Everyone’s a Little Bit L-acist

Yesterday I went to the Air and Space Museum to meet up with Ryan and Anuj. When I walked through security, the guard said to me, “I hope you guys have fun!”

That was weird, I thought, since I had come completely by myself.

I put my bag through the x-ray machine, and when it came out on the other side, I saw that someone’s camera bag was in the same bin as my purse. I looked behind me, and there was an Asian guy who had come in just after me. The security guard had assumed we were together.

Anyway. More pictures from D.C. My last two days were overwhelmingly ordinary. That’s fine with me. :]

Air and Space Museum marble universe

Capitol South station


Supreme Court

Statuary Hall


Sink Oar Swim

Do you ever find yourself somewhere quite ordinary, imagining all the extraordinary things that must have happened there?

I went kayaking with Lynsey today. We took the Circulator bus down toward Georgetown and walked to the waterfront. Jack’s Boathouse rents out kayaks at $10/hour/person. What a deal! I tried to imagine what the D.C. skyline looked like without the tall buildings, when the tallest structure for miles was the Capitol building. I tried imagining the Piscataway Indian tribe camping near the river bank seeking shade from the unforgiving sun. Some moments, you feel connected not just to nature but to all the human beings who have been through a place before you.

Capitol Hill vs. Capital Hill

It’s really important to recognize the difference.

I finished all of my press releases today. With the prospect of going to New York tomorrow, it’s incredibly hard to concentrate. The score? 15 doodled post-its and the above illustration.

More pictures from D.C.





one of the most memorable Wednesday nights (yes, Wednesday)



Inglourious Weather

A woman called into our office yesterday saying that she was going to pray for our souls because of the healthcare bill. If it was within my jurisdiction, I would have told her my soul is doing just fine, thanks. But I didn’t. I’m too polite.

We were supposed to go kayaking today, but there is a thunderstorm warning for this entire weekend for storms in Maryland and D.C. Mother Nature wins again!

Go watch Inglourious Basterds. Hats off to Tarantino for creating yet another masterpiece. We had Spanish tapas at La Tasca before the movie in Chinatown. Glourious, wouldn’t you say?

Today, I’m going to work out like crazy, pick up my German book from my new place because I want to brush up on mein Deutsch, and spend the rest of the rainy day inside under covers reading, or until something more interesting comes up.

Paper Airplanes

We throw away ridiculous amounts of paper every day in our office. Granted, it’s all recycled, but I figured I wanted to give some of the paper a better opportunity than finding its fateful end at the bottom of our blue bin.

So today at work I started looking up the most efficient paper airplane designs. So far, this is what I’ve come up with. As for launching locations, I’m not sure where I could test them out without getting into trouble with my supervisor. This thought is still pending.

2 Weeks to Cali

I fell asleep earlier today for 3 hours after I got back from work. Don’t you hate when that happens? Now I can’t fall asleep for the life of me, and I have to wake up tomorrow morning to go to work.

Moved into my new place this weekend. I totally love where I’ll be living and am stoked about my new job next year. Joseph came to town and helped me move in. I bought a bed and table off of Craigslist. Since I have my own room, I have all this goddamn extra space I have no idea what to do with. All these years, I’ve had a roommate. Maybe I’ll invest in a rug. Or a shelf. Or a fish. I need to find a good gym nearby.

I’m almost a Marylander. My roommates are a progressive bunch – fans of Back to the Future and hookah. Enough said.


The other day on the Metro, the train missed the platform and left a bunch of the crowd chasing after its last car. There was a sweaty, angry caucasian woman power-walking behind me.

“I hate when they do that!” she belched.
“Yeah, I hate it too!” If there’s anything I learned about angry women, it’s not to contradict them.
“These fuckin’ idiots don’t know how to drive!”
“Yeah, totally!” I half-agreed. Then I did what I shouldn’t have done, which is contribute another thought. “Don’t worry, we’ll make it.”
Before I even finished my sentence, she blew back in my face, “NO, WE WON’T!”

As my roommate Kiren put it best, there’s obviously no room for optimism in D.C.


Then again, how can I debase a place where information is endlessly abundant? The Smithsonian Institute has come to my rescue. Whereas I would be making multiple trips to Disneyland back home, I’ve spent many hours perusing the hallmarks of American history within the walls of the Smithsonian museums.

After being here for almost three months, I’ve finally come to terms with the environment. My mind rejected the idea of being here for an extended period of time like a body can reject a transplant. But I’ve reached an equilibrium. I have to admit that I’ve done a lot of cool shit since I got here by looking through my old blog entries alone. Again, though, it’s because of the people that I’ve met so far that have made this experience worthwhile.

‘Scuse the language. Along with not putting up with other people’s bullshit as much, I’ve also become a bit more of a potty mouth since I got here. If you should find my language offensive, you can go **** yourselves. 🙂

National Treasure – Nicholas Cage should be banned from making more movies, but it was cool to see all the filming locations in D.C. and Philadelphia

still reading Revolutionary Road. Richard Yates had a talent for capturing the tragic without being emo.

–Anuj and Ryan are coming to town. Woot!
–New York next week for a day!
–I recently started following Jason Mraz on Twitter

63 Days of D.C.

one day after work

So the other day I gave a Capitol tour without my glasses on, figuring that I’d given the tour enough times to do it with my eyes closed. Or without proper vision correction, at LEAST. Halfway into a spiel about a statue of George Washington, a 4th grader in my group raised his hand and pointed out that the statue was actually Martin Luther King, Jr.

I came back to the office and voluntarily put myself on phones as a punishment. There was a lot of ranting and raving about health care. At the end of one call, I politely said, “Thank you, Sir. I’ll be sure to pass on your message.” After a long silence, the speaker on the other line spat, “I’m NOT a Sir. I’m a ma’am,” and hung up on me.

Today, I went to Silver Spring, Maryland to see about a desk I’m buying for this weekend when I start moving into my new place. A guy approached me and asked if he could have my number. I told him I was flattered, but no. He kept asking if he could have my “numba” even though I kept giving him excuses. I’m too old for you. I’m not looking for a boyfriend. I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I half expected him to tell me to work my up-do. Fortunately, I got to where I was going and he went away.

…Otherwise, I’m doing fine!

I miss Vietnamese food and Mexican food like crazy. I can’t find any decent pho or breakfast burritos around here.

There’s a guy that works at Potbelly Sandwiches by my place that I think is cute. He gives me free cookies and ice cream because I started coming by just to say hello after work. I’ve been on a couple dates since I’ve gotten here. I feel way too grown up going out in business suits and heels.

I complain a lot about the things I don’t like about D.C., but if I really think hard about it, the bright side outweighs the things I nitpick on.

The same day I got rained on a drenched walking home from the Metro station, I saw a rainbow over work. You win some, you lose some.

The National Gallery after work

Screen on the Green at the National Mall

Jazz in the Park on Fridays @ the Sculpture Garden

WHITE HOUSE TOUR TOMORROW, WOOHOO! If I get to fist bump Michelle Obama, I’ll die happy!

Books Read Recently:
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (reading)
Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, Jr.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide by Karl F. Kuhn (don’t laugh)

Movies Watched Recently:
October Sky
The Life Aquatic
Revolutionary Road
Mystic River
500 Days of Summer

Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love

What is the goal of a VISTA (Volunteer in Service of America)?
To aid in eradicating poverty by building capacity for communities in need through the transfer of resources, skills, and relationships.

I took the train to Philadelphia last week to attend my Pre-Service Orientation for AmeriCorps this year. I’ll be living in Maryland for a year, serving the Asian Pacific American community through work with the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC). Thanks to President Obama, a former community organizer, AmeriCorps received extra funding this year.

Over 4 days, we had the above mission statement ingrained in our heads through workshops, teamwork exercises, and other training. At the end of it, we were sworn in as VISTAs. Surprisingly, it was the same as the military oath. Either they were too lazy to write a different one, or someone really felt the duties were equally relevant in both fields.

So I will protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic!

These are my impressions:

  • The people are incredibly down to earth. Everybody says “hello” to each other while walking down the street. People make eye contact when they talk, and lord forbid, they smile every once in a while. Incredibly different dynamic than D.C., where most people are attuned more to their work than each other (excludes happy hours, Fridays, and weekends).

one of our lego creations, as done in between workshops
  • American history has been through Philadelphia I don’t know how many times. Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted & signed, can be found here. The Liberty Bell herself, cracked at least three times, melted, and recast, is also here. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington used to worship at a church that can be found in downtown Philadelphia. Philly is particularly proud of Franklin. There are statues and streets named after him everywhere. The steps where they filmed Rocky are right in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (yes, we ran up all of them).

This is the room depicted in Trumbull’s famous painting of the Declaration of Independence

Liberty Bell

in front of Christ Church

Philadelphia Museum of Art, where they filmed Rocky

post-step aerobics

what triumph looks like!

history meets present: Macy’s in an old building with a full-sized pipe organ.
more like retail meets Phantom of the Opera!

Monopoly in front of City Hall?


From what I’ve seen, Philly lives up to its nickname.

The workshops prepared us, and the prospect of our year to come energized us, but the people there are the ones who inspired me most. For the first time, I was in a room full of people who genuinely care about others.

People I met at PSO and will never forget:

  • Janice, former NASA employee, columnist for a newspaper, mother of two. I met her on the shuttle to the hotel and we became instant friends, despite all age differences.
  • Keila, my roommate from Florida who will be serving in D.C. area. Her drive and commitment to her work before she even started her position propel me to dedicate myself even moreso to this year.
  • Emilio N. Williams, my teacher throughout the week, once homeless, now living a life dedicated to service. Words cannot describe how much he has given us.

Keila, me, Ali

You Can’t Go Back to Childhood

by Lilian Bui
written August 2, 2009, on the plane from Atlanta, GA en route to D.C.
I started writing after reading a line from Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road

No, you can’t go back to childhood
The road doesn’t go that way
It’s overgrown with brush and woods
The gates are locked, decayed.

You can’t go back to childhood
There, your head would swell
Drunk with liquid memory
Obscenities dispelled

You can’t go back to childhood
Where Father lowers you to bed
And the noxious smell of libraries
Accounts for “what if’s” in your head

You can’t go back to childhood
Where bare feet seek the lawn
And autumn twilight listlessly
Turns constellations on

You can’t go back to childhood
Where candy stains the tongue
And shopping carts make sturdy ships
For misadventures sprung

You can’t go back to childhood
I am myself convinced
There is no place quite like it
Never before nor since

You can’t go back to childhood
The river has run dry
You can’t go back to childhood
However you may try.

(*Last line’s punctuation left ambiguous on purpose.)

I Know my Soul

I plucked a soul out of its secret place
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.

–Claude McKay, poet from the Harlem Renaissance

The other day I sat long and hard thinking about high school. I couldn’t get my mind off of how it felt to be in Mr. Stevens’ science classroom on a rainy day. Sneakers squeaked on the way to their desks. The room smelled of wet and expo marker. The heaviest load I bore was my backpack full of books, and my biggest worry an essay I had to do over the weekend or an upcoming test. Home was only a hop, skip, and a jump away and 2:35PM marked the end of the day’s most demanding tasks. Why do we tire of simplicity? Because we believe we deserve to have and should aspire for more? Down the road, we realize too late that more is less and less is more.

I have seen Europe and explored her streets. I’ve seen the relics of history in bustling cities and known the humble silences of the countryside at home. I’ve loved in different languages and spoken sometimes with only my heart and a song. I’ve witnessed death with my own eyes and realized that I’m not afraid of it anymore. I used to think I needed to do a lot before I pass on, but at this point in time, nothing would make me happier than simply being around my loved ones and giving them all I have. I know, though, that there are many people who have helped me get to where I am today, who have believed in me enough to remind me that the buck doesn’t stop here. Not just yet. From now on, my future – as it should be – is for others and never just for me.

It’s taken me a while, but I am finally comfortable with myself. I am unafraid of failure, unafraid of death. I know who I am. I know my soul.