Sisterhood of the World Bloggers

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Hey y’all! So, this may come as a bit of a shock, but people other than my mom read this blog. Well. It’s shocking to me, at least!

The lovely Little Misadventures nominated me for the “Sisterhood of the World Blog Award”– not an actual award, but another cute little meme where bloggers can appreciate each other’s sites. It’s like a nice pat on the back. I’ve done a few of these things before, I know. You’ll have to forgive me for doing another one!

Anyway, the “rules” are as follows:

1) Link to the blogger who nominated you and say thanks.

2) Nominate blogs that you find a joy to read.

3) Link to the nominees and tell them about the nomination.

4) Include the award logo in your blog post.

5) Answer the ten questions listed below.

1) What is your favorite color? 

At those darned get-to-know-you-icebreakers, I usually tell people my favorite color is green.

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And I do like green. But honestly, I think colors look best in combination with one another. My favorite color combo, then, is cerulean and spring green.

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Though what I should really do at those icebreakers is tell people the names of Crayola crayons.

2) What is your favorite animal?

This is going to sound odd, but in elementary school I used to have an obsession with beavers.

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I used to draw them on everything.

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For one of my school projects, I even made a board game on beaver trivia.

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It’s Castor fiber, by the way. The American beaver is Castor canadensis.

My love was short-lived, though. That same year, I bought my first Gameboy along with the game Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland. My obsession with beavers soon gave way to an obsession with Kirby.

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3) What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Almond milk. Is that weird? It’s weird.

The thing is, I don’t drink it because of this whole deal:

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Nah, while all that is very concerning, I drink almond milk because:

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Unfortunately, my gallons of unsweetened almond milk has a high price. It’s literally double the price of milk.

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4) Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter?

I’m a Facebook person, I admit. I’m just not witty enough for a Twitter. Besides, I like taking photos, and Facebook is photo-friendly.

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Facebook is fun!

5) What is your favorite pattern?

I always thought fractals were pretty cool.

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Fractal art is even cooler!

6) Do you prefer getting or giving presents?

Man, I’m just going to say it straight: receiving presents is awesome. What kid at Christmas didn’t like receiving presents? Not me, that’s for sure.

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But I also like giving presents. The only problem is that I really, really suck at gift-buying. So while giving gifts is sometimes fun…

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…sometimes, it’s not so fun.

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7) What is your favorite number?

Back in 9th grade, I joined the lacrosse team on a whim. It was the only season that I have ever played lacrosse. As a total beginner, I sucked at it.

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That year, we got to choose our own uniform number. The coach piled up all the old jerseys and let the girls have at it.

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By the time I got to the pile, only one jersey was left.

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It was the number 13.

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An abandoned, unloved, unlucky number.

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And for the rest of that season, I continued to suck at lacrosse. But even now, I’m fond of the number 13!

8) What is your favorite day of the week?

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9) What is your favorite flower?

An idea I stole from my sister– Gerber daisies! Because they’re so bright, obnoxious, and in-your-face.

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10) What is your passion?

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Yeah. Not surprising, I guess.

And now, some blogs that I happen to enjoy reading!

This Japanese Life.

Wings for Liberty

The Japanese Role Playing Game

Incidental Comics

Zen Pencils

Mister G Kids

Gourmet Gaming

Enjoy!

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In Vietnam, shopping is a battlefield.

I’m not that avid of a shopper. Most of my clothes are hand-me-downs from my sister. I hate trying on clothes, and shopping for extended periods of time gives me a headache. Shopaholics, I know– I’m weird.

But when I went to Vietnam, I experienced none of the above. That’s because shopping in Vietnam is a whole different kind of experience. Whether this is a better or worse experience depends on your personality.

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For example, if you’re my sister…

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…you thrive on the constant shouting, yelling, and bartering of the Vietnamese marketplace. It’s unavoidable. People will try to scam you, and you’ll have to fight to get the correct price.

So, if you’re me…

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…you hate confronting people and will flee at the first sign of conflict.

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That’s how I was when I visited my first Vietnamese market, the famous Bến Thành Market in downtown Saigon.  Bến Thành is actually one of the more tourist-friendly markets out there. The place sells all sorts of little souvenir magnets, handicrafts, and trinkets.

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Sellers actually have a good handle on English. Tourists, then, tend to swarm the place. Myself included.

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It doesn’t help that Bến Thành, and most Vietnamese markets, are very claustrophobic places. The stands are packed together and the aisles narrow. Walking through is a squeeze.

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I had trouble just adjusting to the chaotic atmosphere of the marketplace– it’s overwhelming, especially when people selling all sorts of products are yelling at you from all directions. Thus I proceeded to buy nothing at all.

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The Bến Thành Market is quite overpriced. That’s what I told myself when I walked out empty-handed, anyway. And what would I do with all those little trinkets?

But food is a little harder to resist.

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I love fruit. Vietnam is chock-full of all sorts of exotic, tropical fruits, sold daily on the street.

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Half these fruits, I’ve never even tried!

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Yes, I would have to do it. I would have to confront a seller, bargain with them, and buy some fruit!

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So my fear of buying things continued. It got worse when my family ventured into An Dong Market, a wholesale clothing market in Saigon. We wanted to get some custom-fitted áo dài, the Vietnamese traditional dress. 

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But finally, I encountered the greatest and most spectacular type of Vietnamese market yet.

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The night market!

Many cities in Vietnam have a night market. Unlike the functional produce or wholesale markets, night markets are usually designed for pleasure shopping. Stalls will be devoted to selling trendy purses, or the latest coats, or sparkling jewelry. Teens will hang out, eating Vietnamese snack food sold by various old ladies.

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These night markets are fun. My sister and I enjoyed wandering through them together, whether it be in Ho Chi Minh City, Hội An, Hà Nội, or wherever else we could find one. And then, while visiting the night market in Đà Lạt, I saw it.

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A lady had a whole tray full of the most adorable crocheted Totoros. I have never seen a crocheted Totoro before. Perhaps I would only ever see them in Vietnam. Now was my chance!

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There’s a strategy to bartering in Vietnam. First is to speak Vietnamese if you can. English pegs you as a tourist immediately. Tourists have money.

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Second is to demand half of the selling price.

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This will almost always elicit the same reaction from the buyer, no matter how reasonable your price is. Items, especially in tourist markets, can be severely overpriced. The sellers might be making a huge profit margin even at your demanded discount. Regardless, I would always hear next:

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Third is, if the seller doesn’t accept your price, to walk away.

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Often, the seller will be willing to meet you halfway.

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Fourth is to repeat until you get the price you want.

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And then… success! I finally made my first bargained purchase!

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Now, I could face the Vietnamese markets without fear! Though, depending on the seller, this strategy doesn’t always work. Sometimes they’re unwilling to lower the price. And bargaining can be quite stressful after a while. Still, now I could venture out, knowing that I could stop myself from getting scammed!

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And for the first time in forever, I actually enjoyed shopping!

 

…though I probably would’ve saved a lot of money had I not gotten over my fear.

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The Real Life of a Newbie Runner

Last year, I resolved to eventually run a half-marathon. This year, I’m actually going to do it.

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Back when I was in Sydney, I unexpectedly picked up running. I had always hated running. When they made us run the mile in high school? Torture. But I hated the high price of a gym membership more than I hated running. With the help of a friend, I was soon pounding away 5k’s regularly.

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And thus I was introduced to the weird world of running.

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I’m not just running, either– I’m training. After my return to Boston this January, I signed up for Boston’s Run To Remember, a half-marathon that takes place at the end of May. In Sydney, I ran whenever I was in the mood. Now, I have a schedule. I’ve had to push myself to greater and greater distances.

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Along the way, I’ve met a few surprises. I’m a noob to all this running stuff. I’ve always had an image of what a runner’s life is like…

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…but the reality is much different.

Mother Nature is cruel.

Photos of runners can be deceiving.

Outdoor Running Series

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Silhouette woman run under blue sky with clouds

For some reason, nobody ever told me how hard it is to run in bad weather. I became complacent in Sydney, where it’s always sunny and beautiful. Even in the winter, the weather sticks around 50 to 60 degrees. Imagine my shock when I walked out of the Boston-Logan airport upon my return in January, dressed in shorts and a tank top.

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There are many people who man up and run outside. I am not one of them. I run in my sport shorts from middle school and that free t-shirt I got from my university. I don’t have any fancy thermal running gear. When I tried to run outside, I was very uncomfortable.

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I’ve ended up running at my school’s gym, which has a miniature indoor running track. The track is only about 1/12 of a mile, though, so I have ran around that track literally hundreds of times.

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Thank goodness it’s spring!

Contrary to popular belief, not all runners are stick-thin athletic models.

Photos of runners can be deceiving.

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First of all, those expressions. They all look like they’re simultaneously running and achieving enlightenment. I, on the other hand, am a little less zen when I run.

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Everyone’s seen those hardcore runners in their neighborhoods, right? The ones all tricked-out in fancy running gear, with seemingly 0% body fat and rippling lean muscle.

Or maybe that’s just my neighborhood.

Either way, those runners gave me a false perception of what I would look like if I started running.

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But after running for several months, I still look like this:

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Even though I cross-train and watch my diet, I am not a toned, athletic model. Nope, I still look pretty much the same. All you other runners out there, what are your secrets?!

Shoes actually matter.

I’ve done many sports before, but I’ve never paid attention to my sneakers. Usually I’m clad in some cheap pair that I picked up at Marshall’s.

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However, as I’ve been running longer distances, this no longer seems like a good idea.

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Thus, I went to a sports store in Boston and wandered to the shoe department, which happened to be staffed by a long-time marathon runner.

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This marathon runner also happened to be quite enthusiastic about shoes.

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After trying on many, many shoes, I did successfully buy a new pair of sneakers. On that very day, I tried running in them.

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Who knew that sneakers could make such a difference?

I am now the weird breed.

Like I said before, I have never been a runner. I actually hated running. I was on my middle-school track team but only did long jump, never any running events. I played lacrosse and tennis and was always the slowest runner on the team. Runners were just an entirely different kind of people from me– or so I thought.

Now that I’m running, I’ve become that different kind of people. My friends react to me the same way that I used to react to runners.

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Then they go on to describe how much they hate running.

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I used to try to explain to people that I was the same way. I used to hate running. It’s a difficult sport to pick up if you’re out of shape. But the beauty of running is that anyone can do it, as long as the determination to train is there.

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Now, I just accept it.

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Because no matter how much I argue, people never believe that they can run too, just like believed about a year ago. It’s weird, being on the other side of it. If only they knew my good ol’ middle school track and field days!

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Despite all the pain, sweat, and tears, running is actually quite nice.

Don’t get me wrong. Running is exhausting. You’ll sweat. You’ll burn. You’ll wonder why you ever decided to do this in the first place.

And indeed, I’ve been wondering a lot about why I decided to do this. Running long distances is incredibly time-consuming. I get tired, and thirsty, and hungry.

But last weekend, Boston had one of its first good-weather weekends in a long time. The winter here is finally starting to break, and spring is starting to show through. Last weekend, then, I went running outside. My route took me along the Charles River Esplanade, a walkway along the river that looks like this:

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The sun was warm.

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There was a gentle breeze.

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Sailboats filled the river, taking advantage of our first true spring days.

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Yes, last weekend, I experienced it:

Outdoor Running Series

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Despite the difficulties and surprises of being a runner, it’s been rewarding. A few years ago, I could barely run a mile. Last weekend, I ran ten. Sure, I might not be the poster child of athleticism. Sure, maybe I run at a snail-like pace. But I can do it! I can run!

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It’s only going to get weirder when I run my first half-marathon in a few weeks. Coming soon!…too soon.

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Wish me luck! Because I’ll need loads of it.

 

Screw castles, I want to live in a Vietnamese temple.

As my family and I traveled through Vietnam, we started to notice a theme.

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Buddhism is strong in Vietnam. Temples pepper the Vietnamese landscape with the same frequency as churches in Europe. These temples can reach the same vastness and elaborateness of churches in Europe, and they consequently draw in large numbers of tourists.

My family and I  became part of these visiting tourists.

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Elaborate dragon railing!

Elaborate dragon railing!

Massive bonsai!

Massive bonsai!

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The temples we visited were in all sorts of locations. Chùa Linh Ứng was on top of a mountain, overlooking the towns around it.

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I highly doubt it’s convenient to build a temple on top of a mountain. Regardless, many of the temples we visited were on mountains. And these temples could get massive. 

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Not only were the temples on mountains, they were sometimes in the most remote mountains possible.

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The temples were not only on mountains, but in mountains…

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And were often impeccably well-kept.

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Some temples were ancient. Literally, ancient.

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We visited so many temples that they began to blend into one another…

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…and eventually, my sister and I began assuming that everything was a temple until proven otherwise.

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We were just overwhelmed by the sheer number of temples we visited, though. Don’t get me wrong– all those temples certainly did not look the same…

Chùa Một Cột, or the One Pillar Pagoda, in Hanoi.

Chùa Một Cột, or the One Pillar Pagoda, in Hanoi.

At Chùa Bái Đính, aka the Bai Dinh Temple.

At Chùa Bái Đính, aka the Bai Dinh Temple.

One of the many boats used to ferry visitors to Chùa Hương, the Perfume Pagoda.

One of the many boats used to ferry visitors to Chùa Hương, the Perfume Pagoda.

At Chùa Linh Ứng, near Đà Nẵng city.

At Chùa Linh Ứng, near Đà Nẵng city.

…and were in fact some of the most incredible structures I have ever seen.

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So I might not be living in one of these grandiose temples anytime soon. Still, the temples of Vietnam are definitely worth a visit. Whether you’re Buddhist or not, the size, diversity, and beauty of these temples are really a sight to see!

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