What’s Next?

An historic event occurred on November 9th, 1989: the Berlin Wall came down as thousands of citizens took their sledgehammers to a construction that represented a generation of oppression, tyranny and death and reunited their nation.

Twenty-seven years later, in a country that once fought against the ideals that raised that wall in Berlin, votes were being counted to elect the 45th President of the United States. While many around the world sat in shock at the final result, myself included, perhaps it should have come as no big surprise after all. Only a few short months earlier, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in what was known as “Brexit” referendum. Most of us assumed that would never happen either. And now, look where we are.

I have been struggling to articulate my thoughts about the events that have unfolded in the past 24 hours. Being in Sydney, the polling booths were only just beginning to close from the east to the west coasts during our late afternoon. I had resisted the temptation to watch the election coverage until around 2pm. And then as the counts started rolling in and it became apparent that we were not going to be seeing the first female President any time soon, I picked up the phone and called my friends in Chicago. I began to cry.

All afternoon, I watched my Twitter feed light up with tweets expressing shock, horror, outrage, disappointments. I was among those expressing such thoughts. The most common expressions were: “What is happening?” or “How is this possible?” Occasionally, my twitter exchanges would be interrupted by “eavesdroppers” who disagreed with us, accusing us of supporting corrupt government/liar/baby killers, and so forth. Many of those people believe that January 20th, 2017 is going to be the dawn of a new great era in America. Continue reading

New York City: 9/11

December 1995: my first visit to New York City. The Big Apple. So much to see. The famous World Trade Centre was definitely on my “must-see” list. However, I never got past the lobby. Being holiday season, the queue to go up to the observation deck snaked through the lobby and I was short on time. “You can always come back next time,” my friends suggested. So we left. There was never a “next time” for the Twin Towers.

After the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001, “Ground Zero” became almost sacred ground. It was the resting place of almost three thousand people. When the dust settled (literally), discussions began about the best way to honour the victims, including the First Respondents who perished during the rescue efforts.

One thing was agreed – that new towers would not be rebuilt where the old towers stood. Instead, a 9/11 Memorial with two reflecting pools featuring North America’s largest man-made waterfalls, would take the place of where the original towers were.

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April 2013, construction in progress behind the reflecting pools

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Daffodil Day: A Spring Awakening

Cancer sucks. No point beating around the bush. It’s a reality. Each one of us has been touched by this terrible disease directly or indirectly. If you, like me, have been lucky enough not to have lost someone in your immediate family to cancer, then chances are you probably know someone close to you who have: a neighbour, a friend, a teacher, a colleague or a distant relative.

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In the past decade, I have lost a school friend and family friends, and watched close friends grieve while they lost their parents, and I thank God that my own family is healthy.

Today is Daffodil Day – the Cancer Council’s annual national fund-raising day.  The daffodil signifies the arrival of spring, new life, vitality and growth which makes it the perfect symbol of hope for all those who have been affected by cancer.

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Daffodil Day and my first time volunteering to help sell their merchandise in my local mall. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks and it proved as fruitful as I had hoped.

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Post-Olympic Blues

Every four years, I find myself glued to the television watching sports that I know nothing about but somehow find myself an expert in. Some of these sports seem like activities I did in the schoolyard or friends’ backyards: trampoline, badminton, table tennis, handball. How many people knew which sports are included in the Modern Pentathlon? (Which leads to the question a friend of mine asked: what was the Ancient Pentathlon?)

Here’s a sample of my armchair commentary:

Platform diving – “Oh, that landing was terrible!”

Swimming – “She didn’t have a strong enough push off the starting blocks!”

Hockey – “What kind of refereeing do you call that?”

Long jump – “Watch that takeoff board!”

The reality is that I am as unfamiliar with the rules of pretty much all of the 28 sports that featured at the 2016 Olympics in Rio as the millions of people who watched around the world. Still, this two-week event dominates the news around the world and captures the imagination of even the least sporting of audiences. Why?

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One Day

IMG_0556On August 3rd, 2015 (exactly twelve months ago as I write now), I set off on a much-anticipated holiday to London. It was a trip that I had put into motion twelve months before that, when a few friends and I agreed to meet there to see British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch return to the stage to star in Hamlet. It was unusual for any stage production to start selling tickets a year in advance but Cumberbatch’s popularity was on the rise (and continues to do so) and the anticipation for his return to the stage was beyond belief.

I love travelling and seeing the world. It is one of life’s privileges that I do not take for granted. These days, travelling seem to require a little more care and thought. I remember my first solo trip some twenty years before, when my biggest concern was being mugged or losing my traveller’s cheques. Getting lost was not such a big deal as you know you can always rely on some friendly locals to help you out. The world has changed a lot since, some for the better and some for the worse.

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That Time When I Talked To Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay About White Collar

Peter and Neal 1It seems like a lifetime ago now that I was obsessed with a little show on the USA Network called White Collar, starring the ever hard-working Tim DeKay and a little-known Texan named Matt Bomer. Well, it has now been about eighteen months since we bade au revoir (which, incidentally, is the title of the series finale) to the show that inspired me to write fiction for the first time since high school, and also helped me make friends around the world through the power of Twitter. In the years since the show premiered, I have met many of these friends in person, and most of the writers from the show as well.

Over the course of the show’s six seasons, I, along with thousands of dedicated and loyal fans, followed the cast and writers on Twitter and looked forward to behind-the-scenes photos of the hardworking team goof around in between takes. Oh, how I have missed those!

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My visit to New York in April 2013 was planned around the season 5 production schedule to allow me to visit the cast on location, however, a production shift meant I missed out on meeting the cast in person but the writers were kind enough to meet me for a drink in Los Angeles. Despite that disappointment, I was ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to participate in a press call with Matt and Tim (for the second time!) on behalf of LenaLamoray.com ahead of the Season 5 premiere. You can read the full report here but below is an excerpt from my Q&A with Agent Peter Burke and Neal Caffrey about Season 5.

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#EmergencyLessons: My School Photo

Many of us take our schools for granted. It was a place we had to go to as children, similar to our parents having to get up to get to their work places. It was just something we did – no questions asked. We never had to actively think about it. School is a different experience for each person, and as they say, it is what you make of it.

I went to school in two countries: Hong Kong for my early education and then Australia after fifth grade. The two education systems were like chalk and cheese back then. I can’t say for sure that I enjoyed school very much in Hong Kong. I was not a very good student, owed largely to my laziness in a system where studying hard was considered better than studying smart. I got “in trouble” more often than was considered acceptable which was not hard because we were not allowed to talk in class and if you were caught speaking Cantonese during English class, that was automatically a reportable offense.

Looking back now, I can laugh about those incidents. I was caught chatting with my classmate more than once but that hasn’t turned me into a serial killer. I received detention a couple of times (I cannot even remember the reasons but most likely for talking in class – again – or forgetting to do my homework or some such), a secret that I managed to hide from my parents for about twenty years. I remember very clearly my second grade maths teacher making the whole class repeat the word “quotient” about fifty times because we had forgotten what it meant.

When my family left Hong Kong to come to Australia, it was to offer my sister and I a better future. School could not have been more different from what I had known for the previous seven years. Our teachers encouraged creativity – we painted and wove baskets and made ridiculous keyholders (which I needed Dad’s help with). We ran in the playground (I fell over because I have two left feet) and played handball (challenging the boys). In sixth grade, I was part of the school radio broadcast where we read Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach over the PA system to the entire school. It was magical. Grades mattered but were not the most important part of our school-life.

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