Weekends as a Xiao Yi

Xiao Yi means “little aunt” in Mandarin, and that’s what I am when I’m down in DC.  I try to make the trek down there at least once a month to see my little niece Jojo.  One day she will start calling me xiao yi and I want to be there  so she can put a face to a name.  She only 7 months old right now though, so I guess I’ve got some time.

I hopped on the bus for the 4 hour trip down to DC friday night and met up with this guy.  My old Viking friend Aurora also lives in DC so I took the opportunity to meet up with her and her little man Macaroni for a drink.

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Saturday, My sister Kris and I hopped aboard her friend’s boat in Annapolis for a sail around the Chesapeake Bay.  I spent my high school years on the San Francisco Bay sailing with the Sea Scouts, and it feels fantastic to be out on the water.  I’ll take any and all invitations for sailing.  I spent a lot of the day on the boat thinking about how different my life would have been if I had joined the Coasties out of high school or if I had gone to Cal Maritime Academy instead of pursuing biology and teaching.

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Sunday was brunch day and auntie time with Jojo.  My sister picked the place and her friend Sean joined us.  We rounded out the afternoon with oyster shooters before dropping me off to hop on the bus for the ride back to Brooklyn.
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Sean helped me snap a photo of my new Zara sweater dress.  This dress is a bit out of my comfort zone with it’s clinginess, but it’s a weekend and it’s comfortable but edgy-ish all at the same time.   I’m digging Zara lately with the simple lines and colors in their fall line up.   Not too jazzed about the glitter in the fabric, but I guess you can’t win ’em all.

sunnies: knockaround – dress: zara – bag: freitag – shoes: madewell, borrowed from kris

The last hurrah Part 2: the road trip

On the way down and back from Savannah, Grace and I took our time on the ole I-95 and…

1) ate at Cracker Barrel 3 times.  That place is so yummy and cheap — we gorged on mac n’ cheese and their biscuits.  This is my excited face for good ‘ole country food.

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sunnies: knockaround – tank: f21 – shorts: uniqlo – shoes: saltwater sandals – bag: h&m

2) stopped at the Wormsloe Plantation on the outskirts of Savannah, mainly to check out the long oak lined driveway and for a quick history lesson from the park ranger.

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3) we went to Medieval Times!!   A SF friend of mine, Sunny, is from Myrtle Beach, SC.  So naturally I had to check it out on the way home.  I emailed her for recomendations and she hooked us up with her friend who is a beer wench at Medieval Times.  There was no way I could pass up an opportunity to be called m’lady.  I freaking loved it, but I don’t think Grace shared my dorky excitement for knights and jousting.  WE GOT CROWNS!!  Sadly, our blue night “died” near the end after a battle with the black and white night.  *tear*

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4) we stopped at so many gas stations I lost count.  The best one by far had a Dunkin Doughnuts and a lion statue outside.  Naturally, I just had to climb on it and strike a pose.  I ended up with a slight burn from the hot steel.  Oops!

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The last hurrah, part 1: Savannah

Summer here in Brooklyn is on its way out.  Relatively cooler temps have taken over and I report back to school tomorrow for a planning week, then the first day of students is on September 9th.  It’s just about time to put the teacher hat back on along with the fall/winter layers.  I think I’m ready for the school year… at least until the “start of school anxiety” sets in and I start getting nightmares and/or insomnia.

As a last hurrah, my friend (and fellow teacher) Grace and I decided to take a road trip down south.  I’ve always wanted to check out the south, specifically Savannah, Georgia. I have this crazy romanticized image of Savannah, thanks to movies like Gone with The Wind and uh, *cough* Forces of Nature.  I’m drawn to the south, with its lushness, the incredible and controversial history, the drawl (swoon) and most of all, the food (here’s some butter, y’all).  Next on my list is a visit to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.  For our trip, Grace and I took 2 days getting down to Savannah and two days getting back.  We only spent one full day in Georgia, but it was just about enough time considering how small Savannah really is.  The night we got in, there was a blue moon.  Grace and I stayed at the 17hundred90 Inn, which is rumored to be haunted and a block away from a historic cemetery.  We didn’t experience anything creepy, but after hearing all those ghost stories I did wake up in the middle of the night super freaked out and scared to even peek out from the covers.  Grace laughed at me the next day, but I was seriously scared (of nothing)!

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savannah 11The next day, Grace and I walked all over the historic district and then made our way over to the family style soul food restaurant Ms. Wilke’s.  The wait in line was well worth it and we gorged on all things fried, stewed and covered in cheese.  We walked it all off though, through Forsyth Park and all the other little squares in the area.  I really wanted to collect some spanish moss to bring home, but our haunted pub crawl guide Brittany told us the moss was full of chiggers.

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Photo Aug 21, 9 03 33 PMGrace was nice enough to help me snap some photos of my new-ish dress, which was perfect for the hot and humid Savannah weather.  This dress is as close as I’ll ever get to the ridiculous mullet trend that just needs to die.  Proper in the front, party in the back!  My new birthday shades from B were a perfect match.

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sunnies: knockaround – dress: anthropologie (on sale now!) – bag: h&m – shoes: madewell

Pura Vida – A bit more from our trip

It’s been weeks since we got back, but I’m just now getting through the photos from B’s camera.  So a few more bits:

1) Vulcan Arenal — We took the usual touristy “Lava Flow Hike” through the rainforest and saw a lot of rocks.  We ended that hike with a seriously luxurious honey-moon like soak at the Tabacon Hot Springs (no pictures, we were busy being amazed by the pools)

Vulcan Arenal

Vulcan Arenal Hike

2) Monteverde — B and I took the Jeep-Boat-Jeep transport (no actual Jeeps) from La Fortuna to Monteverde. The transport itself was ok, but we got stuck with a family of 13 from San Diego who were jaw dropingly annoying, horrible and ridiculous.  They were those types of travelers who packed 2 large suitcases each (you really only need a backpack), are loud, obnoxious and treated the drivers like crap, and worst of all, threw things and yelled at the sloth we saw in a tree to try and get it to move.  I wanted to throttle them.  B and I shared a coconut and tried to ignore them for most part.

Jeep-Boat-Jeep ride to Monte Verde


The cloud forest was pretty awesome – it made me feel like I was in a San Francisco park (Mt. Sutro open space reserve or Mt. Davidson) with all the fog.  In the town of Monteverde, we also wasted some time and money taking a coffee and chocolate tour.

Monte Verde Reserve

Monte Verde Cloud Forest


Monte Verde Coffee tour

3) Playa Samara — A gorgeous quaint beach town and completely worth it.  B and I stayed there for 4 days, 2 days too long.  We got bored and we got burned.  We went surfing one day (I’m ready for bigger waves and a smaller board!) and the snorkeling the next.  The last two days we just sat on the beach and read (and were bored).  We saw iguanas munching away in trees, ate at an expensive but seriously good steak house, and followed one of the three wild horses on the beach.

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Playa Samara

Wild Horse Playa Samara

Playa Samara


4) San Jose — We spent our last night in San Jose which was a huge, huge mistake.  We were nervous about getting to the airport in time if we left from Playa Samara, so we decided to check out the capital city before we left.  We had a horrible experience at the hostel we were at (Hostel Pangea – do not recommend), and the most expensive ($80!) but completely inedible meal at La Estancia Argentina.  Our one day in San Jose completely soured the end of our otherwise great trip.  Boo.

the San Jose skyline


The first half of summer…the best bits

I woke up this morning (as in… noon.  It’s SUMMER and I can sleep in like a sloth if I want) to a string of notifications from WordPress about new followers – 5 new readers!  It’s summer (as if we all need a reminder) so I’ve been seriously lazying it up these past couple of weeks.  My lack of productivity is getting to the point of embarrassment, so I figured I needed to kick myself in the butt to start getting some things done.  Only fun stuff though, I haven’t hit boredom rock bottom quite yet.  First up, a revisit to the world of blogging:  to get my brain somewhat moving again and to spew my life out onto the interwebs.  Next up, a short backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, a road trip to Savannah with fellow teacher Grace and learning a bit of code with help from CodeAcadamy/Treehouse/Codeschool and B.  By the time that’s all done, it will be time to put my sloth-ish tendencies on the back burner and gear up for the new school year (and back to teacher outfits).

As proof that teachers do indeed have lives outside of the classroom (and for some internal validation that I haven’t completely disappeared into the couch with the Game of Thrones books), here are a few highlights of the summer thus far.

1) A pair of Aussie visitors, aka B’s mom (also a teacher!) and Peter!  They came all the way out to Brooklyn just to hang with us for a week.  They were fresh off a vintage Bentley car rally through the west coast and Montana (for real) and flew over to the east coast on their way back home to Perth.  We took them on a modified tour of NYC (they’ve seen it all before) and spent a lot of time just chatting it up.  I loved them and it was especially cool to hear B’s mom talk about teaching in Perth.  B had the job of deflecting all comments/hints about marriage or grandchildren.

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Jenny and Peter

2) The real vacation, aka Costa Rica – B and I shelled out the big bucks for a trip to Costa Rica.  11 days, three towns and a lot of advice from Lonley Planet took us hiking, white water rafting, surfing, ziplining and left us with sunburns.  Totally worth it, even with the sting of the high prices.

CR hiking

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CR class 3-4 rafting

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beach front seats

Ticos surf school

crabby fights

cloudy forrest

3) auntie time in Washington DC

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4) getting crafty to fill my empty hours

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JoJo Rei love

I took a quick jaunt down to DC this weekend to meet my new niece Josephine (JoJo) Rei.  She is just 3 weeks old right now and pretty much a feeding – pooping – sleeping machine, albeit a cute one in a bear outfit.  I was chomping at the bit to see her and cuddle her, so the 4 hour bus ride was worth it.  Also, it’s been 6 months since I’ve seen my mom, and she had salted pork jook (congee) waiting for me.  Bonus!

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Crew Camping

As some of you may already know, I spent all of last week on a camping/backpacking trip with my crew.  That’s right, 5 whole days with 12 teenagers.  Our school is an Expeditionary Learning network school (we are not a charter school, though I think a few others are), and we are also an NYC Outward Bound school.  These are two overlapping programs here in NYC that are pretty intertwined, one setting the tone for curriculum and management of the school while the other offers outdoor opportunities to help develop character in our students.  This week-long camping trip to Sharpe Reservation (part of the Fresh Air Fund) is taken by all 9th graders with their crews (their homeroom for the next 4 years) and focuses on outdoors skills, leadership, communication and teamwork simultaneously.

New York couldn’t have been any more gorgeous for our trip.  In 5 days, my crew and I backpacked for 2 nights (in the rain), completed 2 high ropes elements, 3 low ropes elements and hiked about 6 miles.  In between, we sang songs, played games, settled differences, mediated drama (teenage hormones), learned how to properly poop out in the woods, laughed and cried (me – once, out of frustration).  We couldn’t have done it all without our two incredibly patient guides, Bill and Julia.  I owe them my gratitude for keeping me sane.  I love the outdoors/camping and I love my crew.  Those are two things that were completely mutually exclusive for me…’til last week. I survived!

Check out the Outward Bound blog for more on our trip and for photos with student faces.

Cold Weather Frolicking

New York is finally cooling down to weather I know and am comfortable with:  mid 50s and drizzly.  San Francisco weather!!!!!  It’s an insane switch – within 24 hours, it cooled down by about 20 degrees.  I never talked this much about the weather in SF –there was nothing to say.  Now I can’t help it but turn into a small talk machine and discuss the weather with everyone.

thermal and jeans: f21 – raincoat: anthropologie (seen here) – boots: boutique 9 (the cooper boot, also seen on this blog, a new favorite/SF girl blog!)- bag: freitag – mom’s coat: h&m – kris’s coat: urban outfitters (seen here)

My mom and sister Kris are in town for the long weekend, so I dressed them in my winter coats, dug out from storage underneath the bed.  My mom braided my hair like the old days of being a kid and we toured the rich nice parts of Manhattan.  We walked up 5th Ave, ogled the ridiculously reasonably expensive clothes at Barneys and admired the incredibly creative and mechanical visual displays.  After a stroll through Central Park, we played with Kris’s new iPhone 5 panorama feature and tricked it into including us 3 times within the same photo.  There was a lot of running in circles around the photog and curious stares from other tourists.  By the way, that’s my future niece in that uterus.  I’m going to be “cool auntie Erika”.  Yup.

Swimming shoes!!

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1. My grandmother (Popo)’s name plaque.

2. & 3. The prayer table with gold and silver for her afterlife.

4. My little cousin Sam.

5. Cousins.

6. Big Aunt and her blonde grandson.

7. Mommy and Second Aunt.

8. Cousin and his family.

9. Life is good when you wake up to a box full of pho being put together for your breakfast.

10. More cousin hang outs.

11. The best boba milk tea I have ever had.

12. & 13.  Uncle’s corgi.  He’s a special little piggy.

I’m heading back to NYC tonight on the red eye.  My family is growing — 3 of my 7 cousins have 2 kids each now, all within the past 3 years.  It was great seeing everybody in one place, but sad considering the reason why.

weekend snaps

B and I took the bus down to Washington DC (4 hours!) for the weekend to visit my sister Kris and her hubby Dave.  We were blindsided by a freak storm friday night, just after we arrived.  The storm and it’s 80 mph wind gusts knocked out power to Kris and Dave’s house, felled a tree into their backyard, and freaked us me all out.  They just got their power restored (a full 3 days later).  So we were stuck all weekend with no AC, 100˚ plus heat, cancelled plans and a fridge full of slowly rotting food.

All wasn’t lost though, we busted out the camp stove to cook, cuddled with the doggies and played candlelight Scrabble.  We also attended the Japan Embassy’s annual BBQ at the Ambassador’s residence where we stuffed our faces, melted in the heat and hobnobbed with various DC peeps.

The weekend snaps: 1)  somehow (and it’s happening more often than I’d like lately), B and I managed to dress independently and still end up looking like twins  2) downed tree, hot sad pups, Scrabble by candlelight (I got 4th place!)  3) Embassy of Japan judo and martial arts entertainment, yummy food 4) me and B trying not to look like total sweaty messes in 100˚ heat 5) Kris and Dave, at the Pig 6) feeding my caffeine addiction on the way home to Brooklyn from the Bolt Bus drop off