Adventures in Tech Support

In 2014, I got my parents their first devices; they were now equipped with two shiny new iPad Airs, ready to experience all the wonders that technology had to offer!

It’s a great big world out there, so we started small. First, I showed them how to navigate to the shared photo album so that they could view photos and videos of Lily (my niece, their granddaughter) at any time. Three years later, Dad discovered on his own that he could post comments. ūüėÜ

It’s been slow going, but over the past 6 years we’ve covered:

YouTube. “This isn’t your video? But you know this person?”

FaceTime. Yay, video chats with a (then) toddler who has no interest in video chats!

Google Maps. “Wow, that’s your grandmother’s building in China!”

Google Translate and iTranslate. No more confusing and inelegant linguistic gymnastics to try to explain a word or concept in another language. (Huge shoutout to iTranslate for supporting Cantonese for years!)

eBay. This was my least favorite. Dad was lovingly and generously trying to get nice designer gifts for family and friends back home in China, but at slightly discounted prices. Little did he know, people lie online! I cannot count the number of counterfeit items I received and had to return during his eBay phase.

YouTube comments. “Did you know you can view and leave comments on Youtube? People can be wild!” Oh dear. …Hey Siri, how do you say “Trolls” in Chinese?

Charles Schwab. Dad has always enjoyed learning about companies and investing a little where possible. Until a few months ago, he would call Schwab’s automated phone line to make the occasional trade. This was inefficient and costing him money, so I got him set up on the app. Initially, I was hesitant given his inexperience with technology (e.g., “I meant to buy 10 shares, not 100!”), but so far so good.

FaceTime again. This time, Mom wanted to know how to initiate calls. After walking her through it several times one afternoon, I suggested writing down the steps so she could refer back to it later. “Nah, I’ve got it!” The next day, I received a text message from her. Plot twist: she doesn’t know how to text! The text simply contained my phone number — it was clear that this was a failed attempt to FaceTime, and she had not gotten it.

So many concepts like logging in, usernames, passwords, copying, pasting, and text fields. The first time Dad got signed out of an app, I tried to explain how he could sign back in over the phone, thinking it’d be pretty straightforward… nope. Take a moment to consider how you’d explain this to someone who has never signed in to anything, ever. Concepts aside, for us, it involved going over:

  • What/where/how to press.
  • Tapping vs. pressing the screen.
  • Characters (like *, ^, @, ) that I don’t know how to say in Chinese.
  • Text fields. Take the screen below as an example; Dad had no idea that he could (and was supposed to) enter information into those white areas on the screen.

Icons. When trying to guide Dad to a specific place on an app, I asked him to click on the thing on the bottom of the screen that looks like a bell, or the one that looks like a person. “I don’t have those. I have a hat, and ummm…” We’re all accustomed to icons that look like these and what they represent, but Dad with his new-to-technology eyes, was stumped:

Wifi. For years, their internet would go down randomly and for extended periods of time. “The internet and phone weren’t working all last week; it must be because of the weather or because there were too many other people online.

The worst part: I had no idea until way after the fact — after they’d been without internet and phone for days or even weeks — because they didn’t want to “bother” me. I installed a mesh network a few months ago, and I’m so grateful that I can use an app to confirm that their wifi is working and speedy. (Thank you so much Eero!).

Needless to say, it’s been a slow, bumpy journey, but now some basic tech is part of their day to day lives, and I’m so grateful. They’re a little more connected and autonomous, and have a slightly better understanding of the very significant and impactful advancements we’ve seen so far in their lifetime.

…What should I show them next?

I Think I Love You

I love this short film by Xiya Lan. In her words:

It’s about different ways of love. We all love people and are loved by others in various personal ways. Maybe we like it or maybe we don’t like it. But love is a whole thing, we are only pieces. It’s about suffering, growth and change. After embracing all, you’ll find it a beautiful peaceful thing.

Dad’s First Comment

While working in Thailand, I received the following message from my brother:

I checked our shared iCloud photo album (primarily¬†used¬†to share photos and videos of my niece, but lately I’ve been sharing photos of my travels so that my family knows that I’m alive and well) and saw several likes and comments from a Jenny Zhu.

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I got my parents iPads a couple of years ago — they’re registered in my name, which is why the comments appear from “Jenny Zhu.” But this is the first time they’ve posted anything, anywhere. I’m overcome with glee¬†because, well, how cute is this?! They’re learning! Can’t wait to continue to¬†help them (slowly) discover the wonders and conveniences of technology.

The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships

Love is a benevolent process whereby two people try to teach each other how to become the best versions of themselves.

 

Loved this¬†episode of On Being — it so perfectly captures¬†how I view love and relationships, which while beautiful, can also be¬†flawed and exhausting, and rest heavily on the shoulders of compatibility and communication.

 

We must fiercely resist the idea that true love must mean conflict-free love, that the course of true love is smooth. It’s not. The course of true love is rocky and bumpy at the best of times. That’s the best we can manage as the creatures we are. It’s no fault of mine or no fault of yours; it’s to do with being human. And the more generous we can be towards that flawed humanity, the better chance we’ll have of doing the true hard work of love.

My Brother

As we indulged in leftover Halloween candy today after lunch, my coworkers and I reminisced about our childhood experiences surrounding the holiday, touching on our various strategies to maximize candy collection, and equally important, candy retention. Yeah, parents would take it away, but most everyone at the table mentioned that their siblings were the biggest culprits when it went missing.

That wasn’t the case for me though, because¬†my brother was the best. I don’t remember any candy theft; on the contrary, he showered me with treats and¬†looked out for me.

When he fundraised for school by selling candy, he’d¬†save and buy me my favorites.

When he¬†frequented Comic Grapevine, the local comic book and gaming store, he’d bring me along¬†so that I could buy candy, play or watch them play the¬†games, peruse the comic books, and play with the store cats. I can’t imagine how annoying or embarrassing it’d be to have your kid sister¬†tag along for stuff like that, but he brought me¬†anyway. It’s where I discovered my love for Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat — I was never any good, but I was happy to watch. It’s where I spent my hard-earned money on new pogs — the sparkly slammers were my faves, of course. It’s where I learned how to play Magic: The Gathering, amassing my own collection of cards and subsequently blowing the minds of all the¬†boys in my class — I had to bring my decks¬†to school and play before they believed me.

And when I started dating, going to dances and parties, and generally doing all the¬†things my parents forbade me from doing, he’d cover for me, pick me up late at night, and always make sure I was safe.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a sibling like mine.

 

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(Apologies for the terrible photo quality!)

Nostalgia

I came across an email I received as a freshman in¬†college (more than a decade ago!),¬†that touches me deeply to this day.¬†I’ve been fortunate to¬†have such wonderful¬†people in my life, and I¬†hope everyone knows¬†that even if we aren’t in touch anymore, they remain¬†a part of me.

Here’s to living honestly, vulnerably, fully.

 

Ok, so my roommate¬†just read this long nostalgic article about how when we leave here we go back to our homes and we won’t ever have this dorm life again. Anyway, it is just making me think. I know you are busy with all of your homework, and I know that I should give you space, but you know, I don’t want to go home this summer regretting the time I had with you down the hall. I can’t think of wasting months of having you so close, being able to be with you so effortlessly. It’s not going to be like this again. I don’t mean to come off too emotionally (I feel like I can say what I am really thinking around you, otherwise I would never have sent this). So I guess tell me what you think, but I don’t think I’m going to try to “give you space.” I’m just going to hang out with you like you’re my friend. Screw the rest of the emotions, I just want to be able to hang out with you and not feel any sort of tension because of other feelings.

 

Against the Odds

My parents aren’t very romantic, but I can tell my¬†dad is getting more sentimental as the years pass. He recently reminisced about the beginning of his¬†relationship with my mom.

Your mom¬†was a country gal, and I was from the big city. She’s 6 years older, highly unconventional for our¬†generation and culture. Your mom’s entire family was against our¬†marriage and impending move to the U.S., predicting that our¬†relationship would die within the year, leaving her stranded with nothing and alone in the states. We’ve been married nearly 40 years.