Back to School Ramblings

IMG_3526It’s the first weekend since classes have started… and this semester is looking to be pretty great 😀 I had the best winter break anyone could’ve asked for – three weeks filled with lots of rest, good food, time with my parents and time to myself. I fell in love with Taiwan and experienced the joys of discovering/exploring a new country in addition to being reunited with my mom and dad and feeling at home right away. For three whole weeks, I was truly on vacation mode and it wasn’t really until I got on the plane back when I realized school was about to start in a few days, and the typical back-to-school questions started creeping into my head…what classes am I taking and am I ready for whatever Cornell will throw at me this year etc. Spending the weekend in NYC before coming up to Ithaca gave me time to meet up with a few of my really close friends who had graduated and are now working in the city. The question, “How do you feel about the upcoming semester?” inevitably came up in our conversations. Catching up, hearing about how they had been for the last half of the year, sharing with each other what we were thinking and looking forward to for the next few months really helped me put everything into perspective. It was such a treat to hang out with my brother and chat with these friends whose relationships and pieces of advice I value and treasure so so much. I didn’t finalize my schedule/ course load until right before I got onto the bus. The storm of activity and uncertainty clouding my mind gradually settled with every meal and conversation during that weekend, and cleared as I sat on the bus, peacefully staring out the window, watching the blur of city buildings whiz past blend into the vast, blanket of white snow and bald, spiny trees of upstate New York.

Five days in and I can confidently say that it feels good to be back and I am SO EXCITED for this semester! This is my last semester before the big senior year. All the more reason to embrace everything Cornell has to offer and enjoy the student life! This semester is different because for the first time, more than half of my classes are outside of my Hotel major. I’m enrolled in Hospitality Facilities Management (required Hotel course), Consumer Behavior (Hotel marketing elective), Intro to Environmental Psychology (“Human Environmental Relations”, through Cornell’s Design and Environmental Analysis department), Social Psychology, and Stats II. I’ve only had one lecture for each class so far but I love them all so far! The readings and lecture touched on interesting topics and I’ve learned insightful things about human behavior from their interaction in both a physical and social setting such as:

(“DID YOU KNOW??” hahaa)
– Social psychologist McCracken actually sought out to study and define “homeyness” – what makes a home feel like a home, how does a homey home build or break down the family dynamic, homeyness and it’s contribution to individual development of identity.
– Marketers (and anyone, really) should care about consumer behavior and not only focus on the immediate phases before and after purchase, but recognize direct and indirect opportunities to influence people’s decisions
– Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac – people who feel powerful are more likely to engage in aggressive, sexual behavior – and also increases the person’s likelihood to judge others more harshly for committing unethical acts whilst being blind to their own immoral conduct

squirrel_on_grassLots of reading, one major group research project for marketing and weekly Stats homework…(I can already imagine my future self reading this post and shaking my head at the present-bright-eyed-bushy-tailed me) it’s going to be fun and I’m not being sarcastic, I swear!

So thankful for the hilarious and awesome sisters I get to live with and all the friends at Cornell running this race with me. One perk of having all Hotel classes in one building and a small major is that you are always bumping into people you know. My apartment building is also saturated with friends so there’s never a lonely moment unless you want solitude. The first week back was socially overwhelming, but I really mean that in the best way possible. It was great to see so many familiar faces and hear about how everyone’s break was.

One of my goals this semester is to enjoy every moment – I know it sounds terribly cliche but after being in Cornell for two and a half years, I have a better understanding of what makes the difference between having good and bad semesters. Besides picking classes I’m genuinely interested in, I am so stoked to spend time with my friends and Christian fellowship! Serving in a business/professional development-interest club called Cornell Undergraduate Asia Business Society and Chinese Bible Study’s worship band has been a blessing because I feel continually encouraged and inspired by people in these communities. They teach me so much about myself and I hope to be able to really savor all the times we spend, be it memorable or mundane. Everyone I meet at Cornell is very driven and motivated to pursue whatever they are passionate about. I love learning about what people like to do and seeing their determination materialize into worthy work. I got to attend the church I joined last summer right before coming back to Cornell and the pastor’s sermon on the importance of a Sabbath was an apt reminder for me to “live” this semester  meaningfully as well as spend time in reflection and thanksgiving! An interesting comment he made was that God wants us to “work from rest, not rest from work”. God took a Sabbath after he created the heavens and earth, day and night, etc. Genesis 2:3 says “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” I learned that both work and Sabbath are God’s gifts to us. We were created for work, to work for His glory with everything that can only be His blessings to us, thus glorifying him with our work. Taking a Sabbath means resting and reenergizing ourselves by enjoying God’s awesomeness, thinking about our relationship with God and dedicating the day to just pray and worship God in the little things! It’s pretty sweet!

And in the same vein of this blog post’s random, rambling ramblyness, I’ll end with food picures! Here’s a saliva-inducing picture of oh-so-beautiful brie oozing out of my cranberry-turkey sandwich! Boom.



The New Yorker Magazine, Jan 2015 Issue article on Ebola: “When The Fever Breaks”

I got back to Cornell yesterday. Anyone who has traveled with me before will know that falling asleep on a moving vehicle is something I’m very good at doing. No matter how long or short the ride is, sitting in the passenger seat soon becomes nap time, (feeding my mom’s persistent fear of me missing my stop) but for which I’m usually very thankful for because the trip from NYC to Cornell is so darn long. However, I am trying my hardest to overcome jet lag as quickly as possible, so it was very important that I adjusted to normal sleeping times and stayed awake on the bus ride up to Ithaca. What helped was that I had a copy of the New Yorker magazine with me! I had picked it up earlier on the weekend and started reading the first few pages filled with music, theatre, film and restaurant reviews, never skipping over a single section – it’s been a while since I read magazine editorial-style pieces and I guess I was just delighting in the intelligent and gracefully fluent writing? I ended up reading The New Yorker from cover to cover. This article, called “When The Fever Breaks”, was one of the few pieces that really struck a chord within me. To be honest, I hadn’t followed the news on the Ebola epidemic very closely during the last semester and didn’t have any idea the details on which Ebola has affected so many people in so many ways.

‘When The Fever Breaks’ describes a few cases of Ebola survivors, where they came from, what they experienced and the aftermath of surviving the horrible disease. The article also offers a glimpse of Ebola’s impact on African societies and the different local regional communities, from instilling fear and irrevocable social stigma to how many Ebola survivors’ lives are dramatically changed not only in terms of personal loss and emotional experience but also what their roles in today’s Ebola situation are. It’s a long read but if you have can, please take time to read it.

“To  propagate, some viruses take advantage of their hosts’ eating habits, others their reproductive habits, others their migratory habits. The human qualities that Ebola has most ruthlessly exploited are empathy and the impulse to assist and comfort people who are suffering…”

“…Acording to the W.H.O., an outbreak is not over until no new cases have occurred during the length of time that is twice the incubation period of the virus—forty-two days for Ebola. No one knows when that will happen in West Africa. Even when it does, the threat will persist. “The virus is not going to go away,” Montgomery, the C.D.C. team leader in Liberia, told me. “We will stop this outbreak. Person-to-person transmission will stop. But the reservoir is still out there.”

The trauma done to West African society will last for years. Thousands of survivors are already struggling to return to communities that have been inundated with public-awareness campaigns geared toward inculcating a fear of Ebola, and no one knows how many orphans the virus has left behind…”

Article: “Media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the Baga massacre: a study in contrasts”

Very informative as well as thought provoking.

(click on link above to read full article)

“Consider two tragic events that took place last week.

A small cell of Islamic terrorists attacked cartoonists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and shoppers in a Paris supermarket, killing 17 people and sparking international outcry, solidarity and support.

The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie trended globally, and world leaders took to the streets to march in support of Parisian resilience.

In northern Nigeria, meanwhile, an army of Islamic extremists razed the village of Baga, killing as many as 2,000 people – mostly women and children who were unable to flee the attacks.

Later in the week, the same army – Boko Haram – introduced a horrific new weapon of war in the nearby city of Maiduguri. They strapped explosives to the body of a ten year old girland sent her into the city’s main poultry market. The girl was stopped by guards and a metal detector at the market’s entrance, but the bomb detonated and killed at least 19.”

ONE DAY IN HUALIEN (part 2) | Incredible, breathtaking, stunning Taroko Gorge and Taroko National Park

(continued from my last blog post)

Magnificent, awe-inspiring mountains. There are plenty of gorges in Ithaca and we even have a few on Cornell’s campus. The Taroko Gorge is way bigger, and the forces of the river currents push downwards so this gorge will continue to deepen throughout the years. I loved that there is a lot of greenery on the marble mountains – something I think makes Taroko very Asian-looking; unique to the mountains you see in North American national parks like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon.

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There were many suspension bridges, walking trails and tunnels, waterfalls and temples within the park. As you can see, the scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful…the scale of it all is unreal, indescribable.

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ONE DAY IN HUALIEN (part 1) | Incredible, breathtaking, stunning Taroko Gorge and Taroko National Park

One day in Hualien.

Oh, where do I begin? Taroko (tai ru ge in Chinese) is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.

Hualien county is on the east coast of Taiwan. Lots of mountains, water and a fantastic gorge. A quick Google search and skim through Wikipedia tells me that Hualien county is about “4,628.57 km2 and occupies one eight of Taiwan total area yet despite its vast area, only 7% of the county area occupied by people. The remaining area is occupied by rivers (7%) and mountains (87%).” (Wikipedia, ‘Hualien County’) This is a place I hope to be able to come back many more times in my life.

Our grand adventure began with a ticket on the Taiwan Railway to Hualien (the ride is only 2 hours on the Puyuma train!). In true backpacker style, we carried nothing more than a few days worth of clothes and some Taiwanese jujube fruit (pronounced mi zao, deliciously sweet, juicy and crispy) as snacks. No prior reservations made – we were travelling after New Years Day after all, and the public-holiday vacationer crowd would’ve died down. We stayed in a hotel near the train station and set out around 8:30am the following morning for Taroko with a cab driver to take us to the different sights in the national park for the whole day. We were blessed with the best weather of Taiwan’s winter!

I tried my best to capture my favorite moments.

On the drive from Hualien city to the entrance of Taroko National Park, there was this vast field of wildflowers growing on the side of the road. It was so so pretty, a moment made all the more magical by the fact that the flowers were just by the roadside. Oh, Taiwan, you beauty.  We got out of the car and soaked in the sight for a good ten minutes. As we drove away, I wondered how many massive tour buses had passed this stunning miniature meadow.IMG_6036

The Cingshui Cliffs, ocean cliffs that were formed by a geological fault between coastal areas Heping and Chongde, along Cingshui mountain. Ahh, the view truly takes your breath away. The water is so clear and BLUE. Varying light shades cobalt blue waves are sandwiched between the coastline and fluffy marshmallows in the vast blue sky, framed by the massive, sloping, mountain of marble. This is God’s creation!

IMG_6064 Our first pit stop in Taroko National Park.


IMG_6086Walking inside the Swallow Grotto tunnel. I love the blend of swirling blue river waters and high contrasting layers on the marble slab, with small pockets of shrubs poking out in the former homes of swallow birds.


Wufenpu 五分埔 Wholesale Clothing Shopping Area

IMG_2135Welcome to Wufenpu, shopping paradise for young girls who love inexpensive, trendy clothing and the thrill of finding a great deal. Wufenpu is Taipei’s “largest garment wholesale area”.

Just a few minutes walk from Houshanpi MRT station, there are well over a hundred stores in this area. I had heard about this place from my friends before arriving in Taiwan and was excited because I didn’t know what to expect. The best comparisons I can think of would be street markets in Bangkok selling cheap girly clothes or the shopping “lanes” near Central HK MTR station that sell scarves, tights, hair accessories, etc…multiplied by 50 times! IMG_2136

The shops in Wufenpu can range from being large, open rooms stocked with all the trendiest outfit pieces (like in this picture shown) or smaller shops only specializing in one item category, like printed socks and tights. However, all of them share one characteristic: wholesale selling. The shopkeeper will inform you that the buckets/piles of clothes featured outside the store front are reserved for wholesale buyers, so if you are just shopping with yourself and some girlfriends, you can only browse through the hanging clothes on racks. This is actually a blessing in disguise because the sheer amount of clothing to sift through is overwhelming! I was personally thankful that this was one way of ‘narrowing’ my search, albeit the fact that the amount of clothes “available” was still way out of my physical ability to properly and systematically sort through. I resorted to focusing my attention on only the sales racks outside the storefront, within a specific budget. Because the supply of clothing are largely reserved for wholesale buyers, the pieces on the racks are in a way, one of a kind – there’s only one version of that clothing item. I’m guessing that the pieces are extras leftover from a bulk order or a factory outlet sample. Clothing is very reasonably priced.

Most of the fun comes from “the search” for a good bargain! I’m not a huge fan of branded goods, I admire girls who pull off the cool, trendy Asian street style and I love browsing when I’m in the occasional shopping mood so I had a really good time here. I saw that a lot of the clothing had Korean and Japanese labels. Even if you’re not interested in buying anything, Wufenpu makes for “something to do” in Taipei merely for an interesting walk. I assure you’ll have a couple of good laughs at some of the ridiculous “fashions” and cute/funny misspellings on clothing, inevitably to be found in an Asian market. Shopping is mostly suited for young girls.

I have no idea how anyone can possibly cover the entire market! I think I walked around a quarter of it before I was ready to head home. I am very satisfied with my purchases: long, suede-y unstructured jacket and ombre sweater! 🙂 Both were less than $10USD each. I think a LOT of retailers get their supplies from Wufenpu, which is to say most of the clothing you find in boutiques or department stores in Taipei city have been marked-up significantly. IMG_2315 IMG_2316

Let’s go to Maokong 貓空

Another day trip exploring Taiwan’s stunning attractions. Maokong 貓空 will win over your heart easily. Maokong is located on Getou Mountain in Taipei’s Wenshan District and can be reached via an MRT ride to the Taipei Zoo and a lovely gondola/cable car ride from the station. Many tourists come here because of its stunning scenery, tree plantations and traditional teahouses.

If you want to get tickets for the gondola ride seamlessly, I would suggest avoiding weekends and public holidays. Unfortunately, we weren’t so smart, so waiting in line for the cable car took about an hour versus a few minutes. Before you get to the cable cars, you’ll take several escalators up the building…brave yourself for the most Hello Kitties you’ve ever seen in your life. I guess no one loves Hello Kitty more besides the Taiwanese (except maybe Japan, because that is where she came from…) because the government sure took advantage of the mao (貓 means cat) in Maokong. Surrounded by Hello Kitty stickers, wall murals, Hello Kitty and friends life-sized dolls…even stamps and Hello Kitty notepaper for the little kiddies to take, when you finally get to the gondolas, it would be a shock if the cable cars aren’t Hello Kitty themed. (They are).


IMG_5951 For NT$50 (less than $2 USD), you can enjoy a 45 minute ride over the stunning mountain and view of Taipei city. It is really beautiful. With every dip and peak in the cable car ride, you get a different glimpse of the mountain, be it the combination of trees and textures of the forestation or the angle of the sun hitting different colored leaves. It was like I was in a Chinese painting, where the mountains are brought to life with strong sloping brush strokes, black-blue-gray clouds, and smaller, jagged flicks for the trees. We were lucky to come here on a sunny day, though I can imagine this gondola ride would be a completely different and equally mesmerizing experience on a cloudy day.IMG_5947 IMG_5949

Once you get off the cable car, there are a few things you can do to explore this mountain. We decided to grab a late lunch and came upon this restaurant with a huge window…FANTASTIC VIEW.  IMG_2207Afterwards, we walked around some tea plantations (don’t know how anyone can possibly cover all the sights because we took up a whole 2 hours just wandering around in a small section between some temple and the restaurant).

IMG_2202 IMG_2210 IMG_2211 IMG_5970 IMG_5974 IMG_5975 IMG_5977 IMG_5978 IMG_5983 IMG_5990 IMG_5991IMG_2214IMG_2217 Before you leave, try the ice cream sold in the cafe facing the gondola station. The tea flavor is really strong!