If I haven’t spammed the Internet enough, my very own quote is in an AP article! Discussing mostly the phenomenon of Cupcake Camp, I had participated with a friend in baking our mojito twist cupcakes.

Because it was through AP, it was published throughout the world in Vancouver, San Francisco, msnbc, etc.

How did the writer decide to write about you?

While setting up, the writer came up to us and started asking us questions about our cupcakes. In fact, our presentation was something to really look at. I didn’t read that detail that a single cupcake was judged on its own and thought that the entire presentation would work. I had brainstormed the weeks before finally concluding that a giant martini glass would do well to showcase mojito cupcakes. We filled the bottom of the glass with frosting and put toothpicks through the mini cupcakes to make it seem like an olive.

And I spoke in my own jennism way. In my super self-conscious, easily guilt-tripped way, I was quoted saying, “Last time I think we ate a lot of cupcakes. So, we wanted to kind of off-load that guilt.”

Maybe it was cute? I am not sure.

Are you a web designer?

No. Although I am amused by the misnomer in the article (I realize that the writer was coerced to be more layperson-friendly), I am usually furious when someone calls me a web designer. I do not develop—I don’t like writing php, css, and html. Web designer to me signifies oh about…10 hours to come up with a web site on the fly. A web designer is also someone who does the work part-time just like how one’s teenage son would do it as a “favor” for his parents’ business.

Are you famous?

Probably not. Apparently even my friends who initially read it didn’t even see my name. One of my friends said, “ew” upon hearing about the concept of cupcake camp. And really can you even remember a single name from an article you have read? I can’t.

What did you learn?

Don’t get yourself photographed which I successfully avoided. The AP camera guy loved taking pictures of the target item fortunately.

It was as if I had read his mind

“Don’t even think about ordering,” I said when he picked up.

“AY! how did you know!” he said in a guilty voice, standing in front of the menu at Taco Bell.

“I know what you’re doing and you need to eat your dessert that is waiting for you here,” I said at the dessert house across the street, sitting at a back table, waiting for him to get something from his car.

“Ok,” he said in a defeated voice and appeared next to me 30 seconds later.

I experienced it and I don’t like it

It just makes sense to me. I don’t have to do what I dislike doing. If someone is willing to do it, then why not?

For instance, calling restaurants to ask about their hours. It’s a simple task, but to me, it speaks energy, dealing with abrasive people, and having to think quickly. A simple task yes, but I hate doing it. If someone else can do it for me, then why not? What am I missing out by not doing it?

Likewise for bigger things. I don’t like moving furniture so I am willing to pay or bribe people to do it for me. And then skills that I don’t have and am not interested in learning. Someone can fix my shoes or cut my hair.

So why am I being pushed to do something that I know that I don’t want to do because I have tried it already. In the end, I want to be a specialist rather than a generalist.

The more times you go, the more times you may get hurt

There’s this Chinese saying that goes When you go up to the mountain too often, you will eventually encounter the tiger.

That is, the more often I do something, the more often I will expose myself to risk. Although mathematics says the chances are the same every single time. Because after all, I have only 1/6 chance in rolling a 6. But the more I roll it, the more likely I will get a 6. At some point.

Ever since I started biking, I almost hate crossing the street with cars around. Biking has taught me that (American) drivers don’t look, don’t like to tell other drivers what they’re doing, and can’t drive in a straight line.

When I was taking a bike on the road class, I was at an intersection near Golden Gate Park. The task was to make a right turn into traffic. So I did everything the instructor said. Check for the pulse in traffic. Signal right. Then smoothly merge into the lane.

Unfortunately, being my cautious self, I waited…and waited…and waited…and waited…until the perfect moment. Which took nearly 8 minutes while my classmates behind me visibly gave annoyed sighs. Being good instructors, they praised me for my caution.

The other day as we were in a car turning left from 20th street to South Van Ness, I spotted a guy getting out of a fancy pants car. He was wearing loose clothing. He was meeting a guy in red with a cap pulled back loosely. The guy from the car walked up and threw a punch. I always worry in the back of my mind as I walk up and down 24th to my favorite taquieras, to my favorite ice cream stores, to my friends’ apartment that I may get caught some day.

I don’t stand in front of landmarks

Everyone remembers the horrible slide shows that they would sit through. Where you would see the same people with the same expression in front of different landmarks. When I was younger and traveled with my parents, that was the kind of photos we took with a film camera. Those photos would be developed and put into an album never to be seen again.

I remembered once when we visited Boston that my mom insisted on taking a picture with a statue at the Harvard campus. I was embarrassed. It was the same posture and expression she had at everything else we had taken picture of during the tour. It was dull, boring, and mundane.

When I got my own digital camera in college, I resolved never to do the same. Every picture has a purpose. With the advent of distributed pictures easily accessible on the Internet, was there any reason to take a picture of something that we can easily find…a better shot on the web?

While in Hong Kong, I hated taking pictures like these, but I could tell my aunt was not used to my liberal, creative ways of photo-taking (and would the Chin Lin Nunneries be ok with my sudden creativity?)

Chin Lin Nunnery

In front of the Hong Kong Peninsula

There is a reason why Toad is in my pictures. There is no point in taking a picture unless I can truly make it mine. If I take the same shot as someone else, it’s a waste of digital space. Especially with my canon powershot elph that’s struggling behind the times.

This is also why Toad was in “costume” at my friend’s wedding in Hong Kong:

Toad with the costume at the wedding

Being American

What if I was born in Hong Kong? What if my parents had decided to move back to Hong Kong?

Our guide in Vietnam told Ta-ching and me, “You’re so lucky to be born in United States. So lucky! You can speak English!”

If I had been born in Hong Kong—it would be so different. This language barrier and cultural differences would not exist between my parents and me. I noticed this as I watched my cousin spoke freely (and yet in a rebellious way) to my aunt. My American self would hate my Hong Kong self.

My aunt’s husband—my mom’s younger brother—passed away a long time ago when I was young enough not to remember. And so the only family I had on my mom’s side are my cousin and my aunt, both living in Hong. Because my dad’s side of the family completely moved to the US, I only knew those two.

The day before I left, my aunt took me to her brother’s house to have dinner. Not wanting to stick out like an obnoxious American, I kept to myself mostly with extreme politeness, chatting occasionally about my life in a mix of broken Chinese and English, and nodding when food arrived on my plate (despite hating hating hating mushrooms).

Unlike my Hong Kong counterparts, I smiled like an American and wore less clothes (I have always worn less clothes in cold weather because I wanted to feel comfortable and not bogged down).

My cousin, my aunt's parents, my aunt and me!

With my aunt's family

Not like Thailand…more like India

Shipra paused for a moment. “It’s more like India,” she said. “You’re going to have fun!”

Having realized that Tokyo was expensive and that Taiwan…was going to be pricey (and too much like Hong Kong), I decided impulsively to visit Vietnam based on a street food blog I saw passing by on my twitter feed. Vietnam was meant to be my side stop on my trip to Hong Kong. A vacation from Hong Kong from sorts.

I shall go to Saigon I had decided by late November. As I was investigating the cost of my stay and tours, it turned out it was more pricey by myself.

I read many guides—stalking the libraries and local bookstores.

When I asked a friend who went to Vietnam recently…she hadn’t been there since she was 2, she was appalled by the smells, the dirt, the hectic-ness. I remember my first experience in China back in 2002, having been surprised by the traffic. I was prepared.

Biking in Asia

Last year when I returned from Thailand, I immediately missed the cool hearts. That is, the laissez-faire attitude of the Thais. Sure, bad things happen in life, but so it goes. It’s not exactly excusing it, but to go with the flow and let irritation/anger go.

But there’s something interesting about traffic. In Bangkok, I observed our taxi drivers getting irritated at the heavy traffic, but somehow they would always find a way to get from point A to point B by squeezing through cars. Honking? Less of an issue.

In Vietnam at least in Saigon, there are barely any traffic lights. Like most Westerners, I was frightened crossing the street. Motorbikes kept going…with no stop in the traffic.


The picture above was taken from a taxi, but when I was surrounded by amounts of traffic in every direction…of course I was too panicked too pull out my camera. After reading guides online, I learned that Vietnamese drivers are polite. So I would take a deep breath and nearly walked across the street blind. It was if I had to trust everyone and slowly believe…really believe that nobody would hit me.

What I thought was amazing…was like Thailand, the Vietnamese were not angry. Yes in Saigon, I heard significantly lot more honking. If there was a car and motorbike in the way, honking would ensue. Although I was on vacation, it wasn’t the same as American honking.

Biking in San Francisco has always been nerve-wracking for me. Especially on streets lacking bike lanes. I would bike up those streets where I have the right to take the lane, but cars could not stand it…and even if they got a chance to pass me, I would easily catch up to them at the next stop sign. If blocked someone’s right turn, it was angry honking. Get out of my way! the driver would scream. As if the 10 seconds they would save…would really get them somewhere. Everyone here in the states is treated as someone to blame. Independent, because we can’t trust anyone.

I biked a bit in Vietnam…and I did get honked at. Sure, it was mostly friendly honking, but the honking was curiosity…or a Sorry Miss, I am coming your way. I am just letting you know that. In Asia, perhaps, it’s inward-looking. We are all one…we act as one…and to cross the street, to ride on the street, we are all responsible for ourselves because we trust others.

You are so strong

“I am 27 years old!” I kept saying over and over again in my broken Chinese.

Several months ago when I announced to my parents and grandparents (located in the Bay Area) that I was going to go to Hong Kong, there were a varied amount of reactions. My parents used to my adventures just nodded—whatever you do with your money is your decision…you’re an adult. My grandfather (father’s side) just laughed in polite amusement—my granddaughter is independent!. My grandmother (mother’s side) reacted in fear—how can she survive!.

Granted, it was expected. And perhaps it’s nice to be worried about.

But the many calls I had to make once I arrived in Hong Kong to appease my grandmother’s fears. Despite having lived in the Mission district of San Francisco for more than 3 years, having wandered the dark streets of cities…including Oakland. But I was surprised to find that my aunt several years junior my mother…that she feared for my safety.

My aunt insisted on “taking me” to my friend’s wedding which meant she rode in the taxi to my friend’s house. She wanted pick me up after the reception, but I attempted to politely refuse. And in my own independent defiant way, I flagged down a taxi and pointed to the address my aunt wrote in my book. And the taxi drove me back. The doorman acknowledge me despite my inability to say my aunt’s last name the right way…and my aunt was shocked when I rang her doorbell on the 12th floor.

“Hello!” I said in my indie designer nyc dress with my aching high heels.

My aunt let me in while saying, “Wow…you’re so strong!!!”