Malaysia Thoughts: On Belonging

I really meant to write this eight months ago. 

I thought about belonging a lot in Malaysia. I think of so many descriptions I use for my life and family: first generation immigrant, only immediate family, hodgepodge of dialects…and all that sort of faded away when I’m in my family of 50+ with people who look a little bit like me. And I belonged in a way over there that I don’t over here.

My parents belong. My parents are one of the rare Asian American families that didn’t emigrate with anyone else, so even though I know the family tree, I don’t often get to see the bigger family to which they belong. So I was surprised by how deeply I was moved just by seeing how much their siblings looked like and sounded like them.

There is so much of how my Yima talks and gestures that resembles my own mom. The way they stare when they make a response, their animated stories, their sharp imitations. Three decades apart and the characteristics of sisterhood remain. I laughed hearing my yima’s version of my mom’s stories, how my mom wanted to go shopping at all these places and take all these clothes with her  (my mom likes to tell us that it’s her sister who likes shopping and who gave them to her!). I imagined their times together, the story of how my dad’s family said the earth shook when my mom, my yima, and my ahma would laugh together.

My yima took us out every morning, arranging what she thought was the best for us, finding mangosteens just for me. What would it have been like to have this auntie as a part of my childhood and my life, instead of in summer-long visits and choppy phone calls?

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When we first arrived to spend time with my dad’s family, it was like a receiving line at the door. My dagu (oldest Auntie) greeted me as if she’d been waiting a decade for me to come (maybe she had) her voice so tender it made me wonder, “How has it been so long since I’ve seen them?” And I couldn’t get over how obvious it was that these uncles and aunties were his brothers and sisters. The gait, the posture, the dark skin and jet black combed hair. Each one of them reminded me of my dad in a different way; I could see him in all of them. Pieces of my dad, so obvious in his homeland. When we went to dinner with my dabuo, the only uncle older than my dad, I just wanted to absorb and notice all the ways he reminded me of my dad, from the way he made eye contact, the shape of his face, and the way he obviously carried himself as an older sibling. Oh, and the daily cups of kopi, but that’s just everyone in Malaysia (my dad must miss it a lot). Here, my dad belongs.

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Cousins. When Darrell and I first started dated, I couldn’t believe how often he saw his extended family. And even more than that, he had cousins! Cousins that he saw growing up, that he played with, that he had memories with. But in Malaysia, I have cousins too. 30 first cousins, actually (I would say “to be exact” except I can never remember how many exactly I have). And while I draw from the same memories of them over and over again, when I’m in Malaysia, I remember I’m part of a bigger family. Our memories are few, but it felt good to be remembered, to know that they (at least the older ones) were excited to see me too.

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I think about the support systems that are lost through immigration and lives built across oceans. I watched the kids of my cousins run around and play with each other as if they were really all siblings from one family, and it made me wonder, Was it worth it? My parents would say yes — the opportunities, the freedom, the political system made America all worth it. I wouldn’t change the life they gave me either. And yet, I can see the things we have missed out on: knowing my grandparents, large extended family, and being part of family bound by blood.

Places. We went to the village where my dad grew up. There’s a paved road now. Though his elementary school is no more, the river they played in growing up is still there. I found my brain grasping for the few stories my dad would tell, trying to imagine these two homes side-by-side housing 11 kids. We drove to the middle school my dad would have walked to, now remodeled and updated after years of fundraising in the Chinese community. I agreed to the village visit thinking it would be cool, but when we got there, I was sort of in awe. Decades ago, my dad’s life was here. I remember standing there thinking, This is part of where I’m from, too. 

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I felt the same when we were snaking through Georgetown streets with my Yima. She pointed out one of the houses they grew up in, and I sort of wished the car would just stop. When your parents are the immigrant generation, it feels like so much is left behind. Which part of her childhood was this? Where was the cafe? What are the stories that don’t get told because they are so far away? Yima laughed when I wanted to take pictures by her old house. But see, that house was where I had the most memories with my cousins there. It’s one of three houses in which I’ve ever laughed at commercials and movies with my cousins. It’s the house of my most Malaysia stories because we stayed there in both 1999 and 2005. Memories and belonging, they’re intertwined.

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Food. Oh, how at-home my tastebuds were in Malaysia. How did I acquire the same taste from a life spent in America? Pungent smells and tastes that I have described to Darrell over and over again, spicy and sour and fresh all blended together. All my culinary dreams come true. No explanations needed.  Homemade nasi lemak of my dreams. Sambal richer than anything over here. Spiciness that actually pushes my limit. Noodles and mein — so many. The perfect blend of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian cuisines that I’m always trying to convince everyone here is the best you can ever get. There, I never have to convince, as everyone is in full agreement (except maybe Darrell, who occasionally rolls his eyes at our snobbery). Can foods and what you eat help you belong? Yes, assuredly yes.

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It’s like these pieces were left there, left in the faces of my extended family, left in my memories of a motherland I visited just enough times to know what I was missing. Picking up these memories like I was picking up pink seashells on the beach, like I’m picking up pieces of myself, my family, and our story that was left behind when we did life here instead. And though I couldn’t quite bring them back with me, it was nice to know that the parts of life here that don’t quite fit definitely have a piece of belonging over there.

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18 Things I Learned as Photographer at Urbana 18

  1. You can reformat an entire memory card by accident and lose all your pictures, and things will still be okay. After shooting a morning manuscript, I accidentally double-imported one memory card instead of importing my two separate memory cards. Then I was in a rush to head to the afternoon shoot, so I reformatted my cards, thus losing all the photos on one of the cameras. I freaked out when I suspected what had happened and then lost a little sleep replaying to figure out what I did wrong. But you know what? I had more than enough quality shots taken with the one camera I did upload. Natalie reminded me – there is grace. Our team leader assured me – there are hundreds of pictures of manuscript study already. So all was okay.
  2. Certain shots are limited by what equipment you have. Darrell’s brother Wes lent me his full-frame D610 (THANK YOU!), which shot in low-light better than my D5500. Still, there are some shots that I simply couldn’t take because my lens is not wide enough or my camera body is not as sensitive. It’s okay if you don’t get those shots – someone else will take it.
    *Note for next time: I *might* try to push the ISO limit one notch more though…who knows
    Bonus – related to equipment: Your pictures look better on a really nice monitor (heheh).
  3. You don’t have to take every shot. I was really surprised when I realized there were only seven photographers covering a 10,000+ attendee, five-day conference. But then I realized our job is not to document every single thing that happens at Urbana. As an individual photographer, shooting an event like Urbana can consume you, if you let it. It can feel like every moment is significant and needs to be captured. But when you see two of our fellow photographers already shooting the stage, you realize you don’t have to. Or that there are enough pictures of [Fill in the blank: people on a bench talking, hands raised during worship, etc…]. And it’s okay to let it go, breathe, and soak in the moment around you.
    Fun moment: Taking in the countdown and ringing in 2019 without bringing my camera with me (I knew a couple others were already shooting, and I tended to be slower at turning my photos around to upload). And not even taking out my iPhone because I figure I’d just look at everyone else’s photos later…it was actually really freeing.
  4. There will always be someone with better equipment than you. I’ve always felt behind in the equipment world. My first foray into digital photography was with a high-end point-and-shoot (Fujifilm Finepix). Then I shot with a Canon Rebel XS from 2009-2016 (this is before Canon’s T series was released). I thought the world was so unfair when acquaintances jumped into the DSLR world with T2i’s and camera bodies much better than mine. After we got married, I made the switch to Nikon with a D5500. Wanna hear something funny? Just as I’m content with the new, fast-shuttering, better-ISO, crisp-quality of my D5500, people are making the jump to mirrorless. It never really ends.
    The sinful, insecure side of me thinks that the camera body and lenses I carry prove how serious a photographer I am. This is not true. With every camera I’ve shot with, I learn what it can do and what it can’t, I work within that and even push its limits. While #2 is true and certain equipment could help in specific situations (very low light, very far away, etc.), I can’t rely on equipment for my confidence or my contentment.
  5. I still limit myself with the shots I take. The stage makes for great pictures. The lights are shining, the people up there have been training and practicing, and they look so polished. But in the span of five days, I took very few stage photos. The reality is, I wasn’t assigned to shoot the stage for the most part, and honestly, you don’t need 3 photographers and 200 photos of the speaker or worship team. But there was one session where we were divvying up what areas to shoot, and I didn’t volunteer myself for any of them, figuring I would just take what was left. I would let other people capture the big shots. The last session though, I shot a beautiful wide shot of the speaker and stage. Why didn’t I do that sooner? There are things I can do, but sometimes I’m still setting the bar too low for myself.
  6. We document mostly one worship style. I’ve never been one to shoot a lot of worship shots. Part of it is my snark towards images that look straight out of Christian stock photos (ironic, I know…), another part is how it feels somewhat intrusive to not only look at, but also to document, someone’s interaction with God (I suspect this is part of the Asian American value of worship, where worship is intended to be uninterrupted time between you and God). This week, I realized the other tricky part is that the worship scenes we depict are always outwardly visual. Which makes sense. The dramatic (hands up, standing up when everyone is sitting, crying out) or the contemplative-yet-expressive (earnest looks, hands clasped), make for good photos. Hands raised at a 90-deg-angle but with a flat expression make you question if that person is really “engaging”, but they might be raising their hands for the first time ever. Someone may have RBF or look totally stoic, but may be internally surrendering their will to God. But they don’t make for good pictures.
    I don’t really know what to do about this one – I’ll have to keep mulling about how to better document a variety of worship expressions.
  7. Own your craft. I started shooting in the window of time when people wanted better photos (read: DSLRs and “blurry background”) but smartphone cameras hadn’t improved yet. So there were a handful of friends picking up DSLRs. I would get insecure about their better equipment, or would internally scoff at their newfound experience. But the funny thing is, we judge the stuff we’re most insecure about. When I’m not confident in what I bring to the table, it’s easier to feel threatened by people who I think are catching up to me. And it’s easier to get hurt by comments like, “So, do they just give this job to anyone with a nice camera?” (real thing someone said to me last week). Shooting at Urbana made me realize – I’ve been shooting regularly for over 10 years now, and majority of that has been in the student and conference context. I bring that to the table. These scenarios I’m shooting – student interactions, presenters at workshops, dodging around audiences: these aren’t new to me. I know shots that have worked in these scenarios. I don’t need to worry about what other people think of me or my role. I got asked, this is my job, sit with it and do it well.
  8. Own what you bring to the table. There were a few times I was made distinctly aware that my being a field staff brought a different perspective to Urbana. I knew the Hawai’ian and Poly Student gathering was happening, because it was hosted by staff in our region. Urbana Today interviews went really quickly because I knew students from different areas and different churches. When one photographer’s schedule was a little too packed and mine was open, it was easy to pick up a couple of her assignment for the GFM lounge because I love that department. It was easy to add on a couple more shots of the ethnic lounges because I knew staff and students there, and I know the joy and healing those lounges offer. While they were assignments, they were the type of things I would be naturally shooting anyway. At the end of the week I realized: only half of our team were field staff, and of the three who were, I was the only one who worked regularly in multiethnic chapters. This affects how I see and experience Urbana, and what I choose to document. This is good.
  9. On that note: I totally owned what I did not know (shooting with new equipment, etc), but I probably undersold myself on my experience. People would ask me what I was shooting with, and I didn’t always exactly know what (total confession: I know our 18-140 mm as the “big lens”, not by focal distance). I would be clear that I am shooting on equipment that is new to me. But you know what? I’ve actually been shooting for over 10 years now. 10! I’m not someone who just picked up a camera. I know how to shoot manual, I know how to fudge it when the speaker stands directly in front of an open window. I’ve shot student conferences, engagements, a couple weddings. I don’t to it regularly, I don’t charge often, and I never went to school for it. But I do actually know what I’m doing for the most part.
  10. Photography is seeing. Somewhat continuation of an earlier point — what we choose to document communicates a message. When I showed up to the Hawai’i/Poly Student Gathering, my staff friend was so grateful that a photographer would be there so there would be pictures of the event. While pictures aren’t everything and can sometimes take away from the moment (y’all who interrupt moments so you can post on IG and snapchat…I’m looking at you), I found myself heading to gatherings hoping that, with my camera, I was saying, I see you. I see this is happening, and it is worth it. I want Latino students to know that they aren’t just one of the multitudes at Urbana, but that they can come to Urbana for a fiesta with their people. So while the end product of photos of diverse participants may be the same, it’s not just because I’m aiming for, “Look! We have the rainbow of cultures here!” It’s because I want to say, “I see you here, and you belong.”
  11. I hella still need affirmation, more specifically – from other photographers. Can you tell I have an insecurity complex/imposter syndrome with my photography? Yeah. A lot of my friends tell me I am a good photographer and they like my pictures, but I tend to brush it off because you know what? They aren’t photographers. It looks good to them, but they don’t have the same standard of quality or judgment than I do.
    We had some pictures printed and taped to our walls to remind us of the types of images we were trying to capture. I think it took until I saw my first photo on that wall to think, I do belong here. Or my first photo in Urbana Today. Helloooo validation. I’m not really sure what to do about this one. Do I need to hang around more photographers because when they say something is good, then I believe it more? I dunno. But it was really, really nice.
  12. It’s really fun hanging out with photographers. Y’all. I don’t get to be around photographers enough. It was nice to be with people with their assortment of card readers, hard drives, and editing software. To laugh about the type of photos we’ve all captured, or the really unfortunate placement that happens in our shots. And to be impressed by their eye for angles and the art they create through their photography. What a treat.
  13. Wool socks make a difference. So does actually packing real shoes. Not sure why it took me till my third working Urbana to realize that if you’re working in the Dome most of the time, you should actually just wear tennis/walking shoes. The past two years, I’ve been in my boots or flats and would end up massaging my feet at the end of the day. Not this time! They instructed us clearly to wear comfortable shoes and quality socks as we would be on our feet all day. Now, I don’t know my feet would’ve been sore with walking shoes but no wool socks…but all I can say is, I did not get blisters and though my legs got very tired, my feet did not.
  14. There are things I love to shoot, and things I don’t. There are things I shot because they were my assignment or they were the types of images that capture Urbana’s value. Then there were things I shot voluntarily or wanted to keep shooting even though my time was up. I probably could’ve guessed this based off the kind of pictures I’ve ended up with after conferences, but five days or Urbana shooting further clarified that.
  15. The 50 mm is a dream to shoot with. My Canon 50 mm was one of the things I was the saddest to part with when I switched to Nikon after Darrell and I got married. He recently gave me a 50 mm for my birthday and I was ecstatic – I had forgotten how much I loved the crisp focus you could get with it. I was surprised when during worship, the 50 mm on my 5500 could get me a perfectly exposed shot. Man. I love that lens.
  16. God still surprises you. One of my daily assignments was to shoot the press conference. Did you know Urbana has a press conference? I didn’t either. The first half is a panel interview of speakers or ministry leaders, and then the second half, real press people get a chance to do one-on-one interviews with leaders. I thought it was an odd assignment, but I actually really loved hearing from speakers and movement leaders when they were just a few feet in front of me, responding more casually to questions. Here are some of my favorite notes I jotted down while shooting:
    • “Don’t be afraid of secularization – we’ve been through it in Europe.” – An IFES Europe leader offering hope and advice to American Christians
    • “Nothing that’s worthwhile can be done in two weeks…long-lasting impact takes a long time.” –Wycliffe leader
    • “They are hungry…for scripture. In a culture of despair, seeing an expression of hope is powerful.” –InterVarsity executive leader speaking on students’ relationship with the Bible
  17. Don’t turn off your pastoral brain. One of the encouragements I received from a mentor was, “Lean on your pastoral senses.” And there were a couple moments of, Oh, this is what’s going on here. Keeping my camera to the side to answer someone’s questions. Praying for a teammate. Doing staff work even in the middle of shooting nearly non-stop, basically.
  18. Advocacy matters. Inviting someone directly matters. When filling out our job interest or skills profile, I’m never quite confident enough to put “photography” (read: all my insecurities above). Nearly a year ago (dang she was on top of it!), Laura in twentyonehundred productions asked me if I would be interested in being one of Urbana’s official photographers. I was totally unsure if I was good enough, but I told her I would love to. I got the email from Joyce inviting me to be part of the team when we were in Hong Kong for a layover on the way to Malaysia. If I had just filled out the job interest and marked communications/photography, would I have been invited to the team anyway? Maybe. But without Laura’s prompting, I wouldn’t have marked it on my own, thinking that others were better-qualified for the position. So I’m grateful to Laura for putting my name in the mix and inviting me directly, and it reminds me to do the same for others.

wondering if i can hack it

occasionally the weeks are overwhelming, the lectures are confusing, and i wonder if i can really hack this school thing a second time around.

but i just got two great midterms back and found myself thinking on the way home, “I WAS BORN TO DO MATH.”

i’m such a nerd.

more serious thoughts about education, going back to school as an adult (spoiler: major props to everyone who does it), mathematics, and hearing from God. but as for now there is studying to do and assignments due!

…this really is like the blogspot posts i used to write in my undergrad.

does it count as a motherland?

I last went to Malaysia in 2005. The year after, I entered college, and memories about my parents’ motherland were fresh. My facebook posts from my freshman year are scattered with nostalgic statements like “Audrey is missing Malaysia.” In hindsight, it feels like Malaysia was a strong, obvious part of my identity, especially to the friends I made early on in college. I talked about it. I had visited so recently. The memories were fresh.

It is thirteen years later. 13! And I am finally going back. Talking about this trip is so new and novel…so few people know that this used to happen all the time. A couple people even asked, “Why Malaysia?” It’s been so long.

It is a trip of so many firsts — my first trip back without my parents or siblings, Darrell and my first international trip, Darrell’s first time meeting my relatives. My first time going for only two weeks instead of 1-3 months at a time. So much life has been lived in those 13 years…Then, I was just a year away from moving away from the Bay Area. Now, it’s been almost a year since we moved back. In between, I started and finished college; I moved to and back from Sacramento. I grew up, I started working, I flew domestic flights, I got married. As I write, it makes it sounds like Malaysia serves as these bookends to a segment of life, but no, that’s not quite right. Markers, maybe. Identifiers to a place, people, and feeling.

I’ve been thinking a lot about home and about family. Malaysia is not quite my homeland, and yet because it is the motherland of my parents, it has formed me as well. Even though the months we spent there as children add up to less than a year, they are memories, nonetheless. Smells like Malaysia, reminds me of Malaysia pepper occasional conversations with my siblings. We watched shows and sing a few commercial jingles that we never watched here. We hold onto fragments of relative titles or food names, pronouncing them with nasal consonants and sing-songy tones.  We never went back frequently enough to have a close relationship with the aunts, uncles, and cousins there, and yet, here are ten and twenty relatives, eager to welcome us back. How does blood run so thick? I pointed out to Darrell that the proximity (both relational and geographical) to his family means that he’s never “hosted” or welcomed by family in the ways we are when we return (or that we do for relatives that make it over here).

We bought tickets months ago, but the reality of this trip didn’t hit until this weekend. The country has changed (new ruling party! New Malaysia!); the people have grown up (I can recognize everyone who is older than my little brother…); my mom says a lot of hawker stands don’t put as much liao (toppings/fillings/ingredients) in their noodle dishes. But even though my Chinese has regressed, somehow I look forward to letting my choppy sentences come out nonetheless. I have these dreams of roaming the Georgetown streets, but the reality may be that we’ll be dodging from one air-conditioned store to the next.

But I look forward to walking the streets with Darrell, who has heard the stories and recollections and descriptions and pride. He is so much of what home means to me now in this day, and yet we’re heading to another piece of what home is? was? could’ve been? — This small region that still holds a piece of my heart, my home, my memories. I look forward to both new and familiar tastes melting on my tongue, to lush green street sides, to the family that is still family. I look forward to piecing together fragments of memories, stopping, breathing, and saying, This is what I remember. And I know I will try to freeze memories and remember moments, to hold on to until I return again.

on running and satisfaction

I ran a half marathon last week and I think it’s legitimately the first time I’ve been dissatisfied? with a run. I put a question mark because I have these mixed feelings about that run. I know I lost my training rhythm and didn’t log as many miles as I was supposed to, but I’m still glad I can crunch out 13.1 miles and recognize it’s something not everyone does. But when it comes down to it, I know I can run faster.

I know I can run faster. Maybe this is my first time being motivated by failure, or something less than my best, because I decided last week that I’m going to make running a sub-2 hour half marathon one of my bucket list goals. I have no idea when I’ll achieve that goal, since last week’s half came in at an 11:10 min/mile split (I’d have to shave off over two minutes!!). But I know that five years ago I ran a half at 9:46 min/mile. I thought maybe this year I’ll just aim to get back under a ten minute split, and then we’ll go from there.

But how fast can I still run? If last Sunday wasn’t my best, then what is? Today I decided to try. It was perfect weather by the Bay Trail, high of 81 but feeling like 70s with the wind against your face and the water by your side. My first split came in at 9:51. So I can still run a mile in under 10 minutes — that’s reassuring. But I forgot you have to breathe differently when you run faster, and I didn’t know how long I could keep it up. I thought of bumping down to three miles (I had planned on four initially) if I was going for speed instead of distance.

But I hate cutting runs short, so I ended up running four miles in 39:37, which comes out to a 9:54 split. When my three mile split came in I knew I could do it, and when I finished my fourth, I was satisfied. But it was a mixed satisfaction…like, yay but I’m not that surprised? Have I just not been pushing myself hard enough? Why was I slower on Sunday? Why do I feel so weird about wanting to get a better time? I’ve never aimed for a time goal and why does it feel so weird to do so?

As I was driving back from the run, I realized a couple things:

  • I still think I’m not supposed to be good at sports
  • Because of the above, I’m usually content with whatever results I get and don’t really push myself

I was never the strong kid, the fast kid, the athletic kid. The story of every team I’ve played on is basically: I stumbled upon it, I tried it, and I stuck around. Cross Country: Anthony did it first, I ran a three mile training run with the team once, figured I would keep going. Crew: They needed a coxswain, I’m small, my friends asked me, I tried, I stayed. Ultimate: A friend invited me, I went, I stayed. I never thought I was good. I remember wondering how I survived some of the land workouts for crew. When I look back, I sort of think I picked teams where they needed someone who didn’t have to be good.  Rowing teams need coxswains, and even though I was not very loud then (haha that came later in college), I filled a spot they needed. And Ultimate teams are often short on women.

So I just stayed at it. And I think that’s how I feel about running too, that I was never supposed to be good at it. I’m not naturally fast like my brothers. My only advantage that one high school season wasn’t that I was fast, but just that I never stopped. My dad told me after that cross country season in high school that he and my mom were worried when I first joined, because I had fainted a few times before and my health seemed more like my often-fatigued mom’s than my strong father’s (to this day, I’m still glad they wisely told me after the season was over).

It felt weird to recognize that just now, that that’s still what I believe about myself: that I was never supposed to be good at anything athletic. I brush people off who think I’m pretty athletic, because even though I would regularly play ultimate frisbee and can obviously can run a few miles without struggling (and have ran a full marathon lol)….I dunno, it never felt like it counted.

It creeps in in these subconscious ways and I know it. When I’d play ultimate, I wouldn’t push hard enough to go for a catch; I’d slow down too early because I didn’t think I would get it anyway. I wouldn’t go for keep throws or quick cuts because I figure those were for the better players.

And this is why those 11+ minute racing splits feel weird to me. I feel like I’m supposed to be glad enough that I can finish half marathons, and because I still think I’m not supposed to be good at this, I don’t think I should want? to go any faster.

But today, when I pushed for a a 9:34 minute mile (on mile 4…the last mile, of all things! That’s supposed to be the slowest!) I think I’m finally like, gosh darn it, I can actually go faster than I think I can. I’m not going to be satisfied with a 2:27:45. I like to tell people that, when it comes to ultimate, I have to push myself to run faster because I normally pace myself for longer distances like these runs. But after today’s run, I’m realizing: I need to push myself to run faster, period. Not just be happy that I can log the miles, but actually know I can go faster, and do it.

I always acknowledged the mental part of running as the thing I can conquer. But I think I never got around to owning the physical part, that my legs and my body can actually do this too. Which is sort of hilarious considering I’ve trained up to and ran 26.2 miles…but here’s to getting back to it. Here’s to pushing not just mental limits, but physical ones too.

And here’s the running quote I put on my very first half marathon training plan back in 2012.

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Both Darrell and Natalie tell me the above is not true, and I’m like, really? Guess I should really just call myself a runner now.

Chinese Dating

My parents are into this Chinese Dating show now where the parents help pick the significant other for the kids. This current variation goes like this:

  • The parents are on the main stage.
  • The girls are in a different room, but they can see all the interactions.
  • The guy comes out. The parents of the main stage interview the guy. They pitch why they think he and their daughter would be a good fit. He cannot see any of the girls.
  • The parents of the guy are not on stage, but they can watch the girl’s parents talking to him, and they can see the separate room that the girls are in (the girls are often reacting to each other and talking back to what their parents are saying).
  • After all the interviewing, the guy’s parents or relatives come out. They give their recommendations.
  • The guy picks the girl without seeing her, just based on what her parents say and what his parents say.

Needless to say, this show would not fly in the states. But it is interesting to observe the dynamics. In this episode I’m watching with my parents, the guy picks the female contestant his mom recommends. When she comes out, they stand several feet apart as they talk to each other for the first time, the chosen girl in tears. The parents of the daughter speak gratefully; the father shares that he has been the sky watching over the earth of his daughter. The guy promises to take care of his daughter and before he has even held the daughter’s hand, he walks to her parents and takes her mothers hand down to the stage. Only after these interactions does he come close and hug his new match, and then they walk to the glowing heart on the stage.

Fascinating and telling, huh?

emails

[heads up: this is not a substantial post. it is really trivial.]

You know what things are good ideas, but not a good idea to do all at once?

Change your email address so it reflects your married last name. I know a lot of girlfriends who keep the same email address after they get married, which makes sense because transitioning everythingggg after a decade on an account is a lot of work. Especially if it’s a google account and you have to transfer all your drive documents and move your calendars. But for some reason I just…really wanted to change my email address. Maybe it’s because people get my maiden name wrong when I spell it over the phone, maybe it’s because that email address had everything: senior project papers, InterVarsity leadership emails, etc. And I wanted to start sorting it…so the phrase I’m using is that I am ambitiously trying to change my personal email address. I think it will take awhile.

At the same time, I also transitioned to using @intervarsity.org for all ministry-related communication. This makes tons of sense as I took on administrative responsibilities because I’m getting way more emails and communicating with a lot externally, and sometimes having your organization’s email just feels more professional. Primarily though, it’s helped with the ministry-work/life balance and drawing healthier boundaries for when I put ministry down and breathe.

Now, this coupled with the above actually make sense, so together I am trying to eliminate use of the personal-turned-work-too email address I’ve used since 2008. But it’s not gone completely since I haven’t actually told people to stop it, so I just forward the emails and occasionally log on to check it…and I still have my spam email address I use for deals and birthday rewards (this only gets checked when I look for coupons!)…and Darrell and I have a joint email address…

And then I started a class at SJSU (DIFFERENT POST, coming up!) and now they gave me an email address there for campus communication. And I’m just like LOL how did I go from being a one-email person to six??? [facepalm]