The Problem With Being Perfect

April 9, 2010 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

The problem with being perfect

“Wayne Chan’s comical take on Asian culture is like a $150 bowl of shark’s fin soup – a unique and amazing offering. The Chinese-American humorist winks and nudges the reader through family reunions, parental expectations and shopping the supermarket for rambutans. The Asian experience is about family – read it, laugh out loud, and belong.”

Suzette Martinez Standring, Award Winning Author, The Art of Column Writing

Wayne Chan is delightfully funny and amazingly on target. It’s the stuff you may think but would never say out loud. His reflections on everyday life as an Asian American are thoughtful, insightful, warm, and never ever boring! Enjoy!!

Cheryl Weiberg, Editor-in-Chief, Asian Pages

The Problem With Being Perfect is a book of secrets. Most of these secrets fall into one of the following two categories:

  1. Things I’ve done that make me look like an idiot which I’d rather not share with family and friends but don’t mind sharing with people who don’t know me and have no idea where I live.
  2. Things my friends and family have done that would make them look like idiots which I can’t mention in front of them because they do know where I live.

May I also emphasize that in no way, shape or form, do any of the embarrassing stories I tell have anything to do with my wife. Even though some of the stories may seem like they could only come from my wife, and even if from time to time I actually refer to the person as “my wife”, I completely disavow any knowledge or any belief that the person in question, is in fact, my wife. If, in reading this book, you come across the words, “my wife”, please replace them with the words, “amazing human being.”

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Giving A Whole New Meaning To Monkey Business

December 16, 2008 by trooce · 1 Comment 

Foo Joy TeaI’m sure many of you, like me, were glued to the TV last week, wowed by the spectacle of the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics.  The dancers, the special effects, the long procession of athletes walking in to the stadium – I haven’t seen a line that long since I stood in line waiting to buy the new

 iPhone.

Yet, in the days that followed, despite the dominance of swimmer Michael Phelps or the Chinese team’s success in gymnastics, the brilliance of the occasion didn’t hold my attention as much as a little known compan

y doing business in China that gets very little attention but is actually no less awe-inspiring.

I’m referring, of course, to the tea-picking monkeys of Sichuan.

I learned about the existence of this monkey business during a random meeting a few weeks back.  During the meeting, as we were listening to the latest month’s sales projections, I glanced over at one of the canisters of tea sitting on the conference table.  There, sitting next to the other non-descript teas, was a canister of tea called, “The Monkey Picked Ti Kuan Yin”.  

In the description, it read:

The legend of tea-plucking monkeys comes from the inaccessibility of mountain grown teas.  Nurtured by clouds and mist, Ti Kuan Yin has an intense aroma and a complex, long-lasting finish.

In that moment, all my thoughts about the meeting disappeared and at once I became intrigued at the idea that in my tea cup, I was drinking tea made from tea leaves plucked by a monkey in a forest thousands of miles away.

A few thoughts:  1) How did the tea farmer initially decide that they were going to use animals to help them pluck tea leaves and how did they end up with a monkey?  I mean, at some point someone came to the conclusion, “OK, no more ladders.  No more long poles with knives on the end.  From here on in, we’re using animals.  Now where can we find a monkey?”

Actually, my guess is that they had to work their way up to a monkey.  I mean, why go through the cost and effort of acquiring a monkey when, say, a squirrel can climb a tree just as well as a monkey and is already climbing your tea trees?

In an attempt to confirm my hypothesis, I’m planning to employ the local squirrels in my backyard for a little manual labor.  While I have no tealeaf plants for them to pick, I figure that they are perfectly suited to clean out the gutters of my house.  I will report on my progress with this at a later date.

Now back to the monkeys.

At some point, the tea farmer decides to use monkeys to pick tea leaves.  So, my next question is, how do you train a monkey to pluck tea leaves?  Now don’t get me wrong, I know that monkeys are capable of doing a lot of things – carnival tricks, sign language, etc., but picking tea leaves?

I imagine the training sessions involve a lot of frustration and patience for the tea farmer.

Bungo!  Get over here!  Drop that banana and get over here now!  How many times do I have to tell you?  I only want tea leaves!  Nothing else!  What did you bring me this time?  A shoe!  One shoe!  You’ve been monkeying around all day!  Today alone you’ve brought me three tea leaves, a rock, four sticks, a dead mouse and this shoe.  Bungo!  Stop scratching yourself and pay attention!  You never see Bingo, Bango or Devin making these kind of mistakes.  Now you shape up or no more bananas and you can go back into the jungle to eat bananas whenever you want! Get back to work you cotton-pickin’, tea-leaf pickin’ monkey!

The funny thing is that this company is actively promoting their tea and how monkeys picked the tea leaves.  I wonder how it would go over here if the next time you pick a bottle of ketchup and in bold print it read, “The finest ketchup made from tomatoes picked by our own band of monkeys!”  

Last thought:  now that the Chinese have proven themselves in gymnastics while still having monkeys climbing tea leaves from trees humans can’t climb, wouldn’t this be the perfect time for the ultimate face off?  

Now that’s a sporting event I’d pay to go see.

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Politics

September 10, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I must admit that I am a political junkie. If it weren’t for the kids, work, my wife, and her insistence that I take a shower every single day…I could watch the evening news shows indefinitely.

I get a kick out of watching the verbal sparring, the veiled insults, the accusations that are thrown about and then denied the following day – and that’s just from the political pundits.

Our democratic process is often messy, but it’s something we have all come to expect, coming from the world’s oldest democracy. I wouldn’t trade if for anything else, and it comes as no surprise then, that in other, younger democracies, the process can get downright scary.

I’ve watched clips of the Taiwanese legislature get so heated that actual fights have broken out in session – sometimes between men and women. In one session, I saw shoes being thrown between legislators. There were penny loafers, wing-tips, pumps, and stilettos – projectiles launched at a high rate of speed. I haven’t seen so many shoes tossed about since the last time Nordstrom Rack had it’s semi-annual sale.

I checked Taiwan’s constitution and under Article 11, it states, “The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing, and publication.” I double-checked to make sure no one had added an addendum like “…but if you disagree with what someone has said, feel free to fling your footwear in protest.”

Back in the U.S., it occurred to me that if the current vetting process is good enough to elect someone as important as a president, wouldn’t that same process be just as reliable in making some of our everyday decisions?

To test my theory, I decided to try out this strategy while interviewing someone who was interested in being our babysitter.

The following interview took place between the baby sitter, (or in more politically correct terms, the PALF, which stands for: Pre-Adult Life-skills Facilitator) and me.

ME: Thanks so much for coming down to see us. Tell us why you’d like to be our PALF?

PALF: Well, I love children, and I find it rewarding to take care of kids.

ME: I see here that you used to be a Girl Scout and you’ve won some awards for selling the most cookies.

PALF: Yes, sir.

ME: Were you aware that cookies in general are loaded with carbs and sugar and if consumed regularly and in large quantities could play an adverse role in our children’s future obesity and hypertension problems? Why would you, someone who claims to love children, intentionally encourage behavior that effects our kids lives, and by extension, the lives of a future generation of kids?

PALF: Sir?

ME: What I need to know now, and what I think our kids have a right to know, is whether their PALF is Pro-Health or Pro-Snack?

PALF: Sir! Of course, I want all kids to be healthy but…!

ME: Why the evasiveness, PALF? Next topic – I have a picture of you and a friend standing in front of what appears to be an Eminem concert, is this true? Is it? Is it? I need an answer!

I immediately end the interview as I see her take off her shoes.

Hogging Up All The Attention For Chinese New Year

September 10, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I have a dilemma.

I’ve been asked to devote this column to the upcoming Chinese New Year, which for 2007 celebrates the Year of the Pig. The only problem is that I’m having a tough time with the subject matter.

It’s not that I can’t think of anything to say – on the contrary, I’ve got loads of material. My problem is that as a humor writer, I am having a hard time resisting the temptation to throw out pithy little pork-related zingers as I try to write something serious in commemoration of this year’s honored animal, the pig. I mean – I could really go hog-wild.

You see – it’s starting already.

I just find it especially hard to write about this year’s guest of honor whose closest connection to me were the sausage links I had for breakfast this morning.

Shoot. You see? I just can’t help myself.

I need to be able to put aside my own western notions of what a pig represents and try to understand the inner beauty of this esteemed animal. From what I’ve read, the pig of Chinese astrology is perhaps the most generous and kind of all the animals. Pigs are down to earth, caring of friends, and completely selfless.

According to Astrology.com, pigs “…are so magnanimous they can appear almost saintly. (They are) highly intelligent creatures, forever studying, playing and probing in their quest for greater knowledge. They can be misinterpreted as being lazy however, due to their love of napping, taking long bubble baths or dallying over an incredible spread of rich foods.”

Magnanimous and saintly? Quest for greater knowledge? Taking long bubble baths or dallying over an incredible spread of rich foods? Am I missing something? We are talking about a pig and not a Nobel Prize-winning, recently ordained pastor/super-model, right?

Oops, there I go again. I’m letting my western bias’ slip through. Well, at least I’ve managed to get through this much of the column without using the word “bacon” a single time.

Blast it.

This darned pig is obviously making it hard for me to reconcile between my Asian heritage and my American upbringing. Does it have to be a pig? Why not a more acceptable animal, like a swan? Why can’t we have the Year of the Swan? I can write my tail off waxing poetic about the elegance and beauty of a swan.

A swan won’t work? Fine, how about the Year of the Eagle, or the Year of the Giraffe? How about the Year of the Gazelle? I can do a moose, a beaver, a porcupine…no problem. I just don’t think I can do a pig justice.

Is this whole Chinese Zodiac animal system written in stone or is anyone taking suggestions?

While we’re at it, can someone please explain how we can have the year of the snake, monkey, and rooster but the CHINESE New Year celebration doesn’t have a Year of the Panda? How can that possibly be?

The Year of the Pig. I’m sorry – I’m just not up to the challenge. I’m stuck. I’m completely hog-tied.

I know – you saw that one coming.

Well, it’s only a year. Maybe next year’s animal will be a better fit for me. Let’s see here, 2008 is the year of the…rat.

Someone help me.

The Dog Days of 2006

September 10, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

As we are soon approaching Chinese New Year, I thought it would be appropriate to do a little research so that I might be able to impart some words of wisdom on this festive occasion.

As you may know, every Chinese New Year celebrates a specific animal. There are twelve animals in the cycle, and at the end of the cycle you start all over again. Some of the animals in the cycle include the rat, the snake, and the goat (or Ram).

This year, it turns out, is the year of the dog. As luck would have it, we actually own a dog. Therefore, for the benefit of my readers, I have been observing the behavior of our dog “Bingo” for the last few days.

In addition, in order to bolster my findings, I looked up a few interesting factoids on various personality traits associated with the year of the dog.

Herewith, are my findings, in the form of a true/false test on how well these traits matched up with what I observed in my dog Bingo:

Trait Number One: Those who fall under the Year of the Dog have a deep sense of loyalty and inspire confidence in others because they keep secrets well.

This is TRUE. A few days ago while I was home alone with only Bingo as my companion, I decided to polish off the last of the leftover birthday cake from a party earlier in the week despite my wife’s threats of hiring a nutritionist to follow me around if I ate it. When my wife got home, my loyal dog not only kept his mouth shut, but he didn’t even bat an eye when I tried to blame him for eating the cake.

I bet that if I owned a rat or a goat for a pet that they would have spilled the beans the second my wife walked through the door.

Trait Number Two: They care little for wealth; yet somehow always seem to have money.

This is TRUE. While I am sure that Bingo has never held down a paying job, somehow a package gets mailed to us every couple of weeks containing doggie treats, milk bones, and the latest issue of “Dog Fancy” magazine.

Trait Number Three: They are eccentric, somewhat selfish, and terribly stubborn.

This is INCONCLUSIVE. While it is true that Bingo does exhibit some odd behavior (anyone who has seen where he likes to scratch himself knows what I’m talking about), it is false that he is selfish because he will generously drop any dead rodent he has caught at my feet as he comes in from the backyard.

Trait Number Four: They can be cold and emotionally distant at parties.

This is FALSE. Call it what you will, but after seeing what Bingo did on my neighbor’s leg the last time he visited, the last words you would use to describe his behavior is “cold and emotionally distant.”

Where is that dog anyways? I need him. There’s a pastrami sandwich in the refrigerator with my name on it.

Working Out A Pointless Exercise

September 10, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Wayne Chans I just came back from the gym and I feel great. I’d say ten percent of my euphoria is due to the typical reasons people feel great after working out – that my body feels refreshed and healthy. The remaining ninety percent of my enthusiasm comes from the knowledge that it’ll be another 47 glorious hours before I have to subject myself to the torture of working out again.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the benefits of going to the gym. The irony of it is that I have always been a very active person, whether I was playing tennis, volleyball, basketball or “Marco Polo” in the neighborhood pool. The difference with competitive sports is that there is a point to the activity – literally.

How many points can I score against the other side? I just won another point! Now it’s match point! I won the winning point! Yahoo! Look at everyone pointing at me, they’re saying, “You’re the point master!” Now it’s off to Wimbledon to win some more points!

I could go on, but I think you get my point.

You don’t earn any points when you’re working out in a gym (and just in case you think I missed it – brownie points don’t count). Of course, the reason why I go to the gym is to stay in shape. It’s just that the actual activities you partake in at the gym seem so unproductive.

You run around a circular track as long as you can only to end up exactly where you started. Running on a treadmill is even worse. You start from point A, and forty minutes later you arrive at point…well, actually, you never left point A. Some treadmills will actually tilt upwards during the routine so now you’re panting just trying to catch your breath as you try to scale a Himalayan mountain traverse that leads nowhere.

At least when you’re hiking up a mountain you have some sense of control. Picture someone (OK…me) who’s on level ten on the treadmill, with the machine at a steep pitch, barely keeping up with the machine, when all of a sudden, without warning, you have an overwhelming urge to…sneeze.

It’s like someone installed an ejection seat on my treadmill. One minute you’re running on the treadmill, the next you’re body-slamming the gym floor like a professional wrestler. And of course, let’s not forget…I’m doing this all for my health.

Lifting weights is the toughest exercise for me. You spend an enormous amount of energy to lift a really heavy object into the air. There’s no objective to lifting the weight except to put it back down on the floor so that you can do it again and again. Your mind knows why you’re doing it but your body clearly doesn’t understand. You can almost hear your body speaking to you.

I’ve been patient with you on these weights, but enough is enough. You are now beginning to experience severe muscle spasms up and down your arms and legs and this will continue until I’ve made myself perfectly clear. Unless someone is paying you to lift these weights, you will soon experience what it’s like to visit Cramptown, USA.

When I travel to Asia, I do my best to keep up my exercise regimen. The problem is, everybody there apparently has the same mindset towards working out that I do. You don’t see many people exercising, and I suspect the reason is that they eat healthier, and have more active lives than we do.

The few times I’ve tried going for a jog in Asia, you see all sorts of people staring in my direction. They’re not really staring at me, mind you. They’re looking directly behind me to see who might be chasing me.

The Wild Kingdom… In My Yard

September 10, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Quiet now. Keep your head down low. Don’t take your eyes off him. If he looks your way, keep still.

I know it may sound like I’m currently on a walk-about in some arid Australia outback, but I’m not. I’m not on some African safari either.

But make no mistake about it – I am stalking a wild animal. It’s a vile creature intent on tormenting me with it’s disgusting, evasive behavior.

I know what you’re thinking…if I’m not on a hunting expedition or lost in the woods, what else could I be dealing with? A mountain lion? A bear? Some other kind of varmint?

Specifically, it’s a bird that keeps pooping on my new car. I call him the “Turd Raptor” or “Craptor”, for short. Now, before you stop reading, let me explain.

I am a reasonable person. When I first noticed that my shiny black car was continually being used literally as a port-a-potty, I reacted in a calm, dispassionate way. After all, I park the car in the driveway of my home, and I park it next to a tree, directly overhead. I was practically asking for it.

It’s been going on for weeks. Every morning, as I open up the garage door and walk out to the driveway to my car, I see the latest, in what I would call, “Aviary experimental art”, using my car as a canvas.

And to my further dismay, the damage always occurs on the driver’s side door. Nowhere else.

As a mature, logical human being, I began to rationally analyze the situation. Obviously, since the damage was always in the same area, and that part of the car was closest to the tree, the offending culprit must have a nest in that area. Knowing that I couldn’t fault a mindless bird for doing what it does naturally by building a nest in a tree, I decide that I can easily eliminate the problem of a bird eliminating itself on my car, by moving my car to the other side of the driveway, out from under the tree.

Problem solved, man tames nature. Evolution on display.

Except for the fact that the bird diddled on my car the following morning, and again, did it on the driver’s side door, and as if to put a little emphasis on it, added a dollop on the door handle.

The “Craptor” was making this personal.

A few days ago, in an act of desperation, I move my car from the driveway to the street, in a spot that happens to be in front of my house, fully visible from my 2nd floor den. Later that afternoon, as I casually glance from my desk out the window, I finally catch the dirty little flying graffiti artist red handed, er, red winged…well, you know what I mean.

I see an adorable little bird, happily sitting on the luggage rack of my car, pooping on my driver’s side window.

Now, every morning I go out to my car, I now bring my briefcase, my keys, a paper towel and a bottle of Windex. The fact that the “sputterages” were always on my driver’s side door wherever the car was parked made it obvious that this bird was throwing down the gauntlet. Never one to shrink from a challenge, I start making plans.

Fine by me, you little flying rodent. You want a piece of me? Bring it on. It’s man vs. nature. Civilization vs. the wild blue yonder. I’m ready to go “mano a mano”. Again, a bird may not have a “mano”, but you know what I mean.

I decide to quietly make my way outside to the front yard, and upon seeing the bird sitting on my car, I press the alarm button on my car remote to set the alarm off. The startled bird takes flight, unable to resume it’s putrid behavior.

I raise my hands and start doing a victory jig. Man tames nature again. Huzzah, huzzah!

Except, and I am not making this up, the next morning I go out to our other car and see that someone (or more correctly, something) has left their signature mark on that car as well, and I’ll give you three guesses where they left it.

Standing next to the car, feeling dejected, and gazing at my tormentor’s latest work of art, I realize that I may be beat. I quickly realize that my options are few, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be able to catch it, and more importantly, I could never bring myself to harm it in any way.

So what options do I have left? I could only think of one.

If you ever pass by my house, and you see a black SUV with a toy stuffed cat sitting on top of the car, stay quiet and keep your head down low.

I’ll be watching.

When I was a child

September 9, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

There’s an unwritten rule that all parents abide by when raising their children. This rule supercedes all other rules of parenting, whether it is applied intentionally or not. Though the following may not be the formal title of this rule, I believe it is generally recognized as the “When I was a child…” method of parenting.

Comedian Bill Cosby once described how his father invoked this rule when noticing that young Bill was none too eager to walk to school. As I recall, his father said, “When I was a boy, my school was 20 miles away. I walked in bare feet, with 30 pounds of books, uphill…both ways!”

My parents never used the rule intentionally, but then again, they never really had to. Having come from China, my parents both lived in stark conditions devoid of all the conveniences we take for granted today, but there was also the ever constant threat from the Japanese invasion during World War II, as well as the communist takeover of the country. Compared to my childhood in the 70’s and 80’s in a middle class neighborhood in San Diego, I didn’t need many reminders – I knew how fortunate I was – I had a happy childhood.

Of course, this now leads me to my problem. I am now a father, who along with my wife, are raising three kids. While I have every intention to continue the tradition of the “When I was a child…” method as it has been passed down from generation to generation of parents before me, I am having a hard time coming up with appropriate examples of my own that would instill a measure of guilt in my own children. So far, none of the examples I have from my own childhood inspire much sympathy.

I’ve listed a few examples and you can be the judge. Here goes:

When I was a child, we didn’t have a remote control to change the channel on the TV. I had to get up from the sofa to change the channel myself until I started ordering my little brother Steve to be the remote control.

When I was a child, automobiles didn’t have child safety restraints or car seats, for that matter. In fact, you weren’t even required to wear a seat belt. When we got in the car, my brother and I were usually in the back of our Ford station wagon with the back window rolled all the way down. Any sudden turn would fling us from one side to the other. It was just a part of growing up. Head concussions build character.

When I was a child, public bathrooms didn’t have sinks that turned on automatically when you placed your hands in the bowl. Back then, there was a button on top you pressed to get the water started and it only lasted .65 seconds every time you pressed it. In order to wash your hands properly you had to perform an elaborate yoga move and place one foot on the button to keep the water running.

When I was a child, we didn’t get anything fancy for our school lunch. Our menu consisted of bean burritos, fish sticks, soybean hamburgers, and milk. Each day during our lunch break, I would try and open the small, individual sized carton of milk, which was nearly impossible because every time you folded back the carton flap, the spout never opened forcing you to jam a finger into the lip of the container to get any milk. On top of that, the school supplied each of us with one straw made from wax paper, which would immediately go limp after the first sip of milk. Struggling to suck milk through a limp, soggy straw one drop at a time, I’d often black out halfway through the carton.

It’s ironic how a happy childhood could lead to a parenting crisis. I’ll put some more thought into it after I finish my soybean burger.

Two Waynes are Better than One

September 9, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I’d like to apologize to my parents.

I have done my best to be a good son. I went to college, and even went on to get a masters degree, despite the fact that I went through it reluctantly. At the time, I think I made a very good case for not going to college.

Let’s see – my reasons were:

1. I’m not going to learn anything useful in college that I don’t already know now. Why do I need to learn calculus?
2. I’m going to be the world’s number one tennis player. What do I need college for?
3. I’m already making plenty of money being the “Dough Specialist” at Round Table Pizza.

After listening to my thoughtful reasoning and very sound logic, I believe my mom’s response was, “I don’t want to hear it. You’re going.”

Now that some time has passed, I can see my parents were right (although I still have never been in a situation where calculus came in handy). In every respect, I owe my parents for everything I have in my life.

But right now, I owe them an apology. Let me explain.

I don’t like my name. “Wayne Chan” – two one word syllables. It’s too short. It sounds like a doorbell chime.

Obviously, there’s not that much that my parents could do with my last name. But “Wayne”? Is that the best they could come up with? Why not something more macho like “Bronson”? With a name like that, I’d go around introducing myself to strangers just so I could say my own name.

Yes, the name’s Chan – Bronson Chan. Please, just call me Bronson.

You don’t like “Bronson”? That’s fine, there are a lot of other names that I would be perfectly happy with. How about “Daniel”? I’d be fine being Daniel Chan, despite the fact that you can’t shake a stick without hitting another Chinese guy named “Daniel”. Why not? It’s a nice name.

But “Wayne”? Where did that name come from? Actually, I know the answer to that question. I once looked up the etymology for my first name. According to my research, the name “Wayne” was an old English occupational surname that meant, “Wagon maker.”

I doubt that my parents were actually thinking about 18th century modes of transportation when they were trying to name their son, but maybe I’m just not giving them their due credit.

All of this leads to the real reason I’ve written this column. Several weeks ago I came upon a young man who pens a number of comic strips, many of them drawn from the perspective of an Asian American. I think his work is truly terrific.

We got to talk and we thought it would be a perfect match if we worked together, combining my columns and his strips. We work in different mediums – I write columns, and he draws comic strips, but we do share a commonality in our perspectives – as Asian Americans who find humor in our daily lives.

So, without further ado, let me introduce (and I am not making this up)…Wayne Chan.

Wayne is based in the Bay Area, and yes, the strip you see next to this column is by him. We’d like to name our collaboration – column & comic strip, “The Waynes of the World.” We hope you enjoy it.

By the way, Wayne, if you’re reading this – I guess I owe your parents an apology too.

A Tour Guide of the Mundane

September 9, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Each and every one of us, as San Diegans, shares a common bond.  Perhaps more accurately, we share a common role.  It is a role most of us assume with a sense of pride. It is a responsibility we all bear by living in America’s Finest City.

You have chosen to reside in San Diego with all it has to offer, and by virtue of your decision you are now the Quasi-official tour guide to all of your out of town friends and family.  When the barest of acquaintances calls to tell you they are coming to town, realize that you are what helped tip the scales in their minds when they couldn’t decide between San Diego and Orlando.

Still, we take our hosting duties seriously because we all want to show off our city in the best possible light.  Who wouldn’t need to catch their breath when they first saw the dramatic cliffs off of La Jolla Cove?  Who wouldn’t be charmed by the romance of Hotel del Coronado?  Who wouldn’t want to try a fish taco?

I know all of San Diego’s landmarks.  Whether the guests are from Boston, Los Angeles or any point in between, I can arrange a whirlwind tour of local attractions and get them back on their plane headed home, happy and most importantly, out of my hair.

The challenge comes when I host guests from Asia.  For these guests, I seem to enter an alternate universe where the attractions I take them to draw blank stares while they inadvertently stumble across a seemingly innocuous matter that ends up being the highlight of the trip.

As their tour guide, you start taking things personally.  How would a tour guide feel if I traveled to Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa and continuously admired at how straight and upright all the other buildings were?  Or if I visited the Great Wall of China only to gush over how realistic the wall looked on the silk-screened T-shirts I bought at the gift stand?

I once took a family from Taiwan to an elegant Sunday brunch.  They joked that this was the reason why Americans were overweight.    On the other hand, when they found out how much they could save by buying vitamins in bulk, the amount they brought home could stamp out scurvy in several developing countries.

Then there was the time I took my father in law to visit Balboa Park to walk through all the beautiful gardens. Yet, when I asked him what he remembers of San Diego, he inevitably will say something like, “Oh…the hot dogs at Costco are so tasty and melt in your mouth.”

When I visit Asia, you see how fast the pace can be.  Crowds await you at every turn and everyone struggles through, day in and day out.   You wonder whether their value system, like my own, might be influenced by what we experience in our own environments.   Perhaps, for those who live life in a constant rush, a simple, solitary pleasure can be the most fulfilling.

Come to think of it, those hot dogs are pretty good.

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