Christ Towers Jr. School: A Fundraising Campaign for Ugandan Rural Pupils

Your donations will fuel many projects around the school from as basic as increasing hygiene around the campus to cultivating next generation leaders, giving every child a chance to lift himself/herself and those around out of poverty. Richard and Sylvia Kent’s efforts have proverbially (and to some extent literally) given local children “a shot at life”. You can help uphold this spirit in the distant, and I encourage you to do so.
For more information and to donate:

If you believe in doing good, I’d like you to center your attention on this short post of mine. Yes, I am asking for money; I am asking you for donations that will result in the greater good for Ugandan children.

Figure 1. School ground-1 (before)
Figure 2. School ground-2 (before)

Promised to be a sustainable ground for physical and cognitive development, Christ Towers Junior School (CTJS) strives to supplement its pupils with education and food at low-cost to realize its vision: “A rural population fully empowered, reformed and liberated from the ills of poverty and illiteracy through education.”

It all began with Richard and Sylvia Kent, both of whom started Christ Towers Juniors School (CTJS) as a day care center that aimed to support local women of shopkeepers and farmers. Due to its success, demand, and support by the local women, CTJS has expanded to include primary education in addition to its nursery.

Having survived its infancy in the past four years and graduated 184 children, CTJS is now ready to take on more responsibilities; it has recently transitioned from a non-profit to a small company in its attempt to expand further in order to accommodate more local children. Some of anticipated challenges are:

  1. The biggest challenge ahead of us is the high increasing student population realized annually, mainly caused by parents who keep expressing willingness to leave their children with us to continue educating them until primary seven level.
  2. Lack of enough space to accommodate all the admitted children and Lack of enough playing space and suitable scholastic materials for all children.
  3. Having limited number of school requirements and failure to meet the costs of maintaining enough members of the Teaching and support staff.
  4. High costs experienced in renting the school buildings, purchasing welfare items for the children plus cost of necessary utilities and other related charges.
  5. Lack of Medical Care Unit and Nurse who keeps checking on children daily health status, prevention of diseases and attending common emergency health problems.
  6. Lack of transport vehicles to fetch and return children from distance areas.

Your donations will fuel many projects around the school from as basic as increasing hygiene around the campus to cultivating next generation leaders, giving every child a chance to lift himself/herself and those around out of poverty. Richard and Sylvia Kent’s efforts have proverbially (and to some extent literally) given local children “a shot at life”. You can help uphold this spirit in the distant, and I encourage you to do so.
For more information and to donate:

Disclaimer: there are not any crowdfunding websites that participate in Uganda at the time of this writing. As the volunteer and manager of this fundraising campaign, I will see to its end. The amount collected will be first deposited to my bank account, after which will be transferred directly to bank account of Christ Towers Jr.’s account. Hence, your donation will not qualify for tax-deductible. 

Figure 3. School ground-1 (present day)
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Figure 4. School ground-2 (present day)

An Inspirational Hackman


Figure 1. Tuk-Tuk (n.) a chariot drawn by a motorbike.

When offered a chance to move up and become something more, some may not think twice and sign and date. However, at least for this 41 years old tuk-tuk taxi driver, Sophun Sam did not hesitate in his choosing when offered up-front the opportunity to supervise a Japanese restaurant with the opportunity of becoming more than just a branch Manager. He knows what he wants. And he’s willing to invest in driving customers from dawn to dusk instead.

I was puzzled as Sam told me while his friend, the person who made him the offer sitting 2 feet away, was speaking to his other Japanese friend.

When asked whether it was due to the pay differential, Sam admitted that ferrying customers might not earn him as much as overseeing a restaurant for his Japanese friend. On top of the pay–which could do his wife and children a great favor–a shop Manager may also be more stable as a day to day occupation and give his family a peace of mind with regard to the safety nature of his current work and might also safeguard him and his family against the negative societal views associated with being a Tuk-Tuk driver.

“Being a hackman is not an easy task. I need to be at my peak”, said Sam “otherwise, I would not be able to carry out my 12-15 hr work each day. Every morning, I wake up at 4am to jog around the round-about of the Central Market to freshen up for the day.” The moment his children have been dropped off at school, the chase begins.


Figure 2. Sam Sophun, an over 10 years experienced Tuk Tuk driver in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In Phnom Penh, it’s impossible to get the approximate counts of how many tuk-tuk taxi or motorbike taxi drivers there are. There is not an official census for this line of work. Any one who owns a tuk-tuk or a motorbike can become a makeshift taxi driver and start earning conveniently without having to register with any authority units. Union also does not exist; every man jumps on the opportunity to earn when he sees fit.

For Sam and others, getting passengers can also be a hit or miss. Sometimes, an overlooked wave by the passenger as they ride pass means a net for the next driver. Some can also be so focused on picking up the client that he would dismiss the red light and ease through the flowing wave of motorists to get to his client. I cringed as I saw this happening right before my eyes.

Luckily for Sam, with more than 10 years of riding experience, he has mastered the game. On top of picking up customers along the streets, Sam also has his own working website and Tripadvisor page to get him more traffic from out-country  visitors. According to Sam, ferrying foreign tourists and visitors can earn him a more promising fare; this comes in the form of tips earned by his charisma and easy-going nature, which are not much valued by local clients.

Some frequent visitors who have been chauffeured by Sam, apart from continually patronizing his service when visiting Cambodia, do not hesitate to lend a hand in getting him more business. For instance, his current website and tripadvisor account were all created for him by one of his regular customers from Sweden who he now casually refers to as friend. In fact, his Japanese friend whom I just mentioned is also a frequent foreign client of his. Sam has also been invited to accompany him to Laos.

This was probably the reason why Sam enjoys his work even though if his win and loss is up to the stroke of luck, I thought. The evolving friendships between him and his customers thrive on his ferrying and accompanying his customers to their destinations. And to throttle down might consequently downshift their friendships.

But finally, I got to hear Sam’s own explanation as to why he chose running a taxi instead of a restaurant for his friend.

“My children need me,” explained Sam, “I am making an investment in my children; I can still come home at the right time and be with my children if I choose to be a hack man. It is true that the costs of living are taxing on me. The primary cost is school tuition. Every three months, I have to stow $420 dollars for their tuition costs. Some of my driver companions have commented that I should put the money to a more practical use such as moving into a bigger space and enjoying the income with my family instead. But for me, I don’t care if our family merely ‘gets by’. I want my children to go to good schools. And I want to have time for my children especially when they are stuck on their homework. I want to be by them as they are growing. And when they are all grown up, they will have the confidence and the skills they obtained from their father to carry out their lives independently. I pull the weight by their side so they’ll know how to in their adulthood.”

God helps man who helps himself.
Keep fighting, Sophun!

Sam Sophun’s website:
Sam Sophun’s tripadvisor:

A True Christmas Miracle Story

“All I could do was be hopeful in the face of impossibility and rejection that my aunt and cousin would be able to be transferred to Korea Airlines……..”

My concern of being the driver to the airport is none besides direction.  If you have been to SF airport, you have a pretty good idea of how the campus is like, a mini-village-like with many criss-cross roads and with two spacious, disconnected garages that could call for a 20 min or more browse in order to reach the terminal. It could be worse when you are to catch a flight, as if check-in wasn’t already enough a time problem.  Fortunately for me as a first-timer driver to see my aunt and cousin off, it didn’t take me long before I found my way through this maze.

“What a relief!” I sighed. It was merely around 6:30am when we stepped foot inside the terminal. Considering the flight left at 9:30am, we were among early birds for this trip.  After scanning the flight information printed from our email and matching it with that of the flight display board, the rest was a matter of time before they got on their flight and I could head back for some nap before work. “Aisle 9 Korea Airlines from SFO to Washington, time 9:45am”, said the display. We headed over to only find out that the aisle wouldn’t be open till 8am. Without a complaint, we waited, waited, and waited.

We queued up a little before 8am. By the time we got to the clerk, it was already 8: 15am or so. “Plenty of time for the security checkpoint.” Then there appeared a puzzling look on the clerk’s face when she searched for their names. It seemed to be hinting a common (but unusual to us) case for a passenger check-in. I then was told that Korea Airlines was not the flight my aunt and cousin were to be on. “Sir, this is operated by Alaska Airlines at Aisle 12.”

A state of shock grappled all three of us. I prayed as we were scurrying across the hall that there be nothing else in between them and their flight. On the contrary, we then were presented with a flood of passengers at the Alaska Airlines aisle. “Let’s see if we can still make it” was all I could say to keep my aunt positive throughout the dreadful wait. It turned out that we weren’t the only group to have to be redirected to Alaska Airlines. This was reassured by the wistful look on the family who was right behind us, the man crying out to the clerks: “what the hell! Aren’t you guys doing anything? I have a connecting flight”, another guy caring less about what others were hearing about his phone conversation, and many more inaudible families’ conversations.  And though this gave us some momentary peace knowing that the agency would do something since it was not a small scale disorder, our hope waned as the clock was ticking by. After a number of attempts of running back and forth to explain our case to ticket clerks of both airlines, we were still trapped in the line as our flight was slipping right in front of our eyes. Finally, came the announcement that ended everything for good: “That’s it for 9:45am Washington bound flight check in!”

I felt terrible, probably more terrible than the actual passenger–my aunt–did. The explanation is simple. I failed to get a woman and her kid on their flight! But I still wanted to see if there was anything that could be done for us as it was not entirely our fault; we weren’t busting our butts to get to airport because we woke up late and got held up by the traffic. We were genuinely misguided by the information printed from the email and by the complexity /politic of flight operation. On top of that, given that the incident was prolific, there should have been a group of back-up summoned from either Korea Air or Alaska Air to handle these cases.

“And from here on marks the reason why I think this event is worth writing about”

We were finally at the front of the line and were called. The clerk who greeted us was a middle aged woman of Philippino nationality. She was single (we later learned) but was brimmed with motherly understanding. On the exterior, she seemed tough and uneasy-going. I remember the first few minutes we spent at the counter I tried to limit what to say to her. She sported a mid-parted, neck-length bob. And her hair was black. The overall facial image of this clerk was complemented with a pair of reading glasses and accentuated by a mole not far away from her upper lip. “A stern clerk we have here,” I thought to myself. But deep down, I still hoped our prayers would be answered by her–Sue.

I explained to Sue why we had missed our 9:45am flight and hoped to earn her understanding more by telling her that we weren’t the only group to encounter this. She then said everyone’s case had become individualized as a result of varying final destinations. Now the stakes were raised. Sue then typed away at her keyboard to schedule an alternative flight for my aunt and cousin, but nothing came up that would allow for a complete transfer of schedule. Sue tried every possible way she could, transferring us to a different airline; re-routing our first domestic flight to catch the second continuing, international flight; breaking up the first and second flights by one day. But none of these combinations yielded any solutions. In the meantime, Sue also received a phone complaint from a customer which obliged her to step aside, explain to the passenger, and resolve the case.  We were unattended to briefly.

It had already been over half an hour since we were with Sue. Time was ticking way, hope was slipping by, but we still moved nowhere. The only thing for which I still felt grateful as for the moment was that Sue didn’t quit on or neglect us. My ten year old cousin, by this time, had also conceived the gravity we were in. However, I am still thankful that it didn’t bother him as much as it did us adults. He would ask me about the status of our trip every now and then. And I would tell him as honest, as optimistic, and as cheerful as I could tell his mom, “We’ll see.” He then muttered with his hand tugging at my jacket: “it would be a Christmas miracle if we make the flight.” I nodded in agreement but still refused to acknowledge it inwardly.

Sue returned after resolving her side complaint. By what she said next after a quick typing at her keyboard, I assumed that she was ready to give in and give up on us. “Now, all you can do is call the ticket agency from whom you bought your tickets and see if they can make any arrangement for you.” I knew that if we had said: “yes, thank you ma’m” and walked away, there would have been no chance in heaven that anyone would open his/her mind to try to gauge our situation. Instead, “Since you understand our disposition, would you mind representing us and make the call for us?” was what I went with. As much as she was ready to give up, Sue granted our request. She then dialed the ticket reservation center and spoke to the associate in charge. Two or three minutes into the conversation, Sue handed me the receiver telling me that the associate would like to speak to me. As soon as I heard the word “hi” from the other side, I knew that this gentle, calm voice was willing to accept my plea. She then took the time to listen to what I had to explain and I could also feel her empathy. Nonetheless, the readiness to reject my plea was imminent, but a slight hesitation to ditch us completely also persisted. In the end, she gave us the benefit of the doubt and let the higher authority decide our case. Now, I was connected to her supervisor. I knew I would stand no chance in convincing this person even though he had accepted my plea and listened to his associate’s explanation. Feeling desperate to make it work, I asked Sue to speak on our behalf; with her authority, she would have more promise at delivering this case to the Ticket Reservation Manager. Sue got back on the line.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This woman, whom we had been bothering for the past hour and whom had no connection with us whatsoever, crept into the verge of tears while explaining to the Ticket Reservation Manager; I was no longer the only one begging. At that point, even though nothing would have worked out, I would have still been very pleased with the dedication we had received. Shortly after her phone conversation, Sue told us that she was instructed to call Korea Airlines aisle and work it out with it directly for two seats for my aunt and cousin. She made the call, over and over.  Disappointedly, nobody picked up. I glanced over the aisle and from what I saw, they should have been open for a call. Determined to yield an answer out of this, Sue dropped everything at hand, walked over to the other side of the counter, and led us to Korea Airlines Aisle. Suddenly, a glimpse of hope emerged and we humbly felt the privilege that Sue had enshrouded us as we were striding the terminal.

We reached our final obstacle. I pointed out to Sue who I had already spoken to in this aisle earlier, the female clerk and the supervisor in charge of today’s flight. Sue quickly assessed if the Manager of Korea Airlines was on site by asking one of its porters in Tatalog. Without wasting a minute, she then approached the Manager. He was a stout, light-in-complexion, 40 or 50 year old Korean American. By his expression, he was an easy-going and compassionate person. Furthermore, his soft-spoken voice and welcoming manners only boosted our hope even more. Sue stepped aside with the man a number of times, and the man had to walk back and forth liaisoning on both his group’s behalf and our behalf. Even though the Manager seemed to give us an Okay, his efforts were still impeded by his colleagues especially the supervisor in charge of today’s flight. When the Manager finished talking with Sue and was a few feet away from me, I couldn’t help but to reach out and grabbed and shook his hand, “we really need your help, sir!” I then could only remain hopeful after feeling his unresponding, squishy handshake.

Sue then recapitulated her discussion with the Manager to us. First, he had to make sure if there would be any room on the flight and if the cook had prepared more than enough meals in order to accommodate two additional passengers. The latter was a check, but our fate still lied in whether there would be any openings on the plane. We were instructed to waitlist. And that clarified why there was a couple standing dormant to the side instead of checking in their baggage. We lined up right behind them. Hopeful was all I could be.

It was during this time that I was able to learn more about Sue, for instance, her aforementioned single status and her employment with Alaska Airlines. I also humbly thanked her for doing so much and sticking her neck out for us. She went way beyond her duty. I don’t know how many other passengers she had neglected that day by helping us. I also do hope that she did not get in any trouble for abandoning her post and for paying the difference using her company’s account to secure the seats for my aunt and cousin. All I knew then was that her kind acts couldn’t escape my desire to learn why she did what she did. And in a very simple line, “if you put yourself in that person’s shoe, you would feel it.” She answered. Things seemed to be panning out well. Finally, Sue returned again and confirmed our flight for us. Before she could escape physically this time, I grabbed hold of her hands and thanked her for the last time. “How could we repay you?” I asked. Again, the middle-aged woman didn’t make it complicated for us to make meaning of her message. “Just be good to each other.” With that, our good Samaritan left the scene.

The new flight my relatives were to board took off at 11:45am.  It was now already 11 o’clock. The clerks were also finishing last things they had at the encounter while last minute arrivers unloading their baggage onto the scale.  A lady holding her baby in one arm and another pushing her cart stacked with luggage well above her over 5 ft stature hoped that her husband would also make it to her on time; and he did show up shortly after. By this time, the couple ahead of us had already left for the security check point. The entire aisle was left with just us and a few clerks. The supervisor in charge of today’s flight still seemed piqued because his Manager had ruled over his decision. Nonetheless, he still issued us two tickets and a red tag that would get us to the front of the line at security checkpoint.  Despites little feelings here and there, we were still very grateful for everybody’s help. We thus accepted our tickets and attached our gratitude in our handshakes with the remaining personnel of Korea Airlines. Time was closing in on us. And just like that, I couldn’t even bid my relatives proper goodbye. I stood behind the divider and kept my eyes peeled on the other side of the glass door in case they still couldn’t make Gate A6. But they never returned and so I took care of one last thing on my agenda before I left the terminal.

The last thing I had to get was a pack of chocolates. I asked the sales clerk for a pen, paper, and tape. The finished note was attached to the chocolate and dropped off at Aisle 12, Alaska Airlines,
for Sue. Among many things that I wrote to thank Sue, I’d like my readers and especially my cousin who just got on his flight to know that—I witnessed a Christmas miracle that day.

Two Weeks Two SHORT Stories of Optimism

Ever since I started driving, I have never had to deal with the dreaded traffic jam. Complaints and exasperation from friends over traffic jam never earned my commiseration. On top of that, I passively criticized those who had nothing better to do than to sway my positive mornings askew with their traffic catastrophe. I then came to realize it firsthand.

During my two weeks assignment at a company in South SF, my commutes, both ways, were equivalently 1/3 of the time I spent at work. Traffic jam was the culprit.  I had never thought my commutes would be this terrible. I felt so disturbed that each day I would rather arrive at work an hour before and nap away in the car till 8 o’clock. On one hand, I can’t say that I disliked all of it as, en route to work, NPR seemingly shortened the travel distance and I enjoyed being educated about our national social contemporary issues. On the other hand, at the end of each day, going home was in fact the last thing I looked forward to as it entailed idling through the congested highway at 30mph or less. But what made driving, fatigue, anxiety-buildup worthwhile was all due to the employees and their stories I learned during this brief placement.

As a temp, I didn’t expect much. Going in as a problem-solver, my objective was to get the project done with another hired temp and move on. Nonetheless, to ease the discomfort that usually exists initially between the temp and regular, I made small talks with the regular to 1) learn about their opinion of their employer. 2) to learn about them.

There were many nice people. May of the Analytical Lab, for instance, expressed more enthusiasm than us when answering our questions. Ray of MCD Dept. spoke with a firm, warm, fatherly tone as we exchanged our backgrounds. My boss, Nand, with his background as a K-12 science teacher, was rather generous with his time when it came to showing us around especially things regarding equipment/policies in his department. Nand held fast to safety guidelines and he hoped we left the company ready to confront emergency with an emphasis on personal safety. However, among all the people I met, Suzy of Molecular Cell and Development Dept. and Mike of Environmental Health and Safety, the department under which I contracted, were two of the most positive ones.

Suzy is positive for her future. Despite having her MS degree in Biology, Suzy thinks that her current science position is still whetting her appetite for something greater. Suzy told me that she didn’t see herself being in the biopharma industry for the rest of her career. This is partly due to scarcity of opportunity to move up. Costly overhead is another factor that stands between her and her goal. She then proceeded to share her dream of owning her own bakery. As she was telling me, I started to detect her increased rate of speech. The sparkle in her eyes also became more visible as she carried on. I was shut down by her immense energy; I was speechless but continually smiled and nodded along. This was because Suzy spoke of something that I haven’t yet heard by most scientists.

Many pursue professions in the tech and biotech in hope of realizing their scientist dream and the financial security that comes with the titles. Suzy’s story is inspiring as it takes courage for one to resign from a position in what economists call secondary sector, which accounts for only 20% of U.S. labor force, to join a tertiary sector—where 80% of the U.S. labor force competes to strike rich. Nonetheless, even though money is one of the motives for which one struggles hard, this is not the case for Suzy as I do believe that it’s been a dream of hers to run her life/career to the fullest even if it means she has to forsake a highly-regarded job title. Her passionate bakery dream told me so.


As luck would have it, I ran into Mike before I left. Mike is a stout man. He’s about 5’8 but packs a muscular 200 lbs frame. Mike never failed to smile. A lot of people who have met or worked with me would describe me as optimistic and light-hearted. But Mike would be a stronger definition of them both, in my opinion. Mike told us briefly about how he landed a job here in EH&S. He had worked for companies around the area and had once been a temp of his current company. Three months went by and he was called off. Mike then persisted in similar companies around the area. One contract after another, Mike finally was called back to his present company as a result of his excellent review during his contract period. Mike went on to say that finding a job had been tough, but so long as the positive spirit was in check, light in the tunnel would gleam. And that is the reason why he is spreading his smiles like Ebola in all the areas of his duty. We were fortunate to have been at one of the places. “Stay positive, gentlemen!”, said Mike as the other temp and I shook hands with Mike and bidded goodbye.

These two coincidental encounters during my job as a temp did really feed me spiritually. What I mean to say is, in the face of hardship and hopelessness, optimism  and positivity are only what is left in us for us to come home to. Suzy was able to stay put despite possible hopelessness in realizing her dream. And Mike was able to utilize faith to actualize a humble, beaming smile that he was later able to share with everybody else on the job. Their journeys are different but their optimism was cast in the same mold. And in the end, this is what I would like to leave my readers with. Just like how Mike did it, I am going to cyber-shake your hands as this post is coming to its close, “Stay positive!”

A Dig Into My Memory Box

I didn’t think moving boxes from one room to another would take me longer than I had expected. It could be partly ascribed to my prior ingestion of some heavy MSG-laden snacks which, according to my relatives, blindsided me with an unmotivated spirit. By the same token, I found something in which so worthy of getting lost while moving that this languidness was another reason for me to sit for 45 minutes to just dig through and reminisce. If you have some time, move off your mouse touch pad and lay your fingers on the arrow buttons on the keyboard instead; scroll down with me through some of the things in my “memory box” this afternoon.


This is a photo of my cousins and I visiting Golden Gate Bridge together for the fist time. I remember I had just recently injured my wrist from basketball that week. We all look pretty young in the photo. One of us has gotten married and is raising his baby girl. Another is about to undergo that same ceremony. The rest of us including me are just praying against that day.


Hahhaa….>.< Valentine’s Day. I should have noted the year on this one. It should happen somewhere in high school. Neither a crush nor a partner gave this to me. I saved this because how she gave it to me was very memorable, even though I can vaguely recall it. It was just a simple hand-over, but it was deeply felt by me. Thank goodness the candies have their wrapper. They are supposed to be gummy-bear chewy. When I felt them, they were hard and crusty to touch. Let’s not open it.


One special un-working watch that I am still holding onto. It is from Pa. I got this roughly at the age of 11 or 12. I had an old man taste back then, somehow. I preferred styles like this as opposed to mades like Casio, which was a fad among my peers. This could possibly explain why a lot of people in highschool implicitly acknowledged me as an old head on a young shoulder as I can relate more to older people.God bless you, Pa!


And the next thing I am sharing is this emblem. 4Seasons, so we called ourselves. If everybody each gets 15 minutes of fame in his/her life, some of my minutes have to be during the time of our abrupt existence as 4Seasons. Adopted from MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, our high school held its own edition of Best Dance Crew.  Here is the video of it.

During the time of our participation, there were only 4 teams competing. Though it was a small tournament, performing in front of the school and being the first season winner did feel really good. I still can’t believe we managed to put together our routines in such a short time.


I think all of us know this one. Jansport. If you wanna be cool, you’ve gotta double-strap on a pack of this brand. But this realization didn’t dawn on me until later in middleschool. Meanwhile, what remarkable and will always remain in my heart about this pack is it was given to me by gramp, and it’s been around nearly as old as I am. Ok, I might have lied; it is mayble 5 or 6 years younger than me. I remember getting so antsy to go to school so that I could don the bag. Also, when I first received it, it was much bigger than me. I had to wait a couple years to properly piggyback this thing. Now, there are tears and it’s started disintegrating, but sweet moments with it are long-lived. God bless you, gramp!

what are some of the keepsakes you have in your memory box?

Robin Williams Inspired: Thoughts and Advice


I think we all have witnessed this type of scene. A group of audience relishes a performance till the very end before putting hands together for the performers. It has been a norm, courtesy, or whatever you may call it, to wait for a process to conclude before we do our parts such as cheering and clapping. In the context of an individual’s life, shall we also stick to this convention and wait till an end to life takes place before we take our actions, or should we interject the process such that we might indeed make our actions count and possibly change the outcome of the life? “I think that will have to depend on where you stand with respect to your “closeness” to the victim in each case.”

This post was inspired by the incident of Robin Williams and the cause of his passing, depression. This is not entirely about Mr. Williams as we all know you don’t need another post to justify how influential he had been in many lives, both of commoners and celebrated. What intrigued me this time around after a celebrity’s death is the emergence of this question: why is a life recognized only after it has departed?

I used to have a writing mentor, Rothman, whom I really looked up to in college. He was a skillful, brilliant conversationalist in such a way that every time after you exchanged thoughts with him, you would never fail to notice how brighter you have gotten. He was the type of person whom you could talk to about anything: school, writing, philosophy, life. When the news sent from his wife to UC-Santa Cruz admins and then to email network got across everybody’s computer screens, it did feel like the world paused a little. On that very weekend of his death, I sent out a mass email asking peers in the STEM cohort who had been enlightened by Rothman to write a short note remarking on their transformations and feelings as a result of having crossed path with him. The responses I received were later put into a collage and sent to his wife as a condolence and proof of the differences he had made in every single student;

“Looking back at it, I did also follow the convention and waited till the life slipped away before I ‘clapped’……… In fact, that was all I could do as an outsider, to pay a tribute.”

In my opinion, when we choose to post-death recognize a person, we normally have accepted the life and death of the individual. There might be something we could have done to mitigate the agony leading to death, or to grant the victim’s last wish, but we have little to no rights as the priority of decision making is granted to immediate families first. Not to mention, the news of the person’s passing doesn’t often get announced to outsiders until later. So, a lot of times we don’t get to have any last words before the due time. Hence, as an outsider, however much emotional we become in the face of the situation, our domain in terms of carrying out our actions is restricted. We therefore can only wait till after the grand finale to do what we best do, to pay respect.

“Perhaps, life is recognized after its death because that is all an outsider can do for the victim, and because death caused by infirmity/natural cause proudly deserves this minutes of honor. So, waiting till the show to be over before you clap your heart out might be the most appropriate conduct as a spectator.”

Before I sign off and move on, I would also like to add that if you are in the front seat and entitled to voicing your opinion, do so for your loved ones. The suicide of Robin Williams should be the last record of a result caused by mental illness. And it should serve as a reminder for you to become more vigilant of those, especially families and friends, around you. It is very common for depressed individuals to be swamped in a state of negativity and to think short. It is an uphill battle and challenging for you and the person to overcome the slope, but the positive news is depression is a treatable condition.


Also, when it comes down to confronting depression, it might be a better idea to break away from the conventional code of “waiting for the show to be over before you clap”. Instead, clap along the show to encourage life. Be one of those daring individuals who isn’t afraid to scream out loud during the show. This is because, unlike the post-death tribute, the power of ongoing-life tribute: your words, actions, and compassion may potentially rectify the thoughts of the depressed and help them steer away from taking a nonreturnable leap into demise.

When it comes down to confronting depression, a life should not be recognized after it has departed. Proactively recognize the life in front of you by playing a role and assisting your loved ones in fighting against destructive depression. I recommend Daniel G.Amen, M.D.’s Change your Brain Change Your Life for some insights into understanding the cause of depression from the standpoint of brain imaging.

Finally, if you are depressed, don’t brood over depression, seek help. Love yourself, love your family, love those around you. ^_^

Guilt-Resolving Psychic Stranger

Santa Cruz can be REALLY odd, and yes, you can expect to run into some really eccentric personalities and demeanors. Nonetheless, it can be unpredictably beautiful and cleansing at times, like this one.

It was around the incoming of Autumn of 2013 that I had this amazing encounter with a father and son whom both made a deep imprint in my life, simply through his words and his son’s childlike but empowering gestures.

I just got done with my evening Chemistry study drill at a local coffee shop in downtown Santa Cruz. On my way to the bus stop, I saw the avenue strewn with small kiosks, some had awnings and some just basked in the fleeting summer air. These little kiosks were apparently occupied by students from a psychic academy (SOMEWHERE IN SANTA CRUZ). And these folks, mostly hippies, were essentially offering free services of palm-, tarot card-, and tattoo-readings.

I walked along their direction to the bus stop and merely dismissed every one bypassing my way until I heard a call-out from a small set-up around the bend. The man had his family with him and yes, he was a psychic. Somehow, I felt the need to stop and walk up to his area, and asked him what the matter was. In me, there surged the need to debunk his gigs but also the yearning to ask him the good/bad of my tattoo design ideas. I took a seat, therefore.

I said: “If it’s really free, I would like you to decipher the meanings of my tattoo ideas, and through your psychic’s perspective, comment whether they are good or bad.” He handed me paper and a pen, and asked me to scribble down the design. I wrote down two Chinese characters, one of my dad’s last name, and the other of my mom’s. “These are my parent’s last names”, said I. He asked: “where would you like them?” “On my back, right and left. The purpose is to pay them tribute and because of some family’s past affair, I would like this to be an obscure, humble tribute to both of them.” Upon knowing what those characters and their placements would be, the man advised against having them on.

Right before he said that, I had told him that the primary reason of my choosing was due to my changing from my dad’s last name to my mom’s. And up to this day, I have been legally carrying my mom’s last name without my dad’s knowledge, and with the assumption that my dad, whose son had run away from him to Western Hemisphere of the world, would be even much more disappointed if he knew. So, I wanted to hide this secret, but at the same time, honor him and ma.

The psychic read through me and explained to me that what I was thinking (and eventually doing) would be debilitating because I was trapping myself in the past, barring any entry of possible future joy. Instead, he suggested that I should let go of the idea and the guilt therein such that I would be able to live my life progressively. I digested his advice and thought that it was indeed very rational.

He might have just capitalized on my situation and manipulated for his good, however true or false, I am still much indebted to him for freeing me from my self-inflicted guilt with such a rational counseling. His words were able to catalyze my escape from the past and acceptance of joy in the upcoming days. This uniquely odd encounter allowed me to courageously lift my head and embark on a quest to seek happiness.

Now here comes the sweet, unexpected, seemingly pre-destined part. His son, a little boy of 5 to 8 of age, came up to me after his dad retired and handed me a crayoned paper sword. He then mumbled: “I want you to have this because you are a warrior.”


That made me smile and that smile marked my new beginning of hope, positivity, and discovery.