Family


Rupert is one of Dad’s first cousins from his mom’s side. As far as I can remember, he has always been very close and very good to my family. When we were children, my sisters and I prefixed his name with “Uncle,” but now that we are adults, we have done away with that. I characterize him as “the cool uncle” in the family. He’s fun, active and trendy, always sporting the newest gizmo and drives a spiffy vehicle. He gives the BEST GIFTS, whether it’s an interesting book or some electronic device. He gives such mind-blowing gifts that even my friends speculate on my behalf and sometimes become more excited than I am about what I might get (you know who you are)! THIS year, he gave me and Anita each a 2nd generation 4GB iPod Nano.

Those of you following my blog will know that I have agonized over whether or not to get the 2nd generation Shuffle. Eventually, I decided against it because I didn’t really need one, didn’t like that fact that iPod products are made to be disposable, and had other priority items to save up for. But I was quite pleased and grateful to get the Nano; it was completely unexpected and “better” than what I wanted in the first place. Mine’s electric blue and happens to match my running jacket!!

There is a flip side: surprisingly, I found myself conflicted and a bit burdened being an iPod owner. By observation, I gathered that having an MP3 player of any sort was pretty high maintenance (in terms of time and money), in spite of the portable convenience it promises. Also, I felt like I was violating some sort of anti-consumerist principle that I *ought* to follow (though who am I really kidding.). Also, for some reason, I found myself a bit embarrassed to be seen in public with that distinctive iPod trademark, the white earbuds. I didn’t like the idea of being possibly thought of as “being one of them,” an adherent to the Apple culture.

(I know some of you think I overthink things, like the way I have done here, but that’s just the way I am. I have an obsessive need to find meaning in everything.)

Anyways, for the first few days of use, I tried to be “like everyone else” that I’ve seen in public carrying around an MP3 device, just to see what the appeal is of having something to listen to all the time or anytime I wanted. Some conclusions:

  • I found that I didn’t like not being able to hear what’s going on in my natural surroundings. I felt unsafe and edgy. If I turned the volume low enough to hear my surroundings, I couldn’t hear the music. If I turned the volume up, it hurt my ears. Therefore, much to my disappointment, using it for commuting is not feasible.
  • Figuring out what to store on my iPod requires a lot of my time. It can fit about 1000 songs. I love music, but I generally don’t have that time to sift through my large CD collection to pick what goes on my iPod. Therefore, I am using not even a quarter of the memory, which feels like a waste. It will take a few months for me to fully utilize the storage space.
  • The Nano is incredibly slim, but fragile. Also, the package was pretty bare bones minimum and didn’t come with any protective casing. Increasing its functionality will require accessorizing, which means spending money that I simply don’t have. Until I’m ready to “invest” more into it, I’m limited to using it at work, in bed, or when I go out for a walk/run.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not complaining or being ungrateful. But, as I suspected correctly in the first place, having an iPod hasn’t made that much of a difference to my lifestyle as the marketing seems to promise. Or I might be more of Luddite than I thought myself to be. Maybe, as I get older, I’m adapting to the technological advances around me less quickly. Or, I have come to have different ideas with what to do with my time and money.

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This past Christmas was the first one in which I woke up in my own space. It was a bit odd, even lonely, not being around family. I miss waking up, lounging quietly in my parents’ living room, ogling at the gifts under the Christmas tree, waiting for the rest of the family to wake up, and having breakfast with them. Due to some poor planning, there was nothing in my fridge this Christmas to eat or drink. Not even a carton of milk.

In an act of spontaneity, Simon came over to make French toast for breakfast, so that helped to ease the blah-ness.

I also spent a good part of Christmas Day stressing over a hypothetically awkward social situation that seemed impossible to solve. I even asked Simon to pray for me. Managed to shelve that briefly when I went over in the late afternoon to my parents’ for dinner. I had a pretty good time back at home. Everyone ACTUALLY waited for me to exchange gifts. The usual suspects were over: Alfreda, Ada, Rupert, William, Tracy, Joanne. My sister was back from Philly for a visit. Because there was so much food, my mom encouraged us to bring friends to help out. So Penny and Simon came.

As soon as I left my parents’ though, I started problem-solving again. Finally gave Dot a call and asked her to help me out by doing me a favour, at her expense. Much to my relief, she agreed.

There were some high points of Christmas Day, but looking back, I wasn’t too pleased with myself or how I spent my time on my own. Certainly, I didn’t give much thought to the arrival of the Christ child! So I’m starting to think, now that I’m on my own, I need to establish my own purposeful rite to celebrate Christmas, lest I thoughtlessly squander the day away again next year.

For those curious about what Rupert gave me for Christmas this year, I will definitely be writing about that in an upcoming post.

I am so incredibly lucky to live in a city like Vancouver. I love Vancouver for many reasons, but what I marvel at the most is how well I get to eat here. The affordability of fine dining and variety of cuisines available is absolutely amazing.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to dine at two very good restaurants. Went to Cru (one of my faves) for Dot’s belated birthday and the Salmon House for my dad’s birthday. Both restaurants offered 3 course menus, giving diners the best bang for their buck.

At Cru (where our foursome got a table by the window), I started with the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio (with caperberries, truffle aioli and shaved parmesan). For the entrée, I had the Beef Strip Loin (with charred tomatillo-avocado salsa, roasted corn and three cheese chalupa). Enjoyed a glass of Pinot Nori Rosé with these dishes. To finish, I shared the Chocolate Espresso Pot-de-crème, mostly with Dot. It was smooth, rich and sweet, and washed down very well with a cup of premium Earl Grey. Portions were excellent! Service was excellent! Ambience, warm and intimate. And of course, with Pauline, Simon and me in the party, Dot couldn’t have asked for better company!

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. At first, I was surprised that he chose and made reservations for the Salmon House a whole week before because, although an incredibly picky person, he likes to put on a “que sera sera” front and usually plays it by ear. But there was a reason: the West Coast Feast event is on this month. My dad’s really into the WCF. Our family has already gone to each of the other participating restaurants over the years, but I think the Salmon House is my dad’s favourite because of the magnificent view. My mum and dad have been there at least twice now. It was my first time, and I quite enjoyed it. Had the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, followed by a very generous portion of Slow Braised Lamb Shank. For dessert, I savoured an Okanagan Poached Pear, poached in Quails Gate Fortified Foch and served with Birchwood Dairy butterscotch ice cream. Yum!!

Anyways, that’s all. Gotta go and catch the new episode of Heroes!

dscn2127.JPGMy aunt and grandma are flying back to New York today. With their month-long visit, I’ve been eating very well, of the elaborate Chinese 10 course kind, and good home cooking. The past 3 weekends have seen every possible configuration of extended family (because everyone wants to take turns treating)–with Dad’s side, then Mom’s side, back to Dad’s side, then all together. And this isn’t counting immediate family dinners and lunches. It was a bit intense, but I didn’t mind since I don’t see my relatives all that often. It’s been special.

What I have been noticing recently about my family, both immediate and extended, is how generous, good humoured, and relatively well-adjusted they are. They are earthy, humble, responsible, reasonable people backed by a good work ethic. And within the family system, they seem to have acheived a balance between independence and interdependence. I want to be like them.

I sometimes like to joke that I come from good stock, that I have a good family to marry into.

But don’t get me wrong here. I am by no means claiming I have a model family. We have had and continue to have our share of fights, disappointments, betrayals and dysfunctional dynamics. I lament the fact that many of those things have shaped me into the person I am today. However, I also see a lot of good things going for the lot of us in the here and now. I see forgiveness and committment to relationship. I see a process of redemption taking place. And it is by God’s grace that I’m part of it.

While visiting France isn’t feasible in the near, near future, going to New York very much is. I have a sister who will be graduating from the MBA program at Wharton next May, and my entire family is going to attend the commencement ceremony. Given that we have relatives in NY, it makes sense to centre our sojourn to the East Coast there, and then to dart out to Philly and back.

I looooove New York. Haven’t travelled all that much, so it doesn’t mean a whole lot to say it’s my favourite metropolis in the world, but I have a gut feeling it would be, even if I were well travelled. It’s so thick with glitz, glam, culture, and history that a *nobody* can feel like a *somebody* just by walking the streets of Manhattan. The magic and life of the city just rubs off on you like pixie dust. It can’t be helped.

My soft spot for the city is partly due to the family roots I have there. My grandfather emigrated to NY from China in 1950, and his father in the 1930’s. Apparently, my grandfather was detained on Ellis Island for an entire year before he could start his life in NY. With my interest in genealogy, looking up family members’ passenger records, manifests, and ship information is something I’m planning to do with my aunt during this visit.

Also, I want to get tickets to two particular Broadway shows that will hopefully still be running: The Producers and The Drowsy Chaperone (written by Canada’s very own Don McKellar!).

And then there’s the cultural thing to do–visiting the museums, art galleries, and the New York Public Library of course. Given my developing appreciation for letterpress printing, I hope to stop by the Center for Book Arts.

If Dot joins me, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for Manolo Blahniks and do some serious shopping together.

I haven’t been back to NY since 1999 when Patricia, Caroline, and I did our library practicums there. Was hoping to go in fall of 2001 but then 9/11 happened and the after-effects of that kept me away (among some other things). Now that I’m older and a bit more worldly, it is time to rekindle an old flame.

The weather report was on target in its prediction for rain today. It was hard to believe, since Vancouver has been enjoying great weather all week. Much to my disappointment, Dave cancelled the hike for the Grouse Grind. Have never done it before and now that I’m more physically fit, I felt up to the challenge. The Grind will close by the end of September, so maybe we’ll be able to squeeze it in on one of these weekends.

Instead I am going to the Ocean View Cemetery (overlooking a noxious, industrial part of Richmond) with my family later this morning. Typically my immediate family visits the cemeteries around Eastertime. But my aunt and grandma from New York are here visiting and they usually pay a visit to Ocean View because my grandma’s parents are buried there. It’s only a 5 minute bus ride from where I live, but my dad is insisting on squeezing me into his modern day Impala with 3 others in the back.

My great-grandmother died the year before I was born and my memories of my great-grandfather are fuzzy and vague, but I take this ritual quite seriously. Perhaps it’s out of a sense of gratitude and loyalty, generationally extended from my dad. Could go on at length about this, but I have to get ready now.