My unique personality

God has given me my personality and my talents. It is no good to compare what others have to what I have. I need to know my shortcomings and my strengths. What matters is how you use your talents and to not waste them. How can I use my life to help others that are in my sphere of influence? I am in the unique position of having more time than others, and I should not squander that opportunity. I want to be able to love others and not feel like I need something in return. The people that I mostly gravitate to are probably those who feel more on the fringe, those who don’t always fit in or have as many social graces. Perhaps that is because that is sometimes how I feel I am like. 

My dad’s side of the family has some issues with mental health. I think I can relate to it being that I can’t take too much pressure (examples are my breakdowns at Maxreal and BWC). It makes me feel inadequate. Why is it that others can stand the pressure and I cannot? In a way, it helps me recognize that I cannot stand on my own strength. I should still try to make use of time in a way that glorifies God. In the meantime, what I should try to do is be more in God’s word daily, read books, avoid entertainment that does not edify/wastes time, reach out to different friends down in LA or other church friends on my days off. Live this life well and live it for God. Easier said than done, but should just take it one step at a time. 

LA for mom’s 80th birthday

I went down to LA from Wed, 3/14 to Sat, 3/18 for my mom’s birthday. I also went down in January for my dad’s birthday. As they get older, I think it is a good excuse to visit them. I have the ability to see them because of the flexibility of my job, points from Southwest making it free(ish), and not having kids which gives me the time to do things others may find much harder to do because of other responsibilities. 

On Wednesday, Anson brought me to the SJC airport, and I was able to have lunch at one of the airport lounges. I love their new system in which they have QR codes on the tables, and you can order your food thru the phone and they will bring it right out to you in minutes. I had a cheese plate, a half deli sandwich, two sweet and sour meatballs over rice, avocado hummus with veggies, a Bloody Mary, and a cappuccino. I’ve missed going to lounges and I’m glad that I have the Capital One Venture X card to get free Priority Pass.

My dad normally drives and my mom helps navigate on the GPS. I usually drive back. I’m thankful that there wasn’t too much rain as I am worried for them in their older age. We had Yoshinoya for dinner. On Thursday, I worked a little, my mom’s friend, Joanne, brought her some bread and Costco chicken for lunch, I walked to Smart & Final to get her roses and hid them behind the couch, we had some sushi, yakisoba, and potato croquette from Mitsuwa for dinner, and I rewatched Top Gun: Maverick since I had been meaning to (such a good movie that I bought it with my Google Play Credits) with my mom and had to kind of explain what was happening to her, but I know she hasn’t really watched a movie in a long time, so it was nice to love on her in this way.

On Friday, I made Trader Joe’s pumpkin pancakes for breakfast and Anson was on the call when we sang happy birthday to my mom when I gave her the flowers. I’m glad she was surprised since there were a couple times when I thought she would see them. I did a little work again while my mom went to the Asian Youth Center and got some fresh vegetables and food (it is nice that non profit organizations try to reach out to the community in this way. I just wish there wasn’t as much waste in our society). I helped them with some technology questions and also took their tax documents so that I could work on their return. As “payment”, my mom gave me a $25 Amazon gift card that she received from someone else at church. For dinner, we went to Kami Buffet in Rosemead. I ate so much sashimi (feels like that is the only way to make it worth it).

Saturday is my flight back to the Bay Area. I made the Trader Joe’s pancakes again for breakfast and had a good talk with my mom. There are times when I feel like I don’t always know what to say to my mom, but it was a good, deep conversation about the past, our present and future life. I sometimes feel like we are pretty different and I am more like my dad. She is what I aspire to be in how she is able to make different friends and serve in the church. 

Walk for Life 5k 2023

Anson and I participated in this year’s walk for life hosted by Real Options. We do this as an annual thing. In 2020, we did this right before the world shut down from the pandemic. In 2021, we participated, but more in a socially distanced setting (hosted by the Kwok’s) and went around a school’s field near their house. I remembered talking to Sharon for most of the walk. In 2022, we weren’t able to make it because of Anson’s Spartan event in LA, but this year, we are back into the swing of things!

There were a bunch of people who came this time from our church. I probably did not have to register at the event since they already had all our money from FundEasy online, and I declined the wristband and shirt since I know I probably won’t wear them again. We were fed our customary Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuit for breakfast (my favorite part of this whole event). I walked and talked with Emily, Vivian, Janine, Kelly, and Julie, while Anson ran and placed 2nd overall!. His mile time was under 7 mins. I think that’s a pretty cool feat! We also had some pretty good runners as Jojo and Conner both got first in their age groups. Overall, we raised $1000 as a couple and over $16k as a church. 

Thurs, 2/16/23, Day 11: Narita Express excellence, iPhone fiasco, ANA lounge lunacy, and Tokyo Banana Bananas!

To think that I woke up feeling at ease today 🙂 After I took a shower, we ate the rest of our food (natto, onigiris, cucumber, and tomato) and took a short walk near our hotel to admire the grand Tokyo Bay. We then packed “everything” and took the Yamanote line to Tokyo Station and got on the Narita Express to the airport. Even though we reserved a ticket for the 12:02pm train, we boarded the 11:30am, and when the attendant came to check our tickets, we just let him know. The Narita Express normally costs $23, but it is included on the JR pass.

Checking in went smoothly (they weighed our bags and both were less than 15lbs each. At security, that was when I noticed to my horror that I couldn’t find the iPhone -__- I used the iPad to locate it and it was still at the Intercontinental Tokyo Bay. We called from a pay phone to the hotel and they confirmed that it was there. We’ll have to have them ship it internationally…which negates some of the cost savings that I hold so dear (but shouldn’t). I could have sworn that I hadn’t taken the iPhone out since going to Odaiba the night before and it would have still been in the top compartment of my backpack. This isn’t the worst thing that could have happened, but it does show that I need to be more careful and really look when we are verifying that we have everything before we leave a certain area. 

We then went airport lounge hunting. The first lounge (ANA lounge satellite 4) had permanently closed but Google never updated that. The second lounge (ANA lounge satellite 5) didn’t accept priority pass because they said that it was too congested…sigh, and at this point, I just felt pretty dejected after all that had happened. Thankfully, the third time’s the charm. ANA lounge satellite 2 did accept priority pass. I was at first skeptical of this lounge since the reviews were pretty bad. Those were mostly because PP members couldn’t get in, but they did accept this time! The lounge had ramen, udon, soba, yakisoba, curry and rice, salad, sandwiches, drinks, etc. The noodles could be ordered either via online or at the counter. I got two ramen and one udon while husband got two soba noodles. I was so happy that we finally got ramen and udon noodles on this trip and didn’t even have to pay for them 🙂

We left the lounge around 3:15pm to buy Tokyo Bananas at the duty free shop…and they were sold out 🙁 We tried to check another shop but they were also out. We didn’t want to miss our flight, so we just got Tokyo Banana pies and a bunch of different flavored Kit Kats totaling 5100 yen to finish off our foreign currency. At the end, we didn’t actually have to rush so hard as our flight was delayed and boarding didn’t even start till 4:20pm. Seemed like a lot of things went not as expected today. It wasn’t the worst thing since we didn’t miss our flight and no one got hurt. My friend has said that if a problem can be solved by money, it’s not that bad of a problem. Our trip went a little sideways at the end, but I’m still glad for it…and glad that we will be home soon. In the meantime as I am writing this, the little blessings are that we have a whole row to ourselves again on the flight back and I was able to pack us some food from the lounge. It’ll be 8:30am when we land…back to reality.

Cost: ship iPhone $31 (thankful it wasn’t too expensive) + Duty free items 5100 yen ~$39 = total $70

Wed, 2/15/23, Day 10: Intercontinental Tokyo Bay, Rainbow Bridge, and Odaiba

When we woke up today, white flakes of snow were coming down. It was beautiful, but I am glad that today was a travel day. We had 5 days in Kyoto, but our round trip flight is based in Tokyo. We bought some food at the train platform for 331 yen and took the Shinkansen to Shinagawa station and then took the local JR Yamanote line 3 stops to our hotel: Intercontinental Tokyo Bay. We got this as a free night courtesy of the IHG credit card (free for first year and 150k sign up bonus for $3k spend, then downgraded the card to $0 annual fee). It was a fancy hotel that we probably wouldn’t have stayed in if not for the credit card. Our window had a beautiful view of Tokyo Bay. We checked in around 1:30pm even though check in was supposed to be at 3pm, so I think we interrupted their cleaning schedule 🙁

We went out to explore and walked over the Rainbow Bridge to Daiba Park and had our last dinner at Yoshinoya (again) for 1888 yen. We went to Odaiba Seaside Park where we got another vending machine drink for 140 yen and looked at their Statue of Liberty. We were about to cross the Rainbow Bridge to get back to our hotel, but it closed to pedestrians at 5:30 (it was 5:34). We bought a little more food at the supermarket for 692 yen before taking the monorail for 330 yen each back to our hotel.

Anson still wanted to walk a little more, so we went out and explored a lighted up area before working out at their very small gym (it was just two rooms that they probably tore down the wall in between and put a couple machines and weights in. It wasn’t even on the elevator map and we had to search for it on the 8th floor. Afterwards, I took a bath for the first time in years! It was relaxing and a good way to end the trip for our last night in Japan (ohh, how the next day was much less enjoyable than I expected…)

Cost: train platform food 331 yen, Yoshinoya 1888 yen, vending machine lemon drink 140 yen, supermarket 692 yen, monorail 660 yen = 3711 yen (~$28)

Tues, 2/14/23, Day 9: Nishiki Market, Pig Cafe, and Kiyomizu-Dera

This was the first morning in Kyoto that I did not go to the convenience store to get food for the day. We paid 220 yen each to take the local subway which was not covered by the JR pass to central Kyoto. I made a 10am reservation at Mipig Cafe where these cute little micro pigs just swarmed us and laid down on us for 30 mins. I think they just wanted us for body heat. There were many other animal cafes to choose from and some were probably cheaper, but I wanted to go to a cafe where the animals really wanted to be near you. It may have been a little overpriced at 3520 yen total (~$27) and it didn’t come with a drink as advertised, but I LOVED this!

We then proceeded to Nishiki Market where we got squid on a stick for 200 yen, soy bean cream croquette for 350 yen, tamagoyaki for 450 yen (I was thinking of going to place advertised online, but those sold for 780 yen and I didn’t know how long it had been out), and a beef and potato croquette for 300 yen. We then found a Lawson and got some more food for the day for 903 yen. 

We walked thru Hanamikoji Street to Maruyama Park where it started snowing! This was my first time being in snow fall, and it was beautiful (and cold). We then went over to the Gion District where many people dressed up in kimonos and yakutas and we even spotted a geisha. We paid 400 yen each to go to Kiyomizu-Dera. Being that we went around 2pm, this place was pretty crowded. Near the end, there was a restaurant that served udon/buckwheat noodles and we were able to sit on tatami mats. We shared a buckwheat noodle w/ fried tofu bowl for 800 yen. It was nice to be able to sit down and have something hot.

We ended the night by walking back to the hotel and only went out again (so cold!) to get more food from Lawson (I got another 3pk of natto) and spent 1527 yen. We were debating on whether we wanted to stop in Nagoya tomorrow on the way back to Tokyo, but decided we can just go early back to Tokyo to explore. Our vacation is almost coming to an end!

Cost: Subway 440 yen, Mipig Cafe 3520 yen, Nishiki Market 1300 yen, Lawson 903 yen, Kiyumizu-Dera 800 yen, Soba lunch 800 yen, Lawson 1527 yen = 9290 yen (~$71)

Mon, 2/13/23, Day 8: Conveyor Belt Sushi and Fushimi Inari Taisha

Since we are visiting Japan during the winter time, a thing we have to be mindful of is rain/snow. Thankfully, the only day that it rained a good amount has been on our travel day from Tokyo to Kyoto. I have been constantly checking the weather report. It rained a little in the morning, but it “should” be clear the rest of the day. 

In the morning, we did some much needed laundry (300 yen for washing and 100 yen for drying). I bought 3 onigiris, a sandwich, and natto (yes, I’m a fan!) from Lawson. We had our leftover onigiris and some veggies for breakfast (we wanted to fill up a little so that we didn’t spend too much) before having brunch at Sushi No Musashi at 10:45am. This was our first experience at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. The plates are different colors which indicate the price. Blue with white centers were 160 yen and red with white centers were 257 yen. There were others, but those were too rich for our tastes 🙂 We had 17 plates (14 blue and 3 red) which totaled to 3020 yen (~$23). This is soooo much cheaper than in the states where the cheapest plate is $3.50!

We stayed at the hotel for a few hours. I took advantage of the free coffee at reception while catching up on 2.5 days of blogging. We then headed out on the Nara line to Fushimi Inari and got there around 4pm. We wanted to avoid the crowds and do a night hike…though there were still a good amount of people there. The place was beautiful with the 1000 orange torii leading up to the top. The loop was 2.8 miles, and we of course wanted to complete the whole thing, though I think we made a detour into a residential area where I finally got a drink (Sparkling Peach drink for 100 yen) from the countless vending machines all over Japan. We decided to walk back to the hotel and were able to catch a glimpse of the local areas of Kyoto. We got groceries (they actually accepted card) at KOHYO, and headed back to the hotel. I found out that I got a blister on my right pinky toe =/ tomorrow is gonna be fun…

Cost: Laundry 400 yen, Lawson 1231 yen, Conveyer belt sushi 3020 yen, vending machine drink 100 yen, KOHYO groceries 1034 yen = 5785 yen (~$44.16)

Sun, 2/12/23, Day 7: Nara

I splurged a little at FamilyMart and Lawson 🙂 We left around 11:30am and took the JR Nara line for 45-50 mins to Nara. We passed by a few temples along the way, but the highlight of course were all the deer that roam around. You can buy deer cookies for 200 yen to feed them. The deer near the front don’t really care for the cookies, but the further in we went, the more the deer responded to them. I am so glad I bought the cookies 🙂 I found out that I should probably break them apart and feed them slowly. I even got them to feed out of my hand. They are honestly such gentle creatures. Some people had warned us that they could be aggressive, but I didn’t really see it. When l showed them my hands indicating that I had no more food, they left me alone. This was honestly such a fun experience!

We then hiked up to Mt. Wakakusa where we had a great view of the city. We went to the busy district and bought some freshly made takoyaki: 8 for 400 yen! It was nice to eat something hot after a long cold day. We then got back on the train, headed towards Fushimi Inari for a night hike. The Nara line we took was a rapid line that wasn’t going to make a stop there, so we would have to get off at Uji and take the local Nara line. We then decided to not go when we saw that tomorrow wasn’t going to rain at night, and the place was pretty close to Kyoto. My legs were already so tired, and I knew I wouldn’t enjoy such an iconic place even if we went. Instead, we got back to Kyoto and bought actual vegetables at a supermarket (cash only). We got lettuce, oranges, tomatoes, and a cucumber, and we ate the rest of our convenience store food in the comfort of our cozy (coughcrampedcough) hotel.

Side note: 1. It is considered rude to eat while walking. Usually, people will find a place to sit. If it is near a stall, it’s okay to stand near there to eat 2. It is hard to find trash cans anywhere in the public areas of Japan. We only found one after entering the train station.

Cost: Lawson and FamilyMart 2861 yen, Deer cookies 200 yen, Takoyaki 400 yen, Groceries 879 yen = 4340 yen (~$33.20)

Sat, 2/11/23, Day 6: Arashiyama

I woke up early today (and everyday) and walked to 7-11, Lawson, and FamilyMart to get a variety of food for a day trip to Arashiyama. We left around 9:30am and traveled on the JR San-In line. 

I had wanted us to go earlier so that there would be fewer crowds at the Bamboo Forest. I’m glad we did that! We then hiked up to Arashiyama Park and then had the “great” idea to hike to Mr. Ogura. It rained yesterday, and the trail is not really marked and had eroded over time. A previous hiker had marked the trees with red tape, and thank goodness for that. There were many a time we kicked up a rock and it would go falling down into an endless abyss and I could imagine us doing the same thing. We had to hold on to tree branches/roots to keep from tumbling down the side of the mountain just like the rocks. We lived to tell the tale though! We saw a small Inari Shrine at the top in addition to Mr. Ogura.

As a celebration for not dying, we walked along the Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street which showed the calming rural side of Japan. We paid 500 yen each to enter the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple where we were able to take many nice pictures of their own bamboo forest and to avoid the crowds at the Arashiyama one. I thought we were going to head back, but we last minute decided to head up to Ayuchaya Hiranoya where I had researched is a Japanese style restaurant with tatami mats. We were served cherry blossom tea and ordered their winter appetizer special consisting of matcha and candied yuzu (only 880 yen!) We had a whole room to ourselves for most of our time, and the couple that came later helped us take some nice pictures to document this great experience!)

We then went to the more busy parts of town by crossing the Togetsu-Kyo Bridge where I bought a strawberry red bean mochi for 250 yen (other places were selling it for 350 yen. The monkey park had already closed (sad), but I think we were able to hear them at times? Wish we had more time here, but after looking at the Kimono Forest, it was time to go. We traveled back on the San-In line and had dinner at Yoshinoya again (this time, using the English menu. Anson had a large sukiyaki with side salad and I had a large beef bowl with miso soup). 

Cost: Convenience store food 2207 yen, temple entrance 1000 yen, Ayuchaya Hiranoya 880 yen, Mochi 250 yen, Yoshinoya 1641 yen, Harves 537 yen = 6515 yen (~$50)

Fri, 2/10/23, Day 5: Taking the Bullet Train to Kyoto

Today was mostly a travel day (and happy it was at it was mostly snowing/ raining all day). We worked out at the gym again before stuffing ourselves at the Hilton breakfast buffet again at the O Lounge (my favorite food there was the salmon salad and I’ve acquired a liking to the Japanese dish, natto: fermented soybeans that are a little slimy). We had late check-out because of gold status and left after noon. 

Our JR pass was activated today, and I had a little trouble on how to use it at first. For the local trains, you do not need a reservation. I didn’t understand that and was trying to book for a few mins at the kiosk. With local trains, you can just use the JR pass to get thru the gate. We took the Keiyo line to Tokyo station and then booked the bullet train (Shinkansen) from Tokyo to Kyoto. There are three types of trains: fast, medium, and slow. With the JR pass, we can’t do the fastest train, so our ride was 2 hr 45 mins (fast would have been 2 hr 15 mins. The train ride was very smooth and our seats spacious. We had a lot of room to put our luggage in front of us and also to tilt our seats back.

We arrived around 4:30-5pm and went to our hotel: Ibis Styles Kyoto Station which was directly in front of the station. Had a little trouble finding the entrance, but I think we’re just bad at finding things. There was a 2000 yen Kyoto accommodation tax we needed to pay for the stay. They provided some small complimentary items at the front of reception and I signed up for their list to get free coffee/tea during our stay. This place has to be the smallest hotel room we’ve ever been in, but it think is a small (literally) price to pay for the convenience.

For dinner, we went to Yoshinoya. We had trouble and were stumbling around with the menu as it was in Japanese (later found out too late that they had an English menu). Compared to the states, I can see how they try to cater to people’s preferences. In the US, they have fried egg rolls and cheesecake. In Japan, they have sukiyaki and miso soup. They also didn’t take credit card so we had to pay with cash.

Later, we walked around the mall right I front of the Kyoto Station and found the conveyor belt sushi place I want to go to on Monday when it will be raining. We also checked out their supermarket where they had a limited selection of fruits and vegetables. We’ll go to a different place in the next couple days to get some much needed healthier food.

Cost: JR pass prepaid $415 on Klook, Kyoto accommodation tax 2000 yen + Yoshinoya dinner 1850 yen = 3850 yen (~$444)