Currently: Jan 2017

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What I’m doing: Prepping For Chinese New Year

I’m officially on holiday today! Hooray! Tonight my fiance and I will be heading back to his hometown for the Chinese New Year holiday. I’ve only met his mom, dad, and one cousin, so I can’t wait to meet the entire clan. I’ll be one of only a handful of foreigners in this small town so I’m excited to once again be representing Mexican Americans and sharing my culture.

What I’m buying: Chinese New Year Gifts

We’ve packed the car with fruit, wine, and gifts for the family. We’ve even got the traditional Chinese red envelopes with money for the little ones. I’m not even sure there’s room for our suitcases anymore…

What I’m watching: Terrace House

I started watching Terrace House when I just moved to Japan to help practice my Japanese. I LOVE this show and I’m so happy Netflix just released a new season in Hawaii. This is what reality TV should be and I’m glad it’s gaining popularity in the U.S. I found a great article explaining it’s charm and why American TV should be taking notes. 

What I’m eating:  Pineapple Buns

Pineapple buns are a delicious dessert I tried in Hong Kong . It doesn’t actually have pineapple in it; it’s called pineapple bread because of the crunchy outer shell that resembles a pineapple. It’s made of a sweet bread and often eaten during afternoon tea. It’s very sweet and comes with a giant slice of butter in the center. Pair this with a cup of Hong Kong style milk tea and WOW. Heaven. I like that they look like conchas but the taste is completely different. I associate conchas with my grandparents and coffee. Maybe this is my version.

 

Everything has been leading up to Chinese New Year and now it’s finally here! In addition to family time, we’ll be heading to Yellow Mountain to go hiking. It’s been a while since I’ve seen snow so fingers crossed we’ll get a beautiful white scenery.

Hope everyone has a lovely Chinese New Year!

K♥

 

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Engagement Ring Shopping

If you know me (or at least follow me on Instagram) you’ll know that I recently got engaged to my the greatest/sweetest/kindest/silliest guy I know.

He proposed to me in Japan while we were there on vacation. Japan is the country where we met and fell in love, so it was so special having another life changing moment there.

We skipped the traditional route and picked out a ring together. The idea of choosing this first big purchase together as a couple felt very romantic to me.

But I’m not much of a jewelry girl. I only wear necklaces or earrings other people have given me. I was so amazed seeing all the beautiful rings out there.

I made a video to share our special day. Check it out!


♥︎K

A Week In Tokyo – Day 1

Tokyo is one of my favorite cities on the planet and I feel very lucky I got to call it home last year. After our recent visit in December, I was inspired to write a guide to some of my favorite places. For anyone that’s traveling to Tokyo (or living there now), I’ll be writing a series called “A Week in Tokyo” where I give you a day by day guide on places to visit/eat/shop. So here we go!

DAY 1 | ROPPONGI + SHIBUYA

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Roppongi Mori Art Tower (Tokyo City View | Sky Deck)

Get your lay of the land with a beautiful view of Tokyo. This is my favorite place in all of Tokyo. If the weather isn’t great, you should switch this day with another. The view is still amazing but you won’t be able to go out on the sky deck. If you’re traveling with a significant other, you might want to come back just before sunset. It’s very romantic.

Hours: (usually) 10:00-23:00

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Tokyo Midtown 

After visiting the sky deck, head down the road to Tokyo Midtown. You can enjoy some shopping in the mall then head out to the man-made park to enjoy some beautiful nature right in the city. If you visit during the summertime, grab some snacks at the grocery shop in the basement of Tokyo Midtown then have a picnic outside.

Shop Hours: 11:00-21:00

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BrewDog Roppongi

This recommend is more for the expats who have been in Tokyo for a while. Sometimes you need a break from Asahi and Kirin. A great spot to grab a few non-Japanese beers with friends is BrewDog. This place is extremely foreigner friendly and many of the staff members speak English. They have a wide selection of beers on draft and a delicious menu to go with it. There’s also a Super Nintendo you can play. Get your Street Fighter on.

Hours: 15:00-24:00

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Shibuya Crossing

Catch a bus or the train from Roppongi and head over to Shibuya. This is the famous crosswalk you always see on the movies. It’s something to be experienced. Look for the Hachiko exit when exiting the station.

Hours: 24/7

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Shopping at Shibuya 109

See what Japan’s young and fashionable ladies are wearing by heading over to Shibuya 109. For the guys, there’s a Shibuya 109 Men’s across the road.

There’s tons of other places to shop in Shibuya but for now you’ll just want to browse so you’re not carrying lots of bags for the rest of the night. Besides, it’s day 1, you have plenty of time for shopping later! BUT if you can’t help yourself and you buy too much, you can usually rent lockers in the train station for a few hours to store your goodies until you’re ready to head home.

Hours: 10:00-21:00

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Dinner at Genki Sushi

This place is my favorite kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant in Tokyo. It’s delicious, affordable, and it’s a chain so you can find them in different locations around the city. Try to go slightly before or after regular meal times or you’ll find yourself waiting for a seat.

Hours: 11:00-24:00

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See a Concert at the Chelsea Hotel

I love live music and I especially love live music in other countries. You don’t need to understand the language to feel engaged with the music. This basement venue is a great place to check out a punk/rock show. Check out their schedule online to see if there’s a show when you’re visiting or just drop by and take a look.

Hours: Varies

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I hope you enjoyed this list for Day 1. Subscribe and stay tuned to get guides for Days 2-7.

♥︎K

Taco Bell in Shanghai

 

That’s right! Your favorite (or most hated) taco restaurant (I refuse to call it Mexican food) has returned to China. Taco Bell first opened in China in 2003 but shut down in 2008. 13 years later, they’re back!

As an American expat, I felt it was my duty to visit this brand new eatery and see what all the buzz was about. Check out our video about our visit!

 

 

Stay hungry,

♥︎K

5 on 5 – January 2017

This is my second round of 5 on 5, where I take 5 photos on the 5th of the month. I explained last month how I was inspired  by my friend/photographer Travis’ 10 on 10 challenge. But instead of 10 photos, I made a mini version for myself where I choose 5.

This week’s weather report is rain, rain, and more rain. So here are some photos from my small town Jiaxing.

 

 

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Happy New Year y’all.

♥︎K

I FINALLY FINISHED SOMETHING

Do you ever start a project and your lazy, self-doubting personality gets in the way of  you finishing it? Yeah, that was me.

I spent WAY too long wondering whether people would make fun of me for making a vlog. But guess what? I DID IT ANYWAY!

Hallelujah! It feels so good to finally finish something. I had a lot of fun making this. It’s a much better use of my time than Netflix (shh, Netflix, I still love you). And you know what? From just ONE VIDEO, I’ve learned so much about vlogging and YouTube.

So here it is. I’m so happy to share this with everyone. My first ever vlog/travel guide taken during my travels to Hong Kong.

I hope 2017 will bring more vlogging and videos. I think 2017 is going to be a big year for me and it’d be great to have it recorded.

I’ll be heading to Japan in 3 days for Christmas. I can’t wait to see all the beautiful illuminations and to spend time in one of my favorite cities on earth, Tokyo.

Have a great day y’all.

♥︎K

Education in Japan

Both of my parents work in education and one of the things I like about working in education myself is that now I can talk to my parents like a peer in the same industry.

Education is one of the toughest fields around. Being a teacher is easy, but being a good teacher takes years of dedication and a passion to help students. And patience. A saintly kind of patience. But before you can begin to teach, you need a student who’s willing to learn.

Now, I’ve worked in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and dealt with a wide range of personality types. I’ve dealt with demanding clients with ridiculous expectations and even more ridiculous deadlines. It was demanding. It was stressful. But give me room of surly 10 year olds…. that’s a hell of a lot scarier.

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*No teachers or children were harmed in the making of this photo* Halloween Night

I’ve had many talks with my mom about the differences between the education system in Japan versus in Texas. Now I’m not saying Japan has all the answers, but I can tell you, my experience teaching there was a dream compared to what my parents deal with everyday.

There are a few key things I noticed in the Japanese public school system that I believe lead to stronger, more disciplined students.

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Students looking captivated by my English lesson

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1. Students walk to school

There are no buses. There is no line of parents dropping students off by car. Students are expected to walk to school rain or shine. When you reach junior high school age, then you’re allowed to ride a bicycle to school.

Now I know the distance that American students live to school makes this kind of arrangement impossible, but it’s still interesting to observe.

2. Students are greeted every morning by fellow students

When I arrived at school each day, there were 3 or 4 students whose job it was to tell me good morning and give me a high five. This is such a small gesture but it makes you feel like you are coming to a place where you are wanted. A place where you belong. I don’t know if I ever felt that while I was in school. This starts in elementary school and continues up through junior high school.

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3. Students serve each other lunch and eat in their classrooms

Each day, students wash their hands, walk to the kitchen area of the school, and pick up large pots and pans with that day’s lunch. Students carry it back up the stairs to their classroom and begin to serve food to their classmates. Other students help by handing out trays and preparing the desks.

No one can begin eating until everyone has food. Then, everyone claps their hands together and says, “Itadakimasu!” which roughly means, “I humbly accept this food” and everyone eats!

When everyone is finished, students return their trays and bowls themselves and carry it back down to the kitchen where they will be washed later by the staff.

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Photo borrowed from online

 

4. Lunch is healthy 

No french fries and pizza found here. These meals are prepared by community members (often retired grandmas) for the students from fresh ingredients. There is rarely anything with sugar. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a small piece of fruit as dessert. Students are also required to finish everything on their trays. No exceptions.

I’ve posted before about the delicious lunches I ate while in Japan. I still dream about school lunch…

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5. Students are responsible for cleaning their school

Each day, there is a 30 minute window where every student takes out a broom or a rag and cleans their school. They clean the classrooms. Their desks. The bathrooms. The hallways. The courtyards. The teacher’s room. There are no janitors. This begins as young as 1st grade.

Now most of the first graders just run through giggling and don’t really clean so an older student is assigned to help. But either way, the students learn from day 1 that this school is their property and they need to take care of it.

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Borrowed from online

6. Students perform for their parents 

At least twice a year, students host a special performance day on the weekend where family is invited to watch each student’s performance. There’s usually a song, or a play, or some kind of talent show.

Students and teachers work very hard on this performance for months. This is on top of their regular school work. Students are given a lot of responsibility for the execution of this day and they deliver.

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7. Students support their fellow students

When the 6th graders were moving on to junior high school, the students in grades 1st-5th put together the most beautiful graduation ceremony/performance for them.

They were given flower necklaces to wear. Each grade prepared a song or a dance. There were banners and speeches. There was a video made by the teachers of their photos from 1st grade until now. Anyone could see how much this small school cared about their students. I’m not going to lie, I cried like a baby. It was a beautiful ceremony.

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My adorable 6th graders

There’s a few other things like wearing summer uniforms year round in classrooms without heaters that I could add, but these are the things that come to mind at the moment.

I hope teacher’s in America realize how important their job is to the future of the world. I truly believe education can solve 95% of the world’s problems. Don’t give up. Realize that you’re not alone and connect with your fellow teacher’s. If your school isn’t supporting you, connect with teacher’s around the world! Anything that will help you realize there is a community out there who wants to help you do your job well.

 

Hang in there.

♥︎K