Category Archives: Travels

Tet!

On Friday I battled the madness that is Penn station at 5:30pm to get on the train and wrestle through security at JFK to run to my gate to find out that my flight had been delayed.

Tangent: I have always been critical of airport security because they never glance at me twice. Except for the time I brought a two pound gummy bear in my carry-on and TSA called the special teams unit because apparently none of them had ever seen such an abominable confection of sugar. Because who would suspect a little Asian girl to do anything diabolical…but that’s exactly the point right? I have every right to be considered a potential threat. I’m not actually a threat at all.  It’s just the principle of the thing. I bet this tangent has set off all sorts of red flags in the government database by now–please don’t take me in the night.

Anyway, after the most nauseous flight that I’ve endured in a long while (Question: Why do people buy window seats if they’re not going to utilize either the window or the wall that comes with the window seat? I, on the other hand, nearly broke my neck trying to catch a couple of z’s without touching those two smug completely upright sleepers to my right and left.) I arrived home to begin a weekend of Lunar New Year festivities.

I’m glad I came home.

Look at all the delicious food I got to eat.

Too…

much…

food.

I missed Vietnamese food. And my family–the latter more than the former.

After eating, we played cards and then headed to the temple to check out the festivities and fireworks.

My family  was appropriately bundled for the bone-chilling sixty degree weather–of course.  It has never been more evident than in this picture that they are natives to  Southern CA.

Lunar New Year or Tet as it’s called in Vietnamese is generally associated with traditions that relate to good luck, wealth and health. And eating well, spending time with family and friends, setting off fireworks, and giving money all ties back to those ideas of celebration and anticipation for the coming year.

The main beneficiaries this year were my niece and nephew. Who else?

With their red envelopes!

“Ecstatic” hardly does this picture justice.

Which was quickly replaced with a sugar high. This photo was snapped when my nephew discovered the jelly bean he ate was not fruit punch flavored but vomit flavored instead. They’re Bernie Bott’s Beans!

It was a hectic, busy, and quick trip but I’m glad I was able to come home for a bit. It was also really nice to wake up, put on a dress, sandals, and leave the jacket at home. And I’m really happy it’s Friday. It’s been a long weekend.

Have a lovely weekend friends! I have a date with a crockpot and some fighting robots and Hank Moody shenanigans this weekend. I couldn’t be more excited.

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NYC 1/8-1/17

 

Happenings between January 8 and January 17 of 2011.

“So things have been busy and buzzing in NYC. Lots has happened since
last Saturday, some good, some bad. I feel like it’s going to be
constantly an emotional rollercoaster while I’m here. There are some
days where I am really happy to be here and be in the moment and then
there are other days where I just want to close my eyes and open them
back up and be in California with all you lovely folk.

So…on Saturday I ended up going to the Strand Bookstore which was
pretty amazing. It’s three stories tall and is literally floor to
ceiling books. It was overwhelming but a good kind of overwhelming. I
actually didn’t even make it to the top two floors but I’m sure I’ll
be back to visit. I got two books–Kavalier and Clay which won the
Pulitzer Prize some years ago and is about two friends in NYC during
WWII–WWII, NYC, and friends–could I ask for anything more? And then
I got this book called “I Hate to Cook Book” which is my life in a
cookbook. You see, I don’t actually  hate cooking but I dislike
cookbooks. I always want to go out and get one and cook through it but
it’s always very specific–Mediterranean, Italian, Vegan, Gluten Free,
Organic–or very complicated (meaning more than 5 ingredients with
spices I’ll never use outside that one recipe) so when I saw this book
I immediately picked it up and fell in love. It’s written by a 50’s
housewife whose first choice would not be cooking for her family but
rather drinking cocktails and shopping. That’s my kind of lady. It’s
funny and has snarky comments and the recipes are simple, practical
and easy to do. I have cooked one meal out of it so far because I’ve
been eating out so much.

Note: If/When you come to New York budget for eating out because
that’s all you’ll do. People don’t tell you that, so I’m telling you
now. 😀

I also bought a tote…because it’s cute and I like it. Seen here:
http://www.strandbooks.com/app/www/p/profile/?isbn=1599011042

Um…and then I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art otherwise known
as the Met seen in Gossip Girl–it’s where they sit and eat lunch. It
was fun. Little known fact, the Met is ALWAYS pay what you like. So I
gave them a dollar. But on the admissions it says $20 for adults with
“recommended” in small print. So most people pay that amount, but
people in the know like you and I can pay a dollar. Muahaha. I love
exploiting the system.

And then on Sunday, I went to lunch with Omid at Caracas which is a
Venezuelan restaurant that serves Arepas which are kind of like a
sandwich tamale fusion. It was delicious and featured on Bobby Flay’s
Throwdown–it seems like I’m eating my way through the Food Network.
I’m ok with that. After that I headed back to Brooklyn to see his
apartment and meet his apartment mates. They are all really nice and
fun and a nice dose of testosterone. My office is mostly women and gays
so I need some masculine time in my life.

Then on Monday, I went to work…which is work. Still transitioning
and getting into a routine. I feel like that’s the way it’ll be for
the first few …months? haha. After work I ventured over to Grand
Central which I had a major touristy moment and was walking around
with a giant grin on my face. I took a picture with both Grand Central
and the Chrysler building in it–I uploaded it to FB. Then I met up
with Omid and his friends at The Wharf to watch the football game and
10 for $3 buffalo wings! I may become an institution there on Mondays
for buffalo wings.

Then at work on Tuesday we went to the Shake Shack down the street and
got cheeseburgers and cheese fries as an office which was fun. They
have a Veggie Burger there that is a portabello mushroom stuffed with
cheese and fried and it’s great. That night I braved the blizzard–9
and a half inches overnight!!!–and went and saw my co-worker’s Stand
Up Night in Brooklyn. Wednesday night I went and saw Omid’s Stand Up
show called Five Dolla Holla and there was this one guy named Andrew
Schultz who was on MTV who literally made me cry with laughter. He was
brilliant and really inappropriate–it was great.

Thursday night I met up with Sara, who is Connor’s sister’s best
friend, who I’ve met on several occasions for Happy Hour at
McFadden’s. It’s half off drinks and they have the greatest music mix.
I was there for four hours and if I was a good DJ and actually updated
my music library, it would have been this music. AHHH so many good
throwback songs.

Then Friday was the longest day in work history and really stressful.
So I went and did a little retail therapy at J.Crew. All their sale
stuff was an extra 40% off! How could I say no? I couldn’t. I’ve
recently started getting into jewelry over the past year and when I
packed up my stuff for NYC I decided to leave all but my CrissCross
ring and my one Tiffany’s necklace behind. I didn’t want to deal with
having any of it lost or stolen because of sentimental and fiscal
reasons so I just thought it would be easier to leave it safe at home.
But upon arriving and getting dressed each morning, it makes me a
little sad not to be able to dress up or down an outfit. So I went to
J.Crew and bought some pretty sparkly earrings and a sweater and a
shirt–that I have been dying for, for a while–and now I feel
happier.

Um…and then on Saturday I went to Times Square for a birthday brunch
for Paul, one of Omid’s roommates, and we went to Olive Garden!
Hahaha, it was the biggest, swankiest Olive Gardens I’ve ever seen.
Two stories, fanciness. I also had a Times Square touristy moment but
alas, no picture. After that I went back to Brooklyn with them and
proceeded to watch 7 hours of football. Too much testosterone. Good
thing I met their new roomie, Marion who is a girl and is Australian
and we made flourless chocolate cake for Paul’s birthday. There is
nothing I like more than chocolate and birthdays. Yum.

Sunday, I met up with a few of my co-workers and had brunch at Barney
Greengrass where I had a Sturgeon King Breakfast Sandwich–eggs, white
fish, onions, cream cheese on a bagel–and drank way too much coffee.
They kept refilling it without me noticing and I swear to  you I had
at least seven cups unwittingly. Afterwards Sally, Brett and I went to
Urban Outfitters where I bought a necklace–to add to the feeling
pretty quota–and then Sally and I went on an epic walk through
Central Park. It was so beautiful. The entire park was covered in snow
and people were  jogging and walking their dogs and sledding with
their babies. My heart was happy.”

More to follow.

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Holla from NYC

This is taken from the first epically long email I wrote home after having spent my first week in New York…enjoy!

“Work has been slow and boring. I’m being trained in my new position
but between the time change, jet lag and the burning desire to be
anywhere but an office it has been a hard week at work. It’s my first
week here and I was just itching to walk around and explore.

This week we went to Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries and it was
like shopping for the apocalypse. It’s a two story Trader Joe’s and it
was shoulder to shoulder. And about 70% of the shelves were empty.
Apparently this is very common if you try to go grocery shopping after
work. It was a madhouse. There is also a Whole Foods on the same
corner as my work so I drop by there during my lunch and pick up some
odds and ends and soup when it’s cold outside.

Thursday we all went out as an office to the bar down the street
called XES and Yoni, who was in town for a med school interview, met
up with us! It was so nice to see a familiar face–even though this
would be the first time Yoni and I would hang out without Jackie or
Afarin around. Yoni met all my co-workers and we hung out there for a
bit and then Sally, Jesse, Yoni and I went and got falafels at Taim’s
Falafel. Yoni wanted to go because he had heard of it on Bobby Flay’s
Throwdown. It was D-licious. After that Sally and Jesse went to see
her friend play at a bar called the Living Room and Yoni and I went to
find some dessert. We decided upon a food truck called Wafels and
Dinges, which is also featured on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, and serves
up traditional Belgian and Liege Wafels. Yoni and I spent the good
part of the evening wandering around trying to find the truck. Our
journey took us through the Lower West Side, Greenwich Village and
Washington Square Park where we finally found the truck and got the
Throwdown Wafel and some hot chocolate. The waffle had this topping
called speckuloos which tastes like crushed up gingerbread cookies
mixed with frosting. It was uh-mazing and is now available online for
$7.95. It may or may not be my next purchase…

Yesterday, Friday,  I got my first New York snowfall!!! 😀 people
could tell that I was not from here. I was giddy and smiling like
someone who was seeing snow in NY for the first time. After work I
headed home and then to my co-workers apartment in Brooklyn for pizza
night. I left my apartment at 7:30 and literally had to force myself
out the door and to the Metro because I was so nervous to venture out
to Brooklyn alone. I also thought I was smarter than the Google map
and got off two stops early because I felt this stop was closer. BIG
MISTAKE. I got off about a mile or so from Julia’s apt and had to walk
the rest of the way because the next Metro coming through was 20
minutes away…I think that’s the most scared I have been so far.
There were times where I was running at a full sprint because I didn’t
want to be where I was. But everything turned out alright because I
finally got to Julia’s place and we made some great pizzas. We had a
four cheese pizza, a prosciutto, arugala, goat cheese pizza, and a
grape, pear, roasted onion, and chicken sausage pizza. Needless to say
I was a happy camper. We got home pretty late and I slept in this
morning until noon which is something that I really needed mentally
and physically.

And now I’m sitting in my living room by myself, Jackie and Sally are
on a run, and I have the whole day ahead of me. I’m thinking about
going grocery shopping for the rest of the week today but I was also
thinking about going to The Strand–the famous NYC bookstore–or the
Natural History Museum which is nearby. Sally and I are supposed to
meet up with some of our co-workers tonight to take advantage of the
pay what you like deal at the Guggenheim Museum after 5pm. And then
Jackie has invited me to her friend’s birthday party on the Lower East
Side and Omid has invited me to a friend’s party in Brooklyn. I want
to go but part of me just wants to be lazy and shell out the extra
money for a TV and cable. Alas, the dilemmas of being a homebody who
feels like she has to go explore.

So that’s my life so far in NYC. It’s been a lot of fun and I can
literally feel myself growing and changing when I do things that I
would not have considered at home. So that’s good. But it’s also hard
being away from everyone. When Yoni came to visit it made me miss home
more. I miss all of you guys. I miss the sun. I miss the comfort of
knowing where to go and when to go. I miss having a full pantry. Haha
but I’m sure when I get back I’ll miss the subway and the snow and the
fact that there was so many places to go and do things…So that’s
where I’m at right now friends.”

Week 2 shall be next and I’m in the middle of living Week 3. I’ll keep you posted.

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coats, cockroaches and pizza.

So I completely fail at updating this. But what can I say? It’s been crazy. So I’m going to catch you up on what’s been happening via the emails I’ve been sending home. Although I did write this little ditty on my first night in New York.

“I’m here. After spending some time in the zoo that was LAX on Monday morning, I arrived at JFK, grabbed a cab, and got dropped off at my apartment. I climbed the three stories with my two suitcases in tow and arrived at my humble abode for the next five months. It’s much larger than I expected, it’s a very long walk from one end to the other and there’s even a walk in closet. With a few minor repairs and touch ups, I feel like it’s going to be a very cute a cozy apartment.

I unpacked my bags, built a shelf and grabbed some pizza last night. My apartment is surprisingly warm and fairly clean. Pictures will follow once I am more settled in. I have to retrieve the five boxes from the office that I had shipped earlier and pick up some groceries. It still doesn’t feel real yet though. I feel like I’m just passing through–as if I’m staying in a homestay for a few weeks instead of several months.

It’s also not as cold as I had expected. Today is a nice 35 degrees outside and I took a walk to deposit some moola down the street. All in all the first day here has  been a nice little welcome to New York.

Oh, and I just saw a cockroach scamper across the floor. Hello next five months of my life.”

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original.

You know when you get to see a monument from far away and the overwhelming urge to pinch, push, pull, point, and pretend like it’s actually tiny takes you over? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

I am not immune to this. As evidenced here…

Look! A tiny Duomo, get it?

Look! A tiny Duomo, get it?

But what is priceless is when you realize that everyone else does it too. ESPECIALLY if you can catch this phenomena occurring…

pisa1It cracks me up every time.

Man, the people of Pisa must have a ridiculously high tolerance for the idiocy of tourists.

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Fairytale of New York

My relationship with Christmas is odd, to say the least.  It’s a strained, sometimes idyllic and oftentimes bitter thing we got going on. I, being the child of claymation specials and Charlie Brown Christmas, am perpetually excited for Christmas time. I play Christmas music in July in anticipation and I inundate myself and usually everyone around me with holiday cheer. Gingerbread cookies? Check. Christmas cards? Check. Caroling? Check. But every year, since I was about seven or eight, Christmas always fails me. I always hope for a big Home Alone-esque Christmas where there’s a huge family epiphany that we all love each other, and I get what I materially and emotionally wish for. But each year I just get depressed come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I compare Christmases, it’s stupid, I know but I can’t help it. Coming from a group of friends who all have Norman Rockwell and Bing Crosby, true-blue Americana Christmases it leaves very little room for my Asianified stoic Christmas. I am Santa’s biggest fan and the Grinch all rolled into one.

But somehow each year my faith in Christmas is replenished, holiday scars fade and Christmas and I begin anew. So this year’s Christmas was no different–big hopes, little faith. 

This year I spent Christmas with my aunt and uncle in Spa, Belgium. And I had no idea what to expect and it turned out unorthodox but great. I ate Christmas Eve Dinner, which consisted of a half fondue half grilled meal, with my aunt, uncle, cousin and her boyfriend before going out clubbing with my cousin until about 4AM. I spent Christmas Day making phone calls, checking Facebook, eating salami and cheese sandwiches, and watching TV online–an otherwise typical day in my life. And surprisingly I wasn’t depressed, a tinge of sadness here and there, but overall much better than any Christmas in a long time. And then I realised that it was because I didn’t have any expectations and therefore none were not met. I was just happy to be able to spend it with my (extended) family and enjoy my time left in this fantasy adventure I’ve been having abroad. I think, if nothing else, being abroad has taught me to be grateful for the here and now–new friends, new places, new experiences–that all go as quickly as they came. So for now, Christmas and I are on good terms and hopefully I’ll remember this revelation come this same time next year.

Factoids:

The title of this blog comes from the song by The Pogues about a very unconventional and oddly endearing Christmas scenario. Despite its happy melody, the lyrics are a bit dark and remind me of sad Christmases past and better ones to come–its my new favorite Christmas tune.

Boxing Day, December 26th, is named thus because traditionally the day after Christmas churches would open the alms boxes and the proceeds would be distributed to the poor and the needy.

There are volunteers who live in the North Pole who answer letters to Santa each year. It warms my heart and makes me want to move there.

Happy Christmas y’all.

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Fly like Paper, Get High like Planes.

After a ridiculous coach ride from Norwich, which included a two and a half hour delay in standstill traffic because a fifteen foot patch of freeway was being repaired, I finally made it to Manchester. I was tired, my luggage was heavy, and it was raining (what else is new?) but it was so nice to see a friendly face at the station.

img_59582

I stayed with Nick, a friend I met at my London Orientation in September, for the next six days. Nick lives in Chandos Hall, a dorm about a fifteen minute walk from the city center, L flat. Words cannot describe how pleasantly surprised I was by Manchester and all it had to offer. The week was a blur of cigarette smoke, excessive amounts of wine, paper airplane making contests, and all around laughter. We spent late nights you-tubing and talking, mornings lazily sleeping in, afternoons strolling through the city and nights making dinner.

My favorite night by far was my last night there. Since a good portion of their flat was heading home for the holidays, myself and Nick included, we all decided to make a Christmas roast dinner. Now, this suggestion had been made earlier in the week and I had doubted that it would come to fruition but come it did and with what a bang. A hurried trip into town, against the wind and the sleet, we pooled our resources and bought two small turkeys, stuffing, parsnips, carrots, potatoes and an assortment of other holiday fare.

Two checklists, lots of peeling, chopping, boiling, dicing, mixing, washing, joking, picture-taking, cigarette smoking, music playing and three plus hours later dinner was on the table. And what a dinner it was.

img_59641With my first ever Christmas crackers and crowns and an enormous helping of food and alcohol alongside good music and great friends it felt more like home and Christmas than I have felt in a long time and I’m so grateful that I could be a part of the first, in probably a long line of, Chandos’ Christmas dinners.

I also spent a good chunk of time there meticulously folding and engineering paper planes. Much to my delight, they invited me in on their little craft competition. Each day Luke would visit each floor and steal the latest adverts, huge posters, flyers from clubs, warnings and notices from campus security–you name it, it was fair game–and bring them back to L flat’s kitchen as prized paper plane making goods. And what fit airplanes they made, bombers to stealth fighters to rocks that fell out of the sky, each taking his fateful turn releasing said planes out the window, hoping against all odds for a good flight. Most ended up careening into the side of the building or falling head over heels towards the ground but occasionally there would be a gust of wind, and a shout and off that little sucker would fly. Really, there’s nothing better than a well-executed flight. I’ll miss it.

img_59541

i make em all day.

I was only there a few days but I felt like I had become a part of their clan and was really sad to go and see them go. But what can you do? Hopefully I’ll see them again and we’ll once again attempt to fly monstrously ambitious kites and other non-aviation worthy things, like leftover turkey carcasses and bags of flour, out the eleventh floor window.

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