To put into perspective, I started this blog three years ago. At that time, I was living in Manhattan and Staten Island. I spent my day in the busiest city of the world. Thinking about it now, it sounds more like a dream- a distant memory of someone else’s life. We had so much freedom in the hustle and bustle. It’s been quite a long while since I’ve felt anything like it. I was disenchanted with New York because big city life caught up with me. New York was so… fast. It became like the party that kept on going and I felt stuck. I missed my family. I missed the four seasons of the mountains. Since then, life led me to helping my family at our business, trying a life in Atlanta, and traveling Vietnam. Even though I live each day, one better or worse than the last, somehow time still slipped by. I realize it’s been three years and so much has happened. I’ve tried to keep my blog as updated as my motivation, life, work, travels allows me. It has been quite an adventure, jotting my thoughts down and seeing my developments over the years.
It’s not easy to fully give credit where it’s due. And sometimes, it really is easier to understand once I’m older. Parents have to be open enough to realize their kids don’t have the capacity in their emotions to understand what they have done. Kids have to be open minded enough to empathize with their parents regarding their decisions.
My family is different. We’ve come a very, very long way to get where we are today.
In the early 1990s, my parents fled in the middle of the night on a boat in Vietnam, destination set for the Philippines. A week long, they sailed through days and nights on open water. I don’t know how they did it. Stories tell of people whowent crazy, people died. My parents survived. They took refuge at poor conditioned camps in the Philippines.
My parents learned their trade at the camp. My dad took up goldsmithing. My mom studied languages and learned how to sew. Because of corruption within the administrators of the refugee camps, funds that were donated weren’t delivered to the cause of helping the Vietnamese refugees.
In 1994, my parents have already met each other in the refugee camps. I was born in the camps, surrounded by a knit of refugee community. They took care of me.
We were in Philippines for almost 15 years. My parents have since ran away from their refugee camps. I remember being left at home alone at 5 years old; my parents were out selling household items on the streets. I remember our house flooding and I jumped around on top of the furniture as if playing a game. The electricity cut out again, we pulled out chairs to stargaze at the night outside; we had hand fans to fan each other and many candles to light the way.
In 2004, we lived in a one bedroom. We had a small outdoor kitchen. We washed all our laundry with our hands. I walked to school, though whenever I have a few extra pesos, I would rice a tricycle to school. Our small knit Vietnamese community took care of each other, and built our life on relaxation and hard work.
In 2005, December, we arrived to a small apartment in the United States. I missed my friends in the Philippines, I might never see them again. Iowa was cold and lonely. Employers had taken advantage of my parents, paying them below minimum wage because they didn’t know better. My parents moved our family through several unstable cities, states, work, and school.
In the next decade, my parents became tired of working for demanding employers and unsatisfying jobs, they set out their path to accomplished what they needed to do for their children. They have moved, built up their small business, forged their path to take care of their four children. My parents rarely stopped working, but I can’t blame them as they’re doing this for us. We have been taking more vacations the past year, and I’m hoping to take plenty more as my parents deserve them.
Today? In 2017, my parents have built up a thriving small business, are homeowners, own four cars, and have enough to care for their four children. We take small trips once in awhile to hang out as a family.
I admire their resilience and ability to thrive. It takes a lot of courage to leave your country, your family, and life in search for a future that they didn’t know was there. It is terrifying to go through the displacement from political unrest. I’m not sure if I could do that myself. My heart goes out to those who are fleeing their home in search of refuge.
Everyone appreciates their parents at points in their lives, perhaps some more than others. I’m fortunate enough to learn how to appreciate them early versus later.
What are some of your thoughts and feelings about being a parent or child?
The moon is mysterious tonight, as it always looks. Growing up in a modest house on an island, we often had “brown outs,” which is a local word that means power outages. There weren’t much to do except bring out some folding chairs, sit on our yard and stargaze all night. We didn’t have smart phones, we didn’t have laptops, we only laid there and stared at the sky as we talked or stayed silent all night. Where are those days?
The moon holds many meanings to me culturally. Mid-autumn festivals occurs in the autumn where the moon is at its fullest and farmers celebrate the harvest for the last year. We eat delicious mooncakes, carry out lanterns to sing and dance, and appreciate the food on our tables.
I took a peek and found paradise in an unlikely place.
Don’t tell Atlanta, but you’re “home” to me right now.
I was never able to explore the inner workings of that city like I have for Chicago. The past three years have been shaped by weekend outings, long L rides and some unforgettable memories. From Lollapalooza to the 606 to Portillo’s, my Chicago adventures have made me a huge fan of the city.
Sure, I don’t actually live downtown, but I’m a college student living next to a huge city. I consider myself very lucky to be able to balance a traditional university experience with the exciting, fast-paced nature of Chicago.
I remember three summers ago when I visited for the first time, the way the metallic curved metal strips of Pritzker Pavilion jutted out, unlike anything I’d seen before.
Just from walking through the streets, I can see Chicago’s industrial history reflected in many building architectures – the dark, heavy iron metals, the sturdy brown bricks…
And sure, every city has its own unique take on food, but Chicago is something else. Who says you need to leave the country to try international cuisine? So many neighborhoods each with its own specialty: Ukrainian, Mexican, Vietnamese.
Over the years, I’ve come to get to know Chicago’s different neighborhoods through the food, the shops and events that take place. Argyle, for semi-regular bowls of pho and cheap groceries, Belmont for wacky consignment stores and eccentric fusion food, and Avondale for standout high quality meals and eye-catching architecture. And of course, seeing the sunshine reflect off the Chicago River as it cuts through the city still catches my breath every time, as though to give me a visual break for when the grey and tan concrete buildings start to blend together.
I’ve loved getting to know your nooks and crannies through concerts, comedy shows and restaurants – the intersections marred with construction work and the L stop stations that I’ve come to recognize from afar. You’ve given me a greater appreciation of public transit and made me a strong advocate for the L – even riding downtown feels like a visual adventure, watching the scenery morph from suburb to city. I can sense the different Red Line stops even before the train begins to slow down.
When Evanston starts to feel monotonous and the people start to look homogenous, you’ve given me an escape, a place to go when all of the purple starts to bleed together.
I don’t know where I’ll end up after I graduate, but Chicago you set the bar really high.
Thanks for reading!! See more of Cat at her awesome blog here.
I’m always looking for travel stories to feature. Please shoot an email or leave a message if you have a tale to tell!
I’ve always been fascinated by people who quit their jobs to live in another country, and would like to share stories of people who have created this path for themselves.
Today, we have Ares‘ honest reflection on how he quit his job, moved to another country, and found work.
At some point in our lives, we decide that we need to make a change. Whether that be work, lifestyle, diet, living accommodations, life choices – the list is endless. Some of us decide we need to completely immerse ourselves in another world, forgetting the past, and looking forward to find what we are looking for. That’s a fancy way of saying “we travel”.
In 2015, I decided I needed such a change. I wanted to experience something different. From climate, to work, to food. I wanted to immerse myself in the complete opposite of my day to day living in a big city. I didn’t just want to travel temporarily, I wanted to live it.
Portugal, here I come.
After months of planning (I’ll spare you the countless details that’s involved in an undertaking such as an international move), May had come, and I boarded a plane. All I had to my name was the clothes on my back, my laptop, and a credit card. I had quite literally sold everything else I owned, quit my job, bought out my lease, sold my car – I mean you name it, I sold it.
Now, before you think I am a complete loon, I should mention I have family here. Although I have only met them a couple of times. So I had a place to go, but that was it. I started by learning how to farm. We live in a small farming community, where we produce everything we need to survive. Going to the market only for carbohydrates and toiletries. The land is quite acidic, so we can only grow certain foods. Unfortunately, potatoes and rice simply do not take.
Farming under the hot sun was something completely new for me, and I took it in stride. By the end of the summer, I was loving it. Just me, the outdoors, and hard work. No phones ringing, no cubicle, no boss blowing up my inbox with issues. For the most part, I had unplugged.
When you come from a developed country such as Canada, and go into a more reserved part of the world, you truly get to see the differences. Not only between your country of origin and the destination, but how cultures differentiate from city to city.
After the summer, I took the train and starting hopping around the country doing day trips. Taking the first train at dawn, and returning on one of the last trains in the evening. When you arrive in a more modern city such as Lisboa (Lisbon), it is a completely other world. Yet, I was only 3 hours from home. Everyone speaks English, fiber internet, IMAX movie theatres, and fast food. It’s what we of today consider a modern society. So what about back home?
In my small town, just outside Viseu, you get a completely different take on things. Technology is almost non existent, as a result it is mainly elderly workers who are completely removed from the outside world. Most of them still use an 11” TV with satellite. It gets about 8 channels. All of Portugal’s infrastructure is shovelled into it’s two major cities, and tourist areas. The rest of the country gets left in the dust. The smaller towns are stuck in the proverbial 1980’s.
But these reserved farmers don’t seem to mind. At least, on the surface. Most of them want out of the EU, wishing to go back to the Escudo. Where as (frankly) the more educated people in the major cities, realize being part of the EU Alliance saved them. Slowly, Portugal is making its way out of crippling financial debt and corruption.
As a native English speaker, finding work was an ongoing challenge. You may be able to find seasonal work, but long term employment without speaking Portuguese is borderline impossible. The unemployment rate is not as bad as Spain or Greece, but it still proved difficult. In these smaller towns, they do not require resumes. All they want to know is if you say you attended X school, provide the certificate of completion. They don’t care where you worked before, or how much experience you have. Why?
Contracts are given out on a 1.5 year term. After 1.5 years, most are let go as the law requires they get paid a significant amount more. So the work is always available (for the Portuguese) but you never have job security. Again, this is something I discovered only resonates within the smaller towns. Porto and Lisboa all operate with a CV and you can work somewhere for life once hired. Much like the rest of the world.
I attended university instead to work on my communication and grammar, but the Latin language threw me for a loop, and I had a hard time grasping its concepts. When a language such as Portuguese does not directly translate to English, it’s most difficult. I can understand Portuguese now, but speaking it is an ongoing challenge.
After living the life of a Portuguese citizen (and becoming one), I recently landed back home in Canada. I got what I needed out the experience, but I realized it was time to come home and continue on the path of a Canadian. Maple syrup, bacon, beer, and poutine.
They say travel broadens the mind, and I would say that is true because you are forced to see and live through other cultures. You simply cannot travel, and remain in your comfort zone. If you board a plane and land in a 5 star resort, I’d say you’re relaxing. Travelling works in conjunction with the experience of a new.
Thanks for reading!! I’m always searching for inspirational & informational travel stories to feature. Please leave a comment or send an email to tell your tales! <3
What if children wrote blogs?
As a way to spend more time with my siblings, who live 15 hours away, I had come up with an idea to ask them to write the daily post challenge responses with me. They have been very enthusiastic and we had lots of laugh doing this together. It’s also a great opportunity to help them articulate their thoughts and writing better as well as document the process to look back upon in the future. I had so much fun reading their first blog response that I wanted to continue doing it!
Last time we wrote together, I had provided a definition for the word as it was difficult. It wasn’t necessary this time, as “yarn” was something both of them were familiar with. There were no rules given, only to have fun. I wanted to see what the first thing that came to their mind was. I gave them the writing prompt and waited about half a day before I heard back from them.
My brother, 3rd grader, wrote:
I don’t like yarn. I like the things Chi (big sister) makes with yarn, because they are CUTE!!!! I don’t know why cats love these balls of yarn. Yarn is kind of like some colorful noodles, but you can’t eat it. I want Chi to make more yarn creatures. I forgot how to make yarn things.
My thoughts on his response: It’s hilarious how he started out with “I don’t like yarn.” It was so cute that he mentioned me in his response! I lost it when he compared it to colorful noodles! I have never thought of yarn that way and it’s so cool to see the analogy. Only kids can come up with that. He also drew a picture of a yarn ball, that kind of looked like a ninja- we called it a yarn ninja. His response reminds me that I should make more amigurumi dolls (stuffed crocheted figures) for them.
My sister, 5th grader, wrote:
What yarn means to me.. well, yarn to me is okay. When I think of yarn, I think cats. You know, little furry animals that make me and my brother sick. Well cats play with yarn. “Awww!!!”
The next thing yarn reminds me of is my big sister. My sister likes to crochet (crow-shai) with yarn. You know, crochet is kind of like knitting but different. My sister is really good at crocheting. She can make a cat, catbug, mittens, mouse, octopus (well, you name it, she is really good). It really complicated, she tried to teach me. But it’s really hard. Twist, loop, twist, loop, twist loop, twist, Aahhhhh!!!
My thoughts on her response: I had almost forgotten they were both allergic to cats. How could I not see the connection between yarn and allergies. It’s funny that she wrote out “(crow-shai).” Is that even how you pronounce it? I love how true and how vague the sentence, “crochet is kind of like knitting but different” is. I lost it when she expressed her confusion with an “Aaahhhhh!!!” at the end.
Again, while reading their responses, I noticed they have distinct writing styles. They have creative associations with yarn that I have never thought about. Something I noticed today was that my brother uses “Chi” when he refers to me, my sister uses “big sister.” They mean the same thing, but funny how they choose to write it out. When they expressed interested in learning, I’ve tried to teach them how to crochet before. It’s so cute that they like my dolls. I did not know that my siblings would write about my amigurumi hobby, but for my readers, here are some of my “yarn” projects over time:
I enjoy creating things. I enjoy drawing, cross-stitching, crocheting, knitting. I was ecstatic when I discovered amigurumi art, because it was something that combined my nerdy interests with my crafting hobby. I’ve made Harry Potter scarves and hats, Pokeballs, Super Mario characters, Totoro characters, and various characters from animes, comics, and shows I’ve seen. I enjoy the satisfaction of making things come to life from the screen.
There is something special about crocheting amis that is different from knitting a scarf or a hat. I spent countless of hours watching my figures grow into a character. I untangled countless of yarn balls. I’ve gotten lost in the pattern, wondering where the pieces fit in. When everything comes together, I feel the deepest joy of creating art. Each of my crochets have a piece of me in it. Thoughts. Effort. Passion. I suppose it is the same with artists, writers, teachers, musicians.
Except for a few special amis I keep for myself, I typically make them as gifts to friends, families, and co-workers. I enjoy giving people their favorite character from video games, books, movies, etc. Just a few months ago, my librarian friend from high school told me that she still kept my crocheted heart by her bedside. She told me it had helped her through some tough times with her personal life. It has been over 6 years since I have seen her. I had forgotten that I gave her that heart, but I was so happy to hear that something I created had positively impacted someone’s life.
Thanks for reading! What did you think about their responses? Questions and comments are appreciated!! <3
A Response to Daily Prompt: Yarn
“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Book: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had made a different decision? If you went back and took the road not traveled? Atomic physicist professor Jason Dessen did. On his way to buy ice cream one evening, Jason is abducted and drugged, and wakes up to find himself in a version of Chicago that isn’t his own: he’s not married, he has no child, and he now appears to be an award-winning quantum physicist. Jason journeys through various nightmares to find his way home, or is it his home anymore?
I recently discovered this book at our local library’s recommendation list. We’ve been searching for a book to read together, and the book’s cover and name had hooked my attention. I’ve always loved fantasy/sci-fi fiction books and it’s been awhile since my last Michael Crichton book. I thought I might try something new.
Read it for:
- Mind-blowing, epic and nerve-wracking journey with a scientist through different universes. Due to the intensity of the events, I stopped reading halfway through the first chapter. I know, weak, but the beginning was rough. When I finally regained my courage to continue, I was hardly able put the book down. Crouch’s prompt and no-nonsense narration of the sequence of events keeps me at the edge of my seat (or more literally, bed).
- The deep themes of regret. The million of times I spent wondering what would have happened. Dr. Dessen sees both his lives first hand, and has to decide what’s best. The big looming question in the book is something that I’ve fretted countless of hours over before. Do I choose a path that will lead me to success or a path that takes me to true love? These are tough questions and helps me redefine my own views. And if you’ve somehow had a perfect past without regret, there are themes of loss, selfishness, love, fear, and trust in it for you too. I feel the pain that he feels, I experienced his grief, longing, hunger, cold, anger. Where does that leave me? I started to get existential on this roller-coaster ride of emotions.
- The possibility of something impossible. It was surprisingly easy to follow the physics to it. There were abundant amounts of WHOA, whaaa-?, and aha! moments in this book as I trail behind Dr. Dessen’s series of unlikely events. Picture an alternate you in another universe is dead or that the world is apocalyptic. No one can possibly know what happens. It’s a beautiful mash of Star Trek, Fringe, Doctor Who, and Inception.
Not so fond of:
- There’s not a huge character development across the board. It mainly focuses on Dessen, his thoughts, and his discoveries. Side characters could be more dynamic.
- The big nerdy science theories and excitement aside, the fast paced and action-oriented book seems as if it’s written to become a movie. Sure enough, Crouch already has plans with Sony to get it on the big screen. Regardless, the final chapters of the book made it completely worth it. Read the book. Then watch the movie, because it will be epic.
The concept of the book is excellent, I was hooked from beginning ’till end. Despite the thriller movie vibe to it, the mind-boggling ending is worth the read. <3