2017 Year in Review: “Provocations”

True story: I would have posted this before the end of 2017 had my computer not died on the last day of the year. I guess 2017 wanted to get in one final disappointment. Don’t let the door hit ya!

Awaiting a Trump press conference in Tokyo at Akasaka Palace, during his first trip to Asia as president.

“We worry, all along, that we are being buffeted about by forces beyond our control, because we are. The world is wheels within wheels within wheels, but so are we. Everything is under control, and nothing makes sense.”

-Todd Van der Werff, on 2017

To ignore the unsettled feeling brought on by the changes to America and the world under the least popular American president since modern polling began would be irresponsible, but I also find it infuriating and exhausting to think too hard about it. For example, I cannot bring myself to look at starving polar bear photos even though philosophically I think we all should.

This year I tried to focus on individual objectives and tasks in order to keep my sanity. Like trying to teach the girls how to live with kindness and consideration of other people. (A work in progress, as they aren’t even that nice to one another!) At work, I’m trying to do some good with the pretty significant microphone that we have to shine a light on ourselves and our times and to agitate for improvements to my organization (e.g., to try and make it more inclusive). To say I haven’t been in and out of ennui would be a lie. I was unable to consume alcohol for all of Q1 and finally I started doing so with abandon as soon as Baby Luna was out of me. There was a lot of catching up to do.

That the final two months of the year brought down so many sexual predators/misogynists and Alabama elected the guy who prosecuted the KKK instead of the guy banned from the mall represents some cautious hope that a corrective for these misshapen times will eventually come. And the year wasn’t all bad. The Houston Astros won the World Series, the aggressively exuberant baby Luna is here and Matt Lauer is gone from the airwaves. Reliable year-enders that I cherish, such as The Hater’s Guide to the Williams Sonoma catalog, still showed up.

Firsts: Getting lost in a go-kart on the streets of Tokyo. Being with Donald Trump in person. (And Melania.) Making wax food. IUD! Fareed Zakaria GPS. Potty Training boot camp (NOT FOR ME, I was the drill sergeant, okay?!). And a first (and last) — co-hosting All Things Considered with the man the myth and the legend, Robert Siegel, before he retires.

Recurring Themes: North Korea. Russia. Being frightened to see news alerts in the morning.

New Person: Little Luna Lee, our third human child, who weighed 8 pounds 6 oz., or as they measure it in Korea, 3.9 kg. The heaviest crotch nugget yet, and I whined about it heartily in her final weeks of incubation.

ahhhhhhh!!!

Favorite Selfie: On the streets with crowds of South Korean, with crack assistant Jihye the moment South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, was formally removed from office after being impeached by a constitutional court. (She’s now in jail on a slew of charges.)

Most Unintentionally Famous Friend: Bob Kelly, aka “BBC Dad,” after his hip-hoppity kids made the best ever appearance in this BBC interview, followed up by his stealthy-smooth wife, who came to yank them out

New Friend of the Year: Alex Field, who is Hong Kong-based but spent so much time in Seoul for various North Korea-related news that she started working out regularly with my pilates instructor. Women need women friends and she’s become a close one, as we whine about our jetlag together following our trans-Pacific journeys and commiserate by text — and in person — over being overworked.

The Year of the … Hobonichi Techo: I tried going fully analog for my calendar and diary like the Japanese do, and it was awesome. The Hobonichi Techo was bullet journaling before bullet journals, and the pages, after writing in them, take on this delicious crinkled quality that’s oh so satisfying. I didn’t write a journal entry each day, so it’s largely full of to-dos and footnotes from phone calls that help me look back, and monthly calendars that show my travels and meetings.

Most Satisfying Habit: Monthly calls with Matt. After we went my first year in Seoul without talking on the phone, MThomps put recurring calls on both our calendars, dates which we got really serious about keeping no matter the hour or where we were. (He was often running, so our phone calls followed a  bouncing up and down kind of rhythm.)

Close Calls: When Matty had to bribe his way into Indonesia just in time to make it for Isa’s 2nd birthday.

New Places: Indonesia, Guam, Hokkaido, Australia

This year I…

Had third baby and she is the bomb
Read 52 books, most of them fiction and the vast majority by badass women authors
Became a member of the Council on Foreign Relations
Found out I’m Wikipedia-cited on the topic of “asian fetishes,” yikes
Kpop dance class #humiliation
Got in trouble with standards editor for saying “awesomer” on the air, but “y’all” was cleared
Got sketched at a wedding by a random stranger (literally sketched, not a play on words)
Got a bandaid nearly applied to me by a stranger on the Tokyo subway
Launched Elise Tries, an irreverent travel video series
Started sleeping two rooms away from my phones because news alerts were anxiety-inducing
Showed up in a stock image
Showed up in an online textbook
Showed up in Austin to surprise my goddaughter
Lost my grandma, my hero, a rock
Ran successful potty training boot camp, training Isa in two days
Accidentally injured my cat Caesar out of negligence
Drove a go kart around the streets of Tokyo
Drove into oncoming traffic in Hokkaido
Threw a bunch of ceramics at walls in a “rage room” with my brother
Room-mommed for my two year-old, who started preschool
Co-Hosted All Things Considered
Sent a lot of random packages (my fave was melted wax that Friend Harper received, long story)
Spent July 4th covering an ICBM test
Spent Labor Day weekend covering a nuclear test
Spent too many weekend mornings covering other missile launches
Dressed family up as sushi for Halloween
Popped in on lots of podcasts: Sweet and Sour FM. It’s Been a Minute. Divided States of Women. Lots of Up First.
Logged 59,861 miles to go to six countries and one US territory, and spent 78 days away from home, a much more homebound year this year thanks to Baby Luna.

Previous Years in Review:

2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010
2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004

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2016 Year In Review: What Just Happened Here?

In July, with my fixer Akane, in the Japanese Alps reporting on a traditional naked festival.

Ah, 2016. A year so seemingly bad that it became its own internet meme. Not only was the soul-sucking U.S. presidential election rather horrifying, but artistic icons kept dying — Bowie, Prince, now George Michael. Mix in another hottest year on record, Brexit, the ongoing refugee crisis, rising nativism all over the world, nuclear tests by North Korea and it’s easy to get a girl down, you know?

In the micro sense, my 2016 was a tornado of travel and jet lag but rather charmed and full of surprises, like the new baby in my belly. (WHAT!? Still processing, but running out of time for it to sink in.) It was a year for much Japan exploration, and full of friends and weekend getaways all over the place — Cebu, Bangkok, Okinawa, New York, London, Seattle and more.

Notable Firsts: The G7 summit, airport transportation by high-speed boat, flight with the U.S. Treasury Secretary, police-escorted motorcade through Beijing, aka, experiencing Beijing without its infamous traffic, gong bath (it is a thing), Go tournament, hosting an NPR show, getting a compliment from the president, kabuki show, naked man festival. (Some details below.)

Recurring Theme: Jet lag. Naps. Longing for booze and not being able to drink it.

Favorite Selfie: My brother Roger Hu goofing off with daughter Eva (and a magnifying glass) when we were all in Taipei for the Lunar New Year.

New Person: A new Hu was born on December 1, after 48 hours of labor. My little brother Roger is now a dad, to baby boy Ethan Hu. Another E-Hu in the family makes me so proud. I can’t wait to meet him.

Eva and Uncle Roger’s giant nose

Regrets: I didn’t call my friends who I don’t meet up with in random cities. Going to make a more concerted effort in 2017.

Randomness: Pineapple Park, y’all. Hostile environment training. Dairy Queen in Laos.

Notable New Friend: CNN International’s Saima Moshin, who I technically met in 2015. But we really solidified our friendship this year, and I’m better for it.

New countries: Philippines, Thailand, Laos

And in no particular order…
Asked the Deputy US Secretary of State about North Korea’s hangover free booze
Watched traditional kabuki performed by children up in the mountains
Attended first Japanese naked man festival, featuring not men but boys (yikes)
Got attacked by a raccoon, who then STOLE my mic
Slept through Taiwan’s big February earthquake, had to do a bunch of TV to talk about it
Learned enough cab Korean to get around
Gave Isabel a Korean first birthday party
Ran out of passport pages
Went back and forth to Japan 11 times
Went to Hawaii for work … twice
Thought a lot about smog
Watched artificial intelligence beat a 9-time world champ at Go
Covered the President’s historic (and moving) visit to Hiroshima
Passed up a chance to live in Shanghai
(Went back-and-forth for awhile before making a decision)
Guest hosted Weekend Edition
Interviewed Omarosa
Had soooo many karaoke (or in Korea, norebang) nights
Played The Sunday Puzzle with NYT Crossword Editor Will Shortz
Somehow got knocked up again, hrmmm
Learned how to tie a tourniquet really quickly, and to make one
Achieved objective of reading a lot more books than last year
Asked President B-H-O about North Korea on his final Asia trip
Got a presidential compliment: “Those are good questions”
Finally saw Sir Ian McKellen IN THE FLESH
Learned how to make a pig face out of a rice ball
Drove on left side of road and right side of car for the first time, didn’t die
Witnessed Obama and Shinzo Abe’s quiet tribute to Pearl Harbor victims at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

Free from nursing by July (but pregnant again in August), logged 128,367 miles in the air (resulting in jet lag for many days of 2016), going to nine countries and spending 145 days away from home. I need a nap. Bye.

Previous Years in Review:
2015201420132012 | 20112010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004

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2014 Year in Review: What Kind Of Year Has It Been?

“Of course, life will randomly go to hell every so often, too. Cold winds arrive and prick you: the rain falls down your neck: darkness comes.” -Annie Lamott

I spent much of 2014 just barely hanging on. (In the NorCal redwoods, May 2014)

I spent much of 2014 just barely hanging on. (In the NorCal redwoods, May 2014)

It’s hard to look back at 2014 without feeling completely paralyzed. A missing plane, never found. A plane being shot out of the sky. Another plane that went missing in the final days of the year. ISIS beheadings, Crimea, Gaza, Ebola, school shootings, campus rapes, lethal cops, our nation’s intractable problem with race. Ryan Gosling fathering a child with some woman.

For me, the year started with bringing home a flu strain from Asia, my nanny quitting at the height of a dramatic fight with us and a week later, suffering my first miscarriage. The nanny that replaced the first one wound up disappearing from our lives by August because she somehow was knocked up and needed to go tend to her own baby. Yep.

In the summer I went to Ferguson and got automatic rifles drawn on me by eight jumpy cops.

By October, I had finally moved desks as a gambit to change up my feng shui. A new beginning, I thought. On the very same day, the staff received an email — I read it at my new desk — that friend and mentor and the reason I came to work at NPR had been dismissed from his job by our new CEO. When I called my husband to commiserate, the first thing he said to me wasn’t empathetic but, “I hope you’re not crying at your desk right now.”

Then, two days before Christmas, after running into get a sandwich in the freezing rain, I returned to my car to find my purse and computer had been stolen sometime inside of four minutes. Merry Christmas, assholes.

That is the pessimistic take, of course. All our first-world “hard times” are nothing in the scheme of things. And there were moments of great love and delight this year, too. As I’ve done for 10 years now, here’s a Hu look back:

Favorite Discoveries on the Internet: Clickhole. The Passenger Shaming Instagram account.

We did not have a selfie stick for this. This is just Eric Schmidt's pure talent.

We did not have a selfie stick for this. This is just Eric Schmidt’s pure talent.

Favorite Selfie: The one Google Chairman Eric Schmidt took of us. He snapped a lot but I liked the one where I wasn’t paying attention.

New Experiences: Tear gas. Being in the crosshairs of cops. Jellyfish sting in Jamaica. Dangerous halluciongenic crisis in Jamaica. Couples crisis brought on by aforementioned dangerous drug trip. Aspen Institute. Doing a Planet Money podcast! Having a pregnant au pair. Speaking at the UN. Seaplane flight. Oculus Rift virtual reality experience. The miscarriages.

Randomness: Running into Obama in Denver. Getting lost in the briefing room. Hung out with a semi-famous actor-I-will-not name and watched him effectively bum some weed off strangers.

And in no particular order, this year I:

Flew 72,952 miles to four countries and 28 cities. Was gone from home 90 days this year, though it felt like way more.
Visited the Taiwanese News animation studio (a favorite from a previous Year in Review), told a story about it.
Took some creepy stalker photos of Sofia Coppola at a pool in Miami.
Moderated a panel on wearables at SXSW and did not wear Glass despite lobbying efforts by the Glass guy.
Got Taco Cabana delivered to my hotel room at the moment we needed it the most.
Partied with Scoot McNairy.
Got solar panels on our house.
Became buddies with a Hollywood funnyman named Alec Berg after interviewing him about his show, Silicon Valley. This led to a friend reunion with my high school pal from 9th grade, Scott Mechlowicz. Small universe.
Got retweeted by Martellus Bennett.
Survived longest winter in DC in maybe ever.
Taught a quarter at Northwestern.
Taught a semester at Georgetown.
Stayed at YMCA in the redwoods.
Attended four weddings. (Crissy, Alexis, Tim, Drew.)
Went on a hike in Aspen with Lance Armstrong’s nanny.
Parked wrong in San Francisco. Paid a $600 price for that mistake — the $440 base towing cost, plus the $150 citation.
Did a little talk with Eric Schmidt.
London!
Reconnected with my high school economics teacher, Mr. Coates.
Got a is-a-burrito-a-sandwich story on national air for more than five minutes.
Convinced my editor to get some online clothes styling with me (for a story, of course).
Covered #Ferguson. Dealt with difficult feelings afterward.
Lost my favorite boss. (Not from earth, just from work.)
Saw Seoul. Prepared to move there.

It wasn’t a bad year, entirely. I just had some of the hardest days and weeks of my life during the course of this year. It felt unrelentless at times. Tears were shed. Mistakes were made. But ultimately we survived. Here’s to a brighter, more peaceful 2015.

Previous Years in Review:
20132012 | 20112010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004

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2012 Year in Review: Pura Vida

Last sunset in Costa Rica. An amazing way to celebrate my 30th this year.

Last sunset in Costa Rica. An amazing way to celebrate my 30th this year.

 

What a year. We didn’t go a moment without a GIF, said final farewells to Andy Griffith, Neil Armstrong and Big Tex (tear) and the S&Mish Fifty Shades of Grey staved off publishing’s decline. (I wasted money on two of the books before totally losing interest.) In other news, I paid more attention to Twitter outrage over the Olympics than the actual games and all my post-election day reading was rudely interrupted by General Petraeus’ soapy sex drama.

I guess the dominant headline of my year was spending 75% of 2012 in a state of pregnancy, oddly appropriate during what often seemed like the Election Year of the Womb (Uteruses up, y’all!). By fall, Baby Eva arrived. There are finally the same number of humans in our house as cats.

Great ’12 Distractions: The return of animated .gif’s. Spotify. Soups. TripIt Pro (continued). Breaking Bad. Blogging about Mad Men after it finally came back (check out my ’08 distractions to see how little has changed), pub trivia at The Argonaut (we still haven’t won), being on airplanes (again), The Accidental Chinese Hipsters Tumblr, which might be the best Tumblr ever.

Fave YouTube Finds: Aaron Paul’s appearance on The Price Is Right many moons ago. The 11-year-old Ryan Gosling’s amazing dance moves.

Recurring Themes: Not drinking alcohol, OMG. Motherhood. My denim jacket, originally purchased in 12th grade. Turning 30. Being unsure whether I’m ready to be an adult. Being unsure whether I should be doing what I’m doing with my life. Watermelon.

Noteworthy Discoveries: Weather.Ericson.net, @PimpBillClinton, Uber, Hipmunk, Dr. Weissbluth, the amazing baby sleep doctor

Happy Places: Those starry nights in Costa Rica. Trivia at Nellie’s with the gays. My pals Virginia and Keith’s badass renovated house in Austin.

Disappointments: Not visiting all the countries I wanted to in my New Year’s Resolutions. Fantasy Football performance in both leagues. Not getting to go see my parents — sure, they came to us, but it’s more fun to visit them in Europe.

Most OUTRAGE-inducing people and situations of 2012: The entitled Washingtonians who just cross Rhode Island Avenue at any point and in any place. DC Water. I STILL GET A PHONE BOOK, WHY!!?

Biggest Victories: Delivering Eva without meds. Winning the battle against DC Water. A 3.2% interest rate on the house.

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2011 Year in Review: Up in The Air

In transit at the Warsaw Airport. (October 2011)

 

My friend Patrick Terpstra wrote this of his year: “‎2011 was like riding a tilt-a-hurl after eating seven corn dogs. But it sure beats watching from the ground.”

I can’t disagree. I did plenty of plane riding, which is the most consistent memory of this year, besides saying goodbye and hello to a lot of people I really love. To rewind:

The Year I Flew Around the World, Twice: After saying goodbye to Texas and The Texas Tribune, I spent 99 days this year away from home, logging 78,931 miles in the air to 29 locations including places like Warsaw, Poland (for fun) and Boise, Idaho (for work). Not proud of the carbon footprint but I can now glide through security like Ryan Bingham.

Don’t Look Back in Anger (I Heard You Say): It felt like a pretty angry and destructive year, didn’t it? My second favorite emotion*, outrage, seemed to abound. I write this as tens of thousands of Russians protest in the streets, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya take their shaky steps toward self-rule, and socioeconomic dissatisfaction continues at home. We said goodbye to Osama bin Laden, Amy Winehouse and Steve Jobs (none of whom were picks in my clearly talentless celebrity death pool), an earthquake-tsunami combo led to radiation disaster in Japan, and we experienced a rare earthquake in my new hometown of Washington, D.C.

Favorite Video of The Year Is Also My Favorite Song: “Ching Chong (It Means I Love You)”
After a UCLA student went on a crazy rant about Asian people in the library, she faced a backlash so large she had to quit college. But Jimmy Wong turned his rant response into art — one of the catchiest songs of the year, and an instant viral video. It will get stuck in your head, so if you haven’t seen this, you’ve been warned.

Speaking of Asians, My Most Memorable Welcome to Washington: The Crazy Guy in Starbucks
There was one morning after the devastating Japanese earthquake when I went into Starbucks in Chinatown, natch, when a random guy off the street wandered in, started yelling at people in line, stopped at me, and said this, to me: “Fuck you, go home. You deserved the earthquake.” Then he told the rest of the line we were all going to die. Yep.

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2009: Hu’s Looking Back

As we prepare to celebrate a new beginning, let’s continue the newly-old tradition of looking back at the year that was. (I don’t think I’ll ever achieve the same pair of “new experiences” from 2005 — the Daytona 500 and that one KKK cross burning. Oh well). We’ll start chronologically and then lose all sense of chronology since my memory just isn’t that stout.

Skipping stones on the Danube River with brother Roger

 

Never made any new year’s resolutions.
Covered the election of a new Texas House Speaker.
Bought April a fat, happy puppy after scoundrels broke into her house and stole (or let escape) her Maltese, Frankie.
Met two beautiful newborns in the same week.
Got engaged.
Quit my job.
Found a new job.
Helped launched a public media brand with some of the coolest geeks around.
Embraced my love of Twitter.
Spoke at  a dozen panels, meetings and college classes, mostly about Twitter.
Won an award for using Twitter.
Took a trip to Washington, D.C.
Took a trip to Philadelphia.
Took three separate trips to Europe.
Got my home burglarized (again).
Got a photo with Kevin Nealon.
Got a photo with Cheryl Hines.
Got a photo with the dude who played Lawrence in Office Space.
Saw Pearl Jam live, finally.
Celebrated the beagle’s 11th birthday.
Hosted my friend Drew from New York three times.
Said goodbye to my friend Craven, who moved to New York.
Led my Fantasy Football league, until a five game losing streak at the worst time in the season.
Co-hosted two baby showers for my girlfriends.
Got car broken into (again).
Made a bunch of videos.
In a rare fit of motion, ran two half-marathons at the beginning of the year and a full marathon at the end of it, miraculously without getting injured. Well, besides those two times I tripped and fell on concrete – one time in my neighborhood, the other time down by the Danube River.
Finished 2009 with full resolve to not make any resolutions next year, either.

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