Thoughts about Finishing my Second Year of University

I’m finally finished with my second year of university. After many hours writing papers on my computer and having Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN on repeat, I’m halfway through with finishing my bachelor’s degree. My sophomore year at Point Loma Nazarene University has been crazy. From studying abroad in London in the fall of 2016 to leading volunteers for homeless ministries in San Diego and even travelling to New York City by myself. I’m pretty thankful for the experiences I’ve had within the last 8 months of school. I’ve become much more comfortable being outside my comfort zone. I’ve come to the point where I’ve become less dependent on others and dependent on God on what I want to do with my life. I’m really excited for my junior year of university because I’ll be living off-campus in a house. I personally felt tired of living on campus and being trapped within the “Loma Bubble.” I like to describe the Loma Bubble as the view that everything has to be perfect in order to please others. Stereotypically, students would make sure to look good and trendy on their social media accounts, almost as if their life is perfect. I find it ironic when I’m scrolling down my Facebook feed and I see people who “appear” awesome because they’re laughing, smiling, and having fun in their pictures yet when I meet them in person they come off as completely different. I’m not saying that they’re personalities are a complete 180 of their perceived personas, but that their personalities don’t match the way the portray themselves on social media. Another reason about why I’m excited to live off-campus is because I’ll finally own a car and I’ll be able to drive on my own. I felt trapped at Point Loma and now I feel that I can finally explore the rest of San Diego. I also didn’t give surfing too much of a chance while I was in San Diego, but now that I have a car, one of my goals is to pick it up along with hiking. There are some awesome hiking trails and deserts I want to explore. Those of which include Joshua Tree and hopefully the Grand Canyon. I’ve never hiked until I went to Point Loma where some of my upperclassmen friends invited me to some hikes. I think this is one of the few things I appreciate about the culture at Point Loma, where it sparks a sense of adventure. I think the culture at Point Loma is similar to other colleges where if you want to be considered a “Point Loman,” it (an admissions brochure had it) gives you a bunch of requirements/standards on what it means to be Loman. Such requirements/standards include: owning a Hydroflask bottle, wearing Patagonia brand clothing, being a surfer. One of my professors noted how ironic it was that this college tells you how to be Loman, yet wants to promote diversity among its students. I don’t fit much into the standards, so would I be considered as someone who is a “Point Loman?” What I do appreciate about it is the sense of fostering growth, adventure, and openness with someone who is used to being in his or her comfort zone. Despite these complaints, I’m grateful for all the relationships I’ve built there and all the experiences that developed my character at Point Loma Nazarene University.

 

 

Easter and Home

I just landed in my hometown of San Jose, California in time for Easter. This weekend will be a nice weekend where I get to relax and catch up with friends and family and celebrate Easter with my home church. I used to hate being in San Jose because I thought it was such a boring place to live in. But travelling the world has helped me find value in my home. I’ve never felt homesick before, the feeling arose when I visited New York City and met with my extended family. San Jose is not as lively as London or New York City nor does it have outdoor getaways that San Diego has to offer. But, San Jose will always be home base whenever I’m out exploring the world because of all the special relationships I’ve built the past 18 years here.

I’ve never viewed as Easter as an important holiday because I was simply ignorant to its significance. My early perception of Easter was that it was a cheap holiday meant for chocolates and bunnies, similar to Halloween. But, Easter is not that shallow. It’s the symbol of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. It is the end result of Christmas. Christmas symbolises the coming of a perfect savior that dies for an imperfect people and Easter is the result of our imperfections, which includes death, not being able to hold us down because of what our savior has done for us.  My weekend will be attending a Good Friday service at my church and then my church is hosting a play on Saturday and we will have an Easter service Sunday. I want to know what you are doing this weekend, even if you don’t celebrate Easter!

My experience in Brooklyn

I slept a good eleven hours that day and my friend and I visited Brooklyn. We took the subway there and coming out of it was such a huge contrast to Manhattan. My first impression of Brooklyn is that it seemed to be such an average city. The buildings didn’t tower over us and there were tons of graffiti found on street walls. It felt average and I enjoyed it because it was average.  My friend attested to that by saying students dream of living in Brooklyn because it’s the perfect escape from the hasty city life.

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The first mural I see

We stayed at a coffee shop called Devacion. Devacion is a Colombian based coffee shop and my first time waling in had such a relaxing and chill ambience. It was here that I’ve tried the best-tasting coffee I’ve ever tasted. It simply was rich in the coffee flavour and bitterless. My friend stayed at Devacion to study while I explored the rest of Brooklyn. I was warned by my friend to not make eye contact with people on the street because people in Brooklyn are protective of their culture. Looking at them was like an invasion of privacy. I’ve also confirmed this norm with other friends in Manhattan. My goal was to reach DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and back. I walked down along the Williamsburg bridge and to my surprise, walked through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. It was like walking back in time seeing men dressed in long black coats and black top hats and donning their distinguished bushy beards and curly side hair. I observed many of the men were walking fast and had a cellphone next to their ear and most women were walking with their baby strollers.

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A cool house I passed by

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I always thought this was a stereotype of Brooklyn

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In the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood

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In the Orthodox Jewish Neighborhood

I reached DUMBO after an hour of walking and it wasn’t too much at all of what I thought it was. It was simply a small area beneath Manhattan Bridge. Downtown Brooklyn was nearby and I explored that. I found an awesome Halal cart and sat down on a bench and listened to the sounds that the city had to offer. I proceeded to take a different route back. I ended up in a residential area where I was in awe over the similarity of the buildings to the images I had in my head. I then stumbled upon a park. It was distinct because there was a huge stairway in the middle of it. As I walked up the steps, There was a huge pillar protruding up the park. It was a memorial.

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Downtown Brooklyn

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DUMBO

I enjoyed my time in Brooklyn. I’ve always dreamed of visiting Brooklyn because of shows like NCIS: New York and Blue Bloods. Small things like chain-linked-fenced-in basketball courts and tall apartment structures just please me because I’ve just never seen them in person before. I loved seeing the murals and graffiti on the walls because it simply screams Brooklyn.

First Day in New York City

It was my first time travelling alone. I knew two friends in New York City, one of which I met whilst I was abroad in London and the other I knew growing and was staying with. I stayed at my friend’s apartment in the Chelsea area of New York. It was right in the middle of Manhattan and close to a subway stop. When I first arrived, it was 15 degrees, the coldest I’ve been so far in my twenty years of life. Never had I put on 5 layers of clothing to keep myself insulated in such frigid temperatures. I didn’t own gloves and my hands became so ashy, they started bleeding.

I began my exploration of New York City by taking a walk on the high line, an abandoned railway now turned into a garden. I came at the absolute worst time because all the plants shrivelled and withered. After such a disappointed walk, I made my way down to Battery Park, which is on the southernmost tip of Manhattan, because I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. I walked along the Hudson River and eventually reached the park. Battery Park was the closest I can come to the Statue of Liberty without paying for the ferry to Ellis Island. I then made my way north to visit all the sites that I missed by taking the Hudson River route.

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Battery Park

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The view as I walked to Battery Park

I first wound up at Wall Street. I saw the infamous Charging Bull statue (Unfortunately I wasn’t in New York the day that there was a statue of a little girl facing the bull). It was here that I tried Halal food for the first time and my goodness, it was one of the best tasting dishes I’ve had in my life. I visited a local church and sat down in a bench and ate it. While eating it, I overheard a woman walking out saying “I couldn’t buy a ticket to see his show, so I ended up seeing his grave.” My mind instantly went ‘oh shoot! Alexander Hamilton is buried here!’ And I got to see his grave!

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His grave

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Halal Food!

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Charging Bull Statue

I explored the rest of Wall Street and enjoyed what it had to offer. Because of what happens inside the banks make Wall Street exciting, I just took a picture of George Washington and left. My next destination was Ground Zero. Along the way, I got distracted by the random sculptures found around each corner and stopped and took pictures. Ground Zero was interesting. The atmosphere felt solemn. Its waterfall memorial is breathtaking. After that, I made my way toward the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. It was a long walk from Ground Zero, but the view was amazing. I hit what I wanted to hit that day and tried to make my back to Chelsea. I wound up in Chinatown and explored bits and pieces of it. Throughout my walk, it was interesting to see many small things that I’ve seen in movies and TV shows like chain-linked fenced basketball courts.

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Random Street Art

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Ground Zero

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Arc De Triomphe Maybe?

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The Flatiron Building

Thanks for reading through this blog post. I’ll post my second day in New York in a few days!

A Break in New York City

Spring break is almost here. The month of February has been intense for me during university because I’ve been overwhelmed with endless amounts of work before the first half of the semester ends. Fortunately, I’ve survived what appeared to be myriad of exams, presentations, and papers. Coincidentally, the storm of work arrived the same time as the crazy Californian storm known as Lucifer. The end of February marks my insane ride through a literal and figurative storm. Looking ahead for next week, I will be spending my spring break in the East Coast of the US.

I’m ecstatic. I’ve never visited a state outside of California before. The first time I’ve ever been outside of California was when I studied abroad in London last fall. For the first half of my break, I’ll be staying in my friend’s apartment in Manhattan and plan to see all the big tourist things. Central Park, Time Square, Ground Zero, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge are all on my bucket list.

I’m debating whether I should visit the Empire State Building because I’ve been atop of tall buildings before and they just don’t excite me as much and the cost to enter is $34. The Liverpool Cathedral,  the tallest Anglican church in England, was 10 pounds to enter, and I came out severely disappointed. My disdain for climbing tall buildings is that I compare them to previous hikes that I’ve done where the skyline becomes the reward for all the effort I’ve done to reach the top. Hiking Arthur’s Seat to see the city of Edinburgh was so much more fun and rewarding than taking an elevator to see the city of Liverpool.

This will be my first time exploring a huge city by myself and I’m beyond excited. I plan on vlogging my experiences to keep myself entertained as I explore the city. Stay tuned on this blog for updates and vlogs about my adventures!

My Time in Italy

The past two weeks, I have been messing around with different types of content to post on my blog. I’m still learning as I find my voice in my writing and learn the reason as to why I write. But, I think it’s time to stick to my tried and true travel logs that I’ve started off with and hopefully branch off into more personal posts. When I write my travel logs, I post my pictures first and create a story based off those pictures. For this post, I’ll be writing from my head and complimenting these words with my photosFrom the week of Oct 14 to Oct 17, five of us from our group decided to take a vacation in Cinque Terre.

So, what is Cinque Terre and why would I go there instead of Rome, Florence, Venice or Milan? Cinque Terre literally translates to “five towns” in English. Cinque Terre( or Chin-kwa Tare-ray)  is a strip of five towns along the northwestern coast of Italy. There are a bunch of terraces built along the coastal ridges. Why did I choose to go here instead of the other beautiful cities? Because I wanted peace. There was one word that I would describe my trip and that would be peace. Cinque Terre was isolated from the rest of city life and we wanted to get away from the hectic life of London. Florence was on the top of my list for cities to visit because, the video game, Assassin’s Creed II made such an accurate replication of the city and inspired me to visit. But, I needed rest.

I’m going to compare this trip to my trip to Berlin because those are our two independent trips that we took in our semester abroad. I had a great time in Berlin. I saw my friend that I met from church and I saw many historical sites from World War II. But, there were so many things going wrong with our trip to Berlin. Our flight was supposed to leave at 8:00pm and it takes about two hours to fly to Berlin. Once we boarded the plane, we found out that there was a thunderstorm that delayed our flight by two hours. We were originally planned to arrive in Berlin at 11:00pm( because going east adds an hour) but we landed at 1:00am. Our group traveled in two separate groups because we bought tickets at separate times and we found out that the other group( that flew in the same airline as us) only ended up being delayed 20 minutes. We didn’t have a chance to change our currency to Euros when we landed and we learned the hard way that stores in Berlin do not take American credit cards. We also weren’t prepared for the weather that was going to come. What we thought was going to be a light shower turned out to be a torrential downpour. We took the train to see the Topography of Terror( Gestapo HQ turned museum) but the train skipped our stop because of intense rain. So, we had to walk in the mud and flooded streets to find the Topography of Terror. As we were flying back to London, the trains at Stansted Airport were canceled because someone decided to sit in front of the train tracks. We were forced to take the bus back home. We eventually arrived at our place at 3:00am.

 

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Our time in Berlin!

In contrast, our flight to Italy was smooth and on-time. Because of our stumbles in Germany, we prepared ourselves for the weather and exchanged our money beforehand. That first night, we arrived at our Air B&B in Corniglia (pronounced Cornelia) and rested for the night. The next day was expected to rain and that meant the coastal hiking trails were closed due to the risk of landslide. We visited Monterosso, which was the northernmost town of Cinque Terre. Monterosso is a beautiful resort town. We visited its beach and hiked toward the top of the mountain. We met an awesome American couple exploring Italy for their 10th anniversary. After spending an hour of hiking, we tried to look for some spaghetti, because apparently, the world’s best spaghetti is located in Monterosso. We found out that the restaurant that we were looking for was closed, so we found another restaurant to go into. This was where the weather turned into a complete 180. As we entered the door, a sudden downpour started showering outside. Our waiter told us that we had to evacuate to the train station after we were done eating because the weather had achieved a level of red alert. The food here was amazing. I ordered gnocchi for the first time and that was amazing. Gnocchi is little balls of potato mixed with tomato or pesto sauce. But, my favorite thing from the restaurant was the water. The water was amazing. It was a gift from God. It was fresh mountain spring water. The taste of the water was PURE, untouched by metal. Anyway, after that, we were trying to catch the train back to Corniglia, but as were trying to walk there, the winds picked up to 40mph. Dust was flying into our eyes, trash cans were rolling in the streets and waves were slamming the beach. The weather was crazy. It felt like being in a hurricane. This was our first day of exploring Cinque Terre. When night time rolled around, the skies cleared up. We went to our rooftop terrace that overlooks the town and set up dinner. It was romantic. Not the lovey-dovey romantic, but the idealized romantic. We had a candle-lit dinner on our rooftop terrace, next to the town and the Meditterean Sea, and underneath the stars.

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Monterosso! Unfortunately we went on a cloudy day.

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The view of Monterosso from the mountains.

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Top of the mountains in Monterosso!

Our second day, it was a lot better. There were blue skies when we woke up and that meant that we were going to hike. We started our morning off with a little breakfast and then hiked in the mountains from Corniglia to Manarola. The hike was about two hours long. The hike upward was a bit challenging and it rained a little. But, once we were in the mountains, the view was amazing. The rain stopped and we saw a double rainbow. We saw the beautiful Corniglia from afar and the Azure Mediterranean Sea. As we were hiking, we traversed through two towns high in the mountains. It was interesting to see the rural side of Italy because these towns were so secluded from the rest of society. We also walked through these people’s vineyards, which was an amazing experience. We got to see how they picked their grapes and how they crushed their grapes into wine. Once we got to Manarola, we found a restaurant. This restaurant offered a lot of seafood because it was next to the coast. There was something so amazing on the menu that caught my eye, so I HAD to order it. It was Spaghetti with Octopus in Spicy Tomato sauce. It was heavenly. The spaghetti and the sauce was freshly made and the octopus was grilled to perfection. We then went to the cove and dipped our feet in the water. The Mediterrean Sea was so blue. After that, we went to Rio Maggero( which was the southern most town) and visited the beach. This beach reminded me of the Sunset Cliffs of Point Loma because the water was temperate and the sun ruled the sky. We then went to the last town, Vernazza, and ate Gelato and watch the sun set over the Sea. I had an amazing day exploring the rest of Cinque Terre.

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The view from our window in Corniglia!

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Our hike in the mountainside.

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View of Corniglia at the top of the mountain!

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We encountered cool trails.

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We hiked among the vineyards.

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Saw some tornados forming over the Mediterranean Sea.

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Towns isolated in the mountains.

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The town of Manarola!

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Spaghetti with Octopus and Spicy Tomato Sauce

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We dipped our feet in the Mediterranean Sea!

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The Beautiful Rio Maggero!

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Rio Maggero!

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Vernazza at golden hour!

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Everyone’s gotta take a dive at sunset!

Our last day in Italy was spent exploring the city of Pisa because the nearest airport to Cinque Terre( and Florence!) is Pisa. We tried to find the Leaning Tower. It took us a while, but we managed to find it. I can confirm that the tower is indeed leaning. We saw a bunch of people trying to push the tower back into place. There was also an absurd amount of gnats flying around. We managed to eat at an outdoor restaurant with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the background. We ordered a lot of pizza and gelato before we left. Our flight back into London was smooth. We arrived at an appropriate time of 9pm and had a goodnight’s rest before class started.

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Our Time at the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

I hope you guys enjoyed my experience of both Berlin and Cinque Terre. I’m hoping that I can find my writing style soon because I enjoy sharing my experiences.