Sunday, July 26, 2015

Golden Gate Park

Yesterday was my first day at Golden Gate Park. I've visited San Francisco plenty of times but never made it to this glorious park. I was surprised to learn it is 20% bigger than Central Park! My friend, Will, came down from the East Bay and we explored the eastern half of the park. We started with the hot dog stand by the amphitheater, because priorities. We ate on the benches in front of the theater as some high school looking kids rehearsed their rendition of Twelfth Night. It was kind of adorable and brought back good memories of performing in plays years ago. 

After food was taken care of, we started off at the Botanical Garden. I was most amused by the squirrels and geese but the flowers were really beautiful. There were different sections for flowers and plants from all over the world. 

Next we got coffee from the de Young museum cafe and saw some of the sculptures just outside. For my first trip to the park, I just wanted to do some of the smaller things and come back to spend a full day at the museums. Then we went over to the Conservatory of Flowers. Since its opening in 1879, the beautiful greenhouse has suffered damage from several fires and a winter storm. Surprisingly it was unaffected by the 1906 earthquake. I don't have a green thumb in the slightest but I can appreciate the beauty of plants and flowers and this is a great place to see them at their finest. There are different rooms within the greenhouse with separate climates to accommodate the variety of tropical, aquatic and potted plants. The lawn in front of the conservatory is beautifully landscaped with colorful flowers abound. 

We walked around the park and stopped by the carousel and heard some live music under a bridge. The park was lovely and I can't wait to come back and explore other areas of it.

Later that day, I had dinner plans with my cousin, Lena, but she had some surprises up her sleeve. We met her two girlfriends for dinner and she was super vague but we were also supposed to go to a birthday party of a friend of a friend's afterwards. It turned out that we met a group of her good friends at a karaoke joint as a surprise welcome for me to San Francisco. I continue to be amazed by the love and kindness from those closest to me and their help with this move. I don't know what exactly I plan on doing in this city, but the support I've had along the way makes it feel like the right decision. 

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 

- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Superpod 4

Day 1

Today I drove my car to the airport, took a plane to Seattle, took a Lyft to tour the city (thanks Robert!), met up with my dad back at the airport (flying in from somewhere else), we took a bus to another bus and then a ferry to San Juan Island. 

Just to summarize: ��✈️��������

Texts with my dad: 

Upon our arrival to the island we had dinner at a cute restaurant and then headed to the hotel. Everything shut down pretty early so all the shops I would have gone to were closed. Friday Harbor reminded me of Catalina a bit. We turned in early because all that traveling was exhausting. 

Day 2

Early to bed, soooo early to rise! I woke up unnecessarily early. My dad and I had coffee and breakfast as we waited for those darn shops to open. I especially wanted to check out this bookstore we passed by the night before. When I did the math for the travel time going back to the airport, whilst looking at all the ferry/shuttle schedules, I knew I was going to miss my flight. Even though I had my audio book with me, I wanted another for the extra time I'd have to spend at the airport waiting for the next flight. So, I picked up Go Set A Watchman. Because literary phenomenon, am I right? We went to a couple other shops and talked to a few orca enthusiasts before going out on our whale tour. 

My dad wrote a song about Lolita earlier this year. She has been in captivity for 45 years after brutally being taken from her mother. Her pod and mother are still out there, perhaps awaiting her return. Seven orcas were captured with Lolita from Puget Sound (a bit South of where I am today) and she is the only one still alive today. If you can call being in a pool "living," that is. She is being held captive at Miami Seaquarium. Lolita has been listed under the Endangered Species Act earlier this year and hopefully this will help get her returned to the ocean where she belongs. 

We boarded the water taxi with four other folks and Captain Hobbs. He told us from the beginning that the orca pods have been spotted farther out that we can go in our three hour tour, but he seemed hopeful. It wasn't looking good, we were an hour out and still nothing but birds. 

The view was beautiful and it was a great day to be out on a boat. But let's face it, I didn't ride in a car, plane, two buses and a ferry to look at birds. And then the K Pod showed up! I saw three breaches but didn't manage to get a good picture of any of them. There were about five orcas and they were just amazing. Seeing them was completely worth missing my flight for (and the next flight). The pictures came out a little blurry as it was hard to take them quick enough when they popped to the surface. 

Orcas are beautiful and intelligent animals that do not belong at Sea World, Seaquarium and the like. They live much longer in the wild with their families. I hope Lolita and all other captive killer whales can return to the sea and reunite with their pods. And sea parks can suck it. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The New Adventures of Old Vina

I've had an amazing last two weeks. Just before this spectacular time, I quit my job. Even months before this stupendous 14 days, I decided to move to San Francisco. I love L.A. I love the weather, the sunsets, the beach, the abundance of Korean food that L.A. has to offer and I love my friends. This was a terribly difficult decision to make. The thought of merely being open to the idea of moving gave me a migraine. 

Let's scooch back a bit. I grew up in the Central Valley, my parents would take me to San Francisco often. We'd do the touristy things: Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard Street, Chinatown, whatever. It was great to visit. I would go every once in a while with friends and it was always fun, but I have never wanted to live there. Not. Ever. Around the time that I peaced out of NorCal, my closest cousin, Lena, moved to San Francisco. We'd visit each other and I got to enjoy S.F. more with her than ever. In the last year or so, she'd jokingly tell me to move there. I was very adamantly against it. Every time. She always made sure I'd have a good time there and tell me how great it would be for me to live there. I adore my cousin, she's an amazing person and I am so proud of the woman she's become. We grew up together and used to wear matching outfits. She is the sister I never had. Earlier this year, she had given up on convincing me to move there, so obviously, that's the visit that it hit me. That's the one that made me think, "hmm, I could move here..." Lena and her fiancé recently moved into an amazing new place and offered me a place to live, a part time job and the emotional support to make this move. How could I refuse? So, I didn't. 

I planed out the months to follow to take advantage of what I love about L.A. I did road trips to Arizona, Joshua Tree, Big Bear, Vegas (twice) and San Diego. I ate a lot of Korean food. I went to Disneyland and Universal Studios with some amazing people. I went out, danced and socialized more than ever. And I had the best birthday party of my life. I went HAM and wondered why I didn't YOLO this hard ever before. Sure, it was exhausting and I don't remember the last night I went to bed before midnight or had 8 hours of sleep. But it was all so worth it. I never wanted to make a big deal out of my move because who knows what could happen? I could have very well changed my mind, packed all my shit for nothing and turned that car around. I could also be here for three months and realize this isn't for me and can't find a job and realize I made a huge mistake. Despite the huge potential of failure, I knew I had to go. At least for a little bit. 

My last day of work was July 2nd, timed perfectly to enjoy the holiday weekend and I gave myself two weeks to pack/toss everything I own and see the people I cared about most in SoCal. It was a lot of work but I made sure to have a lot of fun amidst the packing and trips to storage and Goodwill. I had most of my lunches and dinners planned with friends during this time (I had to pack up my kitchen after all, there's no way I could cook). I had an amazing Fourth watching the whole city turn up. I went to the beach, went paddle boarding and hiking. I didn't make excuses and I said yes to almost everything. This is the most fun I've had as an adult. I thought all of this would make it more difficult to move, and it did. But it also made it easier because I felt closer to ready. I did almost everything I wanted and saw everyone I wanted and now I'm ready. 

My friends Mafe and Marcela helped me load up my car on Saturday morning after an unexpected thunderstorm in Culver City. I like to think the skies were upset about me leaving. But I left with the beautiful petrichor in the air and I can't think of a better way to go. After stuffing my car like a sausage, Marcela and I did the scenic drive North. The 405 to the 101 to the 1. It was a few hours longer than it would have been going straight, but I've never done the coast drive and it was the perfect opportunity to do it. I made a Spotify playlist for the drive and my sweet friend, Diego, burned a few CDs for us to listen to. I also had a new audio book (Armada) for the few times Marcela dozed off. We stopped by San Luis Obisbo, San Simeon and Big Sur. The roads were beautiful and we held our breath and made wishes on almost every bridge we passed. 

We arrived at my cousin's house late Saturday night and Marcela and I did a little sightseeing on Sunday before she flew back home. I unpacked a few things but this still feels like I'm only visiting. Especially because I will be in Washington Monday and Tuesday. BRB!

As much as I've done the last two weeks, really the last few months leading up to this, it would have meant nothing if I didn't do it with these amazing friends. That is what I will truly miss. (And the Korean food, obvs).

Here's to new adventures in San Francisco and figuring out my life. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Thursday a.k.a. Surprise Farewell Party

I have been packing on and off between trying to see all of my friends before I flee the city. My good friend Pookie helped me get rid of some stuff and take my last batch of boxes to storage. Sometimes I just need someone to yell at me and say I don't need to keep certain things. After all the work, we went to brunch in Marina del Rey and did a little makeup shopping. I've been sweaty and gross the last couple days of packing so I was excited to use my new products and look decent for my dinner plans Thursday evening. 

Marcela, Mafe and I were having dinner in Downtown LA and we've had this on the books for at least a month. Originally I was planning on driving to SF the next day (instead of Saturday) so this was going to be our last supper. I made so much progress with packing that day that I was able to take my time getting ready and I even curled my hair, which I haven't had time for in a while. I'm glad I put the extra effort into getting ready because little did I know, I would be seeing a lot more people than just Marcela and Mafe! Mafe said she was meeting up with a friend beforehand and would me us at the restaurant for our 8:30pm reservation. I waited at Marcela's house as she was running around doing random things, turns out she was stalling to wait for everyone to arrive at the bar for the surprise. I think she said about three times that she was calling the Uber (lies) as her sister distracted me with an interrogation about the kind of guys I like, deal breakers and acceptable age gaps. It was a pretty entertaining conversation and it effectively distracted me from how late we were to dinner at this point. Once we finally got in a car, I realized how hungry (soon to be hangry) I was. I let Mafe know we were about 10 minutes away and she said she was still waiting for a table at a bar across from the restaurant. I was wondering why we were waiting for a table when we made a reservation that we were twenty minutes late to. We got out of the car at the restaurant and walked down the street to the bar she was at. I picked up a cupcake along the way and scarfed it down, because priorities. We get to the bar and it wasn't "across from the restaurant" like she said. There were a few things that didn't add up at this point, but I wasn't expecting what I was about to walk into. We were carded at The Down and Out bar and I walked in as I was putting my wallet away while about ten of my friends were lined up right there at the entrance. It was a great surprise and all night I was so touched that my friends put this together. I can't believe I didn't start crying right then and there with everyone staring at me. Kathleen handed me a shirt the girls made and were already wearing for our little "Hammettes" group which includes Marcela, Mafe, Kathleen, Karlena and myself. Karlena handed me a plate of waffle fries because Marcela tipped her off her that I was hungry. That's what friends are for! Then I proceeded to hug my way down the line of people. We played ping pong and beer pong and had an amazing time. It felt like my birthday all over again. There were a handful of people there that I thought I already saw for the last time (for now) and some that I didn't think I would see again before I left. It was a perfect night and I couldn't ask for better friends. I'm so grateful for everyone planning, showing up and being part of this surprise send off. It's amazing nights like these that also make it that much harder to leave.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


There are so many great things to do in Los Angeles. Winding down my very last days, I made a little list of things I'd like to do before moving. My amazing friend Marcela helped me knock out a couple of these, including hiking behind the Hollywood sign and going to Universal Studios. 

Day 1

On Monday we went to El Matador beach. It was pretty crowded for being a Monday but I suppose some of these people were on summer vacation. We brought a picnic, listened to Death Cab for Cutie and gossiped. We also took some fun pictures in the freezing water. 

After the beach, we got coffee and then drove over to Hollywood. We ALMOST changed the plan about hiking, but I am so glad we stuck to it. It was nice chatting with the people at the top of the hike, behind the sign; there was an unspoken camaraderie like we accomplished something together. 

We worked up an appetite from the hike but I also wanted to watch Jurassic the perfect solution was iPic where we could watch the movie while we eat! I actually didn't know that Universal Studios was the plan for Tuesday because Marcela made it a surprise. I knew we were doing something outdoors and we had been talking about Six Flags or Universal Studios, but we were running out of time, so I wasn't sure either were going to happen. I was strongly against going to Six Flags because all the reports of death recently. Apparently that swayed her decision to go with Universal (5 points for Gryffindor!). While we were watching the movie, I jokingly asked "are we going to Jurassic World tomorrow?!" Turns out, I was pretty much right! 

Day 2

Come Tuesday morning, I hoped we were going to Universal but I still wasn't certain because she kept trying to throw me off. We were running a little late and she wanted to drop something off at her sister's work, which was on the way to where we were headed. Her sister works at (drumroll) NBC Universal. She kept a straight face as we drove into the Universal parking lot. She pretended she missed the office parking as she proceeded towards the park parking. I was just staring at her in silence waiting for her to crack. We were in line for the Universal Studios parking lot...clearly we're going to the park. I let it play out as long as she could keep her poker face. And then she tossed the tickets at me saying "oh, what's this?" Even though it was obvious by that point, it was the first time I was able to get excited about it. I haven't been to Universal Studios in about 7-8 years, so I was stoked! Jurassic Park! The three rides that I've never been on (Minions, Simpsons and Transformers)! The backlot tour! 

We did all the new rides and the classics. It was a busy day at the park, but we were still able to fit everything we wanted to do. We skipped Water World, but we have both seen it plenty of times, so I was okay with that. I geeked out at the Harry Potter store before we left. I will definitely be back Spring 2016 when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens.

Afterwards we went to one of my favorite Korean BBQ places for a late dinner. It was a great way to end such an exciting day!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Independence Day

Saturday started as a good day should: with brunch. I had brunch with the girls at Hugo's before going to a pool party at the Standard on Hollywood. 

Then we BBQ'd at Karlena's place and went to the Observatory to watch the fireworks light up across the city. 

The night ended at Bootie LA and a taco truck. 

Happy Fourth, y'all! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Big Bear

I spent the weekend in Big Bear with some lovely ladies from work. My favorite part was sitting on the docks, playing Disney music and taking pictures. 

This reminded me of a dollhouse so I waited for the girls to ride by for a picture. 

The weather was great, it wasn't too hot and it cooled down quite a bit at night. 

We had fun making light trails with our flashlights. <3

We all pitched in for an amazing brunch. Baked bacon (in the oven!), eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fruit and mimosas. 

The fresh air does wonders.