G is for Gucci

Tonight, Audre Lorde Project hosted a facilitator training for LGBT people of color.

A lot of gender non-conforming and cisgender women. I was probably one of 2 of East Asians and one of the few gay cisgender men in the room. For some reason, I could not get myself to speak up.

One person said they work with sex workers who come into their meetings with a lot of emotional baggage. How could ALP’s facilitation model assist? Yelling so-called “community agreements” like “one mic” was not going to stop fist fights.

It became clear that socioeconomic class and education created diferent views. ALP facilitator Cleo asked us the difference between “teaching” and “facilitation.” While a lot of folks who went to college asociatied “teaching” with one-way lectures and facilitation as a helpful tool, one participant said:

“Actually, I grew up with LGBT African American seniors in Philly who taught me to garden. Teaching from my experience has been positive way of the older generation imparting knowhow to my generation. I didn’t go to college like all of y’all. I learned facilitation when I started coming into these non-profit spaces. Y’all ask me to talk a certain way and it feels oppressive.”

We framed everything in terms of “education level,” but really the root was socioeconomic class. I come from a middle-class Asian family in Queens. Inevitably, the way I speak will be different from some inner city youth.

At workshop’s end, someone asked if everybody was “Gucci.?” I looked for a handbag or other designer gear, but realized they were asking if we were good like Gucci?

The LGBT community is not monolithic – so even though I felt shy, I’m hoping to see where the facilitator workshop takes me .

Lot of great acronyms for ground rules, like “WAIT” for Why am I Talking? to challenge over-sharers to let others a chance to speak. Or like ELMO, which is “everyone let’s move on,” a great strategy to keep the conversation going. If only, acronyms could solve all of the world’s problems!

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Courtyards & Tatami

No local Taipei teen would believe this, but my mom grew up on a farm in Taipei. Not New Taipei City, the environs of Taipei which is now its own entity. Ma’s childhood home was in Tianmu. This was before the flashy Takashi-maya mall towered over the area with its flashy billboards and shiny stores. Decades before, Ma grew up in a traditional siheyuan, the four-sided Chinese courtyard. Three different families lived in each wing. Everyone shared that same circular entrance and had access to those wooden doors. During Taiwan little league baseball broadcasts, three families would crowd around the TV, voices ready to shout “OUT” or “ARE YOU BLIND, UMP?”

Outside that four-walled world were the fields. Little sis always laughed when Ma said she grew up with cows. Ma would sometimes get scolded by the neighbor for picking out the sugar cane in the field.

“Keep pulling the sugar cane out and your teeth will all fall out by the time you’re 20!,” the irritable farm wife would shout, shaking her fists.

Ba’s house in Taichung was not at all like Ma’s childhood home. Nai Nai and Ye Ye had good-paying jobs at the Tobacco and Alcohol Bureau. They could afford a three-floor Japanese style house in the vast expanseof land in central Taiwan. The next neighbor was a few minutes bike ride away. Maybe even faster if you stepped on the gas on your otobai.

Every year, the tatami mats had to be changed. Not every room had the tatami, but enough to make it a big ordeal every year when the Kazuo the carpenter came. All three kids had to clean out their room for the carpenter to come.

Kazuo the Carpenter would go to the special rooms, shrug off his slippers, and step onto the platform of the room. He would replace the old tatami with new slivers of woven grass, the size perfectly matched to the room’s area. Ba loved to have friends sleep over in the summer. All you needed was a pillow for each person. And amidst the sticky, sweaty Taichung nights, air would breeze through the slabs of tatami and through Ba’s shorts.

While Ma in Taipei had to squeeze into a rom with her sister and brothers, Ba in Taichung with his sister and brother had one room each. Each room, Spartan. Low-level table, tatami, and sliding rice paper closets.

Closets didn’t really have much: school uniforms and desk supplies. Ba did not get the light shirt and shorts of public shools. The mischevious middle child that was my dad had to go where all bad boys went for discipline: Catholic school.

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Pat on the Back: 2015 highlights

  1. I am proud that I got a job in government working with immigrants and the LGBTQ community
  2. I am proud of my newfound confidence in my work, in connecting with communities, and language abilities
  3. I am proud of my hands-on research in NYC communities – applied redevelopment plan for East Harlem and strategic planning for Harlem CBO
  4. I am proud that I moved out to Brooklyn – it’s always been a dream of mine to do this in my 20’s and live with my friend
  5. I am proud that I made some great friends, particularly amongst my co-workers
  6. I am proud that I got more involved with CAAAV – fundraising, simutlaneous & consecutive interpretation, facilitating language skill share
  7. I am proud that S invited me as a guest speaker to speak with NYU youth on gentrification in NYC AAPI communities
  8. I am proud that I visited Brasil & learned some Portuguese (must go back!)
  9. I am proud to be the son of Mum and Dad. Newfound respect and understanding with Dad and Mum. Especially after moving out, I appreciate things from Mom’s cooking to Dad’s availability to help with translations
  10. I am proud that K and I are growing as a couple. Thank goodness for K for getting me more interested in cooking / cooking shows.
  11. I am proud of that research paper on NYC Chinatown’s Confucius Plaza. I am proud that I built skills like GIS and Statistical Analysis – I survived both of those classes!

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Here we go, 2016

My birthday and new year are so close together that the urge to self-reflect is stronger than usual.

I last wrote in this blog a year ago and here I am exploring again. I need to be consistent and not ride the “New Year’s Resolution” wave of people. You know, like the people who are on the treadmill at the gym during the first two weeks of January and then never show up again until the next January!

Four general categories of resolutions:
Creative outlet
Personal relationships
Financial security

Message for 2016 me.
Be consistent! Stop with one-offs. Have to be more self-motivated.
Make time for yourself. Make time for your loved ones. Work is NOT everything.

Let’s go, 2016. Come at me, bro!

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Morning Lark

Update: I reneged on my Facebook fast (lasted 36 hrs.?), but I am still abstaining from TV. Now thinking of other ways to keep focused on the task at hand and increase my efficiency!

Learned of a friend who sleeps at 10:0PM and gets up at 4:30AM.

He can get a headstart on the day. Go to the gym. Eat breakfast and sip a cuppa joe while reading the newspaper.
Then by 8:30AM, he’s wide awake and energized to start the day.

Getting up early sounds like a good idea for my productivity, especially since I’m a morning lark!

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Filed under Musings, Strands of Thought

Cold Turkey

Social experiment – deactivated Facebook and abstaining from TV (gasp!) for the week. Today is Day 2.

Instead of listing what I could be doing, I’ll see how I actually do.

Let me just say, I’ve already noticed that every time I open a new tab, I automatically type facebook or the tv show web-stream channel. It is a reflex. Muscle memory at its scariest.

I might be breaking out in cold sweat already.

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Filed under Adventure, For Fun, Musings

All’s Well that Eats Well

After night classes several times a week, it was inevitable that I grabbed wildly at whatever my greedy eyes and grumbling stomach could agree on (i.e. anything). I was horrified a few weeks ago when I discovered that I ate from the halal cart four times that week, as well as one Burger King meal and two large slices of pizza. That really rang the warning bells – watch what you eat because you are what you eat.

I’ve completed a week of recording my meals. Trying to keep an eye on some little things first.

  • Daily serving of fruit. And I can’t be lazy and always eat a banana.
  • Reduce junk food intake. When I’m hungry, grab for carrots and hummus.
  • Hydrate!
  • No soda. Reduce fruit juice intake.

Planning out what I’m eating helps me decrease the chance of over-eating and/or stress eating. I’m a huge snacker when it comes to deadlines. I’m hoping changing nutrition can help balance my daily energy and sharpen my mindfulness to the world around me.

Just gotta pair this up with making my own food and exercise!

I have occasionally made my own food. Not master chef creations, but they do the trick. Playing with different textures – the crunchy, juicy, leafy greens – is a fun mental exercise. The physical connection with the food – peeling, cutting, mashing, and stirring contains my scattered thoughts into the pan and I watch them sizzle with the oil into the present.

Appealing to my perfectionist tendencies. I add a pinch of this and that for a subtle flourish. From Vietnam, I’ve been inspired by the continuous use of fresh vegetables to enhance a meal’s flavor. From Mexico, the addition of lime to everything.

So those are my staples lately for blandness: a sprig of basil and a hint of lime.

Refreshing herbs to calm the mind. And a tangy zest for an aftertaste of happiness.

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Filed under For Fun, Musings