Where does the time go?

Since my last post, I’ve met a boy, graduated from Optometry school, traveled some more (to Finland, in particular), and moved back to Cambridge/Boston to slowly settle myself in–at least for a little while–with previously mentioned boy.

As far as I have come, I still feel like there is so much to do and to improve on, regarding both my life and myself. I’ve also missed blogging,  as an outlet for my thoughts and to share any neat goings-on in my life. Figured I should get back into sharing things from my life.

So, here’s to a new start.

At the Outset of My Euro Trip (2012)

A friend once told me that she thought it was funny when people apologized for not blogging, since the blogger has no true obligation to write for others unless they want to. I fully see her point, but that being said, I can’t help but feel like I have unfinished business when I don’t blog for a long period of time. I guess it doesn’t help that I have lots of pictures from the last year to share, and that I’d fallen into a habit of blogging or writing in a journal as soon as I could write. Then again, a lack of updates on my part generally means that my life has been busy and somewhat exciting (or that I’ve just been lazy…or maybe a mix of both).

The past year has been really exciting, actually. I’ve kept busy since graduation, and I’ve definitely been blessed with lots of good fortune. I ended up getting hired by the practice that I interned at soon after my road trip, and I took the year to go through the optometry school application cycle. After lots of hard work, sacrifice, and some luck, I will be attending school in Boston this coming Fall. I actually just got back from a housing clinic in the city, where I got to meet some of my future classmates, find housing, and find roommates. I ended up getting ridiculously lucky, since I found housing in the nicest neighborhood of Boston at a great deal, within walking distance to school, and I have some cool roommates I’ll be looking forward to getting to know better. I could not be more excited for what’s in store for my future.

In the meantime, however, I’m sitting on a plane on my way to Copenhagen via Frankfurt. I’ll be spending the next two months backpacking through Europe and meeting up with some friends from my study abroad experience (and meeting up with one Dane I happened to meet while she was studying abroad in San Diego).
I think it’s kind of funny to see how far I’ve come in maturing and broadening my perspective, and to compare it to my time abroad in 2008-2009. At the time, I was just dipping my toes in the water, a well-traveled, but scared girl. I still consider myself a big scaredy cat, afraid of everything that comes my way, but I’ve grown to be more comfortable in my own skin and to approach my fear head-on (except when it comes to spiders).
My fear and anxiety was pretty bad my sophomore year of college. I had a hard time setting foot outside my front door for some reason or another, and my year abroad was meant to push me out of my rut, which it very well did. But it was all baby steps. Minus traveling to see my relatives alone one or twice in high school, I had never really traveled alone, so going to Turkey alone, and even couch surfing there was a big deal to me. Actually, it still is, since Ankara for a young, foreign woman is kind of an ordeal. I had a hard time pushing myself to go outside to do and see things since I was so afraid of everything. I didn’t mind interacting with people, but I stood out a lot and definitely had my fair share of being hassled by men. (I did also meet some great people. The taxi driver that took me to see the Citadel tried to act as a tour guide despite the obvious language barrier. I must say, the Turks are great at hospitality, especially my couch surfing hosts. Tešekürlar, Esra and co!)
Now, it’ll be two straight months of traveling through a myriad of countries. I feel a bit bolder this time around. I’m determined to work through my fear of not being in control in order to have a great time and to gain new experiences. Despite all my fear, I am not afraid to fail. I generally get good stories from my failures and awkward moments. After all, my friend, Travis, asked me the other day, “Do all of your stories have you as the butt of the joke?” (no, but most do :3)

Ideally, I’ll be hitting Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and possibly Slovakia, but we’ll see how that all pans out >.<"

Day 6: Seattle Day 2/Portland Day 1

After an adventure-filled night out, we decided to take the day easy before we left for Portland. This meant lots of snacking and stocking up on food for our drive down. We perused Pike Place Market, again, and ate mini doughnuts, a matsuri hotdog, we bought some mini cheesecakes (from The Confectional) and I managed to sneak in another oyster shot when nobody (except Cat) was looking.
We walked down the street, peering into boutiques and cafes, and by then, it had started raining, so we decided to pack up and head out for our next destination!

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It was a 2-hour drive (of course, I slept through most of it…listening to Slipknot. Yes, I fell asleep listening to Slipknot -___-), where we were again able to cross the state border by bridge (SO COOL!). We stopped off downtown, where we hit the tail-end of an gay pride parade. Our main aim was to pick up doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut, but the shop turned out to be closed for renovations. Lucky for us, there was a Voodoo Doughnut #2, that we went to the next day. For dinner, we hit up “Blue Plate” for some excellent comfort food. We each got a homemade soda or shake, in addition to the burgers and sandwiches we ordered. I, of course, ordered a grilled cheese sandwich (with Tillamook cheese!) and tomato soup. It NEVER gets old to me :]
After filling our bellies, we found our way to Lindsey’s. She was our host for the next two nights. That girl is super cool, and her house was quite lively. There were two cats and a dog, and she had 7 housemates, so it was always busy. We walked to her local supermarket so she could show us some brews local to Oregon. We were curious to try many of them, so we took a bunch of 6-packs back, and started a game of Settlers of Catan. Needless to say, we had a great time!

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Around Lindsey’s neighborhood. So green! *cry*

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Portland has the second most breweries per capita. Who has the most? San Diego :]

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Cheesecakes from the Confectional!

Road Trip Day 4: Arcata to Seattle

Yeah, I’m taking my sweet time writing all these posts. I may have graduated, but the studying just never stops :[

After a short night of sleep, we packed up and headed out. We stopped at the Wildberries Marketplace to grab rations. We went nuts–there were so many fresh and healthy–AND TASTY options!! We grabbed some bagels and smoothies, and then hit the road.

I spent the first 20 minutes of the ride eating. When breakfast rolls around, I’m ravenous, so I ate maybe two bagels and then my banh mi from the night before (SO SPICY, YET SO TASTY~), and polished off my smoothie, much to the disbelief of the other girls in the car. I finished in time for us to take a quick stop to look at some elk. From a distance, of course.

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Rosemary and Cheddar Bagel

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My tofu bahn mi.

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Elk!

We also stopped a distance before the California-Oregon border to check out the HUGE Paul Bunyan and Babe statues. I don’t know where the employee is sitting (probably on the second floor of the gift shop), but he can make Paul Bunyan move (neck and arms), blink, and smile. He also picked up everything we said and replied back by microphone. It was cute. He had a good sense of humor :]

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We stopped for gas at one of the first towns past the border (perhaps not the wisest choice), where THEY PUMPED THE GAS FOR US AND WIPED OUR WINDSHIELD CLEAN (so bug-free~)!!! It was amazing! I think we were kind of anticipating it, but it was still so exciting for us Californians.

The rest of the drive was a blur, since I slept for most of it, at least until the last stretch before we hit Eugene (mainly because I drove it). We stopped at Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen for dinner. Oh man, that was such a good dinner. So flavorful, and it hit the spot–just perfectly! The menu layout was visually interesting and I thought it was a cute touch that they used mason jars as drinking cups. It was the right boost we needed to get us to Seattle.
Oh–we were surprised at the lack of sales tax in Oregon! When the restaurant accidentally added an additional dish to our bill, we told a waitress, who just crossed it off the tab. We were so confused until we realized that we didn’t have to bother with the sales tax. Oh, it was wonderful :3

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A page from le menu.

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Cute!

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Jessica’s fried catfish

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My jambalaya.

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It definitely felt like we were in a friend’s backyard.

We powered through for the rest of the 4-5 hour drive. We drove past Portland, on the way up, and I was quite impressed with the downtown area. That aerial tram we passed by was really cool, actually! Passing the Oregon-Washington border was pretty exciting, since you have to cross a bridge to get to the other state. We were in such lush areas from Arcata upwards, that it made everything so picturesque, especially as we entered Washington, and the sun was setting. We were amused by the highway signs, which featured a silhouette of George Washington’s head.

We got into Seattle around 11 or midnight (I’ve forgotten since…) and checked into the Green Tortoise Hotel. We left our car on the street, since all the parking garages closed right before we got there, so Jess and I had to wake up at 6AM to move the car, since it wasn’t permitted to have the car parked on the side of the street during the day (how odd!).

It had been a long day of driving. We knew it was doable, but we also knew it would be tiring. I’m glad we did it, despite the hiccup of losing our original lodging in Seattle.
We joked about how it took us ~4 days to get through California, but only one to pass through Oregon on our way to Seattle. In theory, we probably could have gone through California quicker, but there would have been no fun in that.

Post-Spring Quarter/Pre-Graduation Fun

Since I had no finals during Finals Week, I played a lot instead.

Monday: I went in to the office to volunteer for a few hours. In the afternoon, my friends (Teddy, Kandice, Bobert, Denton, and Liyin) shot my senior photos for me. Hope to have a few up to share soon :3
My brother invited me to go to Disneyland that Thursday today. It was a HUGE surprise (He was in LA for E3, lucky guy!) and I was super excited for it.

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Tuesday: Cat, Liyin, Richard, and I had a picnic on Mount Soledad. We dropped Cat off at work and then the three of us went to Balboa Park for the first free Tuesday of the month at Balboa Park. Certain museums are open to residents for free depending on which Tuesday of the month it is.
We visited the Model Train Museum (per recommendation of Cat) and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Liyin tried the Hurricane Simulator out of curiosity. One little boy kept trying to use it, but his mom dragged him away, saying, “Nono, you live in Florida. You get that for free.” XD
We sat around the park afterward, just enjoying the nice weather.

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Wednesday: Richard and I spent a few hours getting stuff done at the library. Productivity! Spent the evening running a few more errands and than sat in front of the TV cleaning out part of my magazine collection.

Thursday: Disneyland! Richard, Liyin, and I were supposed to be out the door by 7:30 AM, but we all overslept through our alarms UNTIL 7:30. So, we didn’t get out of the house until 8. David, one of my Microbio Lab buddies came over and we picked up Liyin’s sister, Mimi, in Irvine on the way. We also stopped at 99 Ranch to pick up breakfast 😀
I hadn’t been to Disneyland in 16 years, and California Adventure Park didn’t even exist back then. My brother and his coworkers managed to get my four friends and me into both places for free. After getting the required stamps, my brother’s group and mine parted ways to go on rides and whatnot. We started in California Adventure Park. We rode: a Monster’s Inc. Ride, the new Little Mermaid ride, the swings, and Mickey’s Fun Wheel–this really neat ferris wheel with both stationary and swinging gondolas. We chose a swinging one, and it felt terrifying, at first, but I’m really glad I agreed to go on the swinging gondola.
My first time at Disneyland, when I was 6, was pretty…influential on how I felt about theme park rides. Space Mountain had scarred me then. Because of that, I was really afraid of most rides. This time, however, I kept an open mind and my friends put up with my nervousness. I ended up having a MAJOR BLAST on all of the rides. We managed to meet up with Liz and her friend for a bit; that made me really happy, since I probably won’t be seeing her for a really long time. We managed to wait through a few long lines (especially that of Star Tours, which was at least an hour and a half or so of shuffling forward in line toward the entrance) to ride: Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Star Tours, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, Mr. Toad’s Wile Ride, Space Mountain, and Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Lunch was an experience. I had a chimichanga and I kept stealing bites of Richard’s and David’s turkey legs. We also checked out Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Despite the large crowds, long lines, and all the crying kids, I had a blast. This was BY FAR one of the best days I’ve had in a very, very long time. The park closed at 9, much to my relief, and we managed to get back to SD around midnight.

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LIZ!

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Toon town jail :<

Friday: I woke up early to fit in a work out and then drive Richard to Hillcrest for his internship interview. I hung out at a cafe nearby, eating breakfast and waiting for him to finish up his interview. I had a lamb sausage omelette with a cheese-filled potato pancake and a grapefruit juice. So decadent.
Richard accompanied me to the mechanic’s to get my car checked out for my upcoming road trip. They had to fix a leaky valve, so Liyin picked us up and took us home for a while, so I could clean my room in preparation for my mom and grandma’s arrival in town.
Picked up my car and went home to clean some more. My mom and grandma picked me up, and the three of us went to Fashion Valley to walk around/shop. Had dinner at Dae Jang Keum. So much meat x.x Went back to their hotel afterward. I’d always wondered what it was like to stay at the imposing Hyatt of La Jolla, and to finally do so turned out to be a major disappointment. My mom usually stays at the Marriott, but she forgot to book it in time, so she chose the Hyatt. It was way overpriced with no useful amenities, and internet was $10/day PER DEVICE. WHAT A RIPOFF >:[ I felt like pulling a move out of the Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends playbook by kicking someone in the shin and calling them a “Rip-off artist.” I gave up internet to hang out with my family, which was just as well, since I fell asleep almost immediately after returning.

Saturday: The only thing worthwhile in the Hyatt was the breakfast buffet. Good service, good food. I upgraded my phone to an iPhone (we had to stop off at a Verizon store to activate it), and then we hit the road for Balboa Park. We checked out the SD Museum of Art and the Museum of Man. Had a small lunch by the Globe Theater replica, and then headed off to Coronado for a while. Had some super rich ice cream there, and then headed back to La Jolla to pick up an extra set of clothes and have dinner at Ki Sushi. I spent the night at the Hyatt again. I managed to post process all of my pictures up until then. Stayed up until 3 to do so.

Sunday, I’ll cover later, as it was the day of my graduation. I’ll wait ’til I get my pics from everyone, and until I upload/post-process my pictures.

Spring 2011

Week 1: I got back to San Diego on Monday evening (tried to hold out my vacation as long as possible). Like I said before, I thought this quarter was going to be really free, but right from the get-go I was super busy. Liyin and I both got Groupon certificates a while back for a month’s worth of Bikram Yoga for $30. I went pretty consistently for the first 2.5 weeks, and then school started to creep up on me. Ed came for a visit this week, so we all went to to PB for wings and frozen yogurt.

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Week 2: I started OAT classes this week. This on top of my schedule of school, volunteering, and yoga was super overwhelming. I spent that Sunday studying at a tea shop with my roommate and my good friend, Frank. He took us to a Sushi place in Hillcrest afterward.

Week 27

Week 3: Not much really happened this week. I think my first lab report was due around this time, leaving me super stressed. That weekend, I went up with my friends to Oxnard to celebrate Tibbs’ birthday. The whole gang was there–everyone that I used to hang out with in San Diego that was either on the team or associated with the team. It was just like old times, especially since Tim and Chelsea were back in California on break from their Peace Corps mission in Guyana for the month. It was SO NICE to see everyone! However, seeing the gang only made me realize that I miss them MUCH more than I thought I did. It also made me realize how lucky/blessed I am to know such awesome people.

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I love these people.

Week 4: I had a midterm in my lab class, and I got owned hard. D: On Saturday, I went up to check out SCCO (Southern California College of Optometry) with the optometry club from my school. The students here sold themselves well, and now my heart is rather set on going to this school. After the Open House, we drove down to Irvine for some grub. We ended up getting purikura made of our silly selves. These kids are great 😀
Sunday was Easter, so I went out with practically the entire UTC Chuao staff and co. to get brunch at a cute little chocolate cafe in Hillcrest. CHOCOLATE COVERED BACON–need I say more?

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Ridiculously huge shaved ice.

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Tabasco and chipotle bloody mary garnished with a strip of chocolate covered bacon.

Week 5: This week was also pretty dead. I did, however, have another lab report due the following week. Friday, I watched “Sunset Boulevard” (btw, now it’s one of my most favorite films ever) and made a fig, Gorgonzola, and prosciutto pizza. I went to “Five Guys” for burgers with my flatmates–it was just us three girls, since Richard was doing UCDC and Jason went home for the weekend. We perused the nearby bookstore, each purchasing a book (it was the last day of my B&N membership–lucky me!). Sunday, we were going to have Brazilian food for lunch. The special buffet deal was not in effect on the weekends, so we walked over to Hodad’s. Tasty burgers and uber rich malts. So worth it, though. We went shopping for a bit at Horton Plaza after.

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Topped with asiago cheese.

Week 6: Liyin’s siblings came to visit. She took her brothers and me to La Jolla Cove, that afternoon, and then dropped me off at Chuao to study a bit.

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Week 7: At the office, I found out that I’d be hired to work there, starting this summer!!! I was so happy to find out this great news. This was Will’s last week in the office. The three of us went out to lunch at a hole in the wall Mexican seafood restaurant on Clairemont Mesa. They have some amazing ceviche!!!
Liyin flew up to Cal that weekend, to watch her sister graduate. Cat and I got up super early to take her to the airport. We had breakfast downtown at Cafe 222, afterward. I got a text later in the day from Liyin, who was a little miffed that she could have stayed home to watch her sister’s graduation, which was streaming online. I justified her visit in the name of family photos. She had a blast that weekend, anyway.
I helped assist my friend in taking senior photos of Frank to commemorate his (our) upcoming graduation. Took Frank, Hoang, and Teddy out for Mexican seafood afterward 😀

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Week 8: I, very proudly, drove on the highway alone–for the first time ever–to pick Liyin up from the Solana Beach train station. That was a 30-40 minute drive North. A big feat for me, if you will. This was the last week of OAT classes for me–somewhat sad and somewhat a relief, since I was feeling the pressure of all my responsibilities pressing down on me.
That weekend, I flew across the nation to see Richard in D.C. We had a blast catching up. He made me walk a lot (3 miles on the first night, after only 2 hours of sleep and a whole day spent flying to get there), so I gave him a lot of crap for it. I went to D.C. as an eighth grader, but going as a person in her early 20s was different–I was more appreciative of what I was seeing, though I must say the freedom to go and do as I please was a plus. I saw a lot more of D.C. than I did on my eighth grade tour of the city and its surrounding areas. I’d love to live in this city for a while–there’s a hustle and bustle to it I like, coupled with the fact that everyone here looks super polished all the time. Women here wear lots of skirts and dresses, and I LOVE it!!! It makes me want to wear more skirts and dresses.
Friday: We walked from Richard’s apartment to the Columbia Heights area to pick some stuff up for me, and then down many blocks to get food at Ben’s Chili Bowl. That night, we saw one half of the Mall, starting with the White House –> National World War II Monument –> Lincoln Memorial –> Vietnam War Memorial
Saturday: National Gallery –> Good Stuff Eatery –> Walk around the Capitol, where Richard napped. Some things don’t change. Went to Georgetown in the afternoon for some shopping and cupcakes. Such a cute (and crowded) little college town :3 Went back to his place to clean up, and then went out to try Ethiopian food!
Sunday: Eastern Market –> Smithsonian Museum –> Georgetown –> A really cool falafel shop with a super nice Turkish owner –> Trader Joe’s –> back to Richard’s apartment, where I was a brat that rested up while he made us pizza. Tried to complete my hw for school, that night. Half succeeded.
Monday: Followed Richard to work, where he showed me around and then we said good-bye, as he had work that morning. I wandered around the building (passed by the offices of Boehner, Ron Paul, Giffords, and Pelosi). I walked over to the Library of Congress and hung out there for a good 45 min. Made my way back to the UCDC Center and prepared for my flights home.

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Typical.

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Week 9: Recuperated from my weekend away. It was tiring, but certainly a welcomed change of pace from life in SD. Friday: Looked at adorable cats and kittens at PetSmart with Cat. Watched “The Hangover II” with friends Friday night. That was ridiculous. I studied nearly all of Saturday and Sunday.

Week 10: Final lab report and 3 finals COMPLETED! I was officially done with my college career Thursday evening. Drank and walked over to the theater to watch Thor in 3D with the roommates. First time 3D glasses successfully worked for me. Loved Thor, btw. Probably because I recognize some of the Nordic Mythology references (I took a class on it…). Friday: Last day of cardio kickboxing with Liz, and then work. Justine’s last day at the office : gym –> shower and enlist flatmates to help me make Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos, and Feta-stuffed dates, both with bacon wrapped around –> was too late to original BBQ/banquet (it ended abnormally early) –> went to another BBQ instead. Had a blast, met some great new people. It was an awesome day regardless of the hiccups.