ALOHA, San Francisco!!!

I spent this past weekend in the beautiful San Francisco Bay area. I took the West Coast by storm with two prime missions: 1) to finally visit California and 2) to attend a medical conference. Not too shabby, mixing health education with Californication =D

First up, let me explain my position. I am one of the co-presidents of the SB Med chapter of APAMSA (Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association). Making my Asian ancestors proud and myself more knowledgeable about the real world, I assumed an active leadership role to represent the community and become more involved in national causes. I have found my niche, a place I belong and feel welcomed and for issues I am passionate about. For example, take last year when I was a lowly MS I. I attended the APAMSA Regional Northeast Conference at Mount Sinai, New York. I also whipped my body into graceful shape by dancing to Bollywood and Step. First time ever 1) taking a proactive position and organizing and 2) dancing =)

So what did I do in sunny California?! To begin, I took a really early flight from JFK, New York at 7:30 am. Count back a few hours, and that was when I had to wake up before the birds did and get my butt to the airport. It was tiring, but I had San Francisco fun to look forward to. At the airport, I ate my breakfast, which was more a brown bag lunch of a banana and hummus/goat cheese/turkey sandwich. Tired as I was, I checked through security and sat in the waiting area. Barely 10 minutes of reading my First Aid USMLE, I got up, giving up to my caffeine temptation. I justified my caffeine purchase because I could not sit still and focus and the warm aroma penetrated my olfactory cells too easily. I got myself a chai tea latte, my newest addiction. Hot, sweet, and invigorating, the chai tea latte made me one happy girl, all ready for a weekend at San Francisco!

I flew aboard Virgin America. The plane ride was not eventful itself, but it was super comfortable. Lucky for me, I had a whole row, 3 leather seats, all to myself. Never before had I so much space and peace to sleep on an airplane! I flopped down and slept for a good few hours before waking up to study. Yes, I studied neurology because I still had an impending quiz due by Monday. Woo hoo, nerdy me… However, that wasn’t all I did. I thought Wi-Fi was complementary on the flight, so I worked hard for a few hours before looking forward to a rewarding dose of Grey’s Anatomy. Haha, not so nice, Virgin America. You had to pay a whopping $15 for in-flight Internet. Lesson learned: Nothing fun comes for free. Instead, I still had some browsers open on my computer, so I finished jotting down and reliving memorable quotes from the most recent Taiwanese dramas I watched.

Approaching San Francisco, I looked out the window. It was almost landing time and the scene below was breathtaking. There were rugged hills and valleys, streams of running water, and wisps of clouds. It was like looking down on a topographic map of California and actually seeing the convoluted and mountainous Sierra Nevada meander down the state’s midline. For a while, it was pure nature at its best. Then came San Francisco Bay. Such beautiful sights to see.

I landed earlier than planned, at 11:00 am. The first thing I did was call my sister; it was a rather unique moment to be in the same time zone again. No more counting back three hours and no more chatting over slurred speech and sleepy eyes. Finally, I get to experience the Western time, and honestly, time seemed to have slowed and passed by more peacefully =) Maybe it was simply because of the three hour difference, but for me, I felt like I had all the time in the world.

Next thing I did was call my cousin Jack. We haven’t talked since forever. Seriously, forever. I have had minimal contact with any of my family members in the states. To meet my much older long-lost cousin after a decade-long gap did feel awkward. What would I say? What would he look like? What would he think of me?! Our families have not been on the best of terms; it was only natural for me to feel nervous and unsure of how our relationship would unfold… He did offer to pick me up from the airport and save me an expensive taxi ride. He did seem interested in spending at least one day with me in San Francisco. How bad would our relationship really be?

I met him at the airport. He was with his friend Franco. I chatted with both of them in the car, simply catching up on our distant lives, how beautiful San Francisco is, and my plans for the weekend. The drive downtown took 20 minutes. They dropped me off at my hotel. I was looking to spend part of my afternoon with them, but unfortunately they were busy for the day. I promised I’d call to meet up after my conference or something. The encounter was not as awkward as I had anticipated. Before going into my hotel, Jack gave me a hug. 10+ years of nonexistent family ties was made up with one hug and handshake =)

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