The Learning Part of EPGY

July 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Give me until Saturday.

I’ll update, I promise.

I have one week left here, and I’m trying to soak it all up while I can. I’ll have a load of posts SPEWING at you in a week’s time, so enjoy this silence while you can. I’ve written a million essays, it seems, but here are a few excerpts to keep it interesting (thanks sis, for the suggestion?):

Alone:

The cold was the only sensation that registered. For every breath I took, a sharp sting overtook my lungs. My hands were raw and numb from the freezing winds and the burn of the ropes. A faint drizzle began. My teeth were chattering so loudly that my entire body vibrated along.

Transportation:

For an hour, I listen to their incessant chatter. It’s comforting in a way. Their voices become something of a background song for me, soothing and present. Still, I don’t join in. It sounds tribal to me, foreign. I don’t know the people they are referring to, the places they are mentioning, the situations they are obsessing over. I feel as if they are telling a story. A story from another country, perhaps, that everyone else seems to understand except for me.

The Sweetest Day:

The morning dawned bright and early, the sun gracing the world with its full presence. The black rectangle of a rented Grand Cherokee awaited in my driveway, the trunk wide open and scattered with an abundance of colorful tote bags. Meanwhile, my four best friends and I were in the kitchen, spooning large chunks of fresh bread pudding into our mouths and popping egg rolls for breakfast.

She Gave Me the World: (can you tell we worked on titles?)

A photo album, standing alone, is comprised of cardboard, paper, plastic, and several pieces of metal. A beautiful album boasts of unique elements and perhaps stunning artwork on the cover. A book of photos, on the other hand, is an irreplaceable collection of memories. I have, essentially, the world and my dream in my hands and I am not letting it go.

Glamour: Gowns and Croissants:

Many people, myself included, would use ‘glamour’ as the one word to describe this movie. Yet, there is one other word that would describe it even better for me personally. Comfort. The spirit of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is that charm and humor can win you over. It is highly comforting to know that it is charm that can be the ultimate decider, and not wealth or beauty or wit. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the down pillow, the fleece blanket, and the worn-in pajamas on any given night, the movie of comfort and of glamour, of dreams and of the best reality.

The (Chalk) Art of Being Skinny:

These proclamations shook me, disgusted me. How could someone degrade herself to such a degree? Could someone honestly feel such a way? How could a number on a scale determine beauty? My housemates and I washed out the façade of the pretty script that shouted painful things. We worked together to write inspiring messages, uplifting messages that were intended to motivate, to bring a smile on someone’s face. We drew hearts and smiley faces, erased the ugly and replaced it with a fresh layer of encouragement.

Saving Private Lives:

While it is an incredible feat our generation established in creating an entirely new outlet for information and entertainment, there are some aspects that should be kept at a minimum. Baird describes Neda Agha Soltan’s “gruesome” death as a grim honor, but in reality, it is actually the worst form of disrespect. To disrupt a person’s privacy in such a way, to actually showcase their pain and defeat and ultimate death, is an example of one of the disgusting features of the Internet nowadays.

‘Kay kids, that’s all for now. I’m off to write my NINTH essay in 2 weeks. Wowza.

C

PS. Remember… Come back Saaaturday!!!

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Sweet Home Houston

July 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

…But not.

You see, I’m actually not in Houston and I’m having a blast here in Palo Alto. It’s a pretty amazing place. To be honest, I’ve been so caught up in this whirlwind that I haven’t even stopped to breathe, much less blog.

I’ve usually been getting up at around 6:00 AM (give or take) to finish up last minute edits on essays and to call my family and to get gussied up. Then, we head off to breakfast and usually grab a couple of muffins to go (they are absolutely deeelish) or we get a couple of scoopful of eggs for protein (not so yummy). Class is from 9-11:30. We have discussions and lectures about writing techniques and edit our essays from the night previous. We watch video clips that showcase the most perfect examples for our topics and talk about essays from The Best American Essays, 2009 Edition. Then, everyone heads off to lunch and goes back to the house for about half an hour before study hall begins. Study hall lasts from 1:00-3:30 and is just a really chill time where the house is silent and everyone’s either reading, writing, or discussing. It’s always when everyone is sneakily on Facebook and Youtube… That’s why one must rush home to get a good computer facing away from the counselors.

After study hall comes the fun part. We have a quick snack time and then head off for activities. Some activities are completely obscure, like African dance lessons or friendship bracelets. Others are more sporty, like sand volleyball or Ultimate Frisbee. Still others are a bit more mundane like mall trips and trips to downtown. The best ones are the Stanford traditions, such as fountain-hopping (yayyyyyyy!) and walking the Dish. We come back from activities around 6:00, head straight for dinner, come back to the house and do whatever the heck we want until 10:00, when we have a house meeting and then bedtime at 11:00. Whewwwww, tough days! 🙂

Anyways, here’s what I did in my very few days (two, to be exact) in Houston:

It was soooo hot and humid in good ol’ Houston that mosquitos were literally dying in the burning car. Wowzaaa. Good thing I’m in land of the sweaters… San Francisco!

The first thing we did was grocery-shopping. I took this picture because I just wanted to show you that I am a totally and completely healthy person and I’m so proud of the things I got.

But then… Five hours later:

Who could ever deny mint chocolate chip ice cream, especially if your home is in Houston where the summers are literally scorching? Not me.

Here’s my apex of healthiness: salad from Olive Garden. It’s such a guilty pleasure… Sooooo good! Other than Caesar, I think this is the only salad I can bear to eat.

Lastly…

I’m a carb girl, through and through. So cheesy, so good.

Adios,

C

Travel Diary 2: 480 Minutes in Vancouver

July 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hiii!

Finally found some time to settle down and blog. Hope you’re not too disappointed with me! Like I said, the last “An American in China” segment will be here very early August. Meanwhile, I will start you off with some Vancouver business and then get straight into San Francisco!

My daddy and I got off the airplane at around 11 in the morning after an extra-long day of planes and skies. I was so thankful for some land. We met up with my daddy’s old friend’s daughter and wife (you get that?) and they showed us around some beautiful sights of Vancouver and took us out for some comidas. They are amazingly nice, lovely people!

On our slow descent, we were treated to views of snowcapped mountains, winding rivers, and even a speedy mini plane.

Welcome to Canada! Such a wonderful country, and the eye candy’s not shabby at ALL!

The most amazing scenery:

Seagulls were overhead every second of the day! I was scared to death because they were, ahem, doing their business from up above and I was terrified that one would land in my hair.

Charming little water gas station:

These gas stations are used for these:

Adorable little planes to get across the water (through water or through sky) towards those beautiful mansions on the mountain!

We also went to Stanley Park and saw totem poles, which are very special to the city:

Not only are there gorgeous mountains, there are the sweetest little mini-beaches:

But, wait, there’s more! Treeeeeeeeees! Lots of trees! You know what trees do? They give shade! Aaaaand, they give us oxygen! That’s why the air is so refreshing up there.

Observe the beauty:

I spent some major quality time with this dude (Lions Gate Bridge):

Oh, and we had this in mind:

Finally, we visited the Public Market for a bit, which was dandy and fun:

Saw many pretty birdies:

Bye bye Birdy!

This day trip was so fun and the sights were some of the loveliest I’ve seen. Just one crazy thought… Vancouverites consider 30 degrees Celsius as a heat wave. Like, whaaaaaat?!

C

Buzzin’ Like a Bumblebee!

July 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

I am … So. Busy.

Camp has been wonderful so far. I’ve met the funniest, loveliest people and am having the best experience. Fountain-hopping, sandcastle-building, exploring the Stanford campus… I’ve done it all. And, there’s even more!

So, there’s one more “An American in China” segment, but because I am a ditz and forgot a few major pictures at home, that shall be updated at the very beginning of August. Starting tomorrow, I will begin to post pictures from EPGY! Yay!

Today, however, I must finish typing up my essay (classes are definitely very hardcore) and get going on a trip to Palo Alto.

Until tomorrow,

C

Travel Diary: An American in China, 13

July 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

“Closet Shopping” Edition!

Hey people,

I am currently situated in the coziest dorm house at Stanford University. It’s a Slavic dorm with a Harry Potter theme! How cool is that? I’m staying in the Astronomy Tower 🙂 This is going to be a quick little post because I have to rush to a welcome BBQ dinner in a few minutes. I can’t wait to finish recapping all the China business so we can get started on talkin’ bout the greatest city on Earth!

Soooo… My aunt is one of the most fashionable people I know. She’s so up-to-date with trends. I’m always so impressed with her clothes because they all look wacko individually, but once she pairs them up, they all look so awesome.

These were my top nicks:

H&M Garden Collection top: this is the perfect example of something that looked so awkward by itself, but really great on. It was just a billowy piece of flowery fabric when you pick it up… I love the sleeves and the print!

A Burberry short-sleeved trench! This is completely adorable, but I’m going to need to find the perfect season to wear it… Fall, perhaps?

Banana Republic cardigan! I love Banana Republic so much, but I love cardigans even more. Cardigans are perhaps my favorite item of clothing. This burnt orange color is so pretty and the length is perfect. It’s with me in SF at the moment 🙂

Such a pretty tunic/mini-dress! The fabric is soooo soft and comfy. Best thing ever!

I was pretty skeptical when my aunt first handed me this dress, but I love it so, so, so much. That little band at the bottom is so flattering and the pleated ruffle thingys at the neckline are just the perfect little mix-in.

What a great trench! The buttons, the neckline, the sleeves, the fabric… I’ll be wearing this like every day this fall.

Sorry for the horrible color matching (the dress so disappears), but I was crampacking hardcore… Prettiest BeBe skirt!

This is something else I was going to turn down. My aunt told me to try it on and I fell in love with it. I may cut the tulle off though, it’s a bit much…

The tallest, pointiest, most sophisticated wedges in existence.

Precious cargo! My favorite? The baby in the back!

Ohkay.

Now.

What could prompt such expressions?

No words.

C

Travel Diary: An American in China, 12

July 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

Shenzhen, continued!

Less on the talk, more on the posting…

K, so you know how I said hotpot is probably my favorite type of dining? I semi-lied. Hotpot’s my favorite dinner choice, but for brunch, I’m a total sucker for dimsum.

Dimsum’s popular down in Hong Kong and Shenzhen– basically the whole Guangdong province. Drink tea, eat congee, gobble up lots of pastries and goodies, my type o’ meal.

I’m not a big fan of tea. I’m more of a coffee kinda person, but when eating dimsum, only tea works. We chose jasmine tea, which is a lot milder than other teas, which I’m super grateful for. I can only take so much bitterness 🙂 These are some of our old favorites:

Congee is a must when it comes to dimsum. My personal go-to flavor is preserved duck egg with pork. So yummy 🙂

This is a gelatin-like flat noodle with shrimp and bamboo inside and drizzled with soy sauce. We’ve been ordering this item for years and years and years. I can’t even remember a time when we didn’t have this.

I think this was probably my favorite of the day, if I had to choose one. Taro pastry! It was mildly sweet and crispy. Always a winner with me!

BBQ pork buns! These beauties are served in many places, but few make it perfectly. For me, the bun has to be very fluffy and thick. The filling should be slightly sweet, but smoky as well. Most places make the mistake of making it too sweet and weird. This place made it the Caroline-approved way 🙂

Shrimp and bamboo glass dumplings… Also another longtime favorite. This one was pretty average. Dimsum items are tough to be really good to me because I’ve had everything so much.

Salty, sticky, fried dumplings. A bit too sticky in my mind, but it’s never been my favorite dimsum treat anyways…

Chicken feet :O I didn’t touch any, and I never have. It’s wayyyyy too bony for me. My sister, on the other hand, declares chicken feet her favorite dimsum item ever. Mine, on the contrary…

Sticky rice with pork and sausage filling, wrapped in bamboo leaves. I’m very judgmental when it comes to these little ones since they are my all time favorites. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best sticky rice packets ever, this one was probably a 5 or a 6. Still good, but not perfect!

The only downside to dimsum is that you actually have to rise early. This time, we came a little late since certain members of our crew stayed up till 4 AM watching soccer, but you’re usually supposed to go around 9-10 AM. Ish.

On Fourth of July, we toasted the Home of the Brave with this glass of caramel macchiato. I had it down in an instant.

For dinner, we went to a Peking duck restaurant, where the specialties are Peking duck (duh.) and this:

Translated directly, it’s “mouth-numbingly spicy fish.” There’s frickin layers of hot, hot peppers in that thing. I skip this bowl and go on to the ‘pickled vegetable fish’ bowl, which is milder by like ten thousand degrees.

Technically, the toast is for the people who dare to eat the spicy fish. You place the fish on the bread so that it can soak up a lot of the spiciness and make it more bearable. Not wanting to be left out, I decided to try it out with my own pickled vegetable fish.

The duck pancakes were so delicious. They may have been even better than the ‘authentic’ ones in Beijing? Both were lovely, anyhow…

Fried onion pancake… My daddy’s long-time favorite. I was so gosh-dang full that day though, so I only had one slice…

Here’s the duck butt once again! They made it even better here, if that’s even possible. The slices lay on a bed of sugar. The meltiness is just… oh, goodness…

A tower of yummy duck meat! I always get made fun of because I tend to get tired of wrapping pancakes by my fourth one and just start eating the duck meat and pancakes separately. Oh wells 😛

By choice, we had our duck bones made into soup instead of being deep-fried. The soup was extremely delicious, a lot more flavorful than the one served in Beijing. And since I’m so overly healthy, there was even bokchoy in it!

When I went to ‘shop’ in my aunt’s closet, I played with this beauty, Tony. She’s such a shy little girl and would run away every time I looked at her, but by the end of the day, she was napping in my lap.

This is how I kept myself entertained for hours.

And, here’s my fav person… like ever.

I am gonna go watch some soccer (Spain! Spain!), but I shall return!

C

Travel Diary: An American in China, 11

July 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

We are gonna be on a roll today, so I’m going to be brief with my greetings and get straight to the point.

Shenzhen is a metropolitan city right across the river from Hong Kong. It is abundant in seafood (yay!), exporter of fresh fruits and veggies, and all in all, a fascinating place to be.

As always, we hightailed it to my grandparents’ place and chatted till pretty late. Before we headed over to my uncle’s place, where we stayed, we went to (of all places) Sam’s Club with my other uncle. Sam’s Club, China edition, is very similar to what we have, but with even more stuff. They’re also stocked in some really odd things, such as… (close your eyes if you get queasy easily)

A chopped up alligator. Yes, to be honest, I was disgusted. But the thing I’ve learned is, when you’re in another country, you’ve gotta respect their culture and lifestyle. If the Sam’s Club in China wants to sell such things (and people there do buy it up and enjoy eating stuff like this), then so be it.

I was majorly dairy deprived. At home, I eat cheese, drink milk, inhale yogurt and ice cream, like twenty times a day. I don’t really touch any of that stuff in China. First of all, you can’t really find cheese or butter anywhere. Second of all, the stuff you can find, like milk and ice cream, is just so different from what we have in the US and I’m not too keen on them. Therefore, I was exuberant to find Laughing Cow cheese at Sam’s. So excited, in fact, that I ate a wedge (even though it’s spreadable…) in the car. I also bought cheddar and Colby Jack. Cheese fest 😛

Once at my uncle’s casa, I was greeted by this little guy:

Most hyper dog ever. He’s such a chipper goofball though, we’re great buds 🙂

My youngest cousin’s school is conveniently located right by my grandparents’ house. Every day after school, her dad would pick her up and she would go choose a snack and bring some for me, as well. Then, we’d all go off to dinner or playtime or whatevs. This one was probably my favorite- it was a fried pancake of sorts, with bacon, eggs, and sausage. Greasy goodness! She also brought me drinks and meatballs and popsicles. What a good cousin!

Upon hearing that I’m a fan of hotpot, my uncles decided to take me to a unique hotspot restaurant. The restaurant serves ‘rice-brewed hotpot.’ It’s a lot more bland (and healthy) than regular hotpot, and there’s a lot more seafood involved.

We ordered…

Clams…

and Shrimp! These two were by favorites, by far, but we also ordered a lot of other (questionable) items. I’m such a conservative eater, for reals.

Cleaned our palate with a bowl of congee made from the rice hotpot!

Once again with the drinking thing! I loooooooooooooooooove this new find. It’s coconut juice! Soooo delicious. I had three per day on average in Shenzhen. The good thing? It’s HEALTHY! I’m not kidding, I’ve been reading about the benefits of coconut juice in a million magazines. Score!

And now, for the best meal ever…

Bear with me for a second, these were just the technicalities. We went to a ‘massive wild fish bowl’ restaurant (translated word for word). It’s a bit like hotpot in a way, except there’s no soup and it’s all about the fish. We picked huge hunks of sea bass and mahi mahi. The sea bass was the clear winner.

They toss the raw fish inside of this humongous sunken pot in the middle of the table, along with stuff like tofu, ‘kuanfen’ (gelatin-like noodles… soooo good), mushrooms, yadda yadda.

The home-made soup is added.

Then, they put the lid on and it steams like nobody’s business for about 30 minutes. We almost went insane because the temptation was so unfair, especially when the room filled with the aroma. Gahhhh. To cool us off, we ordered this…

What could that be? It’s known as ‘suanmeitang’ or ‘pickled plum juice’. I’ve heard of it before, but this year probably because of the various heat waves, it’s served absolutely everywhere. Almost every restaurant I frequented offered a complimentary cup of it. The taste is definitely acquired. It’s slightly salty, really sour, a tad bit sweet. Think grape juice with a tang. No matter… It’s refreshing and that’s what counts!

Here, they teased us by letting us peek in the pot. My aunt eagerly reached for her chopsticks, only to be awarded with a stern glance and a “it’s not ready yet.” They made it up to us by pasting corn cakes onto the side of the pot and then closing it up…

An agonizing fifteen minutes later, it was ready! Doesn’t that look irresistible? Well, it definitely was. There was just bombs of flavor. I basically breathed in all of the sea bass. Plus, the radishes were amazing and the tofu, as well. Oh, and potatoes! Gotta remember the potatoes.

My nibbled-on corn cake. Veryyy satisfying- it was crunchy and gritty, just the way I like it.

Once we were done with all that main stuff, we decided to toss in some noodles. Never say no to carbs, that’s the rule I live by!

Several days later, we had a family dumpling fest. Everyone came together and made dumplings together before devouring it all. We had bokchoy and celery (my favorite) filling. Haa, but I ‘specially requested filling-less dumpling skin. My family called me crazy. Whatevs.

We were also lucky enough to visit the spinny buffet in a tall, tall tower. I was a clueless little girl though and wasn’t even aware that the buffet had revolved until after it stopped. 😛

Other than that, another notable excursion was to the biggest restaurant in all of Shenzhen. It was ginormous, but you’re just gonna have to take my word for it because I was too hungry to take pics. Here’s an idea of the size, based on just the menu…

Oh, and some pretty mussel shells…

That thing behind the shell is abalone. Doesn’t look like much, but it costs crazy much… You’d think they were diamonds.

Haaa, and some random gigantic eggs we found in the food-ordering area:

Be back in a jiffy with more,

C

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