After a miscarriage and a job loss, one lawyer fires back and, amid the brouhaha, finds her way.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: My Story
STORY: Shinyung Oh
On Wednesday, April 24, 2008, I woke up at 3 a.m. When I went to the restroom, I felt a bucket of water gush out of me, as if from a popped water balloon. Sitting on the toilet, I was too stunned to cry. When I returned to bed, I told my husband, “I think we lost our baby.” Even as I said it, I prayed that wasn’t the case. We had been clinging to the hope that the baby was OK since 3 p.m. the day before when I started bleeding. It was the last week of my first trimester, and all I had been thinking until then was, “Just one more week until we’re in the clear.” Jeff held me for the rest of the night, between my trips to the bathroom to drain myself.
In the morning, we went to the hospital. As we had feared, the ultrasound showed a nearly empty uterus. We waited a few hours to undergo the procedure to remove the remaining tissue. Before the procedure, I emailed three partners at my law firm to explain why I wasn’t at work. Only one of them — the one whose wife had delivered a baby a month earlier — responded. The others ignored my message.
After the procedure, the doctor advised me to stay home for the rest of the day. On our way home, I called my parents. I didn’t know how to say “miscarriage” in Korean, so I said, “Mom, the baby died. The baby is dead.” The sound of my parents’ grief and befuddlement pained me.
When I went home, I threw my pile of baby books into a big shopping bag and shoved them into my closet. Next, I removed all of the pregnancy related entries in my calendar and inserted “miscarriage” for the day. Then I made myself a big pot of seaweed soup that my mom had made me promise to eat, and I sobbed as I shoved spoonfuls into my mouth.
After again informing my bosses, I stayed home the following Friday. I returned to work on Monday.
That Wednesday, a little after lunch, two partners walked into my office and told me that I was fired. Maybe I should have expected it, but I didn’t think it would happen six days after my miscarriage.
Work had been slow in the office. The firm had laid off a slew of secretaries and had been eliminating one or two associates at a time. Even as people were getting fired, we pretended we didn’t know because the terminated employees were bound by non-disclosure agreements. They couldn’t talk about it, and we didn’t want to put them in the uncomfortable position of asking.
Two months earlier, I had received an unexpectedly poor performance review. Although most of my ratings the prior year had been “outstanding” and “above expectations” and I had received positive feedback throughout the year, I had suddenly been downgraded in all categories without explanation. When I submitted a memo requesting specifics on where I had failed to perform and how I should improve my performance, the firm did not respond.
Just a week before my review, I had a one-on-one talk with the head of my department. Given the slow down, I wanted to know if I should do anything differently. He assured me that my work was “great” and that others in the department “love[d]” working with me.
I thanked him for the reassurance. “We all have our moments of insecurity, you know,” I said.
“I know, Shinyung,” he said. “And that is why I want to get it through your head. You are a great attorney. It’s not because of your work.”
When I asked him why work was so slow, he explained that the firm had priced itself out of its usual market with its rising billable rates and had not gained a foothold in the elite tier.
A week later, the same partner avoided my eyes as he gave me my poor review. Now, six days after my miscarriage, he asked me to sign a non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreement in return for a three-month severance. I refused.
Instead, I went home. After some moping, I started drafting an email to the partners of my department. It seemed important to point out that there are ethical ways of terminating employees. Blaming an employee’s performance, when the decision was clearly economic, was not one of them. And making difficult business decisions did not require throwing basic human decency out the window. After thinking about it over the weekend, I sent my email on Monday to the partners of my department and the firm management. I clicked “All Associates” on the cc button, a recipient list nearing 1,000, and attached a copy of the non-disclosure agreement the firm had asked me to sign.
Within an hour after I clicked “send,” I received a notice that my email was posted on a legal blog called Above the Law. Within a day, the post generated close to 1,000 comments. In the following days, I received hundreds of messages from people I didn’t know and others I hadn’t heard from in years. In the following weeks, the story appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. 60 Minutes called. Almost a year later, the story re-surfaced in the Los Angeles Times, and I appeared briefly on the Today Show with two “etiquette experts” who advised how to send farewell emails.
People have asked me if I regret sending my email. I think they assume that I sent the email in a spurt of emotion. But to me, it wasn’t about venting, although it felt pretty good to get it off my chest. It was about calling out those who were abusing power, as I thought my bosses did when they mocked up my performance review to cover up their economic layoffs. And it was about speaking up for myself when wronged by a corporate bully, even if it meant getting bruised in the process.
But in some strange way, instead of a bruise, I got an unexpected boost. I have always been torn about my career. I am one of these people who went to law school because I didn’t know what to do. I timidly wanted to pursue a career in writing but couldn’t justify it to my practical side. Then there was the issue of parental expectations — and the guilt of an immigrants’ child. I went to law school the way I took medicine, gritting my teeth.
After law school, I spent an inordinate amount of time justifying my career to myself. It can be intellectually stimulating. People treat you professionally. It pays incredibly well.
When I sat there across from my bosses — as they lied to me in the process of firing me — I realized more clearly than ever that I did not want to become one of them. No matter how much they paid me.
After I sent my mass email, as I resigned myself to the thought that I had thrown away my 10-year career, I found myself in a space I had not allowed myself to be in before. The space to think of a different direction. To free myself from this career path I had set for myself at age 24. And oddly, the act of sending that email gave me a strange confidence. I had never been the kind or person to bring attention to myself, but here I had screamed my head off in the conservative and cautious world of lawyers. And the ceiling didn’t fall on me.
These days, I am working on my writing — through freelance work and my blog — while handling some legal work part-time. I also finally made it to my second trimester of pregnancy. We are expecting a little boy in October.
And at least once a day, I thank my lucky stars that I was fired.
South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook gives us yet another deliciously evil female character in his latest vampire film, Thirst.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: Plugged In
STORY: Jimmy Lee
South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook is at it again, defying convention and cliché in creating his singularly cinematic visions. After Old Boy gave the revenge thriller dizzying twists of incestuous proclivities and his romantic comedy I’m A Cyborg But That’s OK opened with the female protagonist slitting her wrists, Park has infused the vampire film with some fresh blood in his latest feature, Thirst.
Although, if he could have seen into the future 10 years ago when he came up with the idea while making his first blockbuster, Joint Security Area, things might have turned out differently. “If I had known [about the resurgence of the vampire genre], maybe I wouldn’t have made Thirst. I wouldn’t have liked to make another vampire film,” said Park through a translator a few days before Thirst began a limited U.S. release on July 31.
Park’s penchant to be original and inventive does indeed come out in Thirst, adding to the genre through the subtraction of vampire clichés. “‘What does a vampire film have to do with a crucifix?’ I first thought. And that was one of the first things I took away,” said Park. “I found I could make a story without these elements, and it prompted me to think about taking away another convention, and another one after that.”
Another break from formula is that the bloodsucker in Thirst is a man of the cloth. “Pastors or priests always play the role of someone who hunts down vampires. They never become vampires themselves,” said Park. “That was something that struck me as being quite surprising.”
When Sang-hyun, a priest with a Christ-like willingness to sacrifice his life to save others, takes part in a medical test, the blood transfusion that brings him back from the dead also turns him into the undead. The blood, as well as the laughs — there’s much black comedy coursing through Thirst’s veins — really starts to gush when he becomes entangled with Tae-ju, a childhood friend’s wife, played by former beauty pageant winner Kim Ok-vin.
As in Old Boy, there’s a scene with a sharp instrument and an open mouth that ratchets up the tension. And like Park’s Lady Vengeance, the female lead lashes out at those who’ve tormented her in the past with a bloodthirsty vengeance (pun intended).
Audrey spoke with Park, who is deliberate and urbane when doing interviews, about his female characters, who can turn out to be impulsive and violent.
Audrey Magazine: You put your female characters through so much emotional and physical turmoil in some scenes. How do you get through filming these sequences with the actresses you work with?
Park Chan-wook: You’d be surprised to find out that these beautiful women have this scary aspect. When you explain the violence of the scene to them, you might expect them to say, “Oh dear.” But it’s not like that all. They go further. They not only understand the nature of the scene, but they give up their own ideas and are enthused by it.
AM: Was that the case with Kim Ok-vin?
PCW: She said, “Wow, it was the first time I read a cool script like this.” But when the time for shooting drew closer, she started getting scared at the thought of doing this film. She plays a character whose emotions are exhausting; she has to give everything until there’s nothing left. So the process of shooting itself was difficult for her. And that’s why all the other actors, who are more experienced and have had the experience of working with me, would encourage her and compliment her performances and check how she’s feeling. They really gave her the sense that she’s being protected.
AM: So what inspires you to create these vicious female characters?
PCW: I’m not sure whether it’s because my personality is twisted or whether it’s perverted. These are the kind of women I wouldn’t want to come across in real life. At least in film, I’m attracted to crazed and evil and dangerous women.
Shooting for the Moon: Actor Justin Chon is going to be busy for a while, co-starring in the next two Twilight sequels, new Moon and Eclipse. But don’t think he’s got his head in the clouds. He’s plowing ahead, keeping his head down with a backup plan or two.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: Audrey Man
STORY: Lan N. Nguyen
Justin Chon almost passed on Twilight. First, he had no way to anticipate what a mega hit the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s young adult bestseller would be. Second, the 28-year-old Korean American actor had just wound down his role as Tony Lee on Nickelodeon’s teen show Just Jordan. He was on the hunt for something meatier than a role in a high school vampire love story.
But he changed his mind when he heard that Catherine Hardwicke was directing. “I loved Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen,” he says. “And a few days later, I found out that Kristen Stewart was attached. I loved Into the Wild.”
The rest, as they say, is movie history. Twilight has raked in more than $382 million worldwide since its 2008 release. Justin recently finished reprising his role as loveable geek Eric Yorkie in The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the second film in the series. And in August, he headed back to Vancouver to once again attend Forks High School for the third film, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
Much has changed for students of Forks High in New Moon. Eric has given up trying to impress Bella, says Justin. “I am 100 percent committed to Angela,” he says of Bella’s best friend. Fans can also expect a more action-packed sequel. “The guys who play the wolf pack are going to bring more raw brawniness to the movie,” he says. “And they have Native American blood in them. So it’s cool, as an Asian American actor, to see minorities will be a major factor in something so mainstream.”
Born in 1981 in Irvine, Calif., Justin and his younger sister, Jamie, grew up in an artistic household. Before his mom, Kyung, became a homemaker, she was a pianist. And his father, Sang, was an actor in South Korea. (He went into the shoe business after immigrating to the U.S.)
“My sister and I found out [about my dad] when I was about 6 or 7,” Justin recalls. “We had found this old VHS tape and our dad was acting. We took it to our mom and she explained. It was amazing. When you think of your dad, you don’t think of him as an actor, especially being Asian American.”
Not surprisingly, when Justin enrolled at the University of Southern California, he decided to try his hand at acting. He did a two-year stint at The Joanne Baron/DW Brown Studio, an acting school in Santa Monica. And when he graduated from USC in 2004 with a bachelor’s in business, he told his parents to give him two years to give acting a chance.
“My parents were really worried,” says Justin. “You don’t normally see Asian people on TV. We grew up in an artistic household so they were not opposed to acting. They were just worried about if I could make a living. Once I showed them I could, they were more at ease.”
Work in commercials soon developed into work on TV, most notably in Just Jordan. He was also trying to carve out a movie career. His most challenging role to date has been playing a first-generation Korean immigrant in 2009’s Crossing Over, which also starred Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd.
“I was the lead in my own story line,” he says. “I had a love story and a sex scene and some intense stuff, with the dynamics between my family, friends and girlfriend. On top of that, I was playing a Korean immigrant kid so I had an accent. I had to have the demeanor and mentality of not having a place anywhere. It took a lot of work. With acting you don’t see the work behind it. You just see the finished product.”
Then there is Twilight. When Justin landed the role of Eric Yorkie, he only had a brief description to work with: Eric was 6-foot, 3-inches tall and had black, greasy hair, was the chess club type, and had bad skin. Still, Justin rose to the challenge and created a character that could be found in any real high school.
“I played upon the chess club type and being valedictorian,” he says. “From that, I derived that he kind of doesn’t fit in, but he does have a group of friends who are sort of awkward and don’t fit into any category themselves. So they’ve found each other. And each one brings a very unique thing to the group.”
Justin is “a perfectionist,” says pal Michael Welch, who plays Eric’s best friend Mike Newton. “He’s a really interesting guy. He’s a total Southern California guy. At the same time, he is very serious and a sensitive artist and actor. Actually, he has an easier time on the set when he has something meaty to do because he’s a very serious guy when it comes to his work.”
Despite being in the biggest movie of 2008 and what will likely be the biggest movie of 2009, Justin recognizes that he is unlikely to achieve superstar status himself. “At the end of the day, I am still a minority actor,” he explains. “Asian people have not really broken through in terms of becoming mainstream like Will Smith has. I don’t think we have proven we are a major market yet.”
To take more control over his career, he’s been working with some indie directors and writers to craft projects. “I love acting but who knows,” he says. “It’s a very fickle industry. I could be hot now but in five to 10 years, I’ll need something else.”
Justin’s starting on that something else right now. Following in his father’s footsteps, he started a shoe and clothing store called Attic (attic2zoo.com) with childhood friend Jimmy Yang. The pair opened a location in Buena Park, Calif., four years ago. It’s doing so well that they recently opened a second store in San Diego.
“I got a business degree and spent a lot of money for it,” he says with a laugh. “It seemed like a waste. It’s been a labor of love for Jimmy and me. For anyone who has started a business, it’s like a second job. But it’s paid off. I am really proud of it.”
Korean Americans are rediscovering their ancestral cuisine and cashing in on the newest ethnic food trend.
ISSUE: Fall 2009
DEPT: Living Feature
STORY: Anna M. Park
Connie Choe-Harikul always refused to eat kimchi. When the second-generation Korean American was growing up she wouldn’t touch anything spicy. Even when her family went to the local Korean restaurant, she’d go out of her way to avoid all things piquant, often leaving her with few menu options.
Until she and her mother started an online business selling, of all things, kimchi.
“It’s pretty addictive,” says Choe-Harikul of the spicy fermented cabbage side dish ubiquitous in every Korean meal. “My husband [who is Thai and Caucasian] and I always keep some in the fridge now.”
Today, GrannyChoe.com sells homemade kimchi and delivers it anywhere in the U.S. And Choe-Harikul is one of an increasing number of Korean Americans who are not only reconnecting with their ethnic culture through food, but are carving the way for a Korean cuisine revolution in the already diverse American gastronomic landscape.
It’s a scene all too familiar for many second-generation Korean Americans. Little Jane Kim comes home from school with her best friends, Susie Smith and Jennifer Jones. It’s their first time at her house — she’s a frequent guest at theirs and she knows their routine: a warm hug, casual inquiries about school, cookies and milk, run upstairs to play Barbies. But as Jane walks through the door of her house, it hits her … like a ton of bricks. Except that bricks would have been preferable. Because bricks don’t smell like kimchi. Raw, pungent, garlicky — indescribable, really, at least to an adolescent. She doesn’t even turn around to see the horrified expressions on her soon-to-be ex-best friends. She knows. She just knows.
Exaggeration? Maybe. But Choe-Harikul can empathize. “Our house just smelled like Korean food,” says the 26-year-old, who was born and raised in the suburban city of Moorpark, Calif. Her Korean-born mother, Oghee Choe, grew up in Seoul making kimchi all her life.
“Full on burying it in the ground and everything,” says Choe-Harikul, referring to the traditional practice of burying kimchi in clay pots underground to allow it to ferment. Oghee continued the kimchi-making practice in the U.S., where she’d take over the kitchen with gigantic bowls and glass jars, digging her hands into the spicy concoction. “You could really smell it,” says Choe-Harikul.
“In a class of 450 kids in my high school, I was the only Korean student,” she continues. “Now it’s sort of cool to be more diverse and in touch with your heritage. But it was less cool when I was growing up.”
It’s not that second-generation Korean Americans don’t like the taste of Korean food. The distaste arose more from the embarrassment of the smell and of being “different” when their white friends visited their homes, says Kyeyoung Park, a professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. It was symbolic — practically an exclamation — of their “different-ness” at a time when all they wanted to do was fit in.
“It was a kind of secret,” says Park. “[Korean Americans] were super aware of how it would be perceived by others.”
Korean American Debbie Lee, a contestant on the latest season of the reality show The Next Food Network Star, says when she first tried Korean food at the age of 8 — after years of eating fried chicken, black eyed peas and other foods typical of the South where she was raised — she immediately took to it.
“Maybe it’s a genetic thing, but I actually liked it,” says Lee, though she admits to rinsing the kimchi in water at first. When she got older, she says she “really found a love for the flavors [and] for what it was.”
Indeed, Korean Americans are increasingly embracing their ancestral cuisine, and not just in the privacy of their own homes. In the past couple of years, Los Angeles has been hit with the blogosphere phenomenon Kogi BBQ truck, a mobile street vendor serving up soft tacos with Korean marinated beef called bulgogi. Founded by Korean Americans Roy Choi and Caroline Shin-Manguera, the taco truck spawned copycats Calbi BBQ and Bool BBQ. Even mega-chain Baja Fresh has added the Korean beef taco to their menu.
And while mom-and-pop Korean restaurants have always been around in the U.S., more “modern” and mainstream-friendly Korean restaurants have been cropping up in hip urban enclaves. Gyenari in Culver City, Calif., is run by second-generation Korean Americans William Shin, Danny Kim and Chris Kim; Simon Shin’s celebrity-frequented Shin BBQ is in Hollywood; and Korean Temple Cuisine in New York is owned by 20-something Jennifer Maeng.
“In general, Korean Americans have been a little bit slow in introducing Korean food [to mainstream America],” says Park, perhaps because they were trying to figure out a way to introduce their native food in a way that makes Americans “feel comfortable.”
But it wasn’t only the “Americans” they wanted to make comfortable. In many ways, Korean Americans, by embracing their food, are making peace with their bicultural, sometimes confused self-identity. “Korean Americans shared the transformative experience of first ‘acting white’ and then later affirming their Korean heritage,” says Park in her 1999 study of immigrant Korean American children published in Amerasia Journal, a leading interdisciplinary journal in Asian American studies. “Becoming a member of the ethnic community often becomes a first step to resolve the question of one’s identity or selfhood.”
Choe-Harikul found growing up the only Korean in a predominantly white neighborhood “confusing.” Lee, an Arizona native, also found it troublesome. “People would tease me and say I was a Mongol and crap like that,” says Lee. “I didn’t even know what a Korean was. You know what a Chinese person was because they owned the restaurant in town, you know Japanese, but what is a Korean? I prayed to have blonde hair and blue eyes every day when I was a little girl.”
It wasn’t until Lee moved to California that she began connecting with her Korean culture. Her grandparents had just immigrated and moved to Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Lee didn’t speak Korean and the neighborhood kids didn’t speak English. So Lee found herself stuck with her non-English speaking grandmother. They connected through the language of food.
“[My grandmother] would give me a smaller bowl of whatever she was cooking and she’d show me,” says Lee. “She’d take my hand and have me feel it and then have me taste it so I understood what I was doing. So that’s how I started understanding.”
But still, says Lee, it wasn’t until she was older that she began appreciating her Korean American heritage.
Through food, Korean Americans may develop an interest in other aspects of their Korean culture, says Park. “Korean food makes connections ethnically and culturally; about who they are and what they are,” she adds.
“Food is the easiest way for me to learn about somebody, including myself,” says Lee. “Understanding their food and flavors, and maybe a story that attaches to a part of their culture, is a great and easy way not only for me but for others to really connect with each other.”
Korean food was Lee’s entrée to making a name for herself in the culinary world. As a restaurant consultant and caterer, she’d sneak in “sesame oil and soy sauce anywhere I could.” In her Hollywood catering business, her Korean ssam, a lettuce cup with bulgogi and Asian style salsa, was her best seller. And though she may not have won her own cooking show on The Food Network, she made it to the top three with her “Soul 2 Seoul” cooking style. The publicity has given her new restaurant, Hot Dog Debbie’s, a boost. True to form, Lee will be taking the all-American dog and mixing it up with sides like kimchi kraut and what she calls Mama Lee’s spicy sauce, which incorporates kkochujang, or chili paste, as a base.
In experimenting with the food of their ancestors, Park says Korean Americans are redefining what America is about — an America that includes them. “When non-Korean Americans show an interest in Korean culture, that makes a young Korean American more comfortable, like [they’re not] something deviant,” she says. “I think that’s a great sign.”
And it explains why more Korean Americans are drawn to their ancestral cuisine, fusing and melding its flavors with those they grew up with. “People who aren’t even Korean know things [about Korean food and culture] now,” says Choe-Harikul, whose customers are mostly non-Koreans from New England and the Midwest. “I have to know these things and I have to keep asking my mom these questions, like what was it like growing up and making kimchi with your family.”
“Korean food has been that hidden food for so long and it’s been right there in front of you,” says Lee, who believes that Korean is the new Chinese. “I won’t be surprised if there’s some Korean P.F. Chang’s concept out there lurking around.”
Indeed, if a P.F. Chang’s of Korean food does sprout, it need only take a suggestion from Choe-Harikul on the best way to introduce the spicy fermented cabbage to Main Street USA. “Macaroni and cheese and kimchi,” says Choe-Harikul. “Even though it sounds scary, it mellows out the spiciness a little.”
As for that one-of-a-kind smell? Choe-Harikul has no secrets to kicking the kimchi odor. “You learn to love the smell,” she says.
Summer 2009 Issue: Girl Talk
For professional surfer and model Esther Hahn, catching a wave is more a love affair than a career.
Story by Shinyung Oh
Riding a wave beats falling in love.
So says 23-year-old surfer and model Esther Hahn.
She describes the feeling of achieving what she calls her “ultimate goal” — of barreling her lithe 5-foot, 5-inch frame in a giant wave. “You’re in the middle of a dreamland, in a different universe when you’re in there,” she says. “It’s the best feeling. It trumps all other feelings.” Continue Reading »
CALLING ALL STUDENTS!
The East Coast Asian American Student Union, the largest inter-collegiate Asian American student network in the nation, is holding its annual conference, ECAASU 2011, on February 18-20, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The theme for this year’s conference is Bridge, Revitalize, Equality, Action, and Knowledge, or B.R.E.A.K. The idea behind this year’s theme is to bridge the past and present by revitalizing the APIA political movement to demonstrate equality for all and to share knowledge in order to promote a collective community.
Here’s ECAASU’s purpose:
In ECAASU 2011 @ UMass Amherst, we hope to create a safe space where attendees can talk about their identity and how it relates to the community. Attendees are encouraged to be true to their words and speak with their hearts, especially if they are talking about problems within the APIA community–we want to understand why, analyze the problems in a local/national scale, and then come up with solutions/next steps to fight for equal representation. In order to build a strong, collective community, we should not be afraid to speak our minds; and that, will hopefully be a way to encourage young activists to step out of their comfort zones and build communities in their hometown across color-lines through empowerment for a stronger sense of identity, and an urgency to improve their communities after attending ECAASU 2011 at UMass Amherst.
The organization has put together a great event together full of exciting workshops, entertainment, and speakers, all of whom are people doing important work within the APIA community. This is going to be an amazing event, so grab your friends and family and get yourself registered. Prices go up on February 1, so don’t wait too long!
What: East Coast Asian American Student Union Conference
When: February 18-20
Where: University of Massachusetts, Amherst
How: For registration prices, schedules, workshops, speaker bios, accommodations and other details, go to: www.ecaasu2011.org
Contributor Anastasia Kim reviews East West Player’s reading of Udaya Kanthi Salgadu’s Letters From My Mother.
As the first month of the new year comes to a close, I applaud the efforts of those who were, and still are, involved in the campaign to raise or heighten awareness of human trafficking and modern day slavery.
Last Thursday, January 20, 2011, my friends over at East West Players (EWP) invited me to a staged reading called Letters From My Mother written by Udaya Kanthi Salgadu and directed by Shaheen Vaaz. In collaboration with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), the East West Players managed to throw a wonderful exhibition spotlighting a heart wrenching yet inspiring story of courage, tenacity and hope brought forth by a mother’s love.
Letters From My Mother is story about a young, Sri Lankan high school graduate named Sripa who had to endure 26 months of forced labor in the United States. With the promise of a consistent salary that she’d be able to send back to her family underscoring her decision to leave everything behind, Sripa soon realizes that her life in the United States isn’t exactly what she’d envisioned. Without a way to contact her family, and not a single cent to her name, Sripa finds herself enslaved to the iniquity that is human trafficking. However, despite the bleakness of her situation, Sripa endures with great fortitude owing to her mother’s letters to her, and the care of an inquisitive neighbor, who later helps rescue her. As a storm gathers in her confidence, Sripa relinquishes fear, and in its stead, she embraces her mettle. Sripa takes her life back.
Thanks to the wonderful cast of talented actors such as Anjali Bhimani, Tamlyn Tomita, James Kyson Lee, Camille Mana, and many more, I saw quite a few teary-eyed members of the audience that night. The cast painted a realistic portrayal of what it must have been like to be in our playwright’s shoes, and we were definitely drawn into the story.
After the reading, a post show discussion panel followed suit where we were made intimately familiar with our real-life Sripa. The playwright, Udaya Kanthi Salgadu, who wrote Letters From My Mother based on her own experiences, was perhaps introduced much later to put the focus on the consequences of human trafficking rather than singling out the victims of it. She was remarkably cheery that night given the topic of her play, and stuck around to meet and greet the viewers. It was wonderful to see that she’d melded her experiences, courage, and resolve to showcase a powerful message not only relatable to victims of human trafficking but people across the board. It was amazing to see her speak from a position of resilience and accomplishment rather than from a position of victimization and weakness. This was her first play, and I hope that while she is on the path to becoming a valued nurse in our community, she will continue to share her words of wisdom with all of us.
There is an estimated 12.3 million people who are enslaved around the world today, according to CASTLA.org. It is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century. Although organizations and volunteers alike are putting forth great effort to impede its growth, human trafficking will not go away without a fight. Please help join this cause in stamping out human trafficking. Go to CASTLA.org and find out how you can help. Freedom and equality isn’t just black or white anymore. Let us fight to give everyone an equal hand at what they rightfully deserve.
– Anastasia Kim
Korean American Kim Halzle, co-founder of the fashion website Runway Rundown, gives us the shopping report on what to buy now (nab them at the sales!), wear now, and still be on trend come spring.
It’s a great time to shop as the New Year sales are in full swing. Be the smartest shopper you can be by buying clearance fall items items that will be on trend for spring 2011. Not sure what the key trends for Spring are? Fret not — I’ve got 5 must-have trends that you’ll soon be seeing gracing the blogs and red carpets. If you keep these trends in mind for your shopping and styling needs, you are sure to have a fashion forward, on-trend look to start off your new year!
Trend 1: Floor-Length Skirts
Retire your maxi dress until summer and take on a new, refined yet classic look of a floor-length skirt. With a variety of silhouettes like fit and flare, A-line and even a full skirt that resembles wide leg pants, the options to style this look are endless. I suggest keeping your top fitted and always tuck it into the skirt as to not take away from the grandiose effect of the skirt.
Some inspirations from the runway:
Get the look now with these easy buys:
Trend 2: Wide Leg Pants
This trend will kill two birds with one stone as wide leg pants and ’70s styles are both going to be big for spring. It’s almost impossible to not give off a ’70s vibe when wearing wide leg pants so be prepared to channel your inner hippie. This is a trend that continues to pop up across the runways from season to season so if you haven’t already, take this spring as your opportunity to invest in a great pair of wide leg pants. I promise you will get your money’s worth from them as it is a trend sure to repeat itself.
Inspiration from the runway:
Say goodbye to those exaggerated harem-cut pants and welcome a classic look that keeps repeating itself … wide leg pants. You can even rock a spin off of the wide leg pant with a flared trouser. Here are my top picks to buy:
Trend 3: A Pop of Orange
Every season has a few colors that stand out as a trendy tone. However, this spring it is all about orange. Seen on several runway shows for spring, this bright citrus hue is sure to be a huge hit for spring. And what better way to gear up for a warm summer than with a burst of color? Wear it as the only shade in your ensemble, mix it up in a fun print or color block your outfit with a solid chunk of orange paired with a subdued tone.
Inspiration from the runway:
Get the look with these pieces available now:
You ask, we answer. All your dilemmas addressed by our experts.
Got a conundrum of your own? Email us at Editor@audreymagazine.com, subject line “Ask Audrey.”
I find difficulty in building and maintaining professional/social relationships. Although I have a job and attend networking mixers and different events, it’s always been a struggle to successfully communicate with people and develop lasting relationships. Is there a way go further than “It was nice meeting you,” or does it have more to do with the person and situation? — Confuzzled
Psychotherapist Meme Rhee answers: Building and maintaining professional and social relationships demands consistent work and discipline, but to approach the professional and social domain identically may not be the most efficient use of your time. Certainly, friendships do form out of professional relationships and vice versa, but being appropriate and clear about your goal at a function can help you tremendously.
In building professional relationships, it may be useful to identify professions that complement your own. For example, if you are a real estate agent, network with interior decorators and designers, or if you are a nutritionist, network with personal trainers and therapists. Targeting very specifically the types of people with whom you can generate cross-referrals can be a more efficient use of your networking time. Communicating to professionals how a relationship can be mutually beneficial and referring to them certainly keeps you in the radar when they might need to refer to you. I have observed many newbies go into networking functions coming across as very needy and asking for referrals. You would benefit greatly by going into a function with some confidence in what you can provide for them. The best professional networkers dedicate a few hours every week specifically to make contact with other professionals. For example, Fridays can be the day you invite someone you met at a function to have coffee. The one-on-one meeting may be the glue that turns a brief acquaintance into a lasting relationship. Aim for a balanced conversation in which each person has approximately equal speaking time. If you find yourself doing these things and still feeling unsuccessful, you may have to examine the type of people toward whom you are gravitating.
In building social relationships, it’s important to be curious and it’s important to be yourself. Those who struggle with social anxiety tend to focus too much on how they will be perceived by others and forget to tap into something that is natural in each of us: the capacity to be curious and interested. In social situations, that means, ask questions! One of the best opening questions to ask is, “Where are you from?” This can lead to a whole discussion about hometowns, immigration experience, family, etc. To be yourself means that you have opinions and ideas and you can express them in a way that comfortably gives the other person an idea of who you are without excessively needing their approval. If you find yourself feeling awkward consistently in either situation, I would recommend therapy which, in my experience, can be the most efficient way to address social anxieties, or help you identify possible blind spots in how you might be coming across.
Issue: Fall 2010
Dept: The Awful Truth
The Office Grind by Paul Nakayama and Naomi Fujimoto
Is workplace “commingling” a good idea? Guest columnist Naomi Fujimoto says all’s fair in love and work, but Paul Nakayama wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot laser pointer.
Workplace dating is the stuff of great drama. Glee and Grey’s Anatomy — where would they be without it? And what about The Office — the shrugging, the fumbling, the knowing glances? Even on 24, with the fate of the world in question, they still found time for love. All in a day’s work. But enough about TV. I’m real-life proof that you can get your honey where you get your money.
Whether you’re looking at each other over an operating table or a corporate cube, your co-workers see you at your best and your not so best. You see how they deal with stress and relate to other people. And whether they can follow through. In the workplace, people are themselves. Sober. Decent. Good relationship material. (If you’re just looking for a hookup, stay away from your nine-to-five crowd. Sleeping your way to the middle is a bad idea.)
I’m Japanese and an editor, so it won’t be revealing much to say that I love rules. I love that they help me figure out how people will act at work — and, possibly, outside of work. While I can’t say that every girl wants a hero, I like a guy with good problem-solving skills. Responding to an IT “code
blue,” Sean had a confident walk that made him look like he could handle anything. Including me. I had to find out whether he was a MacGyver or a MacGruber.
Our romance started small, tiny even, as workplace entanglements often do. When he stopped by just to say hi or lingered in the hallway, my office mates noticed. One day we went to lunch (Asian fusion, natch). Soon I saw that he could troubleshoot my Mac and share his fries. This unofficial stuff paved the way for our office courtship. Pre-dating can last weeks (if you’re lucky) or years (if you’re me). With all the visits and lunches and hallway conversations, this face time will further your status more than Facebook. Same with those happy hours, where your guy can put his hand on your back to help you throw darts.
Ah, the happy hour. As long as you’re not a boozer or a bimbo, the happy hour is your friend, the one that encourages you and your work buddy to pair off. Enjoy it! But here’s where I’ll come back to the rules again. Keep it rated PG! When you think “workplace grind,” visualize your efforts on a big project, not on the dance floor. (For real. My friend had to see her co-worker dirty dance at the company party. Ew.) Your office friends will be happy for you, but you don’t need to flaunt how in lust you are. Chances are, they noticed the chemistry before you did. They are, after all, people who see you 40-plus hours a week.
Sure, you could meet someone online or in a bar or through a setup. Or you can sit back and see what happens with that guy you always go to lunch with. Maybe it won’t go anywhere. Or maybe it will go somewhere for just a few months, like it did for Sean and me. We broke up recently, and the vibe at lunch has changed. No regrets, though. He was a MacGyver — just not mine.
My awful truth? Workplace dating might seem inexcusable or irresponsible, but it’s also irresistible. If you’re willing to risk a few awkward moments in the elevator, give it a try.
Imagine an adorable bear cub playing with a ball; you can’t help but fawn over it. You approach, unable to stop yourself from petting it. It coos as your hand approaches its face. It is so darn cute! Then suddenly, the cub growls and bares its fangs and mauls your pretty hand into meat strings. You scream and panic, stumbling over your dumb self as you try to escape, but then you realize that you’re locked in a cage. You slap your forehead with what’s left of your hand and curse your own foolishness as that once cuddly bear cub leaps onto your back and takes you down. It’s a horrible tale, I know, and yet so many befall the same fate, except instead of loving a cute but vicious animal,
it’s dating a co-worker.
As my warm little analogy illustrates, dating a co-worker is a dangerous proposition. Think about how many of your exes were brutish, annoying or clingy. You sighed constantly with deep relief when things ended. Now, think about the good ones you’ve had. In an office setting, what are the real odds that you’d meet one of the few good ones and none of the horrible trolls?
Imagine walking to the copy room and running into your ex, the bipolar one who’d refer to himself as “we.” And they’re demanding, “Why did you leave us? Why why why? (And are you done with the copier, skank?)” That would certainly be a good time to run away, but oh, that’s right — you can’t because you work together.
Breakups are manageable when you have space or at least an escape route. Not possible with an office tryst. Or what if it was your heart that was broken? During the Halloween party, you hook up with that longtime crush of yours from accounting, only to discover later he was boofing everyone. Work is miserable enough as it is without having to see some douche bag’s face every five days out of seven. Eventually, you’ll see him hitting on someone new at the office, repeating the same coaxing lines. Your fists will be clenched in anger, and your poor laptop will “accidentally fall down some
stairs.” I can’t even begin to warn you against the dangers of being around the open bar at the company holiday party … you’ll be fondly remembered as the drunken mess that flung cheese at everyone like it was poo, all while sobbing openly like a Bieber groupie.
I get why office romances happen. The fact is, it’s hard meeting people after college, and you spend more time with co-workers than your best friends. Things happen. And there are plenty of examples
of people finding real love in the office. So why not, right? Well, there’s more to lose in an office romance. These things often end poorly, and you’ll only succeed in making your sucky job even suckier. I’ve been in one or two myself that ended in less than desirable ways where the consolation prize is a giant bag of awkward. In this economy, I think it’s better to have a job than a chance at
love, the same chance I could take at my other usual hangouts: the karaoke bar, the 7-Eleven or my parkour club. Because looking for love in the office is a man-eating baby bear that will devour your
heart, and it’s just common sense not to wrestle bears.