Uncontained Rants...

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Thanksgiving post

You know it’s officially the holidays when the cold begins to nip at your cheeks, KOST starts playing Christmas carols instead of love songs BEFORE Thanksgiving (I heart KOST at night) and people start whipping out their scarves (although here in SoCal, scarf wearing leans more towards ‘don’t-I-look-cute-with-my-wool-scarf-and-tank top?’ than a need to ‘shield-ones-neck-from-the-biting-winds’) But, who am I to judge?

I think I’m ready to fully embrace the holidays in all its glory this year since last year I spent these months in Vietnam. Don’t get me wrong; those were fantastic and unforgettable times--the hearty Thanksgiving meal in Hanoi and celebrating Christmas with my family in Tuy Hoa. But, there’s just something about being in the States amidst the festivities, the plethora of lights and the joy that this season brings to children (albeit stressful for their parents) that makes it special. Of course, the cynical Julie recognizes the irritating “Buy! Buy! Buy!” that lingers beneath the cornucopia of gifts and goodies, but isn’t that the case year round anyways? If I can resist/fall prey to it on any normal day in the year, the same will probably apply now.

Thus, Thanksgiving heads up the Triple Threat in this holiday massacre, which I think is good in the sense that it helps to slowly prepare us for the onslaught of activities that will soon follow.

Thanksgiving (Le Ta On)

My earliest memories consist of a cloudy haze of pilgrims, Indians, finger paints and paper plate turkeys. The entrance of turkey meat and gluttonous side dishes don’t register in my memory until more recent years, although I somehow vividly remember how thoroughly “stuffed” everyone is after the meal. I can safely say my family embraces this holiday as “All-American” as a multi-cultural/racial Vietnamese family can. The game is on, the kids are loud, the Butterball Turkey sits proudly in the center, and there’s the occasional awkward lull in conversation between Vietnamese/English speakers. But, there is a significant element that I must point out, lest we forget that there is a difference:

Turkey meat is overrated, don't you think? It’s pretty tasteless and too filling. I think half of the Vietnamese families who actually do the turkey thing actually find the meat disgusting (like my grandparents) but buy the little sucker anyways. I think of the poor turkeys who are fattened up to be sacrificed at this time every year to satiate American traditions—but then I think of the many more chickens, pigs and cows who go through the same horrors year-round and I guess those turkeys have it pretty good in comparison. Thus, to offset the giant hunk of meat on the table, my grandma serves up egg rolls (cha gio), noodles (mi xao), and an assortment of Vietnamese dishes along with the obligatory mashed potatoes, cranberries and stuffing. Oh, and we can’t forget the fish sauce (nuoc mam), which, if you’re Southeast Asian, can be eaten with anything.

Alright, enough nonsense talk. In truth, I think the essence of Thanksgiving, which is to give thanks, is very fitting for me at this time of year because I indeed have much to be thankful for:

Being in good health and of sane mind (for the most part).

The security of family and friends

Mom- strong-willed and tough spirited. She challenges me, but has played a key role in shaping me to be the woman I am today.

Tiff- Kind hearted and lovable. Although growing very quickly into a young woman, my little sister is my biggest fan and advocate.

-An array of good friends who keep me motivated, encouraged, humored and focused.

Doing work that I can enjoy, become inspired by, and helps pay the bills.

Having a roof over my head, food on my plate, clothes on my back and a blanket(s) to keep me warm at night.

Having the luxury of a car, which apart from the stubborn tire, gets me where I need to go.

Having a college education and the means to continue my education if I so choose.

The fact that if I have a desire to learn about anything in particular, I have access to the answers—on my home computer, local bookstore or library.

Having had the opportunity to study in Vietnam, which among many other lessons, taught me to see outside of my present surroundings.

The opportunity to write for a publication, which I truly believe, serves a population in the Vietnamese community that so desperately needs a voice.

The freedoms to walk into any church, talk openly about my faith in public, and ask questions—all without threat of persecution.

Having the freedom to question the governing systems and those in power.

And the list goes on and on…

These are things that for some may seem trivial, but for others may mean the world. I know that for even half the things on that list, I live a more luxurious life then many people in this world. I fully believe that it is God who has blessed me with each and every one of the gifts in my life. As Thanksgiving ushers in this holiday season, I’m hoping to be more mindful of the many things I have to be grateful for.


Totally different topic: The Motorcycle Diaries

GREAT movie. Go watch it. I am completely stingy with my money when it comes to movies because for the most part, the quality of movies in no way compares to the ridiculous amount you fork over to watch it (and don’t EVEN get me started on the commercials in movie theatres now) But, I digress, as usual.

The Motorcycle Diaries is brilliant. Gael Garcia Bernal (Amores Perros, The Crime of Padre Amaro) is not only fantastic eye candy but a phenomenal actor as well. The movie inspires me to not just learn more about the life of Ernesto “Che” Guavara, but exacerbates my idealistic tendencies about working for change and combating injustice. So much of the movie reminded me of Vietnam (go figure). The underlying message challenges one to face the realities of how the rest of the world lives, especially when it’s easier to operate under “out of sight, out of mind” mode. Just something else for me to reflect on…although I wouldn’t recommend watching it if you’re expecting fast action-blow up buildings and people-computer generated hoopla. If that’s what you’re looking for—go watch National Treasure.

Anyways, to close this ridiculously long entry, just wanted to wish everyone a fabulous Thanksgiving and holiday season (if I don’t see you). Try not to get too sucked into the over-hyped consumer madness (well, unless you want to), or trip over the small things, and tell others how much you appreciate them. I’m seriously heading up to the Bay Area sometime before New Years so hopefully I can see some of you while I'm up there.

I appreciate you!