In a land of low cost

I have always been a proponent of the statement if you don’t need it, it’s not on sale.

But suddenly I am tossed in a land where everything is less than $5. Yesterday, at a mega-mall, I was tempted to buy many clothes-some that seemed very like the clothes on Mission Street in San Francisco. Or was the quality better? I rubbed my fingers over the cloth…but who knows whether it would last many washes as I tried to bargain unsuccessfully with a saleswoman, who seemed to laugh at my attempts.

I bought 3 gifts, not even thinking-do I really need to get this?

Then the food. CDC must hate me now for eating the soup, the drinks, the fruit…and the delicious ice cream mixed in with fruit from a street vendor. This morning, ta-ching and I walked through a market…what I thought was going to be a market of vendors of goods…but it turned out to be a huge farmer’s market. A whole chicken cooked for only $2. Cockroaches (at least what they seemed to be), live squirming fish. stinky live frogs, wiggling larvae…low cost.

I didn’t see a single foreigner for almost an hour.

Finally, I walked into a hair salon, but after I had my hair shampooed, cut, rinsed and styled…I realized that I could have gotten something very similar in San Francisco chinatown and the mission for only a little bit more. I paid a total of 450 baht plus tip which amounts to around $10. The hair salon ambiance was close to the salon I used to go to on Mission and 25th. Was I saving a lot? Or was I enjoying my own inability to understand any Thai and be serviced by four individual Thai women? Where I pointed and gestured to indicate what I wanted and smile politely when it was correct…which is what I do anyway in the Mission salons. Or should I have gone to a frantic hair salon in the megamall where I would be serviced with “azn” hair dressers with highlights and pop music.

In Shanghai in 2001, my dad proudly came back to the hotel room, proclaiming that he got a haircut for $2. He talked about it for the rest of the trip.

In the nearly 1.5 days I have been here, I realize that pricing is relative. One might say that pricing in the states is more expensive…but there’s always somewhere you can find equivalent service. Maybe not a decent meal for $2. But you can always find something worthwhile if you look hard enough.


The day is here! And after tying up so many loose ends, it is the day…that I am departing to Thailand and Cambodia!

After so many months of indecision and anxiety about money…

After trying to find a great career opportunity…

After losing and then finding my passport in the same day…

After writing many statuses and tweets about the impending vacation…

After sending many emails tying loose ends…

After calling all my credit and atm cards…

After gathering my summer-like clothes…

I am now off to the airport with layover in Taipei. By tomorrow 9:30 pm PST, I shall be in a foreign country.

See y’all in 2 weeks. Or if I get internet access in the meantime…

The sun is bright and I accomplished a lot

There’s a strange moment as you near the end of your to-do list…that you realized that you have almost hit every task that you intended to do today. And the sun is still shining outside.

I look at my email box and realize that I have sent over 20 emails in the last day or so, requesting communication, asking questions, assigning tasks, and sending interesting links. It’s unlike the procrastinator side of me—a side that I am still reluctantly accepting that I rarely finish things but start anything that piques me.

And thus far for the record, today, I have:

  • Retrieved and paid for my prescription in case of food poisoning abroad—I am pleased that my insurance didn’t charge me an insane amount
  • Cleared out my laundry basket
  • Paid my Chase credit card bill
  • Called all my credit card companies and banks, acknowledging them of upcoming travel plans—almost everyone commented on my specific trip details, congratulating me
  • Explored some bookstores in the Mission to learn more about Thailand and Cambodia
  • Purchased mint, mango, carrots, and onion for a soup I’ll make today for only $2.75
  • Organized all the medication and emergency care I would need for the trip
  • Gathered the majority of the personal care items I would need
  • Prepared my digital camera
  • Charging my ipod
  • Bought a gift for Chris
  • Sent emails to two people I met at a networking dinner a few weeks ago
  • Sent email to roommate informing him of upcoming trip and other details
  • Respond to developer request
  • Respond to emails about the upcoming Rescomp reunion
  • Update the master contact list for the reunion
  • Watch a YouTube video about LBP featuring Phantom Planet
  • Forwarded said email to Naim
  • Assisted Joe in understanding why Twitter is so awesome
  • Update myself on happenings on Facebook
  • Read news on” and
  • Prevented my pants from getting wet when walking alongside puddles
  • Learned that the former Home Linens store who endured a stupid car accident is now…for lease
  • Listening to Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens
  • Tested out new Maxell handphones since my earlier pair of headphones broke
  • Troubled, I decided to prick myself

    Misinformed, I was preparing for my upcoming Thailand trip with the notion that I had already received all my vaccines.

    Then last weekend, checking again…I was not. Horrified, I scheduled an appointment immediately thinking I would get the expensive last-minute shot. About an hour later, I walked out with two sore shoulders and a significantly lighter wallet.

    Inside the clinic, I watched as a mother guided two boys to a cubicle where a RN was waiting. In few minutes, I heard them…cry and yelp. Tears almost came to my eyes recalling the moments when I was 5. When a big man decided to hurt me and then he still gave me a sticker that said “You’re so brave! You didn’t cry!”

    I was crying. And the irony, the hypocrisy of the situation…that adults weren’t supposed to hurt you…the confusion of that day stuck with me. Although today, my intelligence told me that there are reasons why that happened. I never forgot.

    As the RN gave me shots, I turned my head away almost as a reflex. She talked as she did it, not really giving me a warning. She knew I wouldn’t cry as I have built up a pain tolerance over the years. And intellectually, I knew it wasn’t torture.

    But now, my shoulders are sore. I don’t have a sticker or candy. At least my fear of the unknown has subsided even though my credit card doesn’t feel the same.

    A snippet from a skit I wrote in December 2002

    The skit was based on a true story. Back then, I thought he was being stupid. Now I realize that he was probably trying to flirt and failing.

    Mike: What are you doing? I hear typing.

    Jenn: I am multitasking.

    Mike: Whoa, that’s a big word! What’s multitasking?

    Jenn: dude, you don’t know? It’s doing multiple tasks all at one time.

    Mike: Really?! You’re so smart. How do you spell it?

    Jenn: M-U-L-T-I-T-A-S-K-I-N-G.

    Mike: Wow! That’s so cool.

    When in a place where there is unlimited entertainment

    In almost all places that I have lived in, entertainment (at least the home entertainment kind) was always minimal. Number of VHSes or DVDs—almost near zero. Game consoles? Uninterested. Unlimited food and drink? Never.

    And now, surrounded by walls of DVDs, all game consoles, fast internet access…well what else could I wish for?

    I almost didn’t want to take a shower, because time here is limited. When I could be watching yet another blu-ray. Or playing another game.

    It’s strange how I prefer digesting home entertainment by myself. I feel more free as I devour junk food in bliss. It’s comforting that there is nobody judging my reaction and nobody deciding what to watch next. The choice is all mine.

    I am halfway through Heroes Season 1, when I had stopped watching it after 12 episodes when it first aired. They await me. To save them.

    Travel advisories

    Dangerous weather incoming. Infectious diseases possible. Be wary.

    Perhaps due to a lack of foresight, I neglected to fully confirm my health records. I asked my parents who thought knew since my visits to the doctor were far in and between since I was a teenager.

    “Yes, you have everything.”

    And then to confirm again, I discover today that I am missing one.

    Whether to spend extra money to see a travel doctor this week with limited time or spend my entire time abroad…wondering if the water was really clean and uninfected. Whether I can shake hands with people and eat fruit—the chiku. Or whether I can swim in the ocean freely without worry.

    Well soon I’ll have the solution. Soon.

    And then I can move back home

    I said, “If worse comes to worse, I can always move back home.”

    In some way, I am lucky that is possible. For others, there is no other choice. I consider that I am above taking a retail or service job. I am too good to do that kind of thing with my bachelors and masters degree. And I would be horribly embarrassed when someone I knew saw me…and I would have to swallow my pride and say, “Hi! How may I help you today?”

    Or is it?

    I used to brag that I was a great stalker

    Now in planning a reunion, my skills at Internet scouring aren’t up to par. In finding a list of over 100 names, I have landed in many dead ends. I am angry at parents who don’t give kids unique names—as I try to determine for the fourth time is that really the David Chang or the Mike Lee I am looking for. Then I get irritated that some people refuse to join social networks and lead a non-internet life.

    And yet, although I barely know the majority of these people, I suddenly feel closer to them by reading their Facebook profiles, their Linkedin profiles, their websites, their trails they left online. Before, they probably thought I was quiet, silent…and almost non-existent. That’s the way I wanted to be.

    Nobody has asked me why I wanted to be part of the planning committee. Especially since this place never had the greatest memories for me when I worked there. Beyond thinking fondly as my first real job, I don’t regret not partaking in the parties, the movie nights, the hanging out at the office.

    I guess in some way, I just want to show everyone that I am different now.

    When waiting, don’t stand in dark corners

    The last time I remember this happening to me was when I was trying to catch a taxi on Van Ness. Stupidly, I stood in a dark corner, timidly waving my hands. Hey taxi, look at me!

    I stood at that corner for at least 30 minutes until I basically ran into the street in frustration.

    Tonight, I stood on the corner, happily waiting for a bus that I didn’t have to wait long. Then unhappily as the bus driver did a California roll and kept going. I ran after the bus after for an uphill block, but stopped.

    Then when the next bus came, I brought out my 10 ticket ride…which the driver accidentally tore off 2. I didn’t have the energy to yell at him, but instead took note of his bus driver number to argue next time.

    Oh yeah it’s bus driver 1872 for reference. He apologized though but didn’t give me guarantees. Maybe I should have demanded $1.50 from him.