Bye Bye Blog

15 Jul

This will be my last entry on this blog. No point in writing about the differences when I don’t live in either place anymore. I know this might come as a shocker, but I’m tired of complaining about where I live and missing the Bay Area. Someone said I should just keep blogging about Los Angeles, but I don’t have much to say. Let me be clear: Orange County was my home because I grew up there. Oakland was my home because I grew into my own there. I don’t believe that Los Angeles will ever be home to me in the same ways.

Thank you for going on this little journey with me. You don’t know how much it means to me to have people – friends, family, colleagues, community – care about my musings and adjustments to life’s transitions. Thanks for helping me hang in there and not feel alone.

I think there is another blog in my future since I like writing, but I have no clue what it will be on. I will keep you posted. (Haha. Posted. Get it? …See, I should stop blogging.) Any suggestion? Just send them my way.

In the meantime, I will probably become even more obsessive about Facebook, texting, and Pinterest. Hey, maybe I’ll even figure out how to use my Twitter account.

‘Til next time. With gratitude.

Top 10 Things I Miss About OC

8 Jul

Just because I decided to leave doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. And no major transition in my life is complete without a top 10 list.

1. Wide streets and big parking lots. I can’t parallel park (it once took me 16 attempts to get into a space) and I appreciate having many lanes so I don’t completely block traffic when I am inevitably lost.

2. Living no more than 30 minutes from my parents and most family members.

3. Unpretentious restaurants that just focus on serving good food and can do it inexpensively. Los Feliz has good food. It’s the unpretentious and cheap part that is hard to find.

4. Knowing where everything is. If I had to, I could draw a rough map of Orange County and it would be sufficiently accurate. Los Angeles County, on the other hand, is a big sprawling mystery to me. I have a map saved on my computer that I have been staring at for two years and I still don’t know where anything is.

5. Not having to pay attention to local politics. Because when Dana Rohrabacher is your Congress person, you can pretty much be sure that he will not listen to anything I have to say.

6. One-upping everyone when comparing commute times. My one claim to fame. Take that, Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valley!

7. Not worrying about running into anyone I know. I can show up at Trader Joe’s in OC with uncombed hair, mud-caked flip flops, a ratty sun dress, no bra, and a hot pink hoodie without worrying that I will run into my boss. Not true in Los Feliz since several of my co-workers live nearby.

8. Weekly hang out time at my partner’s family’s house – home cooked dinners and dessert, lounging by the pool, random movies, and seeing the kids grow up so quickly.

9. No longer having a ready excuse for not going out. I like being invited to things, but my introverted self is not always so good at showing up. Note to self: must come up with a new excuse.

10. Biking to the beach. Jogging on the beach. Going to the beach when I have a couple of hours to kill. The beach is the scarecrow to my Dorothy. Beach, I will miss you most of all.

Bye Bye OC

17 Jun

No point in beating around the bush: I’m moving. I gave living in OC a decent try for almost two years, but this summer I will be moving to Los Angeles.

I think I romanticized this idea of “hometown girl makes good”: moving back to ultra-conservative Orange County and being part of the progressive movement that celebrates and understands what we love about this place while pushing for policies that are more inclusive and just. But it turns out that strategy doesn’t work when you don’t like where you live, and you spend very little time there, and you don’t really know anyone and you’re poop at making friends, and you’re bitter, jaded, and guarded.

(“Guarded” was a new revelation for me. Well, not so much a revelation as someone I’m close to told me point blank that I’m guarded.)

Not that leaving Orange County will change those things about me, but it’s worth a try.

I also don’t want to feel like I failed. It was such a big move for me and I wanted it to work. Moving to LA feels like I’ve given up. But, to be honest, I can tell that I never fully committed to OC (apparently, it’s hard to fully commit to something when you’re bitter, jaded, and guarded) and I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up for that – for moving and wanting but still not committing.

I kept trying to fix it. And then one day I realized that I couldn’t fix it. And when you stop focusing so much on solving the problem, you’re forced to step back and just sit with your feelings. Frankly, my feelings told me that I wasn’t happy, and I that I couldn’t problem-solve my way out of it (or simply distract myself, which is what I’ve been doing with these 35-day activities). That what I was feeling and experiencing just is. And the two options before me were to learn to accept it or leave.

I’ve chosen the latter. I am terrified, relieved, excited, and wracked with guilt. Wish me luck!

The OC Burger Challenge

26 May

How best to spend a free afternoon in Orange County? A visit to the beach? Nope. A day at Disneyland? Not at all. Instead, we spent four hours completing the OC-version of the Ultimate Burger Challenge.

Before I moved, I embarked with my cousin on a quest to find the best burger in my little square of Oakland. We spread it out over a few months, visiting favorite independent restaurants where most burgers cost about $10. Places like Mua, Luka’s, Lake Chalet, Sidebar, and Trueburger. I am no stranger to over-eating and over-analyzing hamburgers.

There are no independent burger restaurants in my little square of Costa Mesa. All you have are low-brow fast food chains and high-brow fast food chains. I have no desire to taste test McDonald’s and Burger King, so we opted for the high-brow. There is a two-block area down the street from our apartment wherein lies a Five Guys, In-N-Out, Sonic, and The Habit. Those of you in the Bay would have to drive to Hayward or Walnut Creek to visit most of these places. Love the suburbs. But, alas, the only place I’m going to find a Trueburger is in Downtown Oakland.

Unsurprisingly, In-N-Out was our favorite. Not only is the food high quality and costs the least, but they get extra points for paying their workers decent wages and providing paid sick days, for having a fun secret menu, and for being a place with decades of personal memories. Five Guys gets extra points for giving you so many fries you have to share, Sonic has the best drinks because of their limeades, and The Habit has the most healthy options and a bike rack.

burger chart

Other things we learned: I’m more critical of everything than my partner…except when it comes to tater tots. I love tater tots. My partner hates riding bikes in the streets around here because he (rightly) thinks that drivers here are not mindful of bike riders, but if you entice him with the possibility of eating four burgers in four hours (we shared, I swear), he willingly gets on the bike. The food and facilities at The Habit were the most attractive but they ended up being meh because they lacked personality (ahem, much like OC).

Was it worth an entire afternoon, $36, and our arteries to find out that we would be thrilled with an In-N-Out cheeseburger, Cajun fries and strawberry limeade for him and tots and pomegranate lemonade for me, sitting in the upscale-ish courtyard of The Habit? Absolutely! I actually already have the Ultimate Ultimate Burger Challenge forming in my mind where I only use chains that have been founded in Southern California. In-N-Out and The Habit are natives, but the others aren’t. But I could add Umami Burger, The Counter, and TK Burgers. It would be EPIC! (file under “still overeating” and “bored in OC”)

35 Food Adventures

6 May

It’s a known fact that I can’t cook. It would actually be more interesting if I was an unmitigated disaster in the kitchen; I’m not (unless you count the time I tried to make vegan mac ‘n’ cheese and the “béchamel” sauce literally tasted like paste). It’s more like I’m the queen of mediocre cooking. It’s kind of bland and doesn’t really taste quite right and one ingredient definitely came out of a box, but it’s edible if you don’t think about it too much.

Cooking makes me feel bad about myself so I try to avoid it. To me, plain tofu right out of the container is a delectable snack. I will scoop some rice in a bowl, add some frozen vegetables, throw it in the microwave, and call it dinner. I can make complete meals out of a piece of fruit, some nuts, a slice of cheese, a spoonful of peanut butter, and cucumber slices. A special meal would be to pick up a rotisserie chicken, a bag of baby spinach, and a baguette.

But I love homemade food and admire good cooks. The Bay Area is awash in amazing everyday cooks – I can’t tell you how many times I went to a dinner party or brunch or potluck and ate the most amazing thing. Being in the Bay Area even made not cooking feel kind of okay. I used to buy all my groceries at the farmer’s market, so a plate of fresh arugula topped with sliced heirloom tomatoes and cheese curds still felt respectable.

In my heart of hearts, I have to admit that I’m more like a suburban Orange County cook. My big accomplishment last week was that I “made” “paella”: I went to a big grocery store and bought a box of rice mix with a spice packet, a bag of frozen vegetables, and a packaged sausage and threw it all in a slow cooker…and even then I kind of messed it up.

So, for this 35-day challenge, I originally thought I would try to cook once a day for 35 days, but my travel schedule made daily cooking not feasible. A friend has been pushing me to allow more creativity and uncertainty into my life, so I blended these ideas and ended up with 35 Food Adventures.

To be clear, I use the word “adventure” lightly here. Like I said, I don’t know how to cook and I don’t enjoy it. So don’t expect the following paragraphs to detail how I crafted a perfect gruyere soufflé or beef wellington. If all I did was buy a sweet potato, slice it, and throw it in the oven with olive oil and some seasoning – and it was my first time ever buying and cooking a sweet potato, well, then, by golly it counted.

I attempted new recipes, simple things like granola and risotto. I whipped up concoctions based on whatever was languishing in our fridge, like no mayo deviled eggs. I made my own veggie platter for a potluck and it was beautiful (I had to look online to make sure I was cutting the radishes correctly). I opened fancy bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette that I had been hoarding. I bought things I had never seen before, like kouign amann. I ate food I had never tried like wild boar and chocolate with pork lard. I discovered that I don’t like juicing and that cold birria is awful. I learned you can microwave eggs and that a little bit of peanut butter dropped into the middle of chocolate cupcakes halfway through baking is pretty tasty.

The activity my partner is most proud of me for is when we, on a whim, went to the newly opened Sprinkles Ice Cream and I didn’t look at the website online ahead of time, I didn’t already study the menu and choose what I wanted, and I didn’t read any reviews. Now that’s what I call an adventure.

35 Días de Español

10 Apr

Me parece que he estado estudiando los idiomas extranjeros toda mi vida. He estudiado dos dialectos de chino, francés, español, tagalo, y un poco árabe. Me avergüenza decir que todavía no hablo ninguna lengua muy bien. Aun cuando viví en la China, yo no sabía suficiente chino ni para entender las noticias. Sin embargo, me encanta aprender idiomas y deseo continuar estudiándolos.

Mi hermana, quien habla bien español, me dio un cuaderno con 35 lecciones. Perfecto, yo estudie una lección por día. A consecuencia de mis estudios anteriores en español, supe que me tomaría todo los 35 días revisar, recordar la gramática y el vocabulario que había estudiado; 35 días no son suficiente para aprender y mejorar mi español. Igualmente sucedió al intentar practicar y aprender más de Yoga por 35 días. Yo supe desde el comienzo que mis expectativas siempre fueron muy altas y que no podría cumplirlas…y así sucedió.

Mis planes originales eran más grandes, quería preparar una lección por día para mi novio y así estudiar juntos; todos los colegas de mi novio son latinos, todos hablan español menos él. El desea conversar y decir chistes con ellos; yo le dije, “¡Puedo ayudarte!”

Pero aprendí rápidamente que yo no lo podría ayudar en todo. Sus colegas de trabajo no hablan español como se aprende en la escuela o en los libros de literatura española; no hablan como un pinche gringo (en esto caso, una chinita nerda). Todo el tiempo, ellos usan las frases que yo nunca digo en inglés, menos en español. Mi novio no tiene interés en la gramática, el desea aprender palabras como mierda o bomboncita.

Mi novio es de familia mexicana, pero no habla español, sus colegas le llaman “gabacho” (también es muy difícil decir “Jason” en español). Todos los empleados tienen apodos, la mayor parte insulta. Mi novio habla japonés (le gusta la cultura japonesa) y sus colegas saben que su novia (yo) es china.
Cada vez que tienen un cliente asiático en la compañía (la mayoría son chinos o vietnamita), ellos le dicen a mi novio que hable con ellos; y cada vez él tiene que explicar que él no habla chino o vietnamita.

Al final, yo estudié sola. Mi lección este mes es que no me gusta estudiar idiomas sola, no es divertido, esto me hace recordar que es necesario conocer gente y hacer nuevos amigos. Otra lección que aprendí es de mi novio, aprendí decir “borracho” de cinco maneras diferentes.

Mil gracias a Carlos Sandoval para corregir esto.

35 Acts of Kindness

25 Feb

When I started this round of 35-day activities, I used the phrase “random acts of kindness”. While I strongly believe in coordinated and sustained acts to achieve social change, there’s something about the intimacy and small joy of “random acts of kindness” that I’ve always been enamored of.

I wanted to help strangers, but also people I know who I wanted to appreciate. Some acts were spur of the moment but others required thought and preparation. So, I dropped the “random” to encompass all of them. You’ll find some acts to be merely polite and others to be something anyone would do for a friend or family member. It would be an act of kindness for you not to judge how well I accomplished this particular goal. 🙂

Here’s my list for anyone who wants to do the same:

1. Cheer on marathon runners at a race
2. Pick up trash at the beach or any public area
3. Leave a homemade treat for your postal worker
4. Make homemade treats for your partner’s co-workers
5. Write a snail mail letter to a friend in need of cheering up
6. Buy food for a person who is homeless
7. Make an appointment to donate blood
8. Send a thank you card to someone from your past who was a positive influence, such as a teacher, mentor, or coach
9. Give away packaged snacks at the greyhound station for people going on long bus trips
10. Send fun family photos to a relative who would like it
11. Create a CD mix for someone
12. Help someone with their luggage at the airport or train station
13. Use deals from your favorite stores to buy an unexpected gift for a friend rather than yourself
14. Take a photo of a place where a friend has positive memories and send it to them to brighten their day
15. Provide treats for the children of your local mom and pop shop
16. Make a card for a friend
17. Make homemade treats for your partner’s friends during their weekly “guys/girls/bois night out”
18. Make a donation to a cause you support but may not have given to otherwise
19. Get a treat hand delivered to a friend that lives far away
20. Bring a treat for your local library workers and volunteers
21. Bring treats for your co-workers
22. Leave a big tip for your server when going out to eat
23. Send valentines to those who might be lonely or recovering from a break-up
24. Write recommendations for colleagues on LinkedIn
25. Pass out food to folks living on the street
26. Instead of telling a family member or friend “you should really have a ________”, just get it for them
27. Help someone with household chores or errands
28. Make something for someone, whether you draw, write, paint, sew, knit, or build it
29. Reach out to 5 people you care about but haven’t been in touch with
30. Compliment 5 people
31. Those things your partner does that anger, annoy, or frustrate you? Smile and let it be.
32. Give up your seat on the train so friends can sit together
33. Help someone reach their fitness goal by exercising or dieting with them, or signing up for a race or activity with them
34. Stop and help someone with directions, even if it means pulling out your iphone and using the last remaining battery
35. Instead of nagging someone to do something, just do it for them and don’t mention it