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

How An Earthquake Got Me Out of A Conference Call

Waiting around after our building evacuation.

Here I was, going into the 51st minute of a conference call about charter schools, when I started feeling a tremor beneath me. At first I thought it was just some effect of the footlong chili cheese dog from lunch, but when the slight tremor turned into a steadier rocking, I looked over at my colleague Ken, who was so panicked that he slammed down his receiver and took off. “Don’t use the elevator,” he said, as he rushed out the door. I took the time to say goodbye to my conference call-mates, find my cell phone and camera, and then went down stairs.

Outside, we were a hapless group of journos standing in the middle of downtown DC, awaiting instructions on what to do next and trying to stand close enough to the building to stay connected to wifi. I found All Things Considered host Robert Siegel reading his Blackberry and learning we were indeed in an earthquake, it measured 5.8 on the Richter scale and centered in Mineral, Virginia, which was about 100 miles southwest of us. And it was he and the rest of the ATC staff that was let back in the building first, since they had an earthquake to consider in time for the broadcast.

ATC Host Robert Siegel was also evacuated.

This fairly-significant quake reminded me of the “best” quake memory I have. It was Easter 2002, and I was with mom in a department store in downtown Taipei, awaiting a dance performance from the Chinese hip-hop boy band I was living with at the time. But all of a sudden there was a rumble, and we were all rushed out into the streets. My journal from that time:

“on Sunday, minutes before Ed and Kenny were going to dance at FNAC (an electroncis store), an earthquake struck, and weeny Kenny blew out of the building….well, everyone else did too, i guess, but anyway, the point is i never got to watch the boys perform. oh well, i guess i get the privilege of seeing them do headstands and funky stretches around the house all the time.”

The whole roommate crew plus my mom found one another near National Taiwan University later that day, and ate a bunch of mango shaved ice. It was awesome. So today, after the earthquake, I immediately craved ice, which, like other great Asian food, can’t be found in DC’s Chinatown.