Blog: Entries From 2012

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More Climbing - Friday, January 13, 2012
Today was my fifth time at Planet Granite. I went with Amy, Samantha and her co-worker Kevin, and Pavlina and her co-workers Jeanne and Christina. Jeanne went off on her own somewhere, and I was climbing for a while with a regular, Tyler, who knew most of the people in my group. I was tired after completing my first climb, a 5.10a, so I belayed a few times for Tyler and watched in awe as he made even the most difficult climbs look like cake. He was doing one climb right after another, so my muscles didn't get a rest which wasn't so great. I failed the next 5.10b and 5.10a due to fatigue.

After that, our group got mixed up so I was climbing with Samantha, Amy and Kevin at a more leisurely pace. I did a short 5.9 and 5.7 and we ended with most of us doing a 5.10a.

I'm definitely seeing myself improve. I attempted more climbs than last time, finished two 5.10a's instead of one, and my arms don't feel as sore as they did last time. I'll be happy if next time I complete that 5.10b!
Tacos and Registries - Monday, January 23, 2012
Priscilla came up this weekend, having gotten cheap Southwest tickets during a sale in October. After I went to guitar class on Saturday, we went to the gym, went grocery shopping and made tacos with all the fixin's: corn tortillas, ground turkey, tomatoes, red and green onions, cheddar and avocado, seasoned with some fresh ground pepper. We forgot to get lettuce, but the tortillas were of the small variety so all the condiments barely fit on one anyway. The tacos were delicious as usual. (When are they not?)

After church on Sunday, we tried to go to Tikka Masala for buffet but found them closed, so we wound up instead at Shah and got lots of chicken. Next, we went to my company so that I could do a little work, and then we worked out again (gotta get in shape for our wedding clothes). Then we went to Bed Bath & Beyond in Santa Clara to create a registry, and we added a few household items we'll find useful to have. Our primary registry is still Honeyfund and we'd prefer people help us save for our honeymoon, since I already have most of the household items we'll need. We'll probably figure out where we want to go for the honeymoon after all this wedding planning madness is over.

Priscilla also gave me a batch of invitations to hand to a few people I invited. She bought two types of DIY invitations: a more expensive green floral one that I liked, and a cheaper silver-patterned one. The silver one actually looks better though.

Her dad helped print all the invitations (they look very professional), and a bunch of her church friends helped assemble them. We're getting help in many different areas from church friends. It's awesome to see how much people really want to help!
Wedding Planning Fun - Tuesday, February 21, 2012
wedding: noun. a momentous, jubilant occasion where multi-faceted consumerism masquerades as timeless tradition.

Priscilla and I have always been simple people. A simple wedding at city hall with just immediate family would've sufficed for us. Packing our wedding with 140 people, decorating everything, and hosting a reception with fancy plates, tablecloths and centerpieces never appealed to us. The presence of so many guests and niceties are more for our parents, and we've come to respect that, especially since they volunteered to pay for the reception.

This weekend, due to the President's Day holiday, I drove down to LA for more wedding planning. I almost didn't make it since I was sick all week, but on the planned day of travel I was feeling well enough to make the drive. I made the return trip today, which gave us a lot of time to do things.

On Saturday we had our long-awaited meal tasting at Roz's house. Roz and Lowell have been perfecting the menu, and using their families as guinea pigs in the process, and it shows. The food was amazing. We had two types of salad to choose from- mandarin orange and Asian pear, soy sauce chicken fillets, walnut shrimp, soy sauce fish, green beans with mushrooms, and a sparkling punch made from orange juice and ginger ale. Every bite was delicious. Roz served us with all the place settings that will be used in April- square ceramic plates and a hunter green napkin with silverware and disposable chopsticks. She even surprised us with custom-labeled pint-sized water bottles: she got a picture of me and Priscilla, got the pattern from our wedding invitation, and printed them onto the label. For all we're getting, we're getting a really good deal.

After dinner, Stephanie, our wedding planner, came over and we went over logistics about reception seating and traffic flow. On Sunday, we met with Tom and Amanda at their house and worked out ceremony details. And on Monday, Priscilla and I went to All Valley Rentals in North Hills to check out tables with umbrellas so that we can provide shade for people sitting in the center of the patio. We've gotten most of the wedding details worked out. I think we'll be ok. =)
Knowing When It's Right - Monday, March 26, 2012
Priscilla and I decided sometime last month that she would be moving up to the Bay Area after we get married. Or more like, I made the decision because of the tech job opportunities up here and the fact that we'd be more financially stable in the short run if I were to keep my job. And she unreservedly agreed to leave her job, parents, thriving church, and the home she's known for 26 years to be with me. That's how selfless she is and how lucky I am to have her.

This weekend she came up to do apartment hunting, and we found a place we liked. On Friday I sifted through entries on Craigslist and PadMapper and found three viable leads. Of those, one never contacted me back, one sounded pissed off on the phone, and my top lead returned my call and sounded polite and sincere. So I went and checked out the latter's place and liked what I saw and liked the neighborhood. It's in the middle of Sunnyvale 1.8 miles from work, a real convenience. I returned with Priscilla on Saturday and she liked it too, so we paid the deposit and now the place will be ours!

The apartment is on the first floor in the back of a fourplex. It was touted as 700 square feet but feels more like 500. Cozy is the word. The bedroom seems a little bigger than my current one, the closet takes up the length of a whole wall, the bathroom is roomy enough and has ample sink space, and the living/dining room should be just big enough for a couch, coffee table, dining table and computer table. The only major downside is the kitchen has very little counter space, no built-in microwave and no dishwasher. But Priscilla will be the primary user of the kitchen and she thinks we can make it work.

The landlord, Tony, is a 77-year old Korean man who seems intelligent and looks very healthy and young for his age. He and his wife will celebrate their 50th anniversary this year! They seem personable and reasonable and are letting me move in in mid-April.

We're getting all this for $1200, which is not the best price, but reasonable given current market conditions. This is the first time I've gone with the first apartment/house I've seen, but I felt like it was right.

On Saturday we also saw Hunger Games with some church friends. Priscilla has been dying to see that movie after reading the books. I thought it has an interesting story and good CG, and I'll probably read the books at some point.

Priscilla wants to attend a church with a choir she can sing in, so we've been considering going to a new church since RBF has no English choir. On Sunday we checked out North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara. I visited four years ago but didn't remember much except that they had a choir and the message was powerful. But Priscilla and I found the church to be a little more traditional than we're used to, especially since she would like a choir that does more of a blend of traditional and contemporary.

The rest of the weekend was spent making lots of food! We made tacos on Saturday using rotisserie chicken, and Priscilla boiled the leftovers on Sunday to make soup. I made turkey and mushroom burgers. Priscilla wants me to be her guinea pig for her cooking when we get married. I don't think I'll mind in the very least.
More Wedding Planning - Monday, April 9, 2012
This was another productive wedding planning weekend. I flew down to LA Saturday morning and back up Monday night. On Saturday, Aaron and I went to get measured for our tuxedos. I was originally going to get them from Men's Wearhouse, but I found a place called Friar Tux Shop on the other side of the street, listed in the yellow pages. Aaron and I ended up going to both and liked the selection and service at Friar Tux Shop much better. Priscilla met us there, and after much deliberation on my part and much input from the helpful sales associate, I ordered a fitted tux with white tie and vest to match Priscilla's dress, and Aaron ordered (rather, I ordered for him since he had no preference) a traditional-style tux with silver vest and green tie to match Deborah's dress.

After the two hour tux-picking session, Priscilla and I went to Justin and Vicky's house and joined a few people in cutting potatos and onions in preparation for an Easter Breakfast to be held at New Life Church the following day. For dinner, we got some mostly palatable fried food from Church's Chicken. Afterwards, Priscilla and I felt guilty, so we took a walk around the neighborhood and burned off 1% of the calories that we had consumed earlier.

On Sunday, Aaron took me to New Life, and afterwards Priscilla had her makeup trial at her house with a girl named Page she found online. Page made Priscilla look amazing with wavy hair (I thought it looked closer to curly but oh well), so I just had to take Priscilla to the park to take model pictures. Page promised that Priscilla would look even more amazing at the wedding.

Finally, the following day, the two of us went to the Van Nuys County Clerk to get an application for a marriage license for $90. Their website states that the processing time can be an hour, so we were prepared to wait a while, but the place wasn't too busy, so the clerk actually took our form, entered it into the computer, and came back a few minutes later with the application ready to be signed after the ceremony. We picked a good time to get there, because the line of people had grown much longer by the time we were done.

We've really been on top of this wedding stuff. I'll even dare say, it's beginning to be kind of fun. ;)
Sunnyvale, Round Three - Saturday, April 14, 2012
In preparation for our upcoming life together, today I moved into the apartment that Priscilla and I selected. If you count the one-month stint in corporate housing, this is the sixth place I have lived in during my 4.25 years in the Bay Area. Interestingly, Sunnyvale has been the destination of every other move. Corporate housing was in Santa Clara, followed by Olive Garden in Sunnyvale, then the townhouse in Mountain View, then the house in Sunnyvale, then Kenny's house in Santa Clara, and now back to Sunnyvale. I suppose it's because I like to be close to work. Work will now be only 1.8 miles away from home, so I will feel self-imposed shame if I don't bike there whenever I don't need a car later in the evening.

Today I had a reservation for a 10' truck from Budget, but when I showed up, only a 16' was available. This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the 16' truck was just big enough to accommodate all of my furniture and boxes, minus the dining set and couch that I will be leaving behind. Jon and Albert from church came to help, and Kenny and Fred lent a hand. I had packed mostly everything the night before, and having a large crew allowed us to finish loading the truck, drive to the new place, unload everything and arrange furniture, chill for a little while, and return back to Monroe in a span of two and a half hours.

It was a little early for dinner but I wanted to treat everybody, so we eventually decided on SGD Tofu House in Santa Clara. After tax and tip it came out to $21 a person (ouch), but it was a very enjoyable meal. Jon ordered the bbq pork and I had the bbq chicken, and the amount of meat put on our plate was enormous. The seafood pancake really hit the spot and the spicy squid appetizer was pretty decent too.

I'm really glad the move went so smoothly. My friends are truly awesome. Now comes the real time-consuming part: unpacking all my boxes and finding a place for all of my junk!
Furnishings - Monday, April 23, 2012
We have furniture! Last week I picked up a five-piece dining set and a vinyl sofa bed from a place called NorCal Furniture, a home business where the guy works directly with suppliers. I was originally going to go with some mediocre looking furniture from Ikea, the best looking in that particular price range, but on a lark I checked Yelp and found NorCal. NorCal had much better looking furniture for less than what I would've paid at Ikea! Plus NorCal also had a 15% off promotion for liking them on Facebook. After tax and shipping and assembly charges, I paid $530, which I think was a great deal.

This weekend I bought us a nicely-sized microwave from Costco for $100. Priscilla's last day at work was last Friday, so she and her parents drove up to bring up some of her stuff (gifts from people, blankets, clothes and a mountain of shoes).

We went to Ikea and bought a kitchen cart (for extra counter space), microwave cart, computer chair, floor lamp and various odds and ends. Priscilla still needs a desk, and Ikea didn't have one that I liked, so I'll be getting one through NorCal next week. In the meantime, our apartment is really starting to look like a home!
Rehearsal Done! - Friday, April 27, 2012
Last night was the much awaited rehearsal. Pastor Tom had some good ideas about what everybody should be doing, and we tweaked as Stephanie, Priscilla and I saw fit. Crescentia showed up near the end to practice her singing role as Priscilla and I were rushed through all the steps that we'll be doing during that time. I felt like the rehearsal was a bit rushed, and we didn't actually take the time to run through it at the actual pace from start to finish. I guess everybody just wanted to get to StoneFire on time so that we could eat.

I hope everything goes smoothly tomorrow. I'm sure it won't, but we'll just roll with it. Priscilla's done an amazing job coordinating everything- all the caterers, venue, reception logistics, helpers, etc. I know she had help planning from Stephanie and Roz, but she still took it to a level that I'm sure I never could. I'm truly blessed to be marrying such an amazing girl.

Oh and my dad needs to learn to hug better.
Married! - Sunday, April 29, 2012
Well, it happened. Priscilla and I tied the knot on April 28. She's now.... my wife. Ewww.

The wedding went surprisingly well. Aaron and I got there around 7:30am to help set up tables and chairs. Stephanie was already there directing people (like her sons who had or were volunteered into helping), and Priscilla was already there with her makeup artist. Aaron and I later got suited up, Priscilla and I had a time of prayer alone, and Tom joined us for prayer afterward. We were ready before 11am, the start of the wedding, but the ceremony started maybe 15 minutes past the hour to allow stragglers to arrive. Nonetheless, we still managed to stay on or even ahead of schedule.

The ceremony went pretty much perfectly. Auntie Jean played flawlessly (as far as I could tell), Crescentia sang beautifully, Tom gave an excellent message about how our marriage should be a testament of God's love, and Priscilla only stumbled over one part of her vows, which everybody in the room had a good laugh over. Deborah and Aaron looked great, Natalie was adorable, our mothers did really well lighting the candles, and my dad even learned how to hug! Before we knew it, the ceremony was over, we walked down the aisle happily, came right back for pictures, and then it was time for food!

Unfortunately due to all the excitement, I didn't have much of an appetite. I also had to scarf down my food quickly so that we could go take pictures with each table, so I didn't get to fully enjoy the food. But many guests told me that the food was excellent. Roz, Lowell and crew (they had a lot of people helping in the kitchen and helping to serve guests) did an amazing job.

In addition to being the maid of honor, Deborah graciously accepted the role of MC for the reception. She and Aaron gave really touching and funny speeches. Audrey's four-tiered cake was amazing, though Priscilla and I got to eat only a bite of it. Heeman's floral arrangements looked amazing, and we were happy especially with the table centerpieces which were really beautiful and cost only $20 each. Finally, after the rest of the guests had left, my school friends stayed and helped clean up and break down tables and chairs. By the time Priscilla and I had left, there were still people in the kitchen, cleaning selflessly for what surely would've been a long time.

The day went so well and according to plan. I wish I could've talked with everybody in attendance, but time just wouldn't allow for that. Priscilla and I are blessed to have so many friends who truly love and support us, as well as our parents who argued strongly in favor of having a wedding this large and who helped pay for many of the costs, including the whole reception. Planning such a significant event certainly was stressful (definitely moreso for Priscilla) and at times I downright hated it, but I'm really glad we did it. I feel like the wedding in a small way honored our parents, even though much of it was their money, and our friends, even though we recruited many of them to help. It was so wonderful being served by so many of our friends, starting from a few months ago till now, which also helped keep our costs down. I'm really grateful for our friends, and I know it will be hard for Priscilla to leave them behind, but I hope that we can stay in touch with them as Priscilla and I begin this new chapter in our lives.
The Married Life - Saturday, May 19, 2012
I never imagined that married life would be so... busy. As a "loophole" to us having a relatively small wedding, my parents threw two dinner receptions for people we didn't have room for, one reception in LA on the wedding night, and the other in the Bay Area the week after. I got to meet relatives I never knew I had on both sides of the family. Or at least they came to the restaurant and claimed to be my relatives, and I was none the wiser. The receptions were fun but exhausting, especially the night of the wedding, since after the wedding Priscilla and I just wanted to sleep. Needless to say, my face was sore by the end of the night, having to smile for pictures all day long.

Priscilla and I drove up to the Bay Area the day after the wedding, the car packed with her stuff and wedding gifts, but we got a late start and got there around 2am. Monday was supposed to be our day to go sightseeing around San Francisco, but we were really sick and ended up staying home to clean the apartment. I guess it was needed, since we had quite a bunch of stuff to unpack and put away.

That week I returned to Norcal Furniture to get a desk and computer stand for Priscilla. All the furniture I got from Norcal (including the sofa bed and dining set from last time) is a dark cappucino color, so it'll look good if we ever put it all in the same room.

The wifey has been cooking gourmet food for me. She made lasagna, slow cooked chicken and salmon when our parents were visiting, and chicken kabob and sloppy joes when my uncle and aunt came over. There've also been tacos and smoothies, egg frittatas and corn chowder, chicken pasta and lots of other things I wouldn't normally take the time to make for myself.

We've also been to a few peoples' houses for dinner, which will continue for the next few weeks, and we'll have them over to eat at our place soon. Finally, Priscilla and I have consumed the rest of our free time by writing most of our thank you cards. This weekend we're going down to LA for Val and Will's countryside wedding, and in fact I'm only finding time to blog because Priscilla's driving the first leg of the trip down.

So aside from all the business, how's married life been? Well, it's certainly different having another person in the bed when I'm trying to sleep. I'm a light sleeper, so somebody bumping into me or tugging at the blankets is enough to wake me up. The fact that I have a full size bed (smaller than queen) doesn't help. Fortunately some church friends lent us a king size comforter, which now means there's more than enough blanket coverage for both of us. If only we could buy a bigger bed if space permitted. For now, my sleeping will just have to adapt, or else.

Other than that, marriage hasn't changed a whole lot, except Priscilla is probably cooking a lot healthier than she's used to. For a while, it felt weird realizing that we're husband and wife, but it's mostly sunk in now. We've also gotten used to having gone from being in a long distance relationship to seeing each other every single day. ;)
Yeehaw! - Monday, May 21, 2012
As I mentioned in the previous post, this weekend Priscilla and I attended Will and Val's wedding at a cherry orchard in Leona Valley. I can safely say that I've never been to a more unique wedding. Will and Val really went all out. Guests were shuttled from the parking lot in a wagon pulled by a tractor, and paper parasols were distributed since the weather was so hot. Guests had been encouraged to wear cowboy boots and hats, and all the bridesmaids wore boots, and all the groomsmen donned suspenders. Between the ceremony and dinner reception, there was live country music, pony rides for kids, a petting zoo, polaroid photo op to make photos that would be given to the newlyweds, and a dessert bar with various treats brought by different people. A trailer with air conditioned executive restrooms was provided. The restrooms, adorned with wood paneling and classy artwork, rivaled those of high-end restaurants.

The dinner reception was held under a large tent. We had country barbeque with all the fixin's, and lemonade and iced tea drunk out of jars and striped straws. There were around 50 tables, each of which had a uniquely decorated picture frame with the table number and a fun fact about the newlyweds corresponding to that number. In lieu of the regular glass clinking-kissing tradition, there was a basket into which people could put either money or notes of encouragement, which would allow them to ring a cowbell which only then would make the wedded couple kiss.

Finally after dinner, two step dance lessons were offered. It was a lot of fun, but Priscilla and I are a little lacking in dancing ability. The whole day way a ton of fun, and this will surely be a wedding I'll never forget!
Married a Month - Monday, May 28, 2012
It's hard to believe that Priscilla and I have been married for a whole month already, but the calendar doesn't lie. Married life has been great overall. Sure, it's not perfect, but what marriage is? Anybody who says they have a perfect marriage is either lying or hasn't been married more than two days.

Priscilla is adjusting to living in the Bay Area and is starting to drive around without needing her GPS. She's been busy changing her name with various agencies, cooking, catching up on all her favorite TV shows on Hulu, and applying to jobs. I've become slightly less of a light sleeper and have been getting better sleep overall, but a king size bed still would be really nice.

On Priscilla's birthday, I cooked for her for the first time since we got married. I made one of the things I make best- spaghetti! I made my own sauce of course, consisting of Trader Joe's marinara sauce, ground turkey, onions, garlic, tomatoes and mushrooms. Priscilla enjoyed it, even though I took a long time prepping all the ingredients and the sauce was a little healthier than she's accustomed to.

The following day I took her up to the scenic part of San Francisco, and we saw Fort Funston and Sutro Baths and ate at The Cliff House Bistro, which had these amazing fresh-baked popovers! Unfortunately it was a bit windy that day, which cut our trip short since Priscilla was cold. But I made it up to her by taking her to see The Avengers that night. The movie was awesome. But it's Joss Whedon, so I expected no less.
New Bike For Priscilla - Sunday, July 15, 2012
Priscilla's been needing a bike of her own, so yesterday, being the loving husband that I am, I took her to Walt's Cycle in Sunnyvale to let her pick one out. We decided on a $400 Trek 7000, a 21-speed hybrid. It's got grip shifters and a lower-end Shimano derailleur, which is not unusual for a bike in the lower price range, but it feels solid enough, and Priscilla definitely values comfort over performance. Her model is indeed a comfort bike with its semi-padded seat, step-through frame, angle-adjustable stem and overall upright riding posture. Priscilla wants to bike to work and to the grocery store, so I've been getting accessories on Amazon to put on her bike so that she can haul stuff.

Since our place is small, we can only fit two bikes against the wall. So today we visited my uncle (and of course he cooked more awesome food for us) and returned the Huffy bike he let me borrow four years ago. He says he's going to start riding it (the reason he let me borrow it was because he hadn't ridden it much and it was sitting in the backyard gathering rust), so I told my aunt to hold him to it. Knowing her, she certainly will.
Bells Are Ringing - Saturday, August 11, 2012
Tis the season, for weddings! Two weeks ago, Victor and Sally tied the knot. My parents, Aaron, Priscilla and I made it to their wedding in Torrance. At their dinner reception at a fancy hotel, Victor surprised us all by doing a dance routine with Sally. I never imagined that I'd see him dance, yet he was confident... and loving it! Sally, who's a dancing queen, taught him well!

Then last week, it was Stan and Jackie's turn at the altar. Priscilla and I didn't get invited, but last I heard (i.e. saw on Facebook) they were having a blast on their honeymoon in Hawaii.

Then today, Priscilla's cousin Hanson and his long-time girlfriend Anna Grace entered into their own lifelong commitment. The wedding was also in Torrance and the reception was also at a fancy hotel. The steak was the best!

And lots of others are getting married too. Priscilla and I carpooled down from the Bay Area this weekend with two church friends. One was down for his niece's wedding, and the other for his friend's bachelor party. Yep, tis the season indeed.

Having been through the wedding planning process, Priscilla and I now have an appreciation for all the little nuances of other peoples' weddings. We notice program wording, the way the groomsmen and bridesmaids enter the wedding hall, the way people on stage are facing, verbal cues, the decor, photographer placement, and all the other little things we would've glossed over before. And if they're anything like us, we know that though the newlyweds have now passed the stressful part, the busyness is far from over.
Honeymoon to Hawaii - Sunday, October 7, 2012
Sadly, this blog entry about our Hawaii honeymoon was written a month after getting back from Hawaii. Being busy writing a ton of Yelp reviews (all linked here) has been part of why it's taken so long to finish writing this entry, but I still don't have a great excuse. I just needed to sit down and force myself to do it, which, evidently I've now done. So without further ado, I present to you our adventures in Hawaii in this super-long wall of text, which I'm sure all of you are going to read in one sitting, word for word.

After a "mere" four months of being married, Priscilla and I went on our honeymoon to Hawaii! Now I know that couples typically go on their honeymoon shortly after the wedding, but we had a few reasons for not following convention. First, with all the wedding planning we had to do, we didn't even want to start thinking about the honeymoon till much later. Second, we wanted to allow ample time for us to transition from an LDR to marriage, and for Priscilla to adjust to life in the Bay Area. Finally, we wanted to avoid the summer peak travel season in order to save some money.

Originally, we were thinking of visiting just Oahu, but somebody mentioned to us that Big Island has the only active volcanoes amongst all the islands, so we decided to visit both islands in this trip. Kona and Hilo are the two main cities on Big Island, and we decided to stay in Kona because it's less expensive. On Oahu, we stayed in Waikiki, which is pretty much the place tourists stay. We planned our trip from Friday, August 31 till Sunday, September 9. This gave us two full weekends and a holiday (Labor Day), meaning that we would need to take off only 5 days from work to have a 10-day trip.

Day 1 (Friday):
So at 7:40am on August 31, we took off on an Alaska Airlines flight bound from San Jose to Kona. We went with Alaska because they had a better fare than Hawaiian Airlines, strangely. The in-flight snacks were pretty decent: we were given drinks three times (I was introduced to pog and ordered it twice), a macadamia nut cookie, and a free Mai Tai. The flight was about five hours long, and we landed in Kona at 10am due to the 3-hour time difference.

After picking up our rental car at Enterprise, we drove to Costco and got two loaves of bread, sliced turkey, sliced salmon, and sliced cheese. It was cool to see regional items like surfboards for sale here! Some prices were extremely high compared to back at home, like a 2.5lb bag of Spinach selling for $10 that back at home sells for $4. Our first taste of Hawaiian prices.

We then checked into our hotel, Keauhou Beach Resort. Since Priscilla had told them we were on our honeymoon, we got a free upgrade to a king size bed, a better view of the ocean, and a free gift of a stone picture frame. Our room wasn't modern-looking but it was quaint. We made sandwiches, then drove quite a ways to Mountain Thunder, a coffee plantation where we got a free tour. It was cool seeing all the machinery used in coffee bean sorting, and our guide Taro was pretty knowledgeable and interesting, but it would've been cooler if we got to see some of the machines in action. We bought an expensive bag of 100% Kona coffee (supposed to be really good).

By now, I was learning why people say that Hawaii has slow drivers. Just about everywhere on Big Island, we would get stuck behind somebody going at or below the speed limit. Granted, slow drivers exist everywhere, but I think they're more apparent in places like Big Island where roads often are one lane in each direction. Drivers in Hawaii did seem to be nicer than what I'm used to, though.

Anyway, after Mountain Thunder we went to Walmart, since we decided that it would be good for me to have a pair of shorts in humid Kona. We went to the Safeway next door to get tomatoes for our sandwiches and nectarines, then returned to the hotel and had more sandwiches. We ended the evening by swimming in the hotel pool. We were the only ones there, probably because it was raining! But rain isn't really an issue when you're already in the water. ;)

Day 2 (Saturday):
After a nice, hot breakfast at the hotel, we drove two hours to Ka Lae (South Point), the southernmost point in the United States. We parked at the South Point Cliff Dive and looked around and saw people deep-sea fishing and swimming in the water below the cliffs. We took a stroll in the direction we thought would take us further south, found a rocky beach area and went out into the water. I got my shoes soaked after venturing out onto a rock and failing to dodge a wave. =( We didn't know exactly where the southernmost tip of Ka Lae was, but it turns out we were about 400 feet from it. Doh! But we can still say we've been to Ka Lae.

We then continued up the coast, stopped at Punalu'u Bake Shop for a malasada (tasted like a normal donut; I don't see what's so special), and then made our way to the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, which had coarse black sand and really sharp rocks (not good for swimming). There was a turtle sunbathing on shore. It was so still that I didn't know whether it was alive until several minutes later when it moved slightly to escape the rising tide.

Lunch was at a vegetarian place called Cafe Ono near the town of Volcano. Lunch was locally-sourced and delicious. We tried to pet the goat out in the backyard, but it started headbutting us because it was hungry/cranky.

The last activity of the day was at the Volcanoes National Park, where we saw steam vents, the Kilauea crater volcano, and a tunnel that was formed by lava flowing through the ground. It was cool, but I wish we were able to get closer to the lava. Supposedly you have to take a helicopter tour if you want to see lava.

Day 3 (Sunday):
This day we took the northern route across the island. The highway on the west shore ran across black volcanic rock, on which lots of people have piled white rocks to form names and pictures. We stopped along the highway and "borrowed" some rocks from words that were illegible, and made our own heart with "A + P" inside (the first of many).

The first stop on our list was Akaka Falls, where we enjoyed some scenic views around the walkway loop. For lunch, we got chicken and fish wraps and smoothies at What's Shakin', a touristy place off the beaten path. The smoothies are the real deal, made largely with fruit grown right on the farm in back of the restaurant. This place sells double entendre soap and other funny gag gifts.

Next up was Rainbow Falls, which wasn't as much a sight as Akaka Falls, especially since the rainbow wasn't out. The last item of the day was the Pana'ewa Zoo in Hilo, a small zoo where admission was free. We went there mainly to see a live feeding of the white Bengal Tiger, Namaste. However, we found that Namaste wasn't in the best shape due to old age, being unable to stand for more than a few seconds on his hind legs. It was such a sad sight to see him struggling and limping, so we skipped the feeding and checked out the rest of the zoo. There were birds of various kinds in cages, reptiles in tanks, anteaters, and a petting zoo which was unfortunately not open that day.

Day 4 (Monday):
We took a free language culture class after breakfast at the hotel. The class helped us understand how to pronounce Hawaiian words and the meaning behind words like "aloha" and "haole". We learned how the written language was brought by missionaries; prior to that, Hawaiian was an all oral language. A consonant never directly follows a consonant, an apostrophe separates two vowels into different syllables, and a macron over a vowel draws out its length.

We went snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach Park, where Priscilla got bitten by the state fish - the reef triggerfish, known in Hawaiian as the humuhumunukunukuapua'a (a word we had coincidentally just learned in our language class). Apparently that fish is very territorial and doesn't like humans standing in its nesting area. Priscilla was so honored to have been bitten by the state fish and couldn't stop bragging about it afterward. She was also a lot better at snorkeling than I was. I had trouble keeping water out of my snorkel tube, and my goggles constantly got fogged up.

It was then time to say aloha (goodbye) to the Big Island and aloha (hello) to Oahu. We returned to the Kona Airport, where we boarded our 45-minute Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu.

The difference between Oahu and Big Island is like day and night. Big Island was very scenic and serene, while in Honolulu I felt like I was back in LA, and in Waikiki with all its high-rise hotels, I felt like I was in San Francisco. We were picked up from the airport by a shuttle driver who was really entertaining and knew a lot about the island. He told us about some of the places to see around Waikiki, how there are ABC Stores everywhere, and how only recently China has surpassed Japan to claim the largest percentage by ethnicity of tourists to Hawaii.

We checked into our hotel, the Waikiki Sand Villa. That place wasn't nearly as nice as Keauhou and they were unable to fulfill our request for a courtesy room upgrade. The room was smaller than the one we had at Keauhou, had less furniture, and the decor was drab. Well we wanted a budget hotel, and that's what we got.

That night we had dinner with my friend Nessa, whom I know from an online MMO, at Old Spaghetti Factory at the Ward Center. The decor there was grand. Taking TheBus to get there was, however, not so grand, as that bus neither displayed nor announced the names of each stop. I had to ask the driver where the Ward Center was, and we ended up getting off one stop too early since the Ward Center is a very large place and has multiple stops. Taking the bus back to our hotel was much easier, as that bus announced every stop.

Day 5 (Tuesday):
I had gotten sick from traveling and not drinking enough water or getting enough fruits, so we tried taking it easier this day. Still, we had a tour that we'd already paid for to go on. Our bus tour took us around Waikiki, Punchbowl (we were let out once to see the statue of Kamehameha I), National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (we saw it all from the bus), and a couple hours at Pearl Harbor. At Pearl Harbor we toured the outdoor exhibits and visited the Arizona Memorial, a white memorial on the water next to the sunken U.S.S. Arizona, which requires a short ferry ride to get to.

After getting back to Waikiki, we had lunch at Marukame Udon, a pretty decent udon place with great prices. I got the regular niku (beef) bowl. Yum! We got some oranges and water at the ABC Store nearest to our hotel. Eating those oranges really helped me get much better by the next day.

Day 6 (Wednesday):
This is the only day we had a car rental. We got a swanky Chevrolet Impala LTZ from Budget, which had a rental office located inside the Hyatt. My dad had given us the address of his family's old house in Honolulu, so we stopped there in the morning to take some pictures. We were afraid of staying too long, as it's weird from somebody else's point of view for some random person to be taking pictures of their house. We found our way to the Dole Plantation and watched a pineapple cutting demonstration, got dole whip, and did the outdoor maze. Priscilla and I competed to see who could find all eight relics in the maze first. We were given complete maps of the maze, but I handicapped myself by not allowing myself to look at the map, save for determining each relic's approximate location. This handicap proved too much, as I ended up at the same relic four times and was unable to find them all without giving up and using the map. Needless to say, Priscilla won by quite a bit.

For lunch on our way up to North Shore, we stopped at a parking lot where shrimp trucks are parked. Priscilla got a plate of shrimp from the famous Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, while I got mine from Hono's Shrimp Truck. I liked mine better because I got more food than Priscilla for $1 less. We stopped by Matsumoto's Grocery Store for Priscilla to get shave ice; I didn't really care for it, but I did eat the ice cream at the bottom.

We stopped at Hale'iwa Beach Park to take some pictures, then at Waimea Beach to relax some more. We hadn't brought our swimwear so I was in jeans and tennis shoes. I built a sandcastle too close to the water, and the waves washed over my feet unexpectedly when the tide rose, so my shoes got soaked for a second time. Joy.

Before returning the car, we stopped by Walmart in Honolulu to get macadamia nuts to bring back to our friends and family. Unfortunately, the less expensive trays of chocolate covered macadamia nuts were sold out; we should've bought them in Kona when we had the chance, and I think they were also slightly cheaper there. We ended up getting two 3-packs of nuts in a can: Kona coffee glazed, milk chocolate, and milk chocolate toffee.

Day 7 (Thursday):
The Royal Hawaiian Center offers a bunch of free events including a ukulele lesson four times a week. We tried to make the one this morning but were late and missed a good amount of it. So instead, we just walked and waited around until the dance and singing performance put on by the Polynesian Cultural Center - a small sample of the full experience one would have at the PCC.

We had lunch at Marukame Udon for the second time, followed by swimming at Kuhio Beach, the main beach in Waikiki. Even though it was off season, the beach was still very crowded. Makes sense, since it's the only beach in town, and Waikiki is the tourist capital of Hawaii. I noticed a surfboard rental place on the beach, so on a whim I suggested that we rent surfboards. I pretty much used my surfboard as a giant boogieboard. Catching waves was pretty difficult, but a guy out on the water gave me some pointers and I caught a couple waves at the end. However, I was still using the surfboard as a giant boogieboard - no standing up for me. I was still better than Priscilla, which makes up for me being so much worse than her at snorkeling!

The last major event of the day was back at the Royal Hawaiian Center, where we caught a hula lesson and learned the dance moves for a song about a rainbow. There was a large crowd participating - maybe 100 people, and only a handful of guys. I'm pretty sure all the other guys were slightly better dancers than I was.

For dinner, in addition to sandwiches, we got a steak plate from HiSteaks, a to-go steak restaurant inside of a Food Pantry near our hotel. We got the terriyaki sauce. The steak was pretty good - tender and flavorful.

Day 8 (Friday):
We made sure to get to the ukulele lesson early this time. There weren't as many people here as there were the day before, and the instructor turned out to be the same nice lady who gave the hula lesson! We learned a few chords and Priscilla got pretty good by the end of the lesson - such a natural! A lei making class was next. I thought it'd be kind of lame, but it was actually pretty interesting! It was put on by Aunty Bella's Lei Stand, the oldest lei stand still run by people of Hawaiian heritage. They use quality flowers grown right on the islands of Hawaii - the same flowers that we got to make our free leis with. People usually have to pay $20 or more for leis like the ones we made, hah!

For lunch, we had a steak plate from HiSteaks again. Priscilla was addicted to that place. This time around we tried the lemon/butter sauce, which I liked a little better than the terriyaki sauce (but both were good). We took The Bus in the afternoon to Diamond Head State Monument and walked up the road to the park. It was about a 45-minute hike to the top of the crater, where we had an amazing view of the coast and Waikiki. I'm really envious of the people who live nearby who can come here to hike regularly!

We then walked a good ways to Rainbow Drive-in for dinner. However many hundreds of calories we burned from all that hiking and walking, we probably gained right back from all the fried food at this place. We ended up throwing some away since it was just way too much fried stuff for our stomachs to handle. We got some adequate pastries from Napoleon's Bakery and then called it a night.

Day 9 (Saturday):
All of day 9 was spent at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Our booking included transportation, and our guide, Cousin Leon, was hilarious and interesting. We visited six villages in the park: Samoa, Aotearoa, Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, and Tonga.

The guys at the Samoa show were hilarious- climbing trees for coconuts, cracking open coconuts, making fires, and making jokes all the way. At Aotearoa, we watched a cool dance where people tossed sticks to each other, women gracefully swung poi, and we even played some games on the lawn afterwards. At the Hawaii village, we listened to traditional and modern Hawaiian songs and watched a girl dance hula to them. At Fiji, each audience member was given a hollow stick and we helped make music by banging them on the floor. At Tahiti, we watched a volunteer female audience member do the grass skirt dance, and volunteer male audience members do the chicken dance. This one volunteer happened to be from one of the Polynesian islands himself and was a really good dancer. Finally at Tonga, we listened as the guys here played these large drums. The lead drummer asked for three volunteers from the audience to help play drums, and they were hilarious. Especially this Chinese guy who didn't understand English very well but had a very entertaining stage presence. There was a canoe pageant at noon, where dancers from each village danced on a flat canoe on the river running through the PCC.

Dinner was held in one of the many dining halls. The buffet was excellent - there was plenty of Polynesian-style food, and we left really, really full. At the end of the night was the "Ha: Breath of Life" show, which features one storyline through the six different cultures that we'd seen earlier in the day. The dancers had a lot of costume changes, there was always a lot going on, and the show made good use of stage props and video screens. The choreography and execution were excellent, and the fire dancing with guys spinning flaming torches was utterly amazing. Though we wished that our visit was longer, it still took up almost the entire day.

Day 10 (Sunday):
Sunday was our flight back home, and we didn't do too much. We swam in the morning after breakfast (the pool had a cool island off to the side, creating a narrow channel between it and the edge), checked out, and got to Honolulu International a couple hours before our 2pm flight. The flight was five and a half hours long, but due to the time zone change we landed in San Jose around 10pm. We were pretty exhausted and it took me a few days to fully recuperate mentally. Like needing a vacation from vacation, people say.

Hawaii was thrilling. It was a place where the pace of life seems a lot slower despite our feeling rushed to see lots of different things. I learned a lot (I think) about the culture and about the idea of ha, cherishing one's family and friends, sharing that breath while we are still able to. We'll probably visit a lot of other places before we make another trip to Hawaii, but I can't wait until next time!
Camping 2012 - Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Another entry late by a month. I really need to get on top of blogging about things right after they happen. I tend to take care of things in a LIFO manner, and when too many new things come up, the older things get buried. Hence I still have a bunch of Yelp reviews to write for Oahu.

So from the 28-30th of September, I was down in Central California with the wifey, Kenny and Raymond on our de facto annual camping trip. We camped at Montana de Oro State Park in Los Osos and visited Morro Bay during the day. The location was ideal because it's roughly halfway between the SoCal and NorCal folks. Bao, Minh and Christine were supposed to join us, but they bailed at the last minute to do house shopping. At least Minh and Christine were nice enough to hand off a ton of food and supplies to Raymond, who brought them up from SoCal.

So the three of us NorCal people carpooled down in Kenny's car early Friday afternoon. We grabbed lunch at Vito's Famous Pizza (meh) in Sunnyvale, stopped at an archery shop in Gilroy for Kenny to scope out prices, then continued the rest of the way to the campgrounds. The total drive took about 4 hours and traffic was light.

When we got to the campground, we scoped out sites (they're available on a first come, first serve basis) and decided on one that was flat, spacious and isolated - pretty much perfect. Being a Friday and not during peak season, fewer than half of the sites were occupied when we arrived. Priscilla and I set up our tent while Kenny bought us some firewood, we walked to Spooner's Cove nearby, walked back to camp when it started getting dark, and waited.

Meanwhile, Raymond had gotten a late start up from LA (understandable, since he had to pick up gear from Minh), had been stuck for a couple hours in LA traffic, and still had a ways to go. Unfortunately he had Minh's tent and all the food, so there wasn't much the rest of us were able to do while we waited. He finally arrived around 9pm, and we all worked to prepare chicken foil wraps and steak and pitched the large tent that Raymond and Kenny would be sharing. We ate until we were stuffed, Kenny brought out Bourbon for us to try, Raymond got humorously tipsy, and we all went to bed. Priscilla and I were extremely comfortable, since we had new sleeping pads that I got from Amazon (having learned my lesson from being very uncomfortable the last time we went camping). But Priscilla was cold, since her sleeping bag is old and thin.

We got better at starting campfires compared to the last time we went camping, since this time Kenny knew to use more kindling. He brought an axe to split firewood, and Priscilla somehow had the best wood splitting technique of us all. After a steak and egg breakfast in the morning, we drove over to Morro Bay and went to Rock Kayak where we rented two doubles. We weren't allowed out of the bay, so we just paddled around looking at boats and sea lions, saw Morro Rock semi-close up, and docked on the sandbar on the opposite side of the bay. Kenny and Raymond went for a walk while Priscilla and I made our signature heart with A+P in the sand.

For lunch, we went to a plaza and had turkey sandwiches. Afterwards, we bought three containers of redworms at a fishing shop and headed down to the north t-pier for some fishing. Kenny, Raymond and I had all bought fishing poles from Amazon specifically for this trip. Priscilla was the only one with prior fishing experience, and she was the only one who caught something! She caught a small jacksmelt, which we would gut, cook and eat a few days later. Meanwhile, the more experienced family fishing off the end of the pier was catching fish left and right.

We had more chicken wraps and steak that night. Bourbon followed again, and I showed a slightly higher tolerance for it this time, drinking three standard pours without getting too red.

After breakfast the following morning, Kenny took us on a hike on the trails around the campground. We probably hiked a good 3-4 miles, and we got a great view of Spooner's Cove and the camp site below from atop a hill.

It was late after camping, and we decided that we would have time only for lunch. We had two containers of redworms remaining, so we just dumped them at the edge of camp. In hindsight, Kenny realized that they were the right kind of worms that he could've used in his home garden.

After packing up and debating where to get lunch, we finally agreed to go back to Morro Bay. We ended up eating a late lunch at one of the few places that was still open - Giovanni's Fish Market. The food was ok; I enjoyed eating some of Priscilla's clam chowder bowl, but it was a little pricey for such a small bowl.

We parted ways here, with Raymond heading back to Irvine, and the rest of us heading back to NorCal with Kenny. The trip was fun and the basic level of amenities are probably the lowest I'm comfortable with. I was starting to feel dirty from getting smokey from the campfires and not showering for two days. Any longer than that and I would've started to feel really gross. Needless to say, one of the first things I did when getting back home was to take a thorough, hot shower!
Thanksgiving Fun - Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Last week was the first Thanksgiving that Priscilla and I celebrated as a married couple. On Thanksgiving day, we went down to LA with a friend from church, Eunice, at 6am. There were a good amount of cars on the road, but traffic flowed smoothly, and we got there in 5 hours - our best record yet. That night, Priscilla's parents joined us at our parents' place for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The next day, we did some Black Friday shopping! Priscilla's parents had been talking about getting an iPad, so we got them an iPad2 from Target, where it was being sold with a promotional $60 Target gift card. We also stopped by Fry's to get a 2.5" hard drive enclosure, since my laptop started having boot problems, and I hadn't been good at backing up my files.

On Friday afternoon, we joined Deborah in hanging out with Crescentia and her parents at their house. Crescentia had said she was too busy studying to hang out with us, so Priscilla's plan was to bring the hangout to her! Although it was supposed to be a potluck, Crescentia's mom cooked a lot and provided about 80% of the meal.

Saturday morning, Priscilla and I went hiking at Aliso Canyon Park in Porter Ranch, went to DSW and failed to find boots that fit her after an hour of searching, and picked up food from Hot Wok to take to Justin and Vicky's house for a potluck/hangout. Tim and Victor joined us and we ended up playing Star Trek Catan. Sally joined us a bit late, and she ate while we finished playing. I felt bad because she didn't get to play with us, and after the long game it was already too late to do anything else. But a few of us did just end up talking for half an hour before we went home.

Finally, on Sunday after church, a bunch of current and former CCAC people (all different people from the ones we'd hung out with previously) joined us for lunch at Small Island. We had a good dozen people, including the guy that Deborah's been seeing! We had a good time of catching up with people.

We ended up leaving LA around 3:30, and traffic on the 5 was stop and go! It was so bad that I ended up taking a detour through the mountainy highways 198 and 25. We ended up getting home around 11:30, and I'm sure it would've been even later had I not taken the detour! Lesson learned: Sunday afternoon is probably the worst time to drive back from a Thanksgiving holiday.
A Pre-Wedding Banquet - Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Gordon, my second cousin's brother, and his soon-to-be wife Iris had their wedding banquet this past Sunday. My parents came up from LA on Friday, and they, Uncle Kenway and Aunt Susan, and Priscilla and I drove up to the reception at Tong Palace in San Francisco.

Strangely, Gordon and Iris are not married yet. Their wedding will be this Wednesday (12/12/12). My mom's understanding is that this Sunday was the only day the restaurant was available for booking. Still, I've never before been to a wedding reception where the bride and groom aren't married yet! Why they didn't find another restaurant I'm not sure, but I'm guessing they didn't move their wedding date up because of the significance of that date.

At any rate, the reception was fun. There was a magician, a friend of Iris, whose magic acts were interwoven with encouragements to the bride and groom - like a toast, but without toasting. The quality of the restaurant food was a bit bland, and the service was sub-par, but we still had fun. I think I last saw Gordon when I was really young, but he remembered me and knew that I'd gotten married recently, and he also remembered my brother by name. Scary.

Gordon was pretty hilarious. Just talking to him for a minute reveals what a joker he is. During the dinner, as people clinked their glasses for the couple to kiss, he either turned them down, pointing to various initiators in an "I'm coming for you" type way, kissed his mom on the cheek, or kissed his bride while holding up a napkin in front of them. It was all in good fun. They ended up doing one real kiss for the camera!