My 2017 was about relationships. New and old, relationships define us and often our happiness, and for that, 2017 was particularly memorable and mostly happy.
2017 was also about direction. Notably, I started off 2017 in a rut of all sorts—personally, professionally, romantically. The first few months comprised one giant blur that had me running around the world, proving false the cliché, “not who wander are lost.” In fact, my lack of clarity in all aspects of life forced me to wander, and wander I did.
Reflecting upon the first few months, I see a different version of myself, one that learned the somewhat hard way that one indeed cannot escape one’s problems, nor should one run to them. Instead, it’s necessary to carve an entirely new path, and keep those who support you and push you beyond what you ever could have imagined being capable of.
Anyway, while travel and school had me unable to complete my goal of reading one book every two weeks, I still managed to read 15 books that I would recommend (* = for school/research but worthy of consideration! Others I read for school not included).
- Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China’s Great Urban Migration by Michelle Loyalka
- Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West by Peter Hessler
- Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday
- The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- On China by Henry Kissinger
- Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream by Clay Shirky
- Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language by Deborah Fallows
- We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda* by Philip Gourevitch
- Migrant Encounters: Intimate Labor, the State, and Mobility Across Asia* by Sara L. Friedman and Pardis Mahdavi
- The Impossible State: North Korea Past and Future* by Victor Cha
- The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea* by Bandi
- North Korea’s Hidden Revolution: How the Information Underground Is Transforming a Closed Society* by Jieun Baek
- The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture* by Euny Hong
I also watched some incredible films and TV shows this year, although I did not keep track of them as well I did with my books. Nonetheless, here are the rest of my media/entertainment records and recommendations (by no means exhaustive):
- Bad Genius (2017)
- Dunkirk (2017)
- The Shack (2017)
- The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)
- The Shape of Water (2017)
- A Taxi Driver (2017)
- The Disaster Artist (2017)
- Wonder Woman (2017)
- Baby Driver (2017)
- Perfect Strangers (2016)
- Miss Sloane (2016)
- The Propaganda Game (2015)
- The Prestige (2006)
TV SHOWS & SHORTS
- Stranger Things (all seasons on Netflix)
- Terrace House (all seasons on Netflix)
- Al Jazeera’s 101 East (full-length episodes on YouTube)
- Ryuuu TV / 學日文看日本 — This Malaysian-Japanese couple is the fucking cutest and great for practicing (cute) Chinese listening.
- Vice — While the company has been receiving a ton of shit recently for having a suffocatingly sexist and racist workplace culture, its productions on North Korea and China are fascinating and worth watching. Educate yourself.
- “I See You” album by the xx
- “The Thrill of It All” album by Sam Smith
- “Evolve” album by Imagine Dragons
- “Warmer in the Winter” album by Lindsey Stirling
- “Twilight” by JJ Lin
- Cosmos People
- Khalil Fong
- Summer 2k17 playlist on SoundCloud
- China Tech Talk
- Eat Your Kimchi — By my favorite YouTubers Simon and Martina, on life in Japan, previously in South Korea.
- Journey to Chinese Fluency — I listened to this a lot while in Taiwan, but have since stopped. It’s in English and focuses on foreigners’ experiences on learning Chinese. The format and questions are the same for each episode, so it does get a bit repetitive after several episodes, but worth mentioning.
- Asia Society’s Asia In-Depth
- Sinica — Remains my favorite on all things China. Glad I got to see a live taping in NYC.
- Taiwan Talk — An easy way to feel nostalgic yet catch up on my favorite country.
- The Skift Podcast — For the wanderlusters.
- NPR Reports by Rob Schmitz
- Line – Taiwan’s got me hooked 😛
- Lyft — For various reasons, I have permanently switched from Uber to Lyft. It’s interesting to review my rides from my undergrad days when Lyft gave away 10 free rides, but then when I pay for subsequent rides, I spend, like, $20 for <1 mile.
- Swarm — Yup, I still check in wherever I go.
- 纽约时报 — I can’t believe I only just discovered NYT’s articles in both English and Chinese side by side on one page. How perfect for Chinese learners.
- Reddit — To feed my obsessions over /r/AsianBeauty and regional subreddits (Taiwan, China, DC), as well as the occasional cute dog photo.
- Words with Friends — Play with me.
In 2017, I developed loves for some lazy-yet-semi-healthy college student concoctions 😛
Açaí Morning Smoothie
(I made this almost every morning this semester)
- 1 pack of frozen açaí from Trader Joe’s
- 1 organic banana
- Coconut milk (as much or as little as you wish)
- Top with a layer of granola (experiment with different varieties!), and a spoon of chia seed peanut butter OR almond butter
Light Lunch/Mid-day Snack
- 1 or 2 Lundberg rice cakes (favorites are seaweed, brown rice, wild rice, and kettle corn)
- Trader Joe’s almond butter
- Top with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon
Guilty Pleasure Snack
As I mentioned before, 2017 had me wandering to all corners of the earth in search of what I eventually found: love.
- Boston, Massachusetts
- San Francisco, Napa Valley, Berkeley (California)
- Mexico City, Teotihuacan (Mexico)
- Seattle, Washington
- Los Angeles, California
- Paris, Annecy (France)
- London, Windsor, other countryside town whose name I can’t recall (UK)
- Brussels, Belgium
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hamanako, Misugi, Takayama/Gero, Kanazawa/Tonami, Himeji, Miyajima/Hiroshima (Japan)
- Taipei, Tamsui, Jiufen, Tainan, Kaohsiung (Taiwan)
- Hong Kong
- New York City, New York
- Cebu, Bohol Island (Philippines)
Of course, no reflection is complete without:
MAJOR LIFE EVENTS
- March 2017: Being accepted into the Master’s in the Asian Studies Program at Georgetown University.
- August 2017: Meeting my boyfriend; completing a two-month intensive Chinese program; moving into a spacious apartment in Rosslyn; starting graduate school; meeting some amazing classmates who help make me realize my potential to go beyond what I believe I can do.
- November 2017: First noticing chest discomfort.
- December 2017: Reuniting with my love and traveling for the remainder of 2017; receiving an A on my final paper on Korean beauty for Dr. Victor Cha; spending first few days of winter vacation in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms; discovering I have a 7cm mass in my chest that may mean taking off the spring semester for surgery.
My 2018 is completely up in the air. I might find myself back in China and Taiwan for the second half of the year, if my health allows it, let alone certain program acceptances. I don’t want to speculate too much for now, but I’m grateful for at least the stability that is my family, friends, and boyfriend.
I love you all and am so grateful for the continued support, especially as I enter into the next phase that may be my most trying yet.