Slack line, spikeball, frisbee, and graduation: enduring and enjoying 2021

It has been a long and intense year as the world has faced a global pandemic. I spent most of it alone in a room behind my grandmas house attending online grad school and making music for my YouTube channel. As an extrovert, it was exhausting and lonely trying to avoid gatherings. After a year of hard work and too much screen time, I graduated with a teaching credential and masters of education from UCSB. Now I can teach elementary school anywhere in California, and I will be a better candidate to teach at international schools abroad.

Despite only being together for online classes, I did get to graduate in person with friends from the program. All three of these awesome girls got jobs and are working as elementary school teachers!
Can you find me in this picture? Hint: look for the dog!

Last summer, just after graduating in June, I taught second grade at an in-person summer school, where I had 12 students in my class from 6 to 7 years old. I taught math in the morning and reading and writing in the afternoon, and brought my ukulele every day to brighten the atmosphere. I felt like the pied piper when I collected them from recess and they followed me back to the classroom in a single line, some dancing to my music!

Students were required to wear masks (which get soggy sometimes) wash their hands frequently (luckily we had a sink in our classroom) and keep 3 feet distance between each other. There were a few meltdowns and I definitely practiced my conflict resolution skills as some of them were at school for the first time in a while. One girl started sobbing when she couldn’t erase with her crayon, and it took half the day to help her calm down.

Despite the challenges, I do love teaching, bringing joy and music and movement to my classroom, where I strive to inspire kids to be confident in our ridiculous and unpredictable world. I love that I can incorporate my talents and interests like art, music, and sports. I often lead yoga and meditation with my kiddos, which I benefit from as well!

Meanwhile, after lots of home workouts in my backyard during the worst part of the pandemic, I was so glad to play ultimate frisbee again with my friends in Santa Barbara. There are pick-up games almost every day of the week here. We play on the beach in the soft sand and oftentimes swim in the ocean afterwards. I also got to play on a coed team called Robot for a bit!

I also got into spike ball, a game sort of similar to volleyball but played with a small round net and a 4-inch yellow ball. With a partner, you serve, pass, and spike the ball into the tiny trampoline-like net, and the other team passes it and smashes it back to you.

During spikeball Fridays I would also set up my slack line, another one of my obscure quarantine hobby. I learned how to slackline at UC Santa Cruz a few years ago, but this year I purchased my own and learned how to set it up – it’s like a tightrope between two trees. Now I can go forwards, backwards, and turn around! There were a few musicians in this group and we had some jam sessions, too.

During most of the pandemic I was living at my grandmother’s house and my mom’s house, and I am grateful for both of them for the housing. It was really wonderful to live near my family after living abroad for the past 8 years. I got to spend a lot of time with my grandma Jeney and my uncle Jimmy, who owns an ice cream shop in Ventura, my awesome aunt Monika who is a chiropractor in town, and my sister Kimberly who just had her second baby!

After graduating, I decided to take a year off and backpack around Europe. Before I left, I felt full of self doubt, some annoying questions swarming my head – when am I going to find a partner? Or somewhere permanent to live? Most of my friends have spouses or long term partners, and at times I feel sad when I compare myself to them. But while a part of me feels those societal pressures, I feel in my gut that I’m doing the right thing for myself now. I’m on the brink of a great adventure!

Before I jump into my career, which I expect will be hard to deviate from once I get started, I’m taking a year off to think about what I want to do next. Now I’m in Merano, Italy, writing from an apartment of a new friend I’m couchsurfing with. I’ll travel around Europe for the next few months, go home for Christmas, and maybe travel again to South or Central America in the spring of 2022. In fall of 2022, I’m planning to more abroad again to teach English in another country (like I already did in Japan and Spain). I’m thinking about somewhere in Asia or South America or perhaps Europe… Any connections or advice for international schools abroad are welcome!

Now I’m one month into my jaunt in Europe. The trip began in Switzerland with more via ferratas, which are protected self-belayed climbing routes, with my dad. We did via ferratas in Kandersteg and Leukerbad, Switzerland. Then we hiked the AV1, an 8 day trek from Lago de Briaes to Belluno, where I met a group of exuberant Americans and was invited to their rented villa in Siena. Now I’ve been enjoying traveling alone for a few weeks in Florence, Siena, Venice, Lavis, and now Merano.

Sending love and good vibes to all my friends and family and anyone who is reading this! I continue to wear a mask indoors and am avoiding crowded places. Stay healthy and safe everyone!

I found my dad in Kandersteg, Switzerland! This is our fourth summer of doing via ferratas together!

Bahay Kalipay

Imagine a place where you live in a bamboo treehouse surrounded by banana trees. In the morning birdsong gently lifts you out of a deep relaxing sleep, and you awaken to a warm, sunny day.

When I wake up, one of the first things I do is make a list, in my head or on paper, of 5 things that I am grateful for. Its effortless.

At 7:30 we convene for yoga at a beautiful outdoor space. There are many different teachers and varieties of yoga being shared: Sar leads Hatha, Tara kundilini, and Gerome presents Ashtanga.

For the first time in my life I can do a headstand, which for me is one of the hardest yoga poses. It requires core strength and balance, and lots of breathing and focus!

Breakfast is served at 9, which is papaya, mango, and banana sliced up in a bowl, topped with chopped nuts and shredded coconut and chocolate milk. All the food here is raw, and delicious. So far I’ve lost about 20 pounds, not kidding.

The rest of the day flows effortlessly. Perhaps I will go volunteer at the preschool, hopping on a tricycle and jeepney to get there. The journey takes 30 minutes and costs less than 50 cents.

Afterwards I will chill with the beautiful family who keeps the preschool running: Tatay Ems the flute maker, his wife Raquel the teacher, and his 4 kids, Aya, Banban, Dee, and Kaye, all musically talented.

We sit around the dining room table for hours, Banban drumming, Aya and I on the guitar, all three of us harmonizing… so beautiful. Sometimes Kalayo joins on the drums or whatever percussion he can find. Videos to come!

Maybe I will teach a class later. Soul Journal and Manifesting Your Dreams are the two I have been leading.

Or maybe I will just hang out and read in a hammock, walk to the beach, draw some pictures…

Its a hard life here! Hahaha. I would highly highly recommend this place, it is pretty affordable too when compared to other retreats in western countries.

Ill be coming back here next year, who wants to join me?

Perhentian Islands

We took an overnight bus ride from Langkawi to the Perhentian Islands on the east coast of Malaysia.  It was a double decker bus and we were seated directly above the driver (possibly the most dangerous place to sit?) but at least it had the best view.

After a bumpy boat ride we arrived at the island. Its off-season but a few tourists wandered the white sand beaches. It’s pretty relaxed, there’s only a few things to do: eat, sleep, party, snorkel, and scuba.

While I was here I decided to take my PADI, a 3-day scuba diving course. It’s one of the cheapest places in the world to get it!

Scuba diving is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. As long as you remember a few fundamentals you can avoid problems:

  1. Keep breathing, slowly and calmly
  2. Adjust your BCD – Buoyancy Control Device
  3. Stay with your buddy
  4. Keep checking your tank, and make sure you don’t run out of air!
  5. Ascend and descend slowly, and equalize often (clearing your ears)

Its a different world underwater. There’s no verbal communication; sign language is the only way to communicate with your fellow divers. Gliding around the coral in this silent world is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

I saw a moray eel (like Ursula’s sidekick from the Little Mermaid!) and a sea turtle, and lots of beautiful and colorful fish, but sadly no whale sharks! Oh well, next time. I’m also excited to try scuba in California, who wants to go with me?