taiwan diaries

Hi hi!

Is everyone enjoying the transition into fall? It’s already quite rainy in Seattle but I honestly kind of missed it – I love fall so much. I have yet to have my first PSL of the year but I did just buy Trader Joe’s PSL coffee grounds. I’m PUMPED to brew some every morning until December. 🤩

Things have been hectic this past week because I moved into my new apartment! My roommate helped me move in (she’s actually the best!!) and I ended up building seven pieces of furniture from Ikea for a full 12 hours the day after. My hands and fingers were raw and sore the next day from twisting the screwdrivers so much, but I was totally feeling like an independent woman. 💪🏻

But before all that, I was in Taiwan for two and a half weeks with my mom. I hadn’t been back for over 15 years so I felt it was due time to go back. Primarily, my grandpa isn’t doing well so that created more urgency to the situation. I’m going to be honest: after coming back to the States and having my friends ask me how my trip was, I’ve been telling them that it was a sad trip. Not sad-disappointing, but sad-my-heart-hurts-sad. I kept a running diary for this trip because I had so many thoughts and reflected a lot, especially the first couple of days. While my photos from the trip are all fun and dandy – because I did have time to do some sightseeing and touristy things with my mom – they don’t capture the moments where I was sad for my grandpa.

I’ve included some snippets of my Taiwan diary in this post (excluding some things for personal reasons), and included my fun photos at the end. Hope y’all enjoy!

August 24, 2019 (Day 1)

It’s been an interesting 48 hours to say the least. The flight to Taiwan goes by quickly at first when I was watching movies (On the Basis of Sex and The Inventor), but drags on when I try to fall asleep again. When we arrive and wait for the bus into the city, I’m blasted with humid, hot air as I step out of the airport. The wind is strong and cools us down after awhile, but I’m grumpy. My eyelids droop heavy and my glasses keep slipping down my nose. I just want to lay down.

I fall asleep on the mattress in the guest room quickly after I shower. A few hours later, I hear my mom settle down on the mattress next to me, probably after catching up with my aunt for little bit. I sleep fitfully after, like I’m battling a high fever. Dreams weave in and out. I can hear Grandpa’s groans of pain and discomfort puncture the silence of the apartment every couple of hours, my heart cracking a little more every time.

I wake up at 5:30am (today, now) the sun already slowly brightening the room. My mom is also awake, so we decide to make it an early morning. The rest of the day goes by slowly, us hunting around the restaurants near our apartment as we hide from the impending typhoon. I read a little and chat with friends on social media.

In the afternoon, Grandpa is awake and talking. My mom and I both take the opportunity to see if we can jog his memory since he hasn’t been able to remember either of us yet. He mumbles something unintelligible, but he raises his right hand. I maneuver to the right side of the bed and take his hand.

My mom tells him, “Hold hands! You guys are best friends!”. I grip his hand gently, afraid that I could crush his fragile bones. Seconds later though, he shakes his arm back and forth, swinging our hands together as best friends do. Tears well up in my eyes and I choke down a sob. He resumes the shaking, and I never want to let go.

I do though, because my aunt and mom need to adjust his position on the bed, so I leave the room before they see my tears.

Even after a day of being here, I feel so fortunate to have seen Grandpa, even though he doesn’t remember me. Catching up with my aunt has been wonderful as well, like no time has passed.

AUGUST 25, 2019

I go talk to Grandpa again and he is quite awake and cognizant this time. My mom is next to me again watching me interact with him, and he mumbles something about coming to America to see me and my twin. Mom says she will buy plane tickets for him, and I start tearing up again. Why is she making these empty promises? I suppose whatever will make Grandpa happy in that moment, but it crushes me. Tears actually rolled down my face this time.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop crying every time I hold Grandpa’s hand during this trip, but today makes think about the time I have left with my parents, my relatives. They’re hitting the age where diseases start coming out of nowhere. I’d like to take care of my parents when they’re at that point rather than leave them in a nursing home, but how would I take care of them in the future when I’m working? It’s a different era now, especially in America, where sons and daughters don’t normally just become caregivers. In the next five years, will my mom be in need of care? Will my dad?

September 7, 2019

It’s my second-to-last day here in Taiwan and I’m reeling at the thought of going back to the States. I miss being in Seattle with friends in the same time zone, but mostly, I’ve realized that I miss my independence. Being here in Taiwan, I am 90% dependent on my mom and family members. It’s interesting because I think that if I were here by myself, I would be self-sufficient because I have no one else to depend on. But because I’m with my mom who is evidently more confident in this culture, it’s easy to just let her do all the work and figure out where to go, where to eat, what mode of transportation to take, etc. Here, I’m on everyone else’s schedule – I’m not making my own plans. 

And I miss that liberty & agency I have when I’m in Seattle. For days now, I’ve been planning what I’ll be doing once I’m back in Seattle; that’s when I know I miss it. A lot of what I miss seems shallow and very first-world, but it’s true. That doesn’t mean there won’t be things in Taiwan I won’t miss. Walking around today with my mom, I noticed things about Taiwan that I want to remember: 

  • the way the signs of the stores crowd the street buildings, vying for the attention of customers
  • the teenagers at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall who were dancing among the pillars, trying to express themselves in whatever space is available in the city
  • the cracked, grimy pavement that smells like rotten eggs; the crisp, bright 7 Eleven stores
  • the chaotic, comforting feeling of Carrefour stores
  • the condensation on carton of Earl Grey Milk Tea

I think 2.5 weeks in Taiwan was just right; it’s time for me to return to the States. Throughout my time here, Grandpa hasn’t remembered who I am, and I’ve grown to be okay with that. I’m just glad I was able to see him after 15 years, and possibly for the last time. This trip has made me think a lot about death – sad, I know, but it seems like we’re all just waiting around for Grandpa to pass, like a string pulled taut and ready to snap at any second. We’re all trying to stay positive by joking and laughing at the things Grandpa says and does, but underlying, it’s deeply sad. Life seems unbelievably short now after hearing about how Grandpa was fine just a few months ago. It makes me think about a famous quote from Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I hope y’all enjoyed this post! It’s darker than all my posts I’ve written in the past, but I think it’s important to be open about these things every once in awhile, to remind you that we’re all still human.

Talk soon,

Jen

dream trip: nantucket!

Hi y’all!

Every time I come onto the blog now (usually after a few weeks), I get so excited because it feels so good to write, reflect, and share! So much has happened since we last chatted around the 4th of July: I went to Texas for internship training, successfully completed my internship and got a full-time offer (!!), had a lyme disease scare (all good, it was a false alarm), and went to Nantucket with my best friend last week, which is what I’m sharing with y’all today!

Currently, I’m back at my parents’ house and pretty sunburned (more on that later). At the start of 2019, I put on my bucket list “go to Nantucket”. If you’re not familiar, Nantucket is an island off the coast of Massachusetts, along Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard (which I went to four years ago and loved!). It’s a pretty remote vacation destination especially if you’re not on the east coast and don’t already have a house there, but Nantucket looked so beautiful and I mostly wanted to visit because of famous bloggers’ trips like Carly, Mackenzie, and Julia. (Although one thing that most of them failed to mention are the ticks in beach grass! Bring mosquito/tick spray, people!)

My best friend Hannah and I left from Seattle early Monday morning and flew to Newark, and promptly took a layover to Nantucket. Prior to departing on this trip, we had heard that the flights to Nantucket are infamous for getting delayed but we had no issues with weather, luckily! We arrived in Nantucket in the late afternoon, took a shuttle to the town center, and checked into the Roberts Collection.

We booked the Roberts Collection on Booking.com and I highly recommend it! The concierge were kind and the room was so cozy. It’s located right in the town center, which was so convenient for the entirety of the trip. We were pretty hungry so we stopped by Brotherhood of Thieves and beat the dinner rush. After, we strolled around town and everything was seriously so darling: the flower bushes, the gray-shingled houses, the little boutique shops, all of it. We decided to stop by Children’s Beach and relax for the rest of the evening after a long day of traveling.

The next day was projected to rain in the afternoon, and, knowing that east coast rains get pretty unpredictable and intense, we brought an umbrella with us from the get-go. In the morning, we ate the continental breakfast (not the best, we didn’t go back again after) and set foot to explore some of the shops around town. I love Vineyard Vines, Lilly Pulitzer, and Black Dog, so we definitely hit those. We grabbed Handlebar Coffee (which turned out to be our favorite, we went everyday!). After, we headed to Naushop, a neighborhood that had a floral arch we saw on Instagram and wanted to find. Sadly, we didn’t find it but did enjoy strolling through the neighborhood and reading the puns on each house.

For lunch, we headed back in town and had Or, the Whale. We both got lobster rolls (they were amazing!), which is also when the rain started coming down. We continued to duck into the boutique shops, now on the lookout for the perfect Nantucket sweatshirt.

For dinner, we trekked to the west side of the island to get Millie’s. I got the tuna tacos and they were truly divine. Every item on the menu is so thoughtfully put together! Millie’s is very casual and overall had good vibes. We bussed back into town after and grabbed ice cream in the pouring rain at The Juice Bar. There’s always a long line for this ice cream place, but for good reason!

The next day, we headed to Black Eyed Susans, which we could see from our room’s window! Y’all, this place is poppin’: there’s usually a line out the door by 7:45am, so get there early. This place is cash-only (frankly, a lot of places are on this island), but so so worth it. I got the vegetable scramble and haven’t looked back! I feel like a changed woman because of this scramble and couldn’t stop thinking about it all day 😂

We finally went to go buy our Nantucket sweatshirts after breakfast. I ended up getting both of my sweatshirts from University of Nantucket and Hannah got hers at Annie and the Tees as well as Three Girls and a Dog. After, we stopped by The Corner Table to grab coffee. It’s good, but not as good as Handlebar. Then we headed to Siasconset (Sconset)! We took the bus there as well (honestly, no need to Uber, the bus is great). The town itself is extremely small. It’s right on the beach and Hannah and I decided to start off with lunch at Claudette’s, which serves sandwiches! I got the roast beef one and it felt really healthy, which is always good. Then we headed off to the Sconset Bluff Walk. It was a long walk, and so so gorgeous. We headed up to the Sankaty Lighthouse on the way (which! Doesn’t have a restroom!) and walked back to town. The sun really came out after that, and then we headed back to the town center to grab more ice cream at The Juice Bar.

We ended up both taking a nap back in our room and then heading back to Millie’s for a later dinner. I got their lobster roll this time (the rice that comes with it is FIRE), and we each got our own frosé and y’all, I have never tasted such strong frosé. It was a fun night after, to say the least.

The next morning, we decided to try Lemon Press for breakfast. I ordered the Shakshuka which was delicious but ended up being very strong and rich, I couldn’t finish it ☹️ We headed back to Sconset Beach for the remainder of the morning since it was so much sunnier and grabbed Claudette’s again for lunch. We had the most relaxing time reading and tanning on the beach! Pure bliss. Even though it was somewhat cloudy, we both got really sunburned at UV index 4. Don’t be fooled, people!

We headed back to town mid-afternoon to Cru since we had a reservation! It’s a beautiful boat-themed restaurant on the water, and I got fish tacos that were delicious. We wrapped up any other stores we wanted to explore and went back to Or, the Whale for dinner.

Our last day on Friday was breakfast at Black Eyed Susans where I could order my last veggie scramble. We did some reading at Handlebar Coffee for a few hours before leaving for our flight in the afternoon. We didn’t get as lucky with our flights this time around: both flights to Newark and Seattle were delayed so we didn’t get back to Seattle until midnight. We were exhausted by then, to say the least!

Overall, I’m so so happy that I made it to Nantucket this year with Hannah! It was humid, relaxing, very low-key, and also very expensive. All completely worth it – I’m already looking forward to the next time I can visit this lovely island! I would love to go sailing next time and rent a bike to ride around the island.

That’s it for now, whew! A five-day recap makes it a long one but hopefully y’all enjoyed my travel diary of Nantucket. Talk soon!

Jen

last trip to portland (for awhile)

Hi y’all! I hope everyone had a safe and relaxing 4th, it feels good to be back on the blog! Luckily, my internship gave us the 4th and 5th off, giving me plenty of time to fly back and forth to see my family. Going home always means tons of down time. Down time means blog time!

Two weeks ago, I went to Portland for a day. I had a wisdom-teeth appointment so I basically did a staycation and did all the touristy things. Please enjoy this food diary!

I got to Portland at around 11am, so I stopped by Tasty & Alder. It’s a classic Portland brunch spot. Since I was alone, I got seated so fast – perks of solo dates! 😉

I was pretty full after brunch, but since Blue Star is right next door, I decided to commit and go in. Could I really leave Portland and still call myself a Portlandian without having been to Blue Star?

I got the Chocolate Buttermilk Old-Fashioned and the Loganberry (seasonal) flavors. I ended up eating both in one sitting and I was SO FULL but they were SO GOOD. In hindsight, I really only had the appetite for one donut, but they were both so aesthetically pleasing!! The verdict? Blue Star is 10 times better than Voodoo, if you ask me.

Whenever I’m in Portland I love stopping by the city Powell’s Books and exploring for hours. I finished the book I was reading and then headed out to dinner at Boxer Ramen. Growing up in Portland, I had never heard of this ramen place until a few months ago from a fellow Portlandian!

The ramen is definitely different from the ramen shops in Seattle, but I still really enjoyed it.

And that’s that on this Portland trip! I probably won’t be going back for awhile, unless friends want to take a weekend trip from Seattle. For the rest of the summer, I’ll be focusing on my internship and then headed off to the east coast (!!) for a fun little trip.

What are you up to this summer?

Jen

quick trip to spokane

Hi hello!

Jen here, coming to you from my deathbed!! I caught a really awful cold yesterday morning and am taking the day off from work today. I have a feeling I caught something from this trip to Spokane, actually.

Nevertheless, it was such a fun trip! I went for a conference with my accounting student organization on campus, so about 20 other students came with me. I was also excited to check out the Gonzaga campus.

We had a lot of down time for the conference, which I was grateful for because I wanted to explore the small city of Spokane. I had heard that over the years, many parts of the city were being developed into cuter areas.

First stop was Madeleine’s Cafe & Patisserie. I had a solo breakfast here right when it opened at 7:45am since I had plans to meet up with a Zag student. Everything looked so tasty, but I grabbed the Forest Scramble and haven’t looked back. One of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had!!

I also found some alone time (funnily enough, I ran into my peers TWICE just walking around the city. I guess that’s what happens in small cities), and explored Auntie’s Bookstore, one of Spokane’s independent bookstores. So adorable!

On the way to the Spokane Falls, I saw a little coffeeshop named Atticus, so I hopped in for a second. While I wasn’t in the mood for caffeine (shocker, I know), the back of the coffeeshop was a store selling bookish knick-nacks, which I also loved browsing.

I finally made it to the falls, and it was lovely. The day was cloudy with a slight breeze, but it was so refreshing standing on the bridge and watching the falls crash.

I’d say Spokane is perfect for a quick weekend trip – growing up and living in big cities, I can’t say I’d live in Spokane, at least in my younger years. I think Seattle still has my heart.

Thanks for reading!

Jen

life updates: grad edition!

It has been a hot minute since we last chatted!

I’m on spring break now and I finally got around to sitting down, aggregating my photos from the past couple of weeks, and writing this “I’m back” post.

First of the updates… I’m done with my undergraduate degree! Sadly, the final grade for one of my classes still isn’t out yet, but I have no doubt that I passed the class 😂 It’s a surreal experience to be done with college, and I’m so relieved. I was definitely feeling burn-out towards the end there; now, I get to relax for six whole months before I start school again! Whew.

Second of the updates: I got into the second grad school I applied to! For those who don’t know, I’m pursuing the Master of Science in Taxation degree (file yo taxes, friends), and I’m 90% sure I’m committing to one but can’t quite bite the bullet yet until next week.

For the rest of my updates, I’m happy to share via my photo diary:

After the weird snowpocalypse that was completely #fakenews, my good friend Kaitlin and I went to try The Fat Hen in Ballard! It’s a renowned brunch spot that we both hadn’t been to yet. It’s a super tiny spot, so either go with less friends or get there early and be prepared to wait. If you know me, you know I love eggs in any shape/form, so I was more than ready to order their baked eggs. Verdict: did not disappoint!

I was excited and surprised around this time to have been selected to participate and represent my university’s team for a case competition in Atlanta, Georgia. A learning experience + free trip to the south? Yes, please! The case dropped a week before we flew out, which meant I was preparing for my final exams while trying to crank out a global health case on hurricane management. I love meeting new people and working in teams though, which made it so fun and entertaining.

We were only in Atlanta for 3.5 days, but we made the most of it as we could. Since I had been to Atlanta earlier last year, I made an effort to visit the Ponce City Market, which I had missed last time! It was lovely – so many good eats! We also stopped by Two Urban Licks for dinner.

The day before the competition was a full case work-day, so my team and I grinded all day. We joked that our team was hit with the worst fatigue because of spring forward, dead week (the week before final exams), and a three-hour coastal time difference.

Wearing business professional means lots of photoshoots! We presented on a Friday and while we felt really great about the presentation and Q&A portion, we didn’t make it to the final round. Nevertheless, we went out as a group later that night to celebrate at The Ivy Buckhead with some dancing. Highly recommend!

As our last meal in Atlanta, we went to Home grown GA – a cozy little brunch diner. If you’ve been to Beth’s Cafe in Seattle, I got the same vibes here. It was a long wait, but there is an adorable wall on the outside of the diner and you can sip on coffee while you wait. I always need to get Southern grits now whenever I visit Georgia – a classic!

One of my teammates in my classes had reflected and shared that “laughing builds trust”, and it’s so, so true. I had never pinpointed that sentiment before, but now I’m cognizant to integrate that into every new team I work with. I had the best laughs with this case competition team! One of the saddest realizations for me was making new friends right before I graduate; it’ll be on me to maintain contact!

Final exams came and went. I only had one exam I had to take after my trip back from Atlanta (thank goodness, because I really did not have time to study), so that was a relief. I’m back home now, occupying my time by packing/spring cleaning, binge-watching shows on Netflix, and reading! Is anyone else obsessed with the Elizabeth Holmes Theranos story? I devoured Bad Blood and have already listened to The Dropout podcast as well. Next up: the documentaries!

I’ve come to the conclusion that spring will be a lot of slowing down and self-reflecting. I read an article the other day about being addicted to being busy and it totally freaked me out because I strongly identify with this. I’m trying not to pack my Google Calendar with plans and learn how to be content with gaps in my schedule. It’ll be an adjustment, but I’m willing to try in order to start tackling the tougher questions in my life.

In terms of what to expect from me with the frequency of blog posts, I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to post often. However, the reality is that I’m way more excited to post about something when I have actual content, and that may mean a week to a few weeks of silence on the blog. My spring isn’t looking too eventful as of right now, but who knows? You’ll have to stay tuned 😉