Random thoughts on a 14 hours flight

 

3I have always liked turbulence on planes (writing this on the flight to SF may be jinxing it since the entire plane is shaking even harder now). It’s like you always get it when you fly over Japan. It has just the right dose of danger within comfortable range that in those few seconds, you suddenly realize that your life is only hanging by a thread. There is no guarantee that you’ll live through the next millisecond.

4Despite knowing all the statistics about how unlikely the odds are, there is still that tiny sense of uncertainty, a hint of doubt no matter how many times I fly. Just WHAT IF my plane is the one that crashes? (at least I’d have higher chances of surviving since I’m poor I get to “avoid” the most dangerous front rows of the plane) What if this is the plane where co-pilots have high power distance? (No worries, even Korean Air has fixed this for a while now, I took it just 6 months ago) What if this is the unfortunate flight where someone absentmindedly brought along a Samsung Note 7? Or the one where mechanical teams made just a bit too many little mistakes that adds up fatal? If you are reading this now, by all means, I survived J and it wouldn’t even be surprising because you know and expect flights to land safely. Yes, we all take that for granted. A gigantic machine with WINGS that carry hundreds of people, fly over tens of thousands of kilometers over the ocean, the snowy mountains and the continental plates at 40 thousands feet altitude somehow made it to the destination! HELLO? How amazingly wonderful is that? Instead of complaining about the cold bread, the lack of wifi or bad taste in flight entertainment; shall we just be grateful that we reached our destination SAFELY? This not so simple act is almost a miracle in itself! And just because something incredible happens often doesn’t make it any less magical. Don’t wait until your plane flips over and land on the Hudson River to realize that.

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So perhaps just this thought of how fragile life is, just how easy we could vanish from this world, makes me treasure every single touch down and appreciates my presence in the world (however light weighted) to a greater extent. As I picture my not so perfectly shaped heart pumping just the right amount of blood that circulates my entire body with every pulse; I feel that much more alive.

Written on the 5th flight in 2017.

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Hola Barcelona Part 2 – Catalonia Culture

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Please excuse the title which lacks in creativity but honestly, who wants to spend hours dwelling on the perfect title? Let’s just get rolling 🙂 Barcelona is such a colorful city bursting with beautiful cultures and stories, desperate to be unfolded.

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Let’s begin with my favorite story which is about love 🙂 Instead of Feb 14th, Catalans, like the Chinese, celebrates a different Valentine’s day which is Apr 23rd, St George’s day. A day where men give women roses, pretty standard procedures, and women has to return the men with a book. Yep, not a typo.IMG_3129

Once upon a time, there was a handsome young man on a white horse (duh, his name is George) who rescued a beautiful damsel in distress (argh, woman who always get themselves into trouble) by slaying a dragon on this day. So there you have it, Prince + Princess – Dragon = cliche, but no, the story doesn’t end here. As the dragon’s first drop of blood oozed out and fell to the ground, the vicious droplet transcended into a blood-red rose. George picked it and gave it to the princess and they lived happily ever after. So there we have the rose. But why a book? I don’t really think it make sense but our tour guide said it’s because Shakespeare was born and died on this very same day…erm either way, I’d love to receive a book as present in any day 😉

Religion

Christianity has always been a fundamental part of European cultures . You may notice that ancient Catalan chapels around here look quite different from how you picture a church traditionally. It is much more modest and squared; rather wide than it is tall. This is because 1) they wIMG_8184.JPGere poorer at that time, and 2) they believed these structures symbolize that God’s power is pressing down from above whilst more modern interpretation is that the taller a church rise and stretch towards the heaven, the closer we are to god.  That’s the beauty of religion; everyone can interpret it differently yet getting the same kind console from it nonetheless.

Going along with religion, let’s talk about death. The tower here is where the executioners lived in the old days and there is an interesting tale behind it. They have to live away from communities as his job is highly sensitive. He does his job IMG_8186.JPGwhile covering his face so no one actually knew who the executioner was. The bonus point about this job is: you get to keep the dead body you killed! YAY. Why? Because dead bodies are priceless back in the days. Especially the feet…creepy, but it’s because of a tradition where people keep dead people’s feet next to their door so bad spirits will walk away from their house. Hope that gave you a good visual 😉 Human bones, eyeballs and all sorts of weird parts were made for other useful charms too, well I mean back then it’s not like people can donate and transplant organs yet, so might as well put them into good use I guess?

Rituals

An interesting catalan tradition is the human tower. And it literally means, people stepping on each other’s shoulder to form a tower up to 8 storeys high! How tall is that you may ask, well check out the sculpture below.

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This practice is usually done next to the City hall or other government buildings as this signifies that when the working class unite, they can rise up as high as the Government/ upper class. This is serious business as people have died from it. Note that the person at the very top is always a young child, 7-8 years old who will climb through the adults without any safety equipment but a helmet. To me it sort of symbolizes that the kids, our future generation, has the ability to human race’s advancement and evolution. Not through pressurized, elite education system but their immense imagination and hopes that children are naturally gifted. (Yes, my dear twin bros, your sissy have high hopes for you dummies.)

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Food

I’m only good at eating, but not describing flavors, so just take a min and imagine the divinely salivating dishes by starring at below photos. Of course, there were much more but I was probably too hungry and forgot to take a photo14054631_10154026245151713_1913292151_n.jpg

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One last fun fact to end the post, did you know the Eiffel Tower was meant for Barcelona originally? The Government at that time thought it too ugly and out of place so they told the designer to bring it elsewhere. Well, now Paris has the Eiffel Tower forever 😉 Also goes to show persistent is the right attitude, if Mr. he-who-built-Eiffel-Tower gave up when he was rejected, the world wouldn’t have this iconic landmark today! Note to self: it’s always too early to quit what’s worth doing.

 

 

Hola Barcelona Part 1 – IESE MBA Summer School

(yes, the title rhymes on purpose :P)

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Introduction

After a rather dreadful long haul flight (which I normally enjoy; the undisturbed self selected movies watching and books reading, but Air China didn’t have that luxury and I forgot to bring a book -_-), I landed into Barcelona again after 3.5 years under the blazing Catalunya heat! I promised to be back but indeed it has been too long… I barely remember the places I have been to but Barcelona’s food and culture has yet again imprinted a flavorful and charming impression in my heart. It was and still is one of my favorite Europe cities 🙂

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Thieves, thieves everywhere 

Nonetheless, a city with thieves…sometimes I just ponder, what life scenario must they go through, to convince and justify themselves to cheat and steal? Lucky enough, we only ALMOST got picked pocket. It wasn’t a pleasant experience of course, considering we were at that time walking in a rather wide street with passerbys at merely 10pm or so. However, I think it is worth recalling the details to learn their stealing patterns to be more alert next time round.

First he asked if we have fire for his cigarettes, then he quickly came close and asked if we’re Koreans. We tried to ignore him and walk quicker but he just leaned in and started doing random soccer kicks…and there it was, the moment of truth.

I saw the guy’s hand was on the wallet already! Then I shouted and he just laughed and said he was joking…at the moment it was hard to react because we were both shocked. Anyways, note to self: STAY ALERT when in Europe! Or basically just anywhere you go unless it’s Taiwan 😛

IESE MBA Summer School

More updates are coming up now that I have completed the primary reason on why I am in Spain: IESE MBA summer school! Sadly, the 5 days course flew by quickly, but the great thing is I have met new people, made new bonds and germinated new thoughtsIMG_8324.JPG 🙂

It was also a long 2 years since I was in a classroom again so I really treasure the time I had in class: learning new thoughts from Professor (like the implications of Brexit from Econ and ethical motivation from management prof etc.); spending hours and hours on discussions that are otherwise meaningless if not for the case presentation (but I really enjoyed the collision of ideas with my team from different backgrounds). All these are luxuries that I simply do not have anymore now that I started working. So this week-long experience together with the career advisor of IESE go me thinking about “career”. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but aside from that, there isn’t really anything else going on in my life.

I always knew that your 13730655_10155030589992785_1428188748_olife only really begin after you go through the set path of academics: Kindergarten to Primary School, to Secondary School and higher education. Because once you really graduated from your basic “teachings” and enter the real world, you are solely responsible for yourself. You are basically free to choose from anything and there is no one for you to follow behind anymore. I used to think that the hardest part is getting a job, then I know the toughest thing is finding a job you love. But now I realized, THE million dollar question is: what else are you gonna do for THE REST of your life? Because a job is only a part of it. I am thankful for this week of learning because now, I am beginning to have some idea and will continue to work towards it.

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The Prologue (or wechat pay “THE GREAT” customer journey)

Let the writing spree begin again! First of all, let me provide some context to this travel. I am going to be a student again although for just a week. IESE is a top business school that currently provides a summer week of MBA experience in BARCELONA (wooooo!) for young graduates around the world. With a kind scholarship in conjunction with my university, I am heading off to a week of 8am – 4pm cases discussion. Oh, how I’ve missed school 🙂 can’t wait to feel like a sponge bob again.

So thanks to my understanding boss and a luxury of paid dayoffs, I get to do some travelling as well after Barcelona in Sevilla and London, two brand new cities I have never been to!

So now is a good time to write a little prologue as I have already experienced so much before even stepping foot in foreign land!

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Right now is 10pm and I am waiting to board my first Air China flight from Shenzhen airport. Shenzhen airport is way better than I expected. It is like the HKIA T2, both in size and traffic. Except police here are on Segway!

Did you know there are shuttle bus that brings you directly from Times Square to Shenzhen Airport? Actually there isn’t. You have to get off at Shenzhen bay anyways, get through immigration and take a bus to airport again. Luckily, I have buffered plenty of time and got to airport 3 hours ahead. This gave me the luxury to have a good leisure dinner.IMG_8156

Then I remembered, I didn’t bring any renminbi… but well we live in a digital era so I will just use a credit car…but oh wait, I saw a little sign saying they support wechatpay and other electronic payments hmmm interesting. Given that I have collected so many red packets through wechat, I have a good 200 something renminbi in my account but never knew how to use it; this seemed like the perfect time to try it out! I quickly entered my credit card details, and went to order food with an experimental mindset. I ordered my food and asked can I pay with this? (gesturing my iphone

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Then the cashier lady looked at me like I’m from the stoned age and just scanned right away with her barcode scanner. Voila! And it’s done! I was still in shocked when my food came. I mean…this is not the China I know…since when do they have more advance technology than Hong Kong? I’m sure this isn’t rocket science, but such adoption is still relatively low in Hong Kong. Imagine Chuiwah or Taihing supporting wechat pay 😉 I am still glad to feel like I have not paid a penny for this $41 RMB meal which tasted better than it looks! It was also such a seamless payment experience, without having to even reach for your wallet, let alone touch those disgustingly dirty full of germs and god-knows-what coins and notes.

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Dinner at this Chinese fast food chain “Real Kungfu” (which I highly doubt they own the IP to use Bruce Lee’s image but we are in China after all, so what’s an IP anyway :P)

Boarding soon and hopefully both the inflight meals and entertainment is good! (updated: meals were okay but entertainment system was shit…same as the ones I had when I was 8, fixed low res programs that kept looping -_-)

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P.S. ANOTHER equally if not even more mindblown moment: Wechat pay works on vending machines too! But instead of letting a barcode scanner read my wechat code, I use my wechat QR code reader to scan the vending machine screen. THEN magically, I got a bottle of water…what is this, a wechat marketing campaign to capture authentic customer satisfying journey in airport hahaha?

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P.P.S I couldn’t upload this in Shenzhen airport as I don’t have a China mobile no. to verify for wifi nor would it recognize my boarding pass…huge minus point for this shitty airport. LUCKILY I have wechat on my iphone, so I could verify via the mighty mighty wechat. At least got wifi on my phone.

Has anyone tried electronic payments method and how did you feel about it? 🙂

written in Shenzhen airport, updated in Frankfurt airport.

Random thoughts on in flight meals

Random thoughts on in flight meals

During one of my 10 flights in the first quarter of 2016 (3 times to Taiwan, round trip to Moscow, and to and from Berlin & Munich), the idea of writing about how I cope with meals on plane sparked. So here it is, Tips for getting through that dreading in-flight meal experience. (Obviously this excludes that juicy steak they serve on china and metal cutlery on business/first class)

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(^ China Airlines upgrade business class meals with local taiwan XinYe欣葉 restaurant menu)

First tip may not be applicable to everyone but try to order tomato juice instead of soda or other beverages. Downing that thick salty sour liquid before eating opens up your stomach and stimulates your tongue to better prepare you for the undesirable in-flight meal ahead. I also always ask for extra water because you have NO idea how dehydrating the atmosphere is 40 thousand miles above ground.

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(^super tiny Aeroflot in-flight meal)

Next common observation: their portions are always extremely small even for a petite girl like me (though arguably, I have a big appetite). So how to make your meal last when you are only given 2 meals in a 16 hours flight? I always eat SLOW. Drink plenty of water throughout; I cannot stress the importance of keeping yourself hydrated enough. Ration your food like mixing the sauces well with your rice and save up the best parts for last like the seared chicken pieces. For the little snack they place along the tray as dessert (mars bar, crackers…) I usually save it for an hour later to deceive your brain and prolong the feeling of a full stomach.

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Third, in long haul flights, you often get a bread roll + butter. You notice since the bread is rock hard, the ice cold butter is barely spreadable. Since it’s not possible to toast your bread; warm the butter. What I always do is let it sit on top of my hot meal for a minute. Then when you open it, you can see that the yellow cube has transformed into this beautifully viscous, golden liquid, which you can then easily apply to your bread. I always eat up the butter even if my bread’s finished because nobody likes to waste food, especially not something as yummy as butter.

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(^ Breakfast meal from BKK to HKG in CX. Notice it’s tomato juice again!)

Next, notice how they always give you pepper and/ or salt. Use it. Your taste buds are 30% less sensitive up in the air as they would on the ground. These black and white pixie dusts are guaranteed to make your meal more tasteful (not more delicious, but at least it no longer tastes like tissue paper. Well, it’s a taste you can imagine though I am not to say I haven’t tried it as a kid 😉

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Last tip, savor the one thing that still taste as good as it would anywhere else you consume it: HOT COFFEE. It helps you feel reenergized through not only its caffeine in your blood stream and hot liquid down your throat, but also the unmistakable aroma that you can inhale like some kind of drug. Flights tire people anyways so it’s always good to get some energy boost.

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How do you feel towards in-flight meals? Any personal tips you got? To conclude, picking out a good film (if you are lucky enough to have entertainment in flight) always distract you from the horrid food 😛 My all time favorite is Gone with the Wind which occupies a solid 4 hours and lately the Martian and Ex-Machina is pretty intriguing too.

Until next time,
Rach

written on Mar 27th.

to date travel:

  • 7 times round trip Taiwan (I know… tiring)
  • Open Jaw HK to Berlin and Munich (stopping in Moscow, it was snowing and I had to walk from the plane to terminal so yes I have stepped foot in Russia 😉
  • Round trip Bangkok (yay relaxing for once)
  • Okinawa (again, but was so fun nonetheless!)
  • second half of the year will get more exciting I promise 😉

 

THE ultimate trip of U.S. Exchange – Cliché New York Part 2

THE ultimate trip of U.S. Exchange – Cliché New York Part 2

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To continue, let’s begin with random photography. It is amazing how a tiny camera can produce art so easily. Although I cannot draw nor paint, I would say writing and photography are the closet art form I can do 🙂

Wall Street – errr…checked. Of course, we had to visit the famous Wall Street. Yea, it was just… a street. And the bull. Way too many people… wasn’t a nice experience at all, BUT the cup of Christmas Starbucks Coffee afterwards to warm our hands and stomach was great 🙂 I mean I’m not really  into the whole Starbucks culture, it’s fat and expensive and I have had much better coffee at random cafes in Europe at cheaper prices. With that being said, however, I must say I’m just an ordinary consumer who simply cannot resist their Christmas Marketing packaging around coffee! ❤

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911 Memorial – Essentially, there were two giant fountains where, unlike traditional fountains that shoots water upwards, the water is pouring downwards. As if there were some sort of suction deep down that drains away the water, which I think is really sad. As if there is a black hole deep down in every victim’s friends and family where they throw in their memories and happiness, that is forever gone along with their deceased loved ones. As the sun set, a thin layer of the last ray of light casted over the buildings in a sad and ominous red. When I first noticed it, I could not help but saw it as a symbol of blood. (Perhaps a result of taking World Lit classes this semester.) I remember this taxi driver from NJ told me that his best friend, a fireman, died in 911 and he never quite got over it even after that many years. This also reminded me of a movie I watched alone, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I cried so much it was definitely a good decision to have went alone.

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Staten Island Ferry – checked exhaustedly. Since the 911 memorial was delayed, we got to the Staten Island ferry really late. It was so windy and freezing cold walking towards the pier, we were bending lower n lower and almost crawling on our hands in the end; while New Yorkers strolled by us casually like we were freaks.

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The ferry probably meant more to us as a resting stop. Someone then fell asleep looking like a dog. Speaking of which, my hat resembles a cat and hers a dog, can you tell? 😛 In general though, New York was glistening with lights because it’s almost Christmas. My absolute favorite festival of the year, presents, feasts, fireworks, friends and family. Home. Nothing gets better than Christmas ❤

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Night View of Manhattan (Top of the Rock) – done that. I can’t say the view was spectacularly gorgeous because honestly, coming from Hong Kong, I have seen one of the prettiest skylines at night when I was just a kid. Somehow the “New York” Magic did not work so much on me. I mean the view was decent, but nothing unexpected. New York was in many ways nice, like Time Square and the neon ads but other things made me appreciate Hong Kong so much more. The new and efficient metro system, safe and clean streets etc. When there was constantly no signal underground, I couldn’t help but exclaim, AND THIS is NEW YORK!?

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Bryant Park / Christmas! – OUTDOOR ICE SKATING RINK 🙂 Now this, this is different because I don’t see them a lot. One thing, out of the not too many things, I love about New York are their parks. We can definitely use more of these in Hong Kong, a system that cleanses the air and soul. Since it is Christmas, they had an outdoor ice skating rink set up with pink lights shining upon it. It was so magical and warm. I felt like I could just stare at it forever watching people glide by loop after loop. I took like a million photos there.

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And this concluded the NYC trip. I have been to NY several times now and in my humble opinion, it looks prettier on screen. To end on a special note, we were walking along this street and  saw some cities written on the building: Milan, Stockholm, Rome. And I shouted to my travel buddy “OMG THESE ARE ALL THE CITIES WE HAVE BEEN TO!” Yes, perhaps we have just been to too many major cities, or may be it was destiny. But these names that marked Barclays’ global presence are somehow like a prophecy of our friendship 🙂 It was just a pleasant surprise from life.

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Eventually, we concluded that Miami is our next destination after Singapore 😉

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But before THAT, the next stop would be LA! And to my GREATEST surprise, there is a modern city stinkier than PARIS! I just couldn’t believe it at first.

THE ultimate trip of U.S. Exchange – Cliché New York Part 1

After this 10 days trip (that included an unfortunate tiny accident at the end as usual), it took me an ENTIRE week to catch my breath and catch up on schoolwork. Now that school is FINALLY coming to an end (2 more SNOWY DAYS ONLY), I better start getting back on my writing spree because there is so much to note down before they slip away from my memory…weeeee 🙂

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First part is New York and I think we did a pretty good job covering everything we wanted to see together, Chicago The Musical, MOMA, Time Square, Staten Island (Statue of Liberty), SOHO (which essentially just means GROM!) and NY at night.

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Like any other trip, of course the spotlight is straight on food. And this is just what heaven would look like if translated into cake…ok may be that doesn’t make sense, but the cakes at Cheesecake Factory are just so delicious (although really really overpriced too :P) the melted marshmallow clings closely to the chocolate cheesecake and it was so velvety and smooth and sweet and dreamy ahhhhh…IMG_3905

Right, now I shall tick off our checklist one by one:

Chicago – absolutely checked. It was just so exciting and glamours, the band were so professional and the choreography was excellent. It was humorous and very entertaining. However there technically wasn’t a set and don’t expect much from the costumes. The special effects were sparse but spot on. What makes it even better was the rush tickets we bought at 30 bucks. We sat right in the front row center seats on the balcony. SO worth it.

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MOMA – yea just.. checked. Yes the atmosphere and the space is really something. But both of us are not very artistic. And the art there, which I’m sure must be pretty darn good because of the famous names (Picasso, Matisse etc.), just made it even HARDER for us to appreciate compared to say Musee d’Orsay or The Louvre. At least those paintings look like SOMETHING (lotus, bridge, sky, woman etc.)

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But these? These were just SO abstract: RED painting = art, PINK Plank = art, White background scribbled with words = art, Phallic object chair = art…Anyway, it is probably us, and not you, so it’s okay…I guess we will just stick with food which we are so good at appreciating.

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Then of course there is me acting like I completely understood what the artist is trying to do there 😛 and attempting to look artistic..elegant even (everything I’m not XD)DSCN4570

And this, my friend, is art.

Time Square – checked! Of course, how can a girls trip be one without shopping? The giant Toys R Us, Disney store, chocolate stores and F21 etc. are must go. It was so much fun because who doesn’t like some sizzling heat in the chilly winds of New York? 😉

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And, no, we are not too old to be taking photos with giant MnM. (With glasses! 😀 although my favorite is probably the short Red one)

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Asking strangers to take our photo has proven to be one of the toughest challenge yet. After picking someone whom we think we can outrun (just in case they steal our cameras), we also need to make sure that they are adequate with technology…More often than not, the photo is not the angle we want it to be (I know…it’s a favor…I shouldn’t be too demanding but I just can’t help it :P). Eventually we are just happy that it’s not blurry, it’s a straight photo and at least it is ACTUALLY TAKEN. Sometimes we just stand there for 5 minutes and no photo was captured LOL. This below is actually an A+ capture (y)

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Washington Square Park / SOHO – ICE CREAM CRAVING checked. This is a pleasant surprise because the best gelato place we tried in Milan/ Venice actually has a branch right here in Greenwich Village. It was just as good :’) so happy that we thought we will never get to try it again yet ended up running into it so soon. DSCN4524

I guess this is life sometimes. When you think you lost something, look closer or hang on a little longer because the miracle might be just around the corner. It has happened to me a few times now and yes, the losing part will be devastating, but don’t lose hope because all of that is necessary to get to the rediscovery part. Not one tiny detail, however seemingly insignificant, can be skipped in order to arrive at the exact right place.

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If you follow the Humans of New York page, you probably will remember this scene 🙂 Another pleasant surprise of running into them in Washington Square Park!

Of course last but not least, this posture must look familiar ❤ yes how lucky and fated this is that this year we get to spend our respective birthdays TOGETHER :’) since she has given me the best meal experience ever (the gorgeous twinkling lights view and good food) I had a high benchmark to follow.IMG_3884

But Cramine’s has lived up to the standard. It has REALLY good food and generous portions for the price we paid. The cherry stones were very fresh, the riggatoni with sausage and broccoli in white sauce smelled so good and was so flavorful that we forgot to take a picture of it. Lastly, the Tiramisu was HUGE and I just loved the chocolate “skin” 😛 We finished it before our musical as dinner as well 😉 kind of.

To be continued…