Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday favorites // 03

ONE // How to make stress your friend

Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet? I was shown this video during my Wellness Issues Seminar at Bryn Mawr College and it has changed my perspective on stress. Of course, it's always preferred to start off on the right foot, so get excited with a back to school party! I've been back at it for three weeks trying to conquer chronic procrastination, but it's been a blur. Perhaps I should take a breather with a DIY like this back to school paint chip calendar.

TWO // Setting up your bar cart

Or ya know, just have a plain ol' party, but by myself, with my own bar so that I can drink all I want without having to share being the introvert that I am. Really, all I need is to tune out with a solo pamper evening and some Netflix. Speaking of which, have you seen the cast of Grey's Anatomy dressed up as Orange is the New Black? Maybe that's a big enough occasion to garner party invites, and also a perfect excuse to try out these tassel garland invitations, which would also be great for dorm deco.

THREE // Take a flask of hot chocolate along on a walk

Autumn is my absolute favorite season. So yeah school's coming up and that sucks but you know what else is coming up? Ugly sweaters and scarves and PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES AND HALLOWEEN AND CUDDLING BECAUSE IT'S COLD AND FALL LEAVES AND HIKING IN THE BRISK AIR AND THEN AFTER THAT SNOW AND HOT COCOA AND MALLS DECORATED FOR HOLIDAYS AND FRICK SCHOOL ALL OF THIS IS WORTH IT WOWIE. The weather in Pennsylvania is unstable, switching between freezing cold and burning hot in a single day, so I'm at a loss as to what to wear. All I want is to layer up! Meanwhile I'll content myself with building forts for cozy mornings like these.

FOUR // Medjool date and vanilla bean cafe au lait de coco

It's hard to find time/energy to get off campus and get fancy beverages or even just a nice cup of coffee, so I've been on withdrawal. I swear that more coffee/tea/fancy drink related posts have been popping up ever since, such as frozen almond spiced chai, cinnamon latte, and chocolate and toasted hazelnut milk. Although Bryn Mawr College is ranked #10 for campus food, it's not enough to sustain me. I miss having my own kitchen, my own oven, to make delicious things I find on the Internet, such as apple pie baked apples and homemade pocky. Or at least give me an Asian mart!

FIVE // Pretending to be Humans of New York

While Humans of New York photographer Brandon has been going on a world tour, a prankster was messing around back in New York. It was all in good fun, and HONY even shared it on his Facebook page, commenting "In case any of you had a strange conversation with 'me' lately.... don't feel bad if you got tricked, not a bad impression, actually!" I love HONY's ability to capture glimpses of people's lives. Tell me your story and I'll give you $1. On a side note, whenever someone asks me how my life is going, I get a strong urge to tell them to go read my blog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The most beautiful discovery that true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart

As an international student, I have had friends come and go, so I inevitably miss people. Now as a high school graduate three weeks into college, I have many more people to miss! My friends and I are dispersed around the world, each of us starting a new chapter of our lives. Whenever homesickness starts feeling unbearable, I'll just remember this quote and be excited about how I'll feel when I finally get to meet them again. (like that amazing feeling you get when you pee after holding it in for awhile...)

All throughout high school I dreamed about the senior trip, because I have never gone on vacation with friends before--I've only ever gone with my family friends or with just my family. I pictured going somewhere exotic like Bali or somewhere dreamy like Paris, so when my friends and I first decided that we should have our senior trip in Hong Kong after considering expenses, itinerary, and where our parents would let us go, I must admit that I was slightly, slightly disappointed. I mean, couldn't our trip at least be outside of China? (Sorry to those people who don't consider Hong Kong to be a part of China, but you kinda know what I'm getting at, right?)

After getting used to the idea of Hong Kong, I started getting really excited. Five whole days and four whole nights with three of my most favorite people in the world! Due to our vague familiarity with the area, we'd be able to figure out public transportation, get around quickly, and have the ability to communicate with locals lest we need directions. Also, Hong Kong has an abundance of food and places to shop--what more do you need?

For reasons I don't quite need to get into, Anny and I caught an early flight to Hong Kong while Courtney and Jolie caught a later one. We were nervous about traveling without Jolie, because she was the person who planned out our trip (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and was the only one who knew her way around Hong Kong (she's Canto). I was extra nervous, because it was my first time traveling without my parents or a school chaperone. However, I had no need to worry, because Jolie texted, Skyped, and WeChat-ed both Anny and me rather descriptive instructions:

Baggage claim, then enter arrivals
Cross the width of the arrival hall (go straight/follow signs) to Airport Express
You will end up in a hallway with glass walls and sloped floors. Go up the steps towards the train.
The train platform has a blue and round ticket counter. There is only one. Get in line and buy a ticket package for 2 persons, approx. 150HKD. Keep the tickets safe.
Take the train towards HONG KONG (as in Hong Kong Island). Do NOT take the train to Asia WorldExpo, that is the opposite direction.
Enjoy. The ride takes approx. 30 min. Hong Kong is the last stop. There are cool graphics on the wall to show the progress and everything. When you get off, you will end up directly in the basement of IFC (the HQ!). Swipe your ticket to get out.
Follow signs to taxi stop. You should not have to go up and down escalators, it should be on the same floor. Again, signs are helpful. Also, ppl speak Eng and Mandarin, so no worries.
There may or may not be a line for taxis. Here is hotel address: 上环宜必思酒店。德辅导西28号。
Talk to the concierge and say that you guys will be checking in later at around 6 and want to just leave luggage with concierge.
You made it!! Take a taxi back to IFC but use Chinese (国际金融中心). Hang out and chill until we get there. There is sushi somewhere, and also froyo next to the supermarket, and the movie theater is across Zara (watch Maleficent or something if you want, but wait for us for TFIOS!) We won't be long. If you're feeling adventurous go explore Central by leaving through the large space by Godiva.
Meet us back at hotel at 6:30. Since we won't really have phones that work with yours, this is super important!!! No matter what happens, hotel at 6:30!!

Anny and I were on time--early even!--but Courtney and Jolie ended up being 30 minutes late, due to flight delay(?) and traffic. IN THEIR FACE! Humph, they shoulda trusted us more hahah

Anny and I were given those instructions the night before our departure, but of course we ignored that whole block of text (you probably ignored it just then too--caught in the act!) until we landed in Hong Kong. We realized that it didn't make much sense to arrive at IFC off the Airport Express, drop off our luggage at the hotel, just to go back to IFC, so we found a "Left Baggage" place at IFC to leave our baggage until we needed to leave at 6:15 to meet Courtney and Jolie at 6:30. We were very proud of ourselves for figuring that out and evading additional transportation costs. Jolie claimed that she knew about the Left Baggage place too, but didn't know if we could find it, and so didn't include it in her instructions. Should we believe her?

As Jolie suggested, we ended up watching Maleficent. I know many people didn't like it, but I personally thought that it was amazing! At first, I was skeptical about the casting of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, because I'm so used to seeing Angelina Jolie in action films, but Maleficent is the antagonist in the fairytaleSleeping Beauty. As the film progressed, I was pleasantly surprised. The only part I thought that could have been improved is when / spoiler alert (maybe?) / Maleficent acted so aggressively towards the Humans when they first approached the Moors with the intention to attack. Specifically, her voice was too aggressive, imho. I understand that the Faeries and the Humans have this whole rivalry thing going on, but Maleficent was portrayed as such a gentle yet powerful but compassionate being throughout her childhood and young adulthood, and she didn't have any exceptionally traumatic experiences yet to spur such a change in character. In that scene, I think her voice should have remained calm, but still retain that sense of empowerment. A better point in the film to start exhibiting that aggressive voice would have been after Stefan burned off her wings. / end spoiler / I was so into the movie that I only ate a third of my caramel popcorn.

After watching Maleficent, we didn't really know what else to do at IFC. Everything is REALLY expensive, and my dad only gave me just enough money for five days (my mom always gives me more than enough, but she left for a business trip earlier in the week). I couldn't help but feel misplaced walking in the sea of suited up businessmen at IFC, as I was still wearing my travel outfit, which I don't think even deserves to be called an outfit. We stopped by Yo Mama, a froyo store that we later designated our HQ inside our HQ (IFC), and Zara, which were the only semi-affordable places at IFC, but we still had two and a half hours to kill. We tried to find a place to sit and finally saw an empty table that belonged to a cafe, so we decided to order something there. I figured the cost of an expensive dessert would be worth a seat and a subject to photograph.

Anny has been begging Jolie to take us for dimsum, so that's where we headed for breakfast. We wanted "authentic" dimsum and to have a whole "cultural experience," which Jolie ensured we would have. We didn't know that that meant going to a communal restaurant! When we arrived, we were placed at a table with a random man. If Courtney had come, we would have had a full table to ourselves, but Courtney slept in. Typical. Anyways, the man sitting with us kept laughing at how we ate our food, but I'd like to have him know that it's very difficult to split two massive dumplings amongst three people. As the meal progressed, we decided to only get baskets that had three items in them to make it easier to split.

Following breakfast, we made our way to The Peak for lunch at Tsui Wah Restaurant. A day of eating and eating and eating. Just my kind of sport! Happy Lab caught our eye; jelly beans were packaged in test tubes, and every six test tubes came with a test tube rack! As this store was just getting started, they offered many samples. I sampled so many that my tongue started feeling tingly. They also sold other candies, such as 100% smooth Belgian milk chocolate with a moustache on a stick. Everything was really cute, and while it wasn't the cheapest thing, compared to what we saw at IFC, these jelly beans were greatly affordable. So of course, I bought a test tube rack worth of jelly beans; cranberry and apple, raspberry jam, cola, apple sour, grape, pina colada. One test tube costs 28HKD, and unfortunately, there is no discount if you buy a whole rack, but at least you get a free rack, right?

Of course, the munchies didn't stop there. We also had bubble milk tea, purple rice, and a grass jelly, mango, pomelo, sago dessert. And then we headed over to dinner at Pepper Lunch (after shopping). SO GOOD. The best fast food I've ever eaten. And then more dessert.

We took a tram on our way back and had an interesting encounter with another female tourist. When you're on public transportation, you tend to want to sit with the people you're traveling with, but as is the case with all public transportation, it can get a little crowded, so that might not always be possible, but as people trickle off at their stops, you can start migrating together. What happened was that the four of us kept jumping around seats trying to do that, and a random female tourist (she was older (40s?50s?), but very pretty and smile-y) joined in and helped us out.

Jolie kept begging us to take the ferry, but we were too tired to oblige. We opted to check out the market at central, which is composed of many shops and stalls squished tightly together along an endless row of stone stairs. There was a milk tea stall and some snack shops, but the market was mostly like a farmers market, selling fresh ingredients. We didn't have a kitchen in our hotel room, and we would much rather eat street food than our own concoctions, so after getting a few snaps, we started heading over to the Hong Kong island ferry without buying anything.

When we arrived at TST, we headed straight into the aid conditioned mall, treated ourselves to macarons from Dalloyao Paris, and flopped on the beds at Muji. And then went ice skating. Jolie had been asking us for days if we wanted to go ice skating, but we didn't want to, because none of us remembered how to ice skate, and it was just too random to go ice skating in Hong Kong. I mean, what are you doing at an ice skating rink over the summer when you have the beach?!

But as soon as we saw the ice rink, Courtney and Jolie were determined to go ice skating. They weren't dressed for it, so we headed over to H&M to buy pants/leggings and socks. I originally didn't want to go ice skating, but seeing as this was our last day in Hong Kong all together (Jolie would be leaving us early), I thought I might as well spend time with them. A cheap entrance fee for the rink was all the convincing I needed.

It turns out that we really were quite terrible ice skaters. Courtney got the hang of it pretty quickly. Jolie kind of got it towards the end. It was a lot of fun. Trial and error. Sometimes we found ourselves just standing there watching the little kids skate around us in circles like pros.

Finally it was time to take the MTR back to our hotel, but not before making a pit stop at IFC. It turns out that there's a discount for the froyo at Yo Mama after a certain time (buy one, get second 50% off), so we sat there, resting our feet, waiting for the time to tick by until we could get our discounted froyo, because, obviously, the best way to start and end a day is with froyo!

But actually, we stayed up late watching videos on the Internet.

After three days in Hong Kong with my best friends, some more fabulous people who also had their senior trip in Hong Kong arrived, so we merged. The more the merrier! We had dimsum (at a fancy, non-communal place), made another trip to Yo Mama, treated ourselves to some mango-y goodness at Hui Lau Shan, and had an intense chilling session, wrapped up in blankets watching MasterChef. In the late afternoon, we met up with Christabel who took us to some cute shops like Typo, which was located behind Cotton On, and in the evening we met up with everyone for dinner, followed by liquid nitrogen ice cream at Lab Made.

Then we got our Tourists on, trooping through the Peninsula Hotel and having fun at the harbor.

At the end of the trip, I had spent all my money except for some spare bits of change, so I gave what was left of it to Courtney, and she bought me stuff for the rest of the day. Being the good friend I am, I only exploited her a teensy bit, making her buy me chocolate stuffed puffs from Muji. And froyo.

We needed to catch the 5:00PM flight, but due to heavy rain in Beijing, our flight was delayed until 8:30PM. We were texting our parents in the airport, because they were being parents and worrying about us and stuff. Courtney's mom told her that her dad's flight was also delayed due to the rain, but he was already in the air so his plane was just hovering. But everyone made it back safe and sound!

I had an amazing five days in Hong Kong with the best people! Thank you for putting up will all my amateur photography and forcing you guys to not eat your food until after I got a picture. Your skills at hand modeling have greatly improved. I wish us the best of luck in college, and we're definitely going to have to fly over and meet each other during the holidays! I'm going to miss you tons :( I already do!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bryn Mawr Day

Bryn Mawr Day was actually last Saturday on September 6, but I didn't get around to writing this post--or doing anything blog-related really--until now. Quoting The Script's "Breakeven"I'm still alive but I'm barely breathin' haha. I really am enjoying my time here at Bryn Mawr College, have been trying to get around, meet people, join clubs, do homework, and get sleep, because it's really hard to get hyped up about something when you're devoting all your energy to keeping your eyelids up. For the most part, I've managed to sleep before midnight, but what I have not managed to do was keep up with my blog, not to mention the rest of the blogosphere.

Anyways, Bryn Mawr Day was a free family fun day celebrating (I'm assuming) the town of Bryn Mawr, and included activities such as tasting restaurants, visiting shops, riding firetrucks, seeing the traveling zoo, watching the circus, taking a history tour, shopping the farmers' market, hearing musical performances by Radio Disney, and much more.

By Bryn Mawr Day, I had finished one week of the Tri-College Identity, Equity, and Social Justice Institute, one week of Customs (which is what we call our freshman orientation), and one week of classes, but not once did I visit town or even leave campus for that matter, so this was the day.

'Twas hot. But 'twas worth it. Unfortunately I didn't get to spend the day with my family like many kids of the town got to do, but this allowed me to do things at my own pace, which was really slowly... although now I realize that it may have been helpful to have an extra hand carrying things for me as I took pictures. I couldn't get into the petting zoo because I was holding all the food I bought but didn't finish eating! You must understand the struggles of an amateur photographer and appreciate that behind every shot you see are a hundred failed attempts.

So where the hell have I been for the last three weeks?

August 20, 2014 - August 25, 2014 Tri-College Identity, Equity, and Social Justice Institute

Coming from an international community, I know that many of us like to think we're such worldly people having lived abroad for so long. We're aware that our socio-economic status gives us privilege, but we join charities that open our eyes to the problems of the real world, so that makes us cultured people, right? Well I hate to break it to you, but it really doesn't.

(an interesting topic to look into would be "white man's burden")

Though I cannot speak for all the international kids out there, from my own experience, I would have to say that I was stuck in the international bubble. After eight years in Beijing, China, I still cannot tell you anything about the local life, except for my brief trips to rural villages as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, and my love for 煎饼.

Tri-Co was such an eye-opening experience for me. Until now, I did not fully grasp what diversity encompassed. Until now, I thought that my high school, composed of students from different countries, was diverse, though most of us were just middle/upper class, heterosexual, cis-gendered, able-bodied, American born Somethings. Who knew there were so many ways you could categorize social identity? (race, ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic class, age, biological sex, sexual orientation, gender, religion/spiritual affiliation, physical/emotional/developmental ability, first language)

What I was most amazed by was how open everyone was about themselves. Stories were shared revealing the most vulnerable parts of us, and though through tears, we knew we were in a safe environment. Nay, not just safe, but liberating!

(an interesting topic to think about would be "tolerance vs. acceptance")

At least in the groups I was in, the two most passionately discussed topics were of cultural appropriation and microaggressions. What do you think?

There was so, so, so much more that we talked about, but I guess after five 12-hour days, you couldn't expect any less. I remember one lunch-time conversation towards the end of the program in which we voiced how grateful we were to be surrounded by people with so much substance, who had endured so much, who had overcome so much, who were concerned about things that mattered. And we were nervous about what these meaningful conversations would evolve into once everyone else trickled in for freshman orientation. Would we gradually return to meaningless smalltalk, trying to get to know someone, but never getting there? We'll see how it goes.

"The days are long, but the years are short." -The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
(a book recommended to me by fellow ISB Tri-Co Kevin)

The program has ended, but I really feel like I'm just beginning.

Tri-Co at Swarthmore College, photo credit Bobby 

August 27, 2014 - September 1, 2014 Customs Week

To be honest, it was all a blur.

I am housed in Brecon, which is the furthest dorm. Furthest from what? you ask. From everything!! It's literally the campus on one side, a road, and Brecon on the other side, so we like to joke and say that we have off-campus housing. The dining halls are on the opposite end of campus, so every morning I make the trek (well, depending on whether I decide I need food more or sleep more). The one thing we are close to is the gym, so hopefully that'll be motivation to pop by there more often. Maybe with all these obstacles in the way, the freshman fifteen will have a harder time catching up to me.

The point is, because of this, friends hardly ever come down to Brecon to visit us, though they say they will. Breconites bond over this hardship, and so from what I've been told, we are usually a tight-knit group. This time around it's a little different though. Athletes arrived on campus first (many housed in Brecon), then came the Tri-Co students (majority housed in Brecon), then the international first-years, then the domestic first-years, and then everyone else. Because of this, we felt a separation before Customs even started. We still don't even recognize everyone on our floor, which is pretty sad. On the bright side, this is not the case for the other Customs groups, so everyone else is getting along fine. I guess Brecon is just weird. I remember thinking that I just wanted classes to start already.

September 2, 2014 + Classes start
  • Calculus 1: The class is quite large, but the professor is engaging. I'm trying to go as long as I can without having to buy the textbook. So far it's working out okay, because I'm checking out the textbook from the library on reserve, which means I can only check it out for three-hour periods, which motivates me to complete my homework then and there. The only problem that may arise is if I need the textbook to study for an assessment at an inconvenient hour.
  • Wellness Issues Seminar: This is the largest class I attend as it is required for all first-years, though there are different periods we can enroll in. It is attendance based, no homework is assigned, and no assessments are given. This class is supposed to help us students as individuals adjust to college, and it may have potential, but right now I'm not really feeling it. I foresee that a lot of the situations that will be brought up will only take common sense to solve, and the ones that take more than that, well, just don't put yourself in that situation! The worst part is that the coordinator of this seminar said that all he wanted to do was get all the first-years through it on the first try. If that's all there is to it, what's the point of this class? Perhaps he was just trying to lighten the mood.
  • Introduction to Economics: I'm considering majoring in something along the lines of economics or international relations or marketing, so I figured that this class would be a good place to start. However, I'm a little confused about the order in which the professor is teaching the content, which is the order in the textbook, but I don't get that either. The organization of IB Economics made so much more sense! At least the textbook for this course is free, but we still have to pay $40 for an online program from which we will do weekly problem sets.
  • Shakespeare's Hamlet and Ours: I am taking this course for my Emily Balch Seminar, which is basically just a writing requirement. I am the only person in my class who hasn't read Hamlet, because everyone else in my class took AP Literature and it was in their curriculum, but I took IB HL Literature--instead, I read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. My professor is interested in my fresh perspective, which is a little daunting, but she is the sweetest. I already had a one-on-one meeting with her for my first essay, which I was really unconfident about, but by the end of our conversation, she was able to help me organize my thoughts without being the slightest bit condescending or otherwise discouraging.
  • Advanced Chinese: I considered starting a new language at a beginner's level, because to me that is so much more interesting, but I figured that if I did that, at the end of one year I would not know enough of the new language to use anywhere, and in addition, I'd also de-prove in Chinese, so I might as well continue with Chinese. This class is super tiny, consisting only of six students including me, of which I am the only freshman, and the professor is very scatterbrained chill, so the atmosphere is relaxed, which is just the way I like it. Also, this is my only class at Haverford. I want to take at least one class every quarter off campus.
  • Swim Conditioning: I don't believe in sweating, so swimming is the only way to go. I was planning to swim every morning on my own, so I figured that I may as well take a class and train with a coach. Also, I like swimming in the morning to get those endorphins pumping. On the first day of class there were only two people, but I think more are trickling in.
  • Kripalu Yoga: The classes are in the evening, way out of the way, so I don't think this extra PE class will effect my workload or stress. If anything, this will be a way for me to de-stress!
  • Varsity Swimming: I wasn't planning on doing this, but Coach approached me during Swim Conditioning, and I do quite miss training and the swim team family, so why not? My only hesitance was the time commitment. College offers so many opportunities, but swimming takes up so much time. Fortunately, we were able to work something out with my schedule by wedging in pool and dryland practices wherever we could.
  • Chamber Singers: I was so nervous for the audition, but I'm so thankful that I got in. Last night we had dinner and icebreakers at our director Tom's house. Returning members sang a bunch of songs from last year and the newcomers sight-read or just sat in awe. The members are so passionate and happy when they sing, and their energy is so contagious! And the talent omg.
  • A Cappella: I did four auditions, got three callbacks, heard back from two, and am waiting on one more before I decide which a cappella group to commit to. The process is so intense, ahh!! I really wanted to do a cappella in addition to Chamber Singers, because a cappella is more for me to have fun and jam like I did with my friends back in Beijing, but Chamber Singers is more for me to grow technically.
  • Intervarsity Christian Fellowship: The best thing about religion is that it is a part of your identity you get to choose. Both of my parents converted to Christianity, so I have been raised going to church every Sunday (except for the last few years of high school) and it wasn't much of a choice. Now that I'm in college, I want to find my own way to Christ with the support of this group. I've missed all the meetings and socials so far due to scheduling conflicts, but I'm looking forward to it, especially for worship.
  • Asian Student's Association: As I mentioned here, I'm experiencing a bit of culture shock, so I'm hoping that joining an affiliation group like this will help me connect. Also, I've lost count of the number of sophomores I've met on campus who have told me to join haha.
  • Things I'm interested in but may not necessarily join: Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, The Bi-College News, Bryn Bites, Adopt-A-Grandparent, Sunrise Discussion Group.
So THAT'S what I've been up to lately. I've kept busy running around trying to figure out what I want to do and what I want to join, but I know that it'll only get busier from here once the workload piles up. I feel like I've been at summer camp for the last three weeks. I hope that it doesn't stop feeling like this, because I'm more curious to learn in this situation, but on the other hand, I know that I'll be easily swept away by extra-curricula and forget that I'm here for the academics.

Now you're all caught up with me, but I've been out of touch with high school school friends, the blogosphere, everything, so tell me what's up in the comments below! How's it going for y'all?

Brunch at Audrey's © 2013.

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