Twenty Years in US

IMG_7296On this day twenty years ago, I came to the United States. My point of entry was Anchorage, Alaska. I still remember stepping off the plane, exhausted after an eight-hour flight from Shanghai (and a short flight from Beijing before that), yet excited from seeing the gorgeous snow mountains from the air, and the rows of private jets on the ground. As I stood in line at passport control, it suddenly struck me: I am in a different country and I will be on my own. My family and friends and everything I am familiar with are now thousands of miles away…

There was not much time to be sentimental. I boarded another plane and flew six more hours to JFK. As it approached, I watched the beautiful night view of New York City with all those bright lights and elegant bridges, and felt like I was in a dream. When the wheels touched the ground and passengers applauded, tears rolled down my face. At that moment, so many feelings went through my mind that it felt blank. A new chapter began.

So that was the first trip by air in my life. And it lasted over 20 hours. I was a rookie traveler then and thought even the churning baggage carousel was impressive. Today, I am quite experienced. I have been to 33 countries and 64 airports around the world. Still, that same excitement when the plane touches down in a brand new place never left me.

IMG_7298Many things have changed in twenty years. For example, I came here holding a Chinese passport with a US visa. Today, I have a US passport with a Chinese visa. Between the two countries, no matter which direction I fly now, I consider it ‘going home’.

BTW, here is a post that I published around the 18th anniversary. 🙂 Can’t believe it has been two years since then! Time flies. I wonder what I will be writing about five years from now, or ten, or another twenty…

Books read in 2017 Q2

The second book report of 2017 is overdue… Can’t believe ten days have passed since the beginning of the new quarter! My goal this year is to read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home. I finished 13 in Q2 , still a little behind schedule. But I am on track now as I already added two books in July. 🙂

Here are the books I finished in the second quarter:

  1. Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing Down to Be With God by Bill Hybels
  2. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  3. The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation by Robert Pinsky
  4. Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers by Simon Winchester
  5. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  6. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil
  7. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
  8. The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity by Skye Jethani
  9. Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford
  10. The Martian by Andy Weir
  11. What Einstein Told His Barber: More Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions by Robert Wolke
  12. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  13. Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie

Four of these are from shelves at home (behind the goal again). As usual, the books on this list are quite eclectic. My top two are #8 and #10. I picked up #7 and #9 after watching the authors’ TED talks – both met my expectations. #6 has some very insightful and interesting discussions. All the books on this list are informative and enjoyable, except #12, which I probably would hate if I had read the book, but the audio book I listened to was quite entertaining.

Keep reading… till the next report. 🙂

Books 2017Q2

Five Days in South Korea (Busan, Seoul)

Early this month we had a wonderful visit to South Korea, including 1.5 days in Busan and 3 days in Seoul. Hopefully our itinerary below would help people plan their trip to this great and interesting country. I found this site to be quite helpful when I did my planning.

Our day started at 3am US EDT. Due to delay we almost missed our connecting flight at San Francisco. Luckily we made it to the gate 4 minutes before it closed. We arrived at Incheon International Airport around 3pm the next afternoon. Then we got our Korail pass and boarded a KTX train to Busan. Because it was a holiday week the seats were sold out, but we managed to sit for 2.5 hours out of the 3.5-hour ride. Not bad. We arrived at Busan around 8pm – 28 hours after we left home. I promised myself never to make such crazy arrangements ever again.

Day 1. Busan Aquarium, Food Alley, Geumgang Park (with cable car). We made an attempt to go to the famous Beomeosa Temple but were too exhausted to walk the required distance.

Day 2. Jagalchi Fish Market, Gamcheon Culture Village. Afternoon train to Seoul.

Day 3. Half-day DMZ Tour.  Deoksugung Palace (changing guards).

IMG_6366

Day 4. Lotte World Aquarium, Lotte World Tower, Coex Aquarium, Namsan Tower.

Day 5. Changdeokgung Palace, Myongdong Shopping District.

IMG_6689IMG_6768

Except the DMZ Tour, all the other places are accessible via subway/bus. A must-have is a Cash-bee card. It can be used to pay for subway, bus, taxi, train, or even in convenient stores, and it is good in both Busan and Seoul. That said, we walked on average 15,000 steps a day even with the great public transportation!

The next day we departed Seoul heading to Beijing, China… To be continued.

 

Books read in 2017 Q1

It is time to post the first book report of 2017, now that three months are already behind us. My goal this year is to read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home. I only finished 11 in Q1 , a little behind schedule. I am quite optimistic about reaching the goal though, considering how many ‘currently-reading’ ones I have at the moment.

Here are the books I finished in the first quarter:

  1. Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
  2. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel & Blake Masters
  3. The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel
  4. The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun by Paul Hattaway & Brother Yun
  5. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
  6. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  7. The Leopard by Jo Nesbø
  8. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  9. Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership by John Maxwell
  10. Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
  11. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Four of these books are from shelves at home (behind the goal of 20 as well). As usual, the books on this list are quite diverse in terms of genre, time frame, and author’s nationality. My two favorites are #6 and #8 – truly outstanding and highly recommend. I don’t like #1 and #10, while all the others are good in one way or another.

Keep reading… till the next report. 🙂

Books 2017Q1

A Good 2016, A Better 2017

books-2016

My year 2016 has been quite busy and productive, although I didn’t accomplish all the goals I set out at the beginning of the year:

  • Read 50 books. Done. I finished 50 books and here are the book reports: Q1; Q2; Q3; Q4. Interestingly, the average length of this year (2016)’s books is 343 pages, almost the same as last year (2015)’s 342. In both years the longest book I read was by Stephen King.
  • Visit 5 new countries. Done. I actually visited 8 new countries: Netherlands, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia.
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week). Partially done. I swam 50 times, average once a week. But I started doing Hot Yoga this year and attended classes in a studio 7 times. On average I walked 5,080 steps a day, falling short of last year’s 7,000.
  • Publish 50 blog posts (on Saturdays). Not done – only posted 18 posts, even fewer than last year’s 28.
  • Lose 5 pounds. Not done – my weight at the end of the year was the same as the beginning of the year. At least I didn’t gain pounds.

Seems only the travel and reading goals were accomplished, same as last year. It is a clear indication of where my passion is. 🙂 Here is this year’s travelogue:

  • January. New York City, NY (work); Cruise on Windsurf, Caribbean
  • April. Charlottesville, VA
  • May. San Antonio, TX; Carlsbad, NM
  • July. Amsterdam; Belgrade; Montenegro; Dubrovnik; Frankfurt. Trip Brief
  • October. New York City, NY (work)
  • November. Mystic, CT; New England

Now here are my goals for 2017, not much different from 2016:

  • Read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home
  • Visit 3 new countries
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week); yoga at home everyday
  • Publish 40 blog posts
  • Lose 5 pounds

I am looking forward to a better year ahead – closer to God, healthier, happier, wiser…

Books read in 2016 Q4

On this last day of 2016, I am ready to post the Q4 book report. I did manage to finish 11 books this quarter, therefore reached my goal of 50 for the year. Plan to keep the same goal for 2017, although the genre and format of the books are likely to change. 🙂

Here are the books I finished in the past three months:

  1. The Redeemer by Jo Nesbø
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People by Edward Hallowell
  4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  5. The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
  7. Fool’s Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe by Gillian Tett
  8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  9. The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
  10. Talking from 9 to 5: How Women’s and Men’s Conversational Styles Affect Who Gets Heard, Who Gets Credit, and What Gets Done at Work by Deborah Tannen
  11. Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World by David Kent

I enjoyed most books on this list, especially #6, #8, and #11. I learned a lot from #7 and #10. The only book that I don’t like is #9.

Currently I am reading a few interesting books which will hopefully end up in the 2017 Q1 report, including a big one that should be counted as 6 books. 🙂 Stay tuned.

books-2016q4

Books read in 2016 Q3

It suddenly occurred to me yesterday that we were already five days into the fourth quarter of the year, and I totally forgot about posting my Q3 book report, as well as a few other things that I do on a quarterly basis. Life had been busy this summer, so I only finished 11 books in Q3, which makes a total of 39 books this year, still ahead of schedule to reach the goal of 50. Looking good.

Here are the books I finished in the past three months:

  1. The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
  2. The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks
  3. Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben
  4. The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
  5. The Clocks by Agatha Christie
  6. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  7. 1Q84 Book 3 by Haruki Murakami
  8. Last Year’s Resolution by Robert Lampros
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  10. Border Music by Robert James Waller
  11. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

The books on this list go from extremely boring (#10) to very good (#9), and everywhere in-between. The three nonfiction books on this list (#2, #6, #11) are all interesting and informative.

Only need to finish 11 more books in Q4 to reach my goal. Rather than starting new books, maybe I should work on those that I started but have not been actively reading. Will see how it goes. Keep reading…

books-2016q3