Archive for the ‘tribute’ Tag

In Loving Memory of Goo Jerng

Classic Goo Jerng Look

Random Observation/Comment #258: For my funeral, please have an open bar and lots of badass pictures of me traveling around the world and eating awesome food. You can also photoshop my head onto that painting of Lincoln riding a bear.  Oh yeah, and please no priest…

Those summers in Pennsylvania were so nice.  I remember my little chubby potato body and chipmunk face waddling around my aunt’s house finding things to do.  I’d wake up at 8AM every day to take a walk with Goo Jerng at Long’s park.  He’d always encourage me to jog while he did his routine mile walk around the lake – sadly he’d always beat me in the end because I’d be too sweaty and distracted by feeding the squirrels and pigeons.  I never saw him with a cane – he’d just wear the same sweater vest and tan flannel fedora and take his time enjoying the air.  I wish I could go back in time and spend those times talking to him about his life instead of just running around chasing animals and imaginary friends in tag.  I’m sure he would have told me the most kickass stories about the Korean War, toughing it out in the US, opening one of the first local Chinese restaurants, or working at a university.

He taught me how to play the Star Spangled Banner on the organ that one summer. I guess I wasn’t a prodigy.  He’d also play the oldest karaoke songs to keep me in the loop of the oldies (whatever that means).  I knew soooo many old karaoke songs – probably more than any 12-year-old should.  Edelweiss was his favorite.  Moon River wasn’t that far behind.

He taught me how to dance – or rather, tried to teach me how to dance – the Waltz and some other oldies. And who could ever forget the “Teen Gow” and “MahJong” nights?  We spent one summer making cheat-sheets on those index cards that are probably still in that box.

I had visited less and less for holidays due to college exams and personal trips, and the travels to see them had become more of a huge family cook-out.  Goo Jerng would be that silent admirer, probably taking a nap during the preparation of the food and probably listening intently to all the conversations around the table during the meal, or probably just spacing out and enjoying the food. And then after the meal we’d just sit around and watch some TV at really low or really high volume.

When we’d get there on those Saturday mornings visiting for holidays, I’d always have two constant things: 1) the most amazing congee in the world in front of me (that keeps getting better and better, by the way), and 2) Goo Jerng sitting in the same seat, holding the same mug with the green stripe, having his hair combed perfectly and giving a friendly grunt hello.  He’d offer some peanuts to add to the jok and then ask about the drive from New York.  What else could you say but “it wasn’t too bad…”  It was a routine, but what a routine I will miss.

I wouldn’t say Goo Jerng was a big part of my life, but that’s not what life is about – it’s about the little things.  It’s about his sweater vest and that mug. It’s about his constant need to have a plate of rice with every meal.  It’s about remembering he loved to eat “yea see lai yow bao” and remembering to buy it for him in Chinatown on the way.  It’s about hearing his deep voice talk about something he loved.  It’s about the smell of… whatever that smell was.  It’s all the little things that I will miss…

What will go on my mashed potatoes, oh, gravy master? By far my greatest loss in the ordeal. It will never be the same without you. Mashed potatoes will never taste the same.

~See Lemons Love and Miss Goo Jerng

A Study Abroad Winding Down

Classic ICE night

Classic ICE night

Random Observation/Comment #206: There’s always a level of sadness during transitions.  I’ve found that I’m always looking for excitement, yet I deep down yearn for a conservative state of equilibrium.  No matter how much I reject these routines, I desperately cling on to creating a new familiarity.  When you’ve grown accustom to the freedom and the friendly faces, it’s hard to let go and move to that next phase.  It’s hard to say good-bye – and not to Germany or the lifestyle of vacations, but of newly found friends.  I could come back to Hamburg, but it would definitely not be the same without the people that has made this trip incredible.

As I mentioned in the beginning of my writings about Hamburg, I had created an interesting group of friends from different countries throughout this 5 month study.  Their openness to mingle allowed the single Chinese American loner to tag along and par-take on their adventures.  From birthday parties to ICE nights, we lived the life that all college students would envy.  We made excuses for our stupidity and, honestly, would do it again in a heartbeat.  I think I speak for all of us when I say that this trip has been an eye-opener in so many ways.

I’ve already written about the Hungarian group [] that left just last month, and I already miss them so much (especially Sushi).  With the exception of the people who lived in my apartment (who I posted last entry), I present my small little tribute.

The (North and South) American group includes Matt, Matt, Dave, Francisco, Fernando (it’s okay that he’s from Brazil and dresses better than all of us), and Sarah (it’s okay that she’s from Canadia).  Their weekly Tuesday ICE nights basically represent the essence of their trip.  Any questionable activity is usually validated by the fact that we’re studying abroad and we should do this because we can.  It reminds me of that speech about how we’re privileged with the opportunity to party, so we must do so to fulfill those lost dreams of the less fortunate.  If we didn’t take advantage of our situations, we might as well stay satisfied as minimalists.  Needless to say, this group knows how to have a good time and the fluency of broken English slang really reminds me of home.  It’s a nice comparison because now home will always remind me of Reeperbahn.

The Spanish group includes Marta, Elena, and Diana, all of whom have been absolutely wonderful and a pleasure to party with.  It’s interesting how their Spanish fiesta spirit perspiring on the dance floor is actually palpable in the air.  I can tell they’re exhausted by the end of the night, but they could easily go until morning.  It’s this type of enthusiasm for just dancing instead of heavily drinking (although that usually follows) that keeps a separate charm.

The Finnish group includes Sakari, Maria, Miia, Leena, and Mai.  I’ve grown accustomed to their absolutely mind-boggling language – I just take it as a nice gurgling sound, and I just smile whenever they look over.  It seems the ladies prefer mixed drinks and hockey more than anything else in the world.  In fact, watching a hockey game with some redbull vodkas would be a recipe for a wonderful summer afternoon or third date.  I’ve mostly met up with this group in more chill atmospheres, like 2PM beers at the park or 4PM beers during a picnic.  A pre-game bottle of vodka mixed within a coca cola bottle starts the night, and a group of fun-loving Fins with a smile on their faces, finishes it.

The Misc group is placed within this section for the more random conversations that are not necessarily related to any group party scenes.  Marchin and Phillip are interesting engineers with a similar passion towards improving the world.  Together, we form a normal engineering group with the normal engineering view of parties and basically all activities.  We’re always thinking about something else in our multiprocessor brains, but we follow the flow of partying to observe and occasionally intervene in some social experiments.   I think we find it awkward, yet enjoyable, but I’m sure we would rather be doing some calculations and estimation applications to everyday things.  It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who calculates the total price of shopping lists or random traveling distances and costs on the spot (and then get a sense of satisfaction when the estimations are close).  Steph is a wonderful photographer with the Canadian friendliness underneath a fierce tiger (I’m just assuming from all of the pictures I take of her).  She’s doing her best to explore Europe and share it in whichever artistic way she can.  I give her kudos for picture taking and sepia tone.  Scott is allergic to fruit, which I still can’t get over.  Cecilia – oh Cecilia – by weekday you’re a dedicated student and friendly smile, but by weekend you’re rocking out in some random country in Europe to pure metal/core.  It’s always the innocent ones that transform into the crowd-surfing, stage diving (if you’re lucky), air punching, two-stepping wild animals in the pit or swaying at the front.  I’ve missed those days, and we definitely need to see a show together sometime.

Socializing with these interesting characters from every corner (of the flat map taped to my apartment wall) helped us each peer into our own futures.  There’s so much more freedom in this world than we were fooled with the high school 9 periods a day and college scheduled classes.  Yes, we have to adjust to other people’s times to be organized, but your free time is where you grow.

In essence, what we decide to do with this free time defines who we are.  Without the willingness to connect with people, explore our interests, and constantly question our environment, we are just breathing, eating, and shitting with a set routine.  I’ve learned what it means to live here in Hamburg, and I know that everything I do from here forward is to support my new goals.

I want more than anything to return to Europe and visit all the travel acquaintances I’ve met on this journey.  In almost every country in Europe, we’ve grown contacts for at least a cup of coffee and a day of exchanging stories.  For these offers, I am the most grateful.  I hope all of you know that you have the same luxury for New York.  Please feel free to ask.

~See Lemons Miss Being Abroad

Blessed with an Extended Family

Big happy family. Lucian is the baby.

Big happy family. Lucian is the baby.

Random Observation/Comment #205: The less I post; the more fun I’m having.  Without this me-time, I do feel a little bit claustrophobic, but at the same time, I’m usually spending it with people for a good reason.  It’s not exactly what you can call “efficient,” but I feel these small social breaks are mandatory for an enjoyable lifestyle.  I sound like a damn Vulcan.  The last two weeks have been filled with non-stop fun in Belgium with new friends, Schliersee with nature, and the rest with Natasha.  It isn’t until this 22-hour train ride from Hamburg to San Sebastian that I have time to relive the happiness.  Pictures and words will not do it justice.  I am grateful for those last weeks of memories with good bye parties, but saddened by the last sight of each of my acquaintances.  It seems surreal that we said good-bye, but I’m happy we can now call ourselves facebook friends.

This large dorm-style openness and friendliness was what I missed in my university years. I remember a few shenanigans from the Cooper dorms, but nothing compared to dinner parties thrice a week and bonding moments over a few stories and shots of exotic spirits on a regular basis.  Memories of this experience (as a whole) will stay with me forever, and I hope the personality quirks each person represents can be found again in my next adventure.

How quickly time has passed since I last said good-bye to Greg – the first suitemate and friend to part from this journey.  After he left, there was a void in the apartment that could not be filled. There were less jagermeister shots and dancing on the tables, and I always checked out my door to see if he was sneaking a smoke on the balcony.  Vadim moved in with a cheerful step, but his work made him absent to most of the usual dinner parties.  There were weeks where I didn’t even think the room had an inhabitant.  I considered the random knocking on the metal tube running vertically through our apartment a more frequent communicator (I know it was you, Lucian).  Granted, the shoes left to fill were large, so on normal standards, Vadim was a great suitemate.  I had no complaints since he left no footprint, and he was quite interesting when I had a chance to speak with him in the hall or during drinks a few times.

The original roommates of the full 5 months have left a much larger impression.  Leena, Anna, and Ilona have been absolutely wonderful.  They each have their special part in this family and it will be difficult to find such a balanced and lively temporary home.

Leena, among many things, was my laundry buddy.  I find this to be one of the most important relationships because we share those moments handling clothes when they are most vulnerable – from when they’re dirty to when they’re rolled dry and to their final state of warm crispiness.  I wanted this metaphor to work out better, but it just sounds naughty.  Leena was hilarious in many subtle ways and I hope she knew that I caught on to all her little sarcastic jokes inserted in almost every conversation.  I love her personality and fun-loving nature more than her love of disgusting black licorice candy bits (ew).  The technology illiteracy also gives me a small chuckle.  Answers to my tech questions like “yea… my TV is black” or “It has a blue button that lights up” or, my favorite, “my laptop’s name is Norbert” will always be treasured.  PS – I’ll keep a shrine for the holy mini pineapple.

Anna exudes the creativity of an architect in everything she does.  I knew from the moment I met her that she had that extremely unique character.  She automatically gave our apartment personality.  The white walls were replaced with world maps, newspaper and magazine clippings, random cardboard things with colored cellophane taped over it, and posters of anything that could possibly look cool at an angle.  The surprise of seeing a new piece on our walls every week was a good reason to come through the door.  I love how she became her work and this is absolutely her passion – it’s just so obvious if you hit the right topics.  When you show her something that may seem mundane, her eyes light up and she appreciates everything for this deeper, head-scratching meaning only seen by her and other architects/artists.  She is modern art applied with an even spread of reality.

Ilona and I shared quite an interesting silent relationship.  Left alone, we might as well have communicated with charades or Pictionary.  Even after 5 months, my expressive nature with German had not improved as expected.  I could carry some sort of conversation, but I never found the right words to say something useful.  I learned to say little phrases that could involve myself selfishly, but sometimes I just wanted a topic of interest we shared without going through a dictionary for difficult vocabulary words.  Luckily, I do understand most of what she says in German and wind up responding in English.  I think she understands half of what I say in English and responds in German.  It’s a weird balance that only works in groups, but regardless, I love her company.

Lucian, Tomas, Maria, and Natasha became the honorary roommates, as I saw them in the dining room as often as I saw everyone else I was living with.

Lucian is hilarious and what I consider to be an essential ingredient to a good party.  He has a clever wit and a confident stride to tell stories and experiences that draws people’s attentions.  From him, I’ve learned that there should be no fear in acting silly, or a little ridiculous, sometimes because it shows you’re actually enjoying yourself, instead of second guessing your actions and being self-conscious when life should be more spontaneous.  My cold and calculated nature envies such eccentric personalities.  Oh yeah, and best of luck to his rapping career.  Beeeeaaaches!

Tomas has been the chef of the apartment (even though he doesn’t technically live there).  His meals were nothing but delicious and I hope I learned something from his special mix of vegetables and sauces for salads.  He continues to be updated with current events and still has time to do so much.  He can drink like a fish and he’s extremely entertaining drunk.  I think we had the most random dining room conversations in the past month, and I must say that it has been a pleasure.  I hope he’s learned from me as much as I’ve learned from him.

Maria was actually the first girl I met in Germany from the Berlin trip, and I immediately fell for that cute dimple and friendly nature.  She stayed in our room for coffee and movies while she hung out with Leena, but I had always liked being with her.  I feel like she was at every party and night-out I had been, even if my attendance was random and sparse.  For this to occur, she probably just goes out every night to hope and see me too.  I’m really sorry for not giving her a massage, and I know she probably holds a grudge about it.  I’ll do my best to see her again (as with everyone else) and I promise to maintain my practice so it’s just as good (if not better).  I love our hugs – it’s a great way to say hello.

It’s very difficult to write about Natasha without mentioning any of our inside jokes (which are highly inappropriate).  She stole my attention and time, among many other things, although I’m not complaining.  I felt like these weekend trips with her have been a hazy dream of split bottles of wine in a park, and enduring long walks throughout cities, forests, and mountains.  We switched roles of chef and dish washer for every meal, and I think my creativity and skill in cooking have greatly improved because of it.  I think I will miss her the most – even if you sum all the other things that I’ll miss from this trip in some quantitative ranking – she will still be in the lead.  Alas, I need to wake up from this dream and return to a slightly, less bright reality.

Our apartment just became party central and the main place for a cup of coffee, internet usage, and a few good laughs.  The refrigerators were always filled with beer and cheap champagne, and we’d always get complaints from the cleaning ladies about our large collection of empty plastic/glass bottles.  It was a monthly routine doing this homeless walk to REAL with our clanging bags dripping with month-old beer.  Luckily, the money from recycling helps pay for the next party, which leads to more beer bottles (a vicious, yet amazing cycle).

Sadly, I’ve left that little room.  The super didn’t ask me to paint the walls or buy new furniture, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to go through hoops to get this room approved.  Everything seemed a bit rushed at the end to take care of all the errands, and I wish I had more time to say good-bye.  The truth is: I could have extended this good-bye ceremony for another few months.  In one way, I’m glad to close this chapter – I can finally reread it and smile with appreciation.  I doubt it was well-written, but the stories definitely kept me turning the page.

~See Lemons Miss the Roomies

the homeless cart of empty booze

the homeless cart of empty booze