Saturday, December 30, 2017

Packing for Tokyo

Every time I have ever traveled to Tokyo I pull out all stops when it comes to my wardrobe. This is one of the most fashionable cities on the planet and I do not want to be mistaken for a tourist. Of course, I'm not a local either, but how about a fashionable expat at least? It is definitely true that I put more effort into thinking about how I am going to dress in Tokyo than in Portland, and I'm not alone. Many of my friends confess to me that they wear their best clothes on vacation. Short trips to other destinations provide us opportunities to temporarily live other lives, and those other lives demand other wardrobes.

For fashion trips like this I like to plan a theme. That helps me narrow my choices and helps me to make different outfits with similar clothes. This year, my Tokyo wardrobe theme is Summer Goth. Black is of course the main color, with floral accents and stripes. The challenge was to  find clothes that were model (protect me from the sun), breathable and cool (due to the heat and humidity), would show my sweat, and wouldn’t get uncomfortable after walking around in them for 12 hours. For accessories, I kept it very, very simple. Here is what I ended up with:

  • 2 pairs of leggings: lace, solid, and lace shorts
  • 2 belts: tie belt and Dior belt
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 2 tank tops
  • 3 dresses: 1 maxi and 1 short and 1 self-made
  • 3 jackets: 1 long sheer jacket, 1 short lace jacket, and 1 short sheer jacket
  • 1 necklace
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 1 ring

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Winter is coming...

Actually, winter has long been here, so I finally  got to pull out my amazing cashmere coat (thanks grandma) and scarf from Pakistan to put this colorful outfit together. 

So much of my winter style is just:
scarf x coat x bag

Underneath I'm wearing a blah shirt and pants. Easy. 

Coat: vintage via grandma
Scarf: from Pakistan
Bag: vintage Coach, from my aunt

Friday, December 22, 2017

What I Bought in LA

I rarely buy souvenirs or showcase them from other cities in the United States. For the most part, there isn’t anything really notable about what I buy in other cities, and for the most part I don’t buy anything at all on my travels. In fact, this is the first Buy Post that features a U.S. city and for a very good reason.

I never had the chance to really shop of my three previous trips to LA, but on my fourth, in which I traveled with my BFF, practically all we did was shop vintage store, thrift stores, farmers markets, and flea markets for awesome apparel and accessories. Here is my LA buy list:

Vintage handbags
Coach laptop bag (made before laptops existed) from Squaresville
Coach crossbody from the Pasadena Rosebowl

Vintage clothes
Black Lace dress from Pasadena Rosebowl
Black Dress from Pasadena Rosebowl
Blue Dress from Pasadena Rosebowl
Black shawl from Pasadena Rosebowl

Sheer Black shirt from Squaresville
Sequin Butterfly top from Squaresville

Black Normal Miller jacket from the Silver Lake Farmers Market

Woo accessories
Pentagram necklace from Spellbound Sky

Black candle (for banishing negative energy) from Spellbound Sky

Monday, December 18, 2017

The End of An Era

2017: My last cafe trip with Nylon; also pictured, my 2017 agenda, and Tote from Athens

I am writing this from a café which is both old and new to me. I was first introduced to Insomnia Coffee mere weeks after I moved to Portland in 2009. At the time, there was only one location off of Baseline road in Beaverton and I loved their ice chai so much I made the 20+ minute drive from my house every weekend. Naturally, Insomnia was the perfect setting for my ritual of reading Nylon magazine at a café. What began as a simple weekend amusement in boring Orange County, turned into an obsession over time which lead me to reading this magazine in cafes all over the world.

Alas, after a ten-year subscription to Nylon (which was transferred from Kinokuniya in Costa Mesa, California to Portland, Oregon to Oda, Japan, back to Portland, Oregon) I have decided to end my ritual. My reasons are many, and considered how long I have maintained this ritual, the extent to which it has followed me around the world (Japan, South Korea, Thailand), and how beloved it was to me, I feel I owe myself en explanation.

2015: A photo I took after moving back to Portland. Also pictured are my 2015 agenda, and Tote from Seoul. 

1. Nylon Magazine Changed
Nylon magazine changed for the worse in April of 2016. The magazine became significantly thinner, the paper became more light weight and shiny, like a cheap tabloid periodical. The back half of the magazine felt like it was made out of newsprint. The one provocative covers were replaced by close-ups of heavily made-up models. The visual aesthetic changed significantly as well. Instead of edgy contemporary styles, every model looks like she could have been pulled right out of a Nirvana concert. I don’t mean I just dislike the current season. I have had a subscription for over a decade; I have been loyal to this magazine even when the mainstream trends don’t appeal to me. I have help on through good and bad seasons. What I am seeing now is not a new season. It is a new direction for the magazine. And I dislike it. In fact, I dislike it so much that I recycled the new Nylon issues, something shocking considered how well-preserved my collection is from 2005 and on. 

Left: last issue of good Nylon; Right: first issue of bad Nylon. See the difference? 

2. Insomnia Café Changed
After building a new location 10 minutes further on Amberbrook Road, I began frequenting that store. It was great for a while. I also got a good seat. Customers where quiet and courteous, but the neighborhood has grown considerably in the last few years, and last few times I went there were not positive. It has now become so crowded that it is nearly impossible to find an open seat at any time during the weekend. This has become the de facto hangout for high school sports teams, coming in ground of ten or fifteen at once. Parents have started taking their tiny children there; not just one or two, but I once saw a father drag in a wheelbarrow of six toddlers. Barista have taken to playing 90s hits like the Backstreet Boys. It is no longer a place where I can read my magazine in peace. It does not create the ambiance I prefer.

Nylons from all over the world, read in cafes all over the world

3. I Changed
I made several lifestyle changes recently which seem incompatible with this ritual. First, I am no longer eating or drinking sugar. This means I cannot order my once favorite Iced Chai Latte, and if I can’t order that, there is no point going to Insomnia because I can get much better lattes in cafes closer to my home in Portland. Second, I no longer find joy in the long drive to the café, preferring instead to walk 30-40 minutes to cafes in SE Portland. Walking is healthier as well. Third, I am no longer reading fashion magazines. I realize now that one of the biggest contributors to my poor self-esteem and self-image is the fact that I have been constantly reading fashion magazines which, insist on showing me nothing but bone-thin beauty. I will never look like these women, so why should I keep looking at them. From now on, I will seek out new fashion ideas from bloggers who not only share my aesthetic, but also my body type.

My tradition of reading Nylon at cafes brought me much joy and stability for many years. I am a creature of habit, but this habit has seen its last days. I celebrate the end of an era at Insomnia’s newest location in downtown Hillsboro, where I have come for the first and last time.

Goodbye Nylon.
Goodbye Insomnia.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Reflections on My SE Asia Diary

from a cafe in Kuala Lumpur
In 6 months in SE Asia, I was determined to write every single day.
No exceptions. I didn’t realize how ambitious my goal was until I began the trip. Finding time to write was not the biggest challenge. There was plenty of time on buses, trains, waiting for flights, and at the end of a long day on the bed of my hotel room. After all, I didn’t work. I wasn’t studying. Time was all I had.

But it was so incredibly difficult to write.


Because I didn’t know what to say. I would sit in front of my laptop and completely blank. It wasn’t a matter of writing for the public, it was about writing for myself. I always hoped to have something thoughtful  and profound, but many days nothing would inspire me.

Still, I know it would be a great waste if I didn’t keep a consistent diary abroad, so I decided to change my tactic. Instead of sitting down to write a “diary” entry, I began intervening myself.

“Describe where you are,” was the first prompt. I as not in the same place every day. Even when I was, the place was always different with new people, new music, new conversations, and new sunlight. It was never the same place as the day before.

At first this seemed tedious. After all, I can just takes pictures of the place and have a visual record that will last longer than memory. But the camera cannot hear, cannot smell, cannot feel. My descriptions are more valuable than my photos because my own experiences inform them.

In Vietnam I wrote that the winter sky was the “Hanoi sky was a sunless grey, the color of a pearl, the color of the inside of an oyster shell.”

In Malaysia I wrote that Penang’s sudden rain showers “sounded like a burst of applause from an eager audience.” I wrote that the low cloud of Kuching “seemed to drop on the city like a theater curtain.”

After descriptions, the next prompt I would give myself was this: “Tell me how you feel.” I wrote in my diary, “forgetting starts when the feeling stops.”

Thinking about, and then writing out my feelings at that precise moment was a way of bringing myself into the present. First I built awareness of my surroundings in the descriptions, then I built awareness of myself. The feelings did not need to be profound, sometimes – oftentimes – they were just rants of any present frustrations.

I am always too hot, too tired, or too busy to connect with my feelings.
Distraction. Stimulation. Disorientation,” I wrote from Bali, on the fifth day or travel

“I don’t think I am a failed traveler just because I'm getting melancholy on this trip. Just like I wasn’t a failed ex-pat when I got melancholy in Japan. Perhaps my only real mistake is that I didn’t expect this,” I wrote from a café in Bangkok.

This approaches work, and with the exception of only a few days, I was able to write every something every single day in Asia. Now that I’ve covered the qualitative analysis of my writing pattern in Asia, I would also like to look at some metrics. Here are some curious statistics I’ve uncovered:

Total number of words: 103,173

Average entry: 819 words

Longest entry:
11/27 Chiang Mai, Thailand  at 2,406 words
That day I wrote 3 times, beginning just after midnight at 12:03am, then again from a café at 1:10pm, and from another café 9:07pm. It was a big long philosophical rant about my life.

11/2 Yangon, Myanmar 2,255 words
The second runner up was in Yangon, where I dictated my descriptions from the train into my iphone. The train was far too shaky for me to write, so I spoke my diary entry into my phone and transcribed them into my diary while on a boat in another part of Myanmar.

Shortest entry:
10/23 Hua Hin, Thailand at 65 words

I had a small breakdown in Hua Hin, where I felt the most depressed and miserable I had since the trip started – and I wasn’t even a month into it!

The entry in its entirety:

“On a short vacation, I can reflect on what I experienced once I go home. But here, moving from place to place, I am tired.  I can’t reflect on the last place because I am trying to absorb the current place.
As my mom would say,
‘Put the roast in the oven, lite a cigarette and stare at the sink.’
That’s how I feel now. “

I wrote the most in border crossings from Thailand to Laos – specifically Chiang Rai (1518) and Houay Xai (1211). In both cases, I was only in each place for one day waiting for the next mode of transportation to take me to my next place.

A close runner up was again Yangon,  Myanmar where I wrote an average of 1,052 words per day. That city inspired me so much, I never had a shortage of things to say about it.

I wrote the least in Jahor Bahru, another border crossing taking me from Singapore into Malaysia. I wrote precisely 0 words in Jahor Bahu and I remember detesting it and being eager to get out.

As close runner up was the city of Mandalay in Myanmar, where I wrote only 221 words per day because I got sick and felt depressed. 

Honestly, when I analyzed these statistics they surprised me. I had thought expected Chaing Mai to be the place I wrote the most per day since I returned there for a month at the end of my trip for the express purpose of writing. I was also surprised by the average length of my entries. Apparently I did have a lot to say about my surrounding and my feelings. In memory, my diary was just a long ramble of useless thoughts and observations, but when I went to re-read it, two years after travel, I was struck by its poignancy and specificity. Most of the entries read like a narrative, shifting between external and internal observations.

This diary has been pure gold to me. It my favorite and most valuable souvenir. It’s depth and breadth far outweigh anything captured by my photographs or other archiving techniques.

Food Cart Days

Casual day grabbing lunch at the food carts with my family. I dressed up a very casual summer outfit with my white Mansur Gavriel bucket bag...