The Concept of Home


“Where are you from?”

I’ve gotten asked this question countless times. Even though I was born and grew up in Hawaii, I have a hard time answering this question. Over the past decade, I’ve lived in:

–       4 years in Philadelphia
–       1.5 years in Washington DC
–       Countless weeks in Los Angeles
–       3 months each in Tokyo, Boston, Shanghai, and Taipei

Initially, I considered where I was raised to be my hometown. Under that definition, it’d be Hawaii. But over the past decade, I’ve come to realize that home means so much more than where you were born.

For me, living away from Hawaii has changed what I consider to be home:

–       Extremely familiar with the area
–       Have friends/family in the area that I am close with.
–       See myself living in the area (in the near-term or long-term).

Under these criteria, I now consider two places home: Washington DC and Los Angeles. Washington DC is a fantastic city. There’s so much to do, it’s where I need to be professionally, and I’ve got some great friends there. More importantly, my friends are still located in the Northeast. With Los Angeles, even though I’ve never officially lived there, I actually held a CA drivers license for a couple years during college. I’m incredibly familiar with the area. I’ve gone there more times since graduating high school than going to Hawaii, I have a lot of family there, and above all, the weather is fantastic–it’s a great place to call “home!”

Being Present in Taiwan


Recently, I was reminded of the importance of being present. The concept stems from Echart Tolle’s A Power of Now. I’m not a huge follower in neo-spirituality, but I am keen on self improvement. Essentially, he argues that in order to be happy and enlightened, people need to be more in tune with the now. Not the past. Not the future. Now.

Here are some moments of the “Now” that have really stuck with me while here in Taiwan:

    • Silently watching the Taiwan countryside whiz by at 300 km/h on the THSR.
    • Hearing little children shout for joy during a fireworks show at Taipei 101.
    • Feeling the wind on my face as I drove a motorbike in Kenting.
    • Listening to the sounds of cars barreling down East Heping Road.
    • That nervous yet excited feeling before meeting new people.
    • Eating my daily morning sandwich on my way to class.

It’s so easy to forget these trivial moments, but it’s times like these that make me forget about worrying about the future or pondering the what-ifs of the past. I’m living in the now. And it feels great.

Feel the moment. Appreciate it. Enjoy it.

Taipei: Two Months Later


How time flies! I can’t believe I’ve been here for nearly ten weeks. It feels like just a couple days ago I was checking into the Eight Elephants Hostel ready to embark on a new adventure. When I came here back in November, I was planning on staying for three school terms with the hope of getting my Mandarin to working-level proficiency. Since then, I’ve had an ongoing internal debate whether to stay the course and be here through August, or change my plans and return early.

I finalized my decision during the CNY break. I decided not to enroll for the spring term. Several reasons prompted my decision to end my stay earlier than expected. I came to Taiwan for two main reasons: for the experience of living abroad and to increase my fluency.

After considering the costs/benefits of staying here for another term, I realized that staying here would not be worth the money. I’ve already gotten the experience of living in Taiwan. Although I wish I could be more fluent, I don’t think time spent here can justify the opportunity cost of not working. Not to mention I still have a ton of student loans that I still need to pay down, and that I’ve spent much more than budgeted for Taiwan. I plan to hire a tutor to provide discipline around my studying efforts once back in the States.

Instead of using the tuition + housing money for another term in Taiwan, after the current term ends, I’ll be heading down to Singapore to embark on a visit around Southeast Asia. I’ve already booked my tickets to Singapore, but am currently in the process of figuring out where to visit. Any trip suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

A part of me feels guilty for traveling even more considering I still have loans to payoff, but I figure I’ve already spent a lot chasing my language fluency goals, might as well spend time traveling before returning. I’m really excited about what SE Asia has to offer, but truthfully I am a bit terrified of backpacking around a region alone. I can only think of the interesting experiences that’ll happen.

Here’s to hoping everything works out!

2011 in Review


The past year was definitely one to remember.

Hope. For the past five years I’ve spent the holiday season back in Los Angeles. When I left for LA in December, I was disappointed that I wasn’t staying indefinitely. Even though I had been in Washington for already 6 months, I still had a tough time adjusting to life there. When I returned to Washington in January, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from living a better life – no fears, no regrets, no doubts, no haters.

Focused. Of the three aspects of my life that I set out to improve (spiritual, professional, and social), I recall particularly focusing on my life at work. Armed with what I had learnt the previous month, I was making strides for the first time, at least I felt, towards building up a positive name for myself at the firm. Additionally, I got involved with a pro-bono project relating to social entrepreneurship through my firm. My involvement with Ashoka fueled my curiosity to learn more about the field.

Determined. I remember messing up a lot on the job during this month. Regardless, I was determined to work through these mistakes and prove that I was indeed not only a competent, but also core asset to my team. My family came to visit the east coast as well during this month. Our weekend trip up to NYC, the first time in over a year that I had gone up to the city, was a much-welcomed mini-vacation.

Perseverance. Four months into the year and I was already loosing steam in achieving my goals for a happier life in Washington. I knew that patience was a virtue, but I found it harder to keep trying to improve my personal and professional lives without seeing any tangible outcomes. In an effort to remind me to stay focused on my goals, I created this blog, to hold myself accountable. I also took a class at the Alliance Francaise; however, I stopped because it was moving way too slowly. After studying Chinese, I realized that despite its reputation as one of the more difficult of the Romance languages, a class was unnecessary to learn French.

A turning point. I remember this month being very fun, from a social perspective. For the first time, in a long while, I was actually doing things outside of work on a regular basis. Meeting new people, going to new places, hanging out. I almost imagined that this was what life should’ve been like back in college, before I let my insecurities get the better of me. I also did my first volunteer shift for the Freer Sackler through their summer-drinks series entitled, “Asia After Dark.” I also attended my first (and only) “Team in Training” event to prepare for the Philadelphia Marathon at the end of the year.

Appreciation. I made a year living in Washington this month. Professional life was going well and social life was finally developing. For the first time in a long while, I really just couldn’t believe how far my circumstances had changed over the past year. This sensation and feeling of appreciation was undoubtedly the best birthday present I could’ve asked for.

Enjoyment. Professional life had not changed much. Outside of work I continued to fuel my renewed interests in international relations. I volunteered at the triennial Society of International Development’s World Congress, where I had the chance to meet some great people with similar interests, and learned the affect of China’s continued economic rise has had on reshaping the international development community. This month was also a month of firsts

Ambivalence. From a professional perspective, I felt like I was in a state of suspension. Despite being at the company for over a year, and already two months since the last big project ended, I wasn’t getting staffed on any formal, long-term project; primarily ad-hoc stuff. I wasn’t growing. However, outside of work, life continued to unfold for the better. After snagging a $550 roundtrip ticket from the East Coast to Hawaii, I finally went home (the original-home) for the first time in over two years, spending 10 days in Hawaii.

Contemplation. I continued my Hawaii vacation into September by doing a double-back flight from Hawaii ? Dallas ? Reagan National; Dulles ? Los Angeles, all in one day, for my trip to Los Angeles. I usually tend to go back at least 3-5 times a year, so my trip back to LA, the first of the year, felt refreshing. Back in DC, as I considered my future career goals, I vowed to once again improve the situation before considering alternatives.

Afraid. Even if I was going abroad to fulfill a goal of mine, I still found the notion of unemployment, particularly given the current economic climate, completely unfeasible and utterly senseless. Although I was prepared financially to make the jump, I was afraid of the unknown. Would I be able to get a job after my time in Asia? What would employers think about my decision? Would travel/study abroad live up to my expectations? Even after I was given the option to return to my employer in Singapore post-sabbatical, I still couldn’t believe I had made such a big decision.

Frenetic. Despite no longer working, November was an incredibly busy month. No time to think about my decision. It was time to execute. The two weeks leading up to Taiwan were crazy. I studied for, and took the GREs. Packed for Taiwan and shipped the rest back to LA. Worked on Generation Enterprise stuff, a non-profit that I began volunteering for remotely back in October. Said many, many goodbyes. Went hiking two weekends in a row around the DC area. Even after arriving in Taiwan, the scramble continued to find suitable housing.

Anew. I was worried that coming during the holiday season was going to be a little depressing, but this past month has been far from it. It did take some time getting used to being a student again, and I contemplated (and am still contemplating) on whether to sign on for another term beginning in March, but I am relishing in the fact that I am living abroad once again. Meeting new people, experiencing new things, going to new places, it’s been a fantastic experience!