Taking Flight: Airport Outfit and Summer Adventures

college student style
brown forever 21 blazer, peter pan collar mint top, polkadot pants
college student style
brown forever 21 blazer, peter pan collar mint top
brown leather oxfords, polkadot pants
Blazer, Forever 21 | Top, China | Pants, Macy's | Shoes, DSV

"Are you going to Boston for business or leisure?"

I paused for a moment. "I'm going for work. So I guess business. Except I'm working at a summer program for middle schoolers. So it's not fancy business or anything. I'm a college student."

There I was again, my oh-so-eloquent self. 

It was the usual plane pleasantries. I was both flattered and disturbed to be mistaken for a real, live, working, fancy business trip adult. Either my outfit was super fresh, or I looked middle-aged (much to my dismay, I'm often mistaken for my eleven-year old brother's mother). I hope it was the former.

Flying out to my RA/indoor cycling instructor job certainly didn't call for a blazer and oxfords, but I'm glad I nabbed the chance to dress up. For the past week, it's been one heck of a ride--and I've spent most of the week tackling various tasks in athletic clothes. 

I've laughed a lot, felt stressed a lot, and haven't slept a lot, but it's safe to say that I'm happy to have immersed myself in this new experience so far. The lows are low, but the highs are high. For instance, my heart totally melted when one of my students asked what gym I taught cycling classes at. When I said I haven't ever taught gym classes, she told that she thought I should. 

Rolling hills are ahead, but I'm ready to conquer them--on and off the bike.

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Because I have very limited time off-duty (2 hours a weekday, plus one full weekend day per week), I'll only be out and about interacting each weekend. Feel free to keep up if you like, and I'll talk to you soon!

How I Tame the Beast: Faux Updo for Short, Curly Hair


I was bawling. 

Mouth full of toothpaste, I stared disgustedly at my reflection.

Wet, tight curls hung limply on my head, starkly contrasting with my straight, sleek bangs. I was a pitiful mess--leaky eyes, red nose, weird hair, wounded soul.

Poodle. Poodle. Old fart.

That was me now, or at least that's what I looked like because of my hair. And it was all my fault.

*                          *                         *

When I went to China this year, I got a perm just like last time (photos here and here, or feel free to creep in my 2012 archives).

Unfortunately, it didn't turn out like last time. 

I had forgotten that my hair had been a lot longer then, and that I hadn't gotten the top of my head permed. So I was left with a huge, unruly mess fit for the 1980s. 

Since time-traveling to the 80s, getting a straightening treatment, or cutting the curly parts off weren't viable options (I like the 21st century thank you, and I also don't want to be left with no hair from more chemicals or no hair from cutting it off), my only solution was to just deal. 

And I did deal for about a week, finding mild satisfaction by pulling the curly locks up with a wire headband. But I was still extremely self-conscious about the poof, and there was absolutely no way to disguise my hair in a ponytail because of the short length. Youtube tutorials for short, curly hair were also fruitless because my hair was too short.

Out of frustration and curiosity one day, I began furiously twisting and pinning sections of my hair up. This is the result, and I'm actually pretty happy.

So, as I promised, here's how I tame the beast.


What you'll need:
-- bobby pins (I use 9-12; if possible, matching your hair color is ideal)
--short, curly hair (slightly damp, and not long enough for a ponytail works best)

Steps
1. Starting from the sides, take a small section of hair that can be easily pinned.

2. Twist the section and pin it at the end. For best results, especially if you're planning to wear your hair down later, twist in the natural direction of the curl (either down or up).

3. Repeat until you've finished the whole head. For the back, I pin the top layer down and the bottom layer up (section near my neck).

4. Take care of any flyaways with more bobby pins, or leave 'em. I personally like a few to keep the look more tousled.

Here are larger, more detailed shots of the finished look:

short curly hairstyle, faux updo
short curly hairstyle, faux updo
short curly hairstyle, faux updo

If you have experience with short, curly hair, definitely drop me a note--I'd love to learn more styling techniques. If this sort of hair is totally irrelevant to you, but you also have a hair disaster story, I'd be grateful to hear how you dealt. 

Of course, for every downside, there's an upside. I may not be happy with how my hair looks now, but I've learned to invent solutions and search for more confidence in something deeper than appearance.

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Summer Staples: Chevron Maxi and Sun Hat

green ombre cardi
multicolor chevron maxi dress
tortise-shell sunglasses
brown oxfords
Maxi, China | Cardi, Target | Shoes, Goodwill | Hat, gift | Sunglasses, China

After moving out of school for the summer, I vowed to be more conscious of my purchases. Packing my wardrobe into boxes made me realize that I have way too many clothes--some of which I rarely wear. 

At 35 Chinese yuan (5.21 USD), however, this chevron number would've been too painful to pass up. Following several moments of deliberation, I finally picked it up along with its floral sister. After all, it's not every day you can browse shops it China, and it's not every day you can snag an eye-catching summer staple for $5.21.

As long as I sport this multicolor piece often enough in this warm, liberating season, I'll consider this purchase justified.

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Snapshots + Reflections : My Trip to Southern China

Nanjing Road, Shanghai
roses
authentic chinese food
gingham and stripes
daqi mountains, tonglu
shallow depth of field
chinese birthday cake
peter pan collar, short curly permed hair
bubble tea
Park Six, West Lake
West Lake, Leifeng Pagoda
shanghai airport food
Most photos from my instagram

I'm often tempted to change my instagram description from a short bio to one of these statements:

My life, minus the ugly parts.

or

An aesthetically pleasing but totally inaccurate portrayal of my life.

These blunt alternatives were especially enticing in China. The carefully-edited photos ooze bustling cityscapes, sweeping scenery, exotic food, and carefree vibes, but they fail to account for the dusty developing towns, dingy apartments, allergy-induced sinus infections, and family squabbles.

These are the beautiful moments of my trip--they're far from the whole story.

This visit to China was up against a particularly moving and reflective return three years ago. And to be honest, the recent one paled in comparison. Three years ago, I was a soon-to-be high school junior, and I hadn't been to China since third grade. Seven years is a long time, and I had changed immensely. For one, I had picked up running and violin, two redefining activities. Furthermore, I had grown from a kid to a teenager, allowing me to see the culture clash, and prompting me to question my identity as a Chinese-American. 

The clash was still present--I still felt self-conscious when I couldn't read menus, I still relied on my parents to translate technical vocab, I still dressed funny (my grandma was amused with my purposely-distressed tee, declaring that it made me look poor). I even had some new challenges: I had difficulty following a mostly plant-based lifestyle (my relatives told me to stop dieting, and I didn't bother to explain that I wasn't trying to lose weight), I was both annoyed and hurt that other relatives dubbed me "fat", and I didn't know what to do when everyone was showering naked in the curtainless swimming pool locker room as if it were no big deal.

But this time, it didn't feel as if my identity were at stake. No matter how hard I try, I will never be completely American or completely Chinese. And I don't want to try--it's a blessing to see the world from two different perspectives. As an American-born Chinese, life in the U.S., infused with Chinese culture, is what I know. I'll always be a little bit different in both countries, and that's okay. 

This time, I also realized that I haven't really changed much since my last visit. Plenty has happened--namely, moving over 700 miles away for college--but I'm still the same person. I still run, play the violin, try my hardest in school, embrace challenges and new experiences. I've just run longer, tackled harder pieces, explored deeper material, become more daring. Friends, casual hobbies, my hair, school years--they've all come and gone, but my essence as an imperfect idealist hasn't budged. Unlike snapshots of me up to my early teenage years, in which the girl is like a stranger, or some distant past version of myself, I would recognize the girl in photos from 2012 as me. 

And so bears the question: have I made progress on finding myself, or have I simply remained stagnant? 

I'll be jetting off again in a few days--this time back to Massachussetts--and I hope to find out. For seven weeks, I'm working at Explo, an enrichment camp for middle schoolers, to teach an indoor cycling workshop (I got my certification over spring break!) and to lead a residential or day group. I've noticed that I learn the most about myself in unfamilar environments, and I look forward to what this summer brings.

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Photography: How I Make My Less-Than-Stellar Phone Photos Insta-Worthy


before and after vscocam

before and after instagram filter

before and after photo editing instagram
Scheduled on 5/22/15

The phone I have under a prepay company does a decent job, but it's by no means an iphone 6. I only take to the single-focus, 3 megapixel camera on my Samsung Galaxy Centura when I have no other option--or if I'd disturb the peace by whipping out my DSLR and climbing on a chair to compensate for the long portrait lens. 

The bland photo, however, makes the editing process that much more exciting. There's something intrinsically rewarding about recontructing a photo so that it does do that beautiful real-life scene justice.

If you, too, are an insta enthusiast without the best phone equipment, here are my editing tips:

1. Take VSCOCam for a test run


The filters on this free app feel much more natural to me--my personal favorite is F2, which brightens the photo and adds a subtle blue undertone. Now that instagram's in-app editing has updated to include fade and a whole myriad of other tools, vscocam's main advantage has become its more refined filters. Like instagram, you can control the strength of each tool by double tapping the icon and testing the values until you reach the most visually-appealing number.

2. If you're going to crop your photo, crop it in instagram

Two reasons: 

One, precision--the grid bars in instagram are thinner, and the view of the photo is larger. If you're striving to follow the rule of thirds, instagram is more conducive to an effective crop.

Two, the crop in vscocam makes your photo blurry in-app. While it becomes clear once exported, I find it maddening to work with a grainy shot, especially if I'm attempting to set just the right amount of fade.

3. Remember filters aren't always the most effective solution
In my fourth shot pictured (of the landscape), I went sans filter. Everything I tried upset the color balance--rather than restoring the image to match more closely what my eyes saw, filters made the sky an eerie shade of green, or some other unnatural color. Instead, I took to instagram's in-app editing tools, upping the brightness, setting contrast to match, and slightly increasing color saturation.

On a separate note, when I do use filters, I use them judiciously. In my opinion, heavily-filtered photos look much less clean, less professional, and less real.

And so arises my favorite existential photo-editing debate:

At what point does photo editing switch from enhancing the image to manipulating reality?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any of your personal tips in the comments!
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Life and Artsy Endeavors: Le Petit Prince

 Best 49 cents I've ever spent
 Wanderlust
 Goodbye, mountains
 Dreaming of summer
 Counting down the days
Celebrating the last day of classes with dim sum

Scheduled on 5/22/15

Just a few snapshots from the end of semester and early summer. 

I was ecstatic to stumble upon this 49 cent copy of The Little Prince in my local bookstore. It's a French classic by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry--while it's technically a childrens book, the lessons are so universally pertinent. As the title character travels to various planets inhabited by a a single adult, the novella celebrates childhood and criticizes several irrational, sad components of adulthood. If you ask me, it's a little bit like Dr. Seuss or The Wizard of Oz--the author so skillfully weaves the social commentary into the charming tale. 

I definitely encourage you to at least take a gander. Here's an English online pdf, or if you're proficient in French, here's the original French version. Also, there's a movie coming out! Here are the links to the English trailer and the French one. The film is set to be released in America on July 29th this year.

I'll leave you with my favorite quote:

"The essential is invisible for the eyes. One can only truly see with the heart."

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