Asia travels

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I’ve been traveling through Asia with some of my classmates for school and now for fun, so I haven’t had the time to really sit down for a post. It’s been such an amazing time and in trying to explain work husbands to my cousin in Japan who joined me for part of the trip, I talked about creating my own little extended family unit. I think that’s a fitting way to describe the closeness I feel with these incredible people. I’m with two of them now, as well as some who could very well be siblings or cousins of sorts (I’ve taken to calling one of them “lao ba” – an affectionate “old dad” nickname). More on my non-blood family another time… for now, here are some pics.

We stayed right across from Taipei 101.

Climbing Elephant Mountain was difficult but totally worth it.

I’m all about climbing and nature and views.

Pretty sure I lost this dress at the hotel, boo.

This bus was like a time capsule!

Taipei airport music-themed rest area. Off to Shanghai!

Visiting Baosteel to watch steel being made was cool.

It’s super hot when it rolls by and glows all over you.

City God Temple has tons of shopping.

Professor Lin and have the same taste and voted for the same logo design.

Hangzhou visit to Alibaba took us to this beautiful city.

Cats!!

At the highest place in Shanghai enjoying the view.

A funky place for live music in the basement of The Peninsula.

We found an amazing rooftop bar to contrast the club below. What a way to end our time in Shanghai.

The last breakfast buffet! I loved the salted duck eggs and congee.

I finally had time to try the fresh noodles before heading off.

Family

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I’m such a bleeding heart.

If I ever got measured for sentimentality, I’d probably be off the charts. I have a soft, squishy part of my soul that is reserved just for 6 very important people: my parents and my grandparents. Whenever I see them, I leave feeling a little nostalgic and pensive. It gets more pronounced as we get older and I think of all the love I have for them. How strange that I can feel so loved that it makes me tear up every time.

Growing up, I always thought of my parents as 35. In my mind’s eye, they didn’t age and my impression of them was frozen in time. Then at some point in my 20s, I realized they were hitting 50. Ever since then, they’ve been stuck at that age for me and they probably will for many years to come. Something about that changing doesn’t sit well with me, so I like to keep them in a little time capsule in my mind. Luckily, when I see them in person, they still look 50 to me so it’s easy to keep up the illusion.

Throughout this time, I’ve started to appreciate everything they’ve done for me more and more. We’re not an affectionate type of family, but I’ve taken to hugging my dad and kissing my mom on the cheek whenever I greet them. Just typing that makes the tears well up. What is it that makes me so sappy??

I’ve pretty much always been like that. I’ve written about how I love tenderness before and I shared some stories about my laoye, my nainaimy mom, and my dad and yeye. I guess I should add in a story about my laolao to make it complete. Thinking about each of them tugs on my heartstrings in ways that I don’t understand. Each of them has given so much to get me to where I am today and I feel close to them, yet I hardly ever see them.

I see my mom the most, at about every other month when I go home for a day. I see my dad 2-3 times a year, whenever he is visiting from China. Two of my grandparents died many years ago. I see my living grandma and step-grandpa and other grandpa on average once every 3-4 years. The closeness I feel is certainly not reflected in the frequency of our interactions.

Perhaps this distance is why I enjoy expressing nuggets of love to my friends. Absent cousins or grandparents to snuggle with and share my thoughts, I cherish the friendships that give me that outlet. As an only child, I craved the intimacy of a sibling and I’ve spent my life on the lookout for friends who could fulfill that desire. Maybe that’s where my sentimentality comes from, as I try to derive meaning in every moment, every interaction. I love inside jokes and pet names and hugging and sharing food. All these things that casually indicate a deep level of comfort with each other. To me, that’s love and it’s what I seek. More on that another day.

Back to my family though – the most mundane interaction with them can easily make my heart swell. I don’t know what it is about them that is a huge trigger for me, but I feel it more strongly with each passing year. I mean, just this weekend I had brunch with my parents and I felt incredibly sad to part ways. Did anything notable happen? No. Is either of them in poor health? No. Is there any specific reason to be sad? No.

But I’m a softie with a giant trigger on my heart that is basically a big CRY NOW button. And hanging out with my beloved family activates that for me.

Riding motorcycles

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Five weeks ago, I was chatting with some friends when one of them (my “Partner”) randomly mentioned he had an extra helmet and could take me on a motorcycle ride sometime.

You should have seen the wide-eyed, excited look I gave him.

It was the weirdest thing because just days earlier, I had been thinking to myself who I knew with a motorcycle. I was driving back from a tour of Amazon’s facilities out in San Bernardino and kept seeing motorcycles passing by. One of my mentors had recently had his stolen, which also caught my attention (and strangely enough got me interested).

I had been mulling the idea over in my head for a few days when out of the blue, the offer was made and I cannot tell you how ecstatic yet baffled I was. Had he read my mind?! I hadn’t talked to anybody about it yet and our topic of conversation was nowhere near the subject. I wasn’t about to ask questions though, so I happily took him up on it. Ever since, we’ve been trying to find a time to go and things kept getting in the way.

So FINALLY, yesterday we got a chance to go for a ride. Partner picked me up in DTLA and we went through Echo Park towards Griffith Observatory. When we first got going, I was rather surprised to find nothing to hold on to except him. For some reason I hadn’t expected that. As we went along, I got to see a bit of what others had warned me of in terms of crazy drivers who either don’t see or don’t care you’re there. We tried out some winding roads and meandered around surface streets before stopping to grab some lunch. It was so interesting for me to look around as we went – I feel like I saw a lot more and noticed a lot more.

I found it quite odd that people seemed to ignore our presence as they drove in their cars texting irresponsibly. Being exposed like that made me feel a lot more connected with my surroundings and I kept shifting my gaze to try to see as much as possible. There were moments where I burst out into a goofy grin because it was so cool to be cruising along. I certainly didn’t get my fill this time, but there will be other chances!

selfie with blue motorcycle helmet on

While waiting to get gas, I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with my new helmet courtesy of Partner.

getting back on motorcycle after getting gas

After getting gas, it was time to sling the leg over and get back on the road.

bread and charcuterie platter at cafe stella

For lunch, we shared a charcuterie platter and some yummy bread.

arm of motorcycle driver and view of road

Sneaky action shot! I like the angle and the capture of the sign.

After we stopped, I wanted to get some selfies.

motorcycle riders with leather jackets and helmets

What an awesome friend, work husband, and Partner! Now please take me on a ride again, kthxbye. 😉

standing by motorcycle

Peace.

sitting on motorcycle front view

“Now sit on it.”

sitting on motorcycle side view

I want!!

Prospurly January 2017 review

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Well then… since spring break, I’ve been awful at doing any reviews, so let’s get the first box from this year out there!

Prospurly is just under $45 per box (with code for 10% off your subscription – use my referral links from this post) and comes with artisan foods, bath & body items, home products, and other sustainably crafted items. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you free boxes.

prospurly january 2017 box open with products showing prospurly january 2017 info card with product details

Beach Organics Bath Salts First Light – As always, I will save these to soak in when I have my own (more comfortable) bathtub to use. I like that these are a combo of Himalayan and Dead Sea salts – sounds super fancy.

From Molly With Love White Sage Smudge Spray – Can someone explain what a smudge spray is? Well, whatever the case, this a good way to cleanse the air of odors. It makes a very handy room spray, though apparently it doubles as a body spray.

Sakari Botanicals Juniper Oil – A massage oil or cooking oil in one? Now that’s new. I definitely thought it was a facial oil and put it in with my bathroom products. Good to know I can ingest it too.

St. Tropica Coconut Hot Oil Hair Mask – I’ve been meaning to use this for ages! My hair could use a boost and I look forward to a hair mask, which I haven’t done before.

The Brothers Apothecary Winter Immunitea – This blend of herbs is great for a soothing cup at night when I need to relax. I haven’t cracked it open yet since I haven’t felt like hot tea as much recently, but it will be very useful in the cooler months.

Frau Fowler Tooth Powder – It’s so strange having this slightly salty powder for toothpaste, which you don’t rinse out after spitting out. I like to use it at night before I go to bed so in the morning I can have a more traditional minty mouth wake-up.

This was a handy box with great products that I will enjoy using. What do you think of this month’s box?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. 🙂 All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

My amazing work husbands

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Over the past month, I’ve been on a mission to secure some new work husbands at school. You see, I inadvertently had created these special relationships with some of my fellow MBAs only to realize they are all second years poised to graduate in just 10 days! While I was in Israel for spring break, I began to get anxious about the second years moving on. So… ever since I’ve been back I’ve kept an eye out for some new work husband relationships.

In case you’re not familiar, a work spouse is typically someone you’re close to at work – a confidante and best friend. In my case, I’m in the grad school environment so these are my classmates who I connect with particularly deeply. Everyone goes about this a different way and even between the various ones I have, our dynamic is wildly different. Each one of these guys offers something special (and yes I need multiple because I don’t want to hog all their time!).

One is always there to talk about the goings on of b-school and join me for a swim. One is an old friend from a previous job who shares personal life lessons. One is fantastically patient with my oddities and his place as my cashmere pet. One is awkward yet charming and a strange combination of self-deprecating and cheerful. Funny enough, I also managed my first “work divorce” without ever claiming another one. Can we get divorced if he hated hearing about work husbands and refused to accept the term in the first place? Alas, I’m willing to accept it because we’re splitting custody of the chakra. I like the oddballs.

In light of losing these guys to full-time work in the coming weeks and coming back in the fall to an empty nest, I have since recruited some new gentlemen. One is an excellent partner who trains me and shares very thought-provoking ideas that I find fascinating. He’s also my go-to for introducing me to new things (ideas, places, experiences). One is the sweetest and most thoughtful person who checks up with and in on me. And I have a resistant 1/2 one who doesn’t like that work and husband both imply work! 😛 He’s so chill and fun to play fight with yet he’s a total teddy bear on the inside. For now he’s agreed to “fake side babe” as a moniker.

These are all first years who will be graduating with me in 2018, so I’m feeling pretty good. When we start school again, I can also see if some of the 2019ers want to join in the fun as well. Plus, there’s a trio of three guys who are often attached at the hip and I get along with them all quite well too, so perhaps I should recruit them to my squad. 😉

Does this all sound a bit weird to you? It’s all in good fun and all of these guys know about it and each other. You’re probably wondering what my real life husband thinks of all this (he’s cool with it and recognizes that while he’s on the other side of the country, I could use some companionship to keep me active and happy).

Growing up, I did not have a lot of close relationships because I moved so much, so I really cherish these kinds of bonds. I especially love inside jokes and pet names, so that’s what a lot of this comes down to. Do you have any quirky relationships like this?

Distractions

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When you are confused about life, seek distractions. At least that seems to be my approach right now.

Distract me with music. Upbeat or melancholic, switch it up. Just make noise and fill the air.

Distract me with food. Eating bite by bite. Not exactly savoring, but trying to.

Distract me with driving. Doesn’t matter where. Find a place and go.

Distract me with Facebook/Instagram. I don’t think I’ve been this social media absorbed since college.

Distract me with new people. It’s fresh and new. Maybe they’re the one to pull me out of my funk.

Distract me with working out. If I’m busy working on my form and exerting my body, maybe my mind will calm.

Yet I can’t seem to find catharsis, much as I desperately want it. I’ve got some things to work through I guess. (At least it’s slowly getting better.)

Gender gap and sexism at work

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Last week, our class discussed the gender pay gap. Well, it was actually a follow-up that the professor brought up because the first time we talked about it, a classmate had been skeptical of the size of the gap and the professor felt bad that he hadn’t properly addressed that skepticism when it arose. So he did a bunch of research and presented us with a slew of numbers from various sources and studies.

This then prompted a very interesting conversation in which the guy who had pushed back initially explained his thoughts and a few of us chimed in. He said that while there is a discrepancy, it’s not the entire story – men are by far involved in the most dangerous jobs out there, risking their lives all the time and that is not accounted for. While this was very valid and gave me pause, I agreed with the professor that ultimately it was unrelated to the topic at hand. The point would be for any women who are in those professions, whether they also see a pay gap.

I completely agree that it is not fair that men are doing such difficult jobs – going to war, working in mines, and doing hard labor that puts them at risk. Another classmate threw in her two cents about how she felt women don’t choose as much risk as men do and that is a personal choice people make. (I don’t exactly agree with her on that, but it might be broadly true. I still think societal expectations do play a role.) Then as I was thinking about this, I suddenly realized that all my life I’ve been surrounded in male-dominated situations and much as I wanted to part of those worlds, I often did not feel welcome.

Prior to that part of the conversation, we also heard from some people talking about how the gap may be due to the fact that women don’t stand up for themselves as much and go ask for raises or negotiate salary. I’ve never had an issue broaching that topic and I always thought it was expected that you negotiate your salary before accepting. I hadn’t realized that so many people don’t do that!

With all that, I had quite a bit on my mind to share. When my hand raised up, the professor noted it and called on me in order. I almost never speak in class because I don’t like to say anything that isn’t truly interesting or valuable. I think what I shared certainly got everyone’s attention. What came out went something like this…

Two things. First, I think a lot of what happens is not just what women do or do not do, but how it is taken. I tend to be more on the assertive side and the last time I went to ask for a raise, I was told not to, that I shouldn’t ask (instead I should apparently wait for my manager to recognize me in due time). So I think to some extent, even women who do exactly what men do end up getting different reactions and results. Would the same comment have been given to a man asking for a raise? I don’t know.

Second, in regards to the gentleman’s comment about men in riskier roles… these are anecdotes and my personal experience, so I don’t know how well they translate broadly, but: I spent much of my life trying to break in to male-dominated arenas. I was in ROTC and I worked in the tech industry. At one point I was the only female in the office with 12 men. For the women who are trying to join these ranks, it isn’t easy. The amount of sexism I encountered – oh and in the film industry as well (I interned there once) – made me feel sometimes unsafe and at the least, unwelcome. So the question is, for women who do want to take on those riskier jobs, how do they do that with these obstacles?

Some of my thoughts hadn’t ever been properly formulated before I said them! I was the last person to contribute before the professor wrapped up the conversation and moved on to the next topic. It was strangely liberating to share those stories in such a public setting. I found my voice quivering a bit though I’m not sure why. With that, we laid the discussion to rest and continued on with other things in class.

It was strange; I had never made the connection between my own experiences in male-dominated situations and why it was such a challenge. Between this and some other things going on in my life, I have had some painful reminders of bad moments from my past. Then I received an email from the professor recently, thanking me for sharing in class and essentially apologizing for not giving me “an adequate response” and offering to chat more if I wanted. The niceness and effort hit me like a ton of bricks. I cried.

What we need are more men like these. Ones who are willing to open up the conversation, advocate for what they feel is right. After all, we all know deserving women. Too many women are treated poorly at work, whether it is inequitable pay or workplace harassment. On another note, one of the female MBAs in the program shared an article with some strong PSAs about harassment at work – they’re uncomfortable, awkward, and powerful displays of some of the very real things that happen to women constantly. I know I’ve been in similar situations.

So I’m uplifted that men are taking note and speaking up about this. But I’m also saddened that this is such a problem in the first place. I’m glad we talked about it and hopefully my stories touched some people in class, so as they rise in the ranks in their organizations, they can be cognizant of the issues that women face. More than that, I hope they take the professor’s lead and bring up these conversations so it can be dealt with.

As for that gender pay gap? Numbers vary from as good as 98 cents on the dollar to as low as in the 70s. Take what you will from that.

USC Marshall iTrek 2017: Purim & Western Wall

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Spring break was AMAZING. Magical, even. I got a chance to go to Israel with 19 other classmates and I really can’t imagine doing anything better during that week (I can’t believe it has already been a month since, wow). Our schedule was jam packed with activities giving us a wide range of experiences all around the country and we were all raving about it when we got back.

I’m breaking down the trip into multiple posts since there is just so much to share. Let’s start off with the first two days! Friday night I boarded a plane to Istanbul and met five of the others on our trip. We had a short 1 hour layover before flying off to Tel Aviv and arriving at night in time to catch Purim (it’s like Halloween!).

The next day, we bused over to Jerusalem and toured the Western Wall tunnels and Machane Yehuda market. At night, it was Purim time again, since apparently they stagger celebrations and it was Jerusalem’s turn to party. The market by day became an outdoor club by night!

art display in tom bradley terminal of lax

This was my first time being in Tom Bradley since they renovated! This piece of art hung overhead as we lined up for security.

turkish airlines lunch on plane

On the plane, I opted for chicken as my first meal.

turkish airlines breakfast on plane

After about 12 hours on the plane, we ate breakfast prior to landing in Istanbul for a layover.

entertainment screen showing plane path from los angeles to istanbul

My remote didn’t work so I couldn’t watch any shows, but I did watch the map for a long time.

turkish airlines snack on plane

On the Istanbul to Tel Aviv leg, we all got a quick snack.

view of tel aviv coast from plane at night

First glimpse of Tel Aviv from the air!!

view of tel aviv city from plane at night

As we got closer to the airport, we saw more of Tel Aviv upon descent.

electronic display at hotel showing usc group meeting in alon hall

At the Metropolitan Hotel, the rest of our party was busy pre-partying before heading out for Purim!

food at tel aviv hotel

We got in late so there wasn’t much food left.

usc marshall purim party on the streets of tel aviv

Out we went to party on the streets (mainly Rothschild)! We even brought our sign. 😉
Photo cred: “Mr. Photogenic”

late night pizza after purim party with v for vendetta mask

I borrowed a friend’s V for Vendetta mask for a bit as we got pizza on the way back to the hotel.

tel aviv beach and ocean

The next morning, we got our first glimpse of the beach before leaving Tel Aviv for Jerusalem.

towns on the hill of israel

There were all these towns on hills that I barely captured on the right here.

entrance area to western wall in jerusalem

Our day tour for the day was the Western Wall tunnels. Check out the giant cemetery in the distance.

western wall tunnel under construction with empty bath

Underneath the tunnels were arches that are veeeery old. This used to be a bath.

western wall tunnel with restored bath

This is where they uncovered a bath and water mysteriously filled it up! Our tour guide Shani was there for the excavation. (He’s awesome btw!!)

After all that time underground, it was nice to come back out to the daylight.

western wall women's crowded side

We then took some time to visit the wall and write our wishes to stuff in the cracks.

western wall large men's side

The men’s side was disproportionately larger for some reason… ahem.

western wall bushes and birds

Up against the wall, you’ll hear plenty of chirping from the birds that are chilling on the plants and cracks.

walking back to bus

After the Western Wall, it was back on the bus to go over to Machane Yehuda for lunch and browsing.

signs in jerusalem on the way to machane yehuda market

On our way to the market! Who knew that later tonight it would be a raging Purim party?

facebook post on streets of jerusalem

They turned this post into a FB icon.

tuna tartare dish at mona restaurant jerusalem

Dinner that night was at a nice fancy place, Mona Restaurant.

tough pose with israeli security guard

Check out our awesome security guard for the day! He may have had a gun, but he was the sweetest (and who could resist that crown?). 🙂

purim party at machane yehuda jerusalem

Back to the market that night for some dancing!

israelis dancing on bus stop awning for purim

These crazies got on top of the bus stop awning and I was so scared it would break.

mary poppins costume for purim party jerusalem

I spotted Mary Poppins! Her costume was SO GOOD.

And that wrapped up the first full day of being in Israel. It was only the start to something truly special. I’ll try to get the other posts up quickly…

Checking out

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There’s too much going on right now.

I shouldn’t even be writing this post, but I need some time to myself and my thoughts amidst this mess. I had a midterm this morning (it went awful – I’m pretty sure I only answered 1/17 short answer questions correctly), we are just two days away from Admit Weekend (AW17), I have a take-home midterm due on Friday, and there’s a project presentation Friday morning right before the insanity of AW17 kicks off and takes me through Saturday night.

At the moment, it’s all a little too overwhelming. I can’t even step back to properly gauge what I should be doing when. I kind of need a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Yet at the same time, I’m having fun and enjoying life. I went to Israelpalooza on campus with friends today and enjoyed some delicious Israeli food in the beautiful shade of a tree. I wore my neon orange blazer for the first time since buying it something like 5 years ago and got tons of compliments. I even went to a social hour with a colonel and lieutenant colonel who came to speak to us (they were super cool).

I don’t know if it’s subconscious, but I seem to opt for a bright color against neutrals whenever I’m feeling down. I did that years ago with bold red lipstick and a cream top/black leggings. Today it was the blazer that pretty much glowed on its own against a cream dress.

Internally I’m struggling with a lot of ups and downs. I’m starting to think I might need a therapist. Externally, I think I appear pretty happy (albeit tired). I feel so conflicted and I think the most frustrating part is that it is so back and forth. Happy, sad. High, low. Good, bad. I can’t keep up with my own emotions and it’s exhausting.

I wish I had somebody to go on a walk with, tell all my secrets to. I wish I had the time to take a breather and have the space for that. I wish I had the energy to cry.

For now, I’m just trying to hold on until Sunday. Then I’m treating myself to a glorious spa day.

Royal bloodlines

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Before I forget, I want to write this down…

When I was young, my mom mentioned to me in passing that I could have been a princess/lady (??). Somehow that became a little joke I would tell occasionally, saying that I’m 2% princess. I also knew that I had Manchurian heritage from my mother’s side.

This week when my professor said I looked Han Chinese, I wasn’t so sure so I called up my mom to check. She confirmed my memory that our family had a lot of Manchu from her side (my grandma being full Manchu and my grandpa being half). Since bloodlines go through the men, we were technically considered Han because my grandpa’s dad was the Han in the family.

I also clarified the whole royalty situation (as best I could) and learned that my maternal grandmother’s paternal grandfather was the last generation that was supported by the emperor. What does that mean? Basically, he was closely related enough to the emperor that he was taken care of by the ruler. This was for a Manchurian dynasty called Huang zhu, if I heard correctly. So if they had hung in there another 100 years, I could be living a cush life right now. Per my calculations, that makes me up to 6.25% royal. 😛

Now imagine my amusement when one of my friends recently likened me to Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time… I know nothing about the show or about her, but I’m happy to embrace the title! 😉

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