Island Yoga, Koh Yao Noi

Sometimes we can’t help but pour time and emotional energy into projects to the effect of doing real damage to our bodies. For me, stress, both physical and mental, became a chronic condition that I acknowledged yet also ignored. So, doing my best to reorganize and prioritize, I settled my matters here, quit my job, wished farewells and exchanged contacts. Then, I went to Thailand.

After arriving for an exciting 3 day visit to Bangkok, I took a long-distance, overnight bus down to Phuket in southern Thailand, then an hour long ferry from Bang Rong Pier to Koh Yao Noi, a small tropical island just north of Koh Yao Yoi.


At around 4pm, I arrived at the pier of the island, where a taxi, which was really just a pick-up truck with an awning and two padded benches, took me along the coast to Ulmar’s Lodge, which also doubles as Island Yoga, a budget retreat run by a handful of yoga instructors from all over the world. There I met my friend who came and met me from Japan, and I moved my stuff into our bungalow. It was a little wicker basket of a shack that had a heated shower, a mosquito netted double bed, and a hammock outside. After that we met with two others for a brief orientation and a relaxing evening yoga class.





Every morning, we got up early for a vigorous 2-hour class at 7:30am (my friend managed to catch meditation at 7 every day), had an amazing brunch buffet, explored the island on motorbike during the day, then back at 4:30 for the evening yoga lesson.




Chais-15The retreat offered really fun excursions, such as kayaking to the mangroves and small islands nearby, or rock climbing at some amazing cliffs near the ocean, but I was satisfied to take the bike around or just laze in the hammock with my book. It was such an amazing and quiet place. One of the instructors said that in the 10 years she’s been to the island, the tourism development has been so slow, and the inhabitants, almost entirely Thai Muslims, have been able to improve the quality of their lives through building new schools and businesses without the overabundance of foreign crowds. I had such a rejuvenating 6 days at this retreat. I felt so lucky to spend time on that idyllic island. I hope I have a chance to return someday.





To learn more about Island Yoga, please visit their site.

Or if you need to spend a week refreshing your body or just to better your practice, I used this site to find the retreat. There might be another one closer to you: They have surf retreats too 🙂


Hidden Vegetarian Gem in Samsen Area, Bangkok



While wandering around the Samsen area of historic Bangkok, I stopped in for a bite at this humble little restaurant/cafe run by a older woman by the name of Chai. I just loved the atmosphere of her small operation, barely noticeable among the bushes of potted plants. It’s located on a quiet corder on Samsen 3, where you can sit and listen to the nearby birds and the gentle hum of passing motorbikes. I had two breakfasts there, which Chai prepared on a single burner, using the tiny counter space of her fruit-cluttered cart. She teaches Thai vegetarian cooking for about 1000 baht.



This is Chai. She had such a warmth to her presence. Her dishes are made with love.


After so many heavy and greasy Thai meals, I wanted a light and refreshing breakfast. Her veggie omelet delivered just that, complete with toast and homemade pineapple-mango jam. I also ordered a banana shake.

Chais-6I needed something healthy after all the pad thai.
Chais-4A sweet and creamy banana shake

The next day I went back for her black sticky rice with banana and mango, made from rice grown in her family’s organic farm in Isaan. Hers was my first authentic Thai Iced Tea.

Chais-9I love sweet breakfasts


Chai’s has an English menu with lots of vibrant pictures of stir-fries and fresh salads. She also serves organic Lao coffee and buffalo milk yogurt. If you find yourself staying north of Khaosan Rd, I’d recommend you try to find this place for breakfast or a shake!

Samsen, Soi 4, Banglamphu
Bangkok, Thailand

Santa Cruz and Pescadero, California

Last week I went back to the U.S. for the first time in over a year. My friends and I met from all corners of the world in California to celebrate the union of two amazing people I’m lucky to have in my life.

The most remarkable thing about seeing old friends is how easy it is. No matter how much time has passed, how far you live apart, whatever persona you’ve created in the new social context, there is almost always a seamless transition back to exactly how things were before you parted.  These are the friends you have that are like family. And even though I never lived in San Francisco, the company I returned to made it feel like home.

We spent a day driving around, eating and laughing and running random errands at our own pace. We had In-n-Out Burgers, Animal Style, which if you haven’t tried, I highly recommend it. After, we went to World Market to pick up remaining pieces for the wedding. My eyes were overwhelmed by things I hadn’t seen in such a long time. I stocked up on some simple luxuries:


Santa Cruz

The next day we drove to Santa Cruz for the bachelorette party. It was my first time to the city and it did not disappoint. Ever since I saw the 1980’s vampire classic, Lost Boys, I imagined Santa Cruz as a desert beach town filled with roughed up adolescents wandering the carnival-illuminated boardwalk. It turned out to be sleepier than I thought, the main bar and restaurant area dominated by a hip university presence. We ate tacos, got mani-pedis and shopped along the main strip to find pieces to complete our 20’s themed costumes.


After a very restful sleep at the Bay Front Inn, I woke my friend up early and we borrowed bikes from the front desk and set out to view the coast. We passed the pier where an important vampire battle scene from Lost Boys took place. Further along the beach we saw the fins of several breaching dolphins.


We loaded the cars and got brunch at a phenomenal Brazilian restaurant. Brunch. What a beautiful concept. After living in Japan where the breakfast culture consists of fish over rice and the occasional pancake, I was ready to indulge in a hearty, late-morning meal. I got poached eggs over mushrooms and spinach with a black bean sauce drizzled on top. My friends got their famous and beautiful Acai berry bowl which had bananas, strawberries and granola over an Acai yogurt mix. It was just as tasty as it was beautiful.


After filling our bellies, we separated into cars and took route 1 up the coast to watch the ocean as we made our way back toward the city. I couldn’t believe the view of the coastline. The road winds around the natural curve of the cliffs, which drop suddenly several meters down to rough crashing waters. On the West Coast, a light fog hangs on the horizon of the sea, making the colors really subdued but warm. No wonder Californians love nature.



We turned down a flat road into a old, sleepy mining town, Pescadero. Apparently, the general store had an artichoke bread that brought flocks of foodies from the city. The town really lived up to it’s Americana of the West atmosphere, complete with hand-painted wooden signs and a tiny farmers stand that sold big pumpkins, mini avocados and bushels of brussel sprouts. We bought pumpkins and a big loaf of sourdough artichoke bread to try in the car. The inside was still warm when we dug into it.









That evening there was a party hosted for friends of the bride and groom. We had delicious fajitas and wine by the campfire. I sat on a blanket in a full-bellied stupor among people I hadn’t seen together in years. I was exhausted but I didn’t let myself fall asleep. In that old house in a forest of Oakland, it was such a rare and perfect moment to be all together. I wanted to savor every moment for as long as possible.


Falling in Love in Bali

Blue, green, white, grey, more blue. These are the colors of Bali, with some splashes of mango orange and passion fruit red. This color pallet brings tranquility to my spirit.

The sky was clear and I was cruising. The bright blue surfboard I’d borrowed was strapped to my motor bike. I climbed over the paved hills through tropical forest, south of Kuta. I just left Padang Padang, where there were crowds and low surf. The tide was getting better at another break just a 15 minute ride away, someone told me. I knew that beach. It wasn’t a secret spot by any means, but it was much less overrun than Padang Padang.

It was a trip of seconds for me. The second time I rode a motorbike in a foreign country. Flying through that beautiful lush green country, with wind in my hair and on my skin, was a sensation that had no comparison. I had the freedom of being my own driver and a schedule with one agenda: the sea.

It was also the second trip I devoted to surfing. I’d just finished a week long surf camp with Rapture, and my body was toned and craving the water. My paddling was better than ever and I had several days to practice catching waves on my own. I was beginning to understand the rhythm of the ocean. Shame it was my last day at the beach.

I parked next to other bikes at a cliff edge that overlooked the break. The view of the ocean seemed to go on forever and disappear into the sky. I could see small specks of surfers bobbing among growing waves. I would hang around the side, I thought, like my friend instructed me, so I could watch the experienced surfers and catch the smaller waves (and hopefully not get in anyone’s way).

It was a pretty long climb down the cliff with a board, but I managed the whole thing in about 5 minutes. I dropped off my stuff at a warung tended by woman with black and silver hair down to her waist. She didn’t look like she surfed, but I could tell she spent a lot of time with surfers. She had a little shack at a beautiful surf spot, serving snacks, coffee and noodles. I planned to buy a chocolate bar from her when I came back.

The waves were beautiful that day. The breaks were clean. I needed a spot where they weren’t too big but still powerful and long. Fun waves.

As I pushed onto my board in the water my whole body felt instantly refreshed. I paddled out and felt the presence of the endless white sand and rocky cliffs surrounding me.

To be in the sea, under the sun. A meeting place of two sources of life. What more do you need from the world?

As I was getting further out, the waves were beginning to crash on me. The instructors at the camp taught me two ways to get through quickly: move to the front of the board and push down–hard, or if its a stronger wave, pull forward toward the nose and flip the board over your body just as the wave is passing over. Before I learned these essentials, paddling against breaking waves was like fighting the ocean and taking a beating.

I spent about 2 hours out there, a complete novice among surfers significantly more experienced than me. To my surprise (considering the alleged pride and exclusivity of surf communities), a lot of them were really kind and helpful. I waited in the line-up studying them, when to start paddling, where they kept their focus, which waves they took.

They observed me too, and after a few meagerly successful rides, a few approached me with some important advice. You’re too stiff, you’re leaning too far back, you should keep your head up. I logged these things into my muscles and practiced in my mind as I waited and watched. I wanted my body to work in sync with the rhythm of the water, just like them. I imagined it as I watched the others. I also kept my gaze on the waves behind me.

A silver lining. Take this one, B, they said. I paddled, smoothly, then hard, speeding. The wave caught me, one hard stroke, pop-up, sweep feet under, ride. Ride.

I can’t fully explain the feeling. I was flying on water. I was alone, and together with everything all at once. I prayed to the heavens and I got a reply. I was in the home I grew up in, and just getting to know the place. That’s the connection I have with the sea.

I came back to the beach to have my chocolate bar and beer. I sat on the beach with some gnarly looking beach bums with sandy dreadlocks. They played reggae on their acoustic guitar, I played whatever I could remember. They asked me how many boyfriends I had, then told me about their girlfriends. They asked if I was coming back, and I told them it was my last day. That’s a shame, B.

It really was.

I count the days until I can return to the beach. I’m in a long-distance relationship with the Sea, and I’m going to hang on until I’m re-united. I’m in love. Crazy love. And she’ll never leave me. She’s in my name.

Uluwatu Sunset

Get in Taste: Japanese Noodles

I love food. I probably think about food more than the average person. When I travel, my destinations are almost always motivated by food. I take pictures. I look at pictures. I mull menus. I eat slowly. It’s not always healthy foods either. Sometimes I find myself getting caught up at the convenience store, just to marvel at the variety of unfamiliar snack foods. Have you ever had green-tea citrus flavored popcorn? I haven’t either…but give me time.

Without further ado, here’s a short list of some of the tastiest noodle dishes I’ve had in Japan.


If you are like I was before I came to Japan, then you thought that Ramen was instant noodle that college students stocked up from Costco every few months.

If that is the case, you’ve been lied to.

This is Japanese Ramen. With a capital “L”:

Tonkatsu Ramen
Tonkotsu Ramen at Ippudo in Motomachi, Kobe

Made right, it is an explosion of rich and savory flavor and fresh ingredients. It is said to have first come to Japan from China as a fast, high-calorie workers’ dish sold from standing counters. Since then, different parts of Japan have taken the dish and transformed it into a distinctly Japanese staple, with their own regional specialties. The standard is Tonkotsu, which is a broth made from pork bone boiled for a very long time, best known from Kyushu. Other varieties include Shio Ramen (Salt Ramen), Miso (fermented soy bean paste), and Shioyu (soy sauce).

Negi Ramen, Osaka

Negi Ramen

This is probably a standard because it’s available everywhere and its amazing. This dish is a prime example for understanding how a Ramen shop’s quality can be measured by it’s broth. The milky rich soup, tonkotsu, is made from boiling pork bone, fat and collagen over a long period of time. This specialty of Kyushu can be very difficult to prepare, requiring perfect timing and temperature conditions.

Kikuni Tako Ramen (Braised pork belly and octopus leg), Tokyo

Kakuni Tako Ramen

I don’t usually like to mix seafood and meat, but I remember the ingredients working together wonderfully in this dish. Though it’s definitely not a light meal, it was a great way to savor different proteins with my noodles.

Tomato Chashu Ramen, Kobe (Ramen Taro)

Tomato Ramen

I had this in the summer time, when I didn’t really want a heavy ramen meal but still wanted hot noodles. I was skeptical, but being a huge fan of tomato anything, this ramen didn’t disappoint. The tender chashu, or barbequed pork slices, was amazing with fresh bok choy. The soup was much lighter than a tomato soup, but heavenly on it’s own.

Tsukemen (dipping ramen), Yamanashi


It doesn’t look like much, but it’s because you can’t capture the tangy, savory taste of the sesame-soy dipping sauce in a photograph. Here you could order three different sizes of noodle plates, depending how hungry you were and how much you wanted to prolong the dining experience. I went to this Chinese restaurant often when I was living in little Kofu, Yamanashi.

My friend told me about a ramen in Himeji that uses real milk as it’s base. It sounds strange, but he swears it’s one of the best he’s ever had. I’m dying to try it.


Soba, a thin buckwheat noodle, usually brown in color, is growing in popularity in the west as a healthy, whole wheat alternative to pastas and white flour noodles. It can be eaten as a very simple bare-bones dish, such as Zaru Soba, where it is served cold on a bamboo basket or mat with a soy-dipping sauce, negi and wasabi. I’ve had it a lot in a light miso or soy-based brother with mountain vegetable tempura and some kind of fish cake.

Kitsune Soba, Yamanashi


This soba restaurant in Yamanashi has the best hot soba dishes. I don’t know if it was the stock they used, but I found everything there to be amazing. The soba noodles were cooked perfectly and they had many varieties, from simple spring onion bowl to a more complex meat sobas.


I’m especially fond of udon as the temperature begins to drop. I love its soft and chewy texture. I find it can be eaten more slowly than the other noodles. I usually like to have it in a light soup, such as miso or soy, as kitsune (fox udon), That is when it’s served with a single square of fried tofu on top with a little negi. It’s often eaten with a few pieces of tempura or a par-boiled egg on top.

Zaru Udon, Kyoto


This cold udon meal was perfect for a day of exploring the temples and shrines of Kyoto during the hot Obon season.

Shrimp Tempura Udon Set with Inarizushi

Noodles-8A delicious set lunch menu with lots of protein, fresh vegetables and a sweet tofu-wrapped rice side.

Karaage Udon (Kyushu specialty)


Food from Kyushu is supposed to be amazing. I’ve never been there, but so far I’ve heard wonderful things. This came with a wedge of fresh Japanese lime.

There’s a really cute movie about ramen called Tampopo, which is a classic romantic comedy about a woman and her mission to revive her failing Ramen shop. I saw it way before I had any idea I was coming to Japan. It’s helped me a lot in understanding the painstaking work that goes into preparing these wonderful noodle dishes.

If you know of any noodle dishes you think I should try, let me know.

Finding Harmony in Japan’s First Capital

Sometimes living and working in another country can get a little exhausting– mentally, physically, emotionally… spiritually. Regardless of the ways in which I’ve come to love Japan–the quality of life, safety, amazing design, kind people, great food, etc.- there comes a moment (or several) when it becomes very frustrating to live day to day in a place where I don’t have a complete grasp of what’s happening around me. I think that is something that is inevitable about living abroad for a long time.

When I go someplace new, especially for a long stretch of time, I have an energy that’s very unique to traveling. It’s fueled from the excitement of being away from home and immersed in a place that’s filled with new rules and sights. That energy is used to investigate, explore, interact, taking in as much possible. During this time, it’s really exciting to talk to people, collect notes and pictures, draw, write, play.

At some point however, the energy slows down, especially when the old routines of daily life begin to settle. Work, money, food, health–all the negative thoughts I thought I’d left at home have suddenly caught up to me in the new place, with the added stresses of being away from friends and family. Whereas before, the relationships were fascinating, the interactions spell-binding, keeping my spirit positive and the anthropologist in me engaged. After a time, the cultural differences become frustrating, confusing, even annoying. Suddenly the demands of living in an unfamiliar society become draining–fast.

So what do I suggest? Take a break and go someplace beautiful. If you’re in the Kansai area of Japan, I think you should re-establish peace in Nara. Here you’ll find temples, shrines, forests, gardens and historic neighborhoods, not to mention good food and friendly bambis. Home to no less than 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Nara is an amazing place to refresh that travel energy.




The skies were only slightly overcast during our visit to the ancient town of Nara. The temperature, thankfully, was a little cooler after a few days of rainy weather. Within minutes of walking on the sidewalk towards the main temples, my eyes met with a group of golden deer surrounding some tourist kids carrying Shikesembei, or deer crackers. An old woman was selling these crackers from a cart for 150 yen. As we approached, we could see her crack into laughter as the the children were chased over the curb and into the park by the hungry deer.

We had taken the train in just for the day. When we arrived and walked around the corner from the town center, I breathed with calm relief upon entering a open, serene park area. The large, manicured grass lawns we safe from the free-roaming deer who only had a taste for the special rice crackers. I walked up to the deer, expecting them to at least move out of the way or startle, but they didn’t even flinch. In fact, they walked toward me leading with their big, brown and curious noses, in the hopes for a snack. These lovely creatures live carefree among some of the oldest treasures in Japan.

We stopped first at the Eastern Golden Hall and the five-story Pagoda, where we had our first prayer. Maho was kind enough to guide me through the whole thing. After slipping off our shoes, we kneeled on the wooden floor and I watched as she tapped the prayer bowl two times and read the propped up prayer boards. She then quietly instructed me step by step to do the same, muttering the Japanese to me and I repeated. I’m not especially religious, but I always feel a weight being lifted while I pray. In that brief moment of meditation, my mind felt clear and light.

On our way to Todaiji, we stopped for a miso-ice cream, which I had never seen before and tasted like caramel. Unfortunately, something in the ice cream made it melt extremely quickly. To my great sadness, our beautiful tall treats became sweet miso soup in a cone after a mere 2 minutes.

Todaiji was nothing short of magnificent. I felt so tiny in that massive temple before the big bronze Buddha. If it weren’t for the old monks working at the base of the statue, I would have had no reference for its size. At the end of the temple, Maho got herself a fortune, which turned out to be unlucky. We tied it up on the metal rack outside to send the bad luck away.



When we left the temple, I decided to try to feed the deer, knowing it probably wasn’t going to go well. The moment the woman handed me the small packet of crackers, the deer turned towards me in unison like a school of fish. I was flanked on all sides. I felt like my hands couldn’t pass out the food fast enough. One deer had the nerve to bite my side and force its nose into my purse. The moment my hands became empty, the frenzy ended and the deer went about as though nothing happened. After that somewhat traumatic experience, we stopped at an eclectic French cafe on the side of the road, which had a back room with a wall of glass looking into a garden. A coffee in the sun was just what we needed to refuel for the rest of the journey.




After our coffee break, we made our way to Isuen Garden, a stunning complex of Japanese horticulture and landscape design. The meticulously planned garden is a great place to see how plants, stone and water are used together in harmony. There was thick-straw-roofed, tatami floored tea houses, where visitors can enjoy the view over a tea ceremony. Walking around this lovely garden, without any kind of distracting buildings in the horizon, felt like being in the mossy forests of a Miyazaki film, with it’s tiny hidden rock shrines and modest stepping stones.







We felt very hungry after our walk through the garden and a pottery museum. We decided to head to Naramachi, which is a neighborhood of narrow alleyways and old Machiya, or traditional wooden townhouses. The atmosphere of old Japan whetted our appetite for something classically Japanese: tempura. With the help of the keeper of an organic, locally-grown vegetable shop, we found a subtly marked restaurant down one of the old streets.





The proud tempura shop owner came out to explain how he designed the set, with the dipping sauce separate so that it does not inundate the flavor of the tempura before it meets the palate. Japanese dining relies on many elements of the eating experience, not just favor, but also texture, aroma, temperature, and consistency.  Presentation and ritual are almost as important as the ingredients and preparation of the food itself. Since it was early and we were the only ones in the restaurant at that time, he came out to talk to us about every part of the meal. The rice was specially grown, and the vegetables in the tempura were local. The way the pickles are prepared is specific to Nara. Even the water and the ice which cooled it came from the Yoshinogawa river, considered to be sacred throughout Nara prefecture.


As much as I enjoy living in the city, I felt an immediate calm in Nara’s quiet and peaceful atmosphere. This was a much needed trip for me. I felt like I could actually reset myself after what’s felt like several weeks of being under a cloud. I took some video footage as well, so hopefully I can cut that together and share it with you. Until then, じゃまた!

Spirits of Rain in Japan

I’m not sure what the technical difference a typhoon and a hurricane is. Based on the way people react to bad storms here, I feel there must be a lot of respect for weather forces. Maybe it’s because historically (and recently since Fukushima) natural disasters are the biggest threat to this tiny island country.

In the past two weeks, we’ve had two Typhoons roll through. Rain always makes me a little lazier, life a little slower. These first storms of the rainy season brought a dramatic drop in the temperature. A very refreshing change after so much sweltering heat.

Last Sunday morning, the rain was too heavy to run out to get groceries, so I used it as an excuse to eat a yuzu sorbet for breakfast. Studying design in my spare time has led me to make more of my purchases based on attractive packaging. It happens a lot in this country.

IMG_0004It looks like snow and tastes like summer.

Yuzu is a tiny yellow citrus fruit that tastes like a blend of oranges, grapefruit and lemon.

Yuzu is one of those flavors I tend to seek out while I’m here. It’s a tiny yellow citrus that tastes and smells amazing. I’d never had it before coming here, and since trying it for the first time as Ponzu, a soy-based yuzu cooking sauce, over grilled meat, I fell head over heels. Here you can find it in teas in the winter, in desserts, such as cheese cakes, mochis, cream fillings, as well as savory dishes, as in nabe, which is a Japanese winter stew. I certainly haven’t exhausted all the different ways it’s used, but to be fair, there are only 3 meals to be had every day, right? Right.


Last week, it was especially thunderous and the caretaker of my share house pointed towards the window then to his stomach. He explained that Raijin, the god of thunder in Japanese folklore, is said to eat children’s navels and abdomens, so parents warn their kids to hide their bellybuttons during storms. It’s strange, but I really love it when folklore that’s passed on to children is violent or gorey.

Children beware. The sky rumbles with this god’s hunger for bellybuttons. Photo from Wikimedia

Teru Teru Bosu

At the other end of the kitchen, a few of my housemates were making Teru Teru Bozu, which are little, tissue-paper ghosts which are believed to stop rain and bring good weather.

This cute tissue paper doll has the power to ward off bad weather


Interestingly, it stopped raining later that afternoon. I can only assume it was the ghost!

Here’s what an afternoon of storming did to the sky:

Storm Clouds Kitano

Storm Clouds Kitano2

Storm Clouds Kitano3

Storm Clouds Kitano4

Storm Clouds Kitano5

Storm Clouds Kitano6

Sadly, I think the start of the rainy season marks the end of summer, but it doesn’t mean I’ll be staying indoors!

Yakitori and a Chilean Feast in Kobe

One of the best things about living in a share house is that you end up running into people from all over the world. My share house is fairly large, with over 20 people together in one house. About half are Japanese, and the rest foreign, mostly from other Asian countries. One of the first friends I made is Pandora, a rockin’ Argentinian with flaming manic-panic red hair and a deep love for Japan.

Torikizoku – Cheap and Plentiful Yakitori

Rainy Saturday-6
Steak and cheesy meatballs — everything on the menu is 280 yen
Rainy Saturday-7
Negima (Chicken and Leek) Brushed with a Soy Ginger Sauce
Rainy Saturday-9
Beer goes much better with yakiniku than Oolong tea (pictured)
Rainy Saturday-8The steak was definitely the best one

Pandora and I went to Torikizoku, a famous chain in Japan, to have Yakitori, or grilled chicken skewers. From their colorful picture menu (really, really useful), we ordered several different kinds of meat cuts and vegetables and launched into a casual discussion about the subtle differences we observed between Japan and our native countries, such as in table manners, communication, work environments, dating, etc.

You know, if people saw this at a restaurant in Argentina, they would freak out.

She picked up the damp towelette from the table and dabbed her mouth.

It’s what you use to wipe the kitchen counters.
You know what I can’t get used to? People talking with their mouths full. I don’t mind it as much now, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
Oh really? It’s actually considered rude here if you don’t. When I was here in high school, I was invited to have dinner with the president of my school. He asked me a question while I was in the middle of chewing and because I didn’t answer immediately, I was chastised–SEVERELY–for being so disrespectful to him. And I was trying to be polite! Something I can’t deal with is the slurping, you know while they eat noodles.
Haha, I’m used to that. My dad eats noodles the Chinese way. Still with pasta, I refuse.

Gran Micaela y Dago – Chilean Food in Kobe

My friend Kari came into town so we could see off Pandora before she moved to Osaka. We decided to investigate a Chilean restaurant down the hill which we were always so curious about. An American, a German, a Chilean and an Argentinian. As always, I was so excited to eat Latin food.


This second floor restaurant with golden stucco walls was tastefully decorated with Chilean crafts and pictures of the owners with famous visitors. Kari immediately noticed the two, large Indio Picaros, wooden Mapuche Indian statuettes, one of which she eagerly lifted to show us it’s fun “little” secret.


The man behind the counter greeted us first in Japanese, then upon noticing the two Latina women, in fluent Spanish. We let Kari guide us through the menu, since it was all of our first times eating in a Chilean restaurant. We ordered a feast.

My first empanadas since eating Julia’s Empanadas when I lived in Washington, DC.
Pan tostada con palta
JapaneseChilean-4Seafood Paella
Raspberry cheesecake with apple icecream

I ate way past the point of being full, but I was so happy. The man who cooked the meal was the owners son, half Chilean, half Japanese, and raised in Japan. He pulled a chair beside us and spoke about growing up here. His father, who speaks very little Japanese even now, made a very strict rule about making the home-life Spanish only, which is why he grew up speaking Spanish. I’m always so fascinated when I meet people who are bilingual, or in this case trilingual. His family gave him the option to attend international school, but he chose Japanese schools because that was where his friends went.

JapaneseChilean-6This restaurant, which has been here for years, often hosts live music nights for regular Latin and Japanese customers.

Nihonjin, Gaikokujin

Working at an international school and meeting lots of foreign residents often keeps me thinking about the issues that surround raising mixed and foreign children in Japan. If parents are lucky enough to have the option, they have to face the difficult question of where to send their kids to school.

Many people I’ve met have said that they are hesitant to choose Japanese schooling. They’ve heard stories of children who have been through the standard Japanese education system and faced some form of bullying due to their foreignness. Sometimes we hear about discrimination based on the fact that a person’s first name is written in Katakana, the Japanese Syllabary used for non-Japanese words. But the option of sending kids to international school is not only expensive, but potentially isolating. Many of the international schools in our area have only a few Japanese students and do not offer adequate instruction of Japanese.  What is life like when you grow up in a place where you don’t speak the native language?

That got me thinking about my own experience growing up as a second-generation Chinese in America. Growing up, my family moved around between several major cities along the east coast. Boston, MA, New York City, NY, Edison, NJ, Washington D.C. We never joined any kind of Chinese community. I attended public schools, and never considered attending a Chinese language school. I lost touch with speaking Chinese from a very young age, though eventually I studied it in college.

I often wonder how my life would have been different if my dad made a rule that we had to Chinese at home. Would I have made the same friends? Would I have been interested in the same things? How important is the dominant language used between relocated family members to their experience in the new setting? Would we have retained more cultural practices from China at home?

We thanked our chef for the delicious meal and left to conquer the hill leading back to our share house. I thought about my experience of intersecting nations, and how funny it was that the place I chose was considered the little Europe of Japan.


Want to try it?


Yakitori (famous chain in Kansai)

There are several locations near Sannomiya, near the Hankyu station, near Ikuta shrine across from Tokyu Hands, and just down the street from the Haagen-datz near the concrete statue park.

+81 78-862-3515

IMG_0023Gran Micaela y Dago


2 Chome-13-8 NakayamatedōriChūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken, Japan. ‎Open 5:30pm-midnight. Closed Tuesdays.


Stop-Motion with Japanese Wooden Hedgehog Toys

A vintage wedding invitation

This came in the mail this weekend: A vintage-inspired invitation to my best friends’ wedding!


I came home from a long day at work on Friday to find this in the mail. What an exciting way to greet the weekend! I’m so excited to be going back to San Francisco and watch two good friends get married. I’ll be a bridesmaid for my first time so it will definitely be a busy trip.  The last time I went back was last June for another friend’s wedding. It was a wonderful trip, but much too short! I’m really looking forward to spending a week seeing friends and eating quality sandwiches!

A heavy rain storm on Saturday morning means a missed long run :(

Saturday mornings, I usually get up to go on my long runs. Unfortunately, due to the rain and lack of proper rain gear, I had to postpone the run. I’ve really come to look forward to these opportunities to clear my mind, meditate on thoughts from the week, or nothing at all. Instead, I spent the day trying to finish some design work in my room to the sound of the drizzle outside.

I ended up finishing a short stop motion film I made for my friend’s birthday. It actually got started accidentally, in the process of completing an assignment for my graphic design course with TGDS. I made a light box using a large cardboard box, white paper, white felt, velcro and two lights. Then I used Adobe Lightroom and iMovie to edit and cut the pictures together.

Light BoxMy homemade light-box

I found these toys when I was hiking Mt. Rokko for the first time in a gift shop. It’s a box full of wooden adorable wooden hedgehogs called Mogu-mogu. They’re meant to be stacked up until the pile falls apart, maybe something similar to Monkeys In a Barrel. I have no idea if they’re based on a comic or anime or if they’re just random characters. In any case, they were so charming, I couldn’t resist the purchase. They’ll be gifted to my friend when I finally get to see him this October 🙂

Star HedgehogThe star of my film, a wooden hedgehog toy, which came from a game I bought in Japan

My First Stop-Motion Video: Hedgehog and The Lime

The song is With Whom to Dance by the Magnetic Fields.