How I Learned to Speak Mandarin in 6 Months

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This isn’t a post about how great I am at languages. I’m not like some jerk on the internet claiming to achieve fluency in three months.

This is a post about the blood, sweat and tears I spent to learn Chinese.

I never thought I would learn how to speak Chinese: The tones, the characters, and the proverbs were frustrating.  The task of learning Mandarin was daunting and overwhelming–and honestly, there were many moments I thought I was just not meant to learn this language.

Yet somehow, I did it.  I learned Chinese in less than a year. read more

Resolutions for 2015 and my Favorite Posts of 2014

Before I delve into 2015, let’s look back at the resolutions I kept (and dropped) in 2014:

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I did travel!

  • Learn French.
  • Take a class in web design and economics.
  • Find an amazing job in the USA (although it’s not very amazing)
  • Keep up the habit of going to the gym 3 times a week, aim to run for an hour nonstop (can do 30 mins now, up the score!)
  • Take the GRE.
  • Grow out my hair.  It looks good short I must admit, but I do miss having my long black locks.
  • Continue to write, and publish an article!
  • Volunteer!  Find an organization in Shanghai or the USA, sign up, and go help others! (volunteered on Thanksgiving and have joined a volunteer Meetup group in my neighborhood).
  • Practice J-E interpreting 3 times a week, C-E once a week
  • Learn how to properly, and effectively, invest money (I purchased my first stocks this year)
  • Travel somewhere new (have plans of Thailand in March, so this one’s definitely going to happen!) (Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore–you were amazing!)

Alright, Time for 2015 Resolutions:

To more adventure in 2015!

To more adventure in 2015!

  • Lose 20 pounds–and more importantly, lead a healthier life.  I know.  It’s a typical resolution, but this year it means even more.  I gained a lot of weight since moving back to the United States.  I want to blame the unhealthy food, the portion sizes and the lack of physical activity (I used to walk everywhere in Shanghai–now, I drive).  But still, I can’t just blame America.  I already downloaded MyFitnessPal and I have a plan set in motion.  If this doesn’t work, I’ll join weight watchers.  Either way, I need to take control of my weight, my health, and my life.
  • Learn Italian and Sign up for an Italian Class.  I tried to learn French and my god, it just didn’t stick.  Since most of my friends are Italian, I’ll take this as a divine sign from heaven and just learn what I love: Italian.
  • Learn Advanced CSS, HTML, and Javascript; as well as Photoshop, Illustrator and In-Design.  I love drawing, coloring, and creating.  I have always loved web design and I want to teach myself more so I can make creativity my source of income instead of just a hobby.
  • Publish an Article (or ten).  While I did continue to write (as this blog so clearly showcases), I have yet to publish my work.  I want 2015 to be that year.
  • Update this Blog Once a Week and Really Commit to The Ruby Ronin.  I love this blog.  It’s my baby.  I love the people I meet through this blog, and I love writing.  I didn’t start to really invest time in this thing until 2014, and I want to go even further in 2015.  I know life gets in the way and sometimes I only update once a month–but that’s just ridiculous.  I need to show this blog, and my readers, that I’m serious about this thing.
  • Become an Irish Citizen.  I know, random.  I’ll write a post about how to apply for Irish Citizenship later, but for the time being, I just want to make this happen in 2015.
  • Pay Off My Student Loans.  After almost ten years of paying my stupid loans, this year will finally be the year where I write my final paycheck to the Federal Government.
  • Visit at Least One National Park.  Here’s lookin at you, Yosemite.
  • Run a 5k.  While this isn’t #1 priority, I’d really like to make it happen!

Realizations from 2014 to Push me Forward in 2015

I didn't just leave friends in Shanghai--I left a family.

I didn’t just leave friends in Shanghai–I left a family.

I will forever remember 2014 as the year of great change.  I moved back to the United States from my wonderful life in Shanghai and experienced some of the worst reverse culture shock to ever grace an American.  It was truly a painful and difficult experience.  Even a year later, I cannot say with confidence that I have fully adjusted. read more

The Movie “Wild” and Finding Yourself in Solo Travel

When I saw the poster for Wild, I was immediately reeled in.

As a solo female traveler, a movie poster featuring a lone woman on the road with a backpack immediately sparked my interest.  Although I wasn’t quite sure what the movie was entirely about, as a fellow traveler I was certain that I had to see it and discover for myself.

Wild is about Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) and her journey on the pacific crest trail, starting from the Mojave Desert and ending in the National Parks of Oregon.  While this movie showcases the splendor of America’s rugged pacific coast, it’s not a picture perfect,  self-discovery type travel epic filled with epiphanies and life’s splendor.  It’s a movie about cold nights spent in a tent; the weight of a backpack digging into your skin, suffering from dehydration in the sun, ripping a toenail off your bloody foot and eating cold food for days on end.. read more

First Time to the Grand Canyon

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Nope, never been here…

I’ll admit it.

Until recently, I had never been to the Grand Canyon.

This was my first time to the Grand Canyon.  Although I was only a mere state away in Utah, I never made the drive down south to visit America’s unofficial landmark. When I told people abroad that I had never journeyed to the Grand Canyon, I was met with pure shock and looks of horror.

My parents weren’t much for the outdoors (my mom grew up in Saigon, my dad in Boston), so the mere fact these two city slickers moved to outdoorsy Utah is still a very, very big mystery to me. I was one of the few families that didn’t go skiing, didn’t go camping, and didn’t go hiking. I was always cooped up at home reading a book, painting, or watching the news with my dad. read more

The Shocking Truth About Women’s Salaries in Japan

photo credit: filmmaker in japan via photopin cc

photo credit: filmmaker in japan via photopin cc

As I was doing some random internet searching on average salaries across the world, I found a link for data on Japan. While the average, annual earnings of a 24-27 year old for your average Tokyo salaryman was alarming (27,000 USD/year), what shocked me even more was this:

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Photo credit: World 104 Blog

For those that can’t read Japanese, the men’s salaries are listed in blue and the women’s are in pink.

While the pay increases for men as they age, the salary for women actually decreases. In Japan, women don’t even come close to earning as much as their male counterparts—in their entire lives. I knew the pay gap was quite atrocious in Japan, I had lived there and read enough research, but this bar graph was like being splashed with cold water. It’s that bad? read more

Dealing with Loneliness Abroad (and at home)

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Living in Niigata, although very memorable, was sometimes extremely lonely

When living abroad, it’s very easy to feel alone and isolated. Living in a new environment, being surrounded by a new language and living in a place where you know no one—it’s something few people sign up for voluntarily.

When I moved to Japan, I underwent some of the loneliest months of my life. The Japanese countryside was the ultimate test to enduring loneliness.

Surprisingly, I also felt loneliness upon returning to the United States. Although the U.S. was my ‘home,’ most of my friends from high school and college had already moved to other states and cities. The combination of reverse culture shock and being in a new environment (Los Angeles) had me feel more alone than I had ever felt in Shanghai. read more

Interracial Dating and the Japanese Drama Massan

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Image Courtesy of Sachi’s blog

When I heard about the newest show to premiere on NHK, “Massan,” was all about the trials and hardships of a marriage between a white woman and a Japanese male, I was a bit skeptical. I was afraid the show would be another ridiculous showcase of stereotypes about foreigners. The advertisement revealed a blonde hair, blue-eyed woman frolicking around the fields of Scotland with an attractive Japanese man running to embrace her.

Oh god, I thought.

This is going to be another repeat of My Darling is a Foreigner. read more

5 Reasons to Live in Japan

While Americans think nothing can top life in the states (why would anyone move abroad?!), I would like to list some reasons why Japan still tempts me to drop everything here and run back to its loving, but poisonous embrace.

The Convenience Store

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The first thing I do when I go back to Japan is run to 7-11 or Family Mart, fall to the linoleum floor and sob with joy as that familiar door jingle rings through my ears and welcomes me home.

For those who have never been to Japan, you may think: “it’s just a 7-11.” read more

Escape to Jeju Island

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The wind pummeled us relentless, but we didn’t care. The dark blue waves screamed in protest as they crashed violently against the lava formed rock formation we stood upon. Although the dark, unknowing waters of Jeju looked unwelcoming, the fresh and cleansing breeze of the Korean countryside and its pastel, blue sky was more than enough to keep me here. After relentless days of smog and apocalyptic skies of dust and toxic matter in China, the coast of Jeju was like medicine.

The wind whipping my hair across my face, the sprays of fresh, seawater splashing across my open toed sandals, a fresh paint of blue sky: read more

Should You Choose a Man or Career?

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You know, men never face this dilemma. They don’t debate about whether they should give up opportunity or stay with the woman of their dreams.

They just take the job.

Women, on the other hand, will face this agonizing predicament at least once in their lifetime. Move away from the boyfriend to pursue the career I have been dreaming of? Or stay behind, stick by his side, and possibly have a life of marital bliss?

I never thought it would happen to me, but it did.  I had to choose a man or my career. read more