Southern California vs. Northern California… and a Life Update

I somehow live here now?

I somehow ended up living in wine country

So, my life has been flipped upside down.  I am now kinda, sorta, living in Northern California.

A month prior to my Asia trip, my boyfriend told me he wanted to take a job offer in Northern California.  Although I’m kind of itching to get out of California, we both knew that taking this job was the right thing to do.

So when you get back from Japan and China, boyfriend said, we’re moving up North.

And… here I am.  North of San Francisco in a place I never, ever expected to find myself in.

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Moving Abroad And Saying Farewell: It Never Gets Easier

Cloudy Skies in Shanghai

I woke up to cloudy skies.  I wanted sunshine for my final day here, but I knew a clear day was a rare blessing in Shanghai.  The weather reflected the feelings in my heart: uncertainty, haziness, fear.

I walked out of Z’s room to find she was already in the living room, staring out into the sea of Shanghai’s skyscrapers from her 25th floor window.  Her apartment wasn’t big, but it was cozy.  My suitcases were lined up neatly near the door, my entire life packed into two large bags and one carry on.  My heart winced as I looked at them.

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First Time On a Cruise: The Good, the Bad and Mexico

Cruise

Way back in January, my boyfriend surprised me with a lovely present: a cruise vacation.

Richard loves cruises.  Whenever I get my new issue of Travel & Leisure in the mail, he skips all of the articles and looks at the cruise ads.  He’s already sailed on dozens of cruises from countless lines on various continents.

So it was no surprise that this cruise fiend was hellbent on taking me on a cruise.

Between his 100 hour work weeks and my limited vacation time, we were only able to go on a three day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico.  It wasn’t my dream destination, but I was happy to get out of the house, go somewhere new and finally get some nice R&R time with my lovely boyfriend.

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5 Steps to Hanami (View Cherry Blossoms) in Japan

Spring has Sprung!

Spring has Sprung!

Ah, March.  The prelude to Spring.  The light at the end of a long winter tunnel.

Or in Japan, it’s the start of one of the most prized occasions of the year:

Cherry Blossom Season.

Whatever high expectation you have for watching cherry blossoms in Japan (or better known as ‘hanami,‘ which literally means ‘watch flowers’ 花見),  Japan will not disappoint on this front.  It’s a magical experience.

While many tourists envision their hanami experience like an anime opening (think wind blowing in your hair as sakura petals brush past your skin), the reality may differ somewhat.  To get the kind of hanami experience you’re dreaming of, it involves more than hopping on a plane and finding a sakura tree–it will take a whole ‘lotta planning.

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Visiting Japan? 5 Reasons You Should Go to Nagano

VisitNaganoBlogCover

Chances are, most western travelers never heard of Nagano.  Maybe it sounds slightly familiar thanks to its hosting of the 1998 winter Olympics, which actually helped put Nagano on the map.  For the most part, howeverit still remains widely unknown.

Nagano is one of Japan’s larger prefectures located in the Shinshu region directly west of Tokyo (about a one hour bullet train ride away).  It is one of the most mountainous regions in Japan and is known for its snow, great peaks and amazing forests.

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How My Vietnamese Mom Forgot Thanksgiving

turkey

Growing up with my mom wasn’t easy, especially in rural, coal-mining Utah.  My mother was the only Asian woman in the entire town, thus meaning we were surrounded by white people (and a few Hispanics and Native Americans).

Growing up in such a predominantly white culture, I was raised to believe and practice in American holidays.  My  classmates at elementary school gathered with all of their relatives at a big table, carved the turkey, and watched the Macy’s parade.  They had large family gatherings with turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy–the works.

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Cost of Living: Los Angeles vs. Shanghai

Shanghai Los Angeles Cost of Living

One of my biggest forms of culture shock upon moving back to the United States was cost of living.  It felt like everything in the United States was way, way more expensive than Shanghai.

In my previous post, I calculated and compared the cost of living between Los Angeles and Tokyo, and I found that living in Tokyo could actually save you 10,000 USD per year compared to life in Los Angeles. I’m a huge advocate for living abroad to not only broaden horizons, but to also save money.

So how does life in Shanghai fare when it comes to cutting costs?

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Europe Highlights: Three Countries in Ten Days

Europe Highlights

So I traveled to three European countries in ten days.

And I highly recommend you don’t do it.

I’m a firm believer in traveling slow and enjoying the sights, but since I’m American and I only get a whopping 12 days of paid holiday per year, I had my limitations–so I made do.

My plan was to head to  Paris (for a bachelorette party), then Berlin (to see my good German friend) and, finally, Brussels for the wedding.

I only scratched the surface of each city/country, but here are the highlights:

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How to Claim Your Irish Citizenship (by descent)

How to Claim Irish Citizenship

It was a dark and stormy night in Shanghai.  J and I were wandering the streets when the grey clouds rolled in and the rain started to pour.  We were looking for an escape to hide from the cold and, hopefully, get a drink.

And like a gift from God, the Irish pub appeared in the distance.

We walked into the warm and cozy Irish pub and immediately waltzed to the wooden counter where we saw that familiar harp of Guinness calling our names.  J and I grabbed our Guinness and clanked our glasses together in cheers.

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America is Not The Greatest Country on Earth

America Needs Some Humble Pie

America Needs Some Humble Pie

I remember in grade school we had to stand up, put our right hand on our heart, salute the flag and say the pledge of allegiance every single day.  We looked up to the flag hanging near the chalkboard as our nation’s anthem echoed from the school’s loudspeaker and chanted the mantra of our great nation.

At school we were not only taught to be proud at the fact we were American, but grateful.  While no one ever distinctly said it to my face, I was educated that America was the best country in the world.

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