Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big night tonight

Trying to get a lot of stuff done before possibly flying out on Saturday (still haven't heard whether I'm staying or going yet.)

I've already gotten quite a few errands done tonight. Now I've got to get my taxes finished.

As always, my emotions betray me. When I need to get something technical done, my heart goes the other way. There needs to be some kind of on/off switch for this kind of thing.

I'm playing WSQX in the background. I'm hoping that will do the trick.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yippy Kai Yay

What else needs to be said?

Alban: Faren, take me home to Woodstock.
Motorcycle: VROOM VROOM!!

For posterity

I came to two revelations today.

The first one was actually a repeating theme over the last couple months: The idiots are winning. Due to sheer numbers, they are winning and will continue to win. It's not quite the positive revelation that I would like to remember, but it was funny enough to write down and hopefully laugh about in the future. I know one day, I will look back on this and realize how hard I am today towards other people and how I will have grown to be softer in the future. The general trend is pointing that way, so I am fairly comfortable assuming that I will eat those words in the not so far distant future.

The second is not really a true revelation either, but also worth noting. I am looking for peers in the wrong age group. I should be looking within people much, much younger. Peers of the heart. Unbridled enthusiasm; an enjoyment of life unconstrained by social norms. Children are my heart's peer.

I had an amazing time reuniting with Todd and his kids tonight. From giving lessons on riding motorcycles, to giving lessons on breakdancing, and receiving lessons on karate (and spanish!), mingled with lots of hugs and flinging and hanging upside down, it was a heartfilling night.

Humorous moment of the night

Todd and his oldest daughter S, who is turning 15 this year, and I were talking about preparing for driving next year. More importantly, we were talking about getting her a helmet and a leather jacket so she can go riding on the back of a bike with us this year. As we were giving her tips on being a passenger, I let her onto my bike and showed her the controls and what they all were. As she was sitting on my bike, I slid the keys in.

Alban: Do you want to hear what it really sounds like?
Todd: Danger!
S: Sure!

We talk her through how to flip the switches and hit the right buttons while making sure she stays in neutral and the back tire never touches the ground.

Finally, the moment of truth.

S: [takes a deep breath, and presses the ignition.]

VROOM! The bike starts right up.

Todd [sniffles]

Alban: Awww... Todd! It's ok! She's still got another year left. She isn't growing up too fast!
S: Yeah dad... it's ok.
Todd: No... [sniffles again] It's not that. She presses one button on your bike and it starts right up. I have to wrestle and twist and fight with mine to even get a sound out of it.
Alban: Um... yes. We will get your bike up and running again so you can ride too...

Sentimental moment of the night

After a long night of lessons and dancing and flinging and wrestling, M, the youngest and the most tomboyish of Todd's daughters is snuggled up to me on the couch.

We have a rich history of her refusing to give me hugs, calling me names and taunting me, and pretending to give me a high five, only to pull away and say "sucker!" at the last minute. The significance of this moment was not lost upon me. More importantly, neither was the next.

M: Do you want to have kids one day?
Alban: Yes. And I hope I have one just like you.

We stayed there on the couch watching the other kids wrestle and play for the next 10 minutes.

Precious moments. I hope these moments will stay with them for as long as they will stay with me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Making the best of what I've got

March 13: slept.
March 14: slept and processed and slept some more.
March 15: slept, worked, reconnected, and began making future plans/acting on them.
March 16: got my motorcycle out of storage and began prepping for riding season. Caught up with a good friend and had an amazing (unplanned) 2 hour dinner. Ordered turbotax.
March 17: went to LW, cried my eyes out, then cried some more while praying for group members. Then received some really great news about the work God has been doing.

Habitual productivity and the realistic concern of getting sent back out soon has pushed me to be even more productive than usual. I am ok with this. At least, for the time being, I am being productive for me and the people around me.

Looking forward to the days ahead. There is a lot to do. But I have the confidence that a lot will get done.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When coming home doesn't feel like coming home

I went back into work today and saw my desk calendar was still on December 3, 2009. It was the last day I was at my desk before the trips to Denver began. I came back for a two week period for Christmas, and then went off again. I came back again for another two week break, and I have been gone ever since. I have effectively been gone since early December, which makes this the longest stretch I have ever been away from Binghamton since I had summer breaks in college. What a world of difference it was to come back on Saturday.

I did not intentionally drive through the run down part of town when I came home from the airport. It was one of many familiar routes I could have chosen. This one avoided the highway. But it also caused me to see the great contrast between the growing metropolis in Denver and the dying town in Binghamton. It was downright depressing. I mourned as I drove through, although I didn't know why I was feeling it at the time. I had intended to drive straight to my friends' place to attend the planned festivities. Instead, I drove straight home. I wasn't able to be around people in that moment.

For the rest of the evening and for most of Sunday, I stayed in that state of mourning. I had invitations to see good friends, but I wasn't ready yet. I had shut down such a significant part of myself while I was away that the sudden realization of what I had lost was overwhelming. I am still trying to process that now.

Working the hours I did was not a problem. I found that my experience working long hours between my job and church well prepared me for going the distance in Colorado. However, what I was not prepared for was being cut off from I live for. The others guys I worked with found what they have always been (superficially) looking for in alcohol, strip clubs, and fancy restaurants. For them, it was an upgrade in life, even though they had to pay for it with uncommonly long hours. However, I don't live for those things. I live for community, for building each other up, and for doing the work of God.

Although I was able to do many of those things, being away from church and people who would normally invest in me was much harder than I had anticipated. I had to be "on" almost all the time. I led when there was no one else to lead the way. I gave much more than I received. And I gave constantly. I'm grateful that I was able to minister and serve others, especially unexpectedly through my job, but I have a limit to how long I can be firm and yet stay soft. In the end, I poured hot wax over my wounds. I hardened my heart to my own needs and remained soft to the needs of others. When I drove through those run down streets of Binghamton, I couldn't convince myself to see my friends and be real with them. Festivities are not a time to ask for healing tears.

And so I drove through those dying streets of a dying town that I had trouble recognizing. A town I have been so much a part of for so long, but now wonder what my place, if any, is in it. I know it like the back of my hand but now I see it with new eyes. Eyes that cause to me to ask, shall I stay or shall I go?

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I walked up to the observation deck, wondering what there was to see. The conveyor for baggage claim was broken, so I knew there would be a few minutes to spare. As I entered the darkened room, I was surprised to see someone else already there. He stood off to the side, looking out the window. As I approached, I saw that there was a small plane beginning to pull away from the building.

I walked up to the window, keeping a respectful distance. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him lean forward and rest his forehead against the glass. He thought better and quickly leaned back. He continued to stare outwards. I did the same.

The plane quickly went behind the building and drove out of sight. We continued to watch anyways, waiting for it to come out onto the runway and take off.

A sense of loss permeated the room.

Minutes passed. Silence stood between us as the rain whipped against the window in the darkness. The light from the lighthouse rhythmically struck the sky.

Twice, he gave up and started to walk away.

Twice, he saw me standing there looking out that window, and turned back to wait it out a little longer.

Out of a sense of duty, I stayed there with him.

Finally, we heard a great roar, and the plane shot into the air in front of us. He pressed his right hand against the glass as the plane hurtled away into the western sky.

A breath.

He turned and limped away before the flashing lights disappeared into the night.

Below me, I heard the conveyor start to move and luggage drop onto the rotating belt. It was time to go home.

I just walked in the door. It is alien. Unfamiliar. And unsettling.

I don't like this feeling.

Ending on a high note

I didn't overstress on my last day here. In fact, I don't think I stressed much at all. There were a couple of points during the day where I was upset at the way my antagonist was treating me and some of my other coworkers, but I am accepting that it has nothing to do with me. It is totally her. She has no call to be rude in the way that she has been. I let myself off the hook; I am no longer trying to figure out what I did wrong; It was her all along.

I received a lot of hugs and handshakes as the day began to end. I actually started receiving them yesterday, because not everyone was coming in today. Phone numbers, email, and even mailing addresses were exchanged. It can't get much more validating than having so many people personally seek me out and ask to stay in touch. One lady even gave me her family's secret recipe for a favorite dish.

I will never tell a soul.

It's amazing what a difference two weeks make. If I had left as scheduled when I was supposed to, this would have been a catastrophe. My acting manager would have had to come in and try to pick up from where I left off. Undoubtedly, and this is not a strike against him, it would have gotten worse if he had tried to do so. But instead, I was able to give my manager a tour of the facility and its operations today and show him how well things were going. In fact, today was the best day we have ever run. People clapped at the ring of the closing bell when they saw how much we had accomplished.

Peace. Satisfaction. And again, peace, especially of mind. Don't get me wrong, things are still pretty bad out here. We will be scrambling and busting our butts for months to come. But I can leave here knowing that I have brought order to chaos in the area of my responsibility, and I have left things significantly better than they were before I came.


If this had just been about work, I don't think I would really care. What makes this so different is that I was able to touch lives. I lived a good testimony. I preached the gospel (to some extent) with my actions. Praise God for that. The difficulty and sacrifice was well worth it. Praise God.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung my flaming tongues above

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Loyal to a fault

I've had a lot of things to be unhappy about recently. And I've been trying not to let them get me down. But losing a "friend" is a little unsettling. I respect and admire that we asians tend to be loyal and we stick together with the people we love. But somewhere along the way, I learned a revolutionary (to me) thought; do not take up someone else's offenses.

I used to think that the right thing to do was to hate the person my friend hates, even if that third person was also my friend. I had to stick up for the ones I love. But I have come to decide that this wasn't for me anymore. If I have beef with someone because of a conflict that doesn't involve me, I need to clear the air and settle it. Escalating the conflict didn't resolve anything. It just meant I lost a friend without making an attempt at reconciliation.

And so, I find myself in a position where one person has beef with me, and has turned another friend against me. Granted, their friendship with each other goes back a lot further than my friendship with either of them. I only met them when I came to Colorado. But if I'm here to help you, and to work with you, you need to be able to work with me too. At the very least, be professional. The cold shoulder, the ignoring my presence, etc. is very childish. You're older than me. You're supposed to be a senior representative of your company. Act like it.

I'm frustrated because I need to work with these people. I'm frustrated because I've worked my ass off to win over their respect and trust, and I lose it overnight because of overzealous asian loyalty. And I'm frustrated because I don't like to lose friends.

Everyone else went out to lunch. I needed a moment to hang back and recoup. I still have a job to do, and I'm not going to let petty personal things get in the way.

Before you cross the street, take my hand

I received an unusual complaint tonight. I was told that I was working too hard and that I needed to take it down a notch. It's not that other people are necessarily slacking off and I was making them look bad. Rather, it's because they somehow feel that I am learning too much about their area of expertise and I have become the customer's go-to-person for problems related to their field. I have been asked to stick to my own area of work and to stop solving their problems, regardless of how much help I am providing.

I'm not quite sure what to do with this information.

Watched half of Mr. Holland's Opus last night, and the second half tonight. The conflicting emotions of joy, sadness, inspiration and loss are confusing. I guess all of that comes with the territory when reminiscing and wondering.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Give and take

I find myself at a familiar crossroads.

It was probably 8 years ago when I asked an old sage a difficult question; How do I do both X and Y when both will demand my full heart and full commitment. The old sage answered, "just learn to say no." I wrestled with this answer for months, if not years. And after all this time, I still have not been able to reconcile her answer. In fact, I am even willing to go so far as say that she is wrong. That she didn't really understand my question. And that she wasn't really a sage at all. I don't think she was ever faced with the divide that I felt and still feel now. While it is true I was overcommitted to many things at the time, she never understood the heart of my question. She could not comprehend that one dream would have to be compromised in order to fulfill the other.

I cannot have my cake and eat it too.

If there is anyone who can tell me not only that it is possible, but how it can be possible, I will be all ears. But I will not stand for false dreams. Show me that it can be done. Or else keep your mouth shut. I will not chase the Holy Grail that represents the complete fulfillment of my heart; I do not think it will be accomplished in this lifetime here on earth. Heaven waits on the other side; I am unconvinced it can be achieved here on earth.

So for now, I am faced with the same question I have been asking myself for quite some time now. Am I living to attain or am I living to give away? Actually, I think I have already answered this in my heart a long time ago. So the real question is, to what am I giving myself to? I have been waiting for open doors and I am confused by the silence.

Perhaps my mistake was in the waiting. I am wondering if now is the time to ask, seek and knock.

Forget the wondering. I've become emboldened to knock.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Things to be thankful for

Driving to work and finally seeing the sun rise again. (Which is ironic, because before this trip, I never got up before the sunrise.)

Having a 3 minute conversation with a manager who cares after being driven crazy for four days by a manager who doesn't.

Waking up to a really nice voicemail from a really fine lady.

Getting hand me downs from the people who get to go home.

Wearing a pink shirt and getting compliments on it (amongst other comments).

Turning around a customer who had been upset, skeptical, and frustrated for weeks.

Feeling the sun on my face and getting to wear a new pair of sunglasses.

Seeing and hearing motorcycles on the road.

Feeling the love from several customers after having been made an emotional punching bag for days.

Having a character flaw gently pointed out to me, and realizing what I need to work on to become a better person.

Starting to wean people off of me and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.


Getting a phone call from my small group at the end of small group, and getting a chance to pray together.

Crying with my small group during said prayer.

Watching the end of Monster's Inc. and remembering how much children love to share what they love with the people they love.

Falling asleep at the end of a long day.

Remembering that I'm not alone, that I don't have to do it all, and that there are people who love me, care for me, and want the best for me.

A God who gifts me with all these things.