2.365 Tea

Little-Things-croppedteatimeTo be honest, I’ve always been a coffee person. I am a creature of habit and one habit I enjoy is my morning cup of Joe. It all started in high school, the product of procrastination, pulling all-nighters and working graveyard shifts while chugging coffee throughout my day. A coffeeholic much?  …totally.

So I’m not sure when it happened; when I went from grande hazelnut latte to a cup of green tea, please. Since the New Year, I’ve cut back drastically on my coffee intake and surprisingly, I feel more energetic and happier. Perhaps it’s being in Asia, where tea knows no limits. From the endless rows of tea fields to even an art form of pouring tea which takes years to perfect!  Who knew coffee’s little cousin was so rich in history and in taste too. There is a tea for almost every mood, like some calming Chamomile to go along with my bedtime reads.

Not to mention, all the health benefits it has over coffee: low in calories, helps sheds pounds, better for your teeth and full of antioxidants. Even studies are showing that tea has about the same amount of caffeine as in a serving of coffee, but you don’t get that depressing and sometimes emotional caffeine crash. Thank goodness! Now let’s go and get the par-tea started …but, keep it in moderation.

Today, I am grateful for… Tea

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1.365 Roommates

Little-Things-cropped

roommates

There’s that saying—you never really know a person until you live with them. They’re the ones who know all your quirky habits and even your disgusting ones or when you need a little cheering up on a bad day. No, I’m not talking about your siblings or spouse, I’m talking about roommates. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with some tolerable human beings turned into pretty amazing life-long friends. I’ll get that occasional 3am drunk banging at my room door asking… “yo! Julie-et… are you.. uh. hungry, wanna eat some pizza?” It’s like they just get you …well, sometimes. Of course, arguments over cleanliness and dirty dishes are bound to happen too. For the male roomies, I have yet to understand how shaving your facial hair ends up being a confetti canon all over the bathroom- the sink, the toilet, the floor, it’s everywhere! But hey, I’m not perfect either… all those countless times I forgot to take out my linen scented turned musty clothes from the wash. With roommates, it’s about living on your own while still having the pleasures of a social connection. Roommates teach you how to share, how to communicate, how to be patient, how to be responsible and if you’re lucky… maybe even how to cook!

Today, I am grateful for… Roommates

365 Little Grateful Things

Little-Things-croppedIt has been decided– I am going to make daily post on my blog to share what I am thankful for each day. Last year, I was intrigued by the idea of a 365-day Happiness/ Gratitude Project I saw all over Instagram and other social medias… only I didn’t keep up nor cared to share.

However, as written on my 1-year goal, I plan to keep an attitude of gratitude, so what better way than to revive an old project of mine.

I keep this journal of “Little Grateful Things” I write about from my day-to-day encounters. It helps me reflect about the day and stay positive. I thought it would be fun to share. Plus, it would help me get back in the groove of writing on my blog again. That’s two things off my 1 year goal list. Okay, so let’s do this…

Getting Back on Track.

Why, hello there.

It has been a while since I’ve created anything to post. I think about it all the time, too. There is so much I want to do, but not enough time—we’ve all heard that one before. So much has changed.

But that’s life: it goes on.

I will thank myself later for posting this. Ah, so getting back on track. Where do I start?

So here I am, and I need to figure things out while staying motivated to keep going. Going back to my last post, the month of March completely flew by while I was in Japan. In April, I flew back to Taiwan, my home away from home. And while it felt good to be back, I struggled with the uncertainty of where my life was headed next. It’s now mid-May. I see it as turning to another chapter and starting anew on a blank page, it’s exciting, every time.

The time here has allowed me to reevaluate my plans. I had so many expectations about how things were going to be, but when things don’t turn out that way, I become increasingly unmotivated and disenchanted with myself.

I thought I would start by setting some new goals for myself and talk about some areas I think I need to work on in order to get myself out of this funk.

goals

Goal Setting:

Now, I love goal setting, probably a bit too much. The problem is, I reassess my goals on a weekly basis, like all the fricken time. I never give myself a chance to work through the difficult stages and actually reach any goals because when something comes along I don’t like, I just change my mind. It’s hard not to become frustrated and flustered at the things that don’t come easy for us. I have flipped on my commitments before when things become difficult, uncomfortable or hard, I just move on, f*ck it, change my mind and change my goals to something different.

I’ve come to the realization how my lack of commitment is holding me back from really getting anything accomplished. The only commitments I’ve made were the ones that came too easy and comfortable for me, like staying at that dead-end job for too long or falling into bad habits, and knowing inside, I was betraying myself from the things I really wanted and deserved. So today, I’m breaking up my goals by 1 year, 5 year, and lifetime. I plan to only reassess my goals periodically. Quarterly for yearly goals and once a year for the others.

1 year goals

Attitude of Gratitude

Lately, I’ve been having days where I feel super… uh, shitty. Like straight down in the dumps because I’ve let my negative thoughts smolder too long to the point of self-isolation and shutdown. I don’t like it, and I’m sure the people around me don’t like it much either. I’ve resorted to being upset about everything and internalizing it, upset about the things happening back at home, upset about my bad habits, upset about my day-to-day efforts and upset because I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. It is time I stop throwing myself a pity party and start to look at the things I do have in my life. I should not take granted of the little things, but be grateful for it.

So to honor this, I am going to take time out of each night before I go to bed and write down what I am thankful for that day. I am also going to catch myself from negative thoughts so it doesn’t eat away at my happiness. I know negativity breeds negativity and helps no one. Shifting my mindset from negative to a positive, from ungrateful to grateful, wouldn’t just make me happier, but it would boost the happiness of the people around me too.

Friends

Nobody ever said relationships were easy, it takes work. Often times, we’re too busy with our own lives, or absorbed into our romantic ones that we neglect the relationships we’ve maintain after all these years; our friends. They’re the ones we go to when sh*t hits the fan, a shoulder to cry on when times get tough. I admit, it’s easy for me to revert to my cave when I’m feeling anti-social. But this leads to a lonely life and I’m tired of shutting people out. I need to work on reaching out, maintaining and establishing real friendships; letting go of those who are toxic to me and recognizing the ones who’s had my back since day one.

Giving Back

loseyourselfI think Mahatma Gandhi say this best, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. I don’t know anyone who has ever regretted giving back and helping those in need. Whether you donate money or time, giving back is beneficial – and not just for the recipients. It may be apparent to you, as it has been for me that my life is completely egocentric. I’ve realized that life cannot be lived for yourself. I am sincerely grateful to those who have given me the opportunity to practice compassion so that I could gain a deeper understanding of myself, my identity and my place in this world. It feels good to help others, and I want to do more of it rather than obsess about myself and my own problems. So here’s to a year of giving back and spreading compassion.

Writing

I consider myself a writer, whether or not people read what I write, I think at the heart of it, writing is how I create. I haven’t neglected the journal writings, but I haven’t shared it either.

To be honest, I’m not fond of typing it all up after I’ve exhausted myself putting thoughts from paper to pen. While typing can be more efficient, there is something to be said about the raw simplicity of hand writing and visually outlining one’s thought process, from the crossed out sentences to misspelled words. It’s so personal, and yet I’m still learning to create and share. Writing allows me to deliver my thoughts and connect to others when I cannot reach them by the sound of my voice. It’s time to dedicate this goal not just to writing, but sharing too.

Travel

I get asked this all the time, “When are you coming home?” And truth be told, I have no idea. I just surpassed the 6-month mark and trust me, I’m surprised too that I’m still here. I’m beyond blessed that I have this opportunity to travel and teach, meet new people, learn about different cultures; but more importantly, learning about myself. For me, travel isn’t about this epic adventure of moving from place to place, well, not anymore anyways. It’s actually quite exhausting when you do that. I don’t want to rush into thinking I need to be somewhere, whether it be a new country or home. Because in the here and now, I’m still learning so much and I’ll know when it’s time to go. I feel I’m right where I’m supposed to be. And who knows, tomorrow, it may still be here, it may take me to Europe, or it may lead me to home. I’m just going with the flow and learning to let go. Happy Travels!

Japan Itinerary

It has finally hit me that I am headed to Japan. To the sushi bars, night lights, harajuku girls, sumo wrestling, ninja warriors and robot battles, I can see it all now (well, except the ninjas, of course). This will be my first time in Japan and I am thrilled for the upcoming adventures in store for March. I have actually planned an itinerary, which is unusual for me as I tend to just show up to places unknown without a plan or place to stay. But this trip is different because I also won’t be travelling alone. My childhood best friend, Nancy will be joining me. I can’t wait to see a familiar face from home and together, we will be visiting our high school buddy, Keith who teaches English in Shizuoka, Japan.

I have some exciting locations planned and I cannot wait to share my trip with you. My mama has also asked me to be more consistent in sharing travel photos, so I will work on photography this month. For now, these Google images will have to suffice.

Keith

Me, Keith & Nancy- Circa 2010

tokyo_japan

Hello, Tokyo!!

Odwara

Odwara, Japan

March 5-7, Tokyo

March 8, Odawara

March 9, Nikko

March 10, Tokohama

March 11, Kamakura

yokohama

Giant Buddha of Kamakura

March 12, Yokohama

March 13-14, Shiuoka 

March 15, Mt. Fuji

March 16-18, Kyoto

Golden Pavilion

March 19-21, Osaka

Sumo Tournament in Osaka

March 22-24, Hiroshima

Peace Memorial Park

March 25, Back to Narita Airport

fuji

Mt. Fuji

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Peace Memorial Park

Sankeien Garden

Sankeien Garden at Yokohama

yokohama-japan

City Lights at Yokohama

On the road, again.

en route to Taoyuan International Airport, bus no.5201

3/4/15

I sit silently as the bus pulls out of the station, onto the busy, crowded streets of Fuxing, winding along narrow roads, past the charming little fruit stands, till, all at once the colorful blurs of people have all disappeared– turned into gray concrete slabs of highway barriers and high rise buildings as we drive further away from Taipei City.

Chills run down my spine as I feel the air conditioning blow above my head. I can’t seem to turn it off. I put my cap on and wrap myself in my favorite burgundy, elephant- printed scarf. It’s 5:11pm, and about another hour before I reach the airport. 

Staring out the window, my eyes are set focused on the passing cars below, and the cloudless skies that have decided to send me off on this late gloomy afternoon, but my mind is elsewhere. 

Nostalgia sinks in, and my mind recalls of the little nest home I have found here. These last few weeks seemed to have escaped me faster than I would have liked. Even this morning has been fleeting. 

Was it really just hours ago that I was sitting at the bar at Jolly’s with my roommate, drinking beers and sharing our hopes and dreams on where we’d like to see ourselves five years from now. We laugh, “I hope it’s not here. By then, let’s hope we have our sh*t figured out”.

Has it really been only a few days since I sat in the basement of a tea room, meditating with my friends. Sharing stories on how difficult it is to practice discipline, patience and mindfulness because surely, we’ve all lost it before. I mean, c’mon, that lady on the MRT was clearly talking way louder than she needed to be- ahem, shut it lady.

And was it just last week I was petting alpacas in a field and holding hands and singing in a kumbaya feel. Centered in our circle of 40+ volunteers, sat the sightless and disabled children whose joys and smiles could be seen from miles away. And even now, I can still see it. 

I catch myself smiling at these moments. It had all gone by too fast.

Fleeting. Momentary. An unfixed place in time, enriched to the brim with radiantly incandescent memories, and people, and places. Oh, how I live for these moments, these moments I can call mine. Moments that mean more then the sum of all their parts because they are the authentic actuality of a purposeful existence outside the world of success, and strife, and all the things the “real world” seems to hold dear.

It is in these moments, the small and mundane, the familiarity of strangers, the love created without restriction, without fear or preconceived destination, it is in these moments we are truly alive. And while I am sad to leave, I know my being, my very soul, has been changed for the better.

Life Lessons from The Alchemist.

Couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of running my first novel workshop in Taiwan! With the help of a translator, I was able to connect and share with others on some of my favorite books. From Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the many works of William Shakespeare, just to name a few. It’s still so surreal for me, I’d never imagine I’d be standing on stage talking about books and sharing stories– with non-English speakers at that. Despite the language barriers, it was awesome to feel that we still understood one another and could relate in personal experiences. One of the greatest things people can do for each other is share books and ideas. Everyone has a story to tell, become a storyteller and help one another through compassion and empathy.

For my first workshop, we discussed 10 life lessons from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. This novel has inspired millions around the world and I finally got to reading it while on my 14 hour flight here. Books evoke different feelings and meanings for different people. For me, the words of wisdom taken from The Alchemist gave me comfort and motivated me to pursue life’s endless possibilities. By the time I finished reading, I was half way across the world; ready to pursue my dreams of travelling and finding happiness.

Live your dream, and share your passion.

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If there is a must-read book on your list, please share!! 😀

Thoughts on Mindfulness.

inthemoment Entry #18

Keeping up with my new year’s resolution, I vowed to meditate 3-5 times a week. I have spent a lot of time in these past few months learning how to meditate and be mindful. Observing my thoughts and being in a state of awareness. Or what I think is being aware; I think is to acknowledge what I see and feel at any given moment.

Occasionally, I’ll sit on my bed in the mornings and watch my thoughts roam. More days than not, my thoughts are loud and moving in all sorts of direction. The silence has to be the most frustrating and yet, blissful moment of my day. Sitting there, in my half-lotus position and what looks to be my most relaxed state, when really, I’m holding my world together. I’m struggling to look for this peace of mind because my mind feels anything but peaceful. I don’t know how to explain the feelings and so, I often find myself writing. Although, I also know no sequence of words can truly capture thoughts with the same feelings or meanings. All I’m really doing is allowing my fingers to move about in a rhythmic and rather therapeutic manner to further calm my thoughts.

Today, my thoughts feel heavy and I can’t seem to let go of this looming weight over my shoulders. It’s like a constant reminder of my own insecurities. I feel conflicted in so many ways. I am both, feeling happy and sad, trapped and feeling free, and connected but alone. I’ve become sensitive to the world around me. The more I am able to feel pleasure, the more I’ve become vulnerable to pain. Pleasure and pain has always been there, dormant inside all of us, we just choose what we want to see.  Or perhaps this is just another case of over-thinking; I admit, I tend to do that a lot. Mentally arguing with your thoughts can feel silly and frustrating, but in other ways, it has helped too. I know thoughts are just temporary, for they will pass and be forgotten. I am told to be mindful is not to cease or try to fix the negative thoughts on pain, sadness, anger or guilt, but to simply let them be.

But how? How am I supposed to sit here and go about my days without letting my emotions take over?

I feel frustrated.

I have realized that the more aware I’ve become, the more responsibilities I feel I have—to myself, to my family, to others. Surely, the more you know about consciousness, the higher the price you pay for that knowledge. And sometimes, I just don’t know how I’m supposed to act or say with my own knowledge.

I’m afraid of that responsibility.

The thing is, my restless heart yearns to know more, but I worry I won’t be able to fulfill a calling that is required of me to be the best I can be; as a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister and to myself. But if I stopped myself from knowing more, a loss in consciousness would be the same principle as death and not living. I’m stuck in what feels like a vicious circle- a world filled with contradictions and conflicts.

I just don’t understand it. I guess what I really want to know is “Am I doing alright?”

6 Things I Miss About Home

home

One thing travelers love to do when we get together is talk about the things we miss most about home. And I don’t mean family or friends— that’s a given. No, I’m talking about the food cravings, culture, transportation, and all the little quirks in America that I won’t find here. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Taiwan but sometimes, you just gotta reminisce the good ol’ things back home.

spaghetti1. Home Cooked Meals

It’s always the food! Writing this now is making my heart race as I think about mom’s spaghetti. She’s not even Italian, but man, my mom puts so much love (and sauce) into her spaghetti. Sigh. Here, I’ve eaten all the beef noodle soups, rice boxes, pig feet and street foods my heart desires but still- nothing beats a home cooked meal.

2. Driving

Despite the love-hate relationship I have with my car back home, it’s my first baby and I miss him! It’s so convenient to get around and go wherever you want when you have your own transportation. Luckily, the public transportation system in Asia isn’t bad at all- in fact, it’s pretty awesome. Though, having a car jam session, blasting your music up and singing like you’re Mariah Carey is awesome-er.

3. Chipotle

(with guacamole) …Enough said.

4. Flushing toilet paper

For those who haven’t traveled in developing countries, let me point out that flushing toilet paper is a big no-no. Toilet paper is supposed to go in the garbage bin- even for the number twos. I know it sounds disgusting and, you’re right. I’ve seen enough of people’s stained, face-up, unwrapped sh*t to last me a lifetime, thank you public bathrooms and hostels for that. The good thing is, after working in nursing homes to doggy daycares and travelling around Asia, sh*t doesn’t faze me anymore.

And here’s a traveler’s tip, always carry toilet paper! Better yet, smuggle in some Charmin Ultra because you won’t find that soft, two-ply goodness here.

Cheese5. Cheese

Oh good heavens, cheese. I love cheese- Swiss, Brie, Provolone, Parmesan, Cheddar, Gruyere, or Pepper Jack- anything but the plastic-wrapped processed cheese slices available in Asia. Aw, the things I would do for some mac n’ cheese or a grilled-cheese sandwich right now…

Dairy products in general aren’t as big in Asia as they are in the states. Then again, where would you put the cows?

sleep

6. Silence

I can say goodbye to waking up to the calm, peaceful mornings of sunlight peeking through the curtains, a cool breeze wafting in the open window and birds chirping outside. My mornings are now filled with the ambiance of traffic noises, car honks, engines roaring, booming music, my housemates’ telephone conversations and the howling meows of cats in heat. I mean really, I know the walls are paper-thin, but suddenly it’s like I have enhanced hearing powers.

Finding a few minutes of pure silence is a luxury we often miss- so enjoy it.

Heartbreaks, Relationships, and Being Single.

love-yourself-first

Ah, let’s talk (love) life.

I use to be more motivated to write about these things when I was sad. Writing and devouring Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the wee hours of the night listening to my favorite soundtrack of Kelly Clarkson. I know they say you shouldn’t listen to sad, sappy love songs or watch tear-jerking movies after a break-up, but I totally did that! For me, it was an aesthetic experience; finding comfort of an emotional companionship in music, movies, and novels that matched my current feelings. In many ways, it was filling in the void and used as a replacement for my lost and broken relationships.

But today, I am happy. I’m living the life I’ve always wanted: I’m travelling around the world, exploring new cities and meeting many people. Currently, I’m writing in a cafe in Taiwan with a cup of green tea matcha beside me. Of course, I get the fleeting moments of loneliness, but that is normal when you’re living in a city of 2.6 million people that you don’t know. I am happy and blessed to be here, living my dream.

Even still, as a young, single 24-year-old, I do think about dating and, one day, finding love– again. I can see my mother now; like a cheerleader rooting from the sidelines anticipating for the day I bring a guy home. It’s funny; I think my mother worries about my romantic relationships more than I do. I’m reminded on a weekly basis, “Juliet, why are you still single?” or “When I was your age…” spiel. Ok- yada yada… thanks mom, I get it. Even though we don’t always see eye- to eye, you can always count on mothers to love you more than anyone else.

Deep down, I know I am loved; everyone is. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of time before we can feel it. I admit, I didn’t understand nor appreciate what love was, not until I lost it.

The Break-up.

This is where it usually starts. That one heartbreak that changes you, turning your life upside down into an emotional roller coaster of twist and turns- yes, it’s nauseating. And yet, the trill of the ride is so sought after; we’re all waiting in lines, waiting for that one unexpected ride to take us to places unimaginable, feelings indescribable, and a love irreplaceable.

I experienced my first heartbreak, two years ago. When I was lying in bed and received a text message of what I find to be the most traumatizing and gut-wrenching six words of any relationship, “I think we need to talk”. Oh f*ck.

And in a matter of two hours of agonizing words exchanged, it happened– I got dumped.

My heart was shattered to pieces that night. Many nights after that, I spent thinking of the “what-ifs” and blamed myself for not trying hard enough, doing more, and hoped maybe we can try this again. Let me tell you, it was rough.

Breakups are hard. They’re hard because even if you see it coming, you never expect it to actually happen. Suddenly, it hits you and your whole world comes crashing down. It turned my rather logical side into a soggy pulp of emotions. In the following days, I began to FEEL the lyrics of every sad song, quoted words of inspiration and self-help, and looked back at every Facebook photo from 2012. There were moments I even sabotaged my own happiness but I don’t regret any of it. Life is like that sometimes. Things get really messy before it starts getting clear. Deep inside my broken mess was a human being waiting to be fixed.

Whether you’re the one doing the dumping or the one underneath the pile of sh*t, breakups change you. At the time, what I thought was my life falling apart, eventually turned into something better; my life was actually falling into place.

The Single Life.

Aside from the two romantic relationships I’ve been in, I have been single for most of my life. However, as I began to re-build myself, I started to understand what it was like to be single, and I mean to really be single. People have a tendency to think “being single” is this unfortunate state, a status that is meant to be changed.

love yourself

Contrary to popular beliefs, being single isn’t about looking for love, or at least not the kind you’re used to looking for. As narcissistic as it sounds, being single is as full of love as with any other relationship, it’s a thing called self-love.

I know it sounds really cliché, but follow me here–

Because when you’re alone with yourself, if you are there long enough; you will face down your demons. This is the time when you really get to heal yourself. It’s the time that we use to make ourselves better, even if it takes five years to do. It gets easier though. After a while, you find yourself to be great company.

selfloveBeing alone and worrying about yourself when you’re single isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. It’s about maturing as an individual. I’m not saying we have to be perfect human beings before getting into a relationship. No, but I do think people have to know themselves before they know what they need in a relationship.

I mean, let’s get real, how can anyone possibly try to make someone else better if you don’t know what’s wrong with yourself.

For me, being single isn’t about looking for someone to love me; I stopped seeking for love in all the wrong places and people. What I’ve noticed is, once you’ve stopped worrying about finding love, you start to see it all around you. I truly believe that when you start doing the things you love, the right people will come around.

So, start loving yourself first. Only then, will you find someone who will be worthy of your love. I’m still learning to do the same. I know if and when I choose to date again, that guy will be amazing, because I will not settle for anything less.