Tag Archive | San Francisco

Good-bye California

Sunday, November 6, 2011: Last Day in California

Goodbye San Francisco, Part 1

I woke up early at about 7:30 am, rolled about in bed for another hour, walked downstairs to grab a scanty breakfast of blueberry muffin and buttered toast, and showered. I got a text message from my Kansas friend really early in the morning: “I just spent a grand tonight. Where the hell were y’all?!” Oops, my friends and I kind of left before entering, intimidated by the line of flashy party animals. We totally had the intention of going into the Cellar because it was certainly going to be a blast… Yeah, I was a bit bummed we didn’t end up at least checking it out before going to Atmosphere, since it was close by Union Square on Sutter… As I thought, we missed out on a fun and crazy night…

He and his friend were planning on Dim Sum in Chinatown and invited me and my friend(s). My friend Jing with me planned to go home to hang out with old buddies before heading back to New York. Virginia went home and Eric ran into a bit of an unfortunate problem late last night.  I had a whole morning free before meeting with my cousin. Plus, I was unsatisfied after a cheap, measly breakfast; I was totally in the mood to explore the biggest Chinatown in America and eat Dim Sum!

I packed up my stuff, bid farewell to my friend, and walked out to a beautiful morning. I met up with my Kansas friend at his hotel, and together with his old pal, we trolled off to Chinatown. At the Dim Sum place, we chatted, drank chrysanthemum tea, and ate a slew of pretty decent Chinese food: shrimp dumplings, shumai, fried dumplings, egg custard buns, fried tofu, crispy pork buns, etc…

My happy fortune cookie told me: An unexpected event will soon make your life more exciting… I’m still leaving that open for interpretation.

After a Dim Sum breakfast, we took a walk through Chinatown, not too much different from the one in Manhattan. There were plenty of souvenir shops, decorative lanterns, bakeries and restaurants. I was looking at scarves for the winter. I was also lured into a cute shop with cuddly stuffed animals and handy stationary, a very Asian store that played Asian music. I browsed around for cute cartoon key chains for decorating my backpack. My friend found these Pikachu slippers, except his feet were too big. We wandered up and down Grant Ave, Chinatown to find a bakery shop, so he can pick up some delicious pork buns back home to Kansas.  On Yelp, the #1 hit was Golden Gate Bakery. We walked there to find out that it was closed! That was the famous Chinese bakery with such good food and drinks and business that the shop can afford to take vacations. Why a vacation now?! We turned back around to the next closest shop on my Yelp list: Eastern Bakery. Inside, it was nothing spectacular, not as nice as my favorite Taipan Bakery in New York. A pigeon even flew in and back out. Makes me wonder about health and food inspection in Chinatown San Francisco…We passed Ten Ren tea shop for bubble tea unfortunately. We continued looping around back to Union Square. By then, it was past noon time. My friend finished packing, who, for God’s sake, had more baggage than a girl (I came with a laptop bag economically packed with my laptop, First Aid, clothing, and essentials). We all left and proceeded to the Bart Station on Market Street, right by Parc 55 where I had to meet my cousin. We parted ways and bid farewell.

Goodbye San Francisco, Part 2

I met my cousin at 2pm outside Parc 55. We had not seen or spoken to each other for over 10 years, if not more, since I barely interacted with any of my cousins. Most of my cousins are a good decade older than I am. Anyway, it was both exciting and awkward to see him again. Our parents aren’t exactly the best of friends, so an impression has been made on the younger generation. As we took the bus to Fisherman’s Wharf, we talked. I was animated, engaging, and talkative (NOT from the effects of alcohol last night), but he was more taciturn. It was hard getting him to talk more and be more excited. That’s just his personality.

Nevertheless, I was happy he came out to spend the day with me. I was sure he could have been more busy with things, but he made time for me. He saw me carrying a lot of things (I’m a medical student, what more can you expect?). In one hand I had First Aid, in the other I had a box of cream puffs I got from Beard Papa’s. I got it for him and his friend from the other day as a token of my appreciation. I stopped by Westfield Mall right before meeting up with him to pick up a box of Beard Papa’s. I’m going to make sure I get some of those again next time I visit San Francisco!

Up by the Bay area, we went to the Ferry Terminal first. Out on the windy deck, I saw the Bay Bridge and of course, the Bay. Inside the Ferry Terminal, there were many shops. At this olive oil store, I dipped bread in different flavored olive oil! There were flavors ranging from citrus to fruity to spicy! Other shops specialized in gourmet coffee, cheese, bread, desserts, sandwiches, etc… Dim Sum still kept me full, so I was not too tempted.

The Bay

Next, we took a CABLE CAR (finally!) straight to Pier 39. I was finally experiencing the cable car, a much better experience than NYC subways! I was glad to put my stuff down, because I was lugging around my computer, First Aid, and clothing in my bag. And it was taking a heavy toll on my shoulder. Next time, I really need to get a rolling luggage, if my mom lets me… On that cable car ride, we passed down all the piers. At Pier 39, we got off and walked around. Many tourists wandered around the shops and eateries there. With plenty of seafood and all, Pier 39 was the place to be. It was cold and windy by the decks, but I got some beautiful pictures of the Bay, Alcatraz, and even sea lions!


Good at being lazy and basking. There was some intense 'honking' and fighting I presume later on...

Fisherman’s Wharf: There was plenty of street side entertainment, seafood restaurants, In n’ Out burger, and Boudin Sourbread and Bakery. One funny story with the street side entertainers, there was one guy known as the Bush Man who hides and lurks on the sidewalk. When you least suspect it, he jumps out and scares the hell out of you. Out of me! I saw this guy crouching behind a makeshift bush in his hand, but still, he surprised me!

Boudin: Alligator Bread

Boudin: Reptilian Art

Aquatic Park and Ghirardelli Square!

Absolutely and stunningly beautiful in this area. And when you come to San Francisco, you have to indulge on fatty ice cream, even if you’re a fit and health-conscious future physician like me! You have to eat at the original Ghirardelli shop, where it all started! I ordered a Warm Caramel Sundae with everything: whip cream, syrup, cherry, whole fat ice cream. Oh so HEAVENLY! I did not want something too chocolate-y and when I said this to the cashier, he looked at me like, what?! huh?! It was almost like he wanted to say, “You don’t like chocolate? And you’re at Ghirardelli!” I cannot say I hate chocolate, I am more of a vanilla-type of girl. Nevertheless, it was a filling cup of ice cream and I made my cousin help me finish it. Oh so sweet and satisfying!

Aquatic Park

Ghirardelli Square - The Fountain


Victorian Houses

Golden Gate Bridge:  My cousin Jack’s friend Franco finally came. He also has a bad sense of directions, so he gets lost easily. He eventually found us at Ghirardelli after a bit of wandering and scrambling. Now that there was a car, I could relieve my flat feet and crippled shoulders! From the Fisherman’s Wharf, we drove off to Golden Gate Bridge, another must-see place in San Francisco. It was already nearing sunset. The Golden Gate Bridge is very gorgeous either on a very sunny afternoon or at night, when it lights up like uranium. Around the Bay area was very cold, like frigid! I was shivering to my bones! Nonetheless, the view of the Bay and the famous bridge was spectacular and refreshing.

In the car ride

Franco, one hell of a chatty guy lol!

Cousin and me


There were names and arrows on the rock barrier, pointing to landmarks across from where you stand... Pretty genius!

Muir Woods: We trekked on towards the woods. The drive never felt more sinuous and dangerous. Roads were narrow up the steep ‘mountains.’ There were sharp turns and edges that made me feel uneasy. But I trusted my cousin who has driven many times to Muir Woods for meditation. By the time we got up there, it was 5pm and getting dark. I mean, even in daylight, I think the woods are still dark because of the giant Redwoods. It was cold and dark, eerily silent and creepy. It was so dark that I failed to take halfway decent pictures of the park. However, it was still a good feeling to be somewhere quiet and natural, away from the hubbub of the city life. I like to balance my inner city girl with the natural world, and Muir Woods was a nice closing to my time in San Francisco. We walked up the paths, but not too far because the park technically closed. Going further would just be more darkness and silence.

Sorry, no marvelous, award-winning photographs here...


Lifetime of a wizened Redwood

On the way back, I was drained. I fell asleep in the car. I woke up and we were close to the airport. I was confused, like “Hey, I thought we were having dinner… why am I at the airport already?” Then I realized we were heading into Burlingame. There we were going to eat at Kabul, a delicious Afghan restaurant. The lamb and chicken dishes with rice were wonderful. It was a grand dinner that topped off my weekend of cuisines and excursions =)

I parted ways with my cousin and his friends at the airport. It was a pleasure meeting and hanging out with them. I bid my farewell and hoped to come back again. I wanted to stay back in California; I loved it that much. Unfortunately, I had to snap back to reality. I had to go back to medical school and studying. I had to catch up on Neurology, never mind the quiz due Monday afternoon. I got no studying done the entire weekend (as expected), so I had a solid 6 hours aboard my flight to catch up on studying (if I stay awake).

I should add a third casualty from my time in San Francisco: my calves. That’s my brains, abs, and calves, all took a hit. My calves got sore from all the hill-climbing and walking! San Francisco is all hills and valleys. Kudos to all the cars parked on a hill. You can even get a ticket for not turning your wheels out! I can imagine after a major snowstorm (if it ever snows like Alaska), people go skiing on the streets…

Needless to say, catching a red-eye flight back to New York was not a good idea. At the airport, I Skyped with my sister and tried to study Neuro. Except, my eyes were half-closing and sore; I was absolutely fatigued. I was slurring my speech and shutting my eyes. My head was hurting. My body was sore. I was dead tired. My flight back to New York was delayed 30 minutes, which pissed me off because I wanted to sit in a comfortable chair and sleep! Clearly, no studying was going to be done!

Oh gosh, to add to my misery, this black woman next to me was fussy. She was weird from the moment I saw her on the line, with 5 bags. I was lucky to have her sit next to me. She was dead tired too, but she was bitching and complaining about it. In my head I was thinking, “Oh gosh, why now? why here?!” I was planning to open my book to read or lay back to sleep. But with this woman fidgeting and yapping to the flight attendant, I was losing my patience. She called over a flight attendant because her seat would not recline. She wanted to be lazy and comfortable. Because we were in the fire escape area, the seats could not recline. Then she said, “What?! I can’t recline? Well, can I change my seats to First Class? I’ll pay extra, I promise.” A few minutes, the flight attendant came back and said all the First Class seats were full. The woman said, “Well, can I change my flight? I’ll pay for the fees and all… Could you check for me?” Well, it was either she get off the flight and get connected at the desk or she stays. The flight attendants were not going to go check for her, while the entire flight gets delayed, just for one lazy woman. The flight attendant came back and said, “I’m sorry ma’am, we are all booked. If you would like to change flights, we can do that for you. You can just come off the plane and we can arrange something.” The woman, “Well could you just check for me and let me know?” Again, not at the expense of all the passengers! All this time, the conversation was flying over my head. I had no privacy or space. When the flight attendant walked off, the woman next to me started mumbling “Ignorant! Ignorant…” Seriously, how rude was THAT?! She turned to the man next to her and asked “Am I being unreasonable?” The guy, speechless, responded, “Well, you can’t really blame her. She’s only doing her job…” In the meantime, this woman was putting her stuff in the seat behind to stake a reclining one. Then, another attendant who looked more like a security officer said to the woman, “Please come with me ma’am… we’ll change you over to another flight… just grab your things and come with me…” Good, I was happy she was getting kicked off the plane. I don’t have to deal with her kicking legs and fidgeting and bitching… I wanted my peace and quiet.

Needless to say, I slept the entire flight in the awkward seated position. I got off at JFK and went straight to school. I was the epitome of a red-eyed traveler. I took my quiz with a sore neck and dizzy brain. I went to afternoon class, half-snoozing and half-confused. I was not in medical school mode at all. Still apparently on California time. Never do that again… ever…


2011 APAMSA Hepatitis B Conference

Saturday, November 5, 2011: National APAMSA Hepatitis B Conference at the Westin San Francisco Market St

Here was the business side of my California trip. As the president of Stony Brook’s chapter of APAMSA, I had a duty to educate myself and network with other students and professionals from across the nation and hopefully bring back what I learned to the local Long Island community in hopes of raising awareness about Hepatitis B. I had a full day ahead, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, packed with speakers, presentations, activities, and of course, food. The lunch was especially gourmet and appetizing!

Breakfast was wonderful: scrambled eggs, pastries, fruits, bread, and of course, COFFEE! I went overboard with the coffee that morning – nearly 2 tall cups worth of caffeine washed through my system. Since college, I made a ritual of drowning myself in coffee before major exams, then I deal with the headaches and jitters in my crash phase. I also got into a bad habit of making coffee time mandatory for early mornings, because I conditioned myself to believe I need coffee to succeed. While drinking my coffee, the plastic lid was not tightly capped and I spilled some over my sleeves and conference folder. What a great and embarrassing start to the day… A little while later, I tested out my hands for essential tremors from the caffeine (I just finished learning about Parkinson’s and different types of tremors in Neurology). I held out my hand and stared intently like a zombie. The guy next to me said to me, “Testing out your surgeon’s hands already?” Another guy gave me a sheet of paper to place atop my hands to better see the shakes. Indeed, I was shaking pretty badly. No surgery for me!

As in any social event, there is the god-awfully awkward Icebreaker. I was at a table of New Yorkers, representing Stony Brook, Upstate, Columbia, Mt. Sinai, and Einstein. The game was to write an interesting fact about yourself. The cards get shuffled and one person at a time draws a card and guesses who… I thought a game of Two Truths and a Lie would’ve been more engaging and fun, but whatever. On my card, I wrote “I do Step dancing in school…” and I doodled an ear with an arrow pointing to the stapedius muscle. It’s a punny joke amongst medical students. Anyway, I explained myself, how the dance is the ghetto type you do on the streets of Brooklyn. One guy luckily knew what I was talking about, since he did hip-hop in high school. The dude next to me asked for a demo… except there was one problem: it’d be silent stepping. Step dance requires hard slaps and stomps. With carpeted floors, business pants and tight blouse, and a whole room of onlookers, I would have a pretty hard time pleasing the crowd and raising the roof.


Now onto serious business… Noteworthy speakers of the day included California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, the legendary Dr. Samuel So of Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Anna Lok of University of Michigan, Hepatitis B/Liver Cancer patient Anthony Chiu, and Janet Zola of Hep B Free San Francisco. The presentations covered the epidemiology, pathophysiology, prevention and treatment of Hepatitis B, in addition to personal stories and medical relevance. I personally found the presentations valuable. I recently completed Microbiology and learned a waterfall of microbial diseases and drugs. The hepatitis B virus was heavily touched upon in terms of viral replication and cycle, transmission, symptoms, blood antigens and antibodies in different stages, and treatment. It was the science that mattered. Notably absent was any discussion on epidemiology, predominantly among Asian immigrants. It would be one thing to draw out a Dane particle, but a much bigger priority to know your patient population, screening and preventing infection. In Asian society, hepatitis B has been a social stigma, preventing people from getting jobs and labeling them as ‘dirty.’ People just don’t talk about it. Because of this cultural belief, Asians are hesitant to get checked and treated; going to the doctor, finding out they have HBV, and seeking treatment is like admitting you are dirty and diseased.

Hepatitis B is endemic in Asian countries, particularly China, where it is primarily transmitted from mother to baby. In contrast, the main mode of transmission in Western societies is through sex, needle sticks, and IV drug use.  There are common misconceptions of the disease within the Asian community. For one, HBV (and HCV) is spread through blood-blood contact. It is NOT transmissible through saliva or casual contact. Hence, you cannot get the infection from touching a coworker (except if you sleep with him or her), kissing someone, or dining with relatives and friends, the traditional Asian style. It is infectious through sexual contact, needles, and mother to baby.

Hepatitis B is a silent killer, deserving just as much attention as diabetes and heart disease.  Because many Asians get infected as newborns from their mothers or as children, they become chronic carriers for life.  There are no symptoms, until devastating cirrhosis and liver cancer strikes at a relatively young age (as early as 30s-40s!). The cycle perpetuates from generation to generation, but here is where current and future physicians can intervene through early detection and vaccinations. Something can be done to target and break this cycle. Hepatitis B can be treated with anti-viral medications for life, but not cured. More importantly, though it is deadly, hepatitis B is highly preventable. That is why it is essential to screen for carrier mothers and vaccinate babies and children. Screening programs are set up in Asian areas to catch the disease early, and hopefully follow up with treatment or vaccinations.

Did you know, the HBV vaccine, developed nearly 30 years ago, is the FIRST vaccine to prevent cancer? Not Gardasil and HPV/cervical cancer. Then why is hepatitis B still prevalent around the world, causing 60-80% of liver cancer cases worldwide and killing 600,000 people every year?

Raising Global Awareness: The Jade Ribbon Campaign

“Considered to be the essence of heaven and earth, Jade is believed in many Asian cultures to bring good luck and longevity while deflecting negativity. Folded like the Chinese character meaning “person” or “people,” the Jade Ribbon symbolizes the united voices of those fighting hepatitis B and liver cancer worldwide.”

Dr. So, the founder, explained the origins of the Jade Ribbon. All other ribbon colors were taken for different causes: pink for breast cancer, yellow for troops at war, red for HIV/AIDS, puzzle for autism, and even red/black for ‘atheist solidarity.’ There’s only so many colors, and numerous causes have overlapped on colors. So… what on earth to do with the Hepatitis B ribbon?! Someone creative decided to stretch out the common ribbon and make it look like the Chinese character for ‘people’ or ren. And no one non-Asian would ever think about using the color jade, so there you go, a ribbon cause was born. The fight against hepatitis B is a unified, collective effort, so everyone joins in as one family to raise awareness. I wear my precious Jade Ribbon pin on my book bag in honor of my support and promise to the hepatitis B cause.

SF Hep B Free Campaign: Who Deserves to Die?

These were controversial when they first came out last year. Chinese people are superstitious and find it unlucky to be associated with words related to death.

For the men out there...

Look what I found on a cable car in San Francisco: a Hepatitis B ad called HOPE


B a Hero campaign

One question was posed to the audience: what will you do when you go back to your community? I found the conference powerfully moving and educational. As a result, I had ideas steamrolling through my mind and I hope to make a difference!

Hepatitis B Initiative at Stony Brook (possibly):  APAMSA at Stony Brook is active mainly with the Bone Marrow Drive and Asian Extravaganza. I’m disappointed there has not been any work with hepatitis B. Then again, I’m not too surprised either because Stony Brook is in the middle of nowhere in a predominantly white community. Stony Brook University itself is infested with Asians; I see them left and right on the main campus and at the HSC. The nearest community of Asians on Long Island is Plainview/Syosset in Nassau county. The primary epicenter of Asian immigrants is out in New York: Flushing, Chinatown in Manhattan, and perhaps areas of Brooklyn and Queens.

Many medical schools across the country have some sort of screening program for the local Asian community: Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, etc… Students try to educate the community, set up shop at Asian food markets or wherever, screen for hepatitis B, and have some kind of follow-up, which can be difficult. Even with student-run clinics, there can be low turnout; people are uninterested. There are roadblocks no matter how passionate and altruistic the cause.

So… screening in Long Island at Stony Brook is a bit of a stretch; I don’t have the target patient population. The student-run clinic called SB Home primarily serves the Hispanic population, not Asians. Instead, I’ll take baby steps. In an effort to raise awareness about hepatitis B in the local community, I’m making it my home mission to educate students and health professionals. I hope to bring back my newfound knowledge and make sure people are informed about hepatitis B beyond just the microbiology and risk in needlesticks. The knowledge I intend to pass along is relevant to broad specialties and many people: future physicians who plan to work in major cities, California or New York, primary care providers, or GI specialists/hepatologists. All it takes is for the primary care doctor to check off the box for HBsAg and anti-HBs tests. All it takes is for the properly educated and compassionate physician to debunk misconceptions and give the patient all the right information.  Personally, I fit in well with the above points, since I see myself as a city doctor in California who stays connected with the Asian American population. Whether I go into internal medicine, family medicine, oncology or hepatology, I will always remember my Chinese roots. I have found a cause I can say I feel personally invested in. And I want to make my first major initiative a success…


Now the question is, how do I get started? I have a big blueprint unraveling. With no precedents from previous years at Stony Brook, where do I begin? Let me make an agenda here…

1) Talk to Dr. Granek of Preventative Medicine. Get some ideas from her and find out if any doctors at Stony Brook would be interested in raising awareness and giving lectures on behalf of APAMSA =)

2) Gauge interest among medical students. Email out to the first years, see if they’re remotely interested. So far 2, one of whom worked with the Charles B. Wang Center in Chinatown, and that’s enough for me. Still need to email out to the second years. I have the support of one of my friends who came with me to the conference, who also happens to be president of American Medical Association (AMA). He has physician networks for contacts and an E-board of Asians. He’s certainly in on my plans =) An APAMSA and AMA collaboration ready to go!

3) Talk to a fourth year next week. He was a very active member of APAMSA years back, and I’m sure he’d be interested in getting something started. He has connections with clinics in Flushing. Now there’s a start.

4) Write that Hepatitis B Grant Application by the end of December for money. Not likely it’ll be for screening just yet, but perhaps for an Educational Event for hosting talks.

Friday Night Foley’s in San Francisco

Friday night, November 4, 2011

I called my trip to San Francisco last weekend a pleasurable ‘business’ excursion. To recount my weekend extravaganza, let’s go back to that Friday night after I let my battered feet rest… I returned to my hotel room early evening. I was already in a state of fatigue, even before my first night in California began. I hopped on my bed and did this…

That’s right, I plopped down and started reviewing crazy cranial nerves weaving through all the nooks and kinks of the human skull. Except, my volition level plundered before it even peaked. I was practically on a weekend excursion, of course my motivation to study was close to nil. I was also cold, so I snuggled under the thick coat of blankets. Cozy and all, I wanted to sleep. I switched on the TV and got sucked into the Discovery Health channel. First it was a show on a 200 lb tumor, then it was about people who hate their bodies for legitimate reasons, like one woman who grew a beard. Before I got too enraptured by the show, it was almost time to meet new people. My friend from medical school just got to the hotel from his home in the suburbs. We went downstairs to the 2nd floor lobby to meet up with (hopefully) a large enough social gang of Asians. We walked between the 1st and 2nd floor, looking for a pack of Asian-looking people, but to no avail. Luckily, we got hailed down, as we looked like two lost Asian kids.

The nighttime social was at Johnny Foley’s on O’Farrell St. It was an entertaining night of dueling pianos, where two rockstar pianists/comedians played variations and funny improvisations of America’s favorite sing~a~long songs:  Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” Journey, and Elton John just to name a few. I have honestly started to forget American musicians since I started playing Asian songs on iTunes DJ. It was a laidback night, where the medical students huddled in one corner behind the super-energetic old pianist, while solid party animals got drunk and danced near the bar area. I did not spend a long time there, not because I was a party pooper, but because 1) I forgot my ID to get in the bar and had to run back to grab it and 2) I left for dinner barely 5 minutes after entering and sitting down. The guy next to me was from Kansas, who I met earlier in the lobby. We went out to grab some dinner, since he hadn’t eaten since 7:30 am and I finally digested the Korean beef noodle soup from 7 hours ago. I was given a choice of Japanese or Thai… I picked Thai. Lucky for him, he happened to be Thai. In the restaurant, we ate yummy food and chatted about our lives:  how’s your medical school?  what do you want to go into?  you been to Cali?  you been to NY?  where are you from?  what’s your ethnicity? … Friendly small talk over hearty Thai food. You know, the getting to know your enemy kind of chit chat… We walked back to Foley’s. Good thing I had a companion. I mentioned how I have a tendency to get lost, a failure at holding and reading maps. You know a guy’s response? “It’s OK. You’re an Asian girl…” I think I’ll use that excuse and it’ll work like a charm wherever I go and whoever I’m with =D

The rest of the night was mild. By the time we got back to the bar, the few medical students who were there, mainly the organizers of the conference, were gone. I guess it was bedtime for them. The leftovers sat behind the bearded Piano Man, drinking and mildly socializing. I believe I spent over an hour there before I felt sleep sinking in. I walked back to my hotel down the block, showered, and started snoozing. I was super fatigued. Right before midnight, as I was dozing off talking to my sister over the phone, my roommate entered. Up until then, I had no roommates, though I was supposed to have two others. I was glad that I did not have to share a bed, and even with one roommate who just arrived, I still had my own bed. Now, I couldn’t fall asleep and I started talking to my new roommate for the night, an MS-III from Michigan State. We chatted, while she unpacked and I picked up after my bathroom belongings and clothing I left lying around. Eventually, I couldn’t stay awake any longer, so I bid good night and dozed off… I was knocked out in dreamland…

Some SF Stupidity

Prepare to poke fun at me after reading this post. If you read my summer post on stupid revelations made in India, you will have more ammunition to deflate my intelligence.

1) California is known for its trolley transportation system. No dirty underground subways, just a scenic drive around town.

Market Street

Market Street

I took one of these honeys on Sunday when I visited Fisherman’s Wharf with my cousin. The last time I rode anything remotely close to a trolley was in college, the purple school bus known as the NYU trolley.

San Francisco is famous for its cable car transit system. The trolleys above are more akin to buses. Cable cars, however, are part of the city’s railway system, attached to the ground by … constantly moving cables. The cable car moves wherever the tracks leads it, mostly in a straight, though mountainous, line.

I’ve delayed the inevitable long enough. Let me reveal my biggest blunder of all Asian history. In my mind, I always thought San Francisco was famous for the trolleys, what I envisioned as these so-called ‘cable cars.’ I believed cable cars were those little things that took you up mountains, like when my family took the lazy way up the Great Wall of China.

So-Called Great Wall "Cable Car"

When I was wandering the streets of San Francisco, I was on the lookout for cable cars… in the air. Yes, I was shielding my eyes and searching for cable cars attached to cable lines, in the skies. My friend told me to check out the Cable Car Turnaround, where Blondie’s Pizza was located, and I was anticipating a ‘turnaround’ in mid-air. It’s not like I went a whole weekend looking into the heavens and cracking my cervical vertebrae looking for cable cars defying gravity. I figured it out within a few hours of walking the streets. I mean, I first thought the trolley buses were cable cars, and only later did I pick out the real cable cars. I later relayed this story to my friends with me, who got a good laugh at my naivete. I told this to my friend Dana over Google Talk that afternoon, who gave herself a *face-palm.* While out at a lounge, I had a brief conversation over Google Talk with another friend, that played out (rather humorously upon retrospection) like this:

me: Yo Carvey. SF is amazing lol

Carvey: AHHH… YOU LIKE???  😀 Where have u been so far?

11:24 PM me: Westfield mall, Union square.  As far as my feet can take me
 Carvey: haha nice, aww no ride? The subway there isn’t too confusing btw
11:26 PM me: U r talking to someone who thought cable cars were in the air… Lol
11:29 PM Carvey: …………………………………………Connie.  I’m sorry but all the respect I had for your intelligence as a med student just took a big hit.
Okay, now this is a cable car. This line headed down Powell Street. I will never make this mistake again. You make the mistake once and it is forever branded in your brain.
One last thing about cable cars. The cable runs along underground; you can see and hear it on the streets. It sounds rather strange and ominous to me, like clinking chains and gears. Whenever I crossed the streets, I was practically hopping over the cables, thinking they were like railway tracks and that somehow, my feet might get caught. Or a cable car might run into me. It’s not like they can speed. Coming out of New York, you are hardened to hate on speeding cars and on crossing railroad tracks. There have been plenty of broadcast news on suicides, where people jump in front of trains. I have lived by a major railroad station on Long Island, perpetually hearing the obnoxious sound of fast approaching trains. And I know, these cable cars are not trains. I had unfounded beliefs in danger when crossing the comparatively safe streets of San Francisco…
2) This would not be considered a stupid revelation, but it was still funny. I walked into Walgreens to buy a toothbrush. While navigating around, I stumbled upon the snack section. Not just ANY snack section… THE ASIAN SNACK SECTION. Back home, I had to go as far as Flushing or Chinatown to get my favorite Asian snacks: Pocky, Hello Panda, Yam Yam, Bowl Noodles, Shin Ramyun, wasabi peas, flavorful crackers, shrimp chips, seaweed strips, taro or red bean pastries, mooncakes, etc… An Asian snack haven, in Walgreens, a rather white convenient store. It goes to show how Asian San Francisco really is…

Storming San Francisco

Friday, November 4: First day in San Francisco

I arrived in San Francisco super early. By noon, I was checked into my hotel at Parc 55, which was outstanding and classy. Located in the heart of downtown at Cyril Magnin St, Parc 55 was like walking into a snazzy royal abode. The luminescent exterior reflected the sunlight. The dim entrance on the ground floor paved way for the grand staircase to the 2nd floor. Beyond that were nice carpeted floors, balconies, and elegant chandeliers. Very nice hotel clerks manned the registration desk. I kept going back to the same woman because I remembered one question after another, but each time, no matter how stupid I felt, she always gave me a beaming grin and answered enthusiastically: How are you charging my credit card since the conference is paying for us? … By the way, where’s the Westin Hotel on Market St? … Just curious, what’s your rate for tomorrow? Oh, and are there any rooms available?!…

Parc 55, Cyril Magnin St.

My fancy hotel room

My hotel room was unfortunately on the 13th floor, 1325. You wonder, why is there a 13th floor in a hotel? It’s pure superstition that’s been a part of American lore since people started reaching for the skies for inspiration and glory. Many hotels I’ve visited, I believe there were no 13th floors, or so I thought… Just a few days ago, I was shadowing a cute neurology resident. However, I got lost navigating the Stony Brook hospital (as usual). I was told he’d be on the 13th floor, but when I entered the elevators, I could not find the ’13’ button! Instead, it said ‘MR,’ which I assumed to be medical records and not neurology. Later he said to me, “So, you got lost?” I responded, “Well, I got confused with the MR button. I couldn’t find the 13!” Surprised I didn’t know about the superstition, he said most buildings do not have unlucky #13 in elevators for superstitious reasons. Then I struck back, “No way! I was in a hotel this weekend and it had a 13 button. I lived on the 13th floor!” He was still incredulous and made a dollar bet with me to get a picture and prove what I was saying. By then, it was impossible; I couldn’t get back to Parc 55 to get a snapshot of the elevator buttons! Ahh… I so wanted to prove him I was right! The proof was right in my memory, I just had to let the resident into my mind! For a coveted dollar and the resident’s pride, I found this photo on Google. Hehehehe~~

Back to my San Francisco afternoon on Friday… I was by myself in a foreign city. My friends were not in town yet. My cousin had things to do. I haven’t met the conference crowd nor my roommate(s) yet. I was bound to be bored. I was itching to prowl the city again. Put two and two together and I was out the door. Even though Manhattan got old after 5 years, it was the closest source of life and fun away from suburban Long Island.  Now that I was free in California, hell yes I was going to roam the city and maximize my stay!

Westfield Mall:  Taking over a whole block along Market Street, the Westfield Mall totally beats out dinky Smithaven Mall on Long Island. This was my dream mall right in front of me. With up to 10 floors and winding escalators that take you through shopping heaven, the Westfield Mall was an adventure in itself. In a span of 4 hours, I covered every foot of the mall, up and back down: Sorabol, Beard Papa’s, Hickory Farms, Nordstrom, United Colors of Benetton, Sanrio, Express, etc… I was primarily on the hunt for the right winter scarf and the perfect purse for my mom and the cutest toy for my little sister, none of which I achieved. However, I did achieve a very satisfying lunch and bloated belly =D

Located downstairs was the multicultural, yet Americanized food court: Japanese, Thai, Korean, Mexican, Italian, ramen, seafood, burgers, and desserts. I received tips from my SF native friend Dana, who suggested I eat at the food court. At Sorabol, the Korean restaurant noted for serving yummy BBQ meats, I ordered the Yuk Kae Jang (Spicy Beef Noodle Soup). It was the only item on the menu with a remote connection to something Korean, since everything else was in English =/ I wanted to eat the real deal, so this was the best I got, aside from the kimchi. It was a HUGE serving of noodles topped with beef and raw vegetables. The spice was painful, yet enjoyable, like my relationship with wasabi and sashimi; that’s how I roll I guess, pain and joy are one and the same. The more, the better.

Beard Papa’s famous cream puffs were absolutely and unforgivably tasty, giving my chorda tympani a run for its money. Their fresh pastries can be filled with one of three flavors: vanilla, caramel, or chocolate. I was craving for caramel, so that was my choice that day. And oh my god, never before have I had such an orgasmic cream puff. Soft and laden with sugar on top, it oozed of gushing cream. It fell apart easily (that was how soft it was), but I worked hard to maintain the integrity and infrastructure of the cream puff. That still failed, so I just cracked it apart for my picture. Fireworks went off in my mouth. Sooooo gooooooood ~~~

Beard Papa's... the best

And look, I found the SANRIO store =) I browsed around this shop for a good 30 minutes, covering every square inch, twice! This is how super-Asian I am, because I get excited over plush toys and adorable merchandise of Hello Kitty, Keroppi, Badtzmaru, Chococat, and Pochacco. There was so much cute stationary, tote bags, stuffed animals, decorations, clothing, charms, chains, and oh so much! As expected, the items were way overpriced because they were likely shipped straight from Japan. For example, a Keroppi plush attached to a hook cost $15, when it could easily be purchased for a mere $5 in Asia. It was still a worthy experience to circle around the bubbly world of Sanrio ^_^

My Sanrio World Come True

The enormously elegant Westfield Mall =)

By 5pm, my feet was extremely sore. I hate flat feet for this reason; I cannot walk far or for long, no matter how energetic and motivated I am to walk and shop all over. I forged on still and wandered to San Francisco’s Union Square. I lived at Manhattan’s Union Square for 3 years, leaving me a deep attachment to Union Squarism. The sun was setting and the air was getting frigid. I looped around the park, checked out Macy’s, and found the other hotel I’ll be staying at on Saturday. I walked down Powell Street where the famous cable car rolls up and down.

Love is in the City Air, at Sunset

Some ice rink... still being constructed for a winter wonderland

Fancy palm trees with lights along their trunks

I looped around by 6pm when it started to get dark and I got tired enough to stop walking around so much. Right by Market Street and down the road from Parc 55, there was a busy station called The Bart. It’s like the Penn Station of Manhattan, serving commuter lines from the surrounding suburbs. The homeless also bum around there too. Lots of homeless vagabonds.

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 =)