Fun things in February

February – the rebellious month that chooses to have 28 days instead of 30 or 31 days. Go, February! You should be admired for your bravery in going against the social norm!

Here are some interesting things from this month:

Washing the dishes – Sometimes, I’m annoyed. Sometimes, I understand that it’s important that I do some giving from the “give and take” phrase. At the end of the day, I always decide that feeling good about washing the dishes is way more important than anything else. Extrinsic vs. intrinsic factors, and intrinsic wins most of the time. At least I spend more time away from the computer, right?

Pumping the gas – I feel amazing. I feel that this has been a very big step for me into ‘adulthood’ (a very different opinion of being adult, I know). I mean, what could be more amazing than standing beside gas pumps like all the other old dudes and middle-aged women?

Answering a question… and getting it wrong – I was so convinced that I was right that I put up my hand and answered a question. College in an American town can be quite intimidating, especially when your accent sticks out. Anyway, I’m proud even if I got it wrong because at least I tried…?

Hoarding almond cookies – Lunar New Year away from home is strange. It’s the best time to gain weight and laugh it away (I’m joking). Cookies aren’t even a big thing here, so you can imagine what happened when we saw some at the local Asian supermarket. And somehow we’re always the youngest people who are actually really doing grocery shopping at the store because the young children are always running around and the teens are always trying to look cool (heads up, not helping your parents is not cool).

CHEMISTRY – Yet again, we have taken our love for Japanese culture to another step. (read more here). It’s dramatic, but I’ve never felt this way about singers in a long time. It’s like their music can do no wrong. Every song we stumble upon is effortlessly beautiful. Their voices compliment each other’s so well, and they sound really impressive when they hit high notes. They are on hiatus right now (cries) because both of them have decided to pursue their own singing careers. I don’t really mind Dochin’s (The Unfading Dream We Have is so good, so raw and beautiful) or Kaname’s (Starship is my jam, yo) music, but I wouldn’t spend a single cent on their albums. If When they get back together as a duo, however, I’d be skipping meals to save up (okay, not that extreme, but you get what I mean).

Collecting our speakers – We braved the cold in our shorts to get the speakers we have been waiting for. When ‘old man’ speakers arrived, we were really impressed by the sound quality despite reviews by young people which claimed that there was little to no bass. ‘Old man’, because the reviews that said the speakers were beyond awesome were written by “Ages: 65 and older”. “It’s a good deal!!” is all I can tell you.

Inspiration/Motivation – (a) I struggle with art more than anything these days. It’s difficult, constantly staring and erasing my pencil lines. My tugging heartstrings continue to encourage me to attain the skills to draw whatever I want. But I think I’ll be taking a break from art for a while. (b) Congratulations, I like to try to do a lot of things at once, so I have added ‘guitars’ to my list. I was struck with temporary inspiration that day… Whether I sustain that interest is another story.

I should’ve named this post “accomplishments” or something… Oh well. February was filled with pleasant and fun things that I can’t seem to think of when I sit down to write a post.

Happy 28th of February! It’s time to get organized for March!

Mid-week music interlude: Chemistry, Chemistry and Chemistry

Hello friends, it’s that time again. When we find a song we like and write about it. I believe the last music post was Monkey Majik’s Gravity which was over a year ago.

What brings us to this post then? Chemistry. Not the science subject. The band. GOOD STUFF. Trust me, it’s hard enough trying to look them up without including the word ‘band’ at the end of the word ‘Chemistry’. They are a R&B/pop Japanese band and I honestly never thought one day I would like R&B this much. I also never thought I would ever type the words ‘R&B’ and ‘Japanese band’ in the same line.

But there you have it. (Mom, don’t flip out at their picture.)

chemistry2

Dochin; Kaname

The band consists of Yoshikuni Dochin and Kawabata Kaname. They can sing. I won’t lie; we looked up their concert video once to see if they could sing live as well as the album tracks and they are the real deal. Brb I’m crying because their voices are beautiful.

Initially we couldn’t tell their voices apart and we thought only one of them sang while the other played an instrument. Nope, both of them sing and now that we’ve listened to their songs about, oh I don’t know, a thousand times, it’s obvious whose voice is whose.

We only had 5 of their songs before this: Life Goes On (side K and side D), This Night, Ai No Wa (ugh, favorite), Period, and Brand New Season, and all of them are EXCELLENT.

The story about how we came to listen to a ton of Chemistry songs goes like this: one day I said, we need to find new music to listen to because we were beginning to get into one of those music ruts. Then on a separate occasion, we were talking about the Life Goes On dance video that I found long ago which I found amusing.

Also, the story behind how we discovered the band Chemistry in the first place: we watched Antique Bakery (laugh-out-loud and actually interesting show, please check it out) and the opening theme was Life Goes On (side K) and the ending theme was an instrumental Life Goes On. The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway my sister loaded said video:

And subsequently, we enjoyed it so much that we went to look up more songs by Chemistry. We loaded their 2010 Regeneration Tour and the rest, again, is history. What a treasure trove of good songs we stumbled upon.

I don’t know how many times we’ve watched their concert video but rest assured, we’re this close to learning their dance moves. I kid about the dance moves but not about the repeats. I also oddly do not mind their strange outfits and think Dochin’s gold pants are fancy. Brb laughing to myself.

Some of our favorites we found from their 2010 concert include: Go Alone, Yoake Dawn, Crossing, Floatin’, Once Again, Superstar, Here I Am.

Then we found this gem and the number of repeats has gone off the charts. They collaborated with a dance group called Synergy and produced a few good songs coupled with some pretty good dancing. Here you go:

Chemistry – Shawty repeat count so far? I lost count but if the repeat counter is correct, we’ve listened to it over 100 times in just 3 days. That count is probably inaccurate since those 100 times were on my sister’s computer. LOL I think at least 200 views alone on Youtube have been from us.

It might be just me but the word shawty sounds quite weird coming from them. I don’t care. We love it so much.

This Night – Chemistry

Have a winter version of Aishisugite.

Other favorites we’ve found: Merry Go Round, Aishisugite (which means I love you too much and has such a wonderful piano intro), Kimi no Kisu, A Better Tomorrow, Move On and Together (such a fun song that makes us dance). The acoustics are amazing but they don’t have too many of those on Youtube so no video here boo :(

We’re embarrassing. We’ve been dancing (us, dancing, what?) and karaoke-ing. A. LOT. Like nobody’s business. Those who do not want to karaoke with us are not allowed. Possibly the only apartment playing Japanese music… Hmm… This post is surprisingly mild even though I’m doing internal star jumps and cheesy dance moves because I LOVE their music.

Sadly, the band has gone hiatus and it’s hard to say when they’ll be back since they seem to be quite happy doing their own solo projects. :'( STOP IT, COME BACK! We’re not thrilled about their solo albums but after being together for 10 years, I suppose a break will do them good?

If they ever get back together, you know we’re going to be at their concert. At the same time, we’ll go seek out Fukuyama Jun and take a selfie with him. My inner lovestruck teenager wants to squeal and draw hearts around his name. Ahem, nothing.

My sister wants to make it clear that she absolutely loves Chemistry. And so do I.

And then I realized that this post is WAY too mild and doesn’t manage to express my delight and joy towards Chemistry so have this: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE CHEMISTRY SO MUCH AHDJASKLFJSLF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WANNA GO TO THEIR CONCERT RIGHT NOW!!!!!!! JSDLFJSDLFASDASJDL!!!!!! My true feelings have been conveyed.

Now that this post is out, back to our Chemistry concert. Over and out. Enjoy.

Raine

What I won’t miss about celebrating the Lunar New Year away from home

With Chinese New Year upon us, it is time to do some annual reflection on how I feel about celebrating the Lunar New Year/Chinese New Year (which will be further known as LNY or CNY in this post) away from home. This is our second LNY away from home but I consider it our first since last year in Vancouver, CNY didn’t even really happen for us. Of course living in a bunker might have had something to do with the poor disposition and lack of festive cheer last year. But forget that since we are heading into a new year.

Chinese New Year used to be, dare I say, fun and exciting. It has become generally less so over the past few years. Let’s get to that in a bit. For now, let me point out that Christmas is probably a bigger deal in our family (even though we’re not Christians) than Chinese New Year but that doesn’t mean we celebrate it any less. Well, actually, we don’t gamble or drink or blow firecrackers or wear traditional costumes or buy any of fancy red decor or listen to the, uh, ‘festive’ music but let’s just pretend other people don’t either.

What doesn’t get old about the LNY includes boycotting Chinese restaurants and going to an empty McDonald’s for reunion dinner (we need to get an A+ on our how-Asian-are-you report card), chatting and laughing over said fast food, celebrating the first day by going vegetarian for the day (it’s a tradition in our household for as long as I can remember), lazing around in the house and occasionally sneaking a cookie or two into your mouth while waiting for relatives to show up (usually the first day isn’t that busy), drinking cans upon cans of shandy (which only makes its appearance during the LNY in our household), eating all the cookies and candies meant for guests (just kidding, CNY cookies never end), generally eating a lot of good food without even realizing until CNY is over, and, well, spending time with family.

Because if we’re being honest, the Lunar New Year is all about family and food.

Perhaps the motto of Chinese New Year is Get fat, get rich or get rich, get fat. I might be wrong. Don’t quote me on this.

But like with any other holiday that involves large family gatherings or even small ones (consisting of people you only see once a year or, um, people you didn’t even know were in your family), there are bound to be some moments when you just wish the freaking holidays were over. To quote a store clerk who told us how his Christmas went, “It was good but I’m glad it’s over.”

Yeah, exactly like that.

Which is what brings me to this post that I’m writing one day before midterms (obviously).

Tis the time to think about how glad you’re not home to meet up with your lovely cousins who on a yearly basis seem to somehow forget who you are and have to start over with introductions. They’re the only cousins that I feel we were particularly close to while growing up since we even went on vacations together but somehow none of that seems to stick in their brain since every time we meet, they look at us blankly like, cousins who?

Well, never mind that. As the years have passed and as we’ve each grown up, I’ve come to realize that we are quite different from them and I no longer feel like we have anything in common nor do I feel interested in playing their little amnesia game. We do not dress like tarts (come on, be honest, there are always family members who dress like tarts for the holidays or, well, any day of the year) and we are not interested in band-wagon-ing (trust me, they’ve jumped onto every damned bandwagon that ever existed and though there is nothing wrong with that, it just tells me that they cannot form opinions of their own and just go with what the majority is saying).

But those are just minor things. What gets to me is their level of rudeness – no, not towards us of the same age group – but to older people like my parents and grandparents and other older people. They are just so rude. They’ve always been rude, by the way. SO rude. Thinking about it makes me want to give them a tight slap. If we had been that rude while growing up, you bet we would’ve had to endure an earful from Mom.

As you may or may not know, Chinese families have name rankings (wrong word usage maybe) like second uncle or third aunty or fourth grandniece… things like that. The young respect the old so you call them by the appropriate name, it’s that simple.

Oh, but here we have cousins calling us by our given names. I’m older than all of them lol. We also have these same cousins NOT greeting their elders. They can waltz up alongside their parents to a group of older people and just. stand. there.

You know how in Mulan, her father says she brought shame and dishonor to her family by speaking out against that military dude who came to make announcements in the village? Yes. In Chinese custom, you being rude is a reflection of your upbringing (the way your parents brought you up).

My mom raised us to greet everyone. It doesn’t matter whether these same uncles and aunts have embarrassed you in front of older cousins or whether you’ve seen them before or not, you still have to greet them. If you don’t know what to call them, you just call them ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ but you still greet them. My mom used to prompt us when we were younger… like, ‘This is granduncle, say hello’. Then as we got older, she would tell us before leaving the house, ‘it should be automatic, no need for me to prompt you anymore’ so it has become second nature to know when and how to greet someone older than you.

Lol, you know what, it doesn’t even have to be your real uncle or aunt. I go to a noodle stall and if my grandaunt is familiar with the lady who works there, I still call her ‘aunty’.

So what is my point exactly? My point is, I do not miss seeing these cousins who come to our house every year, give that bitchy attitude  in front of all the older people, and act all hoity-toity/self-important/high-and-mighty/better-than-you-scum because they think they come from a better pond (please, I laugh). They have no respect for themselves and they have no respect for others. I’m sorry, none of your hundred dollar non-existent shorts, designer handbags from Italy, 5000 likes on Instagram, caviar-topped meals, overflowing artistic talent nor academic achievements mean A THING to me because all I can see is how rude and disrespectful you are.

If it hurts you so much to show your face at our home or open your mouth to even just greet your elders, don’t come. Don’t bother. No one needs to see your face when it’s supposed to be about spending time with family.

Oh, did I also forget to mention: come to our house, be rude, look down on others, but have the galls to EAT our cookies and drink our drinks without hesitation. Amazing. Could you stoop any lower? I’ll have to think about this one.

Also, no one needs to have your false non-boasting act. ‘No boasting’, is what my aunt says. Yet at dinner, somehow, it’s ‘accidentally’ let slip that one of them got good grades for their tests.

Another thing that I feel needs to be mentioned about their rudeness and disrespect and generally unacceptable behavior is, you do NOT wear other people’s shoes to run around in, especially if you have the freaking galls to NOT greet them. I just heard a story from my mom who just met up with said cousins and apparently the few youngest ones (ages 6-10, I believe) were running around outside a relative’s house and thought it would be appropriate to wear my mom’s shoes to run around in. Ah, I feel a cuss word – or many – at my fingertips. I’ll refrain.

In any case, it feels good to get this off my chest but at the same time, I sympathize with my mom who has to deal with this crap. Again, I refrain from using a cuss word or two. Stay tuned for part 2. It may or may not happen.

Any holiday stories you would like to share?

And oh yes, Happy Lunar New Year!

Raine

Be like a dustbin with a hole in the bottom

What the heck kind of quote is that, you ask?

It’s actually from one of Ajahn Brahm’s many amazing published books called Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?

Who is this Ajahn Brahm? No, he’s not a Thai poet (that’s the first thing I thought of). He’s a Buddhist monk and a very famous one at that. Okay, maybe famous isn’t the word I should use. Well-known, perhaps. Famous sounds… inappropriate for a monk.

Anyway, Ajahn Brahm is a Buddhist monk (you can read about him here) and we’ve had the privilege of attending two or three of his talks. He is an amazing speaker who has so many wonderful, touching and enlightening stories to tell. I can only hope that I get to attend more of his talks. If you do attend one of his talks, look out for the person bawling her eyes out at his stories… That would be me. Also, if you like, you can listen to some of his talks on Youtube or download them from this site.

At the latest talk we went to a few months (or has it been a year) back, it was revealed that he had released a new book – entitled Good? Bad? Who knows? – and it was being sold outside the hall but if I remember correctly, the reason why we didn’t get his book then was because 1) the lines were really long or 2) it would have been sold out by the time we joined the queue.

Which is why we said that when we got here, we would order it from Amazon. My sister recently brought this topic up at dinner and I was like, oh that’s right, we meant to do that. It was also around that time when I re-discovered Thich Nhat Hanh – another Buddhist monk whose book A Pebble for Your Pocket is one of my favorite books that I read while growing up – and began to look up more of his books.

You’d really like to know how much time I spent browsing all the Buddhist books, wouldn’t you? I was so tempted to get them all BUT…

As a surprise (and I’ll just admit that I’m bad at keeping surprises) and after going through the list of books over and over again, I ordered Ajahn Brahm’s Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? and Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Communicating.

I bought Ajahn Brahm’s book as a gift for my mom and sister. Often times, with things (aka life)  happening so quickly or coming down at you, it’s so hard to remember to be positive or understanding or less judgmental/temperamental. Which is why I thought it would be a good idea to get these books.

I wrote a bunch of stuff but deleted it because felt like it was getting off-topic so let me try to direct this post to the main point I was getting to.

Before my mom went home, I decided to browse through Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? and I stumbled upon this page that spoke volumes to me. I had a sudden aha! moment, an epiphany if you will. It was like Ajahn Brahm had written that page just for me.

Before I tell you what I read, I’ll tell you the thing that has been bugging me for quite a while now. I had an empathy burnout. Or at least I believed that I did. I was so tired from giving my all to everyone that I felt empty and weary. I ran out of consoling things to say, I started to lose my patience quickly, I didn’t want to listen to people’s problems anymore, I began to wonder if my heart had gone cold. I actually read that people can have empathy burnouts where they are drained and need to have time to themselves to recharge.

But that didn’t happen. I waited for my empathy to be recharged so that I could continue giving my all and doing my best for everyone around me. I HATED being ‘cold’. I used to pride myself on having empathy. I wanted so bad for things to go back to the way they were – when I could listen to people’s problems, cry with them, laugh with them, console them, lift their spirits, be their rock. But it didn’t happen. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or what I was supposed to do.

I continued questioning my ‘coldness’ until I read that one page in Ajahn Brahm’s book. I actually have two quotes from the book even though the title of this post only has one.

The first reads:

To help a person out of a pit, I must sometimes enter the pit myself to reach for their hand – but I always remember to bring the ladder – Ajahn Brahm

I was SO moved by this line because I remember drawing a small comic of myself helping people out of the pit but inadvertently falling in as well. I was mildly depressed when I drew that comic. I was overwhelmed by my emotions, by other people’s emotions, by my helplessness, by my empathy burnout.

I forgot to bring the ladder! I didn’t know I needed one!

But it makes sense to me now.

The other excerpt from the page read:

He* told us to be like a dustbin with a hole in the bottom! We were to receive all the rubbish but to keep none. Therefore an effective friend, or counselor, is like a dustbin with no bottom, and is never too full to listen to another problem. – Ajahn Brahm

Then I understood. I know it sounds dramatic but it was like someone had struck a match inside a dark and damp cave.

I’ve been receiving AND keeping. That was is my problem. I let people’s problems pile on and on and on until the load on my shoulders feels unbearable. My bin is full. I didn’t open the bottom lid (if you have a Hoover vacuum, you probably know what I’m talking about) to empty the trash. I need to let go of all the old baggage that is weighing me down.

If you’re thinking that by being a bin with no bottom means listening but not giving a shit about people’s problems, that’s really not what it means. As Thich Nhat Hanh put it so simply, if we learn to understand someone else’s and our own suffering, compassion arises. With compassion, we can be bottomless bins. To me, it means that you help with what you can and after that, you don’t let it weigh you down or keep you from moving forwards.

People don’t change overnight so it’s taking me time and effort to remember these two pieces of advice and practice it.

But I get it now and just thought I would share it with anyone who is going through the same thing as myself.

I would also like to offer my own piece of advice: if you’re in that pit, don’t forget to look up. Sometimes you may be so caught up in your own despair that you might not even notice that there may be people stretching their hands out to you to help you out. My mom and sister have been here for me and for that, I’m grateful.

P.S: You don’t have to be Buddhist to listen to Ajahn Brahm’s talks. They are for everybody and anybody.

* the ‘he’ in Ajahn Brahm’s quote refers to Ajahn Chah who was another incredibly wise monk and Ajahn Brahm’s master.

Raine

Are you actually enough?

Ah, I think to myself, you did well today. You got up early, made early Twitter conversation with old friends, watched the K Season 3 preview trailer (cue deafening cheering and confetti showers and champagne popping), made lunch for both of you, you’ve got dinner all planned out, you remembered to pack all your lab stuff, and left the house early to get to school on time.

You did well. You found a lovely parking spot on campus but out of concern for the bouncing truck parked diagonally in front of you, you got back into the car and backed into a parking further from that hazard of a truck.

You were attentive in class, took your notes diligently without feeling bored or annoyed like in yesterday’s class, you didn’t do too bad in today’s lab, you got along fine with your group members and you’re beginning to think that they would make decent friends. You even found out that a group member has a textbook you need and is willing to lend it to you, thus saving you potential textbook money.

You found a lovely table in the library (even if it was further than your usual spot), you were fairly productive during the two-hour break in the library…

Well, except for the little bit of news that you heard from your friend who shared the table with you.

“X is taking 21 units!” she told you.

“Wait, no, I thought she’s taking 17…”

“No, 21. That’s crazy.”

And suddenly you felt like someone wrung a wet towel down your neck because you’re only taking 15 units. You suddenly felt useless and started putting yourself down and telling yourself that you suck and aren’t doing enough and why the heck didn’t you take 21 units.

But you managed to put that aside after that and forgot about it in your haste to get to your next class where you learned fascinating things about triceratops. You left class, feeling refreshed and more knowledgeable about paleoecology.

You did well, I tell myself. You spent the next hour studying for your midterms which is rare since you usually don’t start studying this early. You wanted to put the book away and listen to music instead but you used that time to finish off an entire chapter.

For the first time in a long time, I was actually feeling good about myself. As someone who struggles with self-esteem and involuntarily compares myself to others, I find it hard to pat myself on the back and say, well done today. I struggle with telling myself, You’re doing enough, you’re enough.

Not today. Today I had a skip in my step… until I came home and heard a little story.

“So-and-so’s daughter is younger than you, works 7 days a week even though her parents are effing loaded, is going to study abroad at some top university, and her parents even bought her a house there. Oh yeah, she’s also going to makeup school so that she can get a certificate that she can add to her undoubtedly flawless resume that just screams HIRE ME I’M PRACTICALLY PERFECT.”

Oh. Wow.

Great.

That is great. That feeling of accomplishment went right out the door faster than I could say OI!

The thing I really don’t need to hear is stories about how accomplished other people’s children are.

But wait, don’t you want to hear what they’ve done in the 19 years of their life so far?

They can play 400 instruments including 45 variants of the guitar, the number of As they have on their report card can wrap around the Earth three times, they play 75 types of sports and are on their way to become pro golfers that earn 7 figures, they write children’s stories and literature that Enid Blyton and Shakespeare could only wish they wrote in their lifetime, they graduated from Ivy League universities and have 3 PhDs in some unknown but lucrative field, they have full scholarships even though their parents practically have cash flowing from their ears, they are corporate CEOs by day and Youtube celebs by night, they can tame tigers and do somersaults on horseback, they can cook blindfolded…

And what exactly did you do?

Oh, you made breakfast, lunch, AND dinner for yourself and your sister? You studied for midterms and didn’t screw up in lab today? What, you think that’s worthy of a mention in every day conversation?

This is an Asian parent thing. Not all, but most. I know because I grew up experiencing both sides of parenting: the Asian and the non-Asian.

Can you tell why my self-esteem hasn’t made much of an appearance in my life?

I’ve been told that this method of comparing your child to other people’s children is some kind of reverse psychology that is actually supposed to motivate you to do better.

It. doesn’t. work.

What it does is kill your self-esteem and self-worth in the long run. If it doesn’t kill yours, congratulations, you are made of steel.

Can you tell why I always feel inadequate, like I’m not doing enough, like I should be doing more, like I should be taking on the world?

It sucks. It really sucks to have to hear these kinds of things. Someone’s always waaay more accomplished than you while your measly dean’s list accomplishment can just vanish beneath their endless pile of glorious achievements.

Can I not just be a normal college student who is trying to do her best in her studies and especially when she’s miles away from home?

All I need at the end of the day when I feel like I’ve done well is a small, ‘I’m proud of you’ or just the teeniest tiniest ‘good job’? Even a smiley face would suffice.

That’d be nice. That’d be more than enough.

Which is why I get choked up when I check my messages and find a ‘you’re doing great, I’m so proud of you’ sent to me.

Which is why I want to tell you, whoever you are, if you’re feeling like worthless crap today or tomorrow, you’re doing enough. You don’t have to do everything to feel like you’re enough.

P.S: I’m not saying that only one parent has been supportive of me. I get encouragement from both.

Double P.S: When I told my sister how inadequate I felt about not taking 21 units like X, she told me with all the wisdom of a younger sister that I love and am so grateful for: So? She lives on campus; she doesn’t have to cook, clean, drive, take care of rental or bills, etc. Don’t compare yourself to her. And that’s the truth.

Raine

From big city to small town

I’m a city person through and through or at least that’s what I like to believe about myself. I was born and raised in a big city with a population of at least 2 million people (not counting the people in the outskirts and areas that we didn’t frequent; it adds up to almost 5 million, I believe) so of course when I heard people telling me that my current city in California has A LOT of people, I had look up the population size.

I mean, the lady at the school office even said, “Our population has doubled over the last few decades!!”

600,000.

600,000 people. That’s… not a lot.

And that’s how I went from big city girl to small city girl. Well, they call it a city here but I could point out a few things that are missing a few city-like qualities.

Here are just a few things on how the city I grew up in and my current city are different:

1. Lack of tall buildings. I swear the ‘tallest’ building on campus is 4-stories high and even then nobody gets to go to the 4th floor. Unless you’re downtown, don’t expect to see a building taller than 4 stories. Even then, downtown has about 8-10 tall buildings and that’s about it. That’s weird.

2. So-called malls. Asians LOVE their malls. If you’ve ever been to Asia, you’ll know what I mean. If not, just Google and see for yourself. Our malls are huge, multi-story (including parking), bright (mostly), busy, and sooooo good. We have EVERYTHING in a single mall – department stores, bookstores, food and beverage stores, supermarkets, clothing stores (from designer goods all the way down to regular old clothes stores), electronics stores, entertainment centers (batting cages, art centers, karaokes…), pharmacies, post offices, everything really.

Here the malls are, well, lacking in all areas. You have Macys, JC Penneys, maybe a Forever 21, a food court and small dingy stores (The Body Shop is always somehow well-lit and inviting). There’s nothing to do. Back home, we’re always at the malls because 1) food variety, 2) grocery shopping (which is all we ever do anyway), 3) free air-conditioning (except when the mall ‘forgets’ to turn it on or during public holidays when it’s impossibly crowded), 4) window-shopping, 5) one-stop-shop for things like pet food, a haircut, paying phone bills, and the occasional glasses cleaning. Okay, you know what, scratch that. Everyone is always at the malls. It’s a big city but you’ll always find a familiar face at the mall, especially during the weekends.

3. The lines or lack thereof. I’ve seen complaints online about walk-in appointments at the DMV taking 2 hours for their number to be called. The other day, we were waiting in line for tickets to a school event and the line was roughly 60-80 people long and people were complaining about it being long. We’re standing there like, people, you ain’t see long lines or long wait times before.

True story: I waited at least 5 hours for my turn for the driving test back home. Do we like long lines? Hell no. Do we have to bear with them? Unfortunately. Heh, I think these ‘lines’ here might actually spoil me.

I mean, come on, what is there to complain about when the seemingly endless lines at Costco keep moving??? Costco’s efficiency and shipping speed are deeply commendable by the way.

Patience is a virtue.

4. Traffic or lack thereof. People drive like maniacs here and I’m like, WHY? It’s a small town. Everything is either around the corner or an uncrowded highway away. Back home, we sit in traffic jams for at least a good hour more often than I care to count and don’t even ask how long it takes to get home from downtown if you’re out on a weekend night. Here, the most ‘jammed’ it’s been on the road maybe set us back on our schedule about 10-15 minutes.

Y’all need to live in the city to get a taste of traffic. Closest I can think of is LA. LA traffic is c.r.a.z.e.e. Disneyland was so near yet so far that time we went. Read: we sat in traffic for almost 3 hours.

As a sub-topic to traffic, I would like to mention that parking isn’t a problem here (very un-city like). Even at the most crowded times, there will be at least a couple of people coming out of their parking spots so you CAN find parking. Back home, don’t even think about getting a parking space in the city on weekdays without circling at least five rounds. Haven’t left for the malls by 10am? Don’t even think about gliding in and finding parking. This is where you insert the laughing-crying emoticon because you might just end up circling the parking lot for an hour and finally getting fed up and going home instead. AFTER paying for your (virtually unused) parking ticket, of course.

5. Nature. Back home, you can have but one question: what is nature? It’s a concrete jungle out there and its inhabitants mostly get from one place to another in contraptions that release toxic fumes. I mean, the closest bit of nature that we ever came in contact with that I can think of is the bird park. Haha, yeah. We were surrounded by trees, flowers and beautiful birds for the first time in our lives. Okay, it’s not as bad as it sounds; there are trees and stuff but not nearly as abundant as here in California.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a rant about how the big city is better than a small city. I’m just observing the differences since our move.

Do I prefer the big city or small city?

Who knows?! Pros and cons. I guess that’s the thing with living in a new place. You find things you like and some dislikes and it becomes hard to say which you prefer.

There is one thing I am quite sure of: I don’t think country living is for me. Far away from civilization? Uhhh, maybe not a good idea for someone who grew up surrounded by city noise, general busyness and skyscrapers. I know people who have gone from big city living to country/farm life and I salute them but the thought of it doesn’t appeal to me.

You? Do you live in a big city with hellish traffic and busy jaded folks and bad drivers? Or do you live in a comfortable-sized city/suburb where everything is convenient and somewhat more easygoing than city life? Or neither?!

Which do you prefer? I’m always interested to know people’s takes on things like these.

 

Raine

February things: what I have learned this week

1. A queen-sized bed is too big for one person. I left the pillows and blankets on the other side just because it feels empty without someone sleeping there.

2. Being a full-time student AND housekeeping is not easy. We haven’t lived on our own before so this whole juggling act – going to school, getting places (aka driving), grocery-shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, managing the bills, taking care of other itty bitty things that apparently can pile up quite high – is new to us. It’s only been a week and I’m already feeling exhausted and the best/worst part is, I don’t feel like I did that much compared to what I’m used to seeing other people do. We’ve been hitting the hay before 10pm lately so you can only imagine how tired we are.

3. I’m getting better at perpendicular parking. People here do it like it’s second nature. I still have to back out to adjust now and then but sometimes I get it just right and then I get really happy and do a little victory cheer.

4. I don’t have to wake up at 5:45 for an 8am class. When I was in elementary/high school, I would wake up an hour before school started but I could almost always get ready in 15-20 minutes. Now, I laugh. I used to think that I could carry on getting ready in 15-20 minutes – and I usually always end up waiting for everyone else because they’re slow (I did mention that I have a Type A personality, right?) – but now I need at least 45 minutes in the morning.

WHY? Well, 1) bathroom time takes at least 15-25 minutes including makeup time (even then I try slapping it on as fast as I can), 2) breakfast now consists of oats (which I never used to eat because eww oats) so that takes 5 minutes, 3) packing my school bag somehow takes 5-10 minutes itself, 4) running around to get miscellaneous items like keys and glasses and watches also takes time, 5) I need to check my school email daily, 6) checking the doors and switches before leaving, 7) that ends up leaving me with little to no time to put on shoes which is why I always end up shoving my feet into my Nikes every single day instead of wearing the sneakers that are just lying prettily inside the closet.

An hour. No kidding. And what’s annoying is that I’m so tired and sleepy in the morning but I still have to get all my things together.

5. I’ll still take cool weather over hot. It’s getting HOT out there!!!!!!!!!

6. Going to college events to kill time and avoid going back to an awkwardly silent house sometimes just isn’t worth it. We went to an event the other day and even though it was mildly entertaining, it felt like a waste of time. I could be, like, at home…….. Never mind, it might just be me. I would rather go home than wait around and attend something that isn’t even mandatory.

Oh, did you want to hear about us wasting 50 minutes waiting for an event then deciding at the last minute that the 2-hour wait for it to start just wasn’t worth it? The sky was also getting dark and the weather forecast said: 30% chance of rain so I said what the hell we are going home. I came home, majorly annoyed that I spent 50 minutes waiting around like an idiot on campus.

Socializing alright.

7. Music can only be looped for a certain number of times before you get sick and tired of your playlist. We keep playing music just to have some background noise but we’re so picky that we keep skipping songs and listening to the same few that, well, become quite tiring.

8. Slowing down is not easy. I find myself rushing and panicking when I think that we’re going to be late and there won’t be any parking space. I also find myself thinking ahead of things that need to be done, feeling sickeningly overwhelmed by what seems like a billion things to do, and end up feeling rushed (is this even vocab, I don’t even know anymore) and trying to plan when to do what as soon as possible.

Don’t worry. Midterms are coming up. That’s when I’ll start feeling even more overwhelmed to the point of feeling nauseated.

9. My sister and I get things done. We may not have it all down pat yet and we are still prone to mistakes but that’s all part of learning, right? We finally set up the monitor that was sitting in the corner for over a month (I know, procrastination power at its finest) and now we’re delirious. The screen is huge and we’ve been watching videos on it. Who even needs a TV anyway?! Once we get a set of speakers, we’re set for movie nights that are sure to wake the neighbors (kidding… if they stop making so much noise upstairs).

10. My sister and I also do the weirdest things. We do. Today we bought kimchi and on the way back, one of our mom’s favorite Korean songs happened to come on and we started singing at the top of our lungs. How does that even make sense? I do not know. Uh, never mind. We randomly have Youtube-video-spamming sessions which also means no studying/homework gets done while we’re watching 2-hour-long concert videos. Voice imitations and outbursts of quotes from shows are also frequent. No wonder we think sharing an apartment with other people isn’t for us.

11. Karaoke sessions need to be every other day instead of every day because my throat hurts after 2 hours. I’m lying; we’ve karaoked daily whether for 5 minutes or 2 hours.

12. I’m learning to delegate. The other day we went to pump gas and my sister wanted to put the nozzle into the tank for a change so I let her while I handled the payment process. Afterwards, she put the nozzle back and got the receipt. I got into the car and was disoriented for a full 5 minutes because I’m so used to rushing to do everything on my own. Learn to delegate; you can’t do everything by yourself, as my mom told me. I’m trying. It’s not easy.

13. Pizza is the answer on Sundays. Lots of shops aren’t open/open late on Sunday. Round Table Pizza opens at 11am. That’s where lunch is at. We’re going to try their buffet one of these days…

14. One week has gone by impossibly fast yet incredibly slowly. I don’t understand.

15. You learn something new every day.

Most of all, I learned what it means to have a chunk of your heart thousands of miles away from you.

Raine

More California things… I think

1. PINK everything. No, really, why is Victoria’s Secret Pink wear SO popular here? I swear everyone in school has at least ONE Pink article of clothing be it a Pink bedazzled hoodie or a pair of Pink-emblazoned yoga pants or Pink tank top. I guess people take their VS seriously. I just like their flip flops which went out of production.

vs pink2. Under Armour obsession. Same thing here. UA shirts, UA hoodies, UA bags, UA caps, UA everything. I don’t get it. Explanation please?

underarmour3. Giants everything. Okay, this I kind of get because even before I came here I found myself browsing the Giants merch pages. I’m not a big sports fan but I can appreciate the SF Giants. If people are not wearing Pink or Under Armour stuff, they’re probably wearing something Giants-related. Orange and black… always.

giantskeychain4. Sweatpants and hoodie combo. I’ve read about the typical American’s obsession with sweatpants and hoodies but um, I did not expect it to go this far. Girls show up to school in sweatpants… and it’s acceptable. I thought sweatpants were for lounging at home or going to the gym. Well, apparently sweatpants are the new jeans because people wear them everywhere. To Target, to eat, to school, to fill their gas, to the park, everywhere. Well, I’ll take the sweatpants+hoodie combo over non-existent shorts and cleavage-baring tops that are popular back home (you did not hear this from me). Brb ordering sweatpants.

I get it. I really do.

5. Non-winter. It’s December. It’s 70 degrees outside. It’s January. It’s still almost 70 degrees. It’s February. We’re back to 70 degrees. Um, what? I was right about not needing our Vancouver gear. It’s still hot and sunny in between sprinkles of rain, random cool drafts and occasional grey skies.

cali-sky4

6. Bad drivers. They’re all over the world but they’re all of slightly different breeds. Back home, you have inconsiderate folks who pressure you when you try to park/back out of a parking space, folks who cut into the tiniest gap between you and the car in front of you, folks who shoot out of corners without checking oncoming traffic, douchebag level max, etc. Here: Californians speeding, Californians braking at the last second, Californians tailgating, impatience level max…

Wait, did I forget tailgating?

Side story: while I was test-driving a car on the freeway the other day, the guy told me I wasn’t going fast enough and that I could get a ticket for going too slow. K. HOW is going at 55mph slow? HOW? How??? 65mph is 105km/h. That’s crazy. The speed limit is 65mph. Read: limit. Why do I need to push 65mph?

7. Ranch and mayo. I will never understand covering your meals with excessive amounts of ranch or mayo. I used to think that I ate a lot of mayo.. Now I see how foolish and wrong I was. I eat at least only 1/8 of what people eat here. Just waaay too much dressing.

8-ways-to-ruin-a-healthy-salad1835075941-may-24-2012-600x3998. Sandals and socks combo. Are you seeing a pattern here? Yeah, I notice tons of fashion statements that are different from the ones back home. Apparently it’s totally COOL to wear socks with sandals like the Romans and Japanese. This is a fashion trend we are getting on! We just bought ugly sandals from Daiso to wear out with mismatched socks. Check these out:

socks-and-sandals

Working it

Pg-13-romans

These are the ones more commonly seen around campus. Adidas sandals and white/black socks.

Apparently they are also called slides here. I don’t know, I just call them slippers.

9. In-N-Out. Ah, here we have the number one pride of California. And you know what? I totally get it. I get why the lines – counter AND drive-thru – are so freaking long from the moment they open at 11am. The first time we went, we ordered 3 burgers and 2 fries. The fries, however, are skinny, soggy and quite unimpressive so that was a let-down. But we liked the cheeseburger so much that we went again the following day. The cheeseburger is tasty, Animal Style or not. We have agreed that In-N-Out is better than Five Guys.

cali-innout

Agree or disagree? Did I miss anything?

Raine
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