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My 2017

I meant to post a year summary a few days ago but never got the time around to do so. In many ways, 2017 was a roller coaster, not just for me but for many I know. Despite that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find it in me to say that 2017 was a horrible year.

The first few months of 2017 was stressful and full of struggle. My thesis kept crashing and my data vanished several times. It was infuriating as much as it was frustrating. At some point, I had to re-do all calculations and it felt as if I could never finish. Hard work pays off, though, and I eventually made it to the finish line on May 18th. I defended it well, although in retrospect I could have done a way better job. It’s okay because I passed and I got to share it with friends. That was amazing. Right before I defended my thesis, I applied for a dream PhD position. A project that I had been longing to do since my second year at university. At that point, I wanted the project subject to be my Bachelor’s project. However, the world order wanted something else for me and I ended up doing a pilot study instead back then. I struggled a bit to write the application but my spirits were always lifted by colleagues and top notch recommendation letters. Despite my efforts, I was turned down for the position and it made me incredibly sad. I would have been perfectly fine if I had lost the position in any other way, but I was told my English was insufficient and I even had half the department backing me for the position. Not to mention my 2 really well written letters of recommendation from renowned scientists in the field. The rejection hit even harder when I learned that my biggest competitor withdrew his application for another job. It took me several months to recover from this and it still makes me a little angry when I think about it.

To make matters a bit worse, one of my biggest idols, Chester Bennington, committed suicide in mid July. It was horrible because he was part of a band whose music had helped me through the difficult stages that teenage me went through. In the midst of all this emotional turmoil, my uncle’s cancer came back and the entire family went crazy worried. At the same time, my parents struggled to get along after their vacation in Vietnam.

A great, but unanticipated thing happened in July, though. My stream took off and I made it into the affiliate program! I make money off of my stream now. It’s not a lot but it’s something!

Fall came and Zoe started at the new daycare. We saw an incredible character development in her and she was constantly praised for her English. Some even thought we had been living abroad. It was a delight to see how well she adapted to the new environment despite some conflicts with another child. Children will fight and we kept comforting her and teaching her how to deal with such conflicts.

Around this time, my parents’ conflict only grew larger to the point where I feared for my mother’s and brother’s safety. Eventually, they filed for divorce and while I am aware that divorces can be nasty, I’ve never seen someone give up so quickly just to completely make a U-turn and blame it all on the other side. I saw some true colors during the process and I still feel dreadful each time my dad calls me.

Zoe then turned 5 in November and I was struck by reality that she’s starting pre-school this coming August. Yeah, soon we’ll sit there with her homework. I’m not nervous at all. I really want to inspire her to be better and to know that school is an important part of life. I’m even looking forward to her teenage years because I still remember what it was like to be one and the struggles that come with it are so difficult to handle. I want to teach her that her mom will always be there for her even when she’ll claim to hate my guts. If there’s something I want to teach her, it’s that no matter what happens, as long as she confides in an adult she can trust, I’m sure she will be fine. If that person happens to be her mom, even better because I never had that and I want her to have it.

My parents’ divorce became more of a mess when my dad refused to move out and once he did, he kept coming back. We’re still struggling to have mom at least change the locks to prevent him from coming into the apartment. All he does is either sleep on the couch or yell when Zoe isn’t there. What’s the point of parting ways if you refuse to spend time apart from each other? I hope they both realize that soon. To make family matters worse, my uncle passed away Dec 23rd and the family has been pretty much a worse version of the emotional mess that they are. Conflicts are happening as no one seems to want to respect my uncle’s last wishes and no one seems to support my aunt in matters of the funeral. At least it’s going to happen on Jan 5th but the conflicts make me worry  about what will become of the relationship between my aunt and the rest of the family. My aunt always speaks her mind and it’s not very appreciated. At least I made it clear she will always remain family to me. She is my cousin’s mom, after all.

So to sum it up, despite all the dramatic things happening in 2017, I still can’t find it in me to say it was a horrible year. In many senses it was, but in just as many senses, it wasn’t. I have learned that this is what life is like and we are not here to hate the journey that is our lives, we’re here to learn things so we can pass them on to future generations. Let it be friends, family or just strangers from the streets – we’re here to share. To this end, I have nothing more to say other than love for the incredible amount of appreciation that I have been so fortunate to receive. What I wish for 2018 is that there will be even more appreciation, humility, kindness and joy in this world. We do live in the most peaceful times since the beginning of human history, let’s make the most of it!

//c_Cae; appreciation is our greatest need, make sure you show it


Schools schools schools

I know being a parent is difficult at times, but right now the hardest thing I have to do is to do thorough checks on potential schools Zoe can attend. This is so hard. There are no schools that meet my requirements (read: there are no schools that measure to my standards). I, myself, went to a school whose neighborhood was filled with high criminality (read gangs including bikers and a lot of junkies/drunks). I still did good because my mom made it clear you don’t go anywhere unless you finish school properly. I was convinced that if you weren’t a straight A student, you’re a failure not only in school but also in life. So, I fought hard and always finished top 5% of my classes. Not good enough for Asian standards obviously but I felt good about it. My parents didn’t have a choice of sending me to a proper school but we made do.

Here I am and I want to give Zoe the best thing I can get. The problem is, most schools don’t even have teachers that are eligible to teach. It’s troubling for sure, given many, but far from everyone, youngsters today think school is a playground. Of course this damages class morale but I don’t want Zoe to struggle more than necessary. If anything, she is like her father. If things are too easy, she will get lazy. If things are too hard, she’ll give up. I have to choose wisely. Wish me luck ;)

//c_Cae; this is difficult indeed.


Very personal post incoming. It’ll also be very long. You have been warned lol.

When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I remember coming home to a very unfamiliar atmosphere. My grandma was there and my mom was laying in bed too drunk to even notice I came home. I have never seen my mom drunk and that was the one and only time I witnessed it. I don’t remember where my siblings were but I remember my dad wasn’t home. I also don’t remember what was exactly spoken at the time. All I remember is that I had never seen my mom in such a state. When I grew a little older and had gotten into high school, I was told the truth about what happened. My mom had her heart broken and didn’t know where to go and so resorted to the bottle. I found out my dad had been cheating on her and the fights at home were probably more common than in any other healthy relationship. Sadly, that was what my siblings and I were taught through witnessing it over several years. The lesson that excessive fighting in a relationship is normal. It’s not, we know that now but we still think it’s weird family members and friends hug. Expressing feelings any other than anger is weird to us.

I remember my dad once brought my sister and I over to a friend of his on his day off. It was just a normal day and he said this friend had a daughter around our age that we could play with. We didn’t think much of it and tagged along. I still remember where she lived. She was a single mom with a little daughter named Shelley (not sure I spelled it right though). Again, we didn’t think much of it and probably thought it was nice to play with another kid. What didn’t occur to us was that our dad just walked in like it was his home and straight into the bedroom. I remember the adults leaving us in the living room. I don’t remember exactly how old I was at the time, but I was old enough to babysit for one kid. There I was, with two kids. Of course, we eventually got into a fight and we had to leave. It never occurred to me that this was the woman my dad was with while being married to my mom.

Many years after and up until the day my grandmother passed away, I was asked frequently by my grandmother if my dad was still “fiddling on the side”. I didn’t know, and I made sure to say so. My grandmother kept telling me I have siblings somewhere out there as a result of my dad’s affair. I know I resented my dad for doing that, for not being brave enough to face an end with my mom and move on. I absolutely despised it and it showed during my high school years. I know for sure my mom never forgave my dad for it and in all honesty, who would?

Sometime during my first year of high school, when the fights were most intense, my parents spoke of divorce. I didn’t fully understand at the time, it was all beyond me and I was a confused teenager. I do remember choosing to be with my mom because it made no sense to me to live with my dad because of various reasons. He’d yell at us kids for no apparent reason and was in a really dark place himself drowning in alcohol. To this day, I still have a hard time hearing the sound of a can opening because it brings back horrible memories. Violent memories. I still hate being unable to open a bathroom door. If a bathroom door lock doesn’t open, I’d panic. No amount of therapy has gotten me over it and sometimes I hate it. Most the time I think of it as a scar that is there to remind me never to repeat that to anyone in my proximity and to always be alert of such unnecessary behavior. If anything, it has made me wiser. The talks of divorce died and it all settled down. That year, my parents stopped sharing the same bedroom.

Let’s fast forward to this year. My mom decides she wants to live up to a promise she made to my cousin about attending said cousin’s wedding. The small issue is that the wedding is in Vietnam and my mom is first reluctant to go but us kids persuade her to go. She needs the vacation and what would be more fitting than to attend my cousin’s wedding and be with people that would cater her every need? She, if anyone, deserved it. My mom finally makes the decision to go and suddenly, my dad wants to tag along. Reluctantly, my mom agrees and I tell her to be careful because when dad is hangry, I kid you not, he would murder a cow. Nervously, I take them to the airport and see them off.

Three weeks go by and as I talk to my mother everyday (as per normal), I notice her increasing anxiety. I go to pick them up at the same airport I saw them off at and I pick up one anxious parent and a very angry parent. I try my best to coordinate and we make it back to their apartment. This was in May. Since, the fights have picked up like they did when I was in high school. This time, they actually managed to get worse. Threats were thrown left and right. Threats of humiliation and violence. It’s abusive and I ask my mom and brother to leave, even if temporary to just get out for a little while. They declined and things just got worse.

Finally, a new proposal of a divorce got on the table. I have, from day one, said that I will not believe it this time unless I see them both sign it and I’ll post the damn thing myself. Today, I am doing that. It feels good but there’s this part of me that keeps thinking. I’m a very emphatic person and at times, it’s difficult to handle. I’d rather just be sympathetic instead but it is what it is. For all that is going on, I’m once again with my mom on this. I don’t mean to paint my dad as the culprit here, even if he’s done many things wrong. I’m sure, that like the first time, I am missing out on a lot of the full story. However, I can’t bring myself to forgive what he has done, not in the past and not in the present. I actually want a genuine apology but I know that is not likely to happen because my dad is a very proud and righteous man. He’d never admit fault, ever. Despite knowing this and knowing that he won’t ever change his stupid and deranged vision of “my way or the highway” (the highway meaning being on the receiving end of his abuse), I still care. I still fucking care. I worry that he might not make it on his own. He doesn’t know how to pay bills. He doesn’t know where to go if he’s really injured or sick. I worry that he might not be able to care for himself having instant noodles for dinner, shoving it down with beer. It’s destructive, not only for him but for the people around him. I know that. I know his behavior is destructive, yet I care. I bloody care. I hate that. The voice in my head keeps telling me it makes me a better person for caring but then there’s another, smaller voice that tells me that I shouldn’t because in the end, letting such a destructive person have greater influence of your life is horrible. It’s a bad move. I’ve done it before and I’ve gotten burned several times. Yet I still care. I still fucking care.

//c_Cae; making sense of this emotional turmoil.

A divided decision

3 weeks have passed since Serah came to us. Training has paid off, she listens whenever we tell her no, knows her commands and has improved a great deal when walking on the leash. She does turn deaf when she plays with other dogs, though. That’s alright, she’s still a pup. She’s very sneaky, too. She’s not allowed on the couch and she knows it, yet she seizes every opportunity to jump up on it and then look all innocent when we catch her. Most the time, we don’t need to tell her off, she’d jump off on her own and then give you the saddest puppy face on the planet before laying down in her own bed.

During the time Serah’s been here, I have loved 90% of it. Finally having a dog feels amazing. Actually, it feels more than amazing even though it didn’t really turn out the way I wanted (I want a shiba, remember?). I haven’t felt any anger when I’m bored since Serah came. I’ve always had something to do. Zoe is very independent, so a dog fills the gaps where I feel I really want to do something. Whenever I’m bored, I could just train with Serah. She’s very eager to please, which has made our training sessions very easy.

However, I can’t say the same about my family. Patience have been shortened and there haven’t been much understanding to the fact that Serah is a puppy. Zoe has a few phrases on repeat whenever Serah’s around.
I’m scared of Serah. Does she have to live here? Can Haylee live here instead? Haylee can sleep in my bed. Serah’s too big. I love small dogs, like Haylee. 

Haylee is a chihuahua our beloved friends have. She’s indeed adorable, but a wee bit too small for my taste. I understand Zoe, though. It is intimidating to have a dog that’s about twice your body size and it isn’t very helpful knowing the dog will only grow bigger and much faster than Zoe does.
For two and a half weeks, the Dutchman and I have sat down every day, several times a day, with Zoe and Serah and have them become more accustomed to each other. We’ve put up a gate to Zoe’s room to help the progress. Serah keeps laying outside said gate, wagging her tail, hoping Zoe will come play. But Zoe just ignores or teases from the other side. We’ve also tried walking Serah with Zoe, playing out- and indoors with everyone involved and tried doing simple tricks. None of these work and what has happened is that Zoe even more repeats her phrases.

Now, we feel like we have two options. Either return Serah to the adoption bureau, in which case she will again go to a foster family, or keep her and try to make the best of it. Chances are, though, that Zoe will forever emphasise the size of the dog. I’m very divided. I’m a mother, first hand and that makes me feel like I need to listen to my child no matter what. That includes if I have to take the fall (of feeling bad for giving up the dog) if it means Zoe will feel better. The Dutchman seem to have little problem with this aspect, less than I do at least. An equal part of me does not want to give up Serah. She’s amazing. And the voice echoes but you have to think of your child. I don’t know what to do and it just feels awful.

//c_Cae; adulting is hard, parenting is sometimes harder.

Mother daughter time

Zoe and I didn’t do a lot while the Dutchman was away. Mostly, we’d just head out to the parks nearby and played at the playgrounds, hunted Pokémon together and went to see my mom. Other than that, we just had some quality time together. It was great.

I had intended to head for a BBQ as well as an art exhibition with Zoe, but the exhaustion and an ill-timed headache put an end to all that. It sucked, most definitely but at least Zoe had a lot of fun at the playgrounds. We did however drop by the Aquatic Ecology unit on the Friday and hung out with the people there. Marie showed Zoe pictures of her hens and guess who now wants hens?

So now we gotta buy a house with a yard and raise hens.

//c_Cae; any houses for sale? :P 

The last day

The days Frank were here went by so fast, it’s what happens when you have fun, I guess. I forgot to mention that the previous day, I had a pho dinner as a goodbye dinner for Frank.

I’d never done pho on my own before but it turned out alright, not quiet as the one my mom does but I’m close. I also invited La Familia. I knew they’d get along with Frank, and guess what? They did. They got so well along, Max asked me where I had hidden this gem :) Sometimes I wish distance wasn’t such an issue. I have so many good friends, and I really want them all to come together. This dinner was one step closer of getting them all (no, I don’t treat my friends like Pokemon).

The dinner was a success, as usual when food is involved. I also realised that I can handle two girlfriends, which is nice because I have never really gotten along well with girls, but these two are <3 (looking at you Vera and Jenny).

The next day came, and Frank was bound to leave. It was a slow morning, and Zoe was playing with Frank as usual. The two got along so well, and Zoe was clearly not ready for Frank to leave just yet. We all decided to see Frank off, with me going all the way to the airport while the Dutchman and Zoe stay behind after the train station.

Once Frank and I got on the train to the airport, Zoe started crying and hearts were broken. It sucked to see her cry. Damn ID-controls over the Danish/Swedish border. At the airport, we bumped into a Chinese couple, who turned out to be siblings, and asked us for help. My Mandarin is crap, I understand a little but I can’t not for the life of me speak it. They were asking us for help as their carryon was way to heavy for the lady of the two to carry. Of course we help, even though some things were left unsaid because of it. At the gate, there was a quick goodbye and a long hug before Frank took off to Amsterdam to continue his Euro-trip.

It was short, but a great visit. Hopefully, we can meet soon, after all, it was only a temporary goodbye.

Jetlag day

On the third day of Frank’s visit, my intention was to get him and my brother out while I was at a meeting at the university. Plans quickly changed though as Frank’s jet lag took the best of him.

I didn’t mind, travelling east is always painful and it was better for him to feel the worst with the lag here at my place than somewhere else. While he rested up at home, I took off to my meeting.

The unit was kind of empty. Barely anyone was there, so I just put my stuff at the office and headed for the meeting. I was asked to TA earlier this summer and this was an introductory meeting for the class I was going to help out at. I love to TA and so I said yes, thinking maybe I would have less on my plate at the time. I was wrong, but that’s for later. My tasks as TA seem fairly easy, guide students and encourage them to keep up the good mood. I’m pretty good at that, I’d say, so off we go and I head home.

Once home, Frank’s feeling better, which was great because I had made reservations at Bastard, one of the most renown restaurants in town. I had a reservation for three, but since my brother fell ill, it was just Frank and I.

The menu wasn’t huge, but it had enough choices for us to become indecisive about things. It later became obvious we’d order different things and just share it all. Once the food came, we were taken to foodie heaven.


The Bastard Plank (right to left); serrano (or was it prosciutto?), cornichons, lard, liver paté, duck breast, chorizo. It was amazing.


My drink of the night: Left Lane, English tea with some kind of peach infusion, I can’t really remember but it was a 10/10. Non-alcoholic.


Look at the photographer feeding the camera before feeding himself.


We really showed who was boss.


Oxcheek with potato mash and roasted onions. Perfect blend of texture and fall tastes.


Left: Oxcheek. Right: Pork collar with roasted vegetables and plum mustard. The plum mustard was clearly the star of this dish.


My semifreddo with raspberries and pistachios. Not as much of a highlight as the entrée but good enough to wrap up the dinner. 

I didn’t take a pic of Frank’s desert, but he had a dulce de leche with caramel and coffee. It tasted better than mine, I was just too overwhelmed by the raspberries and pistachios.

Overall, it was definitely a 9/10 experience and I’ll go there again once my thesis is defended. There’s a lot at stake here, so I better finish it. Anyway, we basically rolled home after that. Full and satisfied as we were.

//c_Cae; still missing that glorious dinner