opinion

To Be Human Is A Powerful, Profound Thing That Deserves A Lot Of Patience.

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This sweet card was made by my even sweeter five year old student. Did you lovely people have a memorable Mother’s Day? This year I decided not to make a big Facebook announcement for my mama, instead I wrote this (incase you and I aren’t Facebook friends):

I don’t want to post a generic message about how I love my mum and how lucky I am to have her (which I do and which I am) this Mother’s Day. Instead, I want to acknowledge all of my friends who either live far away from their mothers (I know from first-hand experience how hard that is) and those whose mothers are no longer with us. I wish you calmness and strength <3
Image (3)Mum’s breakfast at Untouched World – a lovely modern cafe with high-quality ingredients and a romantic fire.
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Absolutely in love with my Dr. Seuss preschool teacher uniforms because I absolutely love him! Who is/was your favourite childhood author? (A question posed to me by Soroosh the other day to which I actually replied Paul Jennings).
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Kids say write the darndest things!
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“Stained glass” butterflies made with black cardboard paper, coloured tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Super easy, are instructions needed?
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New favourite CHCH eatery! This $12 split pea soup (topped with caramelised onions) served alongside Bellbird bread and carrot butter from Gatherings was 10/10.

Be Patient Towards All That Is Unsolved In Your Heart. Learn To Love the Questions Themselves.

I’ve had some pretty memorable Valentine’s Days. For my very first V day, I received a giant Winnie The Pooh from my very first boyfriend. I was 12. When we broke up, three months into the relationship (lol), I gifted Winnie to my best-friend’s sister. Almost a year later, when I felt my teenage heart had finally recovered, I desperately wanted the giant Pooh back. He was so big, so expensive but I didn’t have the nerve to ask my best-friend nor her sister.

For the next 5 Valentine’s Days, I received a single red rose from a “secret” admirer. On the 5th year, I caught my dad placing a red rose on our front door step. What a dude! I was both angry and appreciative.

Then there were the two Valentine’s Day’s with my ex – I guess he was my first “real” boyfriend because I actually loved him. Both years I posted pictures of his flowers and his red velvet boxed chocolates on my social media pages. I was so in love! I was the luckiest girl eva! That is until I wasn’t. The next couple V day’s I struggled seeing my friends’ flowers, chocolates, bracelets and other puke-inducing surprises. Bunch of F’in bullshit, I said. So I wrote a blogpost about it. I talked about the destructive affects of our Facebook and Instagram pages and how we all know that our friends only post their happy creme de la creme moments – we know this because we do the exact same – but even with this knowledge, we can’t help but to compare our lives to theirs. I questioned why we as a society feel the urge to publicise our significant others’ romantic gesture.  As if these precious occasions, these special moments would lose their significance if they are not “shared”. I ended my rant with the realisation that it should really be the opposite. That our rarest, most unique and intimate moments should be unpublished. Solely reserved to be shared (as in real life shared not FB shared) and treasured between us and our significant other.

Four months later, I was introduced to the love of my life on the internet. We were/still are messaging every day (but I’ve finally met him, he’s not an imaginary friend!). Soroosh had become a fan of my blog and a frequent commenter. One day he asked me if I’ve ever experienced a unique moment that I haven’t documented? One that I’ve kept sacred just for my self. It got me thinking. It reminded me of that post I wrote on V day. Who was this guy with the profound questions? So I set out on a mission, I went for a walk without my camera and then I wrote THIS. Seven months later, he continues to inspire my day to day. So, before I get too soppy and start contradicting myself, I just want to say that love and happiness or whatever it is your heart desires, is out there. We just gotta be a little more patient. We ought to learn to love the questions themselves. It’ll happen.
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Speaking of lurve, it was my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary the other day. Speaking of anniversary’s, on Sunday I sold ice-cream to a lady on her 50th wedding anniversary day. She said she and her husband married at 17. “What’s your secret?” I asked. She said, deep breaths!
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This gorgeous butterfly is my Valentine’s Day present for this year. I’m not bragging about it because I don’t even have it yet. Soroosh is going to safely transport it with him when he moves to NZ. It is a dried Peruvian butterfly in a simple frame. I think the wings look like different galaxies in space.
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Another note on singledom, I remember complaining to my sister, pre-Soroosh stage when she said, you shouldn’t reserve your love for one person. Why don’t you show all this love you talk about to your family and friends instead? So I had a lovely picnic with my mother yesterday. We drank coffee, we read and we ate cake. All in our tiny backyard, too. The chocolate and raspberry mousse cake is from Le Panier.
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“I am all the time thinking about poetry and fiction and you.” (Virginia Woolf) Yes, you!

My Problem With America

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I have been doubting my worth a lot lately. It could be a prolem with my own self-esteem. Or, as I’ve began to think, a nasty bi-product of my surroundings. There is this ancient Japanese expression which goes: “an apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures without tuition.” Which, as I’m sure you gathered, basically means, we are greatly affected by our environments.

America is so darn materialistic to me.

This attitude, this strong emphasis on “success”, achieved solely through 1. an esteemed tertiary education, 2. the “right” career, and 3. moneymoneymoney is so upsetting. It makes me miss Japan greatly. For even though the Japanese are perhaps the number one work-oriented society, when it comes to “success” there is room for everybody.

I once watched this great documentary called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” on one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs. This is what Jiro says in the movie:

“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

As far as I’m aware, Jiro didn’t study at Harvard. Nor was he a lawyer or an accountant – not that there’s anything wrong with studying at Harvard, or being a lawyer or an accountant. Just that Jiro reached his success through different routes than the restricted three mentioned.

Because of this idea, ALL jobs in Japan, from government officials to persons whose only role is to shred unwanted paper are respected. All work is given great value and all work is praised. Where you studied in order to land your current position, what connotations your job title possesses in this day and age, and how much moolah you make, are not the only measurements of your success.

Which is why I’m suggesting we re-think these conservative pathways I keep encountering in the West. Instead of a renowned University name or a “prestigious” (according to whom?) job title and the amount of cash in ones bank, what about pondering how our careers and/or actions affect others, in what spirit do we conduct ourselves and for what purpose? What are our true intentions?

Which is better? A Harvard graduate with the sole motive of shallow wealth and hungry power? Or a “poor” painter, potter, cleaner, or waitress (the list goes on…) working in the spirit of service? In the spirit of love. In the spirit of creativity. In the spirit of justice.

‘Abdu’l-Baha, beautifully describes this concept when he says: “[A]ll effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.”

So. I am successful because I love my work. Because it often positively affects others. And because I put my entire heart and soul in it. And that’s it. That’s all it should ever be. Because that’s all that has ever mattered.

 

It Is Only With the Heart That One Can See Rightly; What Is Essential Is Invisible To The Eye.

I want to do everything on earth with you.
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Happy family of three (haha).
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Do you see what I see? Hint: body ink.
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Guys, this night at the symphony was definitely the best night of my life. Really. It may seem melodramatic but it truly was the happiest I’ve ever been. Everything was perfect. Just like the movies. Ah, I am so lucky. My heart is bursting.
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Pumpkin pie smoothie bowl from Daily Juice.image-7-png-4
And for me: mango, banana, spinach, maca, avocado and coconut milk.
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The best backward skater you ever saw! And the cutest ;)
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Peace! (I’m still Japanese).
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After my first fall LOL.

Stay Close To Anything That Makes You Glad You’re Alive

He makes me so happy. I don’t want to leave.
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This is Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Centre. It’s a multimillion dollar establishment in the form of a giant glasshouse featuring canalboats, waterfalls and other extravagant things. It is also very easy to get lost in. So romantic, I actually cried here. Really. But for other non-romantic, overemotional reasons. image-png-5
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See! It’s a canalboat!
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Soooo romantic.
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Guys, this is what compromise looks like. Haha I’m joking. This is what inequality looks like :P He wanted to cook me eggs, I did not want to eat eggs, (I wanted muesli). Come on, he should know that! I love muesli! image-1-png-4
Probably the best avo toast of my life! From Proper Bagel. Also got a chance to meet Chris, a friend I met on Instagram who has also done JET (we found each other through jetprogram hashtags). image-png-6
His chicken waldorf salad bagel. Looks good right!
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I have a thing or two to learn from him. THIS is what compromise might look like. He craved ice-cream, I didn’t want to get fat(ter) so we agreed on this instead. Acai bowl from Franklin Juice Company.
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Doing all the American things, I went to a hockey game. It was cold and it was awesome! I loved it so much. I loved it because I was entertained the whole night. Every few minutes there was a song, or a movie-clip or a random sound affect played. Sooo cool! I haven’t ever experienced sport like this.
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Last but not least, as my dear follower’s recommendation, the Batman building in downtown Nashville!

I’m Youth I’m Joy

“Pan, who and what art thou?” he cried huskily.
“I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered at a venture, “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.” ~J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
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Not your typical he surprised me by making me a romantic breakfast picture. He made me breakfast because it’s been one hell of a challenging time figuring out our lives together and how we’re going to make this work with all the crazy distance – which made it that much more delicious. There’s always two sides to everything, and to a picture. I hope we can all rise above the tests and difficulties we encounter and to keep strong our faith. On a lighter note, he is the sweetest.
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Outfit of the day: green-stone necklace form NZ, top, skirt and bag from Osaka, Japan. $8 shoes from H&M in Nashville, USA because my regular sandals had given me super painful blisters. Ring from a chain clothing store in France and watch from my sister and brother-in-law (NZ) as a thank-you gift for having hosted them in Japan last year. image-2-png-5
Sunflower Cafe.
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Such a delicious burger! I love vegetarian.
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It’s a small world. This is the epic Persian (and vegetarian) food spread lovingly prepared by my father’s first cousin who happened to read here that I am in Nashville and invited me and my host-family over for dinner. I am so happy I was able to meet her, her husband and her beautiful daughter.
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Pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate sea-salt. Worth every single calorie. From Five Daughters Bakery.

How Rich Is Too Rich?

In addition to epic views, mouth-watering food and sweet romance, the coast is well-known for $$$

Each to their own, but I personally couldn’t be happy having anything to do with such wealth. For example, the cruise ships. Wether it be owning one, riding one or working for one, to me it seems immoral. I know, I know, I’m making big calls. The way I see it, in a world where literally multitudes are going without, how can one enjoy such excessive (and that’s the key word here) fortune? Even if every penny is earned cash. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I am perfect nor anywhere remotely close it, I just think, it’d be nice if everyone had just enough and that’s all. Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
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Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.
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That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms. (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner)
Processed with VSCO with c3 preset(Room rates for 5 star Hotel Negresco in Nice.)

Spinning in A Whirlwind of Emotions

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it. (Cesare Pavese)

The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home — and the slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries. (Rolf Potts)

We can’t jump off bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean because there’s no service on the beach and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag. (Jeremy Glass)

It’s funny. When you leave your home and wander really far, you always think, ‘I want to go home.’ But then you come home, and of course it’s not the same. You can’t live with it, you can’t live away from it. And it seems like from then on there’s always this yearning for some place that doesn’t exist. I felt that. Still do. I’m never completely at home anywhere. (Danzy Senna)

For the past few days, I have been spinning in a whirlwind of emotions. I have felt flabbergasted by new experiences, homesick from doing it by myself, frustrated by the foreign and completely amazed at this wonderfully big little world we live in. At times, I have been able to capture some of it through a camera lens and at others, not at all, not even a little bit. I like the quotes above for they’ve made me think long and hard about my travels and my consequent thoughts and actions. I wish that I could tell you that my over-thinking has cultivated an epiphany or some profound wisdom but frankly it hasn’t. Not yet. Right now, I am more muddled than ever. This restlessness I pin down to excess information. I keep telling my parents, it’s not easy to live in this day and age either! Do I settle down or travel awhile longer? Continue participating in social media for self-promotion or stay quiet writing in private? And as I do either, do I work or study further? Again, I hear my ears ringing “first world problem.” Though I really think it is, a problem that is, of our generation. Information overload and unlimited choice can prove impossible to navigate.

So. For now, all I want is balance. Balance between travel and home, reality, and the internet, blogging and writing a bigger project and between career and education.

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Graffiti street in Ghent.
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Vegan burger from Greenway.
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The most amazing vegan lunch at Moon Food in Brussels.
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Holiday Blues

I have holiday blues. Yes, there’s such a thing. I Googled it.

WAH.

Seriously though, I feel so blue tonight. I am pinning it down to these:

Over-scheduling (see previous post)
You see, I only have 2 weeks left in Japan which is why I’ve been really pushing myself to see and do everything. Also, to keep my blog fresh and up to date. Because I truly enjoy it, it is my passion and of course to keep with my hot-shot writing dreams. However, amidst all the hustle and bustle and adventuring, I seem to have forgotten I’m not superhuman. I am exhausted. But here’s the problem. It’s not like I have anything else. I do a bit of free-lancing here and there but it’s not enough to occupy an entire day. And I know you all wish you didn’t have to work a 9-5 day and/or look after your needy significant other and/or rowdy children so that you could have even a spare moment to read a novel, go for a run, drink a coffee in silence, paint your nails etc but I swear, human wiring comes with the disease of always always wanting what we don’t have.

Holiday food
My general diet for the past year and half of Japan life has been a challenge. You can read about it here. Or in short, it’s been challenging learning to shop, cook and eat for one. I miss sitting around a table and eating with others. When I do eat with others here, it’s usually eating out. Which is exciting yes, and I feel should be done cos like when else am I gonna be in JAPAN to eat this authentic soba?! But at the same time, it’s not the healthiest. And even though I try to choose the healthiest menu items and exercise everyday (sometimes walking or cycling 10+ ks), it’s still not the same as eating and living on a normal schedule in the comfort of your own hometown. All this holiday food then, is starting to make me feel bad about my body image and myself.

Unrealistic expectations of myself
A quote I’ve mentioned several times here, “comparison is the thief of joy” by Theodore Roosevelt. During holidays, we meet countless faces. In Japan, most are settled in good jobs with babies and husbands. My current life is much much different in comparison. Again, it seems instinctive of human wiring to compare. I keep forgetting that this won’t be my life forever and that I too am chasing my dream/working towards a good future. When I compare my very undetermined life with theirs, I feel sad.

Lack of sleep
A combination of the above.

I know I’m probably being too hard on myself but I, 1. needed to get this off of my chest and tell someone seeing as I’m all alone in this wah and 2. wanted you to know that it’s not all castle and croissants and that there is depth to the pretty pictures.

Last, am going on a money and food diet.

1…2…3… (a goal-starter countdown I’ve always done as a kid for which my father would always mock me)

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Too Much Perfection Is A Mistake

Sometimes the people who give contrary advice to your life’s calling aren’t always doing it in a menacing way. I just came off a Skype call with my mama where she spent a good 30 min advising me to blog less. She said, blogging should be done in moderation, that it shouldn’t take away from the now and that some things, some special things should be kept secret. To all of which, I concur.

Now, my mama, she’s my number one fan. She’s always wanted the very best for me so I know that she meant well. But, I like to think that my blog is different to the average travel bloggers (see here). This is because, I’m open about my financial problems, my weight problems, my homesickness, my singledom, my worries and my stresses as well as my joys and triumphs. Further, I write because it’s my passion. It’s what I love to do more than I love myself. To blog or to be continuously active on social-media with the sole intent of constructing some fake image, I couldn’t loathe more even if I wanted. But what I’m trying to do and I hope I have achieved thus far to some extent is to share my truth in order to inspire others. As I’ve said, time and time again, traveling solo isn’t easy, mingling with opposite cultures and living and breathing different climates doesn’t come with an instagram filter. It isn’t a piece of cake (or a bowl of ramen). It is what it is and I hope to share it. Too much perfection is a mistake.
image-26.jpgPS she means “natural”.