Day 227: Opportunities

My volunteer friend suggested that we get breakfast together before the convention today.

After quickly Foursquaring (is it a word? Just made it one) a place, we headed down a few blocks to Chinatown Coffee Company. Little did I know, in addition to this being one of the best coffee shops in the immediate vicinity, it’s the third best in the entire D.C. area. #win

Since we were in a rush and had to get drinks to-go, I couldn’t get the highly recommended cortado, which is espresso with warm milk. Why is it so special? I wouldn’t know. Instead, I got a soy chai latte.

We ended up sitting down at a table near the back, and seeing that I didn’t get anything else, my kind friend gave me a half of her poppyseed bagel. She called it sesame. I couldn’t help but smile. #Asians

She also pointed out the heart on my cup. I love this place even more.

Soy chai latte from Chinatown Coffee Company in D.C.
Soy chai latte and poppyseed bagel from Chinatown Coffee Company in D.C.

As we were heading out with our drinks in hand, we let each other try our drinks. Her vanilla latte was amazing—probably the best I’ve ever tried. No wonder so many Foursquare users recommended it. I will definitely be returning.

Right before walking into our first talk of the day, I grabbed a copy of the VOICES newspaper. VOICES, the student reporters and director of which I chatted with yesterday, is the student convention program during the week of AAJA where 16 (for this year) students are selected to “cover issues related to the journalism industry and the Asian American Pacific Islander community” and produce a newspaper for the convention attendees. Check out their online work.

AAJA 2014 VOICES newspaper
Fresh off the press! VOICES’ newspaper, covering the convention and Chinatown.

The first half of the day started off with the talk, “‘Everybody’s Got One’: How to do opinion journalism that matters in an era of digital chaos,” with WSJ‘s Jeff Yang, the Globe‘s Shirley Leung, and Stiff Jab’s Anna John, moderated by The Seattle Times‘ Sharon Chan.

Jeff Yang tweeted out a photo of the audience, with my friend and me in the front row. Could we look any duller?

Opinion journalism talk at AAJA 2014
I should have photobombed.

The next two talks I attended were one on Instagram and another on multimedia tools and resources. The Instagram one included National Geographic photographer Mike Yamashita and AP photographer Charles Dharapak. The originally scheduled talk with The Washington Post‘s Michael Williamson literally had to fly out of the country for breaking news. #journalists

I wish I could say that this session was worth missing out on a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer but it’s unlikely. The talk consisted of the photographers sharing their photos on Instagram and how many likes they got. And while I highly respect and admire their work, I would have preferred more tips and advice. I can’t complain though, given the last-minute change and my own amateur photography skills.

When we had our chance to get lunch at 1 p.m., we invited a new friend, an assistant professor of design at the Missouri School of Journalism, to lunch in Chinatown.

The three of us managed to get a table in the busy, unsuspecting underground restaurant on 6th Street. Chinatown Express. Sounds like a name for a bad Chinese takeout restaurant. But my volunteer buddy insisted on going for its noodles and Beijing duck.

The starstruck meeting of the day: Phil Yu, founder and editor of Angry Asian Man. I was disappointed that he was only a moderator on the panel I attended on covering Asian Americans but still enjoyed the talk, which was filmed live on C-SPAN with embarrassingly awkward shots of ME in the audience. (Can’t believe I linked to it for you guys.)

Angry Asian Man's Phil Yu moderating the AAJA 2014 talk, "Why and how should we cover the Asian American community?"
Angry Asian Man’s Phil Yu moderating the AAJA 2014 talk, “Why and how should we cover the Asian American community?”

After that and an interesting lightning talks session, I made my way downstairs to the east ballroom to help set up for the silent auction. The entire time, though, I couldn’t help but worry about my parking. After all, I had parked at an outdoor lot that was supposed to close at 7 p.m., and even though the man I spoke to said they would keep the gates open, I felt uneasy. I wanted to leave as soon as possible, but the shift was scheduled to end at 10 p.m. I had planned on 7:30 at the latest.

AAJA 2014 pre-silent auction
Volunteers getting ready for the AAJA 2014 silent auction.

While we had some downtime before the auction began at 6 p.m., I went to the next ballroom to enjoy a piano performance by Jenny Lin.

Pianist Jenny Lin at AAJA 2014
Pianist Jenny Lin played both classical and broadway music.

As with a lot of things in life, I was unexpectedly glad to have volunteered at the silent auction. Stationed at one end of the travel table (full of trips to Hawaii, Arizona, etc.), I managed to chat with quite a few people. I stood right behind a Shanghai Tang purse that ended up being pretty popular. Two journalists, one of them being The Washington Post homepage editor I’ve been following on Twitter, kept fighting for it the entire time.

AAJA 2014 silent auction for Shanghai Tang purse
The hilarious duel between two journalists vying for a Shanghai Tang purse.

Still not quite that hungry from such a full Chinatown lunch, I decided to make a quick stop at one of the bubble tea shops we passed by earlier. I ended up leaving around 8:30 p.m. I made the choice not to leave early after all. Once it was past 7:30, there would be no difference how late I was.

I went through so many hilariously unnecessary fears while waiting for my drink—the first being the employee putting what I thought was powder but was actually (quite a bit of) sugar into the cup, and the second being that the ice he was putting in would create a crushed ice shake (like that one time at Shilla). Once I received the boba, however, I was glad I was all wrong.

After taking a Snapchat and photos of the drink while walking at night down the streets of Chinatown (it’s as sketchy as it sounds), I took my first sip. The boba was soft! It’s not terrible! #success (oh, how I miss the certainty of good boba from CoCo in Shanghai).

Luckily, the gates were still open and surprisingly many cars were still parked there. It figures. This place also offers monthly parking.

Indeed a long day but a good one. Made another volunteer friend during my shift, chatted with a business manager of a startup (writes about music on the side and Seattle chapter vice president), met another really friendly girl who asked for my number…

Oh, and you know how I mentioned meeting Phil Yu? Well, I saw him at the auction and thought nervously about taking a selfie with him until finally I brought it up to my new volunteer friend about it. Thankfully, we got a photo (and a handshake!) 🙂

These days certainly go by quickly.

Again, please feel free to check out my Twitter @SoniaSu_ for notes on the #AAJA14 sessions I attended.