Category

Wanderlust

Category

moving away for the first time

It feels weird, when I say it, “I’m moving 7,200+ miles away from home“. I always knew this was going to happen when I went away for college, and even though I’ve had an extra year out of school to prepare for this moment, it still feels weird.

The people that I’m leaving behind are my parents and a few close friends. These goodbyes will be hard, because they’re the people that I’ve grown used to spending most of my time with; to depart from them and only be able to talk to them virtually is something that will be hard to get used to. I’m also saying goodbye to several amazing teachers from school and elsewhere. Though I’m already used to seeing them less frequently – some more than others – they have each left an impression on me that I’ll carry with me wherever I go, whatever I do.

And then, there’s home.

I’m saying goodbye to the country that raised me. To the roads that I’ve roamed countless of times, the places and parks that I’ve visited for years, the vibe that I’ve gotten used to. I haven’t always been very fond of my country, but I have grown very comfortable and used to this lifestyle. Leaving this place and the comforts of my cozy home, and starting the next stage of my life somewhere anew will be nothing short of daunting. Even having spent most of my gap year on my own and working on myself, I’m hit with a pang of nostalgia whenever I think about all that I’m leaving behind. I don’t even know how I’ll say goodbye to my room, knowing that I’ll probably never sleep on my bed for more than a few weeks a year from now on

Missing home and fearing the future; longing for the past and holding back the future. I have always been like this. A sentimental girl, always finding things to long and feel sad about. A cautious girl, never really crossing the line in fear of what the other side may hold in store.

But coupled with this fear also comes the knowledge that I am indeed ready for this change. I know now that I can and will adapt to any situation that I’m presented with. The change may be everything but comfortable initially, but I trust that my choices and decisions will take me down the path that I’m destined for.  I will welcome any change with open arms, and accept whatever form of discomfort or struggle that I will most certainly meet. No matter how rough the journey, it will all work out at the end.

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?

(Quote by Elif Shafak, from ‘The Forty Rules of Love‘)

-Michelle

is sign language really a language?

For the purpose of this post, I’ll be using the American Sign Language as the topic of discussion.

ASL, PSE, and SEE.

Do you know what these stand for? Most of us are acquainted with ASL, which stands for American Sign Language. If you’re from the UK, you have the British Sign Language (BSL); I’m from Peru, so I learned the Peruvian Sign Language. Sign language does not depend on the spoken language of the country (hence they’re completely different in USA and the UK), so signed and spoken languages are not the same. That’s the first misconception that many have when assuming things about sign language.

The second thing is that sign language has its own variations, thanks to us hearing people. PSE stands for Pidgin Signed English, and it’s basically ASL vocabulary, but using the English (spoken language) word order. In other words, if PSE were a language e.g. French, you would speak French words with the English structure. While this may sound ‘correct’ to English-speaking people trying to learn the new language, the French natives would obviously find it wrong. Hence, while many hearing people may find it easier to learn PSE instead of ASL, PSE is not a correct representation of the language that the Deaf community uses.

SEE stands for Signed Exact English, which uses ASL to give the exact representation of the English language. SEE is not as common as the other 2 sign languages, as it’s much more complicated and redundant to use SEE.

The Deaf community uses ASL – the proper and correct form of signed language. However, hearing people oftentimes end up learning PSE, as it’s easier to learn the signs without having to learn the proper syntax and language structure. What’s wrong with this? Let me tell you.

ASL, just like every sign language that has been founded by the Deaf community in every country, is an independent and unique language on its own. It is signed and expressed in a different way to English – thus, it is called ASL and not Signed English. ASL is a representation of the underrepresented culture of the Deaf community.

So what happens when we, the hearing people, change it so that it’s “easier” for us to learn the language? We insult the Deaf community, and we diminish the validity of their own language. It would be absolutely wrong if you do this in any other foreign language, so why do we do this with sign language?

The simple answer? Because it’s “easy”. I have done this myself, thinking that it wasn’t that big of a deal, but when I dug into this topic, I realized how wrong I was. If you have ever learned a foreign language, you would know that the syntax and grammar are what make a language its own. You don’t just learn the vocabulary and use the structure of your native language; that’s preposterous.

I don’t yet fully comprehend the moralities of learning ASL and PSE, as a lot of people and even in TV shows (like Switched at Birth) use PSE so hearing people can use simcom (simultaneous communication). This made me believe that the Deaf community is pretty flexible with our use of sign language – which is great. PSE is definitely a great stepping stone to those learning ASL, but whether we should favor it over ASL is something to consider.


All in all, if you want to learn a new language, please try to learn it well. Sign language can be daunting and different, but it’s also beautiful and (so) aesthetic in its own unique way, and it’s the first step to bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf worlds.

-Michelle

on traveling more

A part of us should always be in constant travel, whether physically or mentally.

To me, traveling means leaving my comfort zone, the place where I call home. It means not knowing what to expect with the people I interact with and with the places I visit. It means throwing my expectations off the table and experiencing each step of the way with youthful and pure curiosity. To me, it means independence, freedom, learning, and adventure.

Beyond just checking off bucket list destinations, traveling allows me to immerse myself in a world completely different to my own. A world in which the values, priorities and languages may be radically different, making me question whether I’m living with the values and morals that I wish to implement in my life.

on physical travel…

Traveling to a different country is always such an adventurous and novel experience. It literally pulls you away from the mundane life that you’re accustomed to, and thrusts you in an environment that you have yet to discover. The places that you’ll stay, the destinations that you’ll visit, the food that you’ll eat and the people that you’ll meet – the combination of these experiences is unlike any other. Even if you forget most of these events, you’ll leave the place with a renewed sense of understanding of that particular country or location. And, most importantly, it might even reveal a thing or two about the kind of person that you are.

Whenever I travel, I try to invest myself in the planning of the trip as much as possible. This means reading other travel bloggers’ reviews, researching about the most convenient flight schedules and prices, considering more than one place to stay at, familiarizing myself with the city before I’m even there – basically, be my own travel agent, along with whoever I’m going with. Taking these steps are crucial in my understanding of how the ‘traveling world’ works. I’ll learn from all the research, discoveries and mistakes that I make along the way, because that’s what matters to me. I don’t want to be just another blind tourist being guided to the most beautiful and popular places of a country; I want the real deal.

on mental travel…

Traveling through the eyes of others and the experiences of those that lived before us is… amazing, to say the least. The only way that we can observe life from a perspective different to our own is if we put ourselves in the shoes of someone else. The best and easiest way to do this? Read. Read lots. Fiction, business, non-fiction, biographies, fantasy. All genres, authors of all ages, dead or alive. Even the ‘badly written’ books will teach you a thing or two (for instance, how to not write a badly written book).

Physical traveling allows you to experience the novelty through your flesh and blood, while mental traveling allows you to detach from yourself and understand why others see things the way they do. I feel that they both complement each other wonderfully. They’re different kinds of travel, but each is very valuable on its own.

On traveling more

I am in constant travel. Either through the varied books that I’m currently reading, or through exciting trips that I’m lucky to go on every once in a while. But I don’t crave physical travel as much as I did before. I still value and dream about it as much as before, but I’ve realized that we shouldn’t feel like we need to travel to satisfy our adventurous self.

We can travel whenever we want to, wherever we are. We can travel in the hometown that we’ve lived in for more than a decade, within the home that saw us grow into young adults – anywhere. Because traveling is not necessarily about doing, having and going to the places that you haven’t yet been to; it’s about exploring the things that surround you in different ways.

-Michelle

tips for minimalist packing

Traveling can be the most eye-opening and captivating experience. Not the vacation-type of traveling, but the let’s-explore-this-place kind of traveling. The one where you don’t just lie on the beach mat to get a bronze tan, but the one in which you have to find your way through specific attractions and end up discovering others along the way.

Whenever I travel (usually with my parents) to some foreign country, it’s always very exciting. But because we plan our trips from top to bottom, a lot of research is done beforehand. What places are we going, and how should we buy the plane tickets to get the best price? What hotels or Airbnb should we stay at during that time? What transport system are we going to use, and how does it work? Where should we eat for each meal, what places are we planning to visit, and should we buy tickets to certain places beforehand?

So many questions, and oftentimes many of these are not answered until you get there. I learned a lot about my naive travelling skills when I last visited Tokyo. The subway system there got my mom and I going nuts, and let alone the frustration of not being able to communicate in Japanese (I could barely understand their English because of their heavy accent! Shame on me). As much research as I tried to do prior to going to Tokyo, I didn’t truly learn until I made the mistakes myself.

After all, we don’t learn from others’ mistakes; we learn by making the mistakes ourselves.

An important part that you can prepare for is the stage of packing. The following are 4 steps that I currently follow in order to pack lightly and wisely:

1. Research the weather, your accommodation, and specific places

You can’t pack without knowing what weather to expect in your travel destination. If you’re going to more than one place (e.g. different cities within the same country), the weather may vary drastically, so you’ll need to pack different kinds of clothing accordingly.

Looking up and knowing what your accommodation place offers – whether it’s a hotel, Airbnb or friend’s place – can help you decide what type of clothing and how much to take. If it’s a hotel, chances are that you’ll be able to wash your undies and hang up your clothing. If it’s a cheaper hostel, you’ll probably need to pack light as there won’t be so much space for your luggage/things. If you’re staying longer, it’ll be very important to know beforehand whether you’ll be able to do some laundry or not.

Noting down specific places and attractions before your trip is a given. For instance, if you plan to go hiking, you must pack appropriate clothing and shoes. If you’re anticipating a formal dinner, make sure you have at least one formal attire.

2. Make a packing list a week prior to the trip to see if you’re missing anything

My current packing list consists of:

  • Essentials (e.g. documents, phone, chargers)
  • Toiletries (from toothbrush to face cream to shampoo)
  • Accessories (bag, sunglasses, etc.)
  • Clothes (self-explanatory)

Your list may consist of more sub-lists, depending on what you need. There are lots of sample lists online that you can use as reference, too. A helpful thing to do is to keep your old packing lists saved in a Word file (or somewhere safe), as you can pull them out for your next trip and make the necessary adjustments. This will save you the burden of creating a full list all over again.

3. Pack bearing in mind that you could buy more clothes if wanted

As a girl, I tend to want to dress nicely when I’m traveling, as I’ll most likely take a lot of pictures to keep as memories. If you’re that kind of person, then packing may be a challenging task at first.

What I do is I plan an outfit for each day, combining outfits so I wear each piece of clothing more than once. I’ll usually take an extra pair of socks and underwear and a few extra essentials that don’t take much stpace, but I’ll try not to pack more outfits than necessary. Whenever I have the urge to do so, I remind myself that I’ll be able to buy more once I’m there (though I don’t think this has happened – yet).

4. Pack the KonMari way.

just picked up the KonMari book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up yesterday, and when I got to the chapter of folding clothes today, I tried it out on my closet and the results are amazing. Folding clothes and packing is such a seemingly monotonous and tedious task, but it doesn’t have to be. I would recommend reading or listening to the book, but I also recommend this article (or just google the KonMari method) to get you started.

The KonMari method will allow you to organize your clothes neatly (both at home and when traveling), as well as encourage you to use your space as efficiently as possible. I urge you to give the book and this method a go.


Good luck!

-Michelle

absence makes the heart grow fonder

When you’re distanced from something you’ve grown so accustomed to and thrust into a new environment, it’s almost impossible not to miss what you left behind. This old adage resonated with me when I realized that, after spending 7 weeks in Taipei, Taiwan (my country of origin), I actually missed Lima, Peru the city I grew up in.

What you need to understand about me is that I never really have much to say about Peru – despite having lived here for over 17 years – besides “the weather’s relatively stable” or “oh, the food is pretty good” (seriously though , the Peruvian culinary is yum). Having lived here for so long actually made me see the country for its deficiencies: the poor education system, lack of artistic development, lousy traffic, and oh, the government… I could go on. Overall, Lima seemed blunt relative to what so many other countries offered: more developed education systems, more attractions and places to visit, better technological advances, among others.

For the first time in my life, however, I actually feel fond of Lima. Distancing myself from the place I had grown so used to allowed me to see its benefits with fresh new eyes. Here are some of the things that I really appreciate about the country that raised me:

  1. My house. It’s a spacious, comfy house right in front of a beautiful park. The place where I spend most of my time writing, reading, thinking, creating, working. It’s the place where I can find solace at all times. I’m grateful for this house because the land here is not as scarce as other countries (therefore, my parents were able to afford it).
  2. The vast, open spaces. Despite the horrible traffic congestion, during non-rush hours you can walk around peacefully, especially at parks. My district is full of them; besides the one in front of my house, there are bigger parks located at walking distances from me. Whether it’s walking, jogging, biking or skating, these parks are such a relaxing an detoxifying way to spend by myself.
  3. The *relatively* stable weather. It’s getting hotter in the summers and colder in the winters – like everywhere else, but besides that, the weather is pretty stable here. You don’t have to brace yourself for a sudden rainfall, whooshing wind, or any other drastic changes that force you to hide inside your house. Nope. You just have to ensure you’re wearing the appropriate clothes for the season. Comparing Peru’s weather to other countries – namely Taiwan – has helped me appreciate this.
  4. The simplicity. This is something that I never thought about until now. The fact that Peru doesn’t import as much things from other countries means that it doesn’t really have much to feed consumerism. This means that we’re forced to lead a relatively minimalist lifestyle, which is essentially healthier than being indulgent. Though this is frustrating for someone who loves to hoard things such as stationery, it allows me to resort to other means. I rarely buy online, as shipping costs are expensive (and shopping online is always dangerous), so that helps too.
  5. A lack of something isn’t necessary bad. The generally poor education system has made me question. over and over again, the validity of the education systems worldwide. The generally ‘relaxed’ atmosphere in Peru has given me ample of time to think and ponder about the way we live. Though living in a more developed country would give me more accessibility and perhaps more opportunities, living in Peru has taught me to get what I want myself. Feeling like there’s a ‘lack’ of things has taught me to ponder about what I can do with what I do have. After all, in the modern world we don’t need to be at one place to get the job done. We can get the job done anywhere – as long as we’re willing to.

Thinking about this post has made me realize that, even though I would most likely choose to live in Peru over Taiwan (if I had to choose between the two), there are definitely things that I will miss from my birth place Taipei that I never noticed when I was younger:

  1. Living with a big family. I have grown up living with just my parents and my brother, at most (in the last few years, it’s been mostly just my mom and I). Coming back to Taiwan and being in constant companion of my family has helped me understand the functions of a family and be more empathetic, as I’m surrounded by people of all ages (even including my insufferable 4-year-old cousin).
  2. Using public transportation everywhere. It’s so convenient here in Taiwan. I can bike (easily rent one anywhere), use the bus, metro and walk around to get me pretty much anywhere. It’s cheap, more environmentally friendly, and favorable as Taiwan is just a tiny island.
  3. The relatively safe atmosphere. Like every country, there are some dangerous districts to avoid; but, generally, I can conveniently go anywhere without worrying too much about my safety. And as someone raised by Asian parents, safety concerns are the first thing I notice when I step into a country.
  4. The food. Oh, yum. I have more of a Western palate, but the food in Taiwan is really good. Whether it’s eating at home, restaurants or the night market street foods, you can always find delicious appetizers and drinks anywhere you go.
  5. The beautiful mountains. This is by far my favorite place. Though the weather gets really violent and bipolar up there, the fresh air and scenery is so worth the hike. The mountains are pretty much the only places in Taiwan where you’ll find nothing more than landscapes (unharmed by human touch), so it’s very refreshing every time you get up there.

This is why traveling is so good for us. The moment you step into a foreign country (even if you have been there before), you are subjecting yourself to new experiences that will stay within you; and through these experiences, you will get to know the world around you, and yourself, a bit better.

-Michelle

tokyo 2017 | travel diary

Wanderlusting is inevitable. Adventures and experiences create lasting memories that will remain ingrained in us for as long as we want. It is not a luxury that we all have, financially and time-wise (among other reasons), but if you ever have the chance to travel, the experience can be worth every penny. Whether it’s in the form of books or real-life adventures – they’re a price worth paying for.

I’ve seen  many travel diaries (both blogs and videos) lately,  and I’ve been inspired to document my latest experience. I recently visited Tokyo, Japan, for 7 days and there was so much to see. I got a glimpse of Shiodome, Sumida, Asakusa, Gala Yuzawa, central Tokyo in itself, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, and Hakone (pretty much in this order!), and a few other unplanned places as well.

It was a lot to go through in less than 7 days, but it was a glimpse that has left me longing with the desire to go back and explore less-saturated and more cultural Japanese cities.

Highlights from my trip to Tokyo:

Tokyo Skytree
Sensoji Temple
Akihabara, the electronics of Tokyo (and the place where I bought my first camera!)
The exterior of Tokyo Station – not just a ‘station’ 😉
The University of Tokyo – campus
There was a pond in the middle of the uni!

SHIBUYA

The famous Shibuya Crossing (aka the Tokyo of Times Square)
This is Hachiko, my beloved dog
MoCHA Cat Cafe :3

TAKESHITA STREET, HARAJUKU

Takeshita Street, Harajuku

GALA YUZAWA

Vew from the ropeway at Gala, ski and snowboard resort :3
Skiing here was ABSOLUTELY amazing.

HAKONE

Streets in Hakone – so traditional and peaceful

Random photo to show how tiny the bins are in Japan (use my feet as reference). You are encouraged to throw toilet paper – which are made to dissolve quickly in water – into the toilet. Talking about trash, are no trash cans in the streets, as people take their garbage home (and presumably recycle them, like everywhere else in Japan).
Hakone Sightseeing Cruise – so beautiful! (btw, I took my new camera to Hakone – hence the dramatic effect)

Though I only got the ‘tourist’ glimpse of Tokyo this time, the perceived differences between Japan and Taiwan (where I’m currently staying at with my family) are so notorious. The respectful social conventions and technological advances are what stood out to me most, and these really left me with a longing desire to go back.

The one thing that was an issue during this trip, though, was the subway system. Even though I had Google Maps to help me navigate, the app didn’t always work – especially on bad weather days. It took my mom and I 2 days to get the hang of the system, and even then, we had to pre-plan every trip we made.

Overall, it was an amazing trip, and I’m really glad I got to capture many of these moments in pictures and memories. I’m someone who loves traveling, both through books and in real life. The latter is the most daunting one for me, as I have to put myself completely out of my comfort zone, but it can also be the most rewarding thing.

-Michelle