Newlyweds John Best and Sunny Lai recently shared their vows in the mountains of Taiwan where they dressed in unconventional wedding attire from NOT! Unconventional is the name of the game for this pair. Not only are they both dedicated doctors (family medicine and neurology, respectively), they find time to travel, play the fiddle, climb Kilimanjaro, cook Burmese cuisine, and .. are soon welcoming a child ! They find every way to do things their own way, and their wedding was a perfect expression of their creative and playful union. We are delighted to interview Sunny and John and to share some snaps from their wedding photoshoot.
TELL ME WHAT YOU DO AND HOW YOU GOT STARTED. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK?
Sunny: I am a family medicine doctor with a passion for HIV medicine, gender-affirming care, and addiction. Medicine, to me, is soul work. It connects me to humanity, allows me to be with people through the mundane and momentous times, and provides a way to reduce physical, mental, and social suffering. I love my work and am grateful for all the people who invite me to be a part of their lives.
John: I am a neurologist with my own interests in aging and dementia. The concept of identity, connection, and that thin line between the body and the mind is what drew me to medicine in the first place. I've always been draw to healing and connection, and medicine is how I choose to live that out. When it comes to dementia care, you can't begin to know a person until you've heard their life story. Rarely in medicine do we reach back that far and I love that I can do that on a daily basis.
WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
Sunny: At this very moment, my mind is very much occupied by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our lives have changed in just a matter of weeks. As healthcare providers, we are all figuring out how to respond to this crisis, whether it is taking care of the massive influx of sick patients to taking care of ourselves. My goal in the coming weeks is to make sure that I keep my mind and body healthy so that I can support my colleagues, patients, and loved ones through this difficult time.
John: Many of my projects are currently on hold in the midst of the COVID epidemic. I have many inkling of how I can help in the midst of this epidemic, especially with my own patient population being some of the most at risk of serious complications. Currently these ideas are just sparks settling in my mind. More to come I guess.
I do have a variety of fun cooking projects during the shelter-in-place though. I made 6 kilograms of koji (a filamentous fungus which grows on grains) and am brainstorming the various misos, garums, and sakes I'd like to put into motion during these weeks.
WHAT ARE ONE OF YOUR "SECRET" SPOTS IN PHILADELPHIA?
Sunny: I love John's Water Ice. On a hot day or a particularly tough day, I look forward to grabbing a cup of water ice (mango and lemon flavors) and sitting in the park. This shop is open only in the late spring to early fall, so I am always a bit giddy when I stumble upon its opening and sad when it closes for the season.
John: Oh I'd have to say Pho 75. Don't trust a Pho restaurant unless it has a number in the title! Especially don't trust a pho restaurant if they make some corny pun in the name. It's a simple pho restaurant that does their few dishes and they do it well. Many evenings heading over to the hospital for an overnight shifts have been fueled by the Pho for breakfast at that place, complete with my sweet milk coffee.
Stretching out their smiling muscles mid-photoshoot.
WHAT PURCHASE OF $100 OR LESS HAS MOST IMPROVED YOUR LIFE RECENTLY?
Sunny: I love the app Insight. It is a free meditation app that offers many guided meditations for stress, anxiety, sleep, loving-kindness, and much more. I have found these meditations to be incredibly helpful, especially with cultivating feelings of loving-kindness that are especially necessary at the present moment.
John: On our recent trip to Taiwan, I took the effort to visit Yingge, a district known as the ceramic capital of Taiwan. I bought a small tea set for brewing tea for 2-3 people and it was a wonderful morning luxury while traveling and has been helpful for keeping grounded in my life back home as well.
Sharing vows over tea.
DESCRIBE A MEMORY OR FEELING YOU HAVE WEARING NOT. HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO HAVE A WEDDING LIKE THIS?
Sunny: I always knew that if I were ever to get married, Jenny would be the one to dress me. Throughout my life, I have entrusted Jenny to dress me for all of life's significant events. Whenever I wear Jenny's clothes, I feel confident and can focus on whatever it is that I need to do.
I wanted my wedding celebration to be pure and simple. The high mountains of central Taiwan, with its tea plantation, fog, and clouds, were the perfect backdrop. We were able to exchange our vows with my sister, our good friend, and my dad as witnesses. Then, we went on a silly photoshoot using just our cellphones as cameras. I loved how our NOT outfits contrasted and, at times, blended in with our environment. I felt like a queen. We ended our celebration at a local restaurant with wasabi tofu, chicken soup, and mountain vegetables. I could not have asked for a more memorable day.
John: The shirt that I wore for the wedding was actually gifted to me on my birthday a few years ago. We rode our bikes to a large park abutting Wissahickon Creek, had a picnic and then rode back home for a big feast I was preparing. I remember how wonderful it felt for the wind to slide straight through the open and asymmetric openings on such a beautiful day.
I've always enjoyed the big party gatherings of people who don't know each other aspects of weddings. Sunny is more of a private person who prefers to not have herself celebrated, which I appreciate, love and respect. We both had strong feelings towards some sort of ceremony in nature, in Taiwan, and definitely up in the mountains somewhere. To be honest, it all came together. We had our tea set already, both of us felt drawn to Japanese interior aesthetics of our lodging for the photos, and the surroundings were bamboo and tea fields. Ripe for our photos, taken just with our camera phones!
WHAT IS AN UNUSUAL HABIT YOU HAVE?
John: I probably gave things away with the Koji comment, huh? I tend to dive pretty deep into various food adventures, often drawing/dragging anyone around me into whatever crazy idea I've dreamed up next. I can't quote a success rate, but at least more than half turn out pretty good.