Thirty Days Hath September


Out on the pier where I first believed
Sits a dream deferred, a soul bereaved.
The sun sinks alone and thaws in the sea.

The remains – bathed in dust – picked up by the breeze.

9/30/09

I wrote this today while sitting at Au Bon Pain. I usually allow green tea, windows, and cold weather to elicit whatever they please. This poem is what resulted. What’s it about? asked a friend. The best answer I could give is that it’s about running out of time. Knowing that you can do anything, but you can’t do everything you want. If you can gather that kind of emotion from reading it, then I’ve done my job. And you can pat yourself on the back for getting how poetry works.

Anyway, time for updates!

I’ve been reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she outlines the year after her husband’s sudden death. She expounds on loss, grieving, faith, spirituality…It sounds incredibly depressing, doesn’t it? But it helps me deal with a lot of emotion right now in regard to my grandfather, whose death I don’t allow myself to talk about enough. At the same time, it’s difficult to do so when the closest of my friends are, ironically, far away in miles. I simply don’t open up so readily to just anybody.

Tonight, I went to a Tri-Caucus (Black, Hispanic, Asian-American Caucuses) mixer at the Newseum, which usually costs money to get into. The view was fabulous, and the drinks were free! Thank you, Nabila, for taking me out and introducing me around to Hill staffers. I had a great time. Check out the view to which we were privy:


All aboaaaaard! For a special promotion of the new A Christmas Carol movie with Jim Carrey, directed by Robert Zemeckis, Disney decked out – not a hall, but – an entire train! On display inside were samples of the movie’s original artwork, demonstrations of the CGI technology they used, and interactive activities for the family. Outside, while we were waiting in line, we were serenaded by carolers. I hauled ass to Union Station downtown after I got off work and was greeted by the smell of gingerbread and the sight of fake snow. It felt like a California Christmas. Great job, Disney. The spirit found me on the east coast, and I couldn’t be happier.





My mother sent me banh trung thu (moon cake) for the autumn moon festival. I have been having moon cake for breakfast with artichoke tea every morning! Joseph sent me this awesome picture of Mickey Mouse moon cake:


Gotta admit. I’m not in love with it, but I am warming up to the city. There, I said it. Netflix awaits. Tonight it’s Aaron Eckhart in Thank You for Smoking. Good night, everyone!


Just watched Catch Me If You Can. Bought the book (used) soon after seeing it. If Frank Abagnale, Jr. could con banks country-wide and worldwide before turning 19, then that means I’m behind!

Although I don’t plan to make a career out of conning government agencies, life still awaits. A lot of the time at night I wonder why I’m not at home with my family and close friends. Other times like today there is a split and I start thinking, Now waittaminute, Lilian. There’s still a lot to be done. And there is!

For instance, today I met with a partner non-profit to outline the year in terms of what we want to get done in terms of community outreach. There are phone calls to be made, interviews to conduct, programs to plan, and much more than I could ever have imagined. I find that although I’m far from home, being here enables me to do a lot of good for a community that is growing. I am now a part of this process and am eager to make myself useful.

It’s gotten to a point now where I have begun to question: Could this one year stint away from home potentially be a springboard for more adventures abroad? I know I gripe a lot about missing California, but now that I’ve dealt with re-location and displacement, could this mean that I could go through the motions again in a different place, doing different things? I’m doing Washington, D.C. for a year. What could be next? New York? Boston? Paris?

Thanks a lot, Abagnale.

We’ll see…I’m going to take this one step at a time. Next step: Make lunch for tomorrow. I think I can handle that.

Weather or Not You Like It

We had our first rainstorm yesterday. I woke up to the sound of rain and fell asleep to it. What an amazing feeling. Weather was always missing from California, so it’s a nice change to be able to experience it. In California, we drive to find certain types of weather, which is a good and bad thing. We drive to the mountains in the winter to find snow, up north for cooler temperatures, and travel farther south when we need tans. Maybe the inconsistency of weather on the east coast characterizes its allure. It’s less predictable, changing all the time.

I took this picture from my car, front of my house. It had just started raining, and I wanted to make use of my macro mode.

I also went to the Library of Congress Book Fair. Ah, the dissemination of knowledge. There were readings, signings, and sales. Apparently, Nicholas Sparks was there.


Django Reinhardt found his way into my mailbox recently in the form of an early birthday present. The London and Paris sessions from 1938! My Fischer-Price record player was happy to see it. Thank you so much, Henry!

Mommy, I made friends today

Just to give you an idea of my relationships with my friends back home, here are people’s various responses to when I texted them that I made friends today here in Maryland. I’m exposing you all!!

Henry: Imaginary ones don’t count, Lilian.

Ysidro: You do realize puppy dogs and large old trees with lots of character don’t count right?

(Me: One person said, “Welcome to our club” after I quoted Arrested Development and it reminded me of two years ago when you said, “Welcome to the family” after I understood your Family Guy reference.)
Tony: And I’ve regretted that moment ever since!

Khanh: Are any of them cute? You want to keep them for a while, right?

And my favorite…

Mom: Are they boy or girl?

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Well, screw you all! Haha. I did make friends today! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

In the Maryland office, we share office space with an organization called Asian American Lead, which focuses on creating opportunities and programs for at-risk youth. My desk is right next to the door that leads into their office, so I couldn’t help overhearing some awesome conversation when I first came in this morning. I got up and introduced myself and found out one of the girls went to same training as I did in Philadelphia back in July. After talking to the rest of the staff, I found out they were into Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the Office.

SOLD!

Don: I am officially declaring lunch.
John: You can’t declare lunch.
Don: Screw you, I’m declaring it.
Me: Usually, people declare stuff like war, bankruptcy…Lunch, not so much.

Jessica: This woman has five daughters and one son.
John: I too…have a son.
(He doesn’t really.)

Me: New Office episode tonight! I’m so excited!
Don, Edison, and John: (from the other room, simultaneously) PARKOUR, PARKOUR!!!!!

We spent lunch watching the Afternoon Delight episode of Arrested Development. I think I’m going to like it here.

Ain’t Too Proust to Beg

So today I got to work from home. I went into D.C. for a staff meeting, had lunch with my supervisor in front of the White House, and came back home to write up a memo because we’re having some technical difficulties with my computer at the office.

While trying to be productive at home, I watched Little Miss Sunshine again. I love the writing for this movie. In this scene, Dwayne (15 year old played by Paul Dano who whose lifelong dream of joining the Air Force has just been shattered because he just found out he’s color blind) talks to Frank (played by Steve Carrell, a suicidal gay professor whose boyfriend just dumped him for another scholar) about sleeping through the hard part of life and waking up when it’s all over.

Frank: Do you know who Marcel Proust is? French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, ’cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18… Ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.


Within the scope of my life, I guess it would behoove me to look back every once in a while and appreciate if not celebrate the bumps along the way. They have shaped (and mis-shapened) who I am. All in all, I’m glad to be here. So next time I’m unbearably homesick, I’ll channel it into a song, poem, or story instead of call home 5 times a day and bug the heck out of my mom. That way I can look back and feel like I’ve gotten something concrete out of my suffering. Ha!

This is what I love about movies. They have emotional capacity. They frustrate you, educate you, stimulate you, and empower you by telling the same story in a variety of ways. This movie isn’t the first or the only one about a dysfunctional family, self-discovery, lost loves, half-met dreams, and downright failures. But we pay attention because it’s interesting and because the characters bring different chemistry to the screen. Then if we really pay attention we can get something more out of it too because of good performances and writing.

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Last night I had a dream that I launched rockets for a living. Don’t know what that means, but it was pretty fucking cool. I experienced zero gravity in my sleep. Does that count for anything on a resume?

The Work We Do*


In D.C., “observing the speed limit” merely entails seeing the sign as you whoosh by it going at least 10 mph over the number on the board.

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I’ve yet to talk about the work that I’ve been doing since I got out here, which is a bit of a disservice to you guys back home who have asked me. Thing is – it’s kind of hard to explain in one big chunk. So here’s my best shot.

I have been working with the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center. The APALRC is both a law firm and just what the name implies – a legal resource center that provides direct services to the low-income, Asian Pacific American community here in Washington, D.C. The kinds of cases that the firm deals with range from domestic violence to immigration to human trafficking to tenants’ rights.

At the same time, the LRC does community outreach and organizing, which is where I come in! 🙂 The LRC has a strong base in metropolitan D.C. However, recently, they opened an office in Maryland, where their jurisdiction is still valid but their network is not as developed. So my job is to conduct outreach in Montgomery County (which is HUGE) to develop, create, and solidify relationships with other legal firms, community organizations, and faith-based organizations within the county.

Montgomery County itself is bigger than some states in population, like New Hampshire. Its population has almost reached 1 million. Of those 1 million, 28% are foreign born. Almost 50% of those foreign-born immigrants are Asian.

My role here is to serve this organization and expand its reach into Maryland so that the community here can be aware of its legal resources.

In order to do so, I get to do awesome stuff like represent the APALRC, which is quite well known and kickass in the APA community if I do say so myself, at conferences like the one I went to today in Annapolis. It’s not a typical 9 to 5 job because I’m on the go most of the time. And the staff is less like a staff, more like a family.

Annapolis

Homesickness still comes in waves, but for now it’s at low tide. Believe it or not, a cathartic moment came to me while re-watching Ratatouille. The words were spoken by Chef Gusteau himself: “If you focus on what you left behind. You will never be able to see what lies ahead.”

*The opinions expressed in this entry are solely my own and do not reflect those of the APALRC.

Light Under the Door

What do you call the light that comes through under your door? There has to be a more poetic, succinct way of describing it than “light under the door.” This is what I stared at for two hours straight while trying to fall asleep just now. That’s what I get for taking afternoon naps. I got myself sick this weekend and was trying to rest, so that’s my excuse. Then again, excuses can only take you so far because here I am, breathing through one good nostril, blogging at 3:01 A.M. eastern time. Who said insomnia had to stop after college? My sleeping patterns do not know the bounds of academia.

I drove to Clarksburg, MD today. What a beautiful place to raise a family. Too bad that family will be oblivious to the low-income population within a 30-minute drive of this area. Check out the front lawn on this house. A friend of mine who studied real estate once told me that your front lawn is worth much more than your back lawn. Given that, these people must be loaded. The entire neighborhood was along the same lines as this house, as if everything were straight out of an Old America picture album. The people I met spoke with a bit of a southern drawl. I half expected women in gingham gowns to come outside to tend to the horses and milk the cows. Were it not for the SUV’s parked in the driveways, I would have been fooled.


So what brought me to Clarksburg in the first place was this beauty:

It is a Craigslist gem! I was looking for an old CRT-TV for my room and came across this posting online. Being the Disney fanatic I am, I had to have it. The couple I bought it from had bought it for their son, who outgew it. I flat out told them that I’m 21 years old and still haven’t outgrown Disney. They laughed (politely). And yes, the ears are the television speakers.

I’m going to keep searching for things to blog about until I get sleepy enough to go to bed again.

So I made this awesome salad today:

  • Spinach

  • Balela (Middle Eastern salad of chick peas, garbanzo and black beans, onion, tomato, cilantro, lemon juice, and olive oil)

  • Raspberry vinaigrette

On the side, I had blue tortilla chips and edamame hummus. All of these ingredients can be purchased at Trader Joe’s 🙂

Oh! I also managed to record a song yesterday, pre-congestion. It’s a cover of “Change is Hard” by She & Him. By the way, Zooey Deschanel just got married today. So to all the hardcore fans/suitors, sorry!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIqmWC-50Dg
http://www.youtube.com/v/NIqmWC-50Dg&hl=en&fs=1&

All right, well that did it. I’m beat. Lily out.

(Psst. You want to know a secret? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think about stealing away and doing what I really love – performing. I’m doing an open mic this week in D.C. and think I’ll start using “Lily Bee” as my stage name. What do you guys think? Am I crazy?)

Back east

They say you can’t go home again, but I’d have to disagree. There is nothing like sleeping in your own bed, even if it’s a little stiffer than you remember it; dust has collected over your old figurines; and your mother’s yoga mat is sprawled on the floor.







I guess I haven’t written any kind of synthesis of my experience on the Hill this summer just yet. Before I even had time to sit down and think about it, I was swept from below into the familiar rhythm of hanging out with old friends. Now, after two weeks, a 6 hour flight, and lots of unpacking & decorating, here I am already starting my new job, thrust into the litany.

But let’s rewind a little bit. Here is where I guess I’m supposed to tell you all what I learned. Hindsight finally kicked in, so I thought I’d write it down. Capitol Hill is a world within itself. You can find distinct cultural differences simply walking between Constitution and Independence Ave. and even from Rayburn to Longworth. In giving tours, I not only learned about how the U.S. was built from the ground up, but I was also able to meet people whom the U.S.’s foundation could not do without. I learned about how legislation is researched, presented, drafted, recommended, and passed…or not passed. I finally understood the claustrophobia of a 9 to 5 job. And I still remember the perpetual echo of heels on the House office building floors during session as staffers rushed to and fro.

My “forever lessons,” as my friend Jenny G. puts it, are derived from much deeper within my experience, however. For instance, in all my politeness and nervousness during my first weeks, I just about apologized for everything, from answering the phone wrong to accidentally slamming the door (the daggone door slammed anyway). I grew frustrated with – then eventually gave into – “the Beltway mentality,” a sort of austere crudity that people seemed to be conditioned to project from 9 to 5PM, Monday through Friday. But my fellow intern Adriana told me matter of factly that the way people react to situations is more a reflection of them than of me. Once she put me straight, I found it much easier to handle some people’s horrible manners. I also learned that in a bustling cultural powerhouse like Washington, D.C., you are constantly surrounded by people, and if you are not going to be yourself, then no one else is going to be. So I smiled wider, sang louder on the Metro, wore more colors, and opened myself up again – not out of spite or rebellion but because it was ME. And I wasn’t going to let my personality be the first sacrifice in any experience.

Also, I learned what it was to miss Home, with a capital H. It wasn’t exactly California I missed the most (though it really is as great as they say in relation to everywhere else I’ve been). It was everything that made it Home to me that I missed. I learned there are places and people in this world that will always be the same, in a good way, because they will always bring out the best in you.

So in a nutshell, that was my summer in D.C. I have met amazing people, my fellow interns and roommate included. I’ve also met not-so-amazing people, but everyone and everything has been part of the process that continually defines me and my perception of the world.

I just started this week at the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, which I believe changes the world every day, intentionally, collectively, and wholeheartedly. More about that on my next post. Here are pictures from my new room in Maryland, which I painstakingly decorated this week. You really can’t have enough scotch tape.