New Mexico, Days 2 & 3

We spent our second day (technically our first full day due to the travel complications) in Santa Fe exploring the town and market, wandering into the cathedral during Sunday Mass, admiring the lavender, spotting a sneaky dragon, and, once the rain came, getting pampered at the spa. My favorite part was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum: not too overwhelming, full of beautiful art, and informative. A must if you ever find yourself in Santa Fe. And don’t skip the gift shop—they’ve got wonderful prints for reasonable prices.

On our final full day we thought we’d drive to Taos and do some hiking. It took about an hour and a half to get to the town, which was, frankly, underwhelming. Lots of art galleries, but not much else. We started on a trail about 10 miles down the road, but it was flat and the features didn’t change, so it got pretty boring and we turned around after 20 minutes. We drove up to the ski valley, which was quite beautiful, but by that time it was raining, so we headed back to town. We also drove out to the Pueblo, but neither of us was inclined to brave the rain and mud to explore it.

Thus ended my quick trip to New Mexico. I think I would have enjoyed it more if a) I had been in full health, b) we hadn’t had to stay overnight in Denver, and c) it had been earlier in the summer (though that wouldn’t have been possible because I was working). I’ve been preoccupied with NYC for weeks now, and in comparison Santa Fe and Taos seemed claustrophobic and dusty. Someday I think I’d like to go back, though, and give the region my full attention.

I’m home and packing for college now (FOUR MORE DAYS), saying goodbye to friends and trying to mentally prepare for classes and exams and homework and textbooks and (the horror!) scientific calculators.

Santa Fe, Day 1

My departure for New York looms just one week away, and instead of frantically packing, I find myself in Santa Fe. It was quite a trip to get here, filled with tight connections, cancelled flights, three-hour lines, and useless amenities bags (seriously, who needs shoe polish??). But my dad and I made it, if only a day late!

I’ve been under the weather lately, and the hectic traveling didn’t help, so I spent a good portion of yesterday napping in bed. I did take a wander through the annual Indian Market (and purchase some rad 3D-painted earrings), but that’s about it. Santa Fe is a small city, with a square central Plaza and low terra cotta-colored buildings. In the shade it’s nice and cool, but the sun is vicious at this higher altitude. The southwest vibe is strong here: everyone is so friendly, and they’re all wearing cowboy boots and hats, long flowy skirts, big embellished belts, fringed sandals, suede… Like Santa Fe is frozen in time. A folksy band played at our restaurant last night, and couples with their cowboy hats still on got up to dance. A night-time shower washed the desert dust away from this green oasis. I’d like to come back in winter to see the snow.

As I said, I leave for NYU in seven days. I am BEYOND excited. It’s been over two years since I first visited, and went googly-eyed at the presentation they give to all prospective students, and grinned stupidly as we were rushed through downtown NYC by a harried student on the campus tour. Two years! So much has happened! But I’m just as in love with the idea of NYU as ever. I’m only hoping that I love the reality of it, too.

Small-town 4th of July

Nowadays it seems I’ve reverted back to my high school tendencies—only blogging when I have a million other things I should be doing but don’t want to. Today, for example, I should be: finishing up a story that was due last Monday, writing a revision and self-critique of another story, critiquing someone else’s chapters, putting together my final poetry project, going to the grocery store, doing my homework and summer reading for NYU… I could go on but shall not for fear of overwhelming myself.

Working full time and going to night class is exhausting and fulfilling, and I’m glad I decided to do both, but it doesn’t leave me much time for anything else. July 4th was almost two weeks ago, and I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the chance to post pictures. So here they are, better late than never. I spent the holiday weekend (including my one day off the entire summer) with my mom in Half Moon Bay, CA.

A blog about travel and writing?

I realize that right now, my blog might be a little misleading. It’s been more than a year since I’ve posted any of my own non-travel writing. Please don’t fret—I have been writing. I wrote one respectable short-short story in Peru, and I have another in the works. But this blog is about to seriously switch gears because… I’m grounded in the Bay Area on account of my job and frankly way too exhausted on the weekends to go anywhere fun. But also! I’m taking a creative writing class at the community college near my house, so I’ll have a lot of content to post. Hopefully it isn’t too bad; I was pretty intimidated in class today by my peers’ writing, but I’m going to try and learn as much as I can from them. In order to kick off this transition, I’ll include the first poem I wrote for class, a cinquian:

Singing Sighs

Sighs sing

Dragging with them

Dreams of pungent peaches

Stones underfoot and skies above

Sweet breath


Gap year: looking back

It’s been a little over two months since I returned from Peru. In some respects it feels like my whole gap year never happened; as I transition into summer, my life is beginning to resemble this time last year, with the college fervor (of which I can now rightfully partake), the relief of being done (with the trials of my gap year, rather than the trials of high school), the joys shared with friends, and the promise of sunny months spread ahead. And, of course, the melancholy goodbye waiting for me at the end of August.

It will be different, of course. I won’t be traveling very far, but I have a car and a job and a class I’m looking forward to taking. I will be preparing to venture off, but to New York rather than Canada and Peru. I will be with my high school friends, but we will have lived apart for a year; they will have memories they cannot share with me, just as I will with them.

Though I still struggle to think of my last weeks in Peru and the vulnerability and loneliness I experienced, I admit that I miss the country and my time there. I miss the quiet afternoons at Emilime’s whitewashed offices, the strolls I would take through olive trees on weekends, the sunset views from Larcomar. I also miss Canada—the endless roads and sharp mountains, and especially the excitement of those first few weeks alone. Though it is all tinged with the subtle sadness of separation, I remember much of it fondly. I saw many things and, more importantly, I met many people; I grew into myself and I believe I will always carry a certain pride of what I tangibly and intangibly accomplished this year.

Unfortunately, I’m having technical difficulties with my external hard-drive, which means I don’t currently have access to my photos from Canada. I wanted to do a compilation of favorite photos from my entire gap year, but that can’t happen until I figure this thing out. Hopefully I’ll be able to; if not, I’ll have lost all of my photos from at least the last five years (except the ones on my current camera). So today I’ll just include my favorites from Peru, and pray that the rest will be coming soon. They’re not in chronological order because I don’t remember them that way. Also I thought it might be more visually enticing…

Portland, Day 4

This is a little late because as soon as I got home, I hit the ground running. This included registering for a creative writing class I’m taking this summer, sorting out a few things for my fall classes at NYU, and working some extra hours at my part-time job. Portland was my last out-of-state trip until I fly to the east coast for school. June 1 marks the beginning of my full-time job as a camp counselor, and June 13 is my first class (it’s a night class). It’s sort of crazy to think that this is the first summer that I can remember (baby ones don’t count) staying put. My mom and I are kicking off with a barbecue tomorrow, and then I’m hunkering down to enjoy the California sunshine with my friends, who are almost all back from college.

Anyway—for our last day in Portland we decided to trek (it was uphill and took about 45 minutes) to the International Rose Test Garden, which was, as expected, breathtaking. Then we trekked back (thankfully downhill) to the Pearl district and finally got some of those famous Voodoo Doughnuts. If you’re wondering, I had a magnificent oreo one. What better way to end a trip than with sugary fried goodness?

Portland, Day 3

At 5,200 acres, Forest Park is the country’s largest urban park. We took a streetcar to Macleay Park (part of Forest Park) and hiked up to Pittock mansion. This one was definitely a work-out on the way up, but the estate and the views at the top were definitely worth it. You can see all of downtown Portland, and the grounds are gorgeous. Bonus: it didn’t rain on us!

Shoutout to Lillian in China for steering us towards Forest Park.

We may or may not have returned to Powell’s City of Books… I may or may not have purchased another three books (bringing the total to six new ones)…

Portland, Day 2

Today we had a late breakfast at a lovely cafe and watched people coming in for brunch after church. Then we hopped in our cherry-red rental car and drove about an hour to the Columbia River Gorge. Specifically: the Eagle Creek Trail, which was spectacular even in the intermittent rain. I would highly recommend it if you’re not afraid of heights (you wouldn’t have liked it mom) and you don’t mind sharing the trail. Interesting wildlife spotted: a chipmunk, ferns, douglas firs, and dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Also—we went to the most amazing Indian restaurant for dinner. It’s called Bollywood Theater, sells all sorts of goods from India, and, of course, projects Bollywood movies onto the wall. AND THE FOOD. Oh my goodness. Thank you so much to my boss from Peru for recommending that one.

Portland, Day 1

This city is just freakin awesome. It’s clean, it’s leafy green, it’s beautiful, and everyone is weird. A different kind of weird than SF weird. But I love it. My dad and I walked all over the Pearl district today (starting off at the Saturday market and passing Voodoo Doughnut—the line was too long but we’ll be back!) until the weather turned sour. And we went to Powell’s! Also known as the city of books. It spans an entire block and boasts three floors. They have baskets so you can shop for books like you would for groceries. They have a cafe where a man makes paper flowers and people sit with stacks of books surrounding them and munch on pastries—I am declaring their butterscotch cinnamon scone as legendary; it is everything a pop tart tries to be but fails, it is a scone on steroids, it is the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. I’m only exaggerating a little bit.

My favorite part of today was when we were walking back from dinner and stopped to watch a street performance like none I’d ever seen before. A ten-person band with a full horn section was rocking out in front of Nordstrom’s. They sounded sort of like the Decemberists (one of the best bands EVER). It helped that one guy played the accordion. We must’ve watched them for at least twenty minutes, and the crowd grew. Everyone was dancing; at one point a bunch of kids in prom attire were even rocking out. Really, San Francisco, you need to step up your street performance game. You are seriously lacking.

SFMOMA and the Embarcadero

San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art is opening on May 14 after more than two years of intense renovation. I was lucky enough to be gifted a ticket to the first Member’s Preview day, which means I got to see everything yesterday, before the general public. And for free!

I didn’t remember much of what it looked like before (I’d only been twice), but my high school English and journalism teacher (the one who gifted me the ticket) and I decided that the old atrium felt like an Egyptian tomb and the new one is a big improvement. There are two new floors to explore, and I highly suggest you do. Just look out for the policeman on the 7th.

Yesterday was also May Day, and I witnessed two different celebrations (one at Yerba Buena and one on 2nd), though I’m sure there were many more across the city. San Francisco is weird to begin with, but mix in the holiday and the heat (it was perfectly sunny and got up to 80 degrees) and you’ve got something borderline scary. There was a lot of nudity.

To take advantage of the gorgeous weather (it was that rare perfect clime that makes everything look and feel completely unreal), I took a walk on the Embarcadero. The Embarcadero is one of my favorite places in the city—when I was in high school my friends and I would often take BART over (it was only 10 or so minutes from school) and get deliciously high-end food from the Ferry Building. One year we skipped winter formal to have a fancy dinner at The Slanted Door. My favorite food in the building is the wanton and egg noodle soup from Out the Door, which is a kiosk that sells takeout from The Slanted Door.