27 Hours in New York

I think I’ve just had the best weekend I can remember. And it’s only Friday night.

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Every time I tried to take a picture of the NYC skyline. This happens.

Okay, to be fair, this “weekend” of mine started on Thursday evening when I got on a Megabus to New York. I made the trip to the city because one of my favourite podcast companies, Gimlet, had an event/mixer thing for their listeners who’ve made donations (I fully believe in supporting the products etc you love, btw, which is why, when I can, I make contributions to independent content production I believe in). I had no idea who was going to be at the event, how big it was going to be or how to prepare myself but when I got the email invite, I just knew I had to go.

I coaxed my friends to come with me, of course. If you know me, you know I hate going to these “networking” type events at all, much less attending them alone. Anyway, everyone said no for various reasons but I still really wanted to go no matter what. When I got to the event space in Brooklyn, I walked in all confident as if I knew what I was doing and as soon as I put my coat away, I realised I had just put myself in a room full of chic-and-adult-looking New Yorkers, who are all talking to each other….. so I did what any normal borderline-panicked person would do: go to the bathroom to text like 3 of my friends LOL. I couldn’t stay in there for too long because I didn’t want people to think I was pooping, so eventually one social anxiety overpowered the other and I just pushed myself out that bathroom door. I made awkward eye contact with someone in a circle that didn’t seem too “tight” and just worked my way from there. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

It ended up being really great; I was still a little nervous throughout (which is why I took only one picture at the entire event), but I met some cool people. Data analyst at Spotify, web developer for advertisers, freelance graphic designer, costume-makers, and of course, lots of podcast producers/Gimlet staff. I think it was a really interesting experience because, being in college in a foreign country, I don’t meet people outside of college ever. Even though I’ve “lived” here for 3+ years, it has never really felt like I really lived here, or could live here in the future. But I realise now that it’s just because I’ve been so disconnected thanks to the “Penn bubble” or whatever, and it forced me to consider the possibility that I actually do have what it takes to create friends and networks of acquaintances wherever I go, even if that might take some time and create some anxiety.

The event was also really fun because I got to meet a lot of other podcast listeners. People were recommending their favourite shows and we were all freaking out over our favourite episodes which I appreciated so much because none of my friends really listen to any of these things so whenever I listen to something that blows my mind I just kind of keep it to myself (?) Other people there shared that sentiment too—it was pretty clear that we were all glad to finally be able to be collectively enthusiastic about something. It felt so nerdy but so good.

Oh!!!! And I won’t forget to mention that I met ALEX BLUMBERG!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s the Co-Founder of Gimlet and if you remember, I’ve mentioned that I’ve been following his story of how he built Gimlet since the summer  (listen to it on the show StartUp here). I. Cannot. Belieeeeeeve it. I only got to speak to him a few minutes before he left but I spoke to his wife Nazanin (who also works at Gimlet) for quite a while and they’re just overwhelmingly nice people and because I’ve followed the development of their company through StartUp, I just felt so proud to see what they’ve built and I am so genuinely honoured to have met them. Ahhh.

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Alex, Nazanin and lil’ ol’ me!!!

Let me also just toss in the fact that at some point throughout this event, Hari Kondabolu, host of the podcast Politically Reactive and extraordinary stand-up comedian (watch one of my favs of his skits here!!!) just walks in to the room. My jaw dropped. I legitimately stuttered for a bit but ultimately managed to snag a selfie (I won’t post the selfie because I look goofy as hell but you’ll just have to take my word for it). I told him I was a big fan of his Waiting for 2042 set, that I respect how he has consistently used comedy as a means to advocate for equality for Asians, Muslims, Blacks, Natives etc. He was so nice about it even though I was tripping over myself. So trust me when I say it was an amazing night.

Anyway, so the event gave me a reason to go to New York for a night. I could have just gone back to Philly after the event but I didn’t really want to be making my way from Brooklyn all the way to the Megabus place near 12th Ave so late at night… and well, I can’t say no to a good day in New York City alone.

Ok, well, I wasn’t alone the whole time. I stayed with my friend Hannah who’s a junior at Columbia so I got to hang out with her that night. I got brunch with Angela the next morning, who is a sophomore at Columbia (I know both of these super smart people from USAPPS!). Then, I did a little bit of wandering. I did some of the touristy things I’ve only done on the surface. Like, I’ve been to The Met but only the gift store really so today I went for reals. I’ve seen Columbia from a distance but had never explored the area. I’ve passed the UN before but today I actually did the whole tour thing (which was so cool by the way, I could not contain my excitement the whole time—the tour guide appreciated me, I swear). Oh and yeah, I never go to New York without a stop at Milk Bar.

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How GRAND is this?!

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I saw this on my way to The UN headquarters and well, I had to. Heh.

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The flags, arranged from Afghanistan-Zimbabwe

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oh hi :’)

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General Assembly Hall!!!!!

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I’ll never get tired of this ice cream, I think.

Then, later in the evening, I took the Subway to Soho to visit WNYC. My friend Sarah works there on On the Media and she is beyond kind for offering to show me around the studio. I even got to bump into the CEO of WNYC and Brian Lehrer of The Brian Lehrer Show (I tried very hard to keep my cool so as to not embarrass Sarah). She basically gave me a rundown of how things work and showed me where they record, etc. It was really cool because I actually listen to WNYC shows and to see where they’re produced was amazing. It felt like visiting a movie set, but for radio.

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Sarah and me, clearly looking at our own reflections in my phone and not the camera. LOL.

After showing me around, Sarah and I got dinner together in West Village. I love that area so much and I’ve been there quite a few times now so when I’m there, I have this sense of familiarity with it that I really like having (if that makes sense? I feel like that was a poorly-worded sentence). We got food at this amazing vegan place called by CHLOE. Aida and I went when she visited me last March and it was so good, I’m glad I went back. I was pretty amazed by their chipotle aioli and beet ketchup sauce. Absolutely delicious. I’m eating some of their salad as we speak (yes, I brought it back with me on the bus).

It was so nice to meet Sarah! We’ve spoken on the phone and texted here and there so I’m familiar with her but not too much. Yet, it totally didn’t feel awkward at all when we hung out. I almost forgot we’d never met before that. Or at least, that’s how I felt. Who knows, Sarah might read this and just be like “speak for yourself” lol. She was introduced to me by my friend Hanna. Sarah goes to Princeton, she and Hanna know each other because of MSA stuff. But yeah, it also was cool to know I now have friends outside of Penn who I didn’t get to know because of a Malaysian connection, you know what I mean? It feels like I’ve grown roots! And I’m super proud of that.

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I am so thankful for such an eventful couple of days, even if it was slightly beyond my comfort zone. Even if it meant that I had super crappy sleep because I had to use my jacket as both my pillow and blanket last night (because Hannah told me she didn’t have spares and yet I didn’t want to carry a sleeping bag with me around the whole day). From my picture with Alex and Nazanin, visiting WNYC/meeting Sarah to just reading my book on the Subway… I know it wouldn’t have been possible as a freshman (even though when I was a freshman, I expected my life to be like this immediately). It wouldn’t have been possible if I had never come to Penn, etc etc. There is a string of infinite things to be grateful for.

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When your week starts out strong…

I usually wait until the end of the week to blog but when your week starts out so strong, sometimes you just can’t resist pulling up that blank page on a Monday night.

Ken, Hui Jie and I are in Astronomy together which is kinda fun and kinda not. It’s not fun because I find phases of the moon super difficult to visualise and understand. It’s fun because I get to go through it with my friends—classes are always more fun with friends. Ken got a basketball, some chopsticks and a lamp to act as a makeshift solar system model (basketball was the earth, chopsticks were the earth’s axis and the lamp was the sun). We did our homework. It wasn’t easy. We had to explain why the U.S. experiences winter when Australia is going through summer and had to resist the temptation to say “BECAUSE IT JUST IS?!?!?”. It’s funny how you sometimes can’t explain the things you’ve taken for granted.

They ate some of the ricotta pancakes I made. It feels nice to have people eat the food I make. We sang along to The Last Five Years (one of my fav movies of all time) and dissected Jamie and Cathy’s relationship experiences for parts we found relatable so that was fun. It reminded me of lazy Sunday evenings in my aunty’s living room in Klang with my cousins. I guess these people are kind of like my family now.

Speaking of family, my friends Lisa and Nate are currently in Malaysia as Fulbright Scholars and they’ve both hung out with my family recently. That just makes me so happy and I can’t quite explain why? I like that Lisa and Nate are getting a little taste of my life back home just as I’ve somewhat had a feel for their lives here. I like that my friends are spending time with my parents/aunt. I just like it, it gives me good vibes all around. I hope they’re having a good time and are enjoying my homeland hehe.

This makes me so happy!!

Lisa with my Mak Long in Kuching

Anyway. I had a really good day today as well. I woke up early to go for Professor Pollack’s International Political Economy lecture. I’ve already taken IPE with him so I know it seems strange that I’m attending his classes again but I honestly don’t think I can get bored listening to him explain about Bretton Woods and the Gold Standard and the shift towards Keynesian economics. It feels like re-watching your favourite movie, you know? I can’t wait for the part where he talks about Dispute Settlement in the WTO and the Asian Financial Crisis!!!

After class, I did some reading (still reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr) and then Hui Jie and I went to the city for Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week is basically when restaurants offer a selected range of items from their menu for a fixed (cheaper) price so people usually go to try places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Our birthdays are less than a month apart and since we both weren’t together for our birthdays, I liked today because this was kind like our belated pseudo-celebration. The weather was horrid today and I usually hate getting wet socks on rainy days but I had such a nice time that I didn’t mind.

Best tiramisu ever.

I just got back from Jamie’s. She was telling me about her New York trip while I did some work. I really wanna take a moment here to express how much I appreciate this girl. People always credit their friends for being good listeners but I love Jamie for coming to me to tell me about things, whether it’s the trivial stuff like finding a Chobani Cafe or a sale she’s excited about to the more serious ones that she trusts me with. It means so, so much to me.

Jamie at her desk.

It was the best Monday to have after a great weekend. I went for a morning run, cooked shakshuka, got a white chocolate peppermint drink and binge-watched series 1 of The Missing (watch the trailer!). It was so good. Zoe and Alfie (the vloggers, haha, my guiltiest pleasure) kept recommending it and when I saw that they only had 8 episodes I was like, “eh why not?” and oh my god it was so intense but so riveting. I saw a review that described it as “watching an insect slowly suffocate in a jar” though so maybe it’s not for everyone lol. But I think they say that because the shots are beautiful but the plot line is, again, intense and also emotionally taxing (it’s a show about a missing child, after all).

And while we’re on the note of pop culture/media stuff, might I recommend a few podcast episodes. On the Media, a podcast about media (like how the media covers/does not cover issues, how people react to media etc) ran a series called “Busted: The Poverty Myths” where they explore how poverty has been treated in the media, myths about poverty, and etc. It is just super informative and humanising—I highly recommend it. I also have been following The Truth for a while, but have only recently listened to their episodes. I listened to the one called “Dark End of the Mall” and it honestly blew my mind in a way I didn’t know audio shows could. They’re a fiction show, and their episodes are not serialised so you can listen to any one of them. I’ve only heard a few but I feel like “Dark End of the Mall” stood out as being above the rest. I also love Planet Money and this past week I’ve listened to “Jubilee! (?)” (Iceland “forgiving debts” of some of their citizens), “The Kansas Experiment” (aftermath of a Kansas senator dramatically lowering taxes) and “Don’t Believe the Hype” (about why people hate the Dow). I think some/all of these were reruns of old episodes but Planet Money is full of gold episodes so it’s always worth a listen.

Ok I thought I was going to write about some of the cooking recipes I’ve played with this past week but I’ve gone overboard with this post once again—maybe I should just dedicate a whole new category for weekly cooking posts lol. I just don’t think I’d be able to keep up with that! I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try it out soon.

Until next time ❤

A string of good days

I’ve had a good, pretty fun first week back. First of all, my classes seem pretty chill this semester compared to what I had last semester. Or at least, they seem that way for now. I have my Psychology Independent Research, which is a continuation of last semester’s work at a psycholinguistics research lab. I also have a Judgement and Decisions lecture; I was adamant about not taking another psychology seminar this semester. For anyone who isn’t familiar: lectures are huge classes and you don’t participate very much, but seminars tend to be about 10-15 people and the whole thing is discussion based. Seminars last semester were just too much work—like 100 pages of readings per class per week—and I never had time to do anything else if I wanted to get those done and get them done well. Apparently the professor for the lecture I’m in now is super chill; he lets us take open book exams and I’m all for a relaxed final semester academically so YES.

I also have to spend 3 hours a week in an intro Psychology lecture because I’m TA-ing for the class. It’s now my third semester sitting in PSYC 001 lectures! It’s particularly interesting this semester though, because this Spring, it’s being taught by Professor Connolly, who I took intro with in my first semester at Penn so there’s a nice little “comes full circle” thing going on.

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Apart from Psychology courses, I’m also taking an intro Astronomy class which is like…. fine, whatever, I just need to take one science class to graduate so I’ll do it. I also have a creative writing class that I’m taking for fun that didn’t seem particularly fun last week so I might not stick with it but that’s yet to be determined. Hmm. I do want to practice my writing, but how much of that has to be done in a class setting? Especially if the class kind of… annoys me.

I am particularly excited about Penn Perspectives, though. It’s a lecture series for seniors, and in our applications, we stated who our favourite professors were (mine was Professor Pollack, obviously) and which professors we’ve always wanted to take classes with but never got to. Based on that, they invited a different professor to give us a lecture each week—no homework or anything, just attending lectures for the sake of learning. Our first lecture was by an accomplished psych professor, Paul Rozin. Interestingly, I’ve had one lecture by him each year at Penn haha.

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First lecture with Dr Rozin feat. guy blocking my view.

But anyway, this week was so nice for, *deep breaths* so. many. reasons. Primarily, my beloved Hui Jie is back from Copenhagen!!! She doesn’t live across the hall from me anymore but better two blocks over than across the freakin’ Atlantic. We had our favourite takeout together on Wednesday night, class + lunch together on Thursday and she came over today to hang out with me. I got to give her the birthday present I got for her in London and we shared pictures from our trips while we sat on my living room couch and it was just really nice to see her again. The last time I saw her was in July when I visited her in Singapore, which was just too long ago.

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HJ and me with our matching gummy smiles, striped shirts and fried rice ❤

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She’s back to sleeping on me.

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Unwrapping her present 😀

In general, I just really liked seeing all my friends again this week. May May and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s together and caught up on our winter breaks. I cooked dinner for Kim on Monday. Jamie and I had ice cream together late night on her bedroom floor. Shi Yi gave me amazing hot chocolate and hung out at my place playing Rubik’s cubes with me and Shahirah. Oliver got me biscottis from Flour Bakery in Boston on his birthday. Excuse me for being cheesy, but I will never take for granted the love I feel just having these people around me.

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I made sweet sour fish and stir fried vegetables for dinner, which Kim and Jamie loved (or at least, said they loved lol)—it made me so happy.

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Continuing with my kale chips obsession. I’ve gotten Jamie and Kim onto this kale chips bandwagon with me. Kim got me my GTL from Starbucks!

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Kim, Shiyi and Jamie ❤

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It’s also a really exciting time at the cinemas right now, isn’t it?! In the past week, I watched La La Land with Shahirah and Hidden Figures with Ken and Selina. I loved them both so much for very different reasons.

La La Land was beautiful. I was so taken by the cinematography and the creative uses of sound, if that makes sense? The composition of each shot, the colours, the outfits… Every single scene was truly a sight to behold. I also just love a good I-want-to-follow-my-dreams story, so when you toss in the fact that it’s a musical with large dance numbers and a somewhat complex love story, it’s basically a formula for Dayana’s Perfect Movie. It just lifts your spirits. My sister Julia and I have pretty much been hooked on the soundtrack for days. I think the main reason I loved it though, was… hm, how do I say this without spoiling the movie? I think it represents the way my memory works, and the way I think about things in my own past. Yeah. That’s it.

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La La Land was only showing at Ritz East and a trip to Old City is not complete without a quick stop at Franklin Fountain. This parmesan ice cream was amazing.

Hidden Figures was also fantastic, I highly recommend it. I think Hidden Figures is probably more appealing to a wider audience than La La Land was because I can imagine how some people would watch the latter and just be like “that’s it?” but the former is more exciting plot wise. It’s definitely my favourite ~space movie~ (let’s not talk about Interstellar, gah, I hate that one). I mean, it obviously wasn’t just about space. It deals with the deep intersections of race, class and gender in the workplace, within our families and in our greater societies. The events of the film take place during the segregation and I remember thinking, I thought I knew how segregation was bad but every time you see it being played out you gain a deeper appreciation for how atrocious it really was and for me, it affirmed my faith in art as a means for building empathy while also entertaining. Even though Hidden Figures revolved around a huge things like space mission and racism, it still manages this lightheartedness because it makes you laugh and I greatly appreciated the balance of seriousness/lightness.

I’ve also been doing a lot of cooking experimentations which is really fun! I always enjoy cooking because I feel like it’s a creative, healthy way to practice taking care of yourself. This past week, I’ve mostly experimented with breakfast foods. I just am such a huge fan of brunch that I always find myself tempted to make those kinds of foods. I cut open a ripe avocado for the first time this past week and I’ve been enjoying having avocado with my eggs for breakfast. I also made smoothies and rosti which were so good. I’ll probably detail all of that in a separate post because this is already getting pretty lengthy, haha.

Until then, thanks for reading 🙂

My baked vegetable obsession

Ever since Thanksgiving, I’ve been obsessed with baked vegetables. My friends Ece and Sofia made ~friendsgiving~ dinner for a bunch of us that weekend. Their spread included the most perfectly seasoned baked brussels sprouts, squash and etc. It’s just so easy to make and I’m not sure if it’s healthy but what’s more important is that it feels healthy right? Haha.

I’m no chef, but I’ve made baked vegetables of different sorts a few times now, with different combinations of ingredients and I’m still in love every single time I make it. First, I made red potatoes, broccoli, red onions and some leftover peppers I had from sweet and sour fish. I chose red potatoes because I feel like they’re tastier? Also, potato skins are amazing. You probably already know this but you shouldn’t peel the skins off, they make the potatoes taste better.

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All you have to do is chop up the vegetables, put them in a bowl, drizzle some olive oil over it, sprinkle some seasoning on top (I used salt, black + white pepper and my fav paprika), add fresh rosemary and thyme then mix it with your hands (just because it’s funner that way). It’s so unbelievably easy and IT TASTES BETTER THAN IT LOOKS, I SWEAR.

The next time, I made broccoli and onions because I felt that the potatoes—even though they were the most delicious—were a bit too heavy. I added some tomatoes instead. Same procedure, and voilà.

In all honesty, I would have liked the tomatoes to be a little more charred but I guess I don’t know how to do that/should have kept them in longer? (lmk if you know. I can already imagine that my mom will respond to this with a report of a thorough Google search haha)

The evening before I left for break, I needed to use up one last sorry potato so I made baked potatoes but I was out of fresh rosemary so I used dried rosemary and it was good but it just wasn’t the same. The flavour wasn’t as strong and most importantly, it didn’t make my whole apartment smell of rosemary. BUT. I love potatoes in all forms. So it was still good.

Today, I made kale chips! I have always loved kale, especially with quinoa and Sweetgreen’s spicy cashew dressing, ugh, so good. But yeah, I always knew people sold kale chips and I know they’re pretty easy to make, I just never made them. Then over break, my friend Qamarina and I had dinner together and we shared a small kale salad and she said she loves baked kale chips and told me how to make them. So when I got back to Penn, I knew that would be one of the first things I’d make.

It’s the same concept: drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and paprika and bake for 20 mins. I actually thought it would be more complicated than this but it wasn’t. I don’t quite love the smell of kale in my apartment but the kale chips themselves tasted amazing and I’m still munching on them as I write this.

Downside of kale chips: you have to floss before you speak to anyone after. Hahaha. I ate them for lunch and then was 5 mins late to a meeting because I didn’t budget enough time for flossing. I did a quick mirror check before going out and was horrified lol. Crisis averted.

Anyway. I can’t believe I made a whole post on my baked vegetable endeavors. But I just can’t recommend them highly enough. GO MAKE THEM. AND FLOSS. BYE.

History makes homes

I really like London. In London, the news comes on and I recognise the intro tune from a time I can’t remember. There’s the corner of Hyde Park where we all shared a crayfish sandwich. Even tube stations leave me with a lot to be nostalgic about: I know I’ve been to Queensway with Eugene, we used to go to Holland Park a lot when my uncle lived there, we took the stairs down the Covent Garden station by (a huge) mistake once. We’ve been to this restaurant before. Oh, and there’s Whitleys, where Natasha couldn’t finish her sour mango ice cream.

I think I like places for a past. That’s why moving to Philadelphia over three years ago was so difficult. Here was a land I had never step foot in, one I had scarcely ever heard about from the people I knew. A switch in a mailing address does not equate moving homes.

But I like Philly a bit more now. I like that I’ve had the same apartment for over two years now. I like the way I can tell it has been snowing by the way the tiles in my apartment lobby look. I like how I know whether or not I’ll make the traffic light before I actually get there. I can walk to Van Pelt on autopilot and instinctively know to avoid the steamy pot hole on the way there. The way walking past Starbucks on 39th gives me deep chills because it reminds me of pre-sunrise coffee runs. This didnt just happen. I earned this. We earn the places we call home.

***

It feels surreal to be back one last time. It feels like it has been ages since I was last here, but at the same time, I feel like winter break never happened and the only evidence I ever left is the number of Sainsbury’s bags I have on my bedroom floor.

It’s bound to be an interesting semester and I’ve started it with…. a trip to the doctor’s and cups and cups of hot tea. Haha, sigh. I’m sick. Again. I must’ve gotten it from my mum and sister in London, but now I’m breathing through my mouth and don’t have an appetite and lol idk. It is what it is la huh?

I’m trying for a more relaxed semester than the one I had last Fall, which really kept me busy constantly. But I don’t know if that will happen. I was done with my president post in December, but now I’ve got my hands tied in 2 more side projects/activities. I’m taking 4 classes instead of 5, but I signed up for a weekly lecture series so it kind of adds up to 5. I’m still TA-ing for Intro Psych. So, we’ll see—it seems like busy is the only way I know how to function, haha. Considering I actually did pretty well last semester, it might not be a bad thing to keep my hands full. But I do want to spend more time with friends and enjoy the city before I leave. Hmm. Anyway, I’ll keep you updated 🙂

(shoutout to my mom for correcting 2 typos on this post lol)

HONG KONG

This is late. Like so, so late. I may have mentioned it briefly, but my family and I were in Hong Kong in August. It was hot. We were sweating almost everywhere we went. It’s kind of unfortunate, but if you ask any one of us about the trip, that’s probably the first thing we’ll tell you about it haha. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it there; I don’t know about the others but I loved Hong Kong. I really liked the efficiency, how clean it was, how modern it was, while at the same time flaunting its more rough (?) character.

Anyway. We filmed (if you can even call it that) a lot of bits and pieces while we were there and my sister Julia edited it into a video a while back and here it is! I feel like some parts are so silly and some things might not make sense to you because we provide little context (we’re not ~vloggers~ lol) but I hope you like it anyway!