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Category: Life

O Canada #2: Korea Town

The hair salon was nestled in the middle of Korea Town, but its name was Japanese. Outside the window, I could see the colorful League of Legends characters on the cybercafe’s storefront across the street. Every time the door opened, the smell of grilled beef made my stomach growl a little. The restaurant around the corner must have been preparing the lunch menu.

It was a rainy day, but the salon was far from empty. Most of the customers seemed like regulars; they all chatted about their lives with their hair stylist in Japanese or Korean, like good high-school friends would do. My Japanese stylist, on the other hand, spoke softly while running scissors through my hair. She said she had moved from Nagoya to Toronto when she married a Canadian man two years ago. When I complimented her English since her accent was barely noticeable, she smiled shyly.

Soon my hair went from a shoulder-length colossal mess to a short layered bob – a style someone who isn’t used to Asian hair texture can royally screw up. Her coloring was also even and on point, with no spills or smudges. After several months of hating looking into the mirror every morning, finally I felt like I was back to my usual self. I hadn’t had any luck finding Asian-owned hair salons in my new neighborhood; I wondered if I had to fly or drive to Toronto for a haircut every six months.

Then when I tried to pay the bill, my US debit card refused to cooperate with their Canadian terminal. I ended up running to the nearest ATM to withdraw cash in the rain, and when I got back to the salon, I was surprised to find my hair stylist standing there, opening the door for me with a fresh towel in her hand. She apologized profusely, although it wasn’t her fault at all. It was the good old hospitality that I vaguely remembered from back when I was young and still lived in Japan.

For a split second, I imagined how she would open the door for her husband when he came back home. I felt happy and jealous for the man.


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O Canada #1: On Spadina Ave

I looked out the window, quietly chewing the smoke salmon crêpe. A college student in a hooded sweat shirt hurried to the subway station holding an over-sized textbook against her chest. A young man in a pressed suit held firmly onto his young children’s hands – one on the left and one on the right – as he walked them to school. A grey-haired woman slowly pushed her shopping basket, glancing over at me eating the crêpe for a moment. I was on vacation, but it was just another Thursday morning for the majority of Torontonians.

IMGP0254“So what are you doing here?” the lady behind the counter said with a French accent. There were only two other patrons in the tiny café; an older couple at the table next to the cashier. “We are on vacation for seven weeks,” the man replied. “We started in Vancouver. Traveled all the way across Canada. Later today, we are heading to Niagara.” It turned out the man worked as a fire fighter for 30 years, and nowadays he and his wife spent most of their days traveling around the world, enjoying their retirement life.

Seven weeks! I wish I could have a vacation,” the lady sighed. She had a three-year-old daughter, and as a result, her day off from work was often anything but. I could relate to her feeling; I decided to physically get away from everything for a few days for my sanity after all. But while I could afford a mini vacation, I wasn’t so sure if I would be able to afford to travel for seven weeks in my 60s or 70s. As I finished my savory crêpe and sipped the rest of espresso, I wondered if I would even be able to retire.

It was starting to rain outside. Another man in a pressed suit walked by, pushing a covered stroller. I checked my phone; it was 8:57am. I walked up to the counter and paid the bill with cash, letting her keep the change. Both she and I had a long day ahead of us.


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The Struggle Is Real

What was wrong back then is still wrong. Just because you went through it and managed to survive, it doesn’t make it right or even acceptable. It is mind-boggling to see some people would rather see the younger generation suffer the same way, instead of being motivated to fix what has been fundamentally wrong.

When I read Stefanie William’s response to Talia Jane’s now-famous open letter to the Yelp CEO, I was so pissed off I felt like foaming at the mouth. The fact that some people applauded her for her snarky remarks infuriated me even more. Are these people f**king serious? Do they not see the fundamental problems that were described in Talia’s letter? The fact that entry-level and even mid-level workers are struggling to survive in the Bay Area has nothing to do with her age or naïveté. So many people are simply not making a living wage. The rent is too damn high. Talia even mentioned one of her coworkers “ended up leaving the company and moving east, somewhere the minimum wage could double as a living wage”. Hmm, that sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

Seriously, dude.
Seriously, dude.

Then there was another response from Sara Lynn Michener. And she nailed every single point that was wrong with the response from Stefanie the Privileged, down to the “kicking your younger sister when she’s down” part. If I knew Sara in real life, I’d probably shake her hand, buy her drinks, or even give her a hug. (I don’t like hugs by the way; if I hug you, it means something special.)

Thank goodness not everyone is blind, clueless, illogical, and/or down-right mean-spirited in this country. I am still in the process of losing faith (or whatever is left thereof) in a large number of population after witnessing how the GOP Primaries have been going, but that’s another story.


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They say absence makes the heart fonder. But sometimes, it’s the exact opposite.

We ultimately chose a small house we can call our own in an old community in Pennsylvania over cutting-edge job opportunities and access to countless stores and restaurants in California. While it is obvious that I do not miss paying $2,500 every month for renting a tiny 2/1 duplex, it is rather surprising to me that I have not missed the convenience of Silicon Valley at all.

I practice danshari every so often, but I am far from a minimalist. I absolutely enjoy spending my money. I am very passionate about trying out different kinds of food and beer. I can never go unplugged; I love getting my hands on the latest electronics and gadgets too much.

The question here is not how much or little I decide to have, but what I decide to have.

I used to go to Starbucks by my work almost every day and try every new flavored latte, but ever since I moved here, I’ve been to Starbucks exactly once despite it is only 5 minutes away. I knew every new boba joint in town, I knew what was on tap at the local pubs, and I knew Pliny the Younger was worth lining up several hours for.

All of the above seem so trivial now, except for the Younger. I wholeheartedly admit I feel bummed about not being able to taste that beer this year. But I digress…

It turned out once I had what I really wanted, everything else didn’t matter that much. Sure, I would try the local breweries and restaurants here and there, and I would probably enjoy my latte if I decide to swing by Starbucks one of these days, but they are not that important. I am perfectly content trying to learn how to cook better or keep the house clean nowadays. (It is our house, after all.)

I am very grateful that I feel much more stable now, financially as well as emotionally. Honestly, I never thought I could get to this point in my life.


P.S. Speaking of “grateful”, I was sad to see D-Bry retire. This guy was awesome.


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My previous web-hosting provider screwed my database up, and I’ve lost everything I posted on my Japanese blog as a result.

IMGP0123Well, technically it was not lost, but they’ve corrupted the data enough during their failed upgrade procedure that it was impossible for me to fix the encoding issue.

To be honest, my writings weren’t that important (they were pretty crappy), but I’ve decided to take my business to another provider just to give them my middle finger for not even responding to my support tickets.

This is ‘Murrica.


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Good Neighbor

No, I’m not talking about the stupid State Farm commercial.

IMGP0148This is about our next-door neighbor, who snowblowed (or is it supposed to be “snowblew”?) everyone’s driveway.

Nobody asked him; he did it as if that was what he was supposed to do. Thanks to Winter Storm Jonas, there was at least a foot of snow. I’m sure it took him a couple of hours to go around the neighborhood.

I really need to know what kind of beer he likes. He deserves a case.



Where I Belong

Ah Winter, how I’ve missed thee.

IMGP0092I was born in February. I’ve always loved the cold weather. I am the complete opposite of Albert Camus: In the midst of summer, I found there was, within me, an invincible winter. How the hell did I manage to survive in tropical South Florida for 13 years, and subtropical Silicon Valley for 9 then? Let’s just say I took every opportunity to fly up to Canada or drive out to Lake Tahoe just to freeze my ass off for a few days…

Today, it’s 22°F in Pittsburgh. If I want to see the snow, all I need to do is look outside the window. Heck, I could even make a snow angel in the backyard if I really wanted.

I guess I am finally where I need to be.