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  • Writer's picturekwankew

2022 in Review, Blessings in Abundance

The COVID pandemic still lingers and refuses to leave us in peace. Travel restrictions are waxing and waning, but life goes on.

This year, my volunteering abroad has been put to a stop by COVID but on February 6, 2022, I volunteered for 2 weeks with Team Rubicon in the Navajo Nation at Gallup Medical Center for COVID treatment and vaccination. I am always in awe of the other otherworldly rock formations out west.

Meanwhile, I was kept busy with many family events, editing, and the launching of my new memoir, The Girl Who Taught Herself to Fly, which came out on October 25. The book launch took place at the Belmont Public Library, co-sponsored by Belmont Books in conjunction with the One Book, One Program of the library. This book is about my growing up in Penang, Malaysia in an impoverished family and daring to dream about going to college, it is about the empowerment of girl education. I hope you will be inspired when you read this memoir, a great gift for the favorite teens in your life.

This March, it saddens me when the Talibans turned young girls away from going to secondary school. As of a few days ago, Afghan women are no longer allowed to attend universities. The future of many of these women depends a great deal on receiving a higher education. Achieving economic independence and getting out of the sexist nature of poverty will be even harder to attain.

Right before that, Belmont Journal News Now’s guest interviewer, Ann Marie Mahoney, discussed the book with me.

A series of in-person book events followed: Wellesley Free Library, then Porter Square Books and Wellesley Books, both in conversation with EB Bartels, and the Cambridge Public Library in-person conversation with “Yiffei” Effie Kong.

Wellesley Free Library Porter Square Books

Cambridge Public Library

Wellesley Books

A virtual event took place during Harvard College’s First-Generation Low-Income Visibility Week in Conversation with Dr. Lisa Wong and Felicia Ho to discuss my book. This event was co-hosted by Harvard Alumni in Healthcare, the Office of Career Services, the Arts & Humanities Initiative at Harvard Medical School, and the Medical Humanities Forum at Harvard College.

Prior to the book launch, in August and September, Columbia Global Center of Columbia University in Nairobi, Kenya sponsored two virtual events in theit Africa Talk Series: In conversation with Wendy Njoroge to discuss my book: Lest We Forget: A Doctor’s Experience with Life and Death During the Ebola Outbreak and with Jennifer Dohrn about my book: Into Africa, Out of Academia: A Doctor's Memoir. You could watch the video by clicking on the links.

Several short pieces of my writing were published. Vine Leaves Press’s 50 Give and Take published November, Nor’easter, and The Last Goodbye; and Vine Leaves Press Spill It published Does Being a Grandmother Make One Old and Ancient? Literally Stories published Still a Child, inspired by a young girl I met at Balikula refugee camp for the Rohingya at Coz’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Wellesley Magazine published a letter, A Fine Line Between Visibility and Invisibility, and my article, Dear Biden and Fauci, Try Getting a COVID Test Like an Ordinary Citizen — You'll end up on a wild goose chase came out on MedPage Today.

For Women’s History Month, Alumnae-i Network for Harvard Women celebrated 31 voices of Harvard women for each day of the month of March and I was honored to be among them.

I was selected to be highlighted on Wellesley College’s new Legacy Wall for women in science, technology, engineering, and medicine in the transformed Science Complex along with many alumnae and faculty.

At the end of April, the twins, Luke and Sam traveled to Savanah, Georgia with their parents, Tim and Ju-Lin. Charles, Mel, Scott, and I spent a few days there with them.

In May, I joined my sister Eng, my brother Boon, and his wife, Janet visiting Sedona, the red-earthed beauty. We were supposed to do the trip last fall but had to postpone it because of COVID. We traveled north to the Grand Canyon and it was wonderful to be joined together as a close family. After I said goodbye to them and headed to the Dakotas for a 10-day road trip on my own, I heard that my mother was seriously ill. I changed my plan and headed to Penang, Malaysia. In the heat and humidity of my island of birth, we said our last good-bye to my mother.

Sedona Trip Hiking Cathedral Rock,

that's me at the ledge

My siblings during my mother's funeral service

I flew home to Boston and then headed to Fairbanks, Alaska, to spend a few weeks with Tim and Ju-Lin and their adorable twins, Luke and Sam who celebrated their first birthday. Tim left the army to be a full-time stay-at-home dad and is doing a wonderful job. Ju-Lin switched jobs and is now an educator as a Physician Assistant. The twins walked for the first time during our visit.

Sam and Luke on their first birthday

While there, I joined many runners from all over the world to run the 40th Midnight 10K Sun Run during one of the longest days. Seward beckoned me to run the 94th Mt. Marathon 5K race, a grueling 3000-foot race up and down the mountain. I was amazed at the speed the participants finished the race, a hazardous one, especially on the way down the slippery shales.

At Seward, Scott and I took a leisure day boat ride in Resurrection Bay, taking us to the Aialik Glacier and watching pods of orcas, otters, seals, and perhaps far-away some puffins. I kayaked in Resurrection Bay and hiked the 9-mile Harding Icefield and the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjord National Park. There ravages of climate change are in full view, the Exit Glacier has retreated for miles since the beginning of the twentieth century.

In August, we spent a week at Wellfleet, Cape Cod for our usual summer break, missing Tim and his family.

We met Mel’s parents, Jim and Melody Cherng from Taiwan, they came to Charles and Mels’ wedding on September 9. It was a glorious day celebrating the union of two wonderful people.

Both of them have been busy renovating their new home in Somerville. We are blessed to have them so close by. Charles still works for Facing History and Ourselves and is studying for a Master’s program in social work at BU, an ambitious project given he is working full-time. Mel is moving her practice in acupuncture to Somerville.

I deferred my long-awaited hike to Mt. Everest Basecamp in Nepal to next April as my third grandson, Huckleberry, arrived on September 19 to join his parents, James and Cara. He remains a marvel.

James is working with AMI Healthcare and has been sent to Afghanistan, Liberia, and Somalia. Cara is on maternity leave and will ease herself into the working world early next year.

Scott will be retiring in the middle of next year but has not had to teach for almost a year, writing an obscure scholarly book.

I still work part-time for Beth Israel Deaconess Lahey Health, not sure how long I will be doing that. My passions are still to do medical volunteering and writing whenever I can. I paint occasionally and this October, I painted The Library Cat for the Belmont Gallery of Art: More than Words. That cat is incidentally Pearl, Charles, and Mel’s cat.

My favorite cat, Kuchi is well, she seems to switch her habits to be a more nocturnal cat.

Kuchi in her safe box

We have grown in numbers as a family and are blessed with good health and happiness. Through it all, I always remind myself to be mindful of all the people who are less fortunate than me. Sometimes soon, I will put myself forth to work for their causes. We should always remember those who are refugees, internally displaced, struggling to survive day by day. Let us pray for good, light, and peace to come soon.

There is still a lot of work to do, mysteries and adventures to experience and a whole magnificent and beautiful world to explore. Let us keep it as pristine as we can for our children and grandchildren.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

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