Checking In!

Hi all!

I really miss blogging, so I thought I’d sneak a few minutes at work to say hello! I have lots of things I want to tell you about, but work has been really busy and I need to get furniture for my new apartment so that I don’t have to sleep on the floor in my sleeping bag anymore ^^;;

Things I will be posting about when I can:

  • The rest of my Alaska trip
  • The rest of my Europe trip I swear to cake (I know it’s been nearly a year since I left for Europe but THE REST OF THE POSTS WILL COME)
  • A new apartment tour if I don’t put off setting up / don’t make it a mess immediately
  • Dedication post to my favorite past time: karaoke
  • Maybe some movie reviews, even though it’s pretty late to be posting them up now (drafts I have include the latest X-Men movie and The Fault in Our Stars)
  • Maybe book reviews
  • My adventure making flower crowns
  • And more!

Let me know if there is anything you’d like to hear about and I’ll try to include that, too! There are a lot of transitions going on with work and my apartment, so I’m hoping I can resume regular posting and maybe even follow a schedule once the dust settles in my life.

Cruisin’ Again!

This year’s family vacation was another Norwegian Cruise Line trip to Alaska that ended in Vancouver, Canada. I have never been to the Pacific Northwest before, so I was really excited about it although not totally sure what to expect. There was one thing that was familiar to me, and that was coming back home to a cruise ship most nights of the vacation.

We started our trip in Anchorage, took a cab to Whittier where we boarded our ship.

We only spent about an hour in Whittier but it was a gorgeous day and the gorgeous scenery was just… gorgeous.

From there, we went to Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan before disembarking in Vancouver, Canada. Let’s get talking about where I spent a lot of my time during this trip:

Norwegian Sun

If you remember, I had an amazing time my first time cruising ever, and NCL had a lot to do with that. This year, we were on the Norwegian Sun, which is a slightly smaller ship than the Norwegian Star. I basically knew what to expect as the ship was designed similarly to the Star.

The food was, of course, great.

Starters & salads

Entrees……… mmm…

We rarely ate at the buffet, because my parents liked the portion control that comes with the meal service and also not having to carry our plates around and struggle to find a table. (“We’re on vacation, it’s okay to like being served, right?”) The food was good and by the end, I found out you could order more than one of each course from other tables where people were taking full advantage. Needless to say, my brother is teasing me for ordering multiple desserts to this day.

And I’d do it again! All the desserts.

One of my favorite things about our cruise this time around was the camaraderie on the ship. Whereas on the last cruise, everyone was generally friendly but doing their own thing, I made friends on this cruise. I [secretly snuck out to avoid having my family there] went to karaoke every night but the first and there was a nice little crowd of regulars there. Not only did we have regular singers, a few of whom were in the Karaoke Superstar Contest on the last day with me (shout-out to Garrett, Janice, and Coby!), but we also had regulars in the audience who were so nice and fun (shout-out to Carol, Jane, and Rodney for supporting me through the finals!). I’ll write another post about my passion for karaoke, but when you sing in front of a group, you do need to sing FOR your audience, not just at them. On cruises, I usually sing a lot of classic tunes from before the 80s because there are a lot of retirees onboard, ya know? Country songs also tend to be pretty popular. There was also a big sing-along in the atrium which I enjoyed a lot. Sing-alongs are just always a good time and are part of what makes karaoke amazing.

This was our in-house Johnny Cash, Garrett. 18-year-old who just started singing this year and already SO talented.

We also did a murder mystery lunch with a family from Miami. It was one of the few times my brother and I got to interact with other people our age and I had a lot of fun. Everyone played up their characters pretty well and we all had a lot of fun. The food was meh but the murder fun was great :D

(Also there was an “adult game show” that I can’t talk about because it was just so crazy, but I bonded with my teammates on our no-AARP team and it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t naughty but just very strange and difficult to explain.)

I can’t provide an explanation for this photo.

The cruise staff was, as always is the case with NCL, fantastic and awesome and so friendly. Seriously, I spent so much time around them that I picked up a bit of an Australian accent by the end of the cruise.

The Views

Basically, the Pacific Northwest is full of gorgeous, breathtaking views everywhere you go. I felt like I was in a postcard, or on a water bottle label. Mountains, oceans, forests, bald eagles… just wow.

Hubbard Glacier

MAJESTIC AMERICA

Sitting in a hot tub and looking around at snow-capped mountains covered with verdant green trees against a stunningly blue sky was just… it was a beautiful moment. It truly was.

I don’t know how I will go back to vacationing without cruising, you guys. I really do love it so much.

Saying goodbye in Vancouver

Summer Sights

Hello friends!

I’ve been feeling crummy about not updating here, especially given that my Alaska posts are just sitting there waiting to be polished and posted. A lot of things have been going on that I’ll update you all on later, but I wanted to let you know that I am still thinking of you – 5 regular readers and people stumbling here by accident.

Summer is in full swing here in the DC area. It’s the first summer I’m working through, so I always feel like summer hasn’t quite arrived yet. There have been a few moments that remind me it has.

The other night, I had come home late from work, as I’ve been doing more and more often these days. I walked out to pick up our mail, my skin breathing in the humidity and missing the crisp freshness of Alaskan air. I looked up to see stars twinkling through the leaves of one of my front yard trees. As I looked closer, I realized that there were also fireflies sitting amongst the leaves, blinking with the stars.

Another day, I was driving back from the train station. The forecast predicted severe thunderstorms, and I could already see foreboding clouds brewing up ahead. But when I made a turn, the sky before me was split. On my right loomed storm clouds several miles ahead, creeping up with slate greys and purples. On my left, however, it was clearer. A dusty pink-orange spilled over as the sun set, casting a glow on a few clouds that were not threatening rain.

I have a lot in store for the blog once I get my life sorted out. Alaska posts are coming. Europe posts will be completed. More up-to-date life recaps. Fun posts. Less fun posts. I have so many things I want to share with you all.

I just need to find the time!

Link

“What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Moved To A New City” – Chelsea Fagan

“What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Moved To A New City” – Chelsea Fagan

I haven’t read ThoughtCatalog in a while (hello website redesign) but I always enjoyed reading Chelsea Fagan’s pieces.

This one struck a chord with me and I posted it on Facebook with this to say:

I’ve always been good at making friends.
I’ve never been good at keeping friends.

Currently

Currently (May 2014)

I haven’t been doing as much day-to-day living blogging this month, mostly because I’ve been really busy with work and my long commute. I wanted to just give you all a quick little update as to what I’ve been up to!

Congratulating the graduating class of 2014 by sharing some of my never-before-seen graduation photos, like the one above.

Watching Sailor Moon on Hulu and loving it, despite how long the magical girl transformation sequence is each… and every… time.

JUST. SO. EXCITED.

Making flower crowns and quickly realizing that I should not feel insecure about the flowers being small; I like things better dainty and now my flower crown is absurdly humongous. (Photos will come when… my friend finishes editing them and sends them over XD)

Planning to make more, reasonably-sized flower crowns now that I’m armed with the confidence that I can.

Discussing the latest X-Men film and its gloriously frustrating continuity errors with fellow Marvel geeks.

Sampling the DC food truck scene and finding favorites.

Currently loving Crêpes Parfait, which is just adorable and delicious.

Settling on a new apartment so that I can cut my commute time down and spend more time with friends.

Welcoming my brother back from his first year in college.

Feels-ing everywhere over the season finales for Once Upon a Time and Hannibal.

Attempting to finish writing my Eurotrip blogs before my 2014 summer family vacation.

… Failing to finish all of those posts in time.

Preparing for my summer trip (and for disappointing you all with how delayed those posts come up ;P)

Deciding on a new watch to buy as a big-girl/working-girl gift to myself.

Declaring my current favorite Trader Joe’s salad to be the broccoli slaw & kale with chicken and dried cranberries.

Putting off baring my legs or arms (and shaving…) despite the ever-climbing temperatures.

Fuming about the Isla Vista shooting and some of the misdirected responses. (I will be writing about my thoughts on this soon, but I need some time to properly articulate how I feel in a way that is conducive to people being able to digest it easily.)

Enjoying my new domain name and my new business cards (unrelated to each other but both make me feel like the real deal).

Dreading going back to work after this week and a half vacation…

Appreciating hot water and electricity after a storm knocked them both out.


 

There you have it, a cute little update, inspired by Stephanie Pellet’s “Lately” posts over on Life in Limbo.

What are you currently doing/feeling/[insert verb]-ing?

“You Would”

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

To wrap up the month,  I wanted to share a little list of instances that I, as an Asian-American and/or as a Chinese-American* flinch in preparation of hearing the phrase: “you would“. This started a rather… lighthearted list. But as I wrote, I felt a lot of bitterness growing inside of me. I started writing this May 1. It’s May 19 and I’m straight up angry.

I want to make it clear that this is not meant to be taken in any way, exactly. But I hate flinching when I hear someone say “you would” and knowing that the rest of that sentence goes “… because you’re Asian“.

  1. Ordering an Asian/”Oriental”-inspired dish at an extremely un-Asian restaurant. I don’t think my Asian-ness is what makes Applebee’s Oriental chicken salad so delicious, it’s that yummy dressing. Less common (although unfortunately not unheard of) is teasing Italian-Americans for eating pasta or Mexican-Americans for eating burritos.

    Don’t try to deny me the not-very-Asian goodness of fried chicken on a salad.
    (Image: Applebees)

  2. Owning anything panda-related. Pandas are universally accepted as being adorable creatures; my being Asian has nothing to do with that. They have a very scientifically-proven-to-be-cute head-size-to-body-size ratio regardless of my ethnicity. Would I own fewer panda things if I wasn’t Chinese? Maybe. Are there some non-Asian people who own more panda things than some Asian people? Of course, pandas are adorable.
  3. Introducing someone to a group of Asian people. Yes, I have Asian friends. No, not all of my friends are Asian, but so what if they were? I don’t really see as many instances of people getting a hard time for having all white friends or all black friends or all Latino friends.
    That is, of course, unless they’re Asian and have all white/black/Latino friends. I don’t think that an Asian person having Asian friends is really comment-worthy, and yet…
  4. Telling someone I play piano. You know what, I will admit that I have a difficult time finding an Asian person who doesn’t and has never played piano. However, for all of the non-Asian people that also play piano, this really shouldn’t be as much of a “you would”, or WORSE, an “of course you would kind of situation.
  5. Bringing Asian cuisine leftovers for lunch. I don’t understand. You’re bringing leftovers, I’m bringing leftovers. You’re eating pasta, I’m eating fried rice. Your family made lasagna, mine went out and had noodles leftover. Why wouldn’t we? Yes, I would. I don’t understand the need to have to comment on this at all, we should both be allowed to bring fried rice or pasta or sandwiches for lunch without getting sass about it.

    Quinoa fried rice2

    Since you chose to needlessly comment on my lunch, I’m choosing to interpret that as envy that my fried rice smells way better than your sad sandwich.
    (Image: thelittlehoneybee.com)

  6. Watching Mulan. Sure, you can comment on my Disney obsession (it isn’t a problem, go away) but I don’t see why watching Mulan has to merit some sassy comment about me wanting to watch the only Asian Disney protagonist. Am I supposed to watch everything BUT Mulan? That doesn’t seem quite right to me. Never mind the multiple layers of feelings I have about Mulan, from how excited I was that my dreams of being a Disney face character became closer to reality when the movie was released to how disappointed I am that Mulan was designed to not be pretty so that she could pass off as a man in the movie.
  7. Bringing SPF 50 or higher to an outdoor event. It seems that it’s only socially acceptable to take sun protection seriously if you burn easily and/or if you are a pale redhead with freckles. So if I don’t burn within 10 minutes, my dedication to SPF is a joke and due to my Asian-ness? While it may have been my Chinese family that initially influenced me to not let myself get severely tanned every summer, any dermatologist or cosmetician can tell you that sun protection is really important. Skin cancer is no joke, and if you’re going to be so vain as to do your makeup before heading to beach, I’d recommend sunscreen so that your beauty upkeep doesn’t get more difficult as you get older.

    Stay away from the sun: Chinese beachgoers wearing body suits and protective head masks, dubbed 'face-kinis' by Chinese netizens, on a crowded public beach in Qingdao, northeast China's Shandong province

    I could be wearing a face-kini, but I don’t.

  8. Taking photos of my food. I try not to do this very often, because I personally find the practice to be obnoxious. Just because there is an entire blog dedicated to this embarrassment, it doesn’t mean that I do it because I’m Asian or that it warrants comment because I am Asian. Look around, there are people of all races and creeds photographing their food. I often don’t even get to share it, I just have a hard time remember what I ate somewhere.

    From Wong Fu Productions’s “Food Pic War”

  9. Speaking Chinese to my parents on the phone. Don’t. You. Dare. People speak to their parents in their parents’ native language. Or in a language that they and their parents learned and agreed to speak to each other. It is not your place to judge or joke because I’m Chinese that I speak Chinese to my parents. I don’t and wouldn’t give you hard time about the fact that you don’t know any other language but English, or that your parents wish you could speak Portuguese to them or your grandparents but you can’t.

*Sometimes, these situations arise specifically because I’m Chinese. Sometimes, the microaggressions happen because someone can barely be bothered to see past my being Asian, let alone that I’m Chinese.

…I am a little more defensive in this post than I normally am in my blogs.

Because after all this time, I am really tired of defending myself over these really… LITTLE THINGS. I can’t even list any more because I started getting pretty upset thinking about all the times that people give me a hard time for… being Asian-American?

I think the worst is when this comes from other Asian-Americans, though. It’ll come from a “whitewashed” friend, who laughs at the fact that I’m on the executive board for the Asian American Student Union or that I carry my sunbrella outside even after I’ve come home from China.

I’m really tired of these microaggressions in the form of the phrase “you would“. It is one of the more offensive ones to me. It carries with it the stench of someone who thinks that they’re able to put me neatly into their “Asian person” box. That these behaviors, while often are not specific to Asians or Asian-Americans, make me an other from you. Or, as I get the impression from my Asian friends who commit these microaggressions, or they will outright tell me, that I embarrass you.

I am sorry that you are ashamed of certain qualities that are associated with Asians. It happens to me, as well. I’ll shake my head seeing someone wearing one of these (because I know that behind that visor is a middle-aged Asian woman; I have not been wrong yet):

But I don’t deserve to be given a hard time about these things.

I don’t deserve to want to order some Asian-inspired dish at a very un-Asian restaurant and deny myself the joy (or the hard lesson to learn, in some cases) of ordering orange chicken at a cowboy-themed restaurant.

I don’t deserve to say no to buying a panda plushie because I know you’ll be there, doing that “of course you would” exhalation through your nose, which you are looking down at me.

I don’t deserve to get nervous about introducing someone to my friends, stopping to count and oh crap, did I accidentally hang out with only Asian people today? and having my mind race about the kind of impression you have of me because God forbid my friends look a little more like me than the average student at our school.

I don’t deserve to be embarrassed about spending years learning piano, an instrument I asked my parents to let me learn because I loved it and before I realized that almost every single one of my other Asian friends was already learning it or picking it up at the same time.

I don’t deserve to get laughed at in a school cafeteria, a rough place as it stands, for not having this de facto standard school lunch of a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a Capri Sun, which was apparently the North Face, leggings, and Uggs of grade school. I am grateful that I have a lunch to bring, I am grateful that my parents made me a delicious dinner and that there was so much I could bring it in for lunch the next day. I don’t deserve to be pushing that gratitude aside for superficial concerns like having a “cool” lunch.

I don’t deserve to be forced to suppress my love for Mulan, my dream of becoming a face character, my excitement at being represented in a Disney animated movie, that Mulan is considered a Disney princess even though she’s not really a princess. I will not stand here and tell you that she is mine more than she is yours, but you cannot sit there and tell me that she cannot be mine as well as yours because that is simply wrong.

I don’t deserve to feel awkward about not wanting to get sunburned. I know the facts about sun damage. It’s serious business and melanoma is no joke. You spend a lot of time on your face, so you probably know what the effects of sun damage are as far as aging. But unless I’m a ginger (and I take issue with how you’re treating our redheaded friends), and I don’t immediately get painfully burned in the sun, I should just be okay with getting burned? You burned sitting on a rooftop bar; I don’t think I’m ridiculous for wearing sunscreen.

I don’t deserve to have my race brought up when I take photos of my food. I also don’t deserve to hear my race being used as an insult if you decide to, in one fell swoop, laugh at the expense of a non-Asian friend who is also photographing his/her food. My ethnicity is not the punchline to this joke.

I. Do not. Deserve. To believe it’s necessary to speak to my parents in English when they’re speaking to me in Chinese. To speak Mandarin in hushed, embarrassed tones while covering my mouth so as to reduce the possibility that my communicating with my parents might trigger some kind of response from other people.

I don’t deserve to flinch and expect to hear you say “you would” to any of these things.

St. Petersburg day 2

(People are asking me how I get to travel so much, and welcoming me back to the States, so I should clarify that these photos are all from 1 August 2013… I’m really bad at posting on time.)

Our second day in St. Petersburg was not as nice weather-wise. We had a light rain for most of the day, so we were lucky in that day 2 was a mostly indoor appreciation day.

First off, the Hermitage Museum, one of the oldest and biggest museums in the world created by Catherine I (remember her?). One of the palace buildings that was converted into the museum was formerly the Winter Palace and it looks out over Palace Square. One of my favorite things about visiting other places is thinking about the historical events that took place there, thinking about whose footprints I’m stepping in. For example, Palace Square is where Bloody Sunday and the October Revolution happened. Reading about these events in textbooks and even watching documentaries is one thing, but breathing the air there is an entirely different experience. I get overwhelmed by the feeling.

My view of Palace Square from inside the Hermitage Museum

In any case, the Hermitage is home to so much great art. I can’t even show you all the art that I have photos of, let alone all the art that they actually housed, but I’ll give you all a taste of some of my favorite pieces, some famous pieces, and pieces with interesting stories. (Included in the captions, which are maybe worth reading for once this time!) I have way way more, so let me know if you want me to share any of the other pieces I photographed. :)

Portrait of the actress Jeanne Samary – Renoir
She is best known not for her acting but for Renoir’s portraits.

Boy with a Whip – Renoir
(It looks like a little girl, but we were assured this is a boy, as it was custom for little boys to dress this way.)

Woman in the Garden, Saint-Adresse – Monet
We were told that this painting originally also had a man next to the woman, who commissioned this painting, but she then asked Monet to remove him. Drama.

Thatched Cottages at Cordeville – Van Gogh

Dance II – Matisse
This painting could take up an entire wall of my bedroom.

Le Café Maure – Matisse

Musical Instruments – Picasso

Two Sisters – Picasso

A rare original Da Vinci painting

Casually run out of room for priceless art and put it on the ceiling.

Rembrandt was the most popular artist in the museum.

More gifts from Egypt

The building itself, of course, being a Winter Palace, was also utterly magnificent.

Just… just look at that. Casually gilded and lined with priceless art.

Chandeliers are to the indoors what fountains are to the outdoors. Gotta love the opulence a little bit.

A lot of beautiful ceiling patterns, some that mirrored the beautiful floors.

From the Hermitage, we went to the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. The history of this church is amazing and fascinating. It was built on the site where Alexander II (who is maybe on of the most revered Russian monarchs) was assassinated. Literally, the very spot where his blood was spilled is preserved and enshrined in this church. The blood-stained cobblestones are exposed (although fenced off) and around them was constructed a glittering shrine of gleaming stones.

Today, it is no longer a place of worship, as it was used as a morgue during World War II and, well, if housing the dead isn’t a form of desecration,  I’m not sure what is. After World War II, rather than holding religious services, the church was used for storing vegetables (better than corpses) and was affectionately called the Church of the Savior on Potatoes. (Cute, no?)

Elaborate shrine marking the exact spot where Alexander II was assassinated.

The very cobblestones upon which Alexander II’s blood was spilled.

My neck started aching from looking upwards at all these BEAUTIFUL ceilings.

Vents to keep services warm during cold St. Petersburg Sundays

Alexandrite in the pillars…

Afterwards, we headed off to St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which is a magnificent Russian Orthodox cathedral. It cost so much money, time (40 years), and many lives to build this spectacular building.

The cathedral was filled with these meticulously created mosaics

The progression of the cathedral’s architecture

It was a good last day in St. Petersburg. I really felt like I had gotten in touch with my Russian roots. (If those are a thing…) I just really loved St. Petersburg and I would really love to go back someday.

The first “Venice of the North” that we saw