Thursday, July 24, 2014

For the record

"We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It's easy. They all count. But there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These can be the most important people in your life, and you'll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years. But there's one more tier to all this; there is always one person you love who becomes that definition.

It usually happens retrospectively, but it happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly set the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of these lovable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they're often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really, want to love someone. But that person will wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else."
-Instagram of a past love.

You win. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why I CAN have nice things now.

I never thought I would enjoy being alone. But I so do.

Maybe it's a sign of getting older, or maybe it's just how life goes when you get more of a sense of self. Maybe this whole time I've been a closet introvert. I really don't know how it happened, but I'm so happy and relieved to do things alone lately that I surprise myself.  

I have mixed feelings about the fact that, most of my life I've had a boyfriend. Like, ever since I started dating. Looking back, none of them worked out and I was always happiest when I was single. It's hard to remain single. I've concluded that it must be because girls are the most attractive when they are content and passionate about life. Men are drawn to confident, ambitious women. I'm not saying that women in relationships aren't-I know many strong and wonderful women whom are blooming with great men by their sides. I'm just not one of them, and sadly I don't think I ever have been. I think I've shared an excerpt from this uber-depressing single Christian women's book once about two types of women. One type would rather use paper plates and plastic forks at home than nice china because they are waiting to find husbands to buy nice things and make a home with. The other type buys nice things even if they are alone, just for the sake of enjoying nice things themselves. Hell, they might even throw it down for a house on their own. Anyways...I've decided I can have nice things. 

And I think after over a decade of dating, I now feel nothing but overwhelmingly free. Just, completely free and whole. I don't need another half after all, and I'm not missing any pieces. It's liberating when  you suddenly realize you don't WANT to date. I only want play dates. And not that type of playdate either, you pervs. I also love my old/new friends but I don't need to be with them all the time either! It's unreal. Well, if you know me that is.

My mother is worried that I must have given up on life and taken to the bars, but no mother. I'm fine! I only drink a lot because there are so many cool places to drink near me, I have such great company, and Oregon beer is the BEST. I'm better than fine. I LOVE my job and feel tremendously lucky and grateful every day to be working in a community of other energetic, adventurous young folks that believe in connecting people as they explore the world. I can't believe my deepest fear is directly countered by my work slogan-BELONG ANYWHERE. I refuse to comment on the new logo.

So what HAVE I been doing? Well, I'm planning a long, single backpacking journey to South America later this year. I started volunteering at a homeless cafe. I got a new phone and with it, and phone contract (haven't committed to one for the last 5 years). I helped design and create a creative temp space room at work. Planning a getaway to Hawaii this fall. Facials. Went to another Timbers game. Taking up every opportunity to go on hikes and breweries. Went camping to remind myself I don't actually like camping. Trying really hard to go to the gym regularly and keeping an eye out for alternative fitness programs. Shopping for pretty clothes and shoes I like. I found a spanish school so I can start taking lessons again soon! Who knows, maybe I'll get a canvas and even start painting again. All these things make my soul happy.

I don't know where the journey will go, but I know where it begins.

PS. If any of you have responded to a post earlier last week about an offer by my work, don't worry! It was postponed but it will roll out this upcoming week. :)

PPS. Don't forget Brewfest this week!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Avocados, Portland, and lost love.

I don't really know where to start here, I guess I can start anywhere. At times when I'm feeling down, I draw myself to tears of frustration from trying to find words to understand my emotions. It's been a long time since the last time I felt this way. I find it hard to justify feeling sad, when I have so many blessings in my life.almost feel guilty for not being happy constantly, because honestly I truly lead a wonderful life.

But we have to remember to be kind to ourselves, and even more importantly, to just BE ourselves-whether we're in good form or not.

Writers write best when they are sad anyways, me thinks.

I am sad because I am heartbroken again. And although it is not a new feeling, it always hurts more than I remembered, and cuts deeper than I realize. I love avocados. My heart is like an avocado, scooped out and smashed into glop, left in a glass bowl for people to smear on their bagels every morning at work. Wait, no..but those avocados are so good.

Somehow I still cannot control my ability to love and to hope. I can't believe I still believe in love. Even though I am a bit crazy, selfish and traumatized, I have faith that God still has the perfect man out there for me somewhere. Maybe He's still waiting for me to learn how to master the art of patience, which I dread may be inherit in my character (impatience), and become the ruin to any forever-type of relationships.

For now at least I can sulk on my futon bed, because I don't deserve a king sized bed because I am 26 and alone. To be fair, people have survived worse things in life.


Switching gears, we checked off tons of Oregonian To Do's during his visit. I was so happy to host and finally show him my hometown as I've been rediscovering it myself. There is something magical about watching someone experience a city you love, for the first time. We've talked about it for so long, and I've been to Ireland three times, so it was due time for Cormac to journey to Portlandia.

Morning hike up to see the Rose Garden 

Finding amazing brunch spots! 

Biking around and enjoying downtown Portland (bikes not shown)

Saturday Market, Rose Festival, Meet the Fleet 

 Cormac capturing this priceless moment with my chipmunk pal 
Hiking up Angel's Rest and stopping by Multnomah Falls 

Having our fill of epic brunches, smiles included

 Stayed in a cabin in the woods with alpacas! 

Had a campfire and made s'mores <3 <3 

I'm out of words for now, and I feel much better. No matter how bad today may have been, tomorrow may be the best day of your life-so just get through.

xoxo Kalong

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Portland Love Affair

I never knew growing up native in NE Portland would some day make me a commodity in my own city. When I was overseas I got asked where I was from all the time. Now I'm back home and people STILL ask me where I'm from. And then when I say HERE, they go, 'Wow. A real Portlandian!' When did this happen?! Whatever, I'll take it.

Since I've been back in town, life has been more interesting than I remembered leaving it. I've never lived downtown before cause my parents were here, but since they aren't anymore I had the perfect excuse to find a lovely 1920's flat in NW, complete with a clawfoot bathtub and two roommates. It takes me about 20 mins every morning to stroll past parks and awakening boutiques to arrive at work. I adore my walks to work. Cyclists whiz by, guys with mustaches, cropped skinny jeans and messenger bags walk past, and homeless people wish me good mornings and compliment my hair. I mentally window shop as I pass by vintage furniture shops and thank God for the beautiful weather, and my job.

The vibe and culture at Airbnb in Portland is second to none. No boring people, no boring days. It is the aura of Portland herself in her grandest displays of hospitality. Which basically means bike storage areas, microbrews in the fridge, and endless vegan, gluten-free and organic catered lunches. We sit wherever we feel like, and I get a million GIF's a day of kittens and sitcom celebrities. There's always meet ups going on outside of the office, whether it's an organized afternoon of kickball + a keg, or karaoke nights. There's a lunch-time running group, a brunch group, an outdoor yoga group, everything and anything. I've been busy, and my alcohol tolerance has grown amusingly high. My colleagues are a younger, hip crowd in our mid 20's to mid 30's with dogs (that they bring to the office) and they all have fun, random facts and passions. Sometimes I feel like I don't fit in cause I don't professionally bike race or work part time as an EMT, but then it's obvious how much I DO. Since we're all so unique, we all fit in by just being different people. Ah, the diversity is wonderful.

I'm rediscovering so many new reasons to love Portland, and it's easy because there are so many people here to show me how.

One reason? Thrift shops. One of my roommates loves going to Goodwill for house furnishings. When I first went in there I was blown away by how much cool STUFF they had for so cheap! I've always had this mentality that thrift shops were only a place to donate things. But we actually bought silverware there for $.27 each piece. Think that's weird and unsanitary? So did I..until Sam pointed out that all restaurants reuse their silverware. Mind=blown. Also, there have been many times at work when I've complimented someone on their clothes and they'll tell me they got it at Goodwill or Salvation Army. And I am curious now.

Another reason? I never get bad coffee. Another reason? No such thing as a bad pint. Another? I live right across the street from Trader Joe's. Another? No sales tax. Another? The outdoors. Oh, yes.

The outdoors. After living in SE Asia and central America, every day I am happy to be breathing in clean, crisp air. I am also surrounded by trees, and trees make me happy-and so do roses, and they are blooming all over Portland as well. Actually, Washington Park is a few minutes walk from my block, and therein lies the landmark Rose Garden and plentiful hiking trails. Yesterday I went out to Sauvie Island, where I used to go U-pick fruit on weekends as a little girl with my family. Only now that we're grown ups, friends and I had mimosas all afternoon in the sand. This morning we drove along the Gorge and hiked up to Punchbowl to see some pretty waterfalls. Few weeks ago, we went out to the Oregon Coast and made a bonfire on the beach after our hair got all tangled from the relentless wind.

How's life? Excellent. How am I liking Portland? Very, very much so.

 Sunny afternoon dipping toes in the Columbia River on Sauvie Island 
 Snippet of my Instagram of typical Thursday at work :) #airbnb
 Bonfires on the coast at Rockaway Beach
 Rummaging for the goods at Goodwill! I shall return. 
 Eagle Creek Trails, heading for the Punchbowl, a popular family friendly hike. 
 The infamous postcard sign of Portland. 
My darling bathroom, still lots of touches to add! 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

IRELAND-A shot at poetry

These are some poems I wrote about my trip to Ireland, written on barf bags on the plane ride back home. I'm no poet, but here's a stab in the dark anyway!


How do I spend so much time in such bizarre places
and never speak of it? 

I used to drive down by the river and park by the landing strips alone
to sit on the hood of my car, watching the planes come and go.
At peace-to know that we can go explore, yet come home to welcoming arms
and people we love are only a flight away. 

Now, with my belt clipped in
I don't want to look out these oval windows anymore
I am filled with bittersweetness 
and uncertainty. 
Beautiful moments only exist within my heart and photographs
and home is only wherever I land next.
It's not easy to say goodbye when no one knows
what the future holds. 


The best part is when I'm waiting for my luggage
knowing the person I love 
is on the other side of the gate
eagerly waiting to kiss all the distance away.


I've always known, (or so I thought)
whether I could fall in love with a city or not
at first breath I take, and first glances I see.
Could be smitten in seconds, and swear to never leave. 

Dublin was not such a place, with it's frosty dampness and gritty cement streets. 
Oh, and that exasperating Irish accent! 
But like an acquired taste, I couldn't stop listening
and wandering around 
until it settled into my dreams, 
until it flirted with possibilities
until I wanted to call it home…could it be? 

There the fiddlers cheer up gray street corners
hot tea and warm biscuits await beside cafe windows
the country opens up to oceans, beaches, mountains and castles
so beautiful it can make this city girl cry. 
And there is a blue-eyed Irish boy waiting
there for me. 

So pour me another pint,
since all of life is just a long journey
and I'll pack my bags to see what there is to see. 
Surely there's an awful lot more for me! 

 At the top of the Sugarloaf
 Downtown Cork City!
 Coast on the way to Kinsale
 Dropping by a lil' beerfest. Red Rebel is the best! 
 Take me there-the Blarney castle <3

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life as a Past-Expat…On Returning HOME.

This one is for my friends I've met overseas whom have recently returned home, and the ones about to return home.

When you go to a new country, you allow yourself time to explore and settle into the culture and city. It's okay to stumble around and get lost, not know anyone or not know where to go to have fun. Culture shock is expected and braced for: what will the people be like? What are popular pastimes? How can I fit in?

What I've learned coming back to Portland is this: that particular grace period doesn't really exist when returning home. You should kinda automatically fit in. The life you lived abroad is foreign and irrelevant now…it's the only excuse you have for not knowing about the most famous waffle stand in town! I felt like Rip Van Wrinkle, and even that's an odd reference. Yes, I felt odd and a bit awkward. Still do sometimes.

For many expats returning home, reverse culture-shock comes as a surprise. It's hard to imagine your hometown feeling unfamiliar. And honestly at times, it's harder to adjust to living back home. I think one reason is that you come back with expectations and ideas of what life will be like, whereas when moving away, you prepare an open mind. I was lucky in that coming back to the States, I first lived in San Francisco for a few months and it was a good balance of familiarity and the unknown. I could still smile at strangers and say "Hi I'm new!" Moving back to Portland was the next step, and I found it harder to feel 'normal'. It seems like I missed out on so much, yet at the same time-nothing at all, really.

Job searching is especially interesting as a returning expat. I literally did not know where to start. With my job experience mostly irrelevant in the States (who would I teach English to?!) it was time to start from the bottom up. In Portland I applied for everything, from retail management to sales, HR and customer service (I had learned the hard way that non-profit work would have to wait). However as I reconstructed my resume and underwent multiple interviews, it became increasingly apparent to me that the skills I gained from living in different countries were very valuable in the workplace.
Flexibility, adaptability, risk-taking, overcoming challenges, assertiveness, creative problem solving, teamwork and resilience were a few. I have very solid examples to show for all of those. I didn't know it at the time, but it turns out that one of the most important life skills for our generation is getting back up after repeated failures, and refusing to give up. Work knowledge needed to fill a role can be learned, and what better person to learn it than someone who has learned completely new ways of living? I got my first job offer 3 days after arriving back home but turned it down for a better fit, and multiple opportunities have sprung up since. I am now officially hired at a very exciting and innovative company which I will announce in a different post :)

It was definitely NOT easy. I just made it out to sound that way maybe. I'm thankful I had lots of support from friends and strangers alike, encouraging me to be brave and optimistic. It's quite scary actually, and I feel very young but old at the same time. DETERMINATION was the word of my every-day. (Okay I admit some days were really overwhelming and uncertain and I cried a lot! I'm human!)

So to all my overseas friends who are returning home soon, don't you dare start to despair. You are a gem-don't limit yourself. We have way more interesting stories to tell at our interviews, so don't be shy about it. We have gone down a path very few our age have, so don't be ashamed of your lack in relevant job skills. Our LIFE skills are more relevant than you might realize.

Also, prepare a three sentence answer to the question: "Oh so you were living in ___. What was it like?" Cause after five minutes of you struggling to sum up your experiences, people's eyes glaze over. Don't be offended. I just (literally, NOW) came up with mine:
"It was amazing because I met so many great friends from all over the world. I learned how to speak Mandarin and Spanish, also loved my job teaching kindergarten at an international schools. I got to travel a lot and met my boyfriend and I'm excited for what's next!"

Be patient with your surroundings, we're the ones who've changed. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Portland-A beautiful place to clear my mind.

I have been writing less and less lately. I blame it on moving back to the States, back to where I came from, where, to me, life just isn't exotic and fascinating. Where taking public transport isn't an adventure. Food is normal food that everyone has heard of-burgers and pasta and sushi. I feel like my power to bring in new ideas, write about exciting places, and inspire people to travel…has been depleted. Maybe I feel this stronger than I did in San Francisco because I was new to that glorious sunny city. But things changed, and as of three days ago I now live in Portland, Oregon! I am living among you now (that is, if you live in Portland). Maybe you saw me at the Clackamas mall earlier today, wandering through Macy's looking for a Wells Fargo ATM (there isn't one btw).

As a native, I am happy to be back since summer of 2010. I have started my life from scratch in multiple cities around the world, and now I get to do the same thing even in my own hometown. I have mixed feelings about it, but the mostly just BLEEHHHH. It's not Portland, it's the starting over part. My family moved away two years ago to follow life-long dreams of doing charity work overseas (see where I get it from?!) leaving me with no where to return 'home'. I thank God (and Facebook!) for all the strong friendships I've miraculously maintained, because without their sincere and supportive welcome, this place would feel just as foreign as any. One thing I never feel when I'm back in Portland is LONELY, and that is enough for me to love being back.

Here, I get the sense that I've lived life backwards somehow. People have careers they seem to enjoy, own cars they've paid off, bought houses, gotten married, had kids, built homes and travel when they can. Does it make you want to kick me in the face if I admit I envy them?!? I don't care-that is just how I've been feeling lately. And I'm entitled to feelings!

Thing is, traveling and moving around all the time loses it's….charm, whatever. I used to be so excited to find a new flat, buy furniture and decor, then beam in my own space. I would love walking out on the street and listening to new languages and getting lost on transit systems, getting a new phone and the challenge and satisfaction of landing a new job. For some people it's a huge life event; to move to a new city-but I've done it before and since then I've done it again. And again. And again and now it's not fun anymore. You only love the road when you're not missin' home. If you're anyone close to my age range (twenty-sixxxxxxxxxx soon yo) your Newsfeed and Instagram are probably exploding with baby photos and engagement rings. I'm happy for my friends, I truly am. I just wonder if I'll ever get there too.

So I'm back in Portland, and I just want to be a normal person. Sorry if I am distant for the next few weeks, my mind is on autopilot (get job, get flat, get car, get phone, etc.) until I am settled. I'm determined to earn back the kind of life I once loved here. I want to work hard. I want to play with my best friends. I want to snowboard. I want to spend quality time with my little brother. I want to drive. I want to have all the nice beers I can drink. A lot has happened recently- and I just need some time, whether it be a few months or few years, to feel like I belong somewhere and to live a stable life again. My soul needs a place to rest for a while, and to have a beautiful place to clear my mind. That's all.

PS. I AM actively job seeking! If you know of any opportunities get in touch with me :) Actually, get in touch with me anyway! I want to catch up with all my dearest friends!