fourth of july weekend

Unstuck in time

This is a long overdue video, but I couldn’t get around to editing until yesterday. I stayed holed up in the fine arts building basement for 7.5 hours editing this video like a madwoman. Thank god for school Macs that have sophisticated video editing software and immense memory capacities.

For Fourth of July weekend, I hitched a ride from my college friend up to Baltimore, Maryland to rendezvous with some of my sister’s friends. From there, we drove down (or up?) to McHenry, a small area of Maryland located precisely in the middle of nowhere. I won’t rehash all the details because they’re mostly in the video. I’m going to need creative, non-trite ways of saying “my heart is so full” because I might have used this phrase past the point of meaninglessness these past few weeks. But how fortunate I am to have felt this way so often…

What was undocumentable was the clear, starry sky up in McHenry. I never took the time to glance up very often during this past year in Philly, but it wouldn’t have mattered since the stars are imperceivable through the light pollution anyhow. In McHenry though, even the elusive Milky Way gleams and twinkles so luminously. Imagine this: 3:09am. You’ve never heard your own breath or the soft mushing sound of damp leaves under your feet so clearly. You lie down with your back on the lake dock–a private dock, but who’s awake at this hour to chide you for trespassing?–and for a while, you forget how chilly the air is and how the moisture from the beads of water on the dock are diffusing into the fibers of your shirt–because you look up. You look up, and you see a city of stars, twinkling in and out of existence, it seems. You know how silly and cliche and histrionic it is to gape at the cosmos and be dumbfounded by how infinite the universe is and how ephemeral your own tiny existence is in comparison, but you flicker through these thoughts anyways. It’s humbling, after all. And it’s beautiful–for a human to be put in perspective and to come back down to Earth every once in a while.

Ok, I didn’t make any of that up. I just wanted to be the dramatic dweeb that I am and convey what one of our nights in McHenry was like since no video could have captured this adequately.

(also, Stephanie and I saw a shooting star [which, I know, isn’t really a shooting star but actually a piece of space dust that burned up as it entered the atmosphere]…you bet your stars I made a wish faster than you could even exclaim, “shooting star!”)


rising / setting


Photo Jul 09, 8 20 14 PMPhoto Jul 09, 8 26 27 PMPhoto Jul 09, 8 26 33 PMPhoto Jul 09, 8 28 36 PM

There is something so compelling about standing on a rooftop overlooking the city at golden hour. The roof of the Fresh Grocer parking lot occupies a special place in my heart because it offers such an expansive (beautiful) view of West Philly during the sunset. Look at these rare!! special!! photos of the sunset that I tried to attain for an entire week (I failed to because I kept getting distracted and somehow always missed the sunset by 10 minutes or the sun was hiding behind puffy clouds).

D.C. (mostly food)

Photo Jul 15, 5 34 31 PM
Rasika – palak chaat – this crispy fried spinach is god’s gift to man…
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Rasika – tawa baingan (eggplant)
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left to right: vegetable biryana, red snapper mappa, chicken tikka masala, garlic naan
Photo Jul 15, 9 10 44 PM
jf kennedy center – we watched The Sound of Music musical here!

Photo Jul 15, 9 05 38 PM

Photo Jul 16, 2 26 05 PM
Chihuly at the Renwick Gallery
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Ambar – spreads tasting (balkanski namazi / garlic beans / chicken spread tzatziki)
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Ambar – fried catfish breakfast sliders with lemon caper tartar and coleslaw
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Ambar – cevapi and egg
Photo Jul 16, 12 29 44 PM
Ambar – strawberry waffle
Photo Jul 16, 11 05 22 AM
bonus cat pic ❤

I spent this weekend with my mom, dad, and sister in Washington, D.C. Cheers to chewy, homemade sourdough bread, sweltering D.C. heat, fuzzy cats, and rare time spent with family.


new york, I love you (you’re not bringing me down)


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Maybe my romanticism with New York is shading my vision with a rosy tint, but if so, let this premonition never end. I’ve fallen in love with this place — with the insomniac charm of the city that never sleeps, the humming of each and every New Yorker’s vitality, and the microcosms of all the nooks and boroughs.

In other words, I partake in the same love affair as every other college student and her twice-removed cousin. Nothing unique here.

This past weekend, I bus’d to New York City with Mary, a fellow goob and kindred spirit. She’s kindred in that we both snoozed our alarms Saturday morning and obliviously, groggily went back to sleep. As a result, as we sweatily scurried to the Megabus stop 10 minutes late, we witnessed the bus pull out and drive off before our very eyes, leaving nothing but a puff of dust and pangs of remorse…

But fret not: we eventually hopped on a Greyhound and arrived in NYC. As we sauntered through the Aves and the St’s, we constantly meandered into markets, pop-up exhibits, small eateries, and interesting spaces that caught our eyes. As the excited visitors we were, we would exclaim every five minutes,”Holy crap. I love this place”, never failing to rediscover our unfettered fondness for the place.

The subway system has a special place in my heart: it’s humbling and equalizing. Every human, from the big-shot businesswoman to the tourist dad with the floppy video camera, comes together in this steaming, underground tunnel. And they all share one thing in common: a desire to reach a destination.

As much as I goggle ogle over the subway, Mary and I did our best to wander as much as possible by foot and really see the city. Even though our feet felt like throbbing concrete blocks by the end of the day, our hearts were content and our eyes were dizzy from gazing at skyscrapers, navigating the winding streets of Chinatown, and staring at cafe menus, distraught from food-choice indecision…

The itinerary was loosely Chinatown → Little Italy → East Village → Muji → Soho. Yes, Muji (the retail company that sells consumer products emphasizing natural and simple design) warrants its own spot on the itinerary. Mary had never been, so we made a stop at one of the stores our #1 priority. The single writing utensil I’ve used throughout college is the 0.38 Muji pen, and the entire store is a haven for stationery junkees like myself who need their monthly fix of (probably useless) notebooks, portable scissors, and clear acrylic containers.

We also stumbled upon The Strand, which is a 3-floor bookstore that is so densely populated with multifarious books that I feel like it might implode. Because we didn’t have much time, we rushed through the store, but I would love to go back and slowly make my way through all the art and art history books…I felt oddly nostalgic for early high school summers spent at bookstores when I would ask my mom to drop me off at Barnes and Noble. For the entire afternoon, I would situate myself at a table with an ambitious stack of manga volumes and young adult fiction. Onlookers must have given perplexed looks at the tiny Asian girl buried under a pile of hodge podge books. But how could I have known? I was frantically racing against the clock to devour the book before my mom (and reality) would return to pick me up. These were good days…

Dear NYC, my heart is so full. You are a panacea for the soul. There is so much to this tiny chunk of island…so much vibrance, charm, and absurdity. I’ll come back soon!

summer = slow living pt. 2


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golden hour
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road tripping and a glimpse of sunlight beams peaking through the clouds
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Mitski at Union Transfer
Photo Jul 06, 8 15 59 PM
Terakawa ramen! Oishii~
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First Fridays in Old City
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I’m a big fan of art
Photo Jun 22, 8 56 48 PM
view from rooftop of Franklin institute
Photo Jul 09, 8 50 39 PM
view from rooftop of fresh grocer’s parking lot

As slowly as I’m trying to live this summer, I feel like time still slips out from under my grasp…I only have two more weeks in Philly until I return back home to sweet southern hospitality, humidity, and boredom. My suburban home town epitomizes slow living, but I can’t help but grow exasperated and restless when I’m home. I can already imagine frittering my days away, lying in bed until 11am, moving as little and efficiently as possible, and avoiding the throbbing heat of the sun like the plague. Maybe that kind of living is too tranquil for my taste.

I picked up a book called From Socrates to Sartre this past week. Frankly, I fell asleep on a bench outside while reading the first chapter on Plato, so I had some doubts regarding philosophy. But after skipping that chapter, the rest of the book proved quite promising. Interestingly, the line of logic that Descartes used in all his philosophy to prove self-existence and existence of God was oddly reminiscent of the kinds of proofs I wrote for my computer science class this past semester. Logic and philosophy, two peas in a pod.

Perhaps I’ll expand on this more in a separate post, but I think I’ve pinpointed an apt label for this void I’ve been feeling lately, and I’ll expand on all this at risk of sounding like a melodramatic teenager–I’ve been hanging around a lot of my Christian friends recently, which has spurred me to reflect deeply on my own belief system. After some website surfing and refamiliarizing with terminology, I would proclaim myself an atheist existentialist, based on my rather shallow knowledge of what these labels fully mean. These past few years, I’ve been struggling to reconcile how lonely my small existence feels, which is what the scholars would deem “existential loneliness” (if you’re looking for the fancy term).

It’s pretty cool and hypothetically liberating that we come into existence without essence/purpose and have the freedom to deem things meaningful for ourselves and craft our own essence. But this experience is so personal and unique to myself that I can’t help but feel so alone in it sometimes. In other words, there’s this huge void that I can’t even fill with friends, food, art, music, literature, beauty, compassion, etc. These things tinge life with color and fill the time in a meaningful way, but when they eventually and inevitably peter out,  there is nothing left–and no underlying substance to my life, which I guess is what I call the “void.” I can distract myself adeptly for a while with these embellishments of art and blah blah, but they feel like mere distractions–not the actual substance. But perhaps that’s because I’m not sure what I classify as substantial/meaningful to myself yet. I entirely recognize the possibility that this is all there is. What I consider distractions and sideshows might just be the real deal, the meat of life. But I haven’t come to ascribe personal meaning to these little things yet because I’m still not sure what my values are. I’m reminded of Nietzsche when my mind wanders astray:

What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, ‘This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!’ Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, ‘Never have I heard anything more divine’?

Nietzsche’s answer to all this craziness is eternal occurrence-you should aim to live life as though everything would be played and lived over again in a perpetual loop. In seeing the connections in things, you realize that in saying yes to life, you’re saying yes to pain and loneliness too. But that’s ok because it comes with the whole gamut of the good stuff as well. You must “love your fate” (amor fati), even in loneliness.

How oddly uplifting…because the answer to all the strife is to look life in the face and accept it for all it is: imperfect, lonely, painful, and yet still somehow beautiful. There’s nothing to do but soldier on and embrace this fate.

Things I don’t believe in: God, myself. 

Today, I am thankful for the robustness of life, the way sunset colors at 8PM reflect off the windows of skyscrapers, and peaceful subway rides that crawl across West Philly under the evening sun.