What it’s like to be Asian…

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As an Asian-American who has lived nearly her whole life in America, I never really felt the negativity of racism. I was fortunate to grow up with a family who were very open about my being adopted, my culture, and being open to other cultures period. It wasn’t until 2016 that I really began to experience a lot of hostile racism. By this time I was 30 years old and knew some about history and what America was built on and it struck me as even more hurtful. America, the melting pot that used to call itself “The Land of Opportunity,” a country that people from varying other countries still look to as an opportunity for a better life. 

At the beginning of this year, Covid–19 really began to come to our public eye for its growing cases in China. It’s extreme contractability and death rate creating fear. By mid March, cases of the virus were confirmed in America, as well as many other countries. America went into full Pandemic mode, citizens were panic shopping, and many states issued a stay-at-home order. 

The virus was senselessly called the “Chinese Virus,” and the level of racism and anger against anyone who even looks Chinese grew exponentially. To the simple point of walking the other way when they might pass someone of Asian decent, to the extreme level of chasing and beating up someone of Asian decent. Regardless of their actual race, ethnicity, heritage.

As a Korean born American, I never thought I’d be so scared of being Asian as after Trump was elected president. Today, during this national pandemic, I am even more fearful to be Asian. 

Here is an article written in USA Today on the growing racial problem during this pandemic. What It’s Like to be Asian During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The most heart breaking thing I had ever heard was from an Black French woman, Surya Bonaly. An Olympic level figure skater who could never seem to get first place, no matter how much training and finessing she did. In an interview she was asked if she thought that in any way it was because she is black. She said no, it was just that, “when you’re black, you know. Everybody knows that you have to do better than anybody else who’s white.”

There have been times in my life lately when I have felt the same sentiment. In my work place, 1 of 3 non-white employees on my shift. I have felt like I have had to face a lot more negative criticism than my peers, that I have had to work twice as hard. 

And even though most of the time, I don’t even think most people even consciously think about it. That a negative view of Asian-Americans is so deeply ingrained. People still blame MSG in Chinese food for feelings of dizziness and headaches. An idea brought about in 1969, despite no scientific proof of the correlation between MSG and the symptoms of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”

Here is an article written earlier this year about “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” MSG in Chinese Restaurants isn’t Unhealthy…

Racism has always been a part of Asian-American history. But American’s forget that it was Asian immigrants who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, which physically brought the country together. American’s forget that it is through Asian companies that we do our everyday communication with others, everyday internet work, stream televison programs… Sony, LG, Samsung, HTC… All companies from Asia. 

As an Asian-American who has lived nearly my whole life proud of my Asian heritage, I have never felt more fear and shame of this country I call home.

Playing God

If you have an hour of your time, I recommend you listen to this episode of Radiolab. Things tend to fall into my lap at very appropriate times. While driving home, in the middle of a nationwide Pandemic, this episode fell into my lap.

On August 21st, 2016, Radiolab collaborated with The New York Times reporter Sheri Fink to talk about the difficult process of hospital Triage, and inevitably the idea of deciding who gets to live and who doesn’t. And in some ways, it has never felt more appropriate than right now.

We hear three crisis situations, in which resources were limited, and hospital staff were faced with the difficult task of triaging their patients. Hospitals are not designed to handle a mass surge of patients. So when that happens, how do you decide who’s needs are more necessary? How do you decide who you stop giving care to? How do you make these difficult decisions, and is that too much responsibility for a person?

In the middle of the episode, they talk about a critical situation that happens to be exactly the situation we are in now. And ironically, one of the decisions we as hospital staff are having to make. Who deserves to live, and who does not?

For further reading, here is the original article Sheri Fink wrote for The New York Times on a public debate that she attended, in which a critical care physician from John’s Hopkins asks, how should we make that decision?
Whose Lives Should Be Saved? Researchers Ask the Public

Vacation Pandemic – Epilogue

The Life and Times of Rose edition:

The sun couldn’t decide what the eff it wanted to do. It rained, hailed, and full, spring day sunned, all within 2 hours.

The last trip into town felt like any other, despite majority of shops being closed. We saw familiar faces. Stood in the sun while we waited for coffee. And this was it. This was the feeling of my vacation. My little bubble of peace and warmth. Despite the world around me. And my growing reluctance to leave is palpable.

It doesn’t help that one of symptoms of the death virus is tightness of the chest. Why do I suddenly keep feeling it? How do I differentiate between illness and anxiety?

Pretty soon I’ll be back on the road, headed south towards the place I suppose I call “home.” But not to the life I left behind. I will return to a life I have never lived, not sure I know how to live. Back to a world that changed while I wasn’t looking.

And that is how it will start…

A return to a small, 1 bedroom apartment. Alone, save for 2 cats and 2 tortoises. Unable to leave except for work. Lonely, isolated. A spinster by the time this all blows over…

Vacation Pandemic – Day Last

When you’re stuck in quarantine and don’t know what to do…

Here are a few ideas, brought to you by Pets:

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1: Sleep in Late

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2: Do some Puzzles

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3: Cuddle a Stuffed Animal

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4: Or even just stay hidden

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But always remember to keep smiling.

Vacation Pandemic – Day uh…?

It is quiet.

Quieter than it’s been in a while. Not a creepy, killer waiting around the next corner quiet, but a natural quiet. It reminds me of early mornings Out the Road. The very, very end of it, where we would park our cars, then trek around the cove by foot. I remember the smell of low tide, that deep scent of brine, of salt, but such a richer and more flavorful salt. I remember the rocks slippery with sheets of wet seaweed, maroon red clumps of sea hair caught upon the rocks. I remember the laughter, because we were young, and full of life. And I remember the moment we rounded that last corner and the ranch finally came into sight. I remember the early mornings. Only the sound of birds filled the air. Small birds singing in the trees. The sort of song you only hear in the early mornings, or if you’re very quiet, and very lucky.

The birds are singing now. My head still hurts, and the world still spins underfoot, but the air is brisk and fresh now the rain has stopped. After nearly being run over by a black Dodge Charger, the dog and I set off in earnest. Which involves much sniffing on her part, deep breaths on mine, and the slow tempo of my foot falls. Everything is green. The tall reaching evergreen trees with their low sweeping branches. I reach out and stroke the lowest of them, bringing their piney scent towards me. The other trees, the ones who have shed their leaves for the Winter, are now beginning to show new leaves. Baby buds of green tip each skinny branch.

We slowly pass a thick bunching of low, lush trees into an opening of a driveway, and there, in the yard, a single, large cherry blossom tree. Snowy white blossoms in full bloom. Stark white against the verdant trees all around it. My steps actually falter and I take one step back, to stop in the moment.

(It was at that particular moment that the dog had decided to also stop. And drop a load. I quickly wrestle a small plastic bag from my pocket and scoop up the mess from the lawn like it is some prized treasure. In this quiet and pristine neighborhood, they are strict, and I am not entirely convinced that there are not cameras hidden in the trees.)

We walk on. Dog sniffing, me breathing, footsteps falling. Birds singing. Leaves rustling. I never walked an area like this in Alaska. Though indeed, surrounded by evergreen trees and birds. It was different. Larger, wilder. The trees heavy with mosses. Old Man’s Beard, or that’s what we used to call it. Pale green and draping off of branches, catching any gentle breeze. The ground underfoot, dirt, and moss, and twigs. Every step clearly made with snaps and crunches. Foot falls were so audible we once scared ourselves as children. Imagining into reality that we were surrounded by ghosts, their foot steps so real in our ears, but our eyes saw nothing. And when you truly did hear the snap of a twig, not brought on by your own feet, you did not stick around. For wilder and meaner things resided within the thick forests of Alaska than neighborhood watchmen.

By the time we turn back, the sun is starting to kiss the horizon. The trees are bathed in a different sort of light. Above me, a tree, naked save for a few brown and dead leaves still hanging on, bursts golden in the last love of the day’s sun.

The house comes into view and the dog becomes excited. She no longer needs to sniff. She turns her head towards me, excitement in her eyes and a smile only a Golden can wear. I know she wants to run. I give her the end of the leash, but it is too heavy and she drops it, which scares her and causes her to bounce away into the ditch. I pick up the stupid leash and apologize. She picks up a stick, renewed excitement. Her ears flop. The flop of a happy dog. She will walk that stick home in victory. But the stick is a little too big and it breaks as she drops it. She picks up the smaller piece, no one needs to know it used to be bigger. She could still walk this stick home in victory. But she eventually drops it too. So I unhook the leash and she bounds the last few steps to the front door. Happiest that the walk is finally over.

Vacation Pandemic – Day 6

I turn to food when I’m stressed. Not in a binge eating sort of way. But rather in a binging cooking show, researching and conceptualizing recipes. You know how they say, guys think about sex every 6 seconds? (…do they still say that?) I am almost entirely certain that I think about food every 6 seconds. (It might actually be a problem, but I’m not ready for meetings…)

And currently times are hard. Hard on many, but hard on the foodies. It stresses me out to see restaurants struggling to stay afloat. It stresses me out more, to go to the grocery store and find food shelves stripped bare of even their dust bunnies. And most of all… it stresses me out to still see all these damned food commercials. Take that shit off the air, it’s rude!

So I watch alot of food tv. None of that Guy’s Grocery Games shit, or Kids Baking Challenge… But like, I love watching professional and up and coming semi-professional chefs. The people who take their food seriously.

Ugly Delicious.

I have followed David Chang’s career for maybe a decade or more. The man loves food, he loves learning about food, he loves developing out of the box ideas.

This episode I randomly threw on this morning was less about food, but all about his first child. They say that Nursing School is the destroyer of marriages. I think that Restaurant life can often be the destroyer of families.

In this episode Dave did alot of interviewing veteran chefs on How. How did they manage to maintain their wildly successful restaurants, AND raise a family?

He eventually talked about how he and his wife learned they were pregnant, the day after Anthony Bourdain passed. He said he knew it was that day because he couldn’t stop crying. That it felt unfair to lose someone so great, and to then be bringing a new life into this world. But it turned out to be one of the most terrifying, and amazing things for him.

And it was kind of nice. Facebook, one of our most used and greatest ways to stay connected during these isolation and social distancing times. It was nice to see… I don’t know, children. To see new life. To see hope. Because, right now, it doesn’t feel like there is a whole lot out there.

Vacation Pandemic – Day 5

I had promised myself I would never do this again. And yet here I am, third time. And just as miserable.

Withdrawal.

Withdrawal from one of the worst meds to come off of.

The first time, my best friend didn’t believe I felt as bad as I did, and accused me of hitting on her boyfriend when I’d asked him to change the time on our wall clock.

Top most symptom of the withdrawal, brain zaps and dizziness.

While, probably not the clinical term for it, it is the most accurate to anyone who has experienced it. It happens any time I move my eyes. Zap. And because you then try not to move your eyes, zap. You close your eyes, and the pressure of your eyelids, zap. Sometimes it rocks thru your whole body. I feel it in my chest. I feel it in my elbows. This electricity that wants out, but is stuck.

And so, because of the care you try to take in conservatively moving your eyes to avoid the electrical storm headache in your brain, you develop this dizziness. You close your eyes and the world slips out from under your feet. Your stomach roils, but you’re just standing there. You sit. You lay down. But even the ground can’t help you.

I am fortunate to be here at home with my parents while feeling this way. But also, have never felt more scared to look and feel sick.

The last time I came off this med, I got so bad I wanted to die. I actually wanted to die. Brain zaps and dizziness are one thing, but I developed sweating and shaking. I found myself curled into the fetal position majority of my time. I had one pill left, I was mean’t to be off them completely, but I would hold the near empty bottle like Smegol stroking The Ring. And I was home all alone.

On the one hand, I gained a new sense of empathy towards drug addicts trying to come clean. On the other hand, I added one more line to the list of reasons I would surely die during the apocalypse…

I tell myself that I will never do this again. My brain is such a jumble I can barely read, I can hardly write. This time I gave myself off of work, to live and write and plan out my future. Not really in the cards…