Give & Receive

We hear so much about the importance of giving. There’s plenty written about the science of generosity and happiness, with more listicles and pop psychology articles here, here, here, here, and here. You get the point, giving is important.

In acting, I learned the importance of giving and receiving. To make scenes come alive from their scripted unrealities, you had to listen to your fellow actor, to receive their words and intent, in order to give something back and build the dynamics of the scene. And the first thing you learn in improv is “yes, and”, as in “yes” I heard you, “and” here’s my response to that.

When you stop receiving, your scenes don’t make sense, your sketches fall flat, you miss out on the subtle cues that could awaken the words on the page. Giving and receiving are a cycle, and if you disrupt one, you inherently disrupt both. So, I find it interesting that less is written about the importance of receiving.

Why does any of this matter? It doesn’t quite frankly. My tarot card reader just happened to call out that I needed to learn how to receive more, and only then would I be able to give my fullest. One could call this bullshit “juju advice”. But one could also elicit curiosity and try to figure out what meta thing this might mean.

I’ve received a lot these past six months in Asia: exposure to a completely new culture in Cambodia, memories and reflections on Vietnam, and the sights and scenes of a handful of countries. I feel like I’ve been given so much with these adventures and stories of a lifetime.

What else could I be gifted?

thailand-bangkok-air

I planned on visiting the temples of Gyeongju alone, but as fate would have it, I hopped on the same bus at a different stop as a hostel mate. We ended up trekking together, and I had an awesome time. I could have lost out on receiving conversation, observations from a second set of eyes, and the merriment of wandering with a companion. I learned that solitude isn’t always the right choice, and as humans having connection is perfectly normal. The ultra independent lone wolf in me has a hard time accepting this.

gyeongju korea

In Bangkok, another travel buddy brought carelessness and provoked my anger, which nearly ended our friendship. However, as I put aside my emotions, I also recognized the honesty, affection, and childlike lightheartedness that had been given to me during the trip, that I had overlooked and taken for granted. Yet again, I received the lessons of letting go of my anger and finding gratitude that I had previously failed to recognize. It’s easy to miss the seemingly tiny things that make life delightful, like sidewalks or good people.

So with that, I challenge you to receive the gifts that come your way, even if they seem small or shitty. They don’t always come in a box. Accept that breath you just took, the heartbreak you’re mending, the time spent with your family. To receive is to acknowledge the lessons and gratitudes manifested before you. With this comes awareness and strength, which are pretty dope gifts in my opinion.


This is the second of a three-part series. Check out part one. Tune in next week for the last bit of my tarot card reading, word garbage, and basic ass photography.

Let’s Get Lost

My tarot card reader says that I will create my life’s best work somewhere in East Asia. Call it confirmation bias, but I think she’s talking about Seoul.

I’ll preface by saying I spent five months in two developing countries prior to landing in Seoul, so I’m quite biased and jaded from nearly half a year of mosquito bites and shitty infrastructure. Also, I understand the country isn’t without criticism, from its political drama to its mad consumerism and its insane education and work cultures.

That said, I learned a lot from being alone and getting lost in South Korea. Busan, Gyeongju, and Seoul were lovely backdrops to the questions and contemplations in my mind, especially post-motherland. What impact do I want to create? How does Vietnam play into that? Should I have 떡볶이 again for lunch? What are my biggest dreams? How about my fears?

As I wandered, I gained empathy, confidence, and gratitude. I let go of control and surrendered to the journey. I appreciated the freedom to stray and discover, a freedom handed to me simply because I possessed a US passport. I found beauty in the unknown and the pain as I shed tears in the rain. By getting lost, I unearthed more of the world and myself.


Busan

Here, I collected my thoughts and my spirit. Ocean waves, fall leaves, and green forests have a knack for soothing the soul. Many wonderful moments, especially hanging out with 아줌마 Boonda.


Gyeongju

I have mad appreciation for how South Korea has restored and maintained its historical relics. The juxtaposition between old and new is fascinating to me. I hope that Vietnam and Cambodia can experience something like this one day. But also, fall leaves and temples, dude.


Seoul: Lines

Some say that Seoul is architecturally boring. I personally enjoy the streams amongst concrete towers, the lighting that brings life to the city at night, the rich historical buildings embedded throughout, and the safety that blankets you even when you’re alone by the Han River.


Seoul: Details

From Asian Bill Cunningham to n****ships, this city is pretty damn dope.


This is the first of a three-part series. Tune in next week for more of my tarot card reading, word vomit, and amateur photography.

A Vase, A Ukulele, A Dictionary

I leave Vietnam with more than I came with: a vase, a ukelele, and a French-Vietnamese dictionary. They’re all bulky and annoying to carry as I wander South Korea. But I can’t get rid of any of them despite their bothersome nature.

The vase was imparted onto me by my cousin in Saigon as a gift to my mother in LA. I am the courier. Perhaps I should have said no to his request or suggested a smaller, more convenient gift. But at the time, I just couldn’t. He really liked his idea, and I did too, and I think my mom will really like the vase. His gesture felt so sweet, and to reject his request to hand deliver this vase felt wrong. Because, that’s not what families do.

Families carry vases across the globe for you. They take you into their homes as their own and shower you with food, comfort, and love. They sacrifice their time and needs to take care of you and spend time with you. They drive you to the airport on their moto during rush hour traffic because that means they get to spend more time with you before seeing you off, since who knows how long it’ll be before you see each other again. They are your tribe, your ride or dies, your blood. So you carry that vase, even if it means it goes to South Korea, Thailand, and Cambodia before it makes its way to its destination.

The ukulele was purchased on my last day in Vietnam. It’s made of Vietnamese wood with a natural finish. I’m in love with it. My host in Saigon was playing hers, and I wanted one too so that I could play music again. Just like that, I headed towards Guitar Street in Saigon, walked into the shop with the nicest display, and bought one for 40 bucks.

The average monthly income in Vietnam is about $218. I spent over 18% of that on a non-essential in under 45 minutes. What a privilege. In Cambodia, before I had left on my travels, I decided to refuel my dream of making music, this time in Southeast Asia. What a privilege. For the rest of the year, I’ll tinker with beats and strings and microphones. If I fail or get bored, I’ll go back to a corporate job in America. What. A. Privilege.

The last item is the least useful but the most prized. My Vietnamese is average, and my French is terrible, and this French-Vietnamese dictionary serves no purpose in my life. Except, on the edges of the book are the handwritten names of my late father and my grandfather, inked on in 1968 by my then 16-year-old father. On this trip, I learned that my father was fluent in Vietnamese, French and English. He also dabbled in Mandarin, Russian, and Japanese. I could tell by what was left of his book collection that he was really into philosophy and literature. Predictably, he was an excellent student with a lot of potential.

The six years that I knew him didn’t really showcase that though. By that time, his main courses were Budweiser and Marlboro. After he died, no one really talked about him in a nice way. But coming to my grandfather’s house, seeing the hopes and dreams my father left behind on those bookshelves, hearing the stories of his youth from both sides of my family made me realize the tragedy of my father and mother’s sacrifice. They escaped Vietnam for a better life for themselves and their children. But they left behind their tribe, dreams, and familiarity. America provided opportunities only if you could overcome the foreignness. It appears as though my father could not find his path, and so his days ended in melancholy. As it turns out, he wasn’t a bad guy. He was just human, going through a really bad time. This dictionary represents a piece of his dream, and a reminder to continue seeking my dream in order to honor the sacrifices that have gotten me to where I am today.

With every sunset I watch in Seoul, every whim I fulfill on my travels, every choice I make out of privilege, I’m so much more grateful for everything I’ve received. Who knew all it took was a vase, a ukelele, and a French-Vietnamese dictionary to feel a bit more complete.