Archive for September, 2005

Sunday September 25, 2005

September 25, 2005 - 10:40 pm 1 Comment

Thank you everyone who made this birthday weekend so meaningful. Although my real birthday has yet to occur, I’ve already celebrated much more than I would have ever imagined. I keep thinking back to my first birthday party in the first grade. The year before, everyone had some semblance of a party on their birthday – perhaps as a part of my cultural heritage, my parents let mine pass quietly.

To compensate for my feelings of inadequacy, my parents invited the entire first grade class to my birthday party at Discovery Zone, in which for the first time, I tasted the joy of being the complete center of attention. First grade memories ought to be hazy, but my mind still captures the tangible details – my father’s video-camera, receiving a little hand-crafted bunny bank, and the excitement of a sea of colored plastic balls.

This birthday, though different, reminds me of that first passage.  

Sunday September 25, 2005

September 25, 2005 - 10:34 pm 2 Comments

Today my roommates Lauren, LingLing, and Anna celebrated my 19th birthday. Although technically I’m not nineteen until tomorrow, by general consensus, we decided that Mondays ought to be avoided in general. Even though I didn’t end up going to the Choosuk festival this weekend, I still had the precious opportunity to spend my Saturday afternoon and evening with my family, who I love beyond reason. Yesterday, we went out to eat at Chinatown and perused Philadelphia’s downtown together. When we came back, my mother made me tea eggs and my father studied mathematics in the public lounge, while I watched Densho Otoko and relished fresh cream tiramisu with my sister. (I talked to my GA today, who expressed shock at the fact that the middle-aged man who studied with him yesterday was not a PhD candidate like he had thought, but instead, a father of one of the residents he was supposed to advise.)

My hours disappeared so quickly – I was so deliriously happy that I never considered the inevitable emptiness that followed when late at night, in my room alone, I found nothing more than the shadows of laughter with my family, and the three precious birthday cards tacked to the wall beside my bed. This morning, my mother called me, worried about Grace’s most recent outburst. In a soft voice, she reminded me that we have probably just twenty more years together. The thought evoked a deep sense of sadness because I couldn’t help but remember the concrete emptiness of yesterday night, imagining if it were permanent; how happy times, enjoyed immeasurably in the bustling company of my family, can delude me from being aware of its inevitable, inescapable end. What will I have left?

Tonight, my roommates and I went out to eat at an Ethiopian restaurant to celebrate – my first encounter with African food and eating with my fingers. Happily anticipating a curious experience of the palette, I savored the spicy flavors, and found the flat, somewhat bitter, spongy bread, effectively used as a utensil, a rather interesting consistency. Good company and good times – I had the rare opportunity to enjoy not only one, but two dinners, with people who mean a lot to me.

When we walked back to campus, I confessed that despite the fact that I’m now nineteen, only a slight edge away from twenty, I felt no different from before. I wondered, when will I have an epiphanical moment in which I will feel grown up? We laughed over the question, defining the answer with the coming of twenty-five and our first apartment.

We came back late, and Lauren unveiled her inimitable concoction of a cake, constructed from a granola-banana based crust and tofu-chocolate pudding filling. Lingling wrote me a beautiful card and gave me a book about entering and succeeding in law school. (Ah…it’s never too early to prepare for the inevitable.) While we enjoyed the cake, whose unique flavor eludes adequate verbal descriptors other than the generic “delicious”, LingLing asked to hear stories of Lauren and me back in high school.

Well, Lauren and I tumbled back into the past – of our random “Dear Chosen” phase, our ridiculous plights in chemistry and physics labs, our inane FPS and DI memories filled with Michael Jackson dances and poorly executed allegories, our shockingly different presentations in Spanish, and my general ill-adjusted oddness and fascination with the obscure and obtuse. At that time, all of the escapades felt so normal – so commonplace and acceptable. Now, in retrospect, I realize their innocence and sweet, idealistic naivety.

My epiphany came and went. I grew up sometime in between.

Certainly, I’ve gained knowledge and real world wisdom, but perhaps, I’ve lost a part of myself in the process.

Saturday September 24, 2005

September 24, 2005 - 12:07 am 2 Comments

Tomorrow is the Liberty Bell Classic, the high school tournament the Penn Speech and Debate team holds as an annual fundraiser. As excited as I am about this event, I can’t help but feel somewhat overwhelmed with all the logistical data I must process. This year, it’s not enough to know what I alone am obligated to do. Instead, I must mobilize an entire team.

I’m already bogged down with a lot of work, though certainly not to an unmanageable degree. Sometimes I’m having a bit of difficulty concentrating – I blame the simple fact that too much is going on. Tomorrow is both the Liberty Bell Classic and the Moon Cake Festival held by the Chinese Music Society. Sandwiched in between is a series of interviews I must conduct for the Wharton Asian Exchange. Further crammed into my limited time on Saturday is a birthday visit by my family, which serves the dual purpose of an emergency supply delivery (ice hockey bag, timer) and a rare chance to enjoy the golden time of being with people who unconditionally support me. In addition, next week is Banned Books Week, as well as the final resting date of a Spanish paper and a Statistics midterm.

Am I overextended? Certainly, I hope not. For the most part, I think I’m pretty much on track, though I admit, I find it harder to focus. I think writing, to a certain extent, may prove to be a soothing treatment for my overactive nerves.

Monday, September 26, 2005 commemorates my 19th birthday. Certainly, 19 years of age seems quite over the threshold of youth. What should I begin to define myself as now?

What will next year’s experiences bring? I find this short poem below to be uncannily true.


Youth and Age
William Butler Yeats

Much did I rage when young,
Being by the world oppressed,
But now with flattering tongue
It speeds the parting guest.

Friday September 23, 2005

September 23, 2005 - 12:58 am 1 Comment

With only a few minutes to type, I am afraid I cannot capture all the details of this typically atypical day. Though not particularly my busiest day, I’ve still managed to keep myself occupied every minute. Where did all the lazy summer days disappear to?

In Legal Studies, we discussed a very interesting article that someone found on the Internet. I find it fascinating that although there are many things we intuitively decide are morally reprehensible, elucidating the exact reason is often very difficult, especially if we believe in some semblance of cultural relativism.

Corpses in Cosmetics
Tuesday, September 13th

LONDON (AFP) – A British newspaper said that a Chinese cosmetics company was using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe.

Agents for the firm, which could not be named for legal reasons, have told would-be customers that skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot is being used to develop collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments, the Guardian newspaper said following an undercover investigation.

“The agents say some of the company’s products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is ‘traditional’ and nothing to ‘make such a big fuss about’,” the daily alleged.

It said doctors and politicians were worried about the dangers associated with people wanting to look better in such ways, because European regulations to control cosmetic treatments such as collagen are not expected for several years.

“Apart from the ethical concerns, there is also the potential risk of infection,” the newspaper said.

Collagen is the fibrous protein constituent of skin, cartilage, bone, and other connective tissue.

The Guardian said it was unclear whether the anonymous company’s treatments were already available in Britain or over the Internet.

It was also unable to say whether collagen made from prisoners’ skin was in the research stage or was in production.

“However, the Guardian has learned that the company has exported collagen products to the UK in the past. An agent told customers it had also exported to the US and European countries, and that it was trying to develop fillers using tissue from aborted foetuses.”

The newspaper said that when formally approached the agent denied the company was using skin harvested from executed prisoners.

At the same time, it said the same person had already admitted this to an undercover researcher.

It quoted that agent as saying: “A lot of the research is still carried out in the traditional manner using skin from the executed prisoner and aborted foetus.” This material, he said, was being bought from “bio tech” companies based in the northern province of Heilongjiang, and was being developed elsewhere in China.

China executes more prisoners than the rest of the world combined, although the precise number put to death is not known.

One recent tally by a European anti-capital punishment group said that at least 5,000 of the near 5,500 known executions worldwide in 2004 took place in China.

Wednesday September 21, 2005

September 21, 2005 - 9:07 pm 1 Comment

Debate recruitment is now officially over after a many weeks of planning, enduring, deciding, and communicating. Regardless, as much as I consider debate my one true passion, I must admit, sitting through approximately ten hours of tryouts is a bit taxing on the mind and the body. This year, I let myself be in charge of the minutia details, figuring it would be the optimal way to get experience, but have now decided, that secretaries and other administrative positions ought to be put to use.

Certainly, if left to me, I would have never excluded anyone from the team. I feel somewhat morally culpable for denying an interested individual the opportunity to participate in an intellectual endeavor. As a result, I’ve started the notion of a “provisional” team member – someone who, by definition, must undergo a trial period to prove his or her commitment, contribution to the team, and personal skill growth. (And also, must not annoy me.) These members, on appearance, will not differ from the actual core of the team. I figured, keeping their status discrete and surreptitious would be more encouraging than disillusioning.

Life has been extraordinarily busy. With my various board positions on a variety of clubs and the continuation of my research and non-profit work, I find idle time a true luxury. I have a few hours of interviews to conduct for my various Asian business societies. (Yesterday, when I assisted in the interviewing process for the Wharton China Business Forum, I was quite surprised by how antagonistic some of the board members became. Certainly, this is not quite my style. In my opinion, adversarial tones ought to be left in the debate round, where attacks are made in the name of intellectual discovery rather than personal degradation.)

My classes can be no better. Corporate finance and financial accounting fascinate me, despite my initial reluctance to the ubiquitous Wharton core. My teachers are knowledgeable and friendly – I’m having a great time asking and answering questions, bending my mind around material it has never before encountered. Compromised of only eight students, my International Business Ethics course provokes me in a pleasantly thrilling manner. Professor Dunfee, quite obviously, is a lawyer. (Lawyers, I have discovered, are definitively the most intelligent sector of society. Perhaps I’m a bit biased…) Statistics has always been intriguing to me, though I admit, I would prefer if the professor were a little bit more flamboyant than an eighty year old bespectacled man who spends more time teaching us how to click buttons than to analyze the concepts.

Spanish literature, though not necessarily taught in the ideal discussion-based format I prefer, continues to draw me into the minds and words of an epoch and culture long past. My professor has a certain fondness for Spanish movies, which in turn, I have learned to really enjoy. Through my eight years of formal Spanish schooling, I’ve actually never watched a full movie in Spanish before, not even the obligatory dubbed Disney movie, so I find this opportunity very enlightening. I highly recommended Mariposa to anyone interested in the epoch of the Spanish Civil War. A good number of students in my class are heritage speakers; sometimes, I find it difficult to understand their accents. I do, however, prefer it to be this way as practice for next year.

Anyway, despite all my activities and obligations (hockey is starting up this week), I swear to maintain my 4.0, and get even more A+s, if feasible.

I went to a career fair yesterday, and started to seriously consider the concrete steps I need to take in order to obtain the future I want. Though not quite an adept networker yet, I’m confident I’ll only improve with experience. I was a bit too substantive in my questioning, which more or less, surprised the representatives in a relatively awkward way.

I did get quite a bit of really cool free stuff, though I did endure one embarrassing moment…

Me: (Sees three stuffed animal crabs on the table and thinks one would be perfect for Grace. Walks to the table and introduces myself.) “Hello, my name is Joyce Meng, and I’m a sophomore in the Huntsman Program. I’m interested in learning more about the summer intern program of your firm, if there is any.”

Representative: Sorry, we don’t have any summer programs.

Me: (Pause. Eyes the crabs.) Can I have a crab?

Representative: Yes, of course.


[See what I do for you, Grace?]

My dearest family, I miss you all.

Please write:

Box 703
3901 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6135