Sunday, February 27, 2005

An End To The Hiatus

Federica's going-away party

Hopefully this is an oasis in the desert of my blog. Plenty of stuff to write about and so little time. And where to start? I suppose I can use my backlog of pictures as a guide.

Well WAY back in the middle of November Federica left to go back to Italy, and she was so sweet to throw herself a going-away party for all of her new friends. She took a lot of painstaking efforts to make special gifts for people -- she made me a really cute cardboard ping-pong table with a message on the bottom. Here she's giving the mom of the family with whom she stayed a Sponge-Bob she made herself. Very impressive.

Ryan, Sofia, Tasma, Faith, and Alden listen intently

Since returning home Fede has gone to Rome for some studies and we've kept in touch over email and chat and even Skype. The internet rocks.

Chuck's 70th!

Also in November we celebrated Chuck's 70th with a nice big get-together at Eric's home in Goodyear, Arizona. We had an all around great time -- Yong was an excellent host and the food was incredible. That is, except for getting chewed out for wanting to play PS/2 with Steven. Aw, c'mon, Mom!

Goodyear, good food

Steven is my step-nephew, Brenda is Curt's girlfriend, and Kimberly is my step-niece. Steven is huge; hard to believe we're related. Oh wait we're not.

Eric, our gracious host

Tried to take Eric by surprise here.

Kenny, Eric, Christine, Yenchi, Trang
At the end of November George got engaged! I was one of the gift-bearers at the Vietnamese-style ceremony. Luckily I was the one taking the pictures here -- I don't think I look very good in a dress. The hat was pretty cool though; I think it enhanced my kung fu.

The happy groom

George nails down some final details.

Christine, Eric, me, Yenchi, Kenny, Trang

After the engagement reception we dropped by Yenchi's new venture, a quaint authentic Vietnamese cafe/restaurant. She decorated the place herself -- it was very nice and seemed to be putting the other Vietnamese place in the area out of business after only a month.

The Leongs!

Joel and Joanne got married on December 11th, 2004! The whole week was a blast; I spent some time with the folks and Linda during the week and then it was a wedding-party extravaganza over the weekend. Even the footwork was exciting -- Joel managed to get into a tiff with the Men's Wearhouse guy; I don't know how he does it. With the wedding though, there was so much family and so much love, it was quite an amazing time. And of course Halo 2 at the bachelor party was quite fulfilling.

Are fortune cookies considered witchcraft? Even if the truth of its message is undeniable? ;-)

During the reception I had a conversation with a sister about how she was feeling in her congregation and it turned out to be a great opportunity to encourage her. I shared a lot of the struggles I had in trying to put together my group and how much it was worth it in the end. It was actually a very moving conversation for me; I do hope she finds hope in her circumstances.

As if all that wasn't enough, after the reception I went with Ming to her company holiday party. Company parties are always such awkward social situations. We had a good time though.

North Carolina

I visited the McCaa's after Christmas and spent the New Year there. Nice and cold there. It was great to see Tom and Jenny and Trey doing great. I found out I really like hush puppies too. Here Tom and I were walking by the river in Wilmington.

This is for you, Campbell

To anyone with sensitivity, please disregard this photo. This is intended for Alan, Dan, and Scott. Cool eh, Campbell?

Last week there was a singles church conference in Vegas. Some 1400 singles were there, about 35 of which were from San Diego. Eddy, Dave, Rey and I rode up together on the Friday and stayed in the Alexis where the conference was being held, along with Kris. I hope Eddy's chi didn't mess me up.

There was a message on Friday night, a message, two classes, and social events on Saturday, and a church service on Sunday. Personally I got the most out of the discussion part after the message on Saturday morning. We were handed some discussion questions and encouraged to group up with 4-6 other people and discuss for a bit. Finally! I actually missed the two classes -- Rey, Tasma, Faith and I got back pretty late from lunch, missing the first class, and by that time I was wiped out so I crashed through the second class. From what I heard it doesn't sound like I missed much. Speed dating is quite a trip though. I had a good time but I don't think it's for everybody. It's pretty much like it was portrayed in the movie Hitch. It really suited me well because I had a chance to talk to a lot of people that I wouldn't ordinarily have the guts to talk to. Another nice consequence of the format is that I don't get sucked into talking one person for the whole night, which I am realizing I am prone to do. I don't think that the women typically had a very good time though. I think that is mostly related to the fact the ratio is always so bad for the women at these events. Even though the ratio within the event was 50/50, there were a lot of women who wanted to be involved but couldn't find a "buddy" to make things even. I also wish there was a time of mingling afterwards. As it was, once the final bell was rung everyone cleared out of there pretty quickly. I think everyone was probably overwhelmed after meeting some 50 people within an hour-and-a-half. I know I was pretty drained mentally.

I ran into Jill at the conference and it was so good to catch up. I also met a cool sister named Nancy and we went to breakfast on Sunday morning before church. So overall I had a really enjoyable time. The weekend ended in somewhat of a bust though; Eddy had supposedly invited about 30 people to lunch, but for whatever reason no one showed up and it ended up being just Eddy, Rey, Dave and me at -- of all places -- Hamburger Mary's. Wonderful.

Nervous, Michelle?

Fast-forward to the present. Today Michelle had her singing recital! It was lots of fun, and Michelle did great singing Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." Kids are hilarious. One girl, poor thing, made a mistake in the middle of her piano piece, stopped, and couldn't figure out where to start again. After about a minute of staring blankly at the keys, she abruptly got up and did a quick bow and left the stage. Ah, the good old days.

Last night we had our first San Diego singles devo, which the west hosted and organized. It was really impressive how many people were involved in it, actually. We had about 20 people from the west just in organizing and serving. I was really happy the way things turned out, although I thought my personal contribution to my group's skit was pretty pathetic. Plus our scripture was ridiculously hard to act out, much less guess. But anyway, at least the umpteen meetings we had putting it together really paid off. We had an "after-party" at Rock Bottom where I had a great time getting whipped on the pool table by a sister from Vancouver, Canada named Kathleen. Man, I haven't been that humbled in a long time.

Today I also had a fun phone conversation with Jill. Wake up, sluggard! ;-) Also got in a game of ultimate after two weeks off. Oh, the aches ... and I didn't even win. But it's not just about winning, it's about ... um ... wait, what else is there?

Last week was my last week with Silicon Space, Inc. It actually turned out to be more emotional than I thought it would be. Everyone there has been so appreciative of the work I've done. Now that I think about it, this is probably the job where I've felt the most appreciated so far in my career. Actually they even pleaded with me to work on Monday too, which I, being the sucker I am, couldn't refuse.

Unfortunately it was also Mike the QA guy's last week this past week too, but he wasn't planning on it. I actually didn't even get to say goodbye because he was let go Friday morning before I got in. I feel bad; he has two young kids but is himself no spring chicken. Hopefully he'll make the Personnel Logistics release party.

Me and our star performer

This Tuesday I start my new job at DivX! I'm really excited and nervous. I'm so afraid that I'll be so wiped out from ultimate Frisbee and my weekend schedule in general that I'll be nodding off through some orientation thing. Guess I shouldn't be staying up late to finish my blog, eh? Stay tuned, more deep thoughts to come. Shih out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Raising the Roof in Tijuana

Orientation Meeting

What an amazing experience! Four days of physical labor and spiritual introspection in Tijuana left me really appreciating how much humble circumstances can give clarity and meaning to my life.

Randy, Riley, Jon & Faith
@ Krispy Kreme @ 7am (well, almost)

There were, of course, some challenges. The night before we were to leave, my backpack was stolen out of the van I rented while eating dinner in Chula Vista. I guess I have to learn some things, like not leaving anything in plain sight in a vehicle (especially a rented one), the hard way. I lost my keys, checkbook, my insurance information, pitchpipe, the book Dare to Dream Again which I didn't even get a chance to open, the van's Mexican insurance information, and a magazine that had my address on it. That was the main expense — changing the house locks costed about $90. *sigh* Anyway at least that's all taken care of now. Looking back, maybe this incident was just another part of the journey towards greater humility. (Slight tongue-in-cheek)

Baya, Missy, Sara, Showhei,
Riley, Mark, Greg, Randy, Killian
@ the Homes Without Boundaries kitchen

Thursday morning we arrived at the orphanage safely, but it was pouring rain, so we spent some time just getting situated. It was quite surprising to see puddles of water in the rooms in which we were staying. But everyone seemed to take it in stride.

Faith, Dung, Sara, chowing down

I think especially since this was the first time for everyone, there was a sort of anxious energy throughout the trip. With everything we did, a sort of I-don't-know-exactly-what I'm-doing-but-I-know-if-I-give-my-heart-it-will-work-out attitude seemed to make all the difference.

It's all about the kids!

Later on the rain subsided, and we were able to spend the rest of the day laying the concrete foundation.

Andrew, Cleto, and Nereida, hanging
outside the boys/girls room

Carpentry began the second day. By the end of the day we had all the internal and external wall-frames erected. It was exciting when the walls went up to see our creation take on three dimensions. Everyone wanted to participate in hammering but it seemed like there were more hammers than things to hammer. I would come to find out that this imbalance would be quickly corrected. In the meantime, a few people took the initiative to work on other peripheral tasks like drainage paths and yard work, which impressed me.

Malissa and Sara playing chicken

Saturday night we stayed up late and played a card game called Presidents. Lo and behold I won twice but was reluctant to decide on a punishment for the 'fools.' I finally relented at the prodding of the other participants ;-). Here are Malissa and Sara on their journey towards greater humility.

The orphanage kitchen

On Sunday we had a worship service where Mark gave a lesson from a book called Celebrating the Wrath of God (I know, not a very comforting title). It was very moving; he shared an excerpt from the book about a WWI soldier who had come across a fellow soldier's body, alone in death and stark in expression. The soldier went on to describe how the face of his fallen comrade had moved him profoundly; it urged him to live a life worthy of such sacrifice.

I'm not sure if it was Mark's eloquence or the emotions of the three days prior — probably both — I was deeply moved and wept. I felt as if God's gentle but firm touch had finally waded through all the distractions, defense mechanisms, and insecurities and really contacted soft flesh, soft heart. There was joy in the realization that such a thing could still happen; there was sadness too, at the realization that this was in many ways a very special environment and circumstance. It was painful to think about returning home to a place which seemed so distant, so detached by comparison.

Greg, Taylor, Mark, Killian, Rudy

At least an experience like this gives me hope that such connection is possible even in my own culture, though it is rife with complacency and decadence. Now I am all the more convinced of my duty to do what I can with what God has given me to foster a kind of environment where deep connection can be made. If I hadn't seen some kind of progress towards this with my bible-talk group already I think I would have felt a bit lost upon coming back. Thankfully I have a much better idea now how to cultivate this sort of thing.

Eddie busts a move

Eddie taught one of the kids at the orphange (and a few of us too) some basic break-dance moves. Someday I'll be a six-steppin' fool. Q: How does one become a break-dancer? A: Práctica, práctica, práctica.

Mark, Jaime, Arturo, Cleto, Greg

Other trials came up during the trip too. Somehow my van managed to attract all the attention — a tractor tried to pass us while we were stopped on a hill and left a nice gouge in the front fender. And I managed to bottom-out enough times that the spare tire came off. More lessons?

At the end of the day on Saturday Kevin was backing his truck down a slope but veered too close to the edge; when the earth started to give way, all of the brothers rushed to help out. It took a couple of tries but eventually most everyone got a hand on the truck and heaved the backend of it over a few feet to safer ground. All the while Faith and Sara were praying for everyone's safety. It was a great victory and very symbolic of the unity that God had formed in us in order to accomplished what we had come to do.

Maria & Arturo Rodriguez;
Mission accomplished!

Here is the blurb that I emailed to Tara regarding the trip:

I keep thinking, how often do I have the opportunity to really make a difference? The majority of my time is spent contributing in ways that are very detached — write a check, pray for someone. This was a very special time to actually be with the people and do something that had significant impact.

By Sunday many people expressed wishes of wanting to stay, and I could understand what they were feeling. I too was mourning the end of our time spent with people whose circumstances give them the humility to ask for help and therefore enjoy God's blessings. Our trip was a reminder to me that having so much materially here in the States can easily be an obstacle to really asking for the help that I need — perhaps not physically but certainly emotionally and socially.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled." - Matthew 5:3-6

More photos are here: my photos, Eddie's photos, Kevin's photos.

Disneyland 2004

Faith, Federica, Michelle at
the Happiest Place on Earth©

Time to dust off the ol' blog. Here are pictures of my trip to Disneyland. Michelle rocks as the best Disneyland guide in existence. Who needs a map when you have a personal tour guide. I definitely saw more than I have ever seen of Disneyland in one day.

The line to Pirates of the Caribbean

I was surprised when I saw Disneyland's encouragement to its patrons to waste. Well, who am I to refuse such a polite request?

Star Tours!

Star Tours was such a blast from the past. It's still got it though. Except for a little blip in the film towards the end.


Toontown was cute except for the ridiculously long lines to see Mickey and Minnie in their (separate) houses and the fact that there is not a spot of shade in the entire ... town.

The Sword in the Stone

Fede, stop showing off!

Jason joined us later that day. New heights of hilarity ensued.

Jason, me, Faith, Fede

As the sun began setting, we enjoyed a relaxing jaunt on the Mark Twain.

Fear Factor, Disneyland

Fede showing off AGAIN.

Dinner at La Brea Bakery
We ended the evening with an hour-long search for a nice-but-cheap restaurant somewhere in Universal City and settled on La Brea Bakery. The live band playing nearby had a set of about three songs, which, to compensate, they decided to repeat back-to-back. How many times can one truly enjoy a personal rendition of the Eagles' Hotel California or Clapton's Tears in Heaven? Well, I found out — not that many.

Overall, it was an incredible trip! Michelle doubly-rocks not only as as tour guide but as a chauffer too. She's a Disneyland junkie though — what is that, three times in two weeks Michelle?

More photos are at Ofoto.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004



I went to Roc-Fest (sic) this past Sunday. Sara Burdett is moving up to the region formerly known as South-Central, Metro-Heights. It's funny because I know a lot of people up there already. Sara, meet Sara. Sara, Sara.

Hm, so much has happened and I haven't felt like blogging much. I will have to get back to it later this week probably. The eAssist contract I'm doing right now is sapping all of my free time...

Friday, August 27, 2004

Congratulations, Claire and Ben

Congratulations, Claire and Ben!

Ben just asked Claire to be his girlfriend on Thursday night. Nick, James and I went up there to celebrate with them. Here we are at BJ's grabbing a bite to eat afterwards.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Aloha 2004

Jason getting tested for radioactivity.

Well I'm back now. I think I'm fully recovered. Everything here is probably going to be pretty mixed up chronologically because I have pictures from different sources and also more to develop. All of the photos are here if anyone is interested; I'll post just the highlights here.

This is Jason getting patted down at LAX. Carly and I jumped on the opportunity to make a spectacle of this. As soon as I took this picture though, the officials there were not too pleased. They starting homing in on us but finally just told us to move outside the holding area. Yes sir; thank you, sir.

Outside our room at the Park Shore Waikiki.

This was not exactly our view from the hotel room, but just across the hall. Top floor, baby.

USS Arizona Memorial

On Monday (the 16th) we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. I learned that the Arizona was the place chosen to commemorate those that died in the attack on Pearl Harbor because when it sank, over half of its crew was lost. It suffered the most casualties of any ship in the harbor. In fact they decided not to raise the sunken ship; instead they decided to let the sunken hulk be the tomb for those who died in it. One really interesting thing I saw there was that some who had survived the attack later chose to be interred with their shipmates after they died.

A museum was there as well; unfortunately it was terribly crowded and had no air conditioning, so we decided not to go.

The Dole Maze.

On Tuesday, we visited the Dole Plantation. In it is a maze where you are supposed to find six colored stands; each stand has a stencil of a different fruit which you can trace on your ticket. We wandered around for quite a bit. It started to feel like a reality show after a while.

The Dole Plantation maze ticket.

Not exactly record time, but hey, we finished. (Hint: there's a map on the back of the ticket.)

Later that night I went to the Honolulu church's midweek service. Surprisingly, I knew one of the brothers there, at least by name. I had talked to Dino several years ago, when Kevin was just trying to get his bearings in San Diego. It was really cool to touch base with him. Also, I saw Joe there, and chatted with him after the service. It was a pretty simple lesson, led by a brother named Tui, who apparently knows Guillermo pretty well. Too bad there was no singing, though.

Showing off our tattoos.

On Wednesday, Carly and Jason and I decided to behave with reckless abandon and get tattoos. It took us each about two excruciating minutes for the tattoo artist at the Polynesian Cultural Center to apply them. Probably the most dangerous part was making sure to look away while he delicately sprayed the ink, so as not to get any paint in our eyes. Carly had a butterfly done; Jason, a gecko. Mine was certainly the most manly choice of the three — a dragon. Unfortunately you can't see much of them in this photo.

Spear-throwing at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Overall the PCC was probably the most interesting part of the trip. Each part of the Polynesian islands is represented. We were able to see Samoa, Marquis, and Fiji, if I remember correctly. Samoa's representatives had the most personality. Later we realized that it's a very well-rehearsed routine; it's very entertaining nonetheless.

The PCC's group photo.

The luau was very well done, and the food was incredible. It is interesting to note that the song they performed as thanks before the meal was the same melody used in "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow" in our song book. The show at the end was very good too. I especially liked the song performed a cappella. And of course the fire show was very good; in fact the main performer was the same guy who ran the Samoan show.

Jason snorkeling

Carly and Jason had a lot of fun snorkeling on Thursday at Shark's Cove.

Inhaling salt-water at Shark's Cove.

I think I got a week's worth of salt intake.

Jennifer and me at lunch.

Jennifer and I had lunch on Saturday. It was cool to finally meet her after playing phone tag a few times. We had a good talk; interestingly enough, she's read Boundaries. She is reading Search for Significance right now, which I will look into myself when I get the chance.

And this concludes Aloha 2004!