Looking for Salvation in the middle of the desert

I finally got the chance to visit Salvation Mountain. It looks like an imaginary world you could only create in your dreams, but artist Leonard Knight decided to paint this extraordinary piece of art and dedicate it to God. 

Knight is known to have spent over three decades painting this mountain, often sleeping at the base of it with no water or electricity. It was definitely surreal seeing it in real life versus Instagram.

Since it’s quite far away, Melina and I headed out early in the morning. Shoutout to her for driving and playing some great music throughout the whole ride. Salvation Mountain is located in the desert, in a city called Niland. It’s several miles from the Salton Sea. Basically, it's in the middle of nowhere. 

We definitely knew it would be hot and dry, but did not anticipate it to be as hot as it was. We only had one bottle of water and it was definitely enough. I wanted to wear nicer shoes for photos, but had to go barefoot because I was asked to take them off. It was so hot that I felt like I was going to faint almost the entire time. It must have been the paint fumes mixed with the heat, because I felt like my body was being under attack. It definitely wasn’t the Holy Spirit. However, I’m glad we found some shady areas to cool off and just blast some music and relax! 

This place is extremely beautiful and unique, with a great message. It's such a hidden gem in the middle of California and visitors will definitely be able to feel Leonard Knight's burning passion for God. If you ever decide to go, consider going in the winter! Also, remember to bring lots of water and comfortable shoes. 

Since coming back from my trip to Sydney, I've been trying to do more things outside of my comfort zone lately and exploring places kind of far away from home (but not too far). What should my next stop be? 

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Life update: I graduated from USC (Part 1)

Just two days ago, I graduated from my dream school with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. I took hundreds of photos with different photographers and friends, but here are some of my favorites. Most important is the one with my parents. They are the reason I'm here and got to graduate from this incredible university. The most amazing part of graduation was watching my commencement speaker, Oprah Winfrey. Some wise words she imparted on the Class of 2018: our degree is a privilege and we must use it to help others who aren't as lucky to be in the same room as us, keep the phone away from the dinner table, focus less on being interesting but being interested in others, and VOTE. All the glory to God for all that I have in life and thank you all for following my journey on this blog. 

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A Black and Gold Celebration: My 22nd Birthday

I turned 22 in January, but here I am updating in May! Things have been crazy since year 2018 started and I finally have time to update now that things are starting to slow down a bit. I graduated college (another post on that soon) and had so many crazy experiences (going to the emergency room twice) and so much more. It's already been the best year of my life by far. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that this was going to be my life. I wouldn't believe a word of it. Isn't amazing to think that the best memories of your life haven't even happened yet? We're almost halfway through 2018 and I am feeling so blessed.

My 22nd birthday was one of the best days. The days leading up to it were extremely stressful because I wanted everything to be perfect. Party planning is not easy. The catering, photography, decorations, drinks, invitations, RSVPs, venue, etc. I was so scared that nobody was going to come. 86 people ended up coming to my birthday! My friends from home, from Santa Barbara, from church, and USC all came together for this special night. I have so many different friends from different walks of life and it was the first time to see them all in one room together. It made me realize how much I have changed over the years, but there were still so many people who love me and care for me. The venue, which was the clubhouse of my friend's apartment, was the perfect place to hold my birthday. It was so beautiful and fit my black and gold theme. As all my friends graduate and move far away, I'm probably never going to see all my friends in one place again. This night is one I remember forever. 

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These are just a few of the hundreds of photos from that night. You can see all the photobooth photos here and you can see all the roaming photos here. A big thank you to Andy Kim Photography. 

Skybar on Sunset

Last weekend I reunited with one of my old friends Theo, who is super great at photography and took these pictures of me. We went to Skybar At the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood because we thought it would be a nice place to have some dinner and take pictures at the rooftop. We wanted to go during golden hour so the light would be nice outside. The photos online definitely make the hotel seem more high up that it actually is, but it was still gorgeous nonetheless. The Mondrian hotel is chic and clean with lots of minimalism and clear glass walls. It was impossible to find street parking so we had to opt for the valet which was over $15. Based on reviews, Skybar is supposedly one of the finest and busiest outdoor pool lounges in Los Angeles. We went on a Friday night, but it was very empty and not a lot of people were there. The bar and lounge area was still very picture-esque, but it still felt like something (ambiance) was missing.

We ate at Ivory on Sunset, which is right next to Skybar. They're pretty well-known for their brunch menu, but the dinner was still pretty decent. I had the Spaghetti Pomodoro because I love pasta and it didn't disappoint. The portion and flavor was definitely a little overpriced though. Sometimes I feel like I've been in Los Angeles for too long and that I've become desensitized to the glitzy and beautiful rooftop views of the city. I definitely didn't feel that indifferent when I first moved here for college. Overall, it was a great day catching up with a friend and seeing more of the other side of L.A. since I'm always in downtown!

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Wonderspaces Pop-up art exhibition: a photo diary

On Saturday, Melina and I took a trip to San Diego to visit our friend Steve and to visit Wonderspaces, a super interesting pop-up exhibition that showcases sixteen different art installations for this month only. It was about $20 for students and $24 for adults, which is kind of pricey for the experience, but overall the exhibits were super cool. We thought the outside looked a lot like Coachella because the vast dry land and huge sculptures — turns out, a lot of the same art for Wonderspaces was used in Burning Man and SXSW. I don't want to give too much away for those who want to see this place for themselves, but I loved the neon tunnel and an exhibit that looks like you're in a sky full of stars (I didn't take a picture of it because it turned out blurry). After, we got some ramen and boba around the area. We thought it was hilarious how even though we left Los Angeles, it felt like we were doing the same thing in San Diego that we usually do...as if we were getting boba and ramen in Little Tokyo or Koreatown. 

In other life news, I started my first week as an intern at Circa, a digital news outlet for millennials under Sinclair Broadcast Group and I love it so far! Excited to update and hopefully share content as time progresses. 

No (s)pain, no gain

If you uproot a plant and replant it in new soil, chances are, it will have difficulty surviving, yet alone thriving.

If you do the same to a human, it is likely that the person will have the same problem.

A large-scale example would be the story of how my parents emigrated from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the U.S. with little to no knowledge of the English language to start a new life.

A much smaller scale example is what I’m currently feeling at my study abroad program in Valencia, Spain.

This weekend, I spent a lot of time exploring and reflecting (shout-out to my lost passport) while most of my friends went on trips around Spain or to different countries. I embraced discomfort, didn’t mind getting lost, and enjoyed being alone in my thoughts.

One thing I discovered was how much I admire the slow and colorful way of Spanish living. Restaurants and stores close in the evening for siesta, or short time of rest, and open back up later in the night where everyone goes out drinking or dancing. As one of my friends put it, “Everyone loves to drink, dance, and naps are required? This is the place for me!!”

While exploring, I noticed that people eat very slowly at restaurants. During lunch, everyone is just laying back, looking into each other’s eyes, talking, laughing, or smoking cigarettes. People eat at coffee shops alone and read the newspaper with no smartphone in sight. At first, it would throw me off (the waiters take forever and a day to get the check), but I learned to at least try to appreciate this rather than become impatient with it. With them, there is no hurry, no eagerness to move onto the next activity.

Spaniards live so joyfully. In such a busy and over-stimulating world, sometimes there is nothing more healing than intentionally enjoying the little moments, or just peacefully basking in simplicity and silence. 

Amidst all of the walking (that my sedentary self is not used to), the emotional rollercoasters due to a string of unlucky events, the constant need to sleep (most likely the cause for the emotional rollercoasters and walking), I have come to realize that my attitude towards life needed a change.

I’m always waiting for something to happen. Or when I am doing things and living life, I’m almost always thinking about what’s next. My head is always stuck in the past or in the future. This mindset makes it hard for me to truly enjoy things. I exist but I am not present.

A few weeks ago, I remember wishing the second semester of my junior year would end so I could be on summer break and go to Catalina Island, Seattle, and Spain. When I was on Catalina Island, I couldn’t wait to go to Seattle. When I was in Seattle, I couldn’t wait to go to Spain. Now I’m in Spain, and there are times where I can’t wait to go home. Why can’t I just enjoy what is good, right now?

When we focus our minds toward things that are idealized and faraway, we become too busy to notice the most wonderful and life-changing views that occur along the way. 

The truth is we’re probably never going to get to the “destination” that will change what’s within us. No glorious cathedral, crazy night out, or beach view truly holds the power to reconstruct how we love, talk, live, and interact with one another. The adventures we crave, chase, and anticipate after are actually within us — only if we allow them.        

Waiting for something better to come prevents us from enjoying the things, people, experiences, and people around us.

If we start to notice the little things like how beautiful the walk from the apartment to school is and admire the insightful things that every person brings to the room, the uprooted plant might actually be watered and grow. It is then that we might be able to to truly find happiness in the present understand the beauty in the things that surround us.