Category Archives: USA

Back to Normal? What Normal?

I recently posted the following statement on Instagram and Twitter, “I do not want to go back to normal. I want to go forward to a better, brighter, and peaceful future.”

I have been reflecting a lot these past several weeks on many, many things, from what’s happening around us to my personal well being. How can I do better for not just this world, but also for myself? Do I have faith that these changes will indeed be for the better or is this just another phase?

The world is currently in a crisis, not one started by the COVID pandemic, but indeed exacerbated by it. Although many act like the virus has miraculously disappeared overnight or pushing their localities to “reopen already”, the crisis is still very much upon us. We are still in the first wave of this pandemic and the second, I believe, is not far behind.

Our planet isn’t getting better because people have stayed home. It may have gotten a small break, sure, but it will indeed get worse. As highlighted by a recent USA Today report, environmentalists are worried about the rise of waste in our oceans. Mainly, COVID related wastes such as masks and gloves, both made of materials that are not necessarily biodegradable.

Our country is already anticipating a historical record rise in evictions. So many people right now, especially our essential workers, are unable to pay their rents as perfectly covered by Hasan Minhaj. This is not a problem of rent affordability but how we’ve allowed corporate landlords to take advantage of a difficult situation to make a quick profit. This is not the first time – for those who have forgotten the 2008 recession – nor is COVID the sole reason behind it.

In a matter of weeks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were killed either by lynching or unnecessary police violence. “My gut told me he did it”? No knock warrant? Choked to death for over 8 minutes? The social contract we’ve been forced to adhere too by so many that haven’t followed through, as best put by Trevor Noah, has been broken. Better yet, it’s always been a flawed design. I think with the recent protests, those that had never experienced police brutality saw first hand what a militarized, systemically racist police force are “allowed” to do to its citizens practicing their first amendment rights.

Poverty, corporate greed, systemic racism, and the environment are long suffered issues, that were never going to survive this pandemic.

I’m not in any way shape or form undermining the human casualties of COVID. I recently lost a cousin who was just a couple years older than me to COVID. Our family can’t go near my grandfather’s long term care facility in New Jersey where he resides. My father has been dealing with isolation issues after having a thriving social life in the community.

This virus is real, and it’s hurting people. It has not gone away and yet I feel everyone is trying to “get back to normal” like the virus, and the issues exacerbated by it, have magically disappeared overnight. This bugs me to my core!

Am I speaking from a place of privilege when I say I don’t want to go “back to normal” like everyone else? Yes, I miss my extended family, friends, people but patience will get us to a better place, not the “normal” that brought upon this pandemic and horrid response to it.

I know I will most likely not be heading back to work in our offices this year, but I’m so grateful to be able to work from home. I will not be traveling this summer as planned but I still have options to do so when the time is right. My hometown of San Francisco is slowly being reopened but I’m very, very cautious while attempting to support local businesses from afar.

I’ve been using this time to read, keeping myself informed, and trying to figure out how I will be better on the other side of all of this. This is the time to build stronger bonds with our families, especially with my nephew. This is the time to learn sometime new, like my mom’s sweet baking recipes. This is the time to figure out what do I want to on the other side of this. And what I want is to be better and brighter.

Nothing will be the same, nor would I expect it to be. If this is not the time to demand change that’ll be beneficial for all as well as self-care and personal growth, when is it?

A Moment of Reflection

The other day, I went out for a walk after staying home for a good week straight. Upper Great Highway by the Ocean Beach Trail was (and still is) closed to traffic. The skies were a bit gloomy, the air was cold and the waves were hushed. I just stood there in the middle of the road for a moment.

As I’m asthmatic, I’m at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than most. My last major asthma attack was on the night of January 31st. I got tested for the flu and pneumonia, which consisted of an x-ray and a horrid nasal swap. None of which was comfortable, all of which came back negative. I had to go to Urgent Care about a week or so later as my allergy symptoms didn’t elevate since. This took place before I realized that COVID-19 was spreading, fast.

San Francisco and most of the Bay Area have sheltered in place since March 15th but most of my family and co-workers sheltered in place prior to that as a precaution. Life has been different, interesting, amusing, and frustrating. I’ve had to adjust, adapt, postpone and reevaluate my priorities. I’m no parent but I’ve had to help step in and home school my first-grade nephew. It reminded me of why I never continued on the career paths of being a teacher or pediatrician but grateful a million folds for those that are.

As I stood there facing the gloomy skies above the sea, I kept thinking despite it all, this was a reminder of our blessings. We live in a friendly, family-oriented, and supportive community. I’ve been in better touch with family and friends than ever before, just checking in on each other and making sure everyone is OK. I’ve seen neighbors and community members on my walks and even under masks and six feet apart, we see the smiles.

Where our national leadership has failed, our community leaders have risen up to take charge. Our healthcare workers and first responders the world over have been working tirelessly to care for us, even when they themselves need to be cared for. Our grocery stores are stocked, our restaurants are delivering, and even my tiny desk for work was shipped sooner than expected.

The people behind all that goodness remind me of our blessings, much of which we take for granted. They give me hope that we will get through this uncertainty with a bit more faith, gratitude and empathy. The absolute humility that has come out of this pandemic have truly restored my faith in humanity.

And as I stood there in the middle of the road, I saw a small ray of light through the gloomy skies. Seeing it as a good omen, I took out my phone to capture this moment.

I am a firm believer that when God puts us to it, God will pull us through it. So have faith that this too shall pass. Please, if possible, consider volunteering or donating to causes out there supporting our communities, front line and essential angels. Check on your family, friends and neighbors regularly when possible. If you need someone to talk too, know that I’m but a message away. And please, I urge you all to continue to stay home and stay healthy. We will get through this, together!

I Survived the Loma Prieta Earthquake

I survived the Loma Prieta earthquake, 30 years ago!

Image result for loma prieta
c/o NBC Bay Area

Today, October 17, is the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. That 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Bay Area 30 years ago, yet I remember it like it was yesterday!

I was seven years old, home with family after school, coloring when all my crayons started going all over the place. “Stop messing with my crayons!” I yelled at my brothers but before they could answer, my pregnant mom screamed at us to get under the table, it was an earthquake.

Those were the longest seconds of my young life under that table!

Related image
c/o San Francisco Chronicle

Luckily, we had just gone through the safety drill in school, how one should dock and cover under a table or stand in a door frame as my mom did when an earthquake struck. We stepped outside our small two floor apartment building after the fact, checking on neighbors and friends.

Back in our apartment, still shaken, we picked up all that fell and assessed the minor damages. My mom was so worried with the local news reporting of the rising death toll, major damages and aftershocks throughout the day that she had us sleeping in the building lobby that night to easily escape if need be.

I remember the image of the collapsed section of the Bay Bridge on the news. Seeing it these many years later sometimes beings that flush of fright my seven year old self felt back then. I also remember the ongoing repairs that took place months and years since then. Including the repairs to the Ferry Building, which rang when the earthquake struck in 1989.

Are we ready or prepared 30 years later? How does one get prepared? Make a plan with your family and friends. Know all your exits at home as well as at work and school. At home, have a first aid kit, canned foods, water and other necessary supplies packed in an accessible pantry/space. Make sure your home or renter’s insurance in a state like California covers you should your health or home be affected. And finally, stay informed and ask questions. It can save your life!

National Voter Registration Day

Today is National Voter Registration Day. Are you registered to vote? Not sure if you are? Need to update your information? Under 18 years old? Go to vote.org today and take a few minutes to register, pre-register or update your registration.

FYI, if you are not yet 18 years old, many states like California will allow you to pre-register to vote at the age of 16 or 17 years old. This means that the few minutes you take today to pre-register automatically registers you to vote on your 18th birthday. How sweet is that? Click here to check your state’s requirements to pre-register to vote.

A few minutes out of your day is all that it takes!

Want to make a difference? Vote. Want a better future for our children? Vote. Want something done about climate change? Vote. Want to end the Muslim Ban? Vote. Want to reform the immigration policies? Vote. Want to protect LGBTQ rights? Vote. Want equal pay for equal work? Vote. Want to see any real change? Vote.

Please share this post to all your family and friends, young and old.

Their Names are Deah, Yusor and Razan

I repost this to honor their names. I repost this to honor the lives lost to hate. I repost this to honor the lives lost to gun violence. I repost this so that we never forget.

Ms. Hala

Three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina were heard being killed in their home. They were killed execution style, bullets to the head, by their angry neighbor. I learned of their death from different individuals on Twitter. My heart sank as I have family in North Carolina. I didn’t know them personally but my heart sank deeper, their names are Deah, Yusor and Razan.

They were sisters. They were daughers and sons. They were newly weds. They were aspiring dentists and architects. They were kind and generous. They were the activists many of us aspire to be. They had just taken part in contributing to homeless community with food and dental supplies. They had just traveled were to travel to Turkey to provide Syrian refugees with medical assistance.

As I read of their short lived lives and brutal death through my Twitter feed, none of the tweets came from American mainstream news media. They came…

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