Coincidence, or More?

In Fall 2016, while volunteering in a joint Primary and Middle school in northeastern Thailand, I turned to horoscope for some leisure reading and (honestly also for) some spiritual guidance. More importantly, I wanted to see how accurate the piece of writing reflected in my life so far as 2016 was no more than a quarter of a year away from ending. I remember going through synopsis of my birth sign and nodding to some claims while wishing some predictions had been true. My eyes then led me to my lucky numbers of 2016. It was a string of integers. I cannot recall what all the numbers were. However, “1” and “5” were among them and have left an impression on me until today.

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Figure 1. One of my favorite classes at Nonghoipang Witthaya School. They graduated in 2017 and moved on into high school.

As my final days at Nonghoibang Witthaya School drew to a close, a few endearing teachers whom I got to partner with handed me their school official football (soccer) jersey as a gift. I accepted with a bittersweet smile and started ruffling through the vinyl cover to throw on this new gear as a way to show how appreciative I was, not just of the gift, but also of our time together. And guess what…I was player “15”.

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Figure 2. Football (Soccer) jersey with my supposed lucky number. >.<

Sometimes, two events of this sort are just too coincidental to just label them as coincidence.

This past Friday on 032318, it happened that I had to stay late at work in order to read over a friend’s internship application personal statement. I didn’t finish until around 7:30 pm. Since I already lost then sunlight and had not made any solid plans for that evening, I decided to drop by Grocery Outlet for some food, continue on home, and cooked. As I took a turn opposite to the route I normally went on, I saw a figure standing in the divider of the traffic, waving. A few cars in front of me dismissed the hitchhiker. Thinking that the straightaway stretched for more than 2 miles and that it would not be troublesome for me assuming I was also going the same direction, I pulled over and gestured for the hitchhiker to come over.

Once the stranger in the gray hoody reached the passenger side of my car, I called for him to open the door. “Hey, where are you trying go?”, I asked. I didn’t get a word back apart from a blank stare. He then took a minute and tried his best to mutter “downtown”. I then realized this hitchhiker was not a common hitchhiker.
“Do you speak chinese?”
blank stare…
“Korean?”
blank stare…
“Japanese?”
Finally there was some life in him. And as soon as I told him I could speak a little Japanese. The man let out a deep relief; he felt he had been saved.

With my broken Japanese, I was able to make Masayuki-kun feel at ease and learn that he was trying to reach a Bart station to get to downtown San Francisco. Because there was not a convenient Bart station close to where I was heading. We worked out an agreement that he had to come with me to the supermarket first before I could drop him off at the station.

And then started my night as a Japanese hitchhiker rescuer. =)

My weekend did not end with just Masayuki-kun.

This morning, I felt the need to use the bathroom as I was finishing up work at Starbucks. There was no line for the bathroom. And out of the blue, I decided that I was just gonna hold it until I got to Trader Joe’s. I packed my stuff, felt accomplished for what I had completed this morning, and walked out the cafe. As I was pacing towards Trader Joe’s, an art shop caught my eye. Despite being in dire need of the bathroom, I took a detour and spent some time in the art shop. Unknowingly, browsing the shop erased the thought I had to urinate. I spent more than 10 minutes inside the shop, longer than what I had planned.

Finally, I made my way to Trader Joe’s. I still didn’t walk straight into the restroom as soon as I reached there. Instead, I picked up some spinach, frozen veggie burritos, a butternut squash, dilly-dallied around the aisles, and at the checkout, a bar of 72% dark chocolate. At that very moment, because there was a line of people ahead of me and I caught the word “Restroom” as my head turned rightward towards the the back end of the shop, I finally recalled I had to use the bathroom. And the biological urge to remove waste resumed. And it became urgent.

I paced towards the toilet. One bathroom was in use, and a man just came out of another. A woman behind me then kindly asked me if she could use it first. I made way for her. Soon after, a lady exited the occuppied room and held the door for me. I left her with a “thank you” and proceeded to take my turn. I did my business and as I reached for toilet paper to dry my hand, I saw a phone sitting right on top of the dispenser. what do you know.

And then started another rescue mission: phone and its owner reunification.

It was a rather interesting weekend for me as you can see. Getting off work late on a Friday night turned into a hangout with (and of course a rescue mission of) a foreign hitchhiker. Delaying my biological needs of the restroom turned into saving a woman from a trouble that could have costed her time, money, and emotion. As I am sitting writing this entry, I am still amazed at how the timing of each event put me in a position to make a decision that could have either costed people on the other side sizable distress or saved their day. Masayuki-kun told me that night that he had spent over 3 hours walking from the airport to get to Oyster Point (approx 5 miles apart), where he was waving for attention. The happiness in his attitude after realizing that he had finally received help at the setting sun made me feel pleased with myself for having pulled over for a stranger. The same goes to the reaction of the woman who left her phone inside the bathroom. I am glad to be in a position that allowed me to show others that humanity still exists. This is because I know that through this both Masayuki-kun and the woman will be enocouraged to do good for others whom they will encounter in the future, coincidentally.

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Figure 3. Gift from Masayuki. I told him I wanted to hike Mt. Fuji. Before he got on the train, he handed me this as a thank you gift.  It’s of Mt. Fuji. What another coincidence!

P.S. I am still hesitant to accept it as a coincidence in the case of meeting Masyuki-Kun. This was because, on top of everything that occurred that Friday, I sent Masayuki-Kun on Bart train using a Bart ticket that I had purchased months ago but remained unused, and wedged inside my phone case. But it could be anything. Everything happens for a reason.

If you are reading this, Masayuki, thank you for your Fuji yama handkerchief. I am glad I got your endorsement on In-N-Out burger.

 

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YS Charity Foundation: A Developmental Disability Center for Financially Challenged Families in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Seeing the developmental disability centers was my motive to travel to Malaysia.

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Figure 1. My visit to the center with the help of my newly-made friend in Malaysia

With the help of a couchsurfing.com friend, Mr. Tan, I was able to visit two developmental disability centers in Petaling Jaya, and one of which I got a chance to help the center reach out its resources to those who may benefit.

YS Charity Foundation is a new establishment that had been opened for only 3 months at the time of my visit (Jan 2017) but was already caring for 10+ individuals.

The admittees at this center were diagnosed with various mental disorders: ADHD, autism, depression, and Down Syndrome just to name a few. And all of them come from families that were not capable of nursing them 24/7.

After getting to spend some time to learn about the patients, I made a promise to the overseer of the center to assist him and his team in fundraising and gathering help from medical professionals by a  video about his center. Within my one hour visit, I called on the help of my action-cam Kodak SP1 and recorded footage for this narrative below.

To learn more about how you can contribute to the cause, or if you are personally a medical professional that is specialized in psychiatry, please click 

Credits:
I would like to thank Mr. Tan from couchsurfing for taking the time to ferry me to the centers and including me in his annual family’s charity event. Beyond that, he also assisted me in my subtitle translation.
I would also like to thank YS Charity Foundation for allowing me to take part in improving the quality of life of each admittee at the center.
I would also like to thank NCH Software for making its video editing tool: Videopad available at no cost.

“Laws Won’t Be Enough. Heart Must Change.”

President Obama bid us farewell today in his last presidential address in McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois.

The president is going to leave office in a matter of ten days. And in ten days, President Obama’s successor, entrusted with legacy of America, will take his newly gained authorities for a spin. Judging by the “4 more years, 4 more years, 4 more years” chant resounded among the president’s supporters in the auditorium, it is suggested that many other Americans are also praying against the highly likely crash-and-burn moment of the whirly ride that we all will be in with the president’s successor.

As I was listening to President Obama’s speech broadcasted worldwide, I could not help but nod along even after having just waken up and still bearing the morning stupor.

I nodded, in agreement and awe, at one of his quotes–one which directed at the needs of Americans putting differences aside and uniting to preserve and uphold democracy in this increasingly diverse America.

I nodded as I was being reminded of a moment of my recent placement in Cambodia as part of inclusive education project.

“Laws won’t be enough. Heart must change.”

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Figure 1. Teaching waste management. Arriving in the community and standing in front of these children. I had my mission of ingraining into them a mindset contrary to that which has been shaping their character.

One day, a hustle-bustle took place during an English lesson I was leading with my team members in Siem Bouk community, Stung Treng, Cambodia. Upon opening the door, there were fifty-plus kids each with a plate and spoon in hand. They were hungry. They wanted their food. Pekthra, the boy in charge of lugging two buckets, one filled with rice and another with soup, set the two bins right outside my classroom. Over time, noise grew louder and louder. Among other things, some dug in their licked spoons to scoop up food into their plates. And some just outright dug up food with their soiled plates. A hustle-bustle turned into a caveman survival frenzy. And amid all this, there was no authoritative figure out there to choreograph this brunch distribution.

I couldn’t bear the sights and left the teaching to my team. I closed the doors behind, grabbed the lids, and shut the two bins. “Stop!” I called out in Khmer in an attempt to bring order. “We are not gonna be able to eat with everyone being this way. Alright, we need to form two lines. And fetch another ladle for the soup, Pekthra.” Everyone was inching backwards, but none were ready to give up their places to merge into two proper lines. The unopening lids luckily convinced them to dissolve into the lines I asked for. We started to have order. But every ten seconds, the lines buckled and everyone resumed their old reptilian instinct. Then two more students volunteered to run the lines with Pekthra. One joined Pekthra in food distribution and another paced up and down to manage the lines. And I became the evil authoritative figure whose eyes were peeled for every little unhygienic quirks among these children. Our roles lasted until the bins were all emptied of food.

It might be false to think that the haunting influences of Khmer Rouge, which ended just less than 40 years ago, is still at play today, that today’s cultural ethos still bears a resemblance to that of the Khmer Rouge time. Sometimes, I think to myself. Are the reasons for the prevalence of profanity and temperament of the people in this country only due to the insufficiency of education and other financial and superficial factors? Nonetheless, to President Obama’s “Laws won’t be enough. Heart must change”, to cultivate the heart that will reflect and ruminate on things beyond just for oneself and just for today will complement, if not outdo, the efforts of law. Be it in U.S. or Cambodia.

As an auxiliary teacher for the community students, I am honored to have played a role in changing the heart of these children.