did it.

Img_1968Anniversaries, looking back. I like to read my old journals to help me reflect on how I've changed, and how I've stayed the same. I've kept a diary fairly faithfully since I was ten. They're all stacked up at my parents' house, and I have quite a few with me as well. I'm not really sure what I gain from it, except it's a great record of how I was feeling at the time and helps me put things in perspective. For example, there was one relationship that I had totally put on a pedestal in my head, and when I went back to reread my diary entries from that time, I was shocked to see that I was just as stressed out and insecure as I've been in other relationships.

I think I did okay a year ago with the situation--in fact, better than okay--but when I look back I also see how I acted out. And I also see how I dealt with dating again, and see that I truly wasn't ready, that I rushed into it, but at the same time, I think everything that happened helped me be stronger. Our experiences and how we deal with them makes us who we are, and although I'm not proud of everything I've done, I can never say I truly regret anything, because I wouldn't be where I am without those experiences and decisions.

And now, to look forward. I make New Year's Resolutions every year, and I know it's almost March, but I'd might as well record them here and check in on how I'm doing. It's never too late! These are my resolutions as recorded in my journal in January:

1. Reduce my debt by 1/3 (still doable, despite an expensive, but totally worth it, trip to Thailand. Although now Chris is telling me my computer is shot and that I should buy a new one. Ugg. And also I spent almost $600 yesterday at the optometrist buying contact lenses and new glasses. Ugg again.)
2. Exercise at least 100 times this year, not including walking. But yoga counts. (I've exercised 16 times so far this year. Pretty much on track.)
3. Fall in love! I had originally thought to say "Find my soul mate" but figured this was less pressure. (No comment on this one, don't want to jinx things...)
4. Acquire 3 books at work
5.Run a half marathon (at least). (I'm signed up for a 10 miles run in DC on April 2, so that will put me much closer. I'm also planning to enter the lottery for the NYC Marathon, so we'll see if I make it in. I ran my personal farthest last weekend: 7.74 miles!)
6.Take more time for myself, don't over schedule, have at least one free night each week. (So far, so good! And it feels great, I'm less stressed, spend less money)
7. No candy, except on my birthday, and also excluding situations where not partaking would be impolite or be missing out on a new experience. (this is my 4th year doing this, piece of cake. Speaking of cake...)
8. Only eight (sweet) baked goods a week. (So far so good, although it's been tough, I'll admit.)
9. Call an old friend or family member at least once a week. (not sure if I've done this, although I've definitely tried to keep in touch better with people. You may be hearing from me!)
10. Update my blog at least once a week. (I don't think I've succeeded at this, but I've written more than I might have otherwise)
11. Keep track of expenses (I killed my Palm Pilot in Thailand, and since that's where I kept track of my expenses, this has fallen by the wayside. But I'll either get it fixed or buy a notebook to start doing this again)
12. Obsess less. Learn to identify the things I have no control over and let them go. (I don't think I obsess more than normal, but I hate doing it)
13. Volunteer more (I'm looking into getting involved with CASA--Court Appointed Special Advocates)

That's all I had. We'll see how it goes. I think I'll add one more to avoid unlucky 13:

14. Clear the clutter from my life both at home and at work. Clean my room/desk at least once a month.

Okay. Time to get some work done. We'll see how I do on these resolutions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Thailand!!


Finally...

Thailand in a nutshell.






Well, a big nutshell. The vacation glow has faded, and the memories are fading, too. The big weekend snowstorm has come to an end. Snow everywhere--almost 30 inches, quickly turning to slush. And this darn Thailand blog has been weighing on me for weeks now. I gotta finish it. Gotta post it. I can't take it anymore. So I pounded it out tonight.






Here are some of the more memorable moments from Thailand. Excluding the "What happens in Bangkok stays in Bangkok" moments, of course.





Phuket: first three days

Thailand_trip_106_018-Finally arriving on Phuket, checking into the gorgeous Katathani resort, reuniting with some of the gang and going for lunch. Walking on the beach and getting a fresh coconut.

-After the wedding rehearsal on the first day on Phuket, Ishmael, Brent, and I go back to our resort for a quick dip in the ocean. Divine. The water feels so amazing, and after over 30 hours of traveling, I have finally arrived and had more than a week of fun ahead of me. Paradise. It's at this moment that I realize how amazingly fun this trip is going to be. In the time leading up to it, I was too busy and anxious to really think about how fun it's going to be, and finally I'm hear and enjoying it.





-reunion with everyone at the Welcome dinner. See Peter, who I haven't seen in 8 years or so. Good to see everyone else, too--I think aside from Ishmael, I hadn't seen anyone in at least two years! Mostly college friends.


-meet at a bar at the Katathani later that night, take a midnight dip in the pool and play with Steve's underwater camera, go for a swim in the ocean. Being in the black, black water, stars above, dark horizon beyond was so amazing. We swam in the ocean for three consecutive nights, I think. Those night swims were one of my favorite moments of the whole trip.




-the first few days I remember saying to Ish how I was worried/anxious that the vacation would pass to quickly. He would laugh and say, "It's just beginning!"



-morning of the wedding: get a manicure/pedicure on the beach while others get massages, go back to the room to find that Brent had written out his toast. I had been going over some things in my head, but panic and decide to write mine out, too. Ish comes back to the room and I tell himThailand_trip_106_099_1 both Brent and I are writing out our speeches. He starts writing his, too. Meet up with Peggy to go over to Grace and Steve's to get ready and inform her that we all wrote ours down, so she panics and starts writing out her speech at their suite. Steve is loafing around as Grace waits for the hair and makeup people to come. Peggy and I chastise him for being there and seeing her before the wedding, but there really isn't anyplace else for him to go. We all get ready, take some pics before the ceremony, it's hot and humid as hell, everyone's dripping sweat. The girls get to go back to the air conditioned suite to wait for them to let us know they were ready for us. We all forgot to use the restroom beforehand so are delayed getting out there. Ish and Steve tell me later that Brent was convinced that they forgot to tell us to come. Other than that, the ceremony is beautiful. It's a bit surreal, but also awesome, to see Grace and Steve, two of my oldest, closest friends, finally get married.


Thailand_trip_106_136
-more pictures, and then the reception. The room is hot, we're all still pouring sweat, but we can't close the doors and windows and turn on the AC because some of the tables are seated outside. But Grace makes the executive decision to close the doors temporarily and turn on the AC to cool the room down. She says that it isn't as hot for the people outside anyway, because there's a breeze. But we still laugh when we close the doors on the two tables outside--seems a division of classes, somehow: we are in first class with AC, they are the peons outside sweating. Of course that's not really the case, but Ish brings it up later in his toast and everyone thinks it's hilarious.



-our toasts--my first time ever giving a toast at a wedding. We all make Grace and Steve kiss, for longer and longer times. They are notorious for their lack of public affection, aside for the occasional hand holding. Not many of us have ever seen them kiss in public. We all tell stories about them, their relationship, to many laughs, many "awwwws."


93982173_0a913a587b
-perhaps the most beautiful moment of the entire trip: we all go down to the beach where there are huge lanterns that are lit, and we hold them down until they're ready to be released. They're released all together, and rise, glowing, into the dark sky. They go higher and higher, looking like glowing jellyfish in the sky until they become dots of light that mix in with the stars.



-I go down to the bar at one point to smoke, and pass Steve on his way up holding the bouquet. Uh oh. "We're tossing the bouquet" he says, "That's great." I say and keep going down. He calls after me, but I pretend not to hear. Go down and bum a cigarette from Jason, and then minutes later I hear Grace and Steve SCREAMING my name. Dear god. I don't know what my problem is. I know I should just fricken stand there and let them toss me the bouquet, but as I've noted in a past post, I just hate that sh*t. But I'm a bridesmaid and I should be mature about it, so I go back up, but I'm still holding my cigarette. "How are you going to catch the bouquet with that?" Suzie asks. "Exactly," I say. Grace throws, and it's heading directly towards me, but I kind step to the side and Suzie grabs it right before it's about the hit the ground. Looking back, I feel bad for being so immature about it. Sorry, Grace and Steve! And thanks, Suzie, for not letting it hit the floor.



-We go to the Katathani bar again, swim in the dark ocean again. This time, understandably, Grace and Steve don't come out to meet us.



-The next morning, still jet-lagged, I wake up around 5 or 6 when the birds start screeching. Can'tThailand_trip_106_173 fall back asleep. After a while Ish whispers, "Alvina? Are you up?" "Yeah" "Let's go for a walk" so we try to quietly gather up stuff and leave. I'm still wearing my pajamas. The only thing I grab is my camera. We walk to the beach--it's so peaceful this early. We decide to walk to the large rocks that are near Grace and Steve's hotel, where the wedding was held the night before. We see tons of crabs scurrying away, what looks to be leeches jumping and writhing in the water and on the rock. A guy fishing. We end up climbing up to Mama Tri's and then visit Grace and Steve's door--it's late enough that we know they'll be up and packing--we're all leaving at 9 am to go on a boat trip to Phi Phi island.



-highlights of the boat trip to Phi Phi: there are about 30 of us on this boat. Up front the wind isThailand_trip_106_216_1 strong. I know why dogs like to stick their heads out of moving car windows. I love the feel of the wind on my face and in my hair. We go to a cove where there's some floating trash: a sponge, some bottles, and oddly, a light bulb. Find a floating log and have too much fun with it, trying to walk across it. Diving off it. Snorkel near monkey island, watch other tourists feed the monkeys. More snorkeling, swimming, drinking beer on the boat. Land on an odd, small island. Has some of the best snorkeling, but it's really hard and scary to get out to the deep water--navigating around sharp coral and anemones. But it's worth it. "Good times" as Pete kept saying.



-Dinner that night at a restaurant recommended to Christian. We have our first encounter with lady boys, although perhaps in this case, they're simply transvestites. They put on a show. Hilarious. Then off to Patong, an area know for the bars, clubs, and lady boys, as they're called there. There are bars everywhere with poles, and people pole dancing. Hard to tell if any of them were born women, which have had sex changes. Most of us get smashed. We go to see a sex show, the kind of sex show I had tried to see when I had first gone to Thailand about 8 years ago, in Bangkok. Back then, we were unsuccessful. This time, successful. Watch as a woman, wearing only a bra, lies down on the ground with her vagina facing a standing man with a balloon between his legs. Puts a dart inside her, shoots it out and pops the balloon. Then they pulled Sylvester, then Christian up there and pop two more balloons. Different women proceed to do other things with their vaginas, including smoke a cigarette and expel a live turtle. I feel that my life is now complete, now that I've witnessed that.




next 3 nights: Kho Phi Phi


The next day 8 of us took off for Kho Phi Phi for a few nights: Christian, Alan, Suzie, Derek, Ishmael, Pear, Brent, and me. Much different vibe. Not as fancy/touristy, much slower-paced, also much tsunami damage still visible. A lot of rebuilding going on. It was sobering, yet encouraging, to see. Our hotel rooms were separate little bungalows with back decks with a view of the beach.


Phi Phi memories consist mainly of:



-Alan's ridiculous thigh-high terrycloth robe that he'd wear with David Hasselhoff shorts.



-our humungous and delicious seafood dinner the first night


Thailand_trip_106_348
-watching fire twirlers/dancers on the beach



-lying on the beach all day and getting sunburned



-parasailing



-private boat tour on a long boat, snorkeling with little rabid fish attacking us.



-Thai pancakes! With bananas and nutella, with condensed milk, with potatoes and cheese, with egg and cheese and ham. I still crave them now.



-Thai massage



-the Lazy House--this bar/lounge next to our hotel with Thai cushions and hammocks. Chilling.



-the Beach Bar, taking ridiculous pictures.



-the hotel bar, and the friendly bartender Kareem.



next night: Phuket


Back to Phuket for one night where we reunite with Grace and Steve, Peggy and Jason, and Julia.

-Take a swim in the ocean by myself at sunset. So fricken beautiful. Tread water as I watch the sun go down. Join the others at the bar for a while, then Steve comes and wants to swim again so we go in for one last swim in the darkened water and talk. So nice. Try to convince Steve to get him and Grace to move to New York after Hong Kong.






-We all go to a fancy dinner, then a last night of hanging out on the beach at night. Up early the next morning to go to Bangkok.


Last two nights in Bangkok:



-check into the gorgeous Majestic Grande hotel. Ish, Christian, Alan and I share a suite. Pretty nice, new, two fresh coconuts waiting for us, and complimentary polo shirts. Some of us go off to a fancy, huge, new mall. Shopping. The boys get more into it than the girls. Software and electronics.



-Bed Supper Club: fancy dinner club where they serve a 4-course meal to you in bed. A bit surreal. There's a Bed in NYC, but it's funny, I'd only really ever go to a place like that while on vacation. But it's a blast. There are characters walking around as entertainment. Women in high heels, short shorts, huge sunglasses, floppy hats. Tall European in a suit with a gold money sign around hisImg_1383neck. They put on a show, one of the girls drop her sunglasses, and we steal them. They become our prop for the rest of our stay in Bangkok. The bathrooms at Bed are out of order, so when you have to pee, they direct you outside and down the stairs to a waiting motorcycle or scooter. You hop on the back and they drive you a few blocks to a hotel. Suzie burned her leg badly on the exhaust of one of the motorcycles towards the end of the night. Some dancing. A lot of eating and drinking. Christian and I have a brief pillow fight. Ish, Grace, and I pretend to sleep. Steve and Christa actually DO fall asleep.




-Ishmael meets a group of locals after Bed closes and invites them back to our suite. Alex, Karim, and best of all, Misty--a real, live, lady boy. She's sweet and nice and gracious. And best of all, she likes Ishmael. The quote of the trip: "That Ishmael, he's cute. Does he have a girlfriend? Ishmael doesn't know yet, but I still have my penis." haha! But we hang out with them, they're cool and they take Ish, Christian, Alan, Derek, and me to an after-hours club (most places close around 1 am in Bangkok). We go through a darkened storefront, up stairs through what looks like someone's apartment, and then all of a sudden we're in this packed club playing pounding music. So amazing, so much fun. We dance till 4 or 5, and then go back to our suite. We pass out one by one, until we kick the locals out around 8 am. Sleep for a few hours.





One (more) night in Bangkok
:

-Am exhausted the next day. Make it to the market, but am walking around like a zombie, can't really concentrate on buying anything. Others split off to go to the palace, but I've seen that already on my last trip. Have lunch with Grace, Steve, Brent, and Audrey, and then head back to the hotel alone to nap.


Img_1430
-After a quick meal of street food, we rally for a cabaret show called Calypso Cabaret--all the "women" performers are lady boys or transgendered performers. We sit in the front row, and I've never stared at so many crotches so hard, trying to discern if any of them "still have their penises." Don't see any. Some of them are damn beautiful, and overall it's an entertaining performance.



-Head out to another part of town where the nightlife is good. I get my second wind. We go to a place called Tapas and drink vodka drinks. Dance.



-Eat street food across the street (fried chicken, Thai pancakes), then head back to the suite where we attempt to hang out for a while until everyone starts to pass out--not from alcohol (well, for most of us), but from exhaustion. Most of us have to leave at 5:30 am for our flights home. I sleep for one hour.




-On the shuttle to the airport Ish asks me if I'm still anxious that the vacation was going to end too quickly. Ha. I say that it's over now, but that it was the right amount of time. Too much fun, time to go home.



There are some travel snags on the way home, end up having to layover in Taipei and then Anchorage, but I get back late Sunday night. As always, I'm happy to be back in NY--it's truly my home, and I love it here. After one horrible and exhausting Monday at work, I pretty much went back to life as usual.
This has been a great exercise for me, actually, and I'm glad I took the time to sit down and remember the trip. There were so many more memories than what is recorded here, and I hope I'll still remember them when I'm old and gray. Such great times, and thousands of pictures to remember them by, to keep the vacation alive a little longer. (I took over 700 pictures. Others took hundreds as well.) Such a fun group of people to travel with, too--there's talk of traveling someplace different every year. I'm in.




Whew!


And now, I'm free to blog about other things! Happy Valentine's Day, everyone (ugg). I think V-day is stoopid, but I have someone new in my life right now, so I can't be bitter. Life is good, life is an adventure.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Happy Year of the Dog!


Dog

I have every intention of blogging about Thailand, but as more time goes by, I'm not sure if I'll get to it. I'll try. I kept up with my journal while I was there, so I can always refer back to it. I also wanted to talk about the Kindling Words retreat (www.kindlingwords.org) that I attended this past weekend. But first, I wanted to blog about THE YEAR OF THE DOG before Lunar/Chinese New Year is too far in the past.

All of the books I edit are my babies and I love them dearly, and I know you aren't supposed to pick favorites amongst your children, but this one is so near and dear to my heart. It's a very special book about friendship, identity, and finding one’s passion in life, and for many reasons is exactly the book I wished I had growing up, and exactly the book I hoped to publish when I became a children’s book editor.
As childhood friends when I lived in Upstate NY, Grace and I were two of the few Asian children living in our small town. We bonded over our love of books, and devoured any book with Asian American characters (at that time, there weren’t many!). Grace and I remained close even after I moved away, and twelve years later, we were roommates in Boston just as we were both starting out in the children’s book industry: Grace as a children’s picture book author and illustrator, and I as an editorial assistant at Little, Brown. As the years passed, we both progressed in our careers, and at the same time, Grace’s picture book audience was growing older and asking for older books. Little, Brown was also looking to publish more novels, and I kept asking Grace if she'd ever considered writing one. One day (at Kindling Words in 2004, in fact) she told me, “I wrote it.”

I read it in one sitting, and imagine my surprise and delight to find that I was a character in the book! (My name is Melody in the book, because I thought it would be weird to edit a book with a character of my same name. When my parents were deciding what to name me, they narrowed it down to either Alvina or Melody, which is why Grace chose that as my name.) Many of the stories in this novel are based on events that really happened to us as children: our struggles with our ethnic identity, as well as school issues, friendships, and crushes—it isn’t too often that an editor gets to work on a book that tells her story, too!

THE YEAR OF THE DOG is both hilarious and poignant, and very powerful in its own way. I am thrilled to have played a role in introducing it to the world. Please go out and buy it, for yourself, for a friend, for a relative. If you do read it, I'd love to know what you think! It's gotten rave reviews so far, including a starred review, which is a rare thing. I'm hoping it'll sell a bazillion copies and becomes a classic. It deserves it!

And yes, this year is the Year of the Dog. It's a good year to discover your passion in life, if you haven't already.

You can check out grace's website at: www.gracelin.com. She also has a great blog here: http://pacyworks.blogspot.com/

Happy Year of the Dog!



I have every intention of blogging about Thailand, but as more time goes by, I'm not sure if I'll get to it. I'll try. I kept up with my journal while I was there, so I can always refer back to it. I also wanted to talk about the Kindling Words retreat (http://www.kindlingwords.org/) that I attended this past weekend. But first, I wanted to blog about THE YEAR OF THE DOG before Lunar/Chinese New Year is too far in the past.

All of the books I edit are my babies and I love them dearly, and I know you aren't supposed to pick favorites amongst your children, but this one is so near and dear to my heart. It's a very special book about friendship, identity, and finding one’s passion in life, and for many reasons is exactly the book I wished I had growing up, and exactly the book I hoped to publish when I became a children’s book editor.

As childhood friends when I lived in Upstate NY, Grace and I were two of the few Asian children living in our small town. We bonded over our love of books, and devoured any book with Asian American characters (at that time, there weren’t many!). Grace and I remained close even after I moved away, and twelve years later, we were roommates in Boston just as we were both starting out in the children’s book industry: Grace as a children’s picture book author and illustrator, and I as an editorial assistant at Little, Brown. As the years passed, we both progressed in our careers, and at the same time, Grace’s picture book audience was growing older and asking for older books. Little, Brown was also looking to publish more novels, and I kept asking Grace if she'd ever considered writing one. One day (at Kindling Words in 2004, in fact) she told me, “I wrote it.”

I read it in one sitting, and imagine my surprise and delight to find that I was a character in the book! (My name is Melody in the book, because I thought it would be weird to edit a book with a character of my same name. When my parents were deciding what to name me, they narrowed it down to either Alvina or Melody, which is why Grace chose that as my name.) Many of the stories in this novel are based on events that really happened to us as children: our struggles with our ethnic identity, as well as school issues, friendships, and crushes—it isn’t too often that an editor gets to work on a book that tells her story, too!

THE YEAR OF THE DOG is both hilarious and poignant, and very powerful in its own way. I am thrilled to have played a role in introducing it to the world. Please go out and buy it, for yourself, for a friend, for a relative. If you do read it, I'd love to know what you think! It's gotten rave reviews so far, including a starred review, which is a rare thing. I'm hoping it'll sell a bazillion copies and becomes a classic. It deserves it!

And yes, this year is the Year of the Dog. It's a good year to discover your passion in life, if you haven't already.

You can check out grace's website at: http://www.gracelin.com/. She also has a great blog here: http://pacyworks.blogspot.com/