part 1: banff national park

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First stop: Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Canada, so all the national parks in the country are free admission to anyone who stops by. Naturally, my nature-photography-fanatic mom seized this golden opportunity to lug around her 40-lb monster of a machine in an attempt to snapshot the rugged beauty here…and let it be known that I doubled as her pack mule and did not appreciate having to carry the burden of that heavyweight camera.

Complain as I may, I empathize with my mom’s shutter anxiety in this dreamscape of a place. I too have fallen in love with the turquoise-emerald hue of the lakes here in Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada)…the color palettes and landscapes here seem fitting for Hans Christian Andersen fairytales, so beautiful you have to wonder if it’s all a fantasy. Leafy-green, dense forests which offer occasional glimpses of a family of moose. The lively, bubbling creeks of Johnston Canyon with water so clear and ebullient that you finally understand what it means for water to be “dancing.” The sunset behind Bow Lake, painting the sky with shades of pink and purple (as Emerson said: nature wears the colors of the spirit). God, nature is grand and wondrous and humbling all at once. Let me bask under the Canadian sun for a bit longer.

edit: oh god I just reread this, and my writing makes me want to barf

rising / setting


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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)

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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
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jf kennedy center – we watched The Sound of Music musical here!

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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
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Ambar – strawberry waffle
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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 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
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Terakawa ramen! Oishii~
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First Fridays in Old City
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I’m a big fan of art
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view from rooftop of Franklin institute
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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 reasoning beautifully span several disciplines.

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’?

This quote is 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 (amor fati), inclusive of the good and the bad.

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.

photos by bryan liang

Last March (more than a year ago!), my friend Bryan and I decided to have a “photoshoot” which really was just an excuse to drive to downtown Atlanta, trespass into private property, and devour cheap tacos. As young, ambitious high school dreamers, we were enticed by the idea of blogging. These photos were meant to go on the blog, but I hadn’t gotten around to sorting through them until now.

And yes, that’s a banana phone. I think I’m hilarious.

I can’t believe how much free time I had during my high school senior year second semester (for context, these photos were taken during that time). If I dig through my old notebooks, I’m sure I’ll be able to find disorganized lists of places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to experience my senior year. But I underestimated my ability to fritter away time…

I’ve realized after all my discarded lists of goals and resolutions that if I don’t prioritize and start out realistically, I’ll never act on anything at all. So this summer, I’m a bit more simple which just means that I can actually count all my goals on one hand.

  • sleep earlier. stop staring at the phone in the dark. do you want to go blind?!
  • read with more mindfulness and absorption. be a sponge
  • exercise more / eat better
  • be a nicer person
  • leave a smaller environmental footprint

Also! I’m attempting to post something every week on this strange potpourri of a website.