Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 315 - Three Girls

Thought of the day: Disasters on the news are overwhelming.  Sad stories among friends and acquaintances are overwhelming. I don’t know if something is wrong with this world we live in or if it’s just a natural shift of awareness as we get older. Perhaps it's both. Resilient as we are, our capacity for pain and suffering is not boundless. On some days it seems so overwhelming and hopeless. In a way, it’s a relief to bear in mind that we walk on this earth for but a blink of time. As such, we will only accumulate a limited amount of burden and carried it over a limited distance. My friend also kindly reminded me today that what we suffer in life we treasure in arts. Arts can transform pain into beauty and make it more tolerable. Being so busy with life lately, I haven't been able to read or appreciate music or other forms of arts as much as I would like to and perhaps that contributes to the problem. The well of life needs to be constantly replenished lest it will dry up. Conscious of it or not, this is the struggle that we fight every single day.  Today is not my day but tomorrow it will surely be better.

Photo of the day:
My girls and Jasmine's friend playing in our front yard.  The well of life is naturally strong in early life. The most important  and formidable task of a parent is to help it stay that way, nurture it and make it even stronger over time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 314 - Garden Path

Thought of the day: I met a very special woman for coffee this morning. She is actively involved in a micro-lending not-for-profit that gives out loans to poor Guatemalan women who would not otherwise be able to get loans through traditional lenders. Like so many other people who devote themselves selflessly to international charities, she has no personal connection to the country. She visited Guatemala some years ago as a tourist and witnessed the poverty and suffering firsthand. The story of a local woman pulled herself out of poverty enough to send her children to school really left her an indelible impression. The size of the loan she took out to have profoundly changed the lives of her family - a paltry 150USD every six months - left her an even deeper impression. After that trip, she got involved in the not-for-profit that gave the woman the loans and had been involved every since. There is a long list of needy corners in the world, perhaps including the very corner of earth we live in, and much of the need would not have been filled without people like her who are determined to make tangible and sustainable differences. I admire her perseverance as much as I admire her kindness and compassion. It was a refreshing and inspiring meeting and gave me another dose of hope for our future.

Photo of the day:
Lila walking on the path in Jasmine's piano teacher's garden.  Where will it lead to?  We often take unpredictable paths in our lives which can define us and make us who we are. They are by no means walks in the garden but they make our lives exciting, meaningful and worthwhile.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 313 - Happy Face

Thought of the day: Tonight we went to a small event in Boulder where Nancy Pelosi gave a speech.  It was the first time we heard her speak in person.  The first part of her speech really surprised me as I was not expecting her to say what she said, at least not in tonight’s event.  She said that science is going to drive the future of this country and that “Science is the answer to our prayers!” How true, and how refreshing to hear it from a sitting politician. Beyond the muddy water of partisan politics, beyond the cycles of boom and bust, beyond everything, it’s science that will drive our future and it’s science that will save our world from the brink of a collapse. This morning, I read that only 35% of Iowa Republicans believe in evolution and only 21% in the same demographics believe that there is a man-made global warming. Over the general population, recent Gallup polls show that fewer than 40% of all Americans believe in evolution and fewer than 50% of Americans believe that global warming has a human cause. According to the same Gallup polls, the belief in global warming is becoming increasingly partisan. In the meantime, 99% of US earth and life scientists believe in evolution and 97% of climate scientists believe in man-made climate change. These dismaying disconnect between the public and the science is not only ludicrous, it’s outright dangerous as when we lose sight of science, we lose sight of our means of improving or even maintaining our collective standard of living and we lose sight of our future. As a nation, we are walking on a treacherous path. Pelosi’s speech tonight gave me hope that there are still people in our law-making chamber with a clear head. Only the future will tell whether they will prevail and whether we will prevail as a nation.

Photo of the day:
Izzy and Lila took the Tebo Mini Train on Pearl St this morning.  The train had been there all summer offering free rides to kiddos and their parents.  This is the last week for the train to be running.  Yes, summer is ending as the campaign season is  heating up.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 312 - Rocks

Thought of the day: We started our Sunday hike on a very warm morning and ended up coming home in a cool breeze and narrowly escaped a thunderstorm. Hiking in the mountains always made the girls happy beyond words.  At the end of the hike, it had an invigorating effect on Jasmine and a draining effect on Lila as she napped soundly for three hours after we returned home.  It's good to take a hike in the mountains once in a while as it reminds us why we moved here in the first place.

Photo of the day:
Off a hiking trail close to our home where we hiked this morning.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 311 - Woman at Cafe

Thought of the day: I observed a bunch of outlandishly dressed people on west end Pearl today. It's not uncommon to see colorfully dressed people in this segment of downtown, but I can't recall another time when I saw a man dressed in a bright pink ballet dress with tutus. Something is going on. Sure enough, it's the weekend of tbe Boulder Fringe Festival!  The festival not only brings eccentric artists in town, it also brings out the fringe elements in the local populace. Other than that, it also brings in comedians to do family friendly shows. It’s one of the quaint events that makes up the cultural fabric of Boulder - an event not to be missed if you're ready for something that is not so mainstream.

Photo of the day:
A very nice woman in Trident Cafe and Bookstore.  I was there with Jasmine for one of our regular Saturday afternoon outings and we had the fortune of sitting at the table next to her and her husband.  I talked with them a bit - both were long term Boulder residents concerned about the rapid speed of change in Boulder. Small cafes and local shops were being gradually bought up and refitted into more luxurious and trendy restaurants and stores.  That's a concern for long term residents and newcomers like me alike. We sure hope that the city will keep its character and charm and be welcoming to people of all backgrounds. An old cafe like Trident and a festival like the Fringe Festival will hopefully both be part of the vibrant local scenes for a long time to come.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 310 - Soccer

Thought of the day: Today was a sport tryout day for Lila. In the morning we checked out Boulder Indoor Soccer. Other than Lila and her friend, the rest of the group were all boys. Lila ran around wildly and had fun until she ran head-on into a boy.  Both cried hard and Lila refused to get back into the field on her own. Needless to say, the second half of the lesson was as much of a drag as the first half was fun. In the afternoon, she tried out a gymnastics class. She didn't ever look back the moment she stepped onto the mat.  I had the unexpected pleasure of watching a group of 7-9 year old girls doing some pretty amazing routines right in front of my eyes - apparently it was the team practice time in the gym as well. I was excited that Lila was enjoying the sport and I was also seeing her potential in the flexibility and athleticism of these young girls. The decision came easily at the end of the day: gymnastics it is!

Photo of the day:

Izzy playing soccer.  The instructors at Boulder Indoor Soccer were very engaging and really got the kids to run around and play.  It's too bad that Lila was not quite ready for contact sports yet otherwise she would really enjoy these soccer lessons.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 309 - Keynote Speaker

Thought of the day: I attended a YWCA luncheon today with some wonderful women from our neighborhood.  It was nice to catch up with old friends and meet up with some new ones.  We had an inspiring keynote speaker and two women served by YWCA telling touching stories of their personal journeys.  The speakers were all very frank, articulate and their speeches were thought-provoking.  It was an all-women event and I could feel a tangible, emotional connection among the audience and between the audience and the speakers. After spending years in a male dominated tech world, I have rediscovered and enjoyed the companionship of some amazing female friends in the past few years.  Our friendships are comforting, supportive and fun.  In a way, I think I'm trying to make up for what I have missed in the earlier part of my life. Today's lunch reminded me yet again of the power of our collective being. Together, we can overcome obstacles that life throws our way. Together, we can achieve what we can't achieve alone, namely, the finding of truth and the attainment of happiness.

Photo of the day:

Robyn O'Brien, our inspiring speaker and the author of "The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It".  Reading her book had changed our family's diet in a fundamental way and we are all very appreciative of her efforts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 308 - Apple Tree

Thought of the day: I had my car washed today and I was not very happy with the result.  It's so often the case when it comes to the quality of work performed by a third party.  The third party certainly doesn't care about the outcome as much as we do.  When the third party needs to serve a large number of customers, quality suffers even more. Every customer is not the same and they may have different demands and expectations. It's difficult to provide a customized solution for everybody. When you work under pressure - either time-wise or financially or both, you do the minimal work necessary to satisfy the majority of your customers instead of doing your best work to satisfy those with high expectations.  This is true for car wash, and is also true for so many other services like housekeeping, cooking, construction and, sadly, public education.  Sometimes there is a good reason to do things ourselves, but we all have limited amount of time and resources to do things in our own way to our satisfaction, so eventually it all comes down to a matter of choice.  What can we put up with and what can we not?  Sometimes we don't even realize that we are making such choices everyday, and when we do, some choices can be hard to make.

Photo of the day:
Girls climbing up an apple tree.  This tree is situated outside of Lila's preschool and has been there for a while.  Jasmine used to climb it when she was little and now they both love to climb it.  As parents, we're making many choices for them on a daily basis, including whether to allow them to climb a tree, whether to send them to school, what to pack for lunch, what activities to do, etc.  Some choices are made subconsciously but they may nonetheless have an impact on their lives.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 307 - Lila

Thought of the day: There were only 3 kids in Lila's preschool this afternoon.  As a result, she got a lot of individual attention from the teachers which worked out really well for her.  The teachers said that she was getting adjusted to the new school pretty well.  Music to my ears!  It was certainly a relief and it gave me hope that she would thrive in this preschool just like her big sister did.

Photo of the day:
Lila playing in her preschool before we left for the day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 306 - Jasmine

Thought of the day: Now that college has officially started, the sidewalks and cafes are getting noticeably busier.  It's harder to get a seat in your favorite local hangouts. However, when you do get a seat, you have the opportunity to eavesdrop on some pretty interesting conversations. Here are a few examples from the past hour... A guy dressed in work clothes was talking over the cell phone on the sidewalk about a solar installation deal. A small group of people were talking about something political. A young man in his early twenties, perhaps a new college graduate, was lamenting to his friend about the difficulty of finding a job. A middle-aged woman was asking a man sitting next to her who claimed to be an engineering professor at CU why he decided to move to Boulder and he replied with a big grin on his face: "You got sunshine and mountains - what else do you need?" Concise and to the point. I am often asked that same question and sometimes struggle to give a short answer that makes sense. From now on I'm going to borrow his line.  Of course, being able to eavesdrop on a wide range of conversations is another good one but I am not ready to quote that as a reason yet.

Photo of the day:
Fall semester has started but it's still summer here in Boulder.  We had dinner out on the patio tonight.  It was hot in the day but warm and comfortable at dusk. A thunderstorm came and passed when we had dinner outside. Jasmine snapped a few photos of the after-storm rainbow and the sunset and was happily reviewing them on her camera.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 305 - Costume Shop

Thought of the day: This afternoon, Lila rode down to the neighborhood shopping center with us on a tag-along we recently acquired through an advertisement on Google Plus.  She was not tall enough to use the pedals effectively yet and sometimes her body looked off-balanced from the back.  However, she was holding on tight and was clearly enjoying the ride.  We are glad that we have now one more thing to do as a family in the weekend - a bike ride that everybody pedals!

Photo of the day:
Jasmine putting on a mask in the costume shop.  We often stop by this place after having lunch or dinner in the shopping center.  Jasmine and Lila loved to check out all the colorful costumes and toys in the store.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 304 - B. B. King

Thought of the day: We met a music legend tonight - B.B.King. He gave an energetic performance in Boulder Theater to the enthusiastic reception of hundreds of blues fans.  The advanced age of 85 didn't seem to have an impact on him as one would have imagined. He was warm, humorous and seemed to be enjoying every minute of the concert as much as the audience.  We loved his ease at conversing with the audience as much as his guitar playing and singing.  After all, it's a rare opportunity to see somebody of his statue performing on stage. It was an evening of good music and an evening to be remembered.

Photo of the day:
B. B. King performing in Boulder Theater.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 303 - Roses

Thought of the day: College students are coming back in town this week.  You can tell that by the increasing number of visitors in the cafes and the long lines at the front desks of popular restaurants.  The town seems to have woken up from a lazy summer slumber. You can really feel the energy in the air. On one hand, it's invigorating to have all these young people back in town.  On the other hand, it's a bit frustrating to experience these extra delays in traffic and hour long waits for dinner.  By living in a college town in Colorado where the students make up a quarter of the population, in addition to going through the cycle of seasons, we go through the cycle of the comings and goings of college students. With these two concurrent cycles, "the wheel of time turns, and years come and pass…leaving memories" that will become us and experiences that will define us.

Photo of the day:

A bunch of beautiful roses in Lila's preschool - a thoughtful gift from a student's parents.  It really brightened up the room - a nice symbol of a fresh beginning.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 302 - Lila

Thought of the day: Today I had both lunch and dinner with parents from our neighborhood school. As the school year had just started this week for all of our kids, naturally it was one of the main topics in the conversations. There are currents and undercurrents in the school that I am not aware of. That's hardly surprising. From as far back as I can remember, I always feel like being an outsider in any larger social circles and it's no different with this school. I can connect with people individually on a personal level but I can not easily relate to a larger group of people. This personality trait has not so far negatively affect my life in any significant way, but I am afraid that it may take a toll on Jasmine's education.  There are few things in the world that I desire more than giving my children a good education so perhaps I'll try harder to get involved in the school instead of standing at the peripheral looking and feeling like an outsider.

Photo of the day:
Lila just finished her first day at her new preschool.  I took the girls to Alfalfa's Juice Bar for a little treat after school.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 301 - Nap

Thought of the day: This morning I brought Lila to the second open house event of her new preschool.  I knew most of the teachers there already and I met and talked to a few parents today.  Everybody was open, warm and friendly. It felt as if we were having a big family reunion. I am confident this is a safe, loving and nurturing environment for Lila where she would learn to share and enjoy the world with the others.  We are all eagerly anticipating her first day in this preschool tomorrow.

Photo of the day:

Lila napping in a cafe after her preschool open house event and lunch.  She was excited and exhausted and fell into sleep during the bike ride home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 300 - Lila

Thought of the day: I watched a PBS interview with Norwegian foreign minister last night.  When the reporter asked the foreign minister what kind of impact the massacre on Utoeya island was having on the Norwegian youth, the minister replied that the activism and participation of the youth actually went way up instead of being diminished by the threat of violence. He finished by quoting the sentence of a Norwegian teenager: "If one man can hate that much, imagine what we can do together with our combined love." That's an inspiring message coming out of the unspeakable tragedy. The worst of human acts brought out the best of human spirits and give you hope for the future of democracy and humanity.

Photo of the day:
Lila painting in her new preschool's open house event.  This photo recalls in me words like "hope" and "innocence". One day, her generation will be shouldering the responsibility of the world.  Right now, her world consists of loving people, vibrant colors and funny toys.  I sure hope that there won't be events that would make her grow up too fast - the kind of impact that an event like the Norwegian tragedy is likely to have on a generation of Norwegian youth.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 299 - United States

Thought of the day: Today is the first day of school in Boulder Valley School District. This day reminded me of a documentary I just watched called "Waiting for Superman". For anyone who cares about K-12 education or with kids in the public school system, it's a disturbing documentary to watch. It shows how broken the US public school system is and why. Other than the obvious issue of lack of funding, the way the schools are run is even a bigger issue. Teachers are not motivated to perform because it's not a merit based system like any other free enterprises. Bad teachers are impossible to fire if they have tenure.  Instead of pursuing a different career that may be more suitable for their abilities and temperament, the "bad" teachers just continue circulating in the system. The lack of accountability is certainly contributing to the lack of improvement in the quality of education. According to statistics, America is facing an education crisis and there's a compelling need for reform. However, there exists strong forces driven by self-interest blocking any meaningful reform. When the system is so broken, simply throwing money at it won't solve the problem. Before that can be fixed, a whole generation of Americans are being given a sub-standard education. It will certainly affect the competitiveness of the country in a long run. Of course, with the reputation of being a melting pot, the US can fill in the education gap through immigration. But that's assuming that the US will continue to be attractive to well qualified immigrants which may no longer be the case if the country can't provide good quality education to its children.

Photo of the day:
Lila standing on the map of the United States in Jasmine's school. It's certainly my hope that she and her sister will receive a good education in this country. The chance is good because we are lucky to live in a good school district but it's by no means given.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 298 - Jasmine

Thought of the day: This is the last day of the summer break. Looking back, I think we have had a pretty good summer. We spent time with grandparents in June and August. We stayed in Boulder in July when the summer activities had reached its peak. I didn't sign Jasmine up for any academic activities. I hope that the trips we made and the camps she did has helped her develop her personality and increase her appreciation in people, animals and nature. To me, that's more important than developing academic skills which she will have the entire school year for. And, of course, she has had a lot of fun and she can't wait for the school to start again.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine happy at the Teahouse - she is enjoying the last day of summer break before returning to school tomorrow.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 297 - Air Train

Thought of the day: Only after I got back to Colorado did I realize how much I had missed the intensity and clarity of the light here.  It's good to be home again.

Photo of the day:
View from the air train that took us to the San Francisco Airport.  The bay area was so green - even on the air train, you could see a lot of green with a background of misty mountains in the distance. That was our last view of the bay area before boarding the flight home.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 296 - Garden Bench

Thought of the day: It's our last day in the bay area and I am already starting to miss it.  I miss the ocean breeze, the soft light, the green and winding paths, the cool mist hung in the forests and above beach towns and, of course, the long list of things to check out in this area. I can imagine spending a couple of weeks here with the kids without getting bored.  With some advance planning and sensible pacing, we should be able to have a relaxing yet engaging vacation here. To tell the truth, when I visited the bay area in the past, sometimes I felt pretty bored. But not this time. I think what made the different was that I was more proactive during this trip. I approached the neighbors, met old friends, try out new activities and go out often. I even sent in a couple of comments and suggestions to several city departments which made me feel more relevant and involved. In any case, all these things combined had made a world of difference.  Indeed, there is much to be experienced wherever you are and sometimes the biggest barrier between a dull life and a satisfying one is just the attitude.

Photo of the day: 
My dad taking a break on a bench with his grandkids in Woodside's Filoli Garden. The kids are playing a game of Harry Potter. A trip to the beautiful garden and spending some quality time with the cousin really made Jasmine's day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 295 - Paper Flower

Thought of the day: I had the opportunity to meet a few old friends during this trip. It was fun to catch up with them again. It was interesting to share stories and listen to their hopes and dreams.  The more people I meet and talk to over the years, the more I am convinced that we all face similar challenges.  No matter how different we may look on the surface and how different our paths of lives may seem, we have a lot in common in our core values and aspirations. There's something to be said about that.

Photo of the day:
A wall decoration inside a cafe with my mom's bike parked outside - I borrowed it today to meet a friend there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 294 - Beach

Thought of the day: Today we did one of the things we like to do when we visit the Bay Area - go to the beach!  Palo Alto was sunny but Half Moon Bay was shrouded in a mist as usual.  The water was cold but the girls didn't mind a bit and had a fun time playing with the waves and digging in the sand.  Jasmine and I also took a guided horseback riding tour while we were there.  The most exciting part of the tour was to ride through a small stream and the most relaxing part was to trot slowly on the beach.  We were lucky to ride with a few experienced and very friendly people in the trip and I learned a few tips from them on horseback riding. It was an interesting day spent on the beach with the family.

Photo of the day:

Jasmine and Lila on Half Moon Bay's Venice Beach.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 293 - Music Party

Thought of the day: There are many small towns in the bay area and we visited one of them today - Los Gatos.  It has a charming downtown filled with local shops that have been there for years.  One place worth mentioning is a yogurt place called Cafe Delatti.  We got some frozen yogurts there and they were delicious.  Bay area has many towns like this and it will take a while to visit them all. And of course, don't forget San Francisco, a not-so-small town that is 45 minutes away which would be worth every minute of the drive. Factor in the mild weather, culinary delights, tech industry, good universities and proximity to ocean, forests and mountains - it's no wonder that the bay area is able to attract so many smart people and keep them here.

Photo of the day:
Cousins holding a music party.  It was a delight to photograph them - perhaps even more so than to listen to the "music" they made!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 292 - Sisters

Thought of the day: We spent a couple of hours in Palo Alto's Rinconada Park this morning. The kids had a fun time playing in the shallow outdoor pool. The air was a bit chilly but the water was pretty warm.  The pool facility was sufficient but outdated.  I was surprised that it didn't have solar water heater installed as Palo Alto prides itself on being a green city.  When I walk around the neighborhood, I can see a few green initiatives with my own eyes.  Quite a few neighbors have a "Palo Alto Green" yard sign installed which indicates that they have signed up for using renewable energy for their electricity.  A few major streets, including a segment of Arastradero Road, have been modified into one lane streets to discourage motor traffic and make room for bikers and pedestrians. Unfortunately much of the extra space on Arastradero has been taken over by parked cars which is unfortunate.  Palo Alto has bike paths but they are not well connected yet.  It looks like the city is moving toward the right direction and hopefully we will be able to bike around the city with ease in the near future.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine carrying Lila to the swimming pool.  Lila loves to be carried by her big sister - it's a rare treat for her!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 291 - Forest

Thought of the day: We took a hike in the Big Basin Redwood Park today.  Hiking in a redwood forest can be refreshing and invigorating. The unfathomably tall trees, the light coming down through the branches, the smell of the forest, the sound of the birds, the stillness of the thousand year old trees, the soft steps on the trail...a forest like this is somehow able to activate a primitive part of our brain and give us a sense of peace that can't be experienced anywhere else. I tried to capture the images of the forest that speak to me, but it was proven difficult. The best images I took home today were those in my memory and they will be there for a long time to come.

Photo of the day:
Image of a redwood tree in the forest.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 290 - Spider Web

Thought of the day: We visited the Los Altos Library this morning. The library had a nice children's section and both Jasmine and Lila found some books to take home.  My parents and I also found some books for ourselves in the collection of Chinese language books - it's a decent size collection especially compared with the tiny collection in the Boulder Main Library. We ended up walking out of the library with a tall stack of books. There was no limit to the number of books we could check out and that really saved our day.

Photo of the day:
Other than reading books and playing with friends, a favorite thing for Jasmine to do was to use her spray bottle in the yard.  She found a new target today - a spider web!  The poor spider must be shocked at the amount of water she and her web received in such a perfectly sunny day.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 289 - Fish Market

Thought of the day: My parents have a large, enclosed yard and the girls often spend hours there playing with each other.  They run around, play games and water the plants.  The backyard borders a creek but it's completely fenced in.  It's connected to the courtyard in the middle of the house which is also very safe.  In Boulder, our backyard abuts the open space with no fence in between.  That gives an open feeling to the yard but it can also be unnerving because of the real threats from mountain lions, black bears and coyotes that are not uncommon where we live. The girls can't play in our yard unsupervised but they can do it here. The peace of mind and extra freedom that a safe backyard can bring to a family like ours is immeasurable. I will surely miss that when I get back.

Photo of the day:
Palo Alto's Fish Market.  It seems to be a local favorite and lots of older people frequent this restaurant. We were there for dinner tonight.  Unfortunately it was not enough for Lila to run around in the yard all day long - she had some extra energy to burn off in the restaurant and raised a few eyebrows there.  Luckily, most people were very nice to her and smiled at her - perhaps she reminded them of their equally energetic grandkids.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 288 - Green Parking

Thought of the day: Since we are here with both kids for two entire weeks, we are really motivated to find other kids in the neighborhood for the girls to play with. So after I heard the sounds of some kids playing in the neighboring yard, I knocked on the door with Jasmine and introduced ourselves.  Lucky for us, a very friendly family lives next door and they didn't mind the intrusion at all.  Their two sweet girls have been playing with Jasmine ever since. We're lucky to have neighbors who are so open-minded and flexible.  Having neighborhood kids to play with definitely makes this place seem more friendly and homey for us.

Photo of the day:
A green and lush parking spot for a bike outside of Amber Indian Restaurant in Mountain View.  David and I had lunch there today.  The food is definitely more spicy and perhaps more authentic but we are missing the Tandoori Grill.  We are still developing our list of favorite local restaurants here and will probably feel more at home once we find a few within walking or biking distance.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 287 - Neighborhood Park

Thought of the day: We are starting to know more people living in the neighborhood.  One of the families just immigrated from China on investment visas.  The EB-5 world has always been a bit of a myth to me because I don't think I have actually met anyone on EB-5 in the past.  Apparently the requirements for getting the visa has become less stringent recently and there are now many affluent Chinese who qualify.  In addition, many of those on EB-5 have enough cash on the side to buy real estate in the US and they consider this a good time to buy as the market is soft in the US while the Chinese real estate market is still very hot. In addition, the US has been considered by many Chinese as a safe and even prestigious place to invest in real estate. Many early Taiwanese immigrants did very well from doing so - some of them still live in this neighborhood - and now the mainland Chinese are following their brave footpath. The children and grandchildren of those Taiwanese immigrants often thrive in American schools and work places and I expect the same to happen for this new wave of immigrants. Of course, despite their relative wealth, many challenges still lie ahead of them in integrating into this very different society. They have met the challenges of the rapidly changing Chinese society and I have no doubt that they will meet the challenges here as well.

Photo of the day:
Misty morning in a park in my parents' neighborhood.  I don't see too many neighbors in the park as many of them are probably either busy working or shuffling their kids from one activity to the other.  Bay area is a fiercely competitive place for adults and kids alike and I suspect the new wave of immigrants just make it even more so.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 286 - Lila

Thought of the day: Our traveling got more exciting last afternoon after Jasmine found Francis - a New Zealand girl of her age - to play with and we made acquaintance with her mother and uncle who were traveling with her.  The train provided ample opportunities for people to get to know each other and socialize if they were up for it.  The small space helped.  For example, as the dining cars were packed, strangers were often seated together and were almost "forced" to socialize.  People also found company in the observation car and in the cafe.  Jasmine, Francis and Lila were never separated after they got to know each other.  They walked up and down the cars, squealed in delight, played games and had a great time together. As you can tell, we were getting used to the life on the train.  But even when we were getting used to the rhythm and breathing of the moving beast and getting used to the everchanging landscape, a travel weariness was slowly creeping into our bodies.  When we left the train at Emeryville, it felt soooo good to be standing on solid ground again.  The girls had a hard time saying goodbye to their new friends.  We left our contact information but I wonder if we would ever hear from them again...

Photo of the day:
Lila playing in grandparents' yard.  She was happy to have more space to run around again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 285 - Best Friends

Thought of the day: The train is now chugging its way through the forests of California.  The landscape outside of the window is beautiful and serene, so different from the rugged Colorado mountains we rode past yesterday but they are equally striking. After getting settled in the train and having a good night of bumpy but peaceful sleep, I am starting to feel pretty comfortable on board.  Unsurprisingly, there's always an adjustment process when I try out something new.  I had expected too much of the living condition and service on the train, so I got a bit of a reality shock when I just got on board yesterday.  Now that I have had a better idea of the state of things and adjusted my expectations accordingly, I am actually pretty amazed at how well things run.  The attendant in our car has been working non-stop for days. She is apparently the only person who works in this particular car of this particular train and as long as the train doesn't take a break, she doesn't get a break either.  And the attendants in the dining car work non-stop for several hours in a row during breakfast, lunch and dinner to serve the entire train of diners and I don't see a whole lot of people tipping them.  Our room is tiny but it really has all we need. The beds are surprisingly comfortable.  During the day, they can be compacted and stowed away to make space for day time activities. As the time I spend on the train grows, my appreciation of the attendants and of our living condition grows too. Meanwhile, David has just taken the girls up to the observation car to take a better look of California, so I get to have a moment of uninterrupted peace to enjoy the experience on the train.  No matter how often I ride a train, the feeling on the train is always a bit strange and surreal.  When the train is moving, it's as if you are going through a time tunnel.  You watch the landscape roll by and there's just enough time to get a glimpse of everything but not enough time to get connected with anything.  It's a form of inconsequential existence where you float above life as a pure observer even though you are all surrounded by it.  In a way,  that gives you an opportunity to become more introspective. There's clearly a restorative power in a journey like this. If one has just gone through a tough time in life, I can imagine that a train trip like this can be calming and healing.

Photo of the day:

Jasmine, Lila and their new best friend hugging each other: another strange and surreal thing that can happen on a train is the speed in which friendships can blossom.