Three hundred and sixty five days since we first went on lockdown. It’s hard to remember what it was like before then. It’s hard to remember what all happened last year. It was a blur. 2019 feels like so long ago, and yet it’s hard not to refer to it as last year. A full year later. And we’re here. Still fighting depression. Still fighting oppression.
If you had told me a year ago today that companies would openly tweet #BlackLivesMatter and run ad campaigns in support, my pessimistic self wouldn’t have believed you. If you had told me a year ago today that those same corporations would be posting #StopAsianHate, even with a broken heart I wouldn’t have believed you. Because racism against Asians has always been been invisible. Omnipresent but never at the forefront. After all, with everything else happening, how can our pain be a priority?
A few years ago I might have asked, rhetorically, what would it take for Asian Americans to be heard, to be taken seriously, to be validated and fought for as Americans? Death, apparently. Murder. Not that we’re surprised. A shooting is probably the most American thing ever.
I spent a lot of this month processing. Feeling. The full spectrum of emotions, from numbness to sadness to anger to determination. I cried. I talked to friends. I zoned out. I got to work. I sat with my own discomfort of finally being validated to be at the center of a narrative. Maybe it is the Asian in me, that makes it so hard to fight for myself, to stand up for myself. I want to fight for everyone.
Coalitions. Another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot, and one that has punctuated the discourse over the past few months. The complicated histories, generational differences, geopolitical divides. But for all the discomfort of unpacking the divide, there is overwhelming comfort for having a support system that is intersectional.
There’s also something so cathartic about a protest or rally. Maybe it’s because we’ve spent a full year in isolation, it feels good to come together. It feels safer, in this crowd of people hurting together, fighting together. Barely 6 inches apart but insulated from the very real threat of racism. And the way New York City shows up is healing. Perhaps what this year has taught me most is how much I crave community, how reliant I am on community, even when it’s virtual, even when it’s a sea of strangers in a park. Stay inspired they say. Inspiration is a rare commodity these days.
What is normal? Is it the status quo? But what about all of the bad parts of the status quo? Who gets to have nostalgia?
These are all questions that have been running through my mind over the course of this month. We had three major shootings, and I think collectively, America forgot what this was like, the numbness we had acquired over the past few years had faded and these hit hard. But in the scope of everything else in the world, the discourse that usually falls out after a mass shooting felt different. But it made me wonder, is this the normal America wants to go back to? Or can we move forward? But it seems that even a global pandemic isn’t enough to change the blind selfishness of many.
Perhaps the best thing that has come out of this past year is the growing influence of Gen-Z, what was once a marketing and polling term has become a part of everyday speech. And with more bottom up information spreading and community building on platforms like Tiktok, the generally more progressive tendencies of our younger generations are signs of hope.
Do not bring down a community in a fight for your own. Do not fight for your community at the expense of another. We can hold multiple truths. It’s not a zero sum game, we’re not free until we’re all free.
Note to self, do a deep dive on racial triangulation theory. But also, the importance of coalitions is a matter of survival and the only way to guarantee a future for all of us.
It’s not about being an influencer, it’s being an impactor – if you have a voice and you share it in a way that allows people to be heard, you have a chance, you don’t need a social profile like on other platforms; hearing each other’s passions, emotions, connections, challenges
From an interesting conversation by the audio collective on how Clubhouse is changing the way we interact and influence and what that means for brands, impactors and for consumers.
We have been uniquely trained to protect our parents – we have been educated in a way to be the adults when our parents couldn’t – we are better equipped to protect them in a way that police can’t, the legal system can’t; we must form coalitions to do so.
This one was from a heartbreaking conversation, one of many rooms that popped up in the wake of the Atlanta shootings. There are so many nuances to the conversation, from
So as I sat on the 7 train for what felt like hours heading deeper and deeper into Queens, I started to think about the last time I went to Flushing. It was 18 years ago, on a weekend trip to New York City, staying with distant relatives who happened to work in Flushing (they lived in deep Long Island). The strange part is, I don’t remember anything we ate on that trip.
all that bakery hopping built up a thirst that could only be quenched by some taiwanese tea (lemon aiyu tea, Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea)
above: the full spread of outdoor hot pot dining in all its glory (Hai Di Lao)
below: something so endearing about the handwritten menu and worn out yelp sticker (Soy Bean Chan)
I had looked forward to coming to Flushing since moving to the city, but the pandemic got the better of me and it took a full year to finally make the trek in a responsible way. I miss San Gabriel Valley, being able to move through the suburban oasis of strip malls and sleeper hits. Flushing, on the other hand, felt like China (or at least, felt closer to what I assume parts of China might be like). It felt foreign, so far away from the New York City I have come to know. But it felt achingly familiar. The sounds of Mandarin and bustling activity coming together on an absurdly sunny and unexpectedly warm Saturday in March. It was a surreal experience, especially after weeks of feeling extra on edge every time I left the house, to be in a place surrounded by Asians, walking freely, comfortably outside.
In terms of food, it was also so different from the COVID-era eating experiences I’ve had. Hai Di Lao is next level, with personal heaters on every side of the table in an expansive tented outdoor seating area. Everything in disposable containers. A little bag to put your mask in so it doesn’t smell like hot pot. I’d forgotten what bougie Asian hospitality was like. Hair ties for those with long hair. Aprons so you don’t spill on yourself. And then of course the hilarious bathroom, complete with a Dyson hair dryer and Dior perfume so you can refresh yourself. I only vaguely remember the other two times I had been to Hai Di Lao (both in Los Angeles) and idk if it’s COVID goggles or I’ve just been too deprived of Asian food, this was a prime dining experience.
Of course, since we made the trek, we also did a quick bakery haul (see below). You don’t have to go far. Within 4 blocks there are at least a couple dozen bakeries and probably just as many boba shops. We didn’t even bother going to the grocery stores (I might have lost my mind if we had). I can’t wait to come back. I miss my car.
bakeries visited: Vanilla Cafe Pastry Garden, Iris Tea and Bakery, Rainbow Bakery, Maxin Bakery, New Flushing Bakery, soy milk from Soy Bean Chan. Yes we spread out the haul on a public bench. This was between three people.
Time to file away another month of polarizing cultural consumption, from sitting chest deep in drama (refer to: Teen Vogue EIC scandal), to truly trying to escape, to fully succumbing to crying, to the strangely cathartic simplicity of the win/lose dichotomy in sports.
College Scandal Documentary. Honestly, it’s the reenactments for me. Thoroughly enjoyed background watching this and reminiscing on fond memories.
Wandavision because I mean, what better escapism than episodic television that is a drawn out cinematic experience. Ty Disney for fresh content.
Nomadland, because tis the season for awards season right? Well, a little later this year but still.
The Irregulars. I mean, it’s no Sherlock, but I’ll take the overdramatized adolescent version for background watching until I can hate watch Outer Banks Season 2.
March Madness. Because when UCLA makes it from the first four to the final four, I become a sports person once again.
Bones, because we needed new background TV after Criminal Minds and there’s something so wholesome about early 2000s tech.
One of my favorite podcasts is back! And I am once again able to better process things happening in the world and in culture.
I mean, this one doesn’t really need any explanation right? Like the safe space I feel when walking around with these two conversing in my head is truly good for my wellness.
Kinda kept it to the classics in terms of podcasts this month. But also because I need to know what’s happening in the political world in an easy to digest way.
Searching for Hokkaido (JAQ, Conquesting Bread)
a very informative journey to find the unexpected origins of Hokkaido Milk Bread
‘Hokkaido milk bread’ seems to be a Taiwanese bread, made with a water roux baking method that either (sources differ on this) is a Japanese riff on a Chinese technique or a Chinese/Taiwanese adaption of a Japanese one, using ‘Hokkaido milk’ produced in Taiwan and labeled ‘Hokkaido’ to bolster sales. It is a bread that would not exist the way it does without the due influence of cultural exchange and soft power within a post-colonial context. All of which, come 2021, is completely lost. Isn’t the game of cultural telephone so fun?
The Talk My Chinese Parents Never Had With Me (Karen Yuan, The Atlantic)
a heartbreaking personal essay on everything that is left unsaid in intergenerational love in Asian American families
I know they know about the stories of anti-Asian racism that are swirling around us, and they know I know, but they haven’t acknowledged them. Unsettled but unsure about disturbing the illusion, I’ve followed their lead, a thousand unsaid things on my tongue.
Revenge Eating in Taipei (Clarissa Wei, Vittles)
a piece that breaks into the new trend of quarantining in the motherland
I believe there are two reasons why second-gen diaspora writers seem to have a particular obsession with food. The first is the obvious one: food is the most direct way to form a connection with a lost past. It requires no active engagement apart from consumption; there is no additional language to learn, no additional context really needed. Food can be the easiest (and laziest) way to differentiate yourself from others around you. But there’s another reason too, the opposite reason. Out of all the motives for upending your life and moving to country in the Global North, access to better food has never been one of them. In fact, access to food ─ by which I mean access to culturally specific dishes and ingredients, not access to abundance ─ is one of the things seen as a necessary sacrifice to make for an economically better life. There is a sense of loss, of something that doesn’t quite translate.
A Letter to Asian Women (Ro Kwon, Vanity Fair)
permission to grieve and to be confused, in such a beautifully eloquent way
A powerful urge to care for our people is a blessing, but it can also be a burden, one that has felt especially heavy, perhaps, these past months. One that has made this heartbreak also feel like a kind of failure. Those of us who are immigrants, or the children of immigrants, have from a young age taken on the role of protecting those of our elders whose tongues were shaped in other lands. We grew up interpreting for them, and we put ourselves between them and rude, racist strangers, and we flared up with rage for our elders while they told us not to worry, they were fine.
So I thought I was done with quarantine cooking but I guess not. Bought a bunch of groceries from Weee!, cracked back open the hoards of artisanal flour I panic bought almost a year ago, and had a field day. Not to mention my pink champagne cake to celebrate and commiserate a year in quarantine.
Pictured: furikake foccacia with eggs cilbir because nothing is sacred; personal hot pot (in between two hot pot outings!) to celebrate finally getting the right fried bean curd; lu rou fan with pickled cukes and daikon soup to combat all the taiwanese food blogger FOMO, raspberry blood orange financiers because blood oranges deserve it
this full spread at davelle. nothing hits quite like a japanese bakery cafe. and this was a rewarding meal between a march and a rally on a brisk but sunny Sunday.
complimentary post-hot pot ice cream – the Asian kind that is too icy to be ice cream, but exactly what you want after spicy hot pot (both Hai Di Lao and Dolar Shop do this)
also when your favorite freezer aisle ice cream is on sale at whole foods, best day ever