Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Rant


Thanksgiving is the time of year to reflect on the year and be thankful for all of our blessings. It's the time of year when kids from college come home, when parents don't need to work, and everyone comes together to bond over a traditional dinner filled with different types of food to grub on. 

What bugs me is that why can't this feeling of appreciation and gratitude be constant throughout our whole lives? Why must this time of thankfulness come once a year and everyone finally realizes how lucky they really are?

It's evident that even the very next day, the same loving and caring people you saw at the dinner table are fighting over the last Ipad at Walmart with another family. People are literally killing each other and dropping all of their gratitude and kindness for cheap bargains. Now I feel like Thanksgiving is just a holiday that companies can capitalize on with their marketing strategy. Now there are Pre-Black Friday sales, constant online bargains, and stores are even opening on Thanksgiving night! They are now luring in customers to line up hours before 8pm on Thanksgiving night to be the first ones in line to enter the stores. Well, the more hours the store is open, the more revenue they'll earn... What company wouldn't take advantage of that? 

It just grinds my gears how employees and customers have to sacrifice their Thanksgiving dinner, that ultimate bonding time, for deals they cannot find elsewhere or work they cannot miss. 

I don't have any right to tell anyone how to live their life, but I just wanted to share my own perspective on this ancient day of giving. Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone :-)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

School or New York? Definitely New York


To start off, let's just say it is an absolutely miracle for me to venture to New York in the most random time of the school year.

AIESEC US (Find out what AIESEC is here) was hosting "Train the Trainers" event, which was an intense 3 day training seminar where participants learn about themselves, learning theory, and training techniques. On a personal and professional level, participants enhance their personal development, learning, and skills and become certified trainers in the AIESEC network.

With more research, I'm thinking to myself, this is an awesome opportunity. Even though this was only my first year in AIESEC, I applied on a whim. I thought, why not? For the TtT in New York specifically, only 10 delegates got chosen out of all of AIESEC United States so my hopes were certainly not high for this. At first, I was rejected and the email explained how I lacked experience, lacked conference attendances, and I was already at a disadvantage because I lived on the West Coast (their goal at that moment was to strengthen the clubs in that region). But a week before TtT, the National Trainers Team Coordinator sent me an email that someone dropped out last second and asked if I was still interested. I was like, hell yes! I booked my flight that same day and the rest was history.

So my plan was to depart San Jose on a Thursday morning and arrive in New York City in the evening. From NYC the next day, I would take a bus to Ithaca where Cornell University was located, and spend 3 days and 2 nights on campus. On Sunday night, I would take a bus back to NYC and spend all of Veteran's Day (Monday) exploring the beautiful city.

Everything was quite an adventure and I also had the chance to practice some photography as well. If you are interested, my adventures are separated in the three links below.

Day 5: 24 Hours in New York

If you had 24 hours in New York, how would you spend it?

Nat, JJ, Tami, and their two little cousins Nate and Emma, and I departed around 11 for breakfast. I found out that all of these eateries in New York are hit and misses. Luckily Sarabeth's was a hit because everything in the restaurant looked so elegant, even the food!

We walked over to Central Park and wow that park is absolutely stunning. This is the kind of place I'd take my soul mate to just to walk around and enjoy the view. I didn't even come to New York on its best days but I think photos can speak for themselves.

Since JJ had class at 5, we roamed around Chinatown for souvenirs. I bought 4 "I <3 NY" T-Shirts for my family and Katherine to bring back home. I got to reunite with my favorite milk tea store ever, Kung Fu Milk Tea!!! I wasn't even thirsty or hungry but I bought it anyways just because I knew I can't get it anywhere but here #TouristProblems! We eventually met up with JJ, Tami and John to a Chinese restaurant which had some awesome food. Dumplings, Potstickers, Fish, Fried Pork, there was a huge variety of food.
Tami and John took the kids home while the rest of us continued to explore New York. We ended up walking on St Marx and exploring this hipster section of New York. We stopped for dessert at "The Spot". The menu was extremely creative as it combined different types of treats into one dessert in a great selection. My order came in a burning hot pan but there was vanilla bean ice cream on top with a touch of caramel. This photo says it all.
We went past Soho on the way home and we passed by so many different shopping outlets. I passed by this flea market I specifically remember I went to two years ago to buy my first fedora! A surge of memories came back and my face just lit up just remembering how long ago that experience was.

We decided to drive around New York without any set destination. I came home, packed my luggage, and said my good byes to Tami and John. Tami was absolutely so kind to me, she didn't accept any of my money trying paying for food and offered me to come back whenever I was in town. But I sneakily put $60 in my thank you card and told her not to open it until I left (I'm so clever, I know hehe)

Nat drove around Times Square and just all over New York. We didn't even know where we were going, but we ended up on the Brooklyn bridge and all around the outskirts of different cities. We then traveled to The Magnolia Bakery and Nat introduced me to the most bomb banana pudding ever. It was fluffy and sweet, but the bread crumbs really complimented everything else, it was so absolutely delicious.
We went for a late night snack for Natalie and found out Corner Bistro closed at 4. We walked in and it was actually a bar/restaurant but we stuck to burgers and fries. It felt like such a long day, but the night was still young! Too bad we were all exhausted.... We planned to stay at Nat's other aunt's house to take a 45 minute nap before heading to the airport. It was so funny, we were just talking about Harold and Kumar while driving and we happened to pass by a White Castle. We decided we would HAVE to go there. Bloated from the Bistro, we got medium vanilla and chocolate shakes and they were larger than an original Jamba Juice smoothie. I can now cross the famous White Castle off of my list :)

After sleeping for an hour, JJ drove me to the airport at like 3am and we said our final good byes. It was has been one hell of a day, and I thank them both so much for letting me have this memorable expereience. They are fucking awesome.

TSA wasn't even ready until 4:20am so I was at the  food court on my laptop, half awake, killing time for an hour. My flight was at 5:45am and during the flight home, I was fast asleep. That is the end of my wonderful New York experience.

Day 2-4: Cornell University - TtT

Day 2:
My bus to Ithaca departed at 8 am so Nat and JJ walked me to the Bus Terminal. Even at 7 am, the streets were crowded and you could really see everyone up and about. While waiting in line for the Shortline bus, I luckily met a girl named Lelenia who was actually from Cornell University. She was majoring in Labor Relations and was interning in D.C. for this semester but came back for this 3-day weekend. We sat next to each other on the bus and let's just say the 5 hour ride there didn't exactly feel like 5 hours. She was very kind to give me directions going to Caldwell (The Building), which was such a struggle finding my way around. If there was one thing about Cornell, it's that there are hills, it was freezing, and everywhere you need to go was noticeably distant from each other. I used to get tired just walking through the quad back in high school.

The campus was amazingly beautiful. 
I felt like royalty walking past and through castles everywhere I walked.

I thought NYC was cold but it was sleeting during the bus ride here. I eventually felt a little bit of snow but I was too absorbed noticing Cornell's beauty. I was an hour early anyways so I didn't hesitate to capture some photos on the way. 

I was actually the first one to arrive so I had lunch with Mahrusah, a member of the Organizing Committee, at the dining commons. Went back to Caldwell to meet the 9 other delegates I'll be spending the weekend with. Everyone was extremely cool, and they were all from the East Coast. Madison, Illinois, Yale, Georgia, Purdue, and I was the only guy from the West Coast entirely, but that didn't stop me from bonding with all of them. After many ice breakers, we started into our sessions and it went on until about 10pm. Exhausted, I traveled back to Tim's dorm who is a member of AIESEC Cornell, to crash for the night. Everyone else wanted to go watch a movie or do something but if anyone really knew me, I cherish my sleep. The next day, I would be training for over 14 hours so I really needed my rest. Tim and his friends even invited me to go party but I really did not feel like going out. I spent the night reflecting on my trip, my life and catching up with old friends back home. Got a good 7 hour sleep and prepared for tomorrow's rigorous session.
Day 3:
Training went from 8 am - 10:30 pm. I don't want to go much into detail since this event was kind of a "You need to be there" moment, but let's just say everything was very technical. A countless number of activities and presentations, but overall everything was extremely informative and I learned a lot of skills I wish I had during my time in Interact District Council. 

Instead of crashing back at Tim's, I hit up my old high school friend Rehan who attends Cornell and she gave me a little tour. She let me crash at her place and I met all of her floor mates who were all super friendly and welcoming. I had to prepare a 15 minute session on any topic I wanted to so I stayed up until around 3 am to perfect everything. I created a two page speech and a Powerpoint to help my session and I was too sleepy to continue staying up and memorize everything. I ended up bonding with the other floor mates and Rehan's roommate talking about life until we finally called it a day. We both needed our sleep.
Day 4:
Woke up at 7 am to get ready. I was pretty sad I didn't get a chance to say good bye to everyone, but I left a little thank you note on my way out. (Thanks Rehan & Rachel!) Today's session was all about using everything we have learned over the weekend and applying it to a practice session. I volunteered to go first but my session was more of a Ted Talk than an actual session. I received valuable feedback nonetheless, and everything is indeed a learning experience. Sessions and feedback for everybody went on until 3:30pm and we spent the last hour concluding the whole TtT experience. The facilitators described what opportunities TtT will open up to us in the future. 

My bus back to NYC was at 6 pm so before heading to the bus stop, I toured College Town, which was the area where all the best restaurants and parties were. I went to Jack's Grill to purchase a quality burger with Cajun fries (Thank the Lord). While waiting for the Shortline bus, I met a woman named Marcella. She's at least 50 years old and I offered her some fries. She reluctantly took one and I discovered she was actually the wife of a professor at Cornell. I could tell right off the bat she was a warm-hearted person. We talked for half an hour about my plan for the future, her experiences, how she never saw a Jamba Juice ever in her life, and it just goes to show how everyone in the world has their own story; it's beautiful. The Shortline bus arrived so I had to cut the conversation short, but I gave her my card in hopes she'll stay in contact with me (You never know who you'll meet again in the future!).

On the bus back, I sat near one of the other TtT delegates who introduced me to members of AIESEC Baruch. It was a dark ride back in Ithaca because the sun was only out for such a small portion of the day. We all ended up sleeping on the way back. From the bus stop in NYC, I took the subway back to Nat's. Jimmy refreshed my memory about which train I should hop on, and while waiting for the money machine to be back up, I joined in on this conversation these 3 cops were having about Prison Break. It was ironic because they were actual cops analyzing the plot, and I don't know, I thought at the time it was pretty funny. After I got off the train, my Google maps led me the wrong way home. It took me West instead of East and as I was heading back, my phone died so I was walking around the rural areas of NYC with a very expensive camera, a fat backpack and was dragging my luggage  everywhere. I tried asking people for directions; some didn't know, one guy looked at me and told me that he was so drunk, others ignored me. I eventually found myself at a McDonalds and charged my phone with my laptop. All eyes turned to me; this Asian teenager with a ton of baggage sitting down all alone. Once I reached some battery life, I eventually found the way home and note to self, never walk around NYC at midnight by yourself with all of your belongings. On the bright side, NYC was so beautiful. I am still amazed at its beauty, maybe because I'm so used to California but observing my surroundings and analyzing all of the differences just makes me appreciate my visit even more.

I finally arrived back "home" and everyone treated me as if I have lived there my whole life, which was very welcoming (': I updated everybody on my trip and eventually everyone went to bed except Nat and I. We were watching a super funny ass show I forgot the title... But we just bonded until 2:30? ish I lost track of time but we got to sleep in the following day anyways so sleep wasn't crucial for me at least. I prepared for the next day and was ready to spend a whole 24 hours in the beautiful city of New York :)

Day 1: The Flight

I woke up knowing it was going to be a great day. 

I packed up my remaining items and made my way to the airport. One thing I really love about airports is that everyone in there is so diverse and unique. While waiting to be checked in, I met this Indian man in line. I commented on how I admired his Jordan duffel bag and I learned that he came for an interview with Apple all the way from Canada. I'm assuming his Blackberry job he mentioned wasn't cutting it for him LOL. After an hour, I boarded on with United Airlines to land at LAX. I sat next to a man named David who tells me he has traveled almost everywhere. It was quite facinating to hear his experiences because I want to one day be that guy telling stories to random teenagers on airplanes about a crazy life I had been living. From LAX, I was planning to land at the JFK airport in NYC. I bought a $12 sandwich at a nearby shop because United Airlines doesn't offer free meals, and for some reason I never trusted Airline food.. (Even though I never tried it) I ended up sitting in the last row of the airplane next to Abraham and Andrew. Abraham was from Bakersfield coming back to his hometown for his brother's wedding and Andrew was from LA who worked for a restaurant supply company and wanted to attend a show back in New York. What's cool about meeting these different people is that you never know if you'll ever see them again but if you do, it'll be so cool to say hi and memorize their name. Talk about an expanded network. Luckily, there were TV's so I ended up watching Safe Haven, This is The End, and finished reading Tuesdays with Morrie which was an incredibly beautiful novel. 

I arrived at the JFK airport on time at around 9:30 E.T. and was greeted by Nat's cousin waving her arms out of the sunroof of their silver Mini Cooper. I was surprised with some New York milk tea with vermicelli noodles inside which complimented the taste extremely well. I have to give props to Natalie because I think I would have cried and peed my pants twice driving in New York traffic. At one point, 5 crowded lanes were forced into one because of construction (At 10pm.. Come on now) and imagine a mob of angry taxi cabs and other cars cutting each other off to squeeze into this one far right lane. I mean, does anyone not realize how dangerous this madness is? If there was one accident in the middle, all the lanes would be backed up for at least an hour. How would an ambulance even get through? But driving and seeing all of the lights, cars, and people was such a treat. It brought back so many memories from my NY trip two years ago, and it was great to be back. 

I arrived at Nat's Aunt's apartment and met everyone:her two aunts, Nikki and Tami, and Tami's boyfriend, John. It turns out they ironically knew about AIESEC before because of their trip to Europe. Tami obtained AIESEC cards there for a discounted price to get them into the museums and other attractions for cheap/free LOL. After small talk, Natalie, her cousin JJ and I made our way to visit Times Square. 

The view was absolutely amazing. 

New York gives off a totally different vibe from California. The busy streets, the rush of people, the bright lights all made this experience so memorable. I was here, in arguably the greatest city in America. They asked me if I wanted to go anywhere but I really had no destination. I just wanted to be in this atmosphere again, and observe everything around me. On our way back, we stopped by and bought some chicken over rice from a neighboring cart. We sat on the steps in front of Madison Square Garden to devour this delicious food. 
Around us, there were many people who had multiple bags on them and looked like they needed food. I saw a man holding a Choco taco which looked like his dinner, and it just perplexed me because it was at least 50 degrees outside. I took one last bite and offered the rest of my meal to a man named Mike. He was ironically from Sunnyvale looking for a job in the Finance field. He looked and smelled horrible, but he went on to talk about his story and his religion. I really believe the only thing that these guys need besides food, water and shelter is someone to interact with them. On the walk back home, Natalie was telling me how in Washington Park (I believe) somebody sets up chairs so that anyone can sit down to share their story and start a conversation with people there. I would love to give up a day of work or school to be able to meet new people and simply listen to their experiences. Maybe one day. 
We arrived back at the apartment and it was so hard for me to sink in that fact that I'm sleeping in New York tonight. I  had to get work done with some emails and future homework so I didn't have to worry about it throughout my trip. Before I knew it, the clock ticked 2 am and I knew that I really needed energy for the days following. 

It felt really great to be back :-)