hello, seattle.

Between trips, I forget just how much I love this city. It has one of the best atmospheres of any city I’ve ever been in. Maybe it’s the smell of the rain, which is intoxicating to me. Maybe it’s that I was born there. Regardless, getting to drive up for a visit this winter was a blast.

The actual drive was hectic. The weather was not agreeable at all, but we made it through. It was my first long road trip where I actually spent a good chunk of time driving. After driving straight through Oregon to Seattle in the pouring rain, I pretty much feel like I can take on anything.

I spent a lot of the trip exploring with my aunt, Maiya. We drove, bused, and walked all over the place.

When we weren’t exploring, we were probably on campus at the UW, studying and drinking lattes.

After such a great trip, I hated to leave… but I have to say, flying home on Virgin America was awesome.

During my visit I had a wonderful portrait session with the adorable 2-year-old Erica! There will be a full post on that later, but enjoy the sneak peek, and make sure to check out the rest of the photos from my trip on my facebook page.

nihon, daisuki.

I may have already mentioned my love for Japan… but seriously. I love Japan. 14 hours was not nearly enough time there. My dad and I woke up as soon as we could and ran out of the hotel to find some food. We made our way to Ajinoya, as was recommended we do. I have to say, it was a fantastic recommendation. I ordered for the both of us (okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and onion omelet). Japanese food is my favorite, and this place was absolutely amazing. We ate way too much and then headed back to pack up our stuff and go to the airport. It was a bittersweet farewell. I was so happy to be going home, but… Japan. I love, love, love Japan. And I cannot wait to go back.

I took as many photos as I could while I was there, and a bunch of them have been uploaded to my facebook page. Check them out, and don’t forget to hit that like button!

kafei qing.

That was really the only thing I knew how to say when I arrived in Shanghai. “Coffee please.” Well, that, and, “I’m sorry, I do not speak Mandarin.”

Now, the trip to Shanghai was very comfortable — we were able to use miles to secure seats in Business class, and those lie-flat seats make all the difference on that 12 hour flight — but there’s something very disconcerting about being somewhere new and being completely illiterate. My dad has traveled enough at this point that I think he’s gotten used to being lost. I, on the other hand, have only ever been places where I had at least a slight grasp of the language and culture, or I was just too young to care about the stress of not knowing. This time was very different and I found myself pretty shell-shocked over the first couple of days. Everything was so fast-paced and completely unfamiliar, but I gradually found a way to relax and really appreciate my surroundings. Shanghai is really interesting because there’s a lot of really modern architecture mixed in with some clearly older, more dilapidated structures.

We spent a little bit of time at the Shanghai Zoo, but not a lot — it was WAY too hot!

We ate a ridiculous amount of food throughout the whole trip.

I did a lot of sight-seeing in Changzhou, Nanjing, and Shanghai.

I always find it interesting to just watch people and photograph them as they go about their business, hopefully without them noticing that I’m doing so. Maybe it’s all of the theatre stuff I’ve done, but I just can’t help but think about what their story is and try to figure out as much as I can about them before they’re out of sight.
Well, apparently in China, people were finding it interesting to watch me. In Shanghai and Nanjing, I encountered this less, but in Changzhou, people would just stare at me as I walked by. The difference being that Shanghai and Nanjing are far more accustomed to tourists than Changzhou, which is primarily businesses and families, and a lot of relatively new developments. The watchful eye of the locals was definitely off-putting at times, but never as startling as in one particular instance…

I was wandering around a park in Changzhou with my dad and his business partner, Steven, when this guy came up behind us. He said something in Chinese to Steven, who replied, and after some (completely incomprehensible) banter, Steven turned to me and said, “He wants to take your picture.” Apparently he had been following us for a bit and watching me take photos before deciding to actually approach us. Now, when he did, he didn’t actually have a camera in-hand. I assumed he would pull out a cell phone or a small camera, take a quick shot, and be on his way. Instead, he pulled that monstrous Canon out of his bag and started ushering me about the park, posing me, and taking rapid-fire shots until Steven finally told him we had to leave. For the life of me, I could not figure out his story, but I asked to take a few photos of him before we left. It was a strange moment, and definitely a story I’ll remember for a while.

All in all, the China trip was a success. Lots of memories, photos, and food was my goal, and I definitely achieved that. I wish I hadn’t been sick the entire time, but I still tried to make the best of it. Hopefully someday, I’ll make it back there, maybe when it isn’t so unbelievably warm. And maybe I’ll have expanded my vocabulary to be able to order tea as well as coffee.

The photos here are a mere fraction of the number I took during the trip. I will be uploading many more to my brand new facebook page! That’s right, now you can press a little ‘Like’ button as well as add me as a friend. Keep an eye on that page for more China photos and other updates!

hello, osaka.

Again, a very quick update. I should really be asleep, but I’m so wired right now. I haven’t been to Japan in something like 11 years and now that I’m here… wow.

I wish I could come here all the time. I knew I loved Japan, but I guess I had forgotten just how much. I desperately wish I could spend more time here. Being here is also making me miss my Japanese class even more. I’m so looking forward to that starting back up again.

Prior to the flight tomorrow, I’ll be going for okonomiyaki, which is a traditional Osaka dish. My dad has never had it before, so it should be fun to take him there. I was also heartily amused and proud that I managed to get through immigration whilst talking to the guy in Japanese. I also managed to find out where to buy tickets for the bus and get the convenience store employee to heat up my sandwich before I left. It’s extremely validating to know that I actually can use this language I have been studying so passionately for so long, and it’s just inspiring me to work harder and learn all that I can. Hopefully soon, I’ll be able to come back for a much longer trip.

I only managed to take a couple of photos before my CF card filled up — guess I forgot to clear it in Shanghai (whoops). The first was overlooking an area filled with b-boys. I’m not really sure why that spot in particular seems to be b-boy central, but it was entertaining to watch them briefly. And the second is just a little shot of our view from the hotel using a tiltshift lens.

Alright. I’m out. Oyasuminasai!

Just a quick update before I go to bed.

My grand Chinese adventure is coming to a close. I am back in Shanghai after spending a week in Changzhou and tomorrow evening, I fly to Osaka for less than 24 hours, then back to California. The trip has been quite a whirlwind. I’ve unfortunately spent a good 90% of it sick and consequently have been sneezing and coughing and gagging my way all over China. Still, I’ve managed to pack quite a lot of exploring and photo taking into the amount of time I’ve had here. It’s been amazing. I wish I had been healthier so I could have maybe appreciated it a little bit more, but nonetheless, I feel so incredibly lucky and happy that I’ve had the opportunity to do this. It has been an all around phenomenal experience and I can’t wait to write a bit more about it and share more photos. Hopefully I’ll have a chance for a small post in Osaka, as well as a larger one back in the US. Until then, good night!