CHOLA island (pt. II)

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IMG_0222IMG_0273IMG_0249CHOLA SENDS YOU PEACE

Location: Grand Palladium Bávaro Suites Resort & Spa // Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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CHOLA island (pt. I)

Ahh CHOLA.

It’s a somewhat dorky anagram of the first letter of each of our names which we made up one summer in college when we spent virtually every day together, and has stuck with us through years of friendship and life changes. (And before you say we’re racially insensitive I should disclose that it started out as HOLA, since we are welcoming of everyone we cross paths with, but it became CHOLA because we love Chris too.)

We met in Berkeley in 2011 and our travels have taken us to Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, New York, Japan (check out our adventures in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo), Miami, and now the Dominican Republic! I love seeing this list of hosting locales for our adventures expand with each year of our friendship. A big lesson in my adult life, and especially my time in Japan, has been the acceptance of impermanence and how the passing of time and change lends unquestionable beauty to life. As much as people and circumstances evolve, I know this core unit of family will always support and love one another and it is one of my greatest blessings in this life. Te quiero mucho mi familia de CHOLITOS y CHOLITA ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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[L to R: Chris, Harmeet, Lindsay, Alice, Oscar]
Berkeley, California (July 2011 – Summer of CHOLA love)
IMG_9887.jpg[L to R: Lindsay, Harmeet, Chris, Oscar, Alice]
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (December 2017)

We visited the Dominican Republic for a week in December with 4 days in the capital city, Santo Domingo, and capped it off at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana. The second part of the trip is much as I expected–the blissful relaxation offered by an all-inclusive resort in a tropical paradise felt like unfurling a sail with a gentle breeze running through your salted hair while watching a technicolor pastel sunset–even if it felt a bit too gluttonous by the end. Santo Domingo is where I was really surprised.

The Dominicans we encountered were incredibly friendly and expressive. Their dance moves are bar-none and we happily gobbled up the local specialties every day (shout out to the mofongo and pescado frito!). On our first night we ended up at a bar called Parada 77 in Zona Colonial where it happened to be ladies night and while we were waiting for our free drinks courtesy of double-X chromosomes, the DJ put on Ozuna’s El Farsantewhich is basically Latin Trap music. Every single person in that bar was out of their seats singing along and it became the anthem of our trip.

Si todavía me amas como antes 
Ya nada me parece interesante 
Yo sé que en el amor soy un farsante 
Yo sin ti no vuelvo a enamorarme bebé

While we were encouraged by several locals not to wander the streets after a certain hour as tourists, we never encountered any hostility. I was really pleased that we made the decision to visit Santo Domingo first because as lovely as the beaches were in Punta Cana, we were confined to the resort there, and the experience felt quite sanitized. I don’t think I would have gotten as much of an impression of Dominican culture if we had skipped the capital. Santo Domingo is a highly underrated, majestic city and I really hope to return to the Caribbean someday to feel the carefree rhythm of bodies busting real moves on the dance floor and have another taste of that tender sancocho.
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IMG_0095IMG_0117IMG_0107IMG_0067IMG_0073smudge on my lens and a smirk on my friend’s faceIMG_0070keep that el presidente flowin’ jefe IMG_0015IMG_0016IMG_0014


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IMG_0157.JPGIMG_0174our uber driver who serendipitously led us to the best pescado frito and johnny cakes we’ve ever had 😛IMG_0179IMG_0149IMG_0200IMG_0186IMG_0206Location: Zona Colonial, Los Tres Ojos, Meson d’Bari, Palacio Nacional, Catedral Primada de América, Playa de Boca Chica, Calle La Venezuela

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 

kindred spirit

Every now and then my wanderings around the internet cause me to stumble upon a personality that draws me in like a whisper. Nancy Zhang is a painter and fashion illustrator in Berlin whose love of coffee, fashion, books, and travel touch the marrow inside me like she could be my blood donor. I recognize that these are broad categories that many people are interested in, but her exact aesthetic and sprite-like essence reached out to touch me amidst all the internet noise. She paints strangers who strike her on the streets and in trains and weaves narratives about them, wondering about their intimate histories. She is moved by them. I want to be her friend. I’ve gone through the entirety of her blog and the realization of her intention to grow as an artist is very apparent from 2011 to the present. She develops from a cutesy whimsical style to something more geometric and careful.

Okay, I’ll stop fangirling now. You can find her art on her page: nancy-zhang.com

But I probably won’t stop daydreaming about moving to Europe and wishing I was an artist…
Jacquemus_artistic_0Mmorz_s_Wide5Nancy_Devaughn_index_s0001I have befriended kindred spirits who inspire and energize me on a few occasions. You know, the type of people whose minds and hearts you are eternally curious about. Megan Kang is one of them and really, she was a big source of inspiration for this blog as she has a natural instinct and eye for uncovering beauty. We met on the first day of a history seminar our last year in college and by happenstance encountered each other at a campus leadership event. That same evening we attended a new moon women’s circle and solidified our bond. The thing I cherish most about our friendship is that I always come away from our time spent together with greater clarity and organization to my thoughts and goals. She always challenges me to give basis to my assumptions and think critically about my motivations with a gentle hand, and I love that about her. When I stop to consider who I feel most inquisitive about, I realize that most of these individuals for me happen to be Asian women. Growing up in Salt Lake City where there were very few other people of Asian descent, I did not have very many Asian friends during my formative years. But I guess there is a certain feeling of affinity that underlies charm. The recognition that the other person is either similar to something you see in yourself (partly due to shared experience) or is a representation of what you aspire to be. I am happy whenever I stumble upon these personalities through different mediums, whether in-the-flesh encounters or leisurely perambulations in cyberspace, as it breathes life and urgency into my soul.

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

twenty six

7.7.2017

feat. Erika, Shirley, Kelly, Yusaku, Diane, Ebony, Dustin, Kei, Matt, Midori, Cynthia, Justin, and Fernando (other friends not pictured, I still love you)IMG_6955IMG_6966

I went to work on my birthday this year. I know, tiny violins can be heard in the distance–but since I have a summer birthday I am usually off school or off work because it coincides with the week of a major American holiday. That doesn’t apply in Japan so instead I am taking long weekends to Okinawa this weekend and Osaka the next. Plus I got to have lunch with some of my favorite office boss ladies 🙂

To celebrate this year, I had a tequila & gyoza-fueled party at my house. We introduced a few Japanese initiates into the wonderfully varied college drinking game known as ‘beer pong’, followed by an attempt to go dancing in Roppongi which instead ended up at a costumed karaoke-kan. I wish I had taken more photos but, you know how these things go. I always get worked up trying to say hello to everyone and just manic with happiness that I get to see friends together in one place. Party theme this year was RED and I ended the weekend with my first trip to Disney Sea which is the only one of its kind in the world.

I am so grateful for the beautiful relationships I’ve made in Japan. Community is what makes the experience of living in a place much richer. Thanks again to everyone for coming out!

xo your friend alice

Location: 蔵前 Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

(ii) just wanna be with you, hanoi

My favorite part about Hanoi was perching on balconies overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake or the ever present roar of motorbikes on the street below; drinking iced coffee with treacly condensed milk, creamy fresh milk, or decadent egg cream whilst listening to compilations of romantic French chansons or bopping along to the self-appointed DJ’s mix of S Club 7 and Eurythmics. Every single day we visited at least 2-3 cafes. Partly to grab wifi to plan our next stop or meet with our Hanoian compadres, but also just to feel the wind in our hair and sit cross-legged on plush cushions. After kicking up dust all day in Birkenstocks, working on that calf curvature, my favorite thing to do was unstrap my shoes and put my feet up whenever we stopped to drink coffee. That probably sounds really gross, but no one cared and it was so comforting and freeing to be outside of my rules-based existence in Tokyo.

In the course of 3-4 days in Hanoi we visited no less than 7 cafes: Note Cafe, Pho Co (2x because this was my favorite rooftop lookout spot), Cong Caphe (2x as this is a chain), Giang, Loading T (2x because the owner Sun was such a homie), Tranquil Books & Coffee, and Dinh Coffee. I have no regrets.

[text continued below]IMG_7724IMG_7768IMG_7804temple of literatureIMG_6390.JPGIMG_8317IMG_7772on Sunday when the street is open to pedestrians only and a festival atmosphere invades the Hoàn Kiếm District…IMG_7788life is tops at Cafe Pho Co, my personal favorite cafe…IMG_7844IMG_7840feat. my super fly manicure from Orchids SpaIMG_7873IMG_7863little girl practicing her roller blading in Lenin Park (Thong Nhat)IMG_7883.jpgVietnamese Women’s Museum [looking down]IMG_7990.jpgIMG_7969.jpgIMG_7818.jpgCaitlin was my travel partner for our 9 day trip in Vietnam. We met on move-in day for college dorms and we’ve remained good friends to this day, never letting more than a year pass before we see each other, and always in different places (so far Richmond, VA, Washington D.C., San Luis Obispo, Oakland/SF, and she visited me in Tokyo). We both have ambitious dreams and every time we reunite we treat our time together as check-ins about where we want to go next. Most importantly, I cherish the honesty in our relationship. We are both very growth-oriented and want to continuously improve and learn from our human errors and vulnerabilities. As much as friends should be cheerleaders in our lives, they should also be able to point you towards real obstacles and inspire you to overcome challenges. I love that we’ve maintained this beautiful support system and our first international trip (where we were both traveling) was definitely a friendship level up! This trip was just 5 days before her graduation from medical school. Congratulations Caitlin! I love you so much ❤

IMG_7854IMG_7737IMG_7754IMG_8350.jpgIMG_7942IMG_7939Dan Q. makes a Hanoi cameo…IMG_6561IMG_7875IMG_7994IMG_8392a night at the Hanoi Opera…IMG_7929IMG_7914IMG_7918.jpgIMG_8485IMG_7758IMG_8365.jpgwhen lovely strangers want to take a photo with you…

IMG_8343IMG_8341hello from the Long Biên BridgeIMG_8440One
You’re like a dream come true
Two
Just want to be with you
Three
Girl, it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me
And four
Repeat steps one through three
Five
Make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I’ll start back at one

‘Back at One’ by Brian McKnight is the inspiration for this blog title. It also happened to be the first dance song my brother Will and sister-in-law Priya chose for their wedding ❤

xo your friend alice

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam