older / next adventure

I’m leaving on Monday for another month-long adventure in Hong Kong and China. This is my first time doing winter travel with a 22L pack (I did 19L for a month in Southeast Asia in the summer, and 50L for my last trip to Europe and Canada), and also my first time shooting exclusively film for more than a week. I’ll be off of all social media for the duration of my trip, so hit me up on WhatsApp, WeChat, or good old SMS if you want to reach me.

Reading list includes:

  • From the Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra

  • How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

  • 21st Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

  • Very Good Lives by JK Rowling

  • Gweilo by Martin Booth

Will probably toss in a few more things depending on my mood, but I’m excited to just disconnect for a bit, think about life, write, read, and absorb the world around me.

Yay, packing pics:

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moonlight

A beautiful song and some of my favorite pics on Fuji 400H and Portra 400 over the course of my travels this past month. I am constantly falling more in love with the process of film, and will attempt to do a month in Hong Kong/China film-only this upcoming month.

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hot heavy summer

(New Ben Howard song - absolutely in love with this one.)

Sometimes I don’t know if I write because I want to convince myself to feel a certain way, or I’m actually writing about the way I feel. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. 

Tomorrow is Friday, September 14. In two weeks, I will be moving out of Boston. It’s hit me, sort of. I’m counting down the days, but I’m not sure the reality of it has truly set in. 

Boston is the only place I’ve ever lived in as an independent adult. It’s the place I learned to take care of myself and a place that has forced me to grow faster than I ever imagined possible. Each year in Boston has felt like a distinct adventure. I love Boston for it’s size, it’s intellect, it’s autumn colors, and it’s spring breeze. It’s a place that can be painfully beautiful and utterly depressing, sometimes within days of each other. 

I know that I’ll miss it here. Despite all the hate I give it for it’s terrible weather and it’s distance away from most of the people I love, everything else about the city is genuinely lovable.

I’m scared to leave. I’m nervous about living in a place that isn’t so walkable, so small, so safe, so convenient. I’m nervous that I won’t fit in with the culture of Los Angeles anymore, or that I’ll lose some of the values I’ve had instilled in me here (an intense curiosity and desire to learn). I’m scared to leave, but I know that it is the best for me. Boston, despite all that it’s given me, has also been the place I felt the most trapped. When I moved here, I gave up a lot of what I enjoyed and wanted for things that I thought I needed, or things that I thought I should be doing. Moving to Boston, or more specifically MIT, is when I started falling into the traps of peer pressure. It’s the place where I started devaluing myself, and constantly wishing I liked different things. Sometimes, even wishing I was a different person. 

I don’t feel that way anymore, but I’m still living in the aftermath of many decisions I made under the pressure I felt at MIT. I haven’t given myself any opportunity to reconsider myself, what I want out of life, and what I have to give to the world. I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do that now, and I’m taking it. In two weeks, I’m leaving for Ireland, London, Toronto, Jasper, and the Pacific Northwest. I’m taking that time to read, observe, reflect, write, and potentially rediscovering parts of my brain that I have left dormant for the past several years. I’m scared of what my brain will come up with without bounds, but I’m also incredibly excited. 

crazy rich asians, a reflection

A Chinese cover of Yellow from the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack.

I saw “Crazy Rich Asians” a few days ago with my mom, and my family has spent a lot of time talking about this movie, what it means to us, and why we resonated with it so much. I was aware of this book when it came out in 2013, but I had some skepticism about its content, and didn’t really bother exploring what it was about. I thought it had to deal with rich Chinese people from China, which, now living in Orange County, I am all too familiar with.

When I found out that it was being made into a movie, I was excited that an Asian cast would make it to the big screen, but otherwise, didn’t think too much about it. It wasn’t until the trailer came out a few months ago that I realized this was not the type of Asian representation I was expecting. It was significantly more.

To explain my connection to this movie, I have to explain my family’s rather complex immigrant story. My grandparents on my mom’s side met in Fujian Province in China. My grandmother has spoken Fujianhua, or Hokkien, to me since I was a child. Although I don’t speak to any degree of fluency, I can completely understand conversationally. My grandparents were part of the Chinese diaspora to Southeast Asia, residing in Hong Kong and Indonesia. My mom lived in Palembang, in the South Sumatra province of Indonesia (where they faced all sorts of discrimination) until she was 18, and then moved to Hong Kong. She speaks Mandarin, Indonesian, Cantonese, Hokkien, and English - these were the languages I was surrounded with growing up. My dad’s side of the family immigrated to Northern Ireland when he was young, where Chinese people made up less than 0.2% of the population. He grew up there, eventually studying engineering in London, and then moving to the United States to work at JPL. My parents met in California, where my brother and I were born.

I grew up as a Chinese-American, because that’s what I was - I was an ethnically Chinese person who grew up in America, but I always felt different than other Chinese-Americans. I received confusing looks when I entered kindergarten. My English pronunciation was off, but not because I didn’t know how to speak, but rather because I was used to hearing Northern Irish, UK, Hong Kong accents, not American ones. I was put in ESL until I could speak “correctly”. I didn’t understand why “colour” or “favourite” were wrong ways to spell. I listened carefully to how other people said “aunt”, and tried my best to emulate. I attended Chinese school and am still proficient in Mandarin, but felt alienated because Mandarin was not the primary language for anyone in my family. My parents wanted me and my brother to speak Mandarin because it is the most widely spoken, and did not speak any of the other languages with us. Other than when she was talking to me, my mom was always speaking Cantonese, Hokkien, or Indonesian. My grandmother on my dad’s side speaks Cantonese to me, and I answer in Mandarin. My aunts, uncles, and cousins speak to me in English with their unique Irish/Cantonese accents, and I respond in my Americanized English. Throughout my entire life, I have never met another Chinese-American with a background even remotely similar to mine. I’ve mentioned that my family is from Belfast and that I have UK citizenship, and received blank stares or laughs. Most people think that I’m kidding (would that be a funny joke?). I’ve been asked whether I was adopted, or if I’m actually half white and just look full Asian. When I was younger, I would mention foods that I would eat at home, like pempek and gado-gado (Indonesian foods), and get confused when my Chinese friends didn’t know what I was talking about. I had no idea where cultural boundaries lay in my incredibly multicultural home.

Crazy Rich Asians hit almost every component of my cultural identity. The movie is about Asian-Americans, British-Chinese, and Chinese people in Southeast Asia, and I resonated with every single one of those groups. The grandmother, like my grandmother, grew up in mainland China and is more “traditional”. The mom, like my mom, aunts and uncles, carry a distinctly Southeast Asian experience - not quite as Chinese as their parents, but not fully anything else either.  I understood the American jokes, the Cantonese jokes, the Mandarin jokes, and the Hokkien jokes. I resonated with this movie more than I ever reasonably expected to resonate with anything in mainstream media ever, and that feeling is incredible. If there is ever a question as to my representation is important, it is this. I’ve never felt more seen. 

kina grannis, montreal film shots, fujifilm 16mm f/1.4

I just returned from my fourth Kina Grannis concert, which inevitably means I am filled with all of the emotions. It’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed. I can’t count how many times I have listened to Stairwells, or how many associated memories I have with her music in general. I listened to Stay Just a Little on repeat when one of my best friends was moving away at the end of middle school, and even made a little video to that song to record our last hangout together (at the time). The Goldfish Song reminds me of weekly drives to piano lessons in Arcadia. There are so many little memories wrapped up in each of her songs, and I feel like her concert is just one giant time capsule.

This one - History - s one of my favorites off her new album, although there are many gems in that one. My favorite thing about Kina is that she always forces me to think about living in the moment, about gratitude, about what a privilege it is to be alive.

Feeling very grateful, very lost, but very okay tonight.


Here is a quick grid from Montreal. First time shooting the Leica M2 and the 7Artisans 35mm f/2, and I'm really happy with the results. Using the camera, as expected, is much less point and shooty than I'm used to with the old Contax or the Olympus XA4, but I really enjoyed the mindfulness and I'm looking forward to shooting the next roll with it. 

And here is much more lo-fi grid from the Olympus XA4, from Colorado and various daily shots around Boston and Cambridge. I realize after shooting the Leica how distinctive the XA4 shots are. 

I'm really loving the film rhythm that I've gotten back into, but I've also been shooting more digital! I recently got a 16mm (24mm eq) on the Fujifilm, and it's been real fun to shoot with. Here are some NYC shots.