Today, I went with ABA to Oakland Chinatown for our annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) event. This was the event we had to endure a weekend (9+ hours) of training for. This was the event we had to get certified (4+ hours) by the IRS for.

You might think we had to file taxes for the President. It wasn’t that bad. In fact, the tax forms we filed were fairly simple and straightforward. More on that later.

I woke up at 9 am, bought some coffee (been getting a lot lately), and headed out to Oakland with ABA cabinet, officers, and members. We arrived at Oakland Chinatown. I was expecting a pretty ghetto Chinatown, similar to the other ones I’ve been to in the past. This one wasn’t too bad.

We had a delicious lunch at the Silver Dragon Restaurant. Originally, we were told to expect dim sum. Even though we didn’t end up eating dim sum, I ordered a delicious “Dragon Special” chow mein. Any Chinese main course with the word “dragon” is legit. Quite a large portion, too.

Afterward, we went to the Senior Citizen Center and prepared for an amazingly exciting day of filing taxes. Yay.

We paired up, and I partnered with Sophia. I was happy because she spoke really good Mandarin…I would just repeat whatever a Mandarin-speaking person said to me and nod my head stupidly.

The first form we filed was pretty straightforward. We filled out the form fairly easily, and I paid attention to what Sophia was doing to get the hang of things. We figured out how much that family got back from the government, and it was a good feeling knowing we were helping struggling families get the highest possible tax refund. In all, that first family took us over an hour.

By the next form, I was filling out both the federal and state tax forms. I felt pretty comfortable with it, and it was nothing more than filling out a few charts to figure everything out. Definitely easier than the training we received.

One lady, after we filed her taxes, started talking to us about her son in high school. All of a sudden, we became high school counselors, talking about the college admission process. She talked to us about college nonstop for 25 minutes. We broke the truth to her: colleges don’t just look at GPA and SAT scores. I guess a lot of Asian parents still haven’t gotten over that fact.

Soon, it was time to head out. Time just flies when you’re having a good time. And yes, VITA Day 1 turned out to be a fun learning experience. Not only did I learn how to file taxes (sort of), but I also realized that not everyone was as fortunate as us Berkeley kids, which made me all the more grateful for my current situation and resolute to not put it to waste.

Many families were struggling to get by but were still optimistic, telling us their kids would make Stanford or Berkeley (although Asian parents in general would do that). I also got to practice my Mandarin, after nearly six months of exclusive English. I need to get better.

Tomorrow is VITA Day 2. I’m looking forward to it, and I can already see the Mongolian beef and tax forms in a random jumble in my head. I’m tired…time to sleep.

File taxes that have no itemized deductions with Glen at

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