Friday, May 28, 2021

Happy City

I read a book that I really like! 

The book explains how city layouts make a big impact on our happiness. If you can walk from home within 5 minutes to a grocery store, a restaurant, and a park, you will get to know your neighbors naturally. You'll see each other at the park. Trust will build over time.

If you must drive to all stores and to work, you won't ever know your neighbors. You'll feel isolated and bored.

Many older cities were built before cars existed. They have public plazas because they were designed for citizens who primarily walk or bicycle.

This explains why I felt so happy visiting Puerto Nuriño, a 6000-person town in Colombia that does not allow cars anywhere in town. I loved visiting Santiago, Chile and taking daily bike tours.  The city is safe for cyclists. Copenhagen, Denmark also felt calm and happy.

When I look back at my childhood, I felt happiest living in a town of 60,000 people where I could walk and bike to stores and parks. I felt independent as a 10-year-old. As a teenager, we moved to a million-population city where I had to rely on car rides, and it was more isolating.

I hope to read this book again in 5 years, to keep it in my memory!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

not "C bug"

Me: The Chinese word for "lobster" is "dragon shrimp".

Aff: Oh. Not "sea bug"?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

But where are you REALLY from?

Last year, I got into an argument with an acquaintance L. We were at a bus stop, and he started chatting with a group of young people next to us.

L: Are you visiting, or do you live around here?

Youths: [various chatter]

L: [to one of the young women, who looks Asian] So where are you from?

Woman: New York.

L: Okay, but where are you really from?

Woman: What are you saying? I don't seem like I could be a New Yorker?

L: Where were you born?

Woman: New York.

L: Where are your parents from?

Woman: China.

L: Ohhhh, okay. [turning to me] Hey Niniane, you're also Chinese. You two have that in common.

Me: L, why couldn't you just accept that she's from New York? Why did you have to keep grilling her? 


The woman and other youths caught their bus. L and I argued for another 20 minutes. He was mad that I "ruined" his pleasant conversation with this woman. I was offended that he kept saying she's not really a New Yorker. 

Afterwards, I felt some self-doubt. Maybe it's that not bad of a question. It is a microaggression, but on the grand scale of things, is it so bad?

This week, I mentioned to a friend that although I've lived in the States since I was 5, I didn't think until my mid-30s that it would be accepted if I called myself "an American". I would call myself "Chinese American" or "a Chinese person who grew up in America".

My friend asked why. When I thought about it, I realized it's due to this question. If I say "I'm an American", the reply will be "But where are you really from? Before America?" It happened to me dozens of times, and I learned to just skip the middle steps and jump to what they want to know.

But the result is that I've had trouble feeling accepted as an American, even though all my childhood memories are from America and I've been a US citizen since I was 18 (my entire adult life). 

So, that little question really did have an impact, more than I realized. 

There's no real need to ask this question. I don't see white Americans asking each other, "Where are you really from? Where did your grandparents immigrate from? Ireland? Germany? Italy? How many generations ago?" 

Saturday, April 03, 2021


Me: "Hunter Biden must feel a lot of survivor guilt. Beau Biden did so many selfless things and died, and meanwhile Hunter kept getting addicted to drugs."

Aff: "Think how Major Biden must feel. He can't stop biting people. I know people say he's a good boy and he's just stressed out, but come on!"

Saturday, January 02, 2021

surprise from the UK

Messaging with a UK friend:

Me: What is the mood now in the UK?

Friend: Brexit really is a big mess. Scotland now wants independence, and part of that is to rejoin the EU.

Me: From my distant viewpoint, Scotland's prime minister seems more sensible than Boris Johnson. I was surprised that Boris Johnson got elected.

Friend: Yes, he's a fool. He's also technically American, was born in New York.

Me: I didn't know! That's shocking.

Friend: So he could still become your president one day 😬

Me: Yikes!