By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Do you let the virus win or do you win?
I have decided not to let the virus control me. Even though much of the world ceases to function during the pandemic, and my calendar shows no excitement in weeks, I decide to reinvent my days. What I have succeeded in doing the past few months is creating special moments and occasions for myself and others.
You can turn something simple into something adventurous and wonderful.
“I find that when I say yes more, I will have more possibilities,” said Gary Drobnack, retired Weyerhaeuser executive. He once accepted an assignment to go to Borneo, and some family members were not thrilled about it. Had he said “no,” it would not have led him to those amazing experiences in Asia, he said.
That’s exactly what I have done. Take initiative to create activities and even inspire others to do things for joy, have new experiences, and help others. Never wait for things to happen.
Here were some adventures of mine, and others.
The idea is to bring fun and joy to someone’s life. My first instinct over our freelancer Nina Huang’s baby news was, “A surprise baby shower!”
When my husband and I arrived outside Nina’s house with her favorite dim sum items and baby gifts, her jaw dropped and then flashed into a smile. My “partners-in-crime” were another writer, Janice Nesnamani, who connected with Tony, Nina’s husband, to plot our scheme. My daughter-in-law and son bought the baby gifts. My staff member Kelly made the card. Nina loved the whole baby package.
Was it COVID that inspired me to do a baby shower? No, COVID inspires us to care more for others whenever we can. We regret that we only gave baby showers to our staff and not freelancers. So COVID has ignited our yearning for connectedness.
So send your loved ones cards and notes. Call them. With social distancing in mind, adapt celebrations to surprise birthdays, weddings, or anniversary events, to lift everyone up.
What we didn’t expect was a lake exploration, which Nina and Tony told us about. We parked our car outside their house, and explored Echo Lake, a pleasant corner of town we had never visited before. A gem in the city, the lake relaxed us with its serenity and charm. It’s perfect to build adventures one over the other!
Retiree Selina Chow’s passion for singing, love for her grandkid, and desire to do good brought her joy and success recently.
Chow, one of the top fundraisers, raised close to $4,000 to perform one song, “Jasmin,” in Mandarin, at Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)’s Virtual Charity Concert. She practiced “Jasmin” with her grandson during the pandemic. He learned the song from his school.
“We had so much fun singing it together in the past few months during the pandemic,” said Chow. “I wanted to share the joy I had with the audience…it’s heartwarming that our community can enjoy local entertainment in the comfort of their own home…this concert was an exhilarating experience for me!”
More than 37 friends and family members contributed to her performance. Not only was she the No. 1 performer in raising money, the whole affair became an adventure for her village of fans cheering her on.
Turning disasters into wins
After looters attacked the Chinatown-International District (CID) and destroyed or damaged storefronts last May, I wondered, “What can we do to capture this unusual history of CID in the midst of a pandemic? How can we turn this into a positive?” A group of artists did just that.
Close to 100 artists descended in CID, painting beautiful art murals with multicultural themes to convert the boarded up storefronts into an art gallery.
Besides Asian Weekly’s coverage, we wanted to find a way to support the community, businesses, and artists. The answer was, a community art mural contest with restaurant certificates for the winning artists.
One thing led to another. We produced a YouTube video to honor the artists and preserve CID history with funding support from the City of Seattle’s Arts + Culture and 4Culture. The video will be released in January.
The whole concept is a win-win for artists, restaurants, the community, and the Asian Weekly.
Look around. How can you turn something ugly into something beautiful? You would be surprised by how many solutions you can imagine.
From restaurateur to author
Joan Seko, 83, is the author of five books and currently working on six other novels.
The community probably knows her as the former owner of Bush Garden Restaurant more than a literary figure. A humble person, she doesn’t talk about her accomplishments as an author.
Pandemic or no pandemic, Seko is busy writing and editing. She began to write probably in her teens. An ardent book lover, she read four to five books per week then.
“The famous authors are my champions and give me courage to write. I want to give the world something to fantasize about, and learn fictional and factual information inside each of my books,” she said.
Oh, her books are not about CID. It’s about romance, history, survival, and much more. You may not become an author at once, but you can try journaling during COVID and share your memories with the younger generation later.
Investigate fishing at Green Lake
The Green Lake I know is pleasurable for walking, biking, and jogging, but fishing? A staff member’s husband enjoys fishing at Green Lake. So I investigated.
During a stroll, we found that Green Lake is rich with trout. The lake is designed with several small piers for fishermen to dock easily. It works for social distancing, too.
People bring their chairs and mats to sit and hang out while fishing. You can walk and jog on the much widened one-way track around the lake. No bikes are allowed. You don’t have to finish the 2.8-mile track as there’s another route in the opposite direction.
The fresh air was worth the trip. The tip gave me an excuse to visit and examine Green Lake on another level. It gave me a chance to reflect on my past—the lake was once my favorite walking spot.
News about slow turkey sales during COVID prompted me to ask my daughter-in-law, Tracy, a brilliant cook, to make a turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner. I always try to do my part to support the economy.
I didn’t realize she had never cooked the bird before. But she accepted the challenge.
I am more of a chicken fan than a turkey fan. But the pandemic reminded me to honor traditions. An organic turkey Tracy picked was part of her seven-dish Thanksgiving feast. The bird was big enough to serve three families, including her parents and brother’s family. It’s the best turkey I have ever eaten. Even the leftovers were delicious.
While Tracy had her fun cooking, I have a new appreciation for turkey. Eating turkey is much more healthy than chicken. It is low-fat, high in protein, and contains vitamin B6 and niacin. Also, it has mood-enhancing properties such as tryptophan, which produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps improve your mood.
The turkey made me appreciate my son John and his wife Tracy’s love and support even more. “Why did you give me two drumsticks and thighs, the best parts?” I asked my son John. “You like dark meat, too. You should keep one for yourself.”
“You always get the best part,” said John, when bringing us food. While I am grateful and happy that our kids are so thoughtful, I felt rotten simultaneously. I don’t want to just take and not share.
Tracy and John, thanks for the lovely meal, the turkey’s dark meat, and, oh, the bones!!!
Triple birthday celebrations
My birthday celebration is usually a low-key family affair. But this year, “wonder, surprise, and delight” mingled at once. First, my staff member Rebecca gave me a birthday surprise by ordering delicious take-out and a beautiful green tea cake, all from CID restaurants days before my birthday.
On my birthday, Tracy baked me my favorite chocolate cake with splendid decorations, and cooked Hainan chicken and rice for me. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
But the third celebration was an unscripted fascinating tale. The weekend before my birthday, my oldest son called from Asia and asked me what I wanted to eat.
Out of the blue, I replied, “A French dinner.”
He spent most of his night ordering online from a French restaurant on Queen Anne. His order was accepted, then canceled on my cell phone text several times. He tried many times and in vain. Apparently, the restaurant couldn’t accept international orders. It’s the thought that counts, “Go to bed,” I said to him.
Two weeks later, I planned a Saturday walk and lunch on Seattle’s waterfront. But the restaurant we wanted opened at 1 p.m. and all the other restaurants were closed due to the collapse at Pier 58.
When I looked up, a sign pointing to the Pike Place Market appeared. My husband and I walked to the market. But the unexpected big crowds frightened us. Literally, we were running to escape into a restaurant near us. Place Pigalle, a French restaurant, had only one table of guests. So we felt comfortable to sit down and order a salad, yummy duck leg, and crab cakes. Was it fate or coincidence that I ended up dining there?
The question lingered in my mind, so I went home and checked the calendar. That day was my lunar birthday, according to the Chinese calendar. And I had never celebrated my lunar birthday before. The only two people who remembered my lunar birthday were my late parents. I felt that my mom’s spirit was guiding me that day.
My mom told me, “You were born with a fortunate mouth.” Thanks, mom, for granting me a life blessed with great food and endless fabulous adventures.
So make something magical out of the ordinary to spice up your days. Don’t ever let COVID destroy your sense of fun and adventure.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.