The Intimacy of Names in Japan

I’ve been watching a few cheesy Japanese romance dramas (my guilty pleasure) and I noticed something bewildering: when a young Japanese couple starts dating and starts addressing each other by first name instead of last name, the dynamic of their relationship completely changes.  In one particular drama, the boyfriend told his new girlfriend that she should call him “Kotaro” instead of “Taniguchi-san.”  She blushed and said she wasn’t ready to take their relationship that far. read more

Chinese Sci-Fi Book Review: Three Body Problem

Three Body Problem was on my “must read” list ever since it won the Hugo Award two years ago.  Unlike past Hugo award winners, this book was special because it was the first time a Chinese author won the most prestigious award in science fiction literature.  As someone who loves both sci-fi and China, I just had to read this thing.

But for whatever reason, I didn’t get around to it.  It was probably the not-so-appealing cover.  Maybe it’s the weird title.  Or perhaps it was the summary of the book, which involves the overdone plot of “humanity fights aliens.”  I have to admit–from first glance, it didn’t seem all that appealing. read more

How Do You Know Where to Settle Down?

Whenever I travel somewhere new, especially a city, I always find myself asking the same question:

Could I actually live here–or better yet–settle down here?

In Utah’s middle schools, I was brainwashed–erm, I mean, taught, that when the Mormon Pioneers hauled their wagons to Salt Lake City and first set their sights on the blue skies and the Great Salt Lake, they cried:

“This is the Place.”

Thus, Utah became the home of the Mormon Pioneers…. and Salt Lake now has a (ridiculously) named “This is the Place” museum. read more

Going to Kyushu, Japan? Why Visiting Yakushima is Worth it

I originally had no plans to visit Japan in 2017….  but when we saw plane tickets from Los Angeles to Kyushu, Japan for only $600 round trip, my husband and I thought:

Dude.  We’re goin’ to Kyushu.

When I told my Japanese friend Tohko that we were going to be in Japan, she said she would meet us in Kyushu on one condition:

We go to Yakushima.

Yakushima?  Where and what is it?

It’s the greenest and wettest place in the country, receiving more rainfall than any other location in Japan.  On top of that, the island has a strong reputation for being a spiritual and mystical retreat, and rightly so–it did, after all serve as the inspiration for the animated film “Princess Mononoke.” read more

Guns, an American Way of Life

My husband and I went to see Black Panther last weekend.  Although my husband has had enough Marvel movies for one lifetime, I was quite stoked to see this one in particular.  It wasn’t just the all-black (and beautiful!) cast, but I was also excited to see a unique marvel world crafted out of African culture.

The movie was great—until a group of young teenagers a few seats behind us began to provide loud and offensive commentary on the film.  I won’t repeat what was said, but let’s just say they said the ‘n’ word twice, among other things.  From start to finish this group of teenagers just kept at it—and no one said anything. read more

The Best Birthday I’ve Ever Had

Today’s my birthday.

As I get older, I start caring less and less about birthdays–but I still loathe to spend them alone.  Luckily, my husband always spoils me on my birthday with a nice dinner, a just-what-I-need present or a surprise vacation.

However, I must admit, the most memorable birthday I’ve ever had happened before his time.

This is the story of the best birthday I ever had–in Shanghai.

How I Turned 28 in Shanghai

“I hate to sound demanding,” I said to my Chinese-Italian friend, Leona. “But I really need to do something on my birthday.  Can we get our friends together and have a quick dinner or something?” read more

Are All Americans the Same?

In the last year alone, I’ve managed to live in almost every single region of the United States.  West, Pacific Northwest, Rockies, Midwest, South–you name it, and I’ve probably lived there for a month or two.

The experience was eye-opening and made me realize an extremely important fact: not all Americans are the same. In fact, the US does not feel like one country at all.  Each region is so culturally and geographically different that, when I travel from coast to coast, I have to remind myself that I’m still in the same country. read more

How Can Learning Japanese or Chinese Get You a Job?

According to the news, China is about to rule the world and the Japanese are poised for extinction via low birthrates.  With an ever-rising China and a Japan on the decline, one has to wonder:  Will learning Japanese actually get me a job?  And more importantly, will learning Chinese get me an even better job?

In my post “should I learn Japanese or Chinese?” I gave the cop out answer of “go with your heart.”  I still stand by this super cheesy advice.

However,  via this particular post, I received multiple emails from young college students asking for even more advice.  What kind of jobs can I get with these language skills?  What level of proficiency do I need?  And most of all: Are learning these languages just a massive waste of time? read more

Why 2017 Was the Craziest Year of My Life… With a 2018 Surprise

I just have to say that 2017 was undoubtedly the craziest, yet also most unforgettable, year of my life.

My aunt told me that I had more life events happen in 2017 than people have in their entire lifetime.  She’s totally right, because…

I Had Lots of Big Life Events…

Getting married on a mountain… no big deal

In 2017, I planned and executed a wedding while concurrently completing an intensive graduate degree in international relations.

Graduate school, as I mentioned, was really hard but worth every penny.  Learning about international relations changed my life for the better, and now I suddenly see the whole world with a new lens.  I don’t regret grad school one bit. read more

Traveling Off The Beaten Path in Ireland’s Rugged Northwest

Off the Beaten Path in Northwest Ireland

Northwest Ireland is sadly passed over for its southern cousin.  Most people skip County Donegal, Mayo and Sligo and take a bee-line from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher in Southern Ireland, bypassing this part of the country entirely.

I’m here to tell you that Northwest Ireland is a must-see.  Thanks to the expert vacation planning of my husband, I was able to discover a charming and grossly underappreciated corner of Ireland.  The rugged northwest may be known as Ireland’s no-man’s-land, but after setting foot in the region I soon realized this is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. read more