May 23, 2017

Monkey Run

Two runs: 7 am on a 70 degree, humid, sunny morning, and 4 pm on a 60 degree, windy, cloudy afternoon. No matter what the conditions are, this place will look stunning!
 
 

May 21, 2017

A GUARDED HEART (LOVE THAT LETS GO) || Sunday Dialogues


If you know me, you know just how shy I can be (at first ;])! Though being friendly and making friends aren't mutually exclusive, I'll admit that the latter is certainly more difficult for me. There's a boldness that's required, a different kind of confidence...a fearlessness. Freedom from insecurities, from the fear of rejection, from the fear of being vulnerable, from the fear of simply approaching someone new and just saying "hi".

So after I've mustered up that courage, after I've overcome the hurdles, after a friendship is finally born, I want to do anything and everything I can to preserve that friendship. That's reasonable, right?

Well, in comes life: friendships come and go due to a variety of circumstances, but what I've found to be the most disheartening is the rate at which they come and go, particularly when you're in school. People graduate, people move, friendships from jobs and internships end with the summer, people transfer... the influx of people coming in and out is both constant and destabilizing.

You can argue that social media keeps people connected, and you make a good point, but I strongly believe that most relationships cannot be sustained purely through digital mediums. I prefer face to face interactions, and when digital mediums are the only way to maintain connection, then a significant amount of commitment is required from both parties -- it's tough!

So why do I bring all this up? You may have noticed some uncharacteristic honesty in some of my posts over the past year. My heart was hardened over the course of this school year, primarily through my own bitterness and fear. Subconsciously, I was keeping myself locked up, guarded...protected from future heartbreak of friends leaving, and disappointment when finally putting myself out there bears no fruit. History of lost relationships made me unmotivated. What's the point when the chances of someone staying in your life is so much smaller than the chances of losing someone?

But over the past month and a half, I've learned to ask God to soften my heart and make me bolder...
bolder, so that I can make conversations with stoic Northerners (a stark contrast to my year with Southerners)

stronger...
stronger, so that I can persevere through rejections, disappointments, and a wearied introvert's heart after too much interaction! 

more resilient...
more resilient, so that I can let go of friends when they leave, knowing that God is in control of our friendship, and allowing myself to remain open to new friendships. 


You see, friends, it's so much better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. A big part of being a good friend is learning to let go of your loved ones when it's time. Find hope in knowing that Christians never have to say goodbye, and take faith in knowing that God always has the best intentions for you. Some friends come into your life for a reason, others only for a season (forgive me for quoting Hannah Montana). But don't forget that there's still meaning and so much value in those short seasons, too.

I'll be the first to admit that internalizing the necessity to let go is incredibly difficult. It's a gradual process, and it's going to be harder at some points than others, but we've got His strength to lean on.

So soften your heart, be open to the possibility of heartbreak, be open to friendships. Ask God to chip away at the chains that are binding your heart. Trust that His protection over you is sufficient; you don't need to protect yourself anymore.

Unclench your tight grasp around your friends and heart, and ask God for the strength to open up your palms. Stretch out your fingers, and keep them there. Hold that position. That's it.

Keep them open, and allow God to give and take away as he pleases. Friends are blessings, and blessings are undeserved gifts from God. I've learned that the most reasonable response is to simply be grateful. Just be grateful for the people who have touched you, and take a steady breath when you let them go. You will see them again, whether on Earth or in Heaven, and your heart will heal.
Most importantly, don't forget there's one whom you'll never have to let go of, because He never lets go of you.

Song recommendation: "You Make Me Brave"

May 17, 2017

Liberty Hyde Greenhouse (Pt II): with Michelle!

I've mentioned how empty my first 1.5 semesters at Cornell were...sometimes, you just gotta hold out for God to strategically put the right people, the ones who are more incredible than you could ever imagine, in your life. Michelle is one of those people!
If you like my new photography and editing styles, leave me a comment below! 

See Part I of my visit to Liberty Hyde (from the fall) here!

May 14, 2017

What We Ate: BARCELONA

We're ending the Spain blogposts, five months later, with a photo journal of what we ate in Barcelona! I hope you've enjoyed these photos and stories; I hope I've been able convey some of Spain's magic through them. This country is so magnificent, and there's so much more we'll have to see next time. If you missed the "What I ate: MADRID" post, check it out here, and for the full Spain archive, find it under my Travel section. 

Like in my Madrid post, I'll preface this one by saying that this isn't a comprehensive review of restaurants, nor is it an ultimate travel guide. There are plenty of other restaurants on our list (like Taktiki Berri, Flax and Kale) that we missed, so the purpose of this post is solely to share our experiences and a few thoughts :). Enjoy!
All coke products we saw in Spain were bottled in glass. These bottles are sent back to the factory to be sanitized and reused. Go Spain! America, take notes.
Spanish chorizo bocadillo - in Spain, the simplest foods are the best.

Spanish omelette (Tortilla Espanola) - different from what we had at Casa Guinart (below), but it wasn't bad. Casa Guinart's is better and seemingly more traditional. 
Cerveceria Insbruck - just a few blocks away from La Sagrada Familia. We ate here after this memorable moment! Though the ratings aren't great, the endless menu offered reminded me of a Spanish version of an American diner, and this Jersey girl was happy with that. We came for lunch, and the service was superior to what we had at some other, more high-end restaurants. Plus, you're not going to find many places that serve salads in Spain, let alone any place with the prices that they charge.  
Tomato rubbed onto bread, dressed with olive oil, a Spanish staple
Jamon Iberico
Sure, the photos look great, but the waiter pushed us into letting him bring out a "tapas sampler" that costed way too much for food that we didn't necessarily want. We (I, whoops) mistook this place for another with much higher reviews. Don't come here

Barcelona's La Boqueria, a food market, analogous to Madrid's Mercado San Miguel
Mom's crepe
Come to St. Josep La Boqueria to fix your food market needs. Keep an eye for pickpockets (something to always be aware of when you're at Las Ramblas) and get excited by all the fresh fruits, marzipan, raw oysters, and artisan meats you'll find here.
Only my mother would eat ice cream in January ;)
The sign read: "Creme Brulee Waffle"
Beautiful waffles that we passed by

Spanish omelette (Tortilla Espanola) - our favorite of the two we tried this trip
Pistos de verduras - mixed vegetables, one of the only forms of vegetables you'll find on most Spanish menus
Albondigas (meatballs)
Salmon
One of our favorite meals in Barcelona was at Casa Guinart, located right by La Bocqueria. There's not too much to say about this place aside from the fact that we enjoyed every single dish!
Dad needs his Chinese food; I can't explain it. We had terrible experiences in Madrid, but were pleasantly surprised in Barcelona. Both Chinese restaurants we ate at were located in Eixample, where our apartment was located. Our experience as Chinese tourists in a Spanish speaking, European country was certainly something, but our experiences with Chinese people living in Spain is a story itself. If you're interested in learning more about the Chinese diaspora from a well-written, thoughtful solo traveler, visit my friend Huiying's (Bernice) instagram, where she's sharing her stories of Peru, Cuba, South Africa, China, and now Vietnam. 

Restaurant Son Hao brought out authentic Taiwanese food, and the hospitality we were treated with is by far the best that I've ever witnessed in my entire life. The owners spoke fluent Spanish and Mandarin (and also know quite a bit of English), and they treated both new and regular customers with the same enthusiasm, as if we were all family. 
Fried, pickled vegetables
"Truffle Oil E-Fu Noodles" - actually truffle oil over ramen. I don't blame them;
 I imagine it's difficult to find e-fu noodles in Spain!
Bok choy
Iberian pork dumplings, a specialty and favorite
Vegetarian/vegan meatballs (albondigas) made of tofu and rice with a peanut curry sauce
Coconut fried rice with shrimp
For a modern take on Chinese food, come to Out of China. This restaurant is another of our favorites, and it's clearly a local favorite, too. You're not going to find many inventive takes on the typical Chinese menu in Spain, and you're surely not going to find many places serving gluten-free buns ("baos") anywhere in the world. The servers were less involved in our dining experience compared to the owners of Son Hao ;), but they were so attentive and the service was quick. I loved sneaking glimpses through the window into the kitchen! Everything we ate was incredible.
Miscellaneous breakfast items from a local paneria in Eixample - Dad got a croissant, I got an olive loaf - don't knock my choices, it was great!-, and Mom's baked good whose name has slipped my memory
Polvorones from the Carrefour on Las Ramblas

Our first meal in Barcelona was at Restaurant Nuria, right on Las Ramblas (how much more tourist-y can we get?). The paella isn't authentic and the menu is very much so American, but we were tired after our early train ride from Madrid, and the decor was great. This entire restaurant reminded me of a French bistro, though I wouldn't know what one is like!

Vegans, look away for the next and last restaurant, La Fonda
Dad's cochinillo (roast suckling pig) - he claims that the one from Restaurant Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world, is better. Personally not a fan of cochinillo in general, but it's something to try when you're in Spain. 
Seafood paella (Paella de mariscos) - our third time eating paella in Spain, and our second favorite (second to what we ate in Madrid!)
La Fonda is a pricey restaurant, and the most popular at Port Olimpic. We got outdoor seats on this gloriously sunny day, which certainly added to our experience. Our server was quite lazy and unhappy ;), but the servers who worked inside were better. Many tour groups come through here, and we were also recommended this restaurant by a taxi driver.