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!

Motorbiking Vietnam: Losing Myself

 I’m searching for those moments when I lose myself. When I stop thinking. When my brain shuts off. When I just notice what is around me.I’m zooming around on my rented motorbike, observing the mountains outside of Bac Ha, a tiny town in northern Vietnam. The rice paddies stretch around me like layers of a cake. The contrast between the bright blue clear sky and the endless expanse of green makes me take a deep breath of gratitude.

Behind me, another motorbike zips round the curves of the mountainside. My friend Niko is driving, with Tessa on the back. Tessa is a dear friend from childhood who is doing a Southeast Asia loop with me. We just met Niko The Crazy German at a hostel in Hoi An and have been traveling with him for a few weeks. In the mornings, Niko and I head to the roof of our cheap hotel for exercise: he is teaching me boxing, and I am showing him yoga. All three of us are artists and musicians, and we often sing and draw together.

Over the din of my motorbike I can just barely hear Niko from his scooter belting out our favorite song, a catchy hip-hop song perfect for easy harmonies. Despite the breeze, it’s excruciatingly hot, and my sweaty shirt sticks to me.

Thanks to WeSaidGoTravel for publishing my work. To read the full story, visit wesaidgotravel.com/motorbiking-vietnam-losing

Sydney

From Melbourne we cruised up the coast through Wollongong and Sydney. We did the whole trip by train, which was scenic and relaxing. Wollongong is a beach college town reminiscient of my alma mater Santa Cruz.

We couchsurfed with some students there which was nice – family style meals every night. We went out dancing and even learned some acro yoga one early morning by the beach!

Sydney was special because we got to stay with my cousin’s friend Karen in her spiffy apartment at Bondi Junction. We had a few pleasant days exploring the waterfront, Botanic Gardens, and Opera House.