Happy New Year, everyone. I hope that this is a good one for you.

Dave, this will disturb you, but while I was in China, I was browsing in a Chinese CD shop. Not like a department store one, but those dirty ones you see on the street that don’t really have a whole lot. Anyway, they were selling H.O.T. albums. So I guess they’re at least somewhat big in China as well as in Korea.

Speaking of which, you know the biggest artists in China? I mean the Western ones. They are like Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Kenny G, the Carpenters, and John Denver. It’s pretty bizarre. The Carpenters thing is the most bizarre one, because they’ve been gone for a long time, but they are still included on every single compilation album that comes out in China. So recent ones might have like My Heart Will Go On, some other big recent songs, and like Yesterday Once More. I am not joking, the Carpenters are on every single compilation album, without exception. It is so strange.

And very depressing that Kenny G is so big there. There was one meal we had that was so surreal. I’m not sure if this was the bad restaurant experience but I think it was. So we went out to eat, but the thing is, not many of us in our team spoke Mandarin. On that one occassion it was me, Wong, and either Sam Lau or Kenn Lee, I can’t remember. So we chose a restaurant, and how we would usually order was we brought along a menu with both Chinese and English on it, and we’d kind of point. But this particular restaurant had none of the things on the menu. It was very frustrating. And we couldn’t, you know, leave, so it was just difficult. I have no idea how we got food. But it was a bizarre meal. The shredded potatoes were good, though.

At any rate, it was surreal because they were playing Kenny G’s Christmas album. I cannot even begin to explain how surreal it is to be in China, in the middle of a hot summer, eating a bizarre meal, listening to bland saxophone Christmas music.

I had a really great break, one of the best I’ve had, in my opinion. I’m not totally sure why, but it was a really good one.

One of the highlights was one night we went to Kemah, TX. This is some city near Galveston that’s right near the Gulf, like on the water. We ate at a restaurant called the Aquarium. The gimmick is it’s a seafood place, and it’s like an aquarium inside, actually a number of aquariums, with all these cool fish. Plus a 3 hour wait and no reservations. So while we were waiting I was thinking to myself how I’m not into these theme restaurants and how tired it is to have restaurants that mix things together. I was just thinking, if I want to go to an aquarium, I’ll go to an aquarium; if I want food, I’ll go to a restaurant; why mix the two? I guess what I really meant was, why mix the two and have high prices for bland food?

Surprisingly enough, the food turned out to be all right. My dinner was great; a lobster tail and filet mignon. So good. So I kind of changed my attitude about that.

But the reason it was so good was because all of our families went out. It was my family, Paul Jung’s family, David Park’s family, and Bobby Ro’s family. All the parents sat at one side of the table and all the kids (are we really kids anymore? The youngest one is 21) at the other. And something about having all our families together put me in a really good mood. Because we’re all friends and they (our parents) are all friends and we can all go out together like this. It’s kind of special.

So this may be obvious, but knowing a person’s family really helps you know a person. I think that’s why I feel so close to the people in Houston, because we have that family link. At least part of it. Anyway, I kind of feel like people at Stanford will never really really know me because they don’t know my family. It’s just, you can’t really understand me without knowing them, I think.

By the way, it never ceases to amaze me how small the Asian American Christian intellectual circle is. So the Dave Park – Scott Kim – Chris Min thing is interesting, because you know, a number of us at Stanford kind of know them. Anyway, this year Dave is rooming with, among other people, David Ahn (Janet Ahn’s brother) and Josh Kwan (Joe Kwan’s brother). And that was just so amazing to me. I mean, what are the chances? And it’s stranger still because I’ve only talked to David and Josh briefly but they seem really different. Anyway, it’s a small subculture we live in.

We also went to Star Snow Ice, one of the best things about Houston, and the place where every single Asian in Houston hangs out. Anyway, I was looking around, and it’s amazing how many of the people there had met Jieun. My sister has, Tina Park, David Park, Fara Choi, Paul Jung; that’s quite a few people. And Paul has met Gloria Lee and James Han and my cousin Marshall, who knows Heidi Kim. And Fara knows Brian Lee. And Dave knows Vicki Lim, who knows James Choi. I could go on and on. I think one day I’ll make some graph to show everyone I know and who knows each other.

Another highlight of my break was New Year’s Eve. For the second year, our church rented out a bowling alley so everyone bowls from like 8 to 2 or something preposterous like that. But it’s a really great idea. Because all the kids come, and older people too, and very lane is just packed and everyone has a great time. There’s food, prizes, and just a good time of hanging out with people. I am most happy when I see people having a good time. I did this last year too, but I spent a lot of time just watching people having a good time, because it puts me in a good mood. And people really were. At 11:45, we sang a few songs, had a short message, then counted down together. A really good time.

So I really love my church in Houston. I mean, I love the people so much. I’m never really there, and even when I’m there there are only a few people I really hang out with, but I love them. Oh wait a sidenote – my church actually serves dduk for communion. And my dad said the reason they translated it dduk was because when it was translated, bbang didn’t exist!

So yeah I love my church and the great thing is how it just feels alive. Everytime I come back it is very different in terms of the makeup of the people, but that’s great. And there’s something about being part of a church that is centering, like I feel like it anchors my life there. So it’s definitely a blessing. It’s made me think a lot about churches in general and my church here but you don’t really care about that.

I really do feel very very lucky, because I feel like God has prepared the way everywhere I’ve been. I was talking with a friend and he was saying how like all the kids at his church just have problems and are kind of messed up, involved with wrong things, and stuff like that. And, you know, that’s all foreign to me because my generation at church growing up totally weren’t like that. I mean, we were all really good, I mean, not perfect or anything, but we kept ourselves mostly out of trouble. Just nice kids, you know? And I feel so fortunate about that. At least now, it seems like that was a special, unique thing that I guess I took for granted.

So we moved to Houston, and the kids in Houston, I mean my generation, are just like the nicest kids in the world. Growing up they always had that reputation, of being good kids. And they really are. And I look at kids in Houston and it’s getting like Cali, you know, a lot of them are just involved in the wrong things. But my friends are all still just such good kids. I feel so fortunate to know them. When we were moving there, you know, we kind of didn’t want to, especially my sister, but I think we both recognize now that it was the best thing that could have possibly happened to us, I mean, really the best, and we wonder what we would be like if we had stayed in Cali. I guess more my sister than me, but still. So I feel very blessed by my life in Houston also. It’s very special I think.

Anyway, I sometimes have difficulty relating with the problems of younger kids nowadays because honestly, I can’t relate. My life has been just so easy, in terms of good influences and friends, everywhere I have gone. Like freshman year, I still feel like my class was a very special one in terms of the Christians in it. So it was very easy to find good friends. And even now, as a grad student, there are all these other grad students that just kind of popped out of nowhere that is making life easy for me. Anyway, I feel fortunate.

Pretty boring, huh? Thanks for reading, Dave.