“Excuse me, do you mind me asking…”

Whenever anyone starts off a question like this, my immediate response is to blush. Because it usually prefaces a question that will make me feel awkward, embarrassed, annoyed, or a combination of all three. The elderly lady in a frumpy coat and harry potter-esque glasses continued her question, “Are you Chinese?” Color me unsurprised. When old white ladies approach me in the middle of the bread aisle at Trader Joe’s, it is usually to ask me where I’m from. Another hint: I also spotted her when I walked in the sliding doors, loitering near the entrance with religious pamphlet in hand next to her preacher most likely.

I replied with my standard: “Ethnically, yes, but I was born here in Kentucky.” When perfect English came out of my mouth, I registered her fleeting expression of surprise. She replied, “Oh that’s wonderful. I am learning Chinese and was hoping I could practice with you.” First of all, who skulks around Trader Joe’s stalking unsuspecting Chinese to find a free language partner? No one (should), that’s who. To her great disappointment, I informed her that not only do I speak perfect English, but it is also my only fluent language. I know, I know, I am the twinkiest of twinkies. Not learning Chinese is without a doubt my biggest regret in life (and one that I hope to rectify one day). But anyways, I wasn’t about to stand around and chat it up; for Pete’s sake I have a neuro exam on Monday… I was only in there to grab supplies for my inevitable hermit weekend of studying. Ain’t nobody got time to practice Chinese with you.

But homegirl couldn’t take a hint. She went on to explain to me what a darn shame it was that I wasn’t fluent in Chinese, because — get this — “you make so much more money if you’re fluent in Chinese these days.” Fo’ real, gurl? You’re going to lecture me about learning Chinese because it would be advantageous in a career? To all the non-ABC’s (American-born Chinese) out there who are learning Chinese, know that the greatest “shame” of not speaking Mandarin for some of us twinkies is not about another accomplishment on a resume. It is the fact that I have been and will continue to lack an integral part of my, my parents’, and my grandparents’ heritage. Language is interwoven with a culture and its history, and that gaping hole in my proverbial race card is something I will forever feel an emptiness. There was so much I wanted to say to her. That the reason my parents never taught me was so that I wouldn’t be bullied more than I already would be (in my small birth town in eastern Appalachia). That her idea of a “darn shame” is vastly different from the actual shame that I feel when my I try to talk to my grandparents who are separated from me by oceans both geographically and linguistically.

But I didn’t. I had bigger fish to fry, and peanut butter to buy. Maybe I should have taken the time to speak with her. But at that moment in time, all I wanted was to get home and get back to my neuro notes and anki cards. And also erase the thought of a white lady lecturing me that I needed to learn Chinese. True as it may be, it stings a little, ya feel? I quickly dropped a loaf of challah in my basket and said I really had to run. That didn’t stop her from calling out after me, “By the way, you have such lovely hair!” Ah… there it is.

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Thoughts on Cinderella

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Sometimes when you’re in neuroanatomy block, you just want a happy ending. On that note, Disney’s latest live action Cinderella written by Chris Weitz and directed by Kenneth Branagh really delivered for me. I watched a 3 pm matinee showing with a gal pal this afternoon (livin’ Friday night large, I know!) and I squealed with childlike glee and teared up an embarassing amount of times. My friend turned to me at one point in the movie and whispered, “I am legit a 10 year old girl; this makes me so happy.” I nodded vigorously as tears welled up in the corners of my eyes watching the kind, innocent Ella (Lily James) do a few twirls in her new freakum dress: a bedazzled 50 shades of blue ball gown gifted by none other than Miss Bellatrix Lestrange, ahem her fab fairy godmother.

Sure, I am just as much a fan of Frozen’s empowering feminist undertone, How to Train Your Dragon’s mantra of thinking outside the box, and Big Hero 6’s honest and sensitive take on grief and loss. Films geared towards younger audiences are delivering great stories with unexpected plot twists that add depth to the past collections of sugar-spice-and-everything-nice media that we shove down children’s throats. I expected similar story line adjusting to Cinderella. Would young Ella decide to forego princess life and start her own fabulous line of glass Louboutin’s instead? Would the nasty stepsisters team up with Cinderella and realize sisterhood that’s better than falling for a guy you’ve known one day? Could Prince Charming be a masculine, hot Asian guy? I don’t know, just throwing things out there.

Yet despite the storyline remaining true to the classic animated film, I was not disappointed. Ella lives charmed, golden childhood, which almost immediately crumbles into life of indentured servitude to her evil (smoking hot) stepmother and unbearable stepsisters (umm Daisy what are you doing here?). She runs into Prince Charming (Jon Snow you know nothing) in the woods, both are smitten, and she makes it to the ball with the help of Bellatrix her fairy godmother. Dance floor magic happens, she barely escapes by midnight, but forgets her shoe. Prince searches kingdom far and wide for mysterious blondie, the glass slipper fits like a glove on cinderwench Ella, and… happily ever after. It sounds boring, but there is something to be said for a simple story that is well told. Let me be real, there was not a 10 minute stretch when my eyes were dry. The acting and storyline shines with heartfelt earnestness, and even without any surprise endings, viewers are left uplifted by youthful innocence and the simplicity of “courage, kindness, and a little bit of magic.” I think Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review said it best:

At a time when that deconstructive urge is the norm, and in an area of fiction—the fairy tale—that has been trampled by critical theory, Branagh has delivered a construction project so solid, so naïve, and so rigorously stripped of irony that it borders on the heroic. You could call it “Apocalypse Never.”

Yet can we believe for a second that unyielding kindness will not always be taken advantage of by the cruel stepmothers of the world? Can we believe that love can blossom so easily, and that all boys are princes with honorable intentions and steadfast dedication? Can we all have fairy godmothers that make us look #Flawless*** with the snap of her wand? Can we believe that we will all get A’s in neuroanatomy? I think you know the answers to those questions, dear reader. Yet that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate when a good fictional fairytale is delivered with such earnestness, care, and tasteful panache. Watch it and revel in the magic of Disney for a solid 105 minutes. It does a soul good.

xoxo, j

Matcha almond waffles: a birthday offering

Last week it was my dad’s 60th birthday. Holy moly, 60 freaking years old! Sometimes I kid around with him about him being an old geezer, but one day it seems I just looked at him and realized he had gray hair. Like what the heck happened?! Once it made me cry randomly on a weekday afternoon just thinking about all that gray hair. I know, I’m the strangest.

My dad is a quiet man. He is intelligent and humble, an inspiration for me to work hard to be a great doctor (ps he’s a doctor). He is the equal counterweight to my mom, the social butterfly. While shy and not very good at small talk, I think my dad has a kind face that allows his patients and friends to inherently trust him. He may be the reason why I will always prefer nice, nerdy guys with kind faces over all others. He drove up to visit last week and I baked up a batch of matcha waffles, because his next dream vaca is Japan and also because he likes green things: vegetables, golf course greens, the green of Kentucky that convinced him to move his family here. Below are my ingredients, loosely adapted from this recipe. Mix together all the ingredients, ladle into your preferred waffle maker, and serve warm. Coffee is never optional. Hug or call your dad if you haven’t in awhile. If noticing his gray hairs and pondering the brevity of life haven’t reduced you to tears on a random afternoon yet, they will.

Matcha Almond Waffles

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp ground matcha powder (I have this brand)
2 tbsp cinnamon
0.5 cup of roughly chopped almonds
2 large eggs
0.25 cup of raw local honey
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 cup almond milk (I’m obsessed w/ the Califia Farms vanilla)

So an Asian girl walks into a bar…

One obvious truth about being Asian in Kentucky is that you are surely a minority. There are simply not very many of your fellow people living here. Herein presents a case of simplified supply and demand, specifically in social interactions. Let me be specific. I don’t go out much. When I’m not studying on a Friday night, I love nothing more than staying in with a mug of tea and as many Hint-of-Mint Newman O’s as I can shove in my mouth whilst watching Scandal. But every now and then I get the urge to act my age and venture out to some bar or club. One of these rare urges happened a couple weeks ago, and I found myself with a few friends at a hip bar, complete with faux taxidermy and $10 cocktails.

Later into the night, a guy came over, wingman in tow, and pitched a really gentlemanly proposal of buying our entire table a round of drinks. With no strings attached. WHAT. He specified he would act as our personal butler and just take our orders, deliver the drinks, and then go on his way. Again, WUT. We were all pretty flustered, so he switched gears, and got straight to the point. “Well… the real reason I came over here was to actually buy you a drink,” he said while staring at me. Hold up, what is happening?! After his continued spiel about the no strings attached offer, I eventually said we were leaving soon but thanked him anyways.

Truth be told, I wasn’t used to attracting attention from grown ass men, much less a man with enough money to throw down for bougie cocktails for an entire table just to talk to one girl. To be even more honest with you, I was newly single and didn’t know how to react to drink offers from strangers. Perhaps another post is required on notes-to-self about fielding drink offers, but for this post, let me focus on the fact that this gentlemanly, financially stable(-ish), adult male was Asian(/-American). Part of me wishes I would have said yes because he was Asian. Is that weird? Probably. I felt as the only other Asian-American twenty-something there, I had the responsibility to support this guy’s move. (I mean come on, it takes some confidence to come over and introduce yourself cold turkey). Maybe because I was the only other Asian in the room, he felt like I was the only person he could buy drinks for? Is this thought process race-contained racism? I don’t know. Supply and demand, guys. It messes with my social cognition. For a split second in that bar, my inner thought dialog was that he might be one of the few Asian-American guys I’ll meet in Kentucky so I should probably just say yes.

Ethnicity aside though, he had the thoughtfulness to ask permission before condescendingly sending drinks over (like some masochistic guys do), was incredibly gentlemanly, and had that classic nice guy look. I think his name was Steve? Steve, if you ever read this and find me in a bar, try that offer again. Because I believe I’ll say yes. Not because we’re both Asian, but because you were a nice guy with good manners. A lady appreciates that.

Yours truly,
j

Spicy Sriracha Nachos

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Hey friends! Sorry it’s been awhile. I know, I know, I promised myself that I was going to write more. Then I realized I started this blog right as our Foundations of Medicine final exam was looming. Fear struck my heart, and I hit the books (anki decks) hard, and I’m pleased to say I came out the other side alive. So here we are two weeks later… on SPRING BREAK! Yee-haw! Besides the fact that everything is covered in eight inches of snow (the South just has no idea how to cope with that white fluffy stuff), I am loving every bit of it.

With my newfound oceans of time, I made nachos – which doesn’t require oceans of time, only a mere commercial break in your netflix viewing. I was a virgin nacho-assembler before this, because I mistakenly thought that layering crispy chips and gooey cheese was difficult. If you’re like me and have never tried, DO IT. You will pat yourself on the back, snap a few instagram pics of your creation (because if you don’t, it didn’t happen), and then swear you’re making them every week for the rest of your life. There’s really no recipe for making these nachos, I just threw things I already had in my fridge on a tray and shoved them in my tiny toaster oven. Five minutes later…. ooey, gooey, crispy nachos! But if you need some hints, below is how I accomplished this.

1. Spread a single layer of tortilla chips on a foil-lined tray.
2. Lovingly spread shredded pepper jack over the layer of chips. The more, the gooier.
3. Next, arrange your toppings of choice as the next layer. I used sliced mini bell peppers and lots of jalapeños. Add another layer of chips and cheese if you’re feeling hangry (always).
4. Pop it in your oven (or toaster oven) for 5 min/until cheese is gooey and chips are toasty.
5. Top with chopped cilantro, slices of avocado, a squeeze of lime, and a thorough dousing of sriracha.
6. Gaze out your window at the frigid tundra and laugh in the face of nature, because we live in the 21st century, kids, and you have central heating and spicy nachos. Enjoy!

Love,
J

p.s. I know this isn’t a food blog, but every now and then I’ll toss in a few food posts just for funsies. Stay warm, buds!

“Nice to meet you, where you been?”

Bonus points for you, dear reader, if you sang the title of this post [my very first one!!] to the tune of “Blank Space” by America’s sweetheart, T-swift herself.

Hello world! Welcome to my new blog, where I will attempt to coherently type my thoughts onto blank spaces and send them out into the terrifying world wide web. I am many things, but for this blog I am an Asian-American gal living in my home state of Kentucky attending medical school. Born and raised in the bluegrass state, I’ve happily returned to KY after a four year hiatus in Chicago (aka college) and a brief post-grad stint in San Francisco.

Though a science-loving nerd, I’ve always enjoyed writing. A liberal arts education forces you to write (essays upon essays), and my post-grad job was all about writing (healthcare journalism). Yet since med school kicked in, I haven’t had the space or made the time to write for pleasure. So here (two months too late to be a New Years resolution) I will attempt to carve out the space and time to practice writing again. You may find the occasional photo(s) of my adventures along the way. This process is mainly for me, but you are more than welcome to follow along (please do!). Here, I’ll cover a lot of ground: my trials and travails as a med student; Asian-American identity in a culturally southern, racially white space; and my awkward navigation through budding adulthood. When I’m not studying biochem pathways or disease pathology, you’ll probably find me binge-watching Netflix, eating all the donuts I can find, making a mess in my kitchen, or working on my crow’s pose (read: still a yoga amateur).

As dear T-swizzle would say: “So it’s gonna be forever / Or it’s gonna go down in flames.”

Yours truly,
Jenny