Entries from June 2009 ↓

From Ordinary to Extraordinary in a Blink of a Year

Welps, I did it. I survived Year 1: Shanghai, China. — Who woulda thunk??!! I’m still in disbelief!

First of all, it feels all sorts of weird now that I’m back in the States. All things immediately fell back to a normal routine, feeling as if I never left…. and while I show the fam some pics and videos, I find it hard to believe that I was actually out there, living it all up.

But anyway, so of course, I had been jotting some reflective notes for the past month only to lose my scribbles somewhere amidst my torturous packing episode(s) for my return. (Doh!) Ahhh well, I’ll try my best to recall and add now:

Reflective Ramblings (in no particular order):

1. In order to become extraordinary, you gotta be open to chance and unfamiliar circumstance, allow yourself outside the perimeters of all things ordinary; Only then will you realize… and actualize how extraordinary you are. I guarantee that you’ll surprise yourself.

2. To conscientiously leave everything that was familiar to me and all that I had built up for myself: family, friends, (fabulous, tee hee) NYC lifestyle, business network, career, etc. was one of the toughest, but oddly easiest decisions for me to have made. I owe it to timeliness; I was ready for my own personal change (and I don’t regret it at all especially with our current state of economics).

3. My patience level was tested this past year, more than ever in my life – even surpassing the heartless corporate world that I’ve put up with in the past. From getting through and by in daily life/language barrier/cultural differences and frustrations/working with children on the daily (takes A LOT of effort)— I had to dig REAL deep to increase my tolerance threshold!

4. With the above said, I’ve also become more of a sailor’ette with my vocabulary. (sh*t!, sigh)

5. I’ve always admired my parents to be amazingly bold and strong individuals, but now to get a taste of where they came from, the obstacles they endured and how they resiliently achieved their ultimate goal of providing “a better life” for their 13 children and respective generations down the line… truly makes them the most extraordinary individuals I know – hands down, absolutely NO contest! The lengths they’ve gone of sacrifice and determination is immeasurable, as has their adjustment to the western world. It’s remarkable to think of what life could be like today had my parents not been so obstinately courageous.

6. Now, my conversations with my parents on family history bring more vivid imagery; I’ve got tangibles to relate to and it’s a beautiful thing!

7. I encourage all to take time for their own “Roots” episode. It is critical for self-definition.

8. A bit to my surprise, my students made my eyes well up with tears as they held on strong and long as we hugged in my last moments of farewell. Such an incredibly rewarding feeling to know that I’ve made such a positive difference and influence!!

9. Hugs are a powerful tool. Use them right and tight.

10. Teaching is selfless, underrated and incredibly humanely rewarding.

11. I’ve learned to appreciate individuals, for just for that, their individuality. Yes, I got this back in the States as well… but living abroad, being on the look-out for expat friendships for a sense of the familiar, you’re bound to run into various cultural perspectives – some of which may connect and others, headbutt. But you listen, learn and grow with one another. I love cultural interchange. You learn so much from first-hand accounts.

12. The best conversationalists are those who LISTEN at the foremost.

13. Speaking with the locals has really made me feel privileged to be an American citizen. Ie. In order for them to travel out of the country they are required to submit a “deposit” to the government that is as many as 40 times their annual salary – to ensure that they’ll return. To hear of their envy of Americans due to our freedom to think, act, have an opinion and be able to voice it, choose, petition, vote, hope, dream, travel and be optimistic for change makes me feel so damn lucky. To know this and know fellow Americans who take these privileges for granted, disappoints me.

14. For once in my life, I can say I experienced a sense of solitude. Sure, I am grateful for the friends I have made while abroad and most certainly thankful that it didn’t take all too long. (I’ll have to thank my natural gift of gab for that.) I would never discount them, ever. We all bonded early and fast over our similar stances and predicaments. But as I’ve always remarked on before, there was always something that hovered over me – knowing that it was all a ticking time clock when it came to expat friendships. The lack of consistency always made for “something missing.” I missed my lifetime buds; those that knew me inside and out – no need for explanations. I thought of particular friends who would’ve enjoyed certain things at certain moments with me. However, whether for a few days, weeks, months or luckily those who were with me throughout the year, I am truly appreciative of all the amazing, adventurous, all-around good times spent and sound boards for rants and vents! I picked up a few BFF’s along the way and boy do we have some quality stories to tell our kids and grandkids one day…. I’m sure we’ll meet again with a few guaranteed chuckles on the side. Thank You! :-)

15. Highlights include, but not limited to: Shanghai Summer ’08 (Purple Mountain Pool Parties, whoo!) Camel Trekking through the Gobi Desert, Being completely hypnotized by the blanket of stars in the Gobi to the point where I was confused with my own age (lol!), Amazing city of Saigon and eating authentic Vietnamese food, Elephant Riding and Snorkeling in Thailand, Peace & Love on Koh Lipe, Kissed by a Pink Dolphin in Singapore, Discovery Café in Melacca Malaysia, The Great Wall and all of its Greatness! (and zip-lining thru it), Guilin/Yangshuo Topography, Working the Rice Fields in Yanghshuo, River Rafting on Long Jing Rapids, outings in the ‘Hai…

16. Maintaining true friendships takes effort, but should never be a chore. Long-distance friendships take the necessary efforts to another level. Despite being removed from face-to-face, in the physical, interaction, I appreciate and know who my real friends are – those who took time to reach out thru the various modes of communication I had going. Especially the real-talk ones; the ones who took initiative; the ones who cared, reached out, filled me in on what was going on in their world, knew what I was thinking and feeling at all times, and always had the perfect words, as if rode with me all through the year.

17. Meeting people during travels is a wonderfully raw experience. Ya’ll know, with me, what you see is what you get no matter what environment I am in, but this isn’t always the case with the majority. However, globetrotters are more inclined to have this raw attitude. Their walls are down. I love it. Cut the bullshit and just be who you are.

18. Clicking with people from all over the world is awesome. Again, I don’t mean the ones who you say no more than 5 words to, and next thing you know, they want to add you on FB. Sorry folks, I’m selective…even with FB. I have “FB Purgatory.”

19. Value experience over materials.

20. I’ve never had so many ABC (American Born Chinese) friends in my life. Ya’ll are alright folks. ;-)

21. I have a newfound appreciation for Americans, particularly the ones that take themselves out of the ordinary. It’s always been refreshing to meet another fellow American out in the “Wild, Wild Far East.” Less to explain, on my part.

22. I’m proud and feel fortunate to be an American baby. (Thank you Grandma, Dad, Mom and sibs.) … I’m surprising myself with how patriotic I am sounding now…

23. Education is a life-long commitment.

24. It bothers me when I hear people say they need to “start” living. LIVE NOW. The CHOICE is YOURS.

25. Everyone’s got a lil’ EXTRAordinary in them, waiting to be set Free… it’s up to you to make use of the key…


.. don’t burn the day. .

RIP: Michael Jackson

From my trip to LA back in ’07….

My little flashback tribute to MJ:
Halloween ’08: I had the pleasure of transforming the classroom into “The Thriller Room” – thereby, introducing many students in Shanghai to a true music icon of MY generation, the Legendary King of Pop, Michael Jackson. This included the viewing of “Thriller” as well as “Now Dance, Thriller-Style!”…. Check the goods! My kids are the cute shorties… you’ll see Woody, white Button-down and Princess in Purple Cape! :-)

Thank you Michael! Because of you…..

And when the groove is dead and gone (yeah),
You know that loooooooove survives,
so we can roooooooock foreverrrrrrrrr!!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Ms. Misty-Eyed

Yesterday dotted my exacto one year mark from landing in the ‘Hai and I spent it throwing an end of the year party of snacks and prizes for my little mini-me’s + viewing of Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa.. (If you haven’t seen.. this is a must! What a great lil gem on acceptance, friendship and love, for biggies and littles alike!)

Anyhoots, upon landing last year, I was CLUELESS and moreso, OPEN, with little to no expectation of who/what was to come in my year abroad. Here I am at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, a year later, waiting to board flight to return to the US of A….

I left straight from work where my kiddos surprised me, hiding under the staircase in the front lobby of the school, as I was making my exit, with my bags in hand – open armed, wide-eyed, cheek to cheek smiled, screaming various versions of “I love you Ms. Mimi! Don’t leave Ms. Mimi! I will miss you Ms. Mimi! Good bye Ms. Mimi! I hope to see you soon! Please come back! I will not forget you! Thank you Ms. Mimi!” attacking me with tight hugs – the ones that you really feel, and know that they mean it….. That moment was priceless! Truly priceless! It came unexpected but warmly welcomed. Looking into my students’ eyes – knowing I made a difference in each and every single one of them (some, even more than others – seriously, some didn’t know how to read a 3-letter word at the top of the year)….and now can give an all-out grammar lesson to their peers is truly amazing! Having them tell me the things they’ve learned, solely from me: how to be a good friend and problem solve, how to protect the Earth, to writing paragraphs and grammar structure is the most proudest I’ve ever felt in all of my occupations to date. Granted, sure I’ve made rockstars a whole lotta money in the past, marketing records and having them rock out on stages and watching crowds go frantic over them — I once thought those moments were the most rewarding – witnessing music lovers/crowds appreciate works of art in live form… but now I’ve got another feeling to contend with that. From Music to Education: both empowering tools in their own right; I am thrilled to have both under my belt.

As I crossed the school gates where the children were not allowed to pass, one little girl (Anne) who I had been tutoring after school, despite trying to withhold them, started to let tears trickle down her face. I couldn’t find it in me to just continue to walk away, so I walked back and as I called out to her and reached out to give her a hug, she immediately squeezed me close, as to not let me go. As much as I tried to hold it in, I felt my heart just give in to the emotions surrounding me. I whispered some words to her as if she were my own and felt my own eyes fill with mist. I looked up and saw several surrounding teachers following my misted reaction… it was all just too much!! I just thought to myself how much I had drilled these kids and how much they’ve learned and progressed as a direct result of me. My words. My teachings. My lessons. My encouragement. My discipline. My praise…and their uncontended trust in ME.

Now, I eventually made my way back out of the school gates and into a cab… I only wished I had my own camera out at that moment to see two of my darling boys (Johnny and Tai) with their infectious smiles, waving behind the gate bars. One boy, I had also tutored (Tai)… didn’t speak any English when he first arrived at the top of the year…but now can tell me stories, and just the other week, ran to me in excitement to tell me that he now knows how to play the violin…and willingly showcased his new talent to me. Such brilliant and bright cuties! I just hope that the foundation that I’ve worked so hard to instill in these young citizens will remain with them for a lifetime. For me, I still remember and appreciate my 1st Grade teacher (and was fortunate enough to track her down last summer before I took off for the ‘Hai.) And it brings me great joy, satisfaction and true rewards to know that I too, will have a similar, timeless impression on these future leaders of the world. It’s true, as a teacher, I didn’t make much, (but surely enough to live comfortably an travel abroad as ya’ll are aware, but that’s another post)…. but I absolutely know that I’ve made a difference – a very positive difference. :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Coming to America

Yup, that’s me! I wonder what “culture shock” I’ll get… I can’t wait to see blue skies and breathe in fresh air!! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year already..and I’ve got soo much to share with, with regards to overall reflections etc.. Ya’ll will have to wait as I may work on it en flight..

. . don’t burn the day. .

Next Steps… Where In The World Is…??

My! I’ve been soooo bad with this blog thing, I’m almost ashamed to say that I have one! (Not really, but still.) OKAY! So the answer to the “for now” million dollar question that folks keep asking is…. “Where in the world will Mimi San Diego go next??”

Answer: HOME! I will be landing in the Bean at the end of this week, to give warm and hearty hugs n’ kisses to my fam’alam!! :-D Thennnnnnn eventually do the same to my NYC fam’alam some time in the weeks following (tbd). :-D Thennnnnnn, I will return to the ‘Hai for Round 2 some time in mid August.

Reason: A few months ago, I signed with a different school that is situated in a much better location, so no more waking up at the ridiculous hour of 5:30am! Same deal – I’ll be working in the International Department with little kiddie-roos (most likely 1st and 3rd grade) — and have my vacation time, yippee! They are trying to form and expand their department and it sounds like, they’ll be looking to me to take lead in it. (Now, ya’ll know I don’t mind leading… but trust me when I say some of the most “simplest” issues could be the most trivial (and at times, frustrating) when it comes to cultural differences. But hey, that’s why folks pay the big bucks for International Management courses. Anyhoots, next year should be interesting!

Now a bunch of ya’ll are probably wondering “Why re-do Shanghai??”

After looking into a few cities in this part of the world… it made the most sense to stay in Shanghai. The World Expo will take place here in 2010 and I still have plenty more places to travel to in China, so me staying in a city in China alleviates the visa issues. Hong Kong (though, I’d prolly improve on my Cantonese 10-fold there) is a separate territory that would require me to apply for a visa every time I wanted to head back into mainland China…and Beijing is “ok… not sure if I could do it for a whole year.” Shanghai, on the other hand, ….. is truly a metropolitan city and really in its transformation stage… Construction (and pollution) is out of control right now, in prep for the Expo. Plus, I’m looking forward to continuing on with my Mandarin studies – hopefully with the same tutor. In the few classes I’ve had for just once a week studies, improvements in my comprehension abilities have been noticed!! :-) And, in the end, I don’t want far tooo too much change. There is still a lot more to explore here in the ‘Hai and I’m excited to be living and working in more of the “city” side — and taking advantage of it with the various expat networks here. Yes, of course I had some bumps and a few bruises in my 1st year, but that all makes it a good learning experience. I truly feel the 2nd round will be much different (especially since the majority of my friends are not returning.. le sigh..). I’ll have to start alllllll over. (Flashback to my posts re: expat friendships on the time clock.. sigh.) But! I’ve met and gotten close to a wide range of folks while being out here, that I probably wouldn’t have if I were to have stayed in NYC (despite its multi-culti there… it’s a WHOLE different ballgame when living abroad).

So there ya have it. I’m slated to re-live the ‘Hai Life in its prime as it gears for the World Expo spotlight in 2010!

PS. I’ll need ya’ll to EMAIL ME YOUR NUMBER and INFO as since my hard drive crashed a few months ago. I’d love to catch up with ya’ll!!

. . don’t burn the day. .


I am completely exhausted at this very moment of typing. My sincere apologies for my supreme slackage on the blog front, but I’ve been just busying myself with friends coming in to say hello… and now it’s about that time for say goodbyes…. as the time has come for many of us to part ways for our respective “nexts….”

Anyhoots, I’m doing fine, minus a really unnecessarily irritating bout of f*kery this past week. So retarded, I don’t even want to waste time typing up the details. Just know that I can’t stand: unorganized people, those who waste time (mine and theirs), and last-minute folks.

That’s all I got for now… will resume in a few days… (feels good to rant’blog again though.. hehe)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Sushi Makin’, Makin’ Sushi!

Just a few flicks from my 1st sushi-makin’ experience with some fine peeps! (Scroll over the pics for captions.) Enjoy!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Man on Wire

Much like how I stumbled upon the gem, The Visitor a few months back in the DVD store…. Man on Wire caught my attention in a similar fashion: 1. simplicity in front cover design, 2. captivating synopsis.

And boy was I right! I found another winner! Check it!


MAN ON WIRE: On August 7, 1974, a young Frenchman named Philpped Petit stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between the New York World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. After dancing for nearly an hour on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation and brought to jail before he was finally released. This extraordinary documentary incorporates Petit’s personal footage to show how he overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to achieve the artistic crime of the century.

What I loved most about the film is the angle of which Petit viewed the Twin Towers. I would have never in my right mind, EVER think to tightrope between the North and South Towers, and highly doubt any average bear out there would too!  But to see, hear, follow and inevitably feel Petit’s awe and admiration for the towers, makes his tale of determination that much more poignantly beautiful!!

Check the trailer:

I leave ya’ll with a quote:

To me, it’s really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge.

You have to exercise rebellion.

To refuse to tape yourself to the rules,

to refuse your own success,

to refuse to repeat yourself,

to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge.

Then you will live your life on the tightrope.

- Phillippe Petit

. . don’t burn the day. .

Cuties in the Classroom

Here are a few flicks taken from last week’s International Childrens’ Day festivities + some random in-class candids.

All in all, I am incredibly PROUD of all my 29 babies/students! Each and every one of them have made amazing progress and development over the course of this past academic year.

I mean, how many 1st graders do you know, can go from not knowing their alphabet to.. being comfortable explaining in complete sentences usages of a Noun, Verb, Adjective, Verb Tense; not to mention, explain the difference between Subject and Predicate as well as Synonyms, Antonyms and Homonyms; or name the continents and oceans, break down the Moon Phases….and hell, speak 3 languages!!!???!!!

MY little munchkins are on the road to Genius Land!! :-D

. . don’t burn the day. .

Site Launch: Cocoa & Fig!

The time has finally come, the official site launch of Cocoa & Fig! Show support for my brother and his girl and check it out here!

Our mission at Cocoa & Fig is simple: We are incredibly passionate about sharing the excitement that elegant foods, decadent pastries, and warm hospitality can bring into your life. We love what we do and we love sharing
it with you.

Trust me when I say: YUM, YUM, YUM, YUM, YUMMMM!! :-D

. . don’t burn the day. .