Barcelona

Last week, I had the great joy of being able to meet my dad in Barcelona!! It was always my mom’s dream to travel Europe, and it feels like we are living her dream for her. I feel like our travels are made simultaneously selfish and purposeful to say, “We are doing this in lieu of her,” but I want to be hopeful in believing that some dreams are worth living out even when the dreamer is gone. For the past year, it has felt like my dad and I are figuring out how to orbit towards light when the sun has been taken away from us. But for the first time, we are choosing to learn from one another and walk through this together.

Four days ago, my dad boarded a boat named “Costa Serena,” like my mom, without knowing the name of the cruise ship before purchasing his tickets. I don’t want to give things more meaning than they should hold, but it has to be true that there is something special about this trip.

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1. I was super stoked to finally see La Boqueria market and all its hustle and bustle. The colours were an absolute dream, and all the food was so incredibly fresh and yummy!!

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2. Two friends recommended me a restaurant called El Xampanyet for tapas and cava. Our server never let our plates empty for a second, and I was amazed by how they could constantly be making food and charming customers at the same time. When we gave up our table for the people who were next in line, our serve yelled, “God bless you!” and gave us free tapas for being kind and patient.

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3. La Sagrada Familia absolutely blew my mind, not only because of how grand everything was, but because every detail was made with intention. It’s crazy to see that even decades after Gaudi has passed, the church is still under construction and how he planned everything in full knowing that he would never see it finished. My favourite part of the tour was when we learned about the stained glass windows, and Gaudi’s specific instructions for how they should be.

Most people would assume that the more light in a church, the better, but Gaudi insisted that the light be moderated, because both too little and too much light can be blinding.”

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4. “Can we see a menu?”

“You’re looking right at it.”

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5. My father’s heart belongs to the ocean. He cannot help himself but look over the shoulders of fellow fishermen, and his gaze is always locked on ocean. Like him, I am also learning that you only need to lift your eyes slightly over the horizon to set your sights on heaven.

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Gramps

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1. When I was a child, I told my grandfather that my favourite food was BBQ pork. Every single meal he has made me since I was 5 has had BBQ pork in it, even to this day. Every morning I have been here, he steams BBQ pork buns for me. Every lunch or dinner, there will be slices of BBQ pork on the table, which he will intentionally buy from the deli down the street. I think I like BBQ pork more because of this.

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2. My grandfather has always been a man of service, but I have never received a gift from him until this week. He gave me two film cameras to take home with me, saying he wasn’t sure if they worked anymore, but I will keep them anyways.

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3. When we were in Singapore, we went to the beach and I dipped my feet in the water. As we were leaving, I was about to put my sandals back on, but my grandfather stopped me. He bent over with a water bottle in his hands and offered to wash my feet so they wouldn’t be sandy when I put my shoes on. I wanted to cry, because my grandfather, who has never read a word of Scripture in his entire life, probably had no idea how Biblical that was. Sometimes people can be a lot like Jesus without realizing it.

The People I Have Met

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20140529-001648-1008721.jpgBeing part of this tour has been a huge gift, because of the lovely people we have met. Tonight, we lit sparklers by the water, and my heart swelled at how fire can light up people’s faces in more ways than one.

1. Our tour guide comes up to us and shows us a picture of his daughter dressed up as Princess Anna. “Isn’t she pretty?” he says, “All I want to do right now is go home and play with her.” He walks away listening to the soundtrack of Frozen playing from his phone, and I think of all the times I haven’t been home.

2. There is a couple on their honeymoon on our tour, and they are the sweetest two people I have ever met. A 6-year old child and his mother sit next to them on the bus, and they often buy the little boy toys and treats, even though they were strangers before this trip. People who are loved are often kind to others, because a love poured out usually spills over.

3. “Here, let me tie that for you,” she says as she wraps my sash around my waist, “It’s a ‘Hello Kitty’ bow – much cuter and better suited for you.” All you see when you look into her eyes are her children, and she does not stop being a mother when they are out of her sight.

4. A lady often rushes to our side whenever we don’t understand what’s happening. She is like a superhero with glasses and a British accent; always somehow there to save us without being asked. She moved to Hong Kong for her husband, but keeps London in her home.

Everything else outside is Hong Kong. My friends, my family, my work – all Chinese,” she says, pulling an Earl Grey tea bag out of her purse, “But everything inside my apartment is London as I know it.” 

 

 

 

Papa

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On Sunday, my father and I part ways for the rest of the trip. Tiff and I are going to Japan, and he is heading home to Vancouver. Here are 3 things about my father:

1. My father was born with a fisherman heart. He came out of the womb doing the front crawl and the doctor probably said, “This boy has sea legs.” He wakes up before the sun to swim laps until his body goes numb and the only times he ever left my mother and I behind was to go fishing on a boat that he loves almost as much as the ocean. He comes back home with weathered skin and pictures of him with a smile bigger than his catch. His greatest reward is a hook in a lip, but the ironic thing is that he doesn’t like eating fish.

2. When I was in elementary school, my father lost his job. He was unemployed for a very long time, and it wasn’t until I was older that I learned it was because every job that was offered to him required him to leave his family. I grew up watching my father struggle to start his own business. He was a computer engineer trying to learn the world of a businessman; studying company start-up books and working for shit pay at the same time just so my mother and I could remain the epicenter of what makes him move and shake. His biggest regret is not giving up his business, the emporium that he had built with his own two hands, during the last two years of my mother’s life. And that is what he is – not a engineer or a businessman, but a man who loves his family more than any career.

3. My father grew up in a culture where love is not often verbalized and with a belief that everything was his fault. Sometimes things that are not meant to be planted take deep roots, and I always need to remind myself of that before toxic comes out of my mouth (but more often than not, the words have left before that thought crosses my mind). Often (although not always) in my family, anger is shouted and compliments are whispered, but I must always remember that one of the times that I saw my father the most angry was when a boy made me feel like I wasn’t good enough.

2 and a Half Stories

44550_425424290291_5000477_n 1. This is the story of Amy Ma and Rebekah Ho. I thought it would be appropriate to write this not only because I’m in the city where we met, but also, because Amy graduated from UPenn today!!! Congratulations Amy!

In the summer of 2008, Rebekah left her home in Vancouver for the first time on her own to live at camp called OCAC for 6 weeks. She arrived in Taipei, a city she had never been to before, with no family, one friend, and no idea how to speak Mandarin. The very first friend she made at OCAC who’s name was Amy Ma (which by the way is a palindrome). The details are unclear of how their friendship really began, but it started with a kind gesture and a pack of UNO cards. Amy liked stripes and was very pale. She wore her heart on her sleeve, which meant that if she liked you, you would know, and vice versa. Thankfully, Rebekah felt very loved by Amy (and didn’t have to face her wrath). That summer, Amy made Rebekah try a lot of new things like dance onstage to a song about chocolate and befriend people that she usually wouldn’t talk to, which all generally turned out to be challenging but valuable experiences. Amy also introduced Rebekah to her kryptonite: shopping. And with that, a best friendship formed. Every morning, Amy and Rebekah would walk to breakfast together, and on the weekends, they would go out with their friends for karaoke and hot pot. They spent just about every waking moment together from the first day of camp until the last day of camp. When Amy went home to Philadelphia, Rebekah cried harder than she ever did in all 15 years of her life. They kept in touch via Skype, Facebook, and snail mail, and they promised to see each other again in the near future.

Two years later, Rebekah and Amy planned to go to camp together again, but Rebekah didn’t get in. Rebekah was discouraged but determined and decided to fly to Taipei anyways to live with Amy for two weeks. They were both very nervous at first, because a lot can change in two years. It was hard to keep in touch, and they weren’t able to keep Skyping once a week like they did before. But when Rebekah walked through the airport door, and Amy hopped a railing (that Rebekah was pretty sure was taller than her) just to get to her quicker, they knew they would be just fine. They spent those two weeks eating and shopping together, and somehow, Amy managed to make Rebekah take a not-so-fun hip hop class with her (there seems to be a theme of dancing in their friendship).

In 2011, Amy and Rebekah went to OCAC again together. It was the same, but different. Amy and Rebekah’s friendship grew even more that summer, and they learned a lot about honesty and vulnerability. They learned how to grow with each other and how to grow without each other. They learned that it’s okay for things to change while they’re apart as long as the friendship changes with it. Long distance relationships/friendships/anythings are never easy, but Rebekah has always and will always be confident in this friendship, because Amy and Rebekah continue to be invested in each other’s lives despite the miles between them.

To be continued… IN NEW YORK THIS JULY!!!

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2. Today we went to the biggest bookstore in Taipei, where I disappeared into the shelves for a little while. When I came back, my dad had picked out this book for me. Unfortunately, it’s all in Chinese, but the photography is stunning, and it outlines all the best coffee shops in Taipei. He said it was because he knows one day I will probably live here and visit all those coffee shops. I have always told him that I’ve felt more at home in Taiwan than I do in Hong Kong (even though our family is from there), and today he told me he finally understood why. It made me realize that all these years, he’s been sending me to Taiwan without understanding why I wanted to go. He knew it was a good opportunity for me to see the world, but he never had the full picture until this trip. I’ve always been frustrated that my father has never been a man that asks me why. He rarely asks me how I’m doing and often says no before hearing my reasoning, but when he gives me his yes, it’s a solid yes. He doesn’t need a reason why. He just supports me, no questions asked.

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3. We somehow managed to pack in almost all of Taipei into one day. We went to Yong Kang St. for lunch and shaved ice, the National Palace Museum, the Miramar Ferris Wheel, and Shilin Night Market. By the time we got to the night market, I thought I was going to pass out, but I was suddenly rejuvenated by oyster omlettes and the thought of new shoes. I was going to write an actual third story, but we did too much today, so goodnight!