Barcelona in February: A Tale of Two Stomachs

Barcelona in February: A Tale of Two Stomachs

Chances are, you have a friend, family, or coworker who has traveled to Barcelona in the last few months. Barcelona is a hot destination, especially in the winter months like February, because it’s a city with plenty of sunshine, fairly warm weather, and sandy beaches to lounge around on.

Last year everyone, including my best friend H and her husband, were fed up with winter. We had it with scraping ice off the windshield, walking around in freezing wind with rain and snow, and never seeing the sun. Our friends raved about Barcelona’s good food and weather and, after googling a few photos of Spain and Catalan cuisine (and consequently drooling on the keyboard), we ended up booking February flights for Spain. read more

The Ruby Ronin’s 2019 Year End Roundup

The Ruby Ronin’s 2019 Year End Roundup

Tulip Festival March 2019

Happy 2020 everyone! While this post is very tardy, I will reply with the age-old excuse: better late than never. And honestly, no one probably gives a flying crap about how my life went in 2019, but I like to write these kind of posts for myself. It’s always interesting to look back on my year-end summaries and see just how much my life has changed in 2, 5, and even 10 years (wow, this blog is so old).

Compared to my whirlwind life in 2018, I have to say that 2019 was much more “calm”…. and that’s exactly what I needed. It’s been the year to sit back and settle down (somewhat), and figure out my place in life in this new city called Portland, Oregon. read more

Need a good rom com? “Love the Way You Are” is one of the best Chinese Love Stories of 2019

Need a good rom com? “Love the Way You Are” is one of the best Chinese Love Stories of 2019

I was on a Delta flight and saw “Love the Way You Are,” or 我的青春都是你 as a Chinese film up for viewing. It looked like a sub-par romantic comedy, but I was surprised to find it a sweet Chinese love story that, even after the credits rolled, I still find myself thinking about it with a smile on my face. It’s definitely the best Chinese Love Story (rom-com) I’ve ever seen.

The rom-com has become a formulaic and a nearly dead genre in the West. Aside from “Crazy Rich Asians,” the rom-com has failed to make cinematic profit in decades. Hell, the genre has gone so downhill that there’s even a rom-com about how ridiculous rom-coms are. read more

How studying Italian helped me learn Japanese

How studying Italian helped me learn Japanese

I recently fulfilled my lifelong dream of going to Italy, but many (including my husband) wondered….

Why Italy?

As many of my long-time readers know, I’m half-Vietnamese. My mom is a refugee from Vietnam and her native language is not English. While I grew up in an English speaking home, my mother struggled to adapt to her non-native tongue. Not being able to fully communicate with my mother made me feel like a stranger in my home.

Since I cannot speak Vietnamese, many of my friends often assume that I was not exposed to Vietnamese whatsoever. However, while my mom never spoke Vietnamese directly *at* me, the language was actually all around me growing up. My mom watched Vietnamese music videos and dramas constantly. In fact, whenever I hear the string of an erhu and guqin with the long winded cry of traditional Vietnamese singing, I am immediately taken back to my childhood living room. read more

Newly Moved to Portland: 5 Observations on My New Home

Newly Moved to Portland: 5 Observations on My New Home

Ah, seems like only yesterday I was writing about what it was like to live in Dallas, Texas. One year later here I am, in the heart of the Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon. While the vibe of the Pacific Northwest is a much better match for my lifestyle and values, not everything is perfect. Here are my thoughts on Portland after two months in the city of roses:

1 – Is Portland like the TV show Portlandia?

Yes. Very much so.

This is doubly true for my particular neighborhood (east of downtown). Most restaurants are very vocal and transparent about where their produce and meat comes from; there are cute boutique shops on every corner that sell the most random stuff (including bird-stamped goods), and I’ve been in not one, but two feminist book stores within walking distance. And it’s only been two months! read more

I Did Not Like Crazy Rich Asians, and I’m Half-Asian

I Did Not Like Crazy Rich Asians, and I’m Half-Asian

Crazy Rich Asians broke all sorts of records.  It was the first American-made film to feature an all-Asian cast.  In the US alone, it pulled in over $175 million dollars–and only cost $30 million to produce.  It has a 91% positive  score on Rotten Tomatoes and received praise from a diverse range of audience that includes Asian-Americans, Whites, Blacks, Hispanics–and just about everyone.  With such glowing praise and rave reviews, I just had to check out the movie for myself. read more

How to Split the Check in China, Japan and in America

How to Split the Check in China, Japan and in America

I think all Americans have at least one extremely unpleasant memory of splitting the check at a restaurant with friends. Let’s face it: in the states, when you go out with a group of friends and the check comes at a restaurant, it ain’t a pretty sight. You whip out a pen and a calculator, ready for the math to begin. You beg the server to swipe six separate cards, since no one ever brings cash anymore. You start fighting over who should pay for the appetizer, based on bites taken.

While Venmo and other money transferring apps have alleviated some of the headache, there is no denying one fact about splitting the bill in America: read more

How to Hike the Kumano Kodo in Japan – Nakahechi Trail

How to Hike the Kumano Kodo in Japan – Nakahechi Trail

Almost three years ago I hiked the Kumano Kodo trail, one of Japan’s holy pilgrimages and only one of two UNESCO recognized pilgrimages in the world. I wrote about my experience here, but I did not follow through on my promise to write a guide.

Three years ago it was extremely difficult for me to find a blog post that detailed an itinerary on how to do the most frequented trail (Nakahechi) on the Kumano Kodo. I spent hours researching and I guessed on so many items. Even with my Japanese skills, planning this trip was tough. read more

Why Montreal is my Favorite City in Canada

Why Montreal is my Favorite City in Canada

Notre Dame Basilica

Many are surprised to learn that my husband is a Canadian citizen. Before his parents took the plunge and moved to the United States, they started the first chapter of their North American life in the frozen North of Canada. My husband waxed poetic about Canada like it was a lost paradise. Mary, he often told me, I will take you to Canada–the country of my childhood–and I will show you why I love it so.

Well, husband came through. I’ve not only visited Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver–but to my surprise, my husband proposed to me on the top of Mount Whistler in Whistler, Canada. Like husband predicted, I fell in love with Canada. From my point of view, Canada is basically a friendlier, cleaner, and more egalitarian version of the United States. read more

The Ruby Ronin’s Review of 2018

The Ruby Ronin’s Review of 2018

There are many moments that make up the Ruby Ronin’s 2018–but none ring louder than one word that acts as a theme to the entire year:

The Year of Texas

This time last year, I was horrified at the prospect of moving to Texas.  I remember sitting in our temporary Portland, OR home, staring out the window into a sea of gloomy skies and barren winter trees, wondering why the hell I was moving to Texas.  As the days nearing my move inched closer, my anxiety only grew.  Portland was starting to feel like home to me.  I was finally with my husband.  Life was good, despite being unemployed.  Why was I leaving again?

When I set foot in Dallas, I knew I wasn’t in Portland anymore.  Hoodies and tattoos were replaced with leather cowboy hats and boots.  In place of Portland’s public transportation and walkable streets were sprawl and traffic.  My European bakeries, a dime a dozen in Portland, were now replaced by Whataburgers, Chik-fil-a and jugs of iced tea.  Most of all, the trees, mountains, and nature I was so accustomed to in both California and Oregon were gone.  Now on the horizon were the flat, barren plains of America’s heartland.

Still, not all was bad in Texas.  The people are polite, although distant.  The food is actually insanely good, and diverse.  The winters are mild.  The cowboy culture is kind of cool.  Many of my friends came to visit, and we had a great time exploring the city.  BBQ is awesome.

Overall, for me, 2018 was the year of Dallas.  It’s a year I’ll never forget–both good, and bad.

The Year of the Introvert

I moved to Texas and I didn’t know a soul.  I didn’t even know a friend of a friend of a friend.  My husband often wasn’t here, as he still worked in Portland.

So, I tried to make friends at work–but let’s just say, it’s extremely hard to break into the circle of the South (all of my coworkers are native to Dallas or the South).  I tried Meetup groups.  Classes.  Group outings.  A few language exchange clubs.  It got me out of the house, but it was socially exhausting with few rewards–I didn’t make one single friend.

One Friday, instead of agonizing about how to meet people during my days off on the weekend, I said to myself:  I’m done.  I’m exhausted trying to make new friends in a new community yet again.  I’d rather be alone than try to befriend someone I’m simply not compatible with.

Now I go to the movies alone frequently (I’ve seen over 15 movies this year).  I read books like a maniac (one per week).  I go on many walks alone.  Binge watch TV.  Explore coffee shops.  Cook elaborate meals for myself.  Exercise like a maniac.

I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I’ve learned how to handle being alone for very long amounts of time.  I have discovered my inner introvert.

But still, the loneliness was crippling.  Worse than Japan.  I hope I never have to relive this ever again.

The Year of New York

Despite forcing me to live in Dallas, all of my managers and teammates are in New York.  I was flabbergasted to move to Dallas and find out that I’m actually part of a larger New York team and I’m working “remotely” from Dallas.

As a result, I flew to New York–a lot.  Sometimes twice in a month.  I went from never setting foot in New York in my life, to flying there every other week.

I love New York City–it’s the kind of place I always imagined it to be.  The neighborhoods.  The cast of characters.  The food.  The skyline.  It’s a place deeply embedded with character, history, hope and ambitions–and honest to god, there is nowhere else like it.  I may not want to live there, but damn, it’s a fun place to visit.

The Year of Jet Setting

If I wasn’t flying to New York for a meeting, then I was flying to Portland to see my husband.  I had to go to the Bay Area for some holidays, and Utah for others, and a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana.  In terms of international trips, my boss suddenly put me on a plane to Japan in July and I traveled across much of Canada for a wedding and leisure.  In between, I hopped on a plane to see friends and family in California to keep my sanity.

In summary: I was on a plane.  A LOT.

The Highlight of My Year

My husband took me to Montreal, Canada in August…. and I loved it.  The European architecture.  The good, French influenced food.  The bilingual residents. Parks, natures, and adorable neighborhoods galore.  Markets with fresh produce.  Delicious beer and coffee to kill for.

I’ll (hopefully) write about Montreal in a later post.  It’s a magical place and was my most memorable moment of 2018.

Overall, 2018 was the year of survival

I try to be grateful.  I have my health.  All of my limbs.  My family is doing well.  I’m happily married and, as a couple, my husband and I couldn’t be better together.  We take vacations.  We both have jobs.  In some ways, we’re living the dream.

However, if I’m brutally honest on here–and somewhat selfish–I must admit that there were moments when I thought I wasn’t going to make it through my Dallas tenure in 2018.  The learning curve at my job was steep, and as a “remote” worker in Dallas I had no one to rely on for help or training–and I had no colleagues on my projects.  I failed again and again to make friends, and although in the end I was content with being alone, the isolation still stung.

I had no colleagues to vent frustrations to or ask for help, and I had no friends to fill the gap of loneliness created by my new workplace.  While I was physically healthy and on the financial upswing, my mental well-being took a huge nosedive in 2018.    This also explains my minimal updates on the blog in 2018…  I felt no motivation to write.

As this kind of lifestyle away from my husband was simply unsustainable, I decided to confront my boss.  A nervous Mary told a very high-ranking stakeholder that you either let Mary move out of Texas, or Mary’s going to move out of your company.

And I’m happy to announce that he not only consented, but was very supportive.  I can finally reunite with my husband.  We can finally be together–and I can keep my job.

See you soon, Portland!

The year of 2018–or Texas, as I like to call it–was a rough one. I survived, and I’m moving on up–back on up to rainy Portland with my husband.