O’hana Means Family

The Hassles of Traveling (11/6/14)

Upon getting to the airport a few hours before my departure, I was told that my flight was cancelled until next morning. However, the person working the desk managed to get me and another person onto a flight on a different airline leaving from Binghamton, New York. So the two of us got into the taxi and made our way over. I got lucky with the rearrangement as I flew straight into Detroit about 3 hours earlier than planned.

My first “awe moment” on the Michigan State campus.

Discovering the Feeling of Family (12-17/6/14)

Seeing my brother again was strange. It felt like he had never left and I had never left, even though it was a new place for both of us to be at the same time. I settled in his little apartment and felt immediately at home. I guess this is what it means to feel like you belong somewhere.

An arugula flower.

Lansing was a different and fun place to explore with a lot of beautiful plants that I had missed for so long while I was in Ireland and lots of strange buildings spread out over the land, unlike in Dublin. It felt like home, though I had never been there. It’s like the opposite of how I felt in Ithaca.

The offending sign in Dublin Square.

Faint Memories of What Seemed a Fantasy (13/6/14)

During one of my days at Michigan State, I went to an “Irish Pub” called Dublin Square with a friend I had met while studying abroad. It was surreal, eating at a pub with little memories of Dublin all over the place. It wasn’t the same, but it was still good. The most disappointing part was seeing that they had a wall decoration saying “Enjoy Barry’s & Lyons Irish Tea now available to you in the USA” and then finding out it’s just decoration. SO DISAPPOINTED. Life isn’t the same.

Readjusting

  • Few things are within walking distance
  • Heat makes you lazy
  • Outside food is extremely unhealthy
  • Obesity is a large issue in American society

Additional Pictures

A woven willow dragon on the MSU campus.

One of the picturesque scenes on the MSU campus.

The MSU dairy store, which sells ice cream so high in fat and sugar they’re only allowed to sell it on campus (no joke).

The Return…to More Adventures

Ah the exotic fruits available to me in America!

Gathering My Wits (2/6/14)

My last full day in Dublin, returning to tourist mode. I spent the day shopping for things to take home to people. There wasn’t much I could bring without pushing the luggage weight limit. Sad, but true. The odd part was not feeling like I was leaving forever. It felt like I was just going on vacation and I’d be back soon. I hope this is true.

Flying Back to America (3/6/14)

Traveling is a hassle, but it’s always filled with surprises and interesting people. While waiting for my flight, I met a sweet Egyptian-Irish girl of 13 year going to Chicago. She told me how her mother was the manager on her floor in the Twin towers, but was pregnant with her baby brother when 9/11 happened. Later, after my 4-hour layover, I was flying with an old lady named Alice who had a glorious time telling me about her garden and how there was a disease in her garden killing her petunias.

Oh the people you meet when you travel!

 

Bradley Hall: a place of many memories.

Returning to Past Memories (4-11/6/14)

During the next week, I spent my time wandering around the lovely little town of Ithaca, New York. Around every corner, there was a memory to be had. A memory of a time I spent with someone special, memories of the two summers I spent there. Things that had once been a norm had changed a bit, the food didn’t taste the same in some places due to change of ownership, the walks taken were not the same without the same people. The rose-coloured glasses I once wore years ago were finally taken off. Instead, I wore the glasses of memory. My mind was constantly filled with memories.

When I wasn’t busy being flooded with memories, I explored new places I had missed during my last few trips to Ithaca. In addition to that, I visited people from my past who still resided there. It was a trip worth taking, looking back into the past as I ambled the city and looking forward to the future with some of my mentors. My life got put into perspective once again.

Throughout the week, I came to the conclusion that I’m not in love with the place as I had previously though. I’m never in love with a place, rather it’s about the memories and the people that make the place a place of value in my heart.

Home is where the heart is and my heart is where my friends are, thus home is anywhere my friends are, not where the memories take place.

Readjusting

  • Cars drive on the right side of the road
  • People walk on the right side of a sidewalk
  • Taxes are added on after the stated price
  • Tipping is courteous – and expensive
  • American food is extremely impacted in terms of flavours. If it’s sweet, it’s VERY sweet; if it’s salty, it’s REALLY salty.

Additional Pictures

The Andrew Dickson White Library. One of my favourite places to visit.

The Margaret M. and Charles H. Dyson Atrium in Sage Hall, home of the Johnson School of Business.

The brand new Dairy Bar, for the studies of Food Science – yes, that’s a thing.

The Fuertes Observatory on the outskirts of the Cornell campus.

A view of Beebe Lake and the waterfall from the Triphammer Foot Bridge.

Ithaca Falls

Laters California, Helloooo Texas!

My attempted Pan di Stella cookies/biscuits.

Baking Attempts (6/1/14)

So, my Italian flatmate had previously introduced me to this delicious chocolate biscuit called Pan di Stella. I found a recipe online and finally got a chance to try it out. It didn’t turn out so well, the recipe was pretty flawed, so I looked at several more recipes that are easier to find now that I’m on American Google instead of Irish Google. Turns out, most of the recipes call for butter AND margarine, while the one I used called for only butter – thus half the amount of oils required to make the dry mixtures stick together.

However, my friend and I managed to improvise a little and get the biscuit back “on track” towards being “bake-able”. It baked okay, but the biscuit turned out a little too crunchy and dry for my liking. I’m not sure it tastes right, but it’s definitely something you wouldn’t eat by itself – only with milk and/or tea, or coffee. I’m happy my host mom said she liked it – hopefully she wasn’t just saying that to be nice.

The moon as seen from the telescope.

Sweet Simplicities (7/1/14)

I got a hair trim today. I had totally forgotten, but my friend’s brother had recently completed cosmetology school. When we went out to Eleven a few days ago, she reminded me and said that her brother would be happy to trim my hair for free and get some practice in. So, I invited him over to the house and he gave me a nice, simple trim. Afterwards, neither of us had plans so we hung out at his apartment. He made me some medium rare steak with corn and rice for a delicious and simple dinner. Then, we had some fun and I watched The Goonies for the first time in my life. Now I know where another one of my brother’s silly phrases comes from.

Before going to bed, my host family took their new telescope outside for the second time during my stay. We got to look at the moon. I got a good picture of it through my camera on the telescope, much like how I do my microscope pictures. It was dandy.

Flying to Texas (9/1/14)

Today, I had an early flight for Lubbock, Texas at 6am. I had my “twin” pick me up way too early at 2am. I figured 2 hours for traveling because LA freeways can get crazy, and 2 hours for the airport security and things like that. Nope. We ended up arriving at the airport in 45 minutes and the terminal didn’t open until 4am. Lessons learned: check what the terminal opens if you have an early flight.

On the plus side, I met this nice, Jewish guy. I can’t remember his name because it’s Hebrew, but I learned something new from him. He told me he was born in Israel to American parents. This allows him to legally have dual citizenship since children of Americans are automatically American citizens – or something like that – and being born in Israel gives you an Israeli citizenship by birth. So that was interesting.

Colorado snow as seen from the plane.

Then, we parted our separate ways and I went to my gate. My flight ended up arriving 45 minutes late. That was not fun. Thankfully, I had saved an hour or so between my two flights and the airport in Denver isn’t too big. Flying into Denver was rather exciting, as the cloud cover was gorgeous and the landscape looked like a giant piece of artwork with the snow covering every last inch of it. However, upon landing I dashed across the airport in 30 minutes and barely made boarding for my flight. The oddest thing I noticed at the Denver airport, while I was speeding across it, was that they had signs for tornado shelters. TORNADO SHELTERS! Californian thinking: WHAT?!

Crop circles can be rather beautiful.

Anyways, I boarded the flight, which was supposed to be booked full. Only 60-70% of the passengers showed. The flight attendant was rather nice and after they had closed the gate and finished boarding she told us all over the intercom, “Change seats now or forever hold your peace.” Funnies. In midair, we passed some crop circles. I’d seen them before on a previous flight, but never the amount I saw this time. Some designs were interesting, though most were just like pie charts.

Upon my arrival in Lubbock, apparently located in West Texas, my friend’s “boss” picked me up at the airport with my friend. Then, another friend of his took us out to a “Thai” restaurant for dinner. It wasn’t as good as the Westernized Asian food where I come from, as I come from rather Asian area. However, it was alright. The oddest part though – in my opinion, was the fact that the chefs and the servers were all non-Asian. There were very few Asians in sight, and definitely none visible among the staff. The food wasn’t what I expected, but it was alright.

Delicious, Spicy Hot Pot (10/1/14)

My second night in Texas and my friend’s “boss” had invited us to her house where she made us a traditional Chinese/Asian dish. In Chinese, we call it “hot pot”, but it’s also known as “shabu shabu” in Japanese restaurants back home. Essentially you start off with a broth boiling on a stove set in the center of the table. Then, you add veggies, meat, seafood – pretty much whatever you want – to the soup. Once you fish out whatever you put in, you dip it in a sauce to cool it before you eat it.

This hot pot she had made us was rather spicy. I was dying and I had to drink two whole bottles of water, something I NEVER do over the course of one meal. It was crazy hot, but I survived.

Oddities of West Texas (11/1/14)

Today was quite exciting. My friend’s friend picked us up and took us out for a movie day. Along the way, I noticed some oddities about Lubbock that don’t occur in Southern California. First and foremost, they have drive-thru smoke shops where people can buy their cigarettes and such on the fly. What a strange concept. Also, their 7-eleven, a convenience “store”, is attached to a line of gas stations called Alon, instead of being a stand-alone shop.

We barely made it for the movie because my friend’s friend was late picking us up. Thank goodness for previews though. We watched Saving Mr. Banks. It was a pretty gosh darn good movie. Now that I know Mary Poppins was based on a book, I must look for the book and read it.

For dinner, my friend and I walked to Chick-fil-a. I was so excited because I didn’t get to have some while I was out in Southern California. The odd thing was seeing a Chick-fil-a without an In-N-Out next to it, since that’s how it usually is in Southern California – probably because both restaurants have a religious background.

After dinner, my friend and had some fun setting up his Wi-Fi, since he didn’t have any for his apartment and his router had been previously been causing us problems. He found a new router today and we got it all hooked up and set up the Wi-Fi. It was much easier than I expected. After all that jazz, we watched Bridesmaids because we found the DvD for it in his house while I was cleaning up the living room. He fell asleep while we were watching it, it was an okay movie.

IHOP syrups (left to right): old fashioned, butter pecan, blueberry, and strawberry. YUMS!

A Little Exploring Fun (12/1/14)

I woke up rather late this morning, unsure of what I wanted for breakfast. I had spotted an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) restaurant yesterday, and I had said I wanted to go at some point, if possible. So, my friend took me on a little walk to the IHOP nearby and had breakfast. It was SOOOO delicious – as always. My how I’ve missed IHOP. I’m glad they have it here in Texas, since my IHOP date in California had cancelled on me the night before we were supposed to go.

Texas Tech and some of its sculptures.

Anyhow, after stuffing myself like a little piggy that I am, we took a walk around the Texas Tech University campus for the first time. My friend showed me some of the cool sculptures on campus and things like that. It was pretty fun. Although, I must say: the buildings on this campus are rather drab looking, with sand-colored walls and clay-colored roof tiles. There’s nothing really all that noticeable besides the art sculptures on the campus. Though, I have to admit, some of the sculptures were pretty fascinating.

My friend has 36 ties and 2 clip-on ties!

So, I hadn’t gotten out of the house much other than the little that I did when my friend’s friends drove us out and such the past few days of my stay in Texas. During the days, I had been cleaning his one-bedroom apartment. It was surprisingly fun and today I finally reached what I’d consider a “liveable” condition. There’s still a little more to do, but it’s pretty good. I’m proud of myself.

“Panoramic” Pictures of Texas Tech:

The front of one of the alumni centres with a giant class ring in front of it.

A ranch scene sculpture garden with lots of bulls and a cowboy.

Turning Over a New Page

The view from our hike.

Reviewing the Year (30/12/13)

When the year is coming to an end, it’s always nice to reflect on what has happened in the past year. That’s what I did today. My friend invited me out hiking, so she picked me up and we found a random place to go hiking. It was an hour and a fifteen minute hike and talk. It was lovely to see her again andt o just exchange thoughts and reflect on our lives as we know it now. Just to think together, a friendly mental bantering if you will.

Yum yum. In-n-Out at the park!

Afterwards, we got me some In-N-Out, what most people “have to try” when they come to Southern California. I’m not THAT big of a fan and I haven’t craved it since I left California, but why not. We ate at a park near where I was staying and had a wonderful time just talking somewhere. It’s so refreshing – and I feel so lucky – to have a girlfriend I can talk to about my life, who will just listen and not judge. Not to mention, it’s lovely to watch someone growth at the same speed as you are, someone to grow with you. I think for the first time in my life, I’ve suddenly realized that I’m lucky to have the friends I have.

The host’s cat in the funky “disco” lights.

New Year’s with Strangers (31/12/13)

For New Year’s Eve, I embarked on an adventure I did not expect. I was invited by one of my friends to go to a party which his friend was hosting. My friend was going to come late due to a work shift, so his friend would pick me up. It was quite fun helping them set up and then indulging in the party. The host’s grand made SUCH delicious pasta for us all and I got addicted to some vanilla-covered gourmet almonds. It was too good. We also went crazy with glow sticks and there was a disco-light bulb thing that was pretty sweet. When the new year began, we all went outside and played with some fireworks someone had brought. I think the most fun was the firecracker that goes off in water, especially since the host allowed us to throw it into his pool. Then, there were the “Roman candles”. Those were pretty interesting too. All in all, a great start to the new year.

The First Day: Learning to Relax (1/1/14)

My first full day of the new year, what did I do, sleep and watch movies. I watched Snow White and the Huntsman for the first time. It was a great storyline, but Kristen Stewart is SOOOO boring to watch. She seems to lack expression on her face. Then, I re-watched Oz the Great and Powerful, one of my favorite movies from this last year. Loved it.

A New Start: A New Perspective (2/1/14)

I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t feeling too happy today, so I messaged my “twin” early in the morning and had him take me to one of my favorite places to just clear my mind: the Diamond Bar Centre. Atop a high hill, overlooking many cities with their lights in combination of the rolling hills of the area. Something about this place always makes me feel relaxed and more at peace with my life, something I’ve been needing for the longest time.

For lunch, I got to go have ramen at Shin Sen Gumi with my mechanic. He’s a great friend to just talk to and listen to advice from. I’m indeed lucky to have the friends I have, despite how we meet and what different stages of life we’re in.

Atomic Swing: A World within a World (3/1/14)

My friend cancelled on me because she’s sick, so my host mom offered me to use her car. I took a drive to the Brea Mall and just spent a day by myself shopping for things and just looking around. It was fun as always.

Tonight was the best night of all the nights I’ve spent in Southern California thus far. One of my friends and I had been planning to go swing dancing, but things hadn’t worked out the past few times, especially since I have limited access to a car and she lives rather far from me. Today, it worked out and we ended up going to Atomic ballroom in Irvine where I met one of my old friends from swing dancing at UC Irvine and two new guy friends, who were rather charming dancers.

I also go to see my 4th grade classmate, whom I’ve known to be part of the swing dancing scene for a while now. It’s always a pleasure to see him because he’ll always offer me a dance and he’s a very good lead. I always look forward to seeing him whenever I go out and dancing with him even though I know nothing about him. Then, later in the night, I got a chance to do a sample blues dancing class. I think I like it. The most interesting part of the night, for sure, was meeting a guy from middle school. I hadn’t seen him since I moved schools in 2004, but I had previously added him on Facebook a few years later when I was in college. I was quite surprised to see him there and that he still recognized me. Too bad I didn’t get a dance in with him.

French presses and tea packets at World of Disney in Downtown Disney, Anaheim.

Who I Am (5/1/14)

I always look for who I am, but deep down, I think I’m still the same person I’ve been fundamentally all along. I’m still the same person I remember myself to be when I was in elementary school:

  • A giver. I messaged a friend and dragged her to Downtown Disney with me so I could find the perfect gift for my lovely Italian flatmate. I’m not sure if it was worth the drive, but it was definitely fun to go and look for a present. I’ve always loved giving people presents if I think they matter to me. It’s rare that I give them something without asking for what they like first though. Oh well. It’s worth a shot I guess.
  • A mentee. My 4th grade teacher invited me to her house for dinner. Things didn’t go as planned, but we ended up having dinner together just the two of us at Macaroni Grill. It was quite pleasant. I’ve always looked up to her and admired her creativity and enthusiasm to connect with and understand her students, especially me of course. We got to sit down and talk about what’s been going on with me and she gave me her perspectives and opinions about what she thought. I’m glad she’s been so supportive of me and my achievements the past few years since I’ve reconnected with her. I feel like to an extent she is the mother I’ve never had.

    The logo of the Eleven nightclub in West Hollywood.

  • A child. My friend invited me out to West Hollywood. I agreed to go. It started with my host mom getting all excited about it and offering me various outfits she had in her closet that I could wear. Then, she had fun curling my hair and talking about life with me. It was quite interesting to bond with my host mom in such a manner, especially considering how we know each other.Then, my friend picked me up and we met up with her best friend and one of her brothers before we headed out. In West Hollywood, we went into THE gay bar there – after hunting down her other brother and her beau at the moment. It was a club, as usual. I’m not much a of a club-type, but I am quite the wallflower. I always feel lucky that her oldest brother, is always trying to make sure I enjoy myself and offered to go with me to sit at a new perch or ask if I’m doing alright.

    When the club was closing up at 2am, we got to stay inside because her brother was friends with one of the managers of the place. The guys helped out a bit and the girls sat and chatted up the hot, straight bartender with blue-green eyes and the other waiters of the place. It was quite fun. Me: I bounced on the chairs and played in the go-go cage they had. It was a great night.

Christmas Week: The Visit Home

My Aer Lingus dinner (top) and breakfast/brunch (bottom)

The Longest Christmas Eve (24/12/13)

Time to go back to California. Calling it home feels like a long stretch now. I feel so comfortable (though cold) in Dublin. I left the house at 10am with my Brazilian friend to catch my 1pm flight. We arrived at the airport around 11:45am after I napped a lot on the ride there. Thank goodness I got there when I did, my boarding ticket said that gates closed at 11:15am. Naturally, being me I flipped out.

I had to go through the normal baggage check thing, THEN US Pre-clearance/TSA clearance, then EU clearance. So I had my stuff (and myself) scanned twice, plus my passport stamped and my US customs statement thing filled out and turned in. I was surprised it actually took an hour. Thus, I made it to my gate right when they were boarding onto the airplane.

The plane right was long, as usual. It was sort of strange the way meals were served this time. After about two hours on the flight, we were served dinner at about 3pm Dublin time. Then, we had breakfast/brunch about 4 hours later. The meals were pretty delicious though, and I got a pretty awesome, normal Irish tea to go with it, as it was Aer Lingus. I watched a bunch of movies and shows during my stay on the plane. I watched Horton Hears a Who for the first time (boy did it get awkward when they did an “anime” scene), Father Ted: A Christmassy Ted, Big Bang Theory: The Santa Simulation, a random episode of Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Glee and a tad of the Game of Thrones.

We landed in Chicago O’Hare 20 min late, as we left Dublin 20 minutes late. It was terrible because I had to run from the international terminal (5) to domestic terminal 1. I literally RAN. Essentially, I had to exit Terminal 5, take the tram from one end of the airport to the other, enter Terminal 1, go through TSA clearance AGAIN. But it was fine, I made it with a little fascination to the sunny, but snow-covered Chicago. From O’Hare, I traveled to LAX with two very pleasant Kuwaitis, a brother and a sister. They were traveling to Hollywood for the holidays, after studying on the East Coast for the past semester. I ended up talking to the brother, who was sitting next to me, for about 2-3 hours. I only slept for 1 hour total. I’d say it was the most pleasant flight I’ve ever had so far.

Upon arriving at LAX, I waited forever for my luggage. It turns out that my luggage didn’t make it onto my flight, instead it came on a flight 1 hr later. Thankfully O’Hare and LAX are rather large airports, so flights are constantly going between the two.

One of my lovely college friends picked me up. My first meal back: pad Thai at Banana Bay @ 10:30pm. This is how I know I truly am Asian.

The lovely place I spent my Christmas day.

Feliz Navidad (25/12/13)

Christmas was interesting, as always. This year, I spent it with my friend’s friend’s family. Essentially, I spent Christmas with a family of strangers who were kind enough to take me and my friend in. They turned on a channel that was running a 24-hour showing of A Christmas Story. So I watched a good portion – if not all of it – for the first time in my life. Then, dinner was delicious, followed by a visit to their home bar located in the garage where the father served us his homemade limoncella. It was DELICIOUS, though I didn’t have much of it. Also, they were drinking Newcastle Werewolf, which I’ve never seen before. It was a pretty darn good Christmas.

Looking for Dublin Comfort (27/12/13)

Three days back in California and I already miss Dublin. Not only is it terribly “hot” but, Southern California sucks. Yes, I’m crazy. The weather never changes, it’s ALWAYS sunny and the sky is ALWAYS blue. Not to mention, I can’t get anywhere without a car. But at least I’m staying with someone who lives across from a park, so I get to get my workout on!

Medieval Times: The battle (top left), the knights (top right), the dinnerware (bottom left) and the ‘squires’ (bottom right).

Medieval Times (28/12/13)

Cravings fulfilled. Sure, Southern California – or California in general – is well-known for the Inn-n-Out Burger chain, at least in that States. But nope, that’s not what I was craving, instead I was craving another burger place called The Habit. Today, I got what I wanted. Perfect!

Later on that night, I revisited my favorite memory from this past year. I went to Medieval Time with my photographer friend. It was great fun with the horse show and eating some delicious food with your hands. The knight we got to cheer for, the yellow knight, was actually sort of cute. I think the strangest thing was that there was an Asian knight and a black knight. But then again, I guess that’s more probable in Southern California than anywhere else due to our high diversity in cultures.

Misc picture:

Pocky truck handing out free Pocky spotted in the shopping plaza next to Downtown Brea. Yumz!