Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Break Reading

I just finished Alysia Abbott's Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father, where Abbott chronicles life with her queer dad in San Francisco of the 1970s and 1980s. I loved reading her descriptions of iconic neighborhoods like the Haight and the Castro, which made me miss the city. I also enjoyed reading about her dad's role in the queer poetry/writing scene which highlights why I love San Francisco so much. I love that there is so much history and culture seeped in the bookstores, cafes, Muni lines, and the bodies of the people who currently live there and have died in that city.

Her relationship with her father was enmeshed and messy which made me think about my own relationship with my dad. Reading her words, it made me realize that we will never be satisfy if we only want our parents to love us as we think we should be loved, instead of loving us as they know how to love.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Making More Whimsy

The other weekend Dzung insisted that we go down to Spanish Banks to see if this guerrilla art installation that he had heard about was still up. It was, and he was like a kid in a candy store. Even though the weather was gloomy and the air was icy cold, he had a big smile on his face. The installation was fabulous, simple red umbrellas hanging from bare winter trees. Everyone who walked pass stopped for a look see, taking the time to smile at one another. The moment was simply magically. I'm so grateful that Dzung and I got to experience it together. I'm grateful for artists and creators. I'm grateful for the colors, red and gray.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Old LA and New LA

I moved away from Los Angeles for my undergrad and only go back to visit family a couple of times a year. Every time I go, things feel so familiar and at the same time so different from what I remember. This last trip back made me realize, I really don't know LA and it's actually quite a beautiful and culture infused city.

I still take the same route of the 10 freeway to go between mom's and grandma's house. That stretch of freeway, with it's dry hills and crowded strip malls, is so ingrained in my muscle memory that I can drive without paying any attention. But recently, the county put in a complicated toll system with divided lanes and signs, interrupting my thoughts and casting a foreign feel to what was once so familiar.

This is a typical front yard garden in Lincoln Heights where my grandparents live. Lincoln Heights is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. For all of my life, it has been predominantly populated with low-income families of Asian and Latino descent. Families that live several generations in the same house or block. Families that grow an amazing array of traditional veggies in their front yards.

At the local Buddhist temple, grannies sell veggies that they grew. I love those long green onion things (they aren't actually green onions, they're like a cross between green onions and leeks), supper yummy in stir fry.

Lincoln Heights has amazingly beautiful and historical buildings like this library branch, where I checked out my every first book ever.  The community is filled with Victorian bungalows with wide porches, just like the house my grandparents have lived in for more than 30 years.

On this trip, Dzung and I took the Metro from Lincoln Heights, past Chinatown into Little Tokyo to check out this art book/zine fest.

The Metro is a system of light rail lines introduced in the 90s with much skepticism from Angelenos, who love their cars. I never got to ride it when I actually lived in Los Angeles because the Lincoln Heights section wasn't ready. The ride was quick and packed with riders. As I sat on the train, I was fascinated by how hip, young, and white everyone was. It reinforced for me that I grew up in a small ethnic corner of Los Angeles and that my view of the city is very myopic. But I also worry about these little signs of gentrification in Lincoln Heights. What happens to the unique cultures and histories of the families that have lived there? Will the front yard gardens and taco stands continue to thrive? Am I just nostalgic for a memory? I mean Lincoln Heights was originally inhabited by wealthy white and spanish (from Spain variety) families in the 1830s.

If gentrification brings better services and safer streets, that might actually be a good thing. The gang activity in Lincoln Heights can be fierce depending on the season and my grandparents live in the middle of that turmoil.

Gentrification of my childhood neighborhood is a hard thing to talk about, especially as a person with some amount of privilege due to my education and current social standing. I mean look at this picture of me, I'm a wannabe hipster. I enjoy the conveniences of a neighborhood coffee shop and readily available public transit. But my five year old self and her family would no longer be able to afford to live in Lincoln Heights and that's the sad and scary thing about gentrification.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lunar New Year in Los Angeles

Dzung and I spent the beginnings of the Year of the Horse in Los Angeles with my family. I love love Lunar New Year. I love all the red and gold, the smells of firecrackers and sticky rice, and the 24/7 loop of new year songs playing in the background of grandma's house such as this lovely musical number.

The best thing of course is being with family. I'm so glad that my younger cousins, nieces, and nephews get to share in the same traditions that make up so many of my happy childhood memories such as the visit to the temple, watching the loin dancing, playing family games, and big yummy dinners.

Some of the family with grandma and grandpa right in the middle, notice all the red and pink being worn.

At grandma's house, the uncles and cousins are rigging up the firecrackers.

At the temple, there were 24 strands of firecrackers. We didn't stay for the lighting, but as we walked home we could hear the whole thing 10 blocks away.

We have been going to this temple since as long as I remember for new year celebrations.

My siblings and I with grandma and grandpa (minus my brother Minh who had to work that day). The kumquat tree you see in the back was planted by my grandma. The tree use to be this tiny little thing and now we can't even pick the fruit from the top.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reading These

Last week I was at my local public library branch and saw Crazy Rich Asians displayed prominently in the new reads section. Look at that cover, how could I not check it out?

Something I hear quite often in Vancouver is how rich overseas Chinese come with their money and buy up all the land, driving up real estate prices. I don't know how true this is because no-one has done/published a rigorous analyses of the Vancouver real estate market by race and nationality, however there is a very strong sentiment amongst Vancouverites that this is true.

This book is over the top and just too unbelievable. From my lens as an Asian American, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, not because the situations and character motivations are true to my experiences, but precisely because they are not. I mean who even flies first class and charters private planes to private islands. I'm wary of this new set of stereotypes of crazy rich asians, but at the same time appreciate more representations of asians/ asian americans in literature.

I'm also reading Amy Chau's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which is beyond aggravating. After reading all the commentary on this book, and taking care of many children of "tiger mothers" in our work, Dzung and I decided to read it ourselves. We are halfway through and Dzung has given up. He says he is too angry to continue on. I'm going to keep on trucking just in case there is some little bit of insight at the end or some act of redemption. So far, Amy's account of her parenting tactics (that she generalizes, even though she claims she doesn't, to all Asians) are mean, abusive, and goes against our grain as positive youth development advocates. Here is a book that does do damage to the Asian American community by reinforcing awful stereotypes. At one point of the book she basically implies that uncouth asians eat dogs. When I get to the end of the book, if she is reflective and less crazy, I will report back.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Preview: Dzung's Dad Being a Bad Ass

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This is a vintage picture of Dzung's dad when he first came to the US to study in the late 60s. I'm amazed by his story. I wonder how it must have felt to study at a university where most of the other students of color were international students like him, where there was still segregation. We have tons more pictures to share and stories to tell of this amazing man, more to come.

My sister, Annie, challenged me to post more this year. Although, we don't have as many new adventures because we are settling into life in Canada, I do enjoy this process, so I'm going to try harder to post more.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Big Garden Harvest and Now a Long Winter Wait

This past year, I got to dig in the dirt and play at being a farmer in my small 4x4 community garden plot. Below are pictures from my fall harvest, which included way more kale than humanly imaginable, coriander seeds, mint, fennel, and some gigantic squashes. The plot is dormant for the winter and waiting patiently for spring to arrive. 

I was tempted to smuggle back some of my mom's heirloom seeds for winter melon, beans, and other asian veggies but decided not to in fear of the border guards at the airport. I will just have to make friends with some elderly Asians here in Vancouver and asked them nicely for seeds. 

I'm looking forward to more explorations in the dirt in 2014.