I disappeared but I’m (sorta) back

Hey y’all. It’s been a while since my last post, so I just wanted to fill you in that I’m doing okay. At least much better than last summer.

Last summer, I was feeling lost as I finished up my undergraduate years, moved to Ktown and looked for a more permanent job. I made a stupid decision. I entered a really tough situation/pseudo-relationship with the wrong person, craving some sort of close connection during this lonely transition.

Worst of all, I neglected my close ones and hid this relationship from my friends, pushing them away cause I wasn’t really happy with myself. This time involved a lot of crying and I still don’t think I was in the right mind. But you know, I eventually did admit it to others that I was making a bad decision, had to cut my losses and had to leave as painful as it was.

Although I’m still greatly embarrassed about my own bad conduct (lots of cutting words from my end) and intense negative feelings, this experience had made me grateful for those friends who stuck. It’s also made more cautious about those I trusted as well, because sadly some folks are just looking out for their own interests/agenda. At the same time, I know it’s going to be okay in the end. 

I think give it a few years, I’ll be more ready to open up about the details, and maybe write that screenplay about that crazy stupid summer that I was joking about. Until then, I’m setting down a reminder to check in in a year – to see what progress I’ve made since this post.

Crayfish Removal at the Santa Monica Mountains

My friend Lauren and I had a great Saturday collecting and measuring crayfish. They’re an invasive species in the Santa Monica Mountains, most likely introduced by fishermen. We learned quite a bit about them thanks to the friendly folks from the Mountain Restoration Trust, who host bi-monthly removal events to educate the public about these efforts.

Originally from northern Mexico and southeastern USA, the red swamp crayfish are a hardy species. They thrive in freshwater, but can survive in brackish mucky water sources as well. In times of drought, they can burrow 3-4 feet into the ground in order to reach the water table. They eat nearly everything, including each other. These cannibalistic baddies are causing ecological damage and outcompeting local species here. The crayfish don’t have natural predators in the area, so they’re pretty much the apex species here. We found specimen anywhere between 5 to 13 cm, ranging from bright red to a dark rusty brown.

Here are some photos from our day.

It’s a free event, and I’d personally love to go back with more friends. Nifty activity, great way to reconnect with nature’s beauties and absolutely a good memories. So if you’re going, hit me up!

In case you were wondering, we didn’t eat these animals. Instead, they’re most likely going to be refrigerated and fed to animals in rehabilitation, like these cute little raccoon below.

Source: KPCC
Frozen crayfish are fed to rehabilitating raccoons and opossums at the California Wildlife Center. Source: KPCC

Besides, who knows what’s been in that creek? The crayfish might not be the healthiest to eat. On the other hand, we heard that a particular someone used to take these crayfish home, store them in a fresh water tank for a few days and boiled for dinner. So it appears, it’s possible to eat them, but why would you want to?

Good Reads: Trauma Survivors and Overworking

I really enjoyed reading Tanya Paperny’s article at The Atlantic. Paperny asks whether trauma survivors throw themselves in work to cope with their past experience. In my personal experience, it’s true that some of the most accomplished people use work as a form of escapism. Totally recommend giving the article a good read.

War and Peace Notes – Introduction to the Collection

In Spring 2013, I enrolled in a lower-division undergraduate course called “Slavic 90A: Introduction to Russian Civilization”. During this class, we covered the geography, history and culture of the country. As one of our assigned readings, Lev Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” took a significant portion of our time. As we finished selected chapters, we were required to reflect and write commentary on the material.

Since a fellow student informed me that he would be enrolling in the course soon, I offered to compile my notes on the novel to share. In the process, I thought it would be fun to publish these same notes online. Who knows? Maybe a casual reader will stumble upon them, and will strike up a conversation on Tolstoy’s classic. Or perhaps, my observations might help out another student tackling this lengthy Russian novel. If you’re interested in seeing my collection of notes, click here and let me know what you think.

Photo of War and Peace Dance via WikiMedia Commons

Quick Tips on How to Prevent Oversleeping and Stay Awake

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 1 in 3 adults in America don’t get enough sleep. But what if you’re dealing with the reverse issue of oversleeping? For a few of us, sleep is a form of escapism. The mantra goes: if you’re asleep, you’re not facing real issues.

However, this excess of shut-eye can be detrimental to your health. Some studies even link it to higher blood pressure and weight problems. After all, oversleeping does limit the hours which you are active. In addition, it can lower the quality of rest you get, so here are some quick tips to finding that happy, healthy balance.

Easy Level

  • Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals – Prevent food coma & exhaustion.
  • Get Active – Exercise, take a brisk walk outside, and breathe fresh air.
  • Stay Away from Comfy Couches and Bed – This is especially true when you work from home. Remove the opportunity to feel too cozy sitting or laying down.
  • Drink Tea, Coffee or an Energy Drink. Caffeine, as a last resort, will help keep you up during the long day. If you’re allergic or cutting caffeine from your system, then substitute these beverages with a hydrating glass of ice cold water instead!

Medium Level

  • Learn Something New – Start a Coursera, Lynda, Duolingo, MIT OpenCourseWare, or Khan Academy class. Fun lessons on your subject of choice will keep your mind alert and distracted from the desire to sleep.
  • Make a List of To Do and Daily Goals – This simple habit will motivate you to be more productive and accountable for everyday tasks.
  • Get Enough Sleep the Night Prior – Re-adjust your schedule to get enough Zs. Or during the day, put your phone across the room, and set an alarm for a 10-20 minute power nap.

Hard Level

Hope this helps! If you have any tricks of your own, feel free to share. I’d love to learn what you do to manage a fulfilling sleep schedule.

Featured Image by Hernan Sanchez via Unsplash 

Scared to Start Over? It’ll All Be Okay.

However, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. While you might be scared that it’s already too late, since you’ve invested all this time and energy, consider our parents, grandparents, or their forefathers. As immigrants to an entirely new country, they certainly held that fear. Yet they’re here now, and gained new skills in the struggle. You too can learn to be as resilient as they are, and make this change in your life!

Reframe your thinking.

No matter how long you’ve been “off track”, you haven’t wasted time if you’ve learned something valuable. Instead of looking at yourself as a failure, see yourself as a product of all these collected memories. Even mistakes offer insight on how you can make better decisions in the future. As hard as it is, try to find something you can be proud of. Consider, how can your previous experiences transfer to your new field?

Don’t focus too much on the past, because you are constantly changing. Our personalities are not set in stone, and we’re constantly in a state of unrest. So take that time to try new things you’ve always been curious about before, and start new healthy habits. That being said, it might be helpful to pick up relevant skills in preparation for your next job.

Just do something, anything at all.

It’s a rather embarrassing story, but I figured it’s worth sharing. At one of my lowest points, I felt paralyzed by my anxiety about finding a job after graduation and completing my senior thesis. I often slept over 12 hours a day to escape reality and hardly left my room, not even to eat. I was literally hiding from my problems as well as the folks I cared about, because I didn’t want anyone to see my at this state.

The one time I sneaked off to brunch, hoping to avoid familiar faces, my friend caught me at the dining hall. As a STEM major, he told me about applying the concepts of inertia and momentum into our everyday lives. He said that it takes significantly more force to start movement than it is to accelerate. It really hit me and I can’t thank him enough.

In layman’s terms, it’s a lot harder to get started than it is to keep moving. Sounds like a formula to success, so embrace kinetic energy.

Reconnect with loved ones.

Alone time is needed, but also know others are there for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends. Kick that pride into the nearest trash bin, and replace it with a bit of humility. It’s okay to be vulnerable, share your worries with your trusted ones and ask for advice. Who knows? They might even introduce you to a mentor in the new field you’d like to explore!

Lastly, manage your expectations. It’s okay to make mistakes, since no one can be perfect. Neither can one be productive 24/7. I found that I put too much pressure on myself to have my entire life planned out. I’m only 23 years old, but I’ve always imagined that I would have figured out my career by that age. That’s actually quite unrealistic, but I could at least take steps to explore the possibilities out there.

How are things now?

Just to let you know, things did get better from those days of lethargy and escapism. After consulting with a counselor at CAPs (our student counseling and psychological services center), I set a schedule with time slots for when I would study, work on my job search and go out with friends.

I got back into the habit of waking up at 6:00am for gym time and breakfast. The oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar was a great start to the day. My stress levels decreased as I continued to submit job applications, since I was at least getting things done. I’ve heard back and am going to interviews.

I also found other ways to relieve the pressure and have some more fun. I volunteered to plan “Sextravaganza”, a campus-wide sex-positive event for undergraduates, found pleasure in eating out, and met cool acquaintances through social events. There’s still days when I feel tired after a long day, but at least I’m just a lot happier now!

Speaking of which, what ever happened to that friend? Well, he’s still finishing his studies and is bound to go far in life. He let me know that he got a new tattoo — the laws of intertia sit on his wrist. Sure to say that he’s a man of his words.

Study Abroad: Being Uncomfortable Helped Me Grow

In college, I was deadset on working in foreign affairs and international development up until my senior year. Personally, it meant for me planning-participating in Model UN conferences, going after as many internships as possible and gaining more experiences abroad.

In fact, I devoted quite a few weekends applying for study abroad scholarships and coaching others through the process. Receiving the funding opportunities, I spent two gap years learning Russian and huge life lessons in Russia, Italy and Kazakhstan with hopes in interning with USAID or the State Department.

That being said, I’ll finally admit “в гостях хорошо, а дома лучше”–meaning that I began to miss the sunny California weather and appreciate cultural diversity back in Los Angeles. That’s not to say I would never leave the States again. I’d be excited to visit friends in those countries and explore more places in the future. However, I recognize my current need to recuperate and take some time off should I later pursue the international development route. Or do anything as ambitious!

Lessons Learned

Living abroad for an extended amount of time away from loved ones and comfort was entirely different from simply vacationing abroad. Those travels challenged me to find a new community of friends and family, and made room for my personal growth. I really learned how to take initiative in finding entertainment from enrolling in a ceramic class with locals to trying out new cuisines by myself.

And of course, like my first gap year in Russia, this second experience did push me to exercise my budgeting skills. Good life experience I would say!

Although I’ll always be glad to have those memories outside of the United States, I was frankly burnt out from being gone for a whole year. After returning home, I knew that I wouldn’t be happy committing to a life living in a rural setting, much less a remote part of a developing county.

In contrast to my previous romanticized version of working with locals to address water sanitation issues or advocate for greater access to technology, I saw that my rosy image of living abroad was quite naive. In reality, social change takes years which at that time frustrated me. I wasn’t quite patient enough. Additionally, I turned out to be much more of a high maintenance person than I knew before. I definitely needed some growing up to do.

Moreover, I needed to be honest with myself. I had to ask, “What makes me happy?”. Perhaps I was too quickly chasing a dream of a prestigious career, income stability and travel while neglecting my own mental health. I could have also taken more time to consider other options which might have also fit the same criteria; instead of stressing myself and gunning for a figuratively straight path to foreign affairs.

Note to self: There is no singular set way to get to your goals.

So, what DOES makes me happy? At the moment, I have rudimentary answers to that previous question like food, people and a sense of mission. So I’m certain, I’ll continue to gain clarity with additional time and thought.

Cheap (and Free) Dates for UCLA Students Near Westwood

Oh, to be young and in love again. What you might not have in money, you certainly make up in cute study dates and extensive PDA. So Bruins, are you tired of dorm dates at the dining halls yet?

Well, count your lucky stars, I have some exciting alternatives for you!  You can do so much outside of Netflix and chill–even with a limited student budget, so here are my top picks for cheap/free dates.

Bus to Santa Monica, play in the sand and walk down the pier together. If you’re sticking around til sunset, be sure to walk down Third Street/Promenade and enjoy the talented street musicians. Talk over to Tongva Park at night for ambient lighting.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something within walking distance… Take a swim with your boo-thang at the Sunset Rec Center. Get your tan on too.

Snack on the classic Diddy Reese cookies as you stand in the rush-line for tickets for top-of-the-line performances at the Geffen Playhouse, which is located right next to Ralph’s. Tickets for student Rush is only $10, compared to their normal prices starting at $70+.

Go to Sawtelle for a boba run. Self-explainatory. Have a debate whether Coco’s, Volcano, MJ, or Koala T serves the best.

Can’t drive to the Griffith Observatory? Come to the free weekly shows and night sky viewings at the on-campus Planetarium, found right on the top of Bolter Hall. What’s more romantic than the stars?

On Wednesday nights, join the Salsa club near the Bruin Bear. No problem if you don’t know how to dance. There’s friendly faces who would love to teach you!

Stay up late for a midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The talented beings at Sins O’ the Flesh put on a weekly show on Saturday at the Nuart Theater, which is on Santa Monica and Sawtelle.

Head to the Hammer Museum together. The second floor has ping-pong, whereas the first floor has those fun spinny vertigo-inducing seats. See the thought-provoking exhibitions, which are sometimes accompanied by free tours and talks. It’s free.

Ditto for the Fowler Museum. It’s home to world arts. Not the mention they have the free Fowler Out Loud series each week, and cool parties with tasty hor d’ouevres for each new exhibition opening!

Go to the Getty Center’s sketching gallery. The gardens are lovely, and this also makes a great mutual study spot. It’s always free, but closed on Monday. Or go beyond the Urban Lights at LACMA, which is free after 3pm for LA residents.

Can’t leave the dorms? Stay in, play scrabble or chess. Make cute drawings of one other. Rent out the video games from Powell library to enjoy with your partner. Play music while you cook each other dinner. After all, everyone has to eat, right?

Have any fun and affordable date ideas of your own? Let us know in the comments below.


Event Recap – YRL Special Collections Present the “Jack and Aiko Herzig Papers”

On Wednesday, October 26th, 2016, the Young Research Library Special Collections presented the inaugural reception of the “Jack and Aiko Herzig Papers” in the Main Conference Room. Preliminary speakers included Melany De La Cruz-Viesca, Dr. Susan E. Parker and Dr. David K. Yoo, who spoke about the historical significance of these documents and welcomed Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga on stage. Herzig was joined by Dr. Valier Matsumoto in conversation, and spoke about her experience collecting the papers as well as her decision to donate the archives to UCLA. Afterwards, there were some quick words from librarian and archivist Majorie Lee and Tam Nguyen on how to access the collection through Special Collections. Below is a summary of the importance of the Herzig Papers.

After joining a group of middle aged Nissei women in New York City, Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga and her progressive-minded peers questioned why the Nissei were imprisoned in concentration camps by the United States Government. She wondered why her foreign-born Japanese sister in New York freely moved on the East Coast, whereas those on the West Coast were ordered to vacate. Later, having moved to Washington DC, Herzig often visited the National Archives to examine documents related to Japanese incarceration. During Wednesday’s inaugural reception for the papers, Herzig confessed that she used her secretarial skills to create a card catalog for the over 30,000 papers she compiled and modestly stated she had no former training as a historian.

Nevertheless, Herzig’s work enabled the public to better understand the injustice treatment of Japanese Americans and served as key evidence during the litigation cases for Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Japanese American Redress class action lawsuit. The Papers not only assisted research purposes, but helped the Japanese Redress Movement. Aiko and her husband Jack Herzig testified before Congress stating that the Japanese Americans were loyal citizens contrary to the MAGIC Cable intercepts, and conducted research to identify individuals who were eligible for reparations from the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 under Reagan.

She additionally co-edited Speaking Out for Personal Justice, which compiled first hand accounts from Nissei who lived in the camps. Ultimately, Herzig decided to donate her papers to UCLA, because she liked the late professor Don Nakanishi and believed that Los Angeles made an ideal home for her collection, since there were many Asian Americans in California and several quality research institutions located here. Therefore, Herzig contributed a wealth of primary sources and literature that is now accessible for everyone to study a key period of Asian American history. Like Herzig stated, not everyone can come to the National Archives, so it is helpful that they can find the documents nearby in California.

B/W Photo of Jack and Aiko Herzig via Rafu Shimpo

English Translation of Fish Short story

Yesterday I dreamed about two unusual fish.

The fish swam in a waterless limbo. Their fins glided so effortlessly like kites catching the wind. I myself didn’t understand, but they wanted to tell me a story about their first meeting. The first fish had a weak fin. Although her scales shined and glimmered, they could not make up for the fish’s apparent disability. The other fish was beautiful in her own right. Her eyes were a brilliant blue hue. Unfortunately, she had poor vision. Since they once lived in separate tanks, they had never met each other for the longest time.

In fact, they had never seen each other, despite their homes being adjacent to one another. A potted bonsai obscured their views. The fish lived so close yet so oblivious to each other’s presence, as neighbors sometimes are. However, this all changed one summer day. That day, the waters turned murkier than usual for the poor-sighted fish. Her owner noticed the algae blooming, so naturally he decided to clean the tank. In doing so, he transferred our first fish friend to the home of the second. Frightened by the large pink hand, the fish fainted.

She woke up. The unfamiliar waters made her tense. As time grew and her nerves calmed, she slowly swam around and noticed the larger space where she had been placed. She was then alarmed when another fish approached her. She sped away, faster and faster until she realized she had no idea where she was going. Unaware of her situations, she cut her weak fin on coral. Her blood laced the water. She hid in the nearest corner. The second fish followed after, but approached quietly upon the sight of the injured fish. The second offered to bandage the wound with some kelp. Dialogue ensued. It was so natural. They befriended one another, swimming, playing, exploring and gifting each other cute little pebbles.

Unfortunately, time flew too quickly. Their adventure had met an end. When the owner finished cleaning the first fish’s home, he took her back home. The first fish was upset more than ever before. She cried, but of course, who could see a fish’s tears in the waters? She meditated, trying to decide what to do. However, she could not forget the other fish. A minute passed. Then, there was a scream of loud obscenities. The owner had knocked over the bonsai, soil gushing out of the pot. Visible was the mangled green tree, which laid dead on the ground. The shattered pot that once divided the tanks destroyed.

At that moment, the two fish had heard the noise. They swam up the edges of their homes to see the clear glass walls which separated them. For a while, they were convinced that saw each other. They played, swam around and showed each other pebbles just as before. However, it felt slightly off. Why was there so much mimicry? They were duped by the artificial memory of their friend. They only saw their own reflection in the cold aquarium walls.

The first fish quickly gave up hope. Her fin grew stronger and she later became adjusted to her solitude. She needed no one and lost all memory of her blue-eyed friend. However, the second would not give up. Her vision grew worse and worse each day. Over time, she only saw blurred shapes and figures, yet she was certain that she would see her friend. It was the same day her own tank was due for a cleaning. As soon as the owner removed the lid, our blue-eyed fish made a heroic jump. She fell for an endless period of time, and then she felt nothing. Her vision turned black.

The end.

Featured Image by Mathias Appel via Flickr