Monday, December 29, 2008

A Chilean Summer (Won't the sun go down, please?)

The first three days in Santiago, Chile have been a delightful whirlwind. The weather has been nice (mid-80s, low humidity) and the long hours of sunlight (6 am to 9 pm) have expanded our window for sightseeing.

My first days in Santiago have been pretty relaxed. Marisa had the foresight to keep the pace of our trip slow at the start. I appreciate the ability to get over the jet lag and to acclimate myself to S. America.

The people here in Santiago have been very nice. Everyone has been both welcoming and patient (with my poor Spanish skills). Yesterday, we had attended services at Marisa's church and everyone was quite kind and welcomed me as if I was one of their own. Marisa's host mother, Ines, has also been gracious with her hospitality and has taken great care of Marisa over the year.

I'll keep this blog post short because I've already been on the Internet long enough. We'll probably have some photos to share soon. Here's a short list of the highlights:

- Belly Dancing performance and "Arabe" food

- Tour and tasting at one of Chile's oldest wineries

- Chilean bus drivers who consistent drive like Keanu Reeves in 'Speed'
- Updating Facebook and watching a bowl game far away from home

- The 'completo' that we had for lunch today

Tomorrow, we're off to beautiful Valparaiso where we'll be celebrating the new year. It is 8pm and the sun still fills the sky. Things could be worse. :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Year in review

This year was definitely one that was filled with great moments and its challenges. Being "alone" for most of the year was tough but has made spending time with Marisa in S. America even more special.

Here's a quick recap on some important events from 2008.

Jan - Celebrated the New Year with champagne, paper cups, at Pier 39 (where are the crowds?)
Feb - Bid Marisa farewell over board games and shots (thanks, Al)
Mar - Went to Shanghai - did my best to play Liar Dice when drunk
Apr - Helped launch a "viral" video (thanks for your contributions) / Hung out with Kaba Modern and other famous Asians @ the Asian Excellence Awards
May - Started my weekly drives to Mountain View for basketball (at the height of gas prices)
Jun - Enjoyed a (perfect day) at the Cal Football Fantasy Camp - (who is up to do it next year?)
Jul - Started to say goodbye to some important elders
Aug - Got back into volunteering and co-emceed another wedding (time to retire)
Sep - Actually won a contest... with a really cool prize - a Crunch gym membership
Oct - Attended an outlandishly posh wedding at Yang Sing
Nov - Went on a cruise with my extended family
Dec - Crossed off another continent from my to-do list, explored Chile with Marisa

Thursday, December 25, 2008

off to South America...

So I'm off to South America (Chile and Argentina) tomorrow. I'll be gone for a couple of weeks and will be reuniting with Marisa, who has been in Chile since February. It promises to be the vacation of a lifetime! Feel free to send me an email or leave a comment!

This is the spot to watch for updates from our travels.

I had been counting down the days with limited success. My Twitter stopped updating Facebook and I'm sure a lot of Facebookers were annoyed by the updates. Here's a recap of the countdown list if you missed them...

feels ridiculous when he stands on the scale and lifts up his luggage (#1)
got a travel towel and some dry-fit shirts on sale at REI (#2)
collected some travel around money from the bank (#3)
got some orders for postcards (#4)
cleared out his wallet of non-essentials (#5)
is proud to carry a Liz Claiborne suitcase (#6)
got some toffee to bring to S. America (#7)
checked the forecast for Santiago and Argentina (#8)
got a super heavy dictionary from (#9)
is packing his desk (#11) and working on his endurance (#10)
is reading about Pinochet (#13) and finding people to cover my work when I'm gone (#12)
has a trip shopping list - jello, CDs and bottles? (#14).
is taking orders for Argentine beef (#16) and longing to hold marisa (#15)
needs some guidebooks (#18) and needs to figure out how to watch a slingbox from S. America (#17)
is looking over his itinerary (#19)
needs to pick out his "summer hiking wardrobe" (#20)
thinks he might have access to a HD camcorder (#21)
is breaking in his new hiking shoes (#22)
updated his credit card company on his travel plans (#23)
has time to read his guidebooks (#24)

is starting his 25 days of terrific twitter (facebook) updates

Cities in our journey:
Santiago, Chile
Valparaiso, Chile
Coyhaique, Chile
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Ushuaia, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Santiago, Chile

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gran Torino (are the Hmong ready for the spotlight?)

This week I had a chance to see the new Clint Eastwood film, Gran Torino. Despite his place as an American film icon-- Eastwood has received criticism from the Asian American community-- most prominently for the use of term "Chinaman" in Absolute Power.

When I saw the trailer for GT, I was curious to see how Eastwood (who also directed the picture) would portray the Hmong community central to the film. I came away from the screening moderately disappointed. Eastwood is strong as in his role as a Korean War vet tormented by his past and unimpressed by his present. Recently widowed with a spoiled batch of kids and grandchildren, Walt lives in a Detroit neighborhood that has seen better days.

Detroit's automotive jobs are gone and the neighborhood is now a ghetto -- with a growing Hmong population. The movie follows Walt’s relationship with his new neighbors after the a local gang begins to pick on his new neighbor, Thao. The two lead Hmong characters, played by newcomers Bee Vang and Ahney Her do a fine job but Eastwood doesn't really spend any time on the plight of his Hmong neighbors.

The portrait of the Hmong is instead done with short, broad strokes -- they eat exotic foods, hardly speak English, and in the case of Thao (who Walt begins to call Toad) they can't find a job or get a life. I really hoped for a depiction that would help shed light on a community that has been underrepresented in Asian American and American media.

Critics will laud Eastwood for his performance and for his storytelling. I only wish he had given more depth to the Hmong Americans.