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2017: Fighting True America

2017 December 31
by Stanley Quan

If my 2016 was mostly a work roller coaster, my 2017 was a societal roller coaster.

America as I knew it was turned upside down.

The election of Trump and the racist rallies that followed were such a defining statement by American society, and it wasn’t a nice one. These, along with the scores of sexual harassment revelations and the #metoo campaign, made 2017 a fight between good and evil.

The events of this year showed that racism, sexism, xenophobia, and bigotry were alive and strong. They were just hidden, until emboldened. This is the true America, and sadly it took this shitstorm for me to see it clearly.

I had been optimistic and hopeful. This made me angry and disgusted.

It caused me to question my choice of friends, the people I worked with, everyone around me.

But sit down I did not.

This was a fight that I wasn’t going to sit out. This was a fight for the present and future, a fight for what’s right.

I argued. I marched. I crocheted pink pussy hats. I donated to my first political campaign. I supported others who kneeled for change.

We, as a nation, can be so much better.

Outside of this fight, I also spent a lot of the year in the air – 121 flights to be exact.

I was “traveling” 228 days this year.

My consulting job took me down to LA every week, and I also got to visit Kansas City, Nashville, Madison (3x), England, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines,  New York City, Burt Lake, Door County, and Seattle.

Looking toward the new year, believe it or not, I want to travel more. I want to go on more adventures and explore new lands.

There’s just something about seeing new places and experiencing new things. It’s inspiring and exciting and invigorating. Let’s go!

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The Flag

2017 November 22
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This past Sunday, I made it to a Packers game at Lambeau Field for the first time. After living in Wisconsin for almost four years and never going, I jumped at the chance to finally visit the storied stadium.

As part of scoring the tickets (thanks Raff!), we also got the opportunity to be part of the pregame ceremonies on the field. We were to help hold the giant American flag during the anthem.

Getting to go on the field was awesome, but I was somewhat conflicted about the flag part. I thought about the protests that Colin Kaepernick started and other players have taken up. I support their cause and had a fleeting idea of kneeling as well.

I ended up standing, but the experience really made me feel how hard it must have been and continues to be for players to kneel during the anthem. They are risking backlash and their profession and livelihoods to make a powerful statement against police brutality and racial inequality.

Let’s face it. The history of America is a history of racism.

The mistreatment of African Americans and minorities by police officers is just another blip in that pattern. There are people who criticize the players’ protest during the anthem as disrespectful to the flag and to the country. But to me, they are really just trying to use their power to once again reinforce their place in society.

As I’ve learned, pretty much everything relates to power dynamics.

The purpose of protest is to bring awareness and action that leads to change. It is silly to tell someone that the way they’re protesting is disrespectful.

The flag means what you want it to mean. If you’re focused on the flag, then you’re missing the entire point of the protest. Think about the why and you’ll start to see.

“If peaceful protests did nothing, the powerful wouldn’t try so hard to silence them.”

#TakeAKnee

 

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Palawan, Philippines

2017 August 9
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The fifth and last stop of the trip (if you don’t count the return to Taipei) was Palawan in the Philippines!  Palawan is a large island surrounded by a bunch of smaller islands and we specifically visited the Coron area, which is in the northern part of the main island.

It was quite a trip when we landed at the small airport. First of all, the airline gave us umbrellas to use as we walked onto the tarmac in Manila and onto the plane, cause it was that sunny and hot.

And then, on our little plane, we sat in the first row, which usually wouldn’t be too weird, except we were turned around and were FACING all of the other passengers. Pretty weird perspective haha, but I guess not unlike sitting that way on a train.

When we landed, the airport was tiny: pretty much just one big room and no conveyor belt for luggage.

But once we got our bags, we stepped out into a van from our hotel and were whisked away into the town of Coron. We opted for a boutique hotel called the Funny Lion, which was great and we would highly recommend.

That first afternoon, we went on a tuk-tuk tour where we checked out a few sites around the town. We climbed up 700 steps to get to the top of Mt. Tapyas which had a cool view of the island and surrounding water. We also stopped by a cashew factory and took a nice twilight dip in the Maquinit Hot Springs.

On a couple other days, we spent them on a small boat taking island tours and snorkeling. It was a lot of fun and the sites were amazing and beautiful.The crystal clear waters and backdrop of rocky cliffs were exactly what you would think of for a picturesque island vacation. The view at Kayangan Lake is what dreams are made of:

One of the snorkeling sites was at a sunken Japanese shipwreck from World War 2, which was fascinating and a bit freaky to see up close. But I was most excited when during our last snorkeling stop, I spotted some anenomes and a family of clownfish (Nemos!) hiding in it.

Another highlight from our days at sea was when our tour group formed a “human centipede” chain in the water and floated through a narrow opening in the rocks between the Twin Lagoons.

An unfortunate but interesting thing that came up during our stay in Palawan was hospitality. My girlfriend got hurt after slipping and falling on some poorly maintained wooden planks, and was quite hobbled from it. People immediately rushed to help and our hotel had a manager personally escort us to the local hospital.

Being a public health and healthcare guy, it was fascinating to see how medical care was done in a small rural town. This hospital was pretty beat up and had maybe ten rooms in total, but they made due with what they had. The hotel manager had to walk across the street to buy film that we gave to the doctor in order to perform the x-ray. There were also detailed workflow diagrams and public health posters all over the hospital, which was awesome to see!

But all of the attention for the injury made me realize that emerging tourist areas must pay so much attention to security and reputation, because even a few bad reviews and non-recommendations could likely doom a large part of their local economy. We certainly appreciated the help though.

Palawan felt like one of those places that will become a hot travel destination soon, much like Iceland and Thailand were recently. It is still a little undiscovered, but is absolutely gorgeous and a great place to relax and see some awe-inspiring parts of nature.

 

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Manila, Philippines

2017 July 27
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by Stanley Quan

Fourth stop of the trip was a quick half day in Manila, Philippines.

This wasn’t originally on our itinerary but it ended up being a convenient stop on our way to the Palawan Islands. We took the afternoon to get a taste of some local flavors as well as see some historical sites.

Manila didn’t feel that safe, as we found out quickly when our cab had to go through two security checks and us through a metal detector before getting into our hotel. Also, locals tended to get a little too into personal space trying to get you to buy stuff or take their tours.

Nevertheless, we checked out Plaza de Roma and Fort Santiago, which was built back in the Spanish colonial period.

For food, we went to a few local favorites- Max’s restaurant for some fried chicken and Razon of Guagua’s for halo halo, both of which were delicious. We also splurged on sushi at Nobu in our hotel just to try haha.

Manila was a quick pitstop before the island life!

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2017 July 19
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by Stanley Quan

Third stop on the trip was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

When we got there, we ran head on into crazy bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour. Apparently there’s terrible traffic here all day every day.

Food ruled the roost once again, as Malaysia’s location makes it an great place to get different delicious cuisines. It was a lot of fun going to Jalan Alor for food and Jalan Changkat (pub street) for drinks.

The city is an interesting and diverse mix of different cultures. Similar to Singapore, there were distinct neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little India.

We visited Batu Caves and climbed the 700 steps to see the temple within the limestone caves.

Kuala Lumpur also had a few very tall buildings that literally towered over the city haha. KL Tower and Petronas Towers:

Out of all our destinations, KL was the most difficult with calling Ubers and Grabcars (a competitor). Ride sharing is a new thing here and it was frustrating trying to hail a car. Coming from the Bay Area, which might be the most tech-connected place in the world, we are spoiled and this in a way served as a reminder of how tech takes a while to take foot.

The pace here was slow but definitely a fun place to visit. The sights didn’t disappoint!

 

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