How I Grew Up

Today I want to briefly talk about my not so ordinary way of growing up.

Due to globalization, more and more teenagers are leaving home and studying abroad, not just your one semester or one year abroad, some teens study far away from their parents and home for a long extended period of time (we are talking five-plus years). And I am one of the later cases. Asia is known for its strong emphasis on schooling and the competitive education atmosphere (or excelling in exams, if I may). It’s been a trend during the past decades for Asian parents to send their children as young as 10 years old to the Western world to study under the belief that the education system in the West is simply “better”, and will give their children better opportunities and career choices in the future. Depending on the parents, some only feel confident to send their kids off to American/Western university at a legal appropriate age (18 years old) and some parents worried that their kids will fall behind so they sent their kids abroad right before they hit puberty. This most likely explained why my parents decided to send me away from home to Denver, Colorado at the age of 12 years old to live with a family I’ve never met before for the sole purpose of education.

I remembered crying nonstop on the way to the airport, on the plane, when we landed, and even when standing by the carousel, my tears just wouldn’t stop filling eyes and rolling down my cheeks. My mom chaperoned me the first time around and yet I was threatened to death. Looking back, I had no idea why I was crying so much, perhaps it was the fear of the unknown world, the strong nauseating fact that I wouldn’t see my parents for another six months.

Prior to moving to America by myself, I’ve always been super attached to my parents as a child and I would always made a scene when I get dropped off for summer camp or at the babysitter’s place. I MADE SURE people knew how much I dislike new surrounding, new things, and new faces. So the fact that my parents now wanted to send me super far away to a foreign country for a long extended period of time was just unacceptable. It was too much for my 12-year-old mind to understand, and I was crying out of anger and frustration. After all this decision was made mutually. My parents did have multiple discussions with me before making the decision of sending me away. My mom visited the Middle School and High school I will be entering a couple of summers ago to make sure (needless to say she loved it). I was thrown into an environment which was completely unfamiliar to me. The language barrier was brutal, but puberty was perhaps even worse. The first semester in an American middle school I gained a solid 10kg just from eating American lunch food by myself because I didn’t know how to speak to the other kids. I went from head to toe pink outfits with classic thick Asian bangs to a punk rock 2009 Avril Lavigne inspired princess. When I went back to Taiwan two summers later, my parents were in shock with the heavy smokey eyeliners and a transformative all-black wardrobe. But they let it slipped because she is American now and they do things differently there. And from that point on, my life is changed forever.

travel1

After a good four years of studying in the States, I’ve made multiple friends, my English definitely improved and I was able to gain more insight into what is it like to be a proper American teen. However, the feeling of insecurity and not having a sense of belonging was starting to eat me alive. I started to constantly disagree with my parents on a fundamental basis, I refused to oblige to the cultural expectations they tried to impose on me when I was back home for break. It was becoming a lot more difficult to live with my own family members in Taiwan because I am not used to all the house rules and how they functioned as a household. I was gradually feeling distant from my own family because they all knew the ins-and-outs, where things are but I was utterly clueless. The hardest part was they assumed I know EVERYTHING because I am biologically related to them, but I genuinely question if I belonged at all. When I finally adjusted myself to adapt to my own family, it’s time to say goodbye again – on to living with the family friends who I spent more time with during my teenage years than my own family members.

Over the years, I’ve stayed with so many families to a point where I’ve lost count. I’ve gone to a Greek Orthodox church, had multiple Russian dinners, attended graduation parties and fashion shows, tried Australian cuisine and of course, cheered on football games, all the while being the only Asian person in the room. I did it all before the age of 17 years old. Some people looked at my upbringing confused, and I just saw it as a form of training. I want to believe that there is a bigger picture in this journey: that ultimately my parents wanted to train me to become an independent, well-rounded, worldly woman who can handle herself in any situation. Although I don’t think I exactly turned out to be the person they wanted me to become, pretty confident to say that I have grown up to become a person with a global view.

Studying away from home has definitely broadened my worldview and expanded my capacity to absorb and adapt to new culture regardless of where I go in the world. I am currently studying in Europe (this is probably going to be yet another post I will write about in the future) and I did find myself more at ease the second time around. Nothing comes easy when you first go to a foreign country and live there. But we shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown, instead, we should embrace our fear and make the most out of it.

 

 

xo, J

 

bon profit! A guide to brunch spots in Valencia, Spain.

Being in Spain for 3 years now, I’ve definitely missed the weekend brunch culture in the US (especially in college town setting). However in recent years I think the concept of brunch has made its way to Europe and particularly Spain. Here I think the closest thing to brunch is called “almuerzo” which can be interpreted as ‘lunch’ or a ‘middle day snack’. One thing for certain is unlike brunch, it does not come with big portions and variety of sweet and savory. Personally I have gone to a few restaurants, cafes, and pastries shops in Spain that serve delicious and VERY photogenic brunch. Here are some of my recommendations and personal favorites that you should put on your brunchin/ list if you are visiting Spain (Valencia and Barcelona, to be more specific)!

  1. Bar & Kitchen

bar & kitchen 2 bravas

Located in the Le Seu (old town) district in Valencia tucked away behind the Cathedral and tourist crowds, this adorable restaurant is usually packed with locals and tourists who happen to live nearby. The dishes are a nice mix of modern and traditional Spanish cuisine. The portion of each dish is just perfect for two to share. The patatas bravas is my personal favorite from this place. One of the best I’ve tried in Valencia thus far.

Address:  Plaça d’Ibanyes, 7, 46001 València

Opening Hours:

Sunday

9:00 am – 12:00 am
Monday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Tuesday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Wednesday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Thursday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Friday
9:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday
9:00 am – 12:00 am

*hours might differ during the holidays*

2. BASTARD Coffee & Kitchen

Bastard Coffee
Egg benedict+avcado on pancake

This place is usually packed with local Spanish families and university students especially on the weekends. They serve everything from classic egg benedict to burgers and pancakes. I love the variety of egg benedict selection there, which you can find here:

http://www.bastardcoffeekitchen.com/brunch.html

The environment is super cozy and rustic.

The staff are friendly and service is extremely nice (for Spanish standard). They also speak English if there is any difficulty communicating. Keep in mind that week days are less crowded than the weekends and as everything else in life, early birds will usually always have available seats right on the spot!

Address: C/Leandro de Saralegui, nº 1, bajo izda., 46021 Valencia

Opening Hours:

8:00 am – 12:00 am
Monday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Tuesday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Wednesday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Thursday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Friday
8:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday
8:00 am – 12:00 am

*hours might differ during the holidays*

3. Bluebell Coffee Co.

bluebell co 0
Avocado toasts

My first time entering Blubell Coffee Co. I thought I accidentally intruded someone’s backyard/garden. The interior is the perfect combination of vintage and organic chic. They have various vegetarian and vegan options, also seasonal smoothies and cake. You never know what surprise will be thrown at you on the menu. This place is also very pet and toddler friendly. The back drop is perfect for an afternoon relaxation / chill out after a lovely day wandering around in Ruzafa district.

Address: Carrer de Buenos Aires, 3, 46006 Valencia

Opening Hours:

9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Monday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Tuesday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Wednesday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Thursday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Friday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday
9:00 am – 9:00 pm

*hours might differ during the holidays*

4. Dulce de Leche BOUTIQUE Café Pastelería

dulce de leche bagels
Bagel Salmon Sandwich

Also located in the Ruzafa district, this restaurant is great for their vast selection of delicious and cakes and pastries. Usually the staff will ask you to order around the counter and they will bring the food over to you. You will not be surprise to find crowds of students, hipsters, bloggers, or all of the above gathering here on weekly basis. The coffee is great and satisfying, But the desserts are a must try! The fresh flower decor on each table also makes your food more “gram-able” if you know what I mean.

Address: Calle Pintor Gisbert 2, C. Cuba 46, 46006 Valencia

Opening Hours:

Sunday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Monday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Tuesday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Wednesday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Thursday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Friday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Saturday

9:00 am – 9:00 pm

5. La Más Bonita Patacona

la mas bonita 0
English Breakfast

Valencia is famous for its beach and party lifestyle. This is why this brunch spot is almost too perfect to miss. Located literally right in front of the beach,  La Mas Bonita Patacona is the place to be whether is a morning brunch before hitting the beach, after a Friday night out or a Sunday catch up sesh with girls. They also make king size fruit smoothies, jugs of sangria, and of course a mean cup of mimosa.

The interior decor is a beach-y mermaid Mediterranean paradise. The spacial breakfast (brunch session) is from Saturday to Sunday 12.30pm – 5:00pm. So make sure don’t miss out on it!

Which place is your favorite? Comment below and I hope one of them makes it onto your bucketlist!

Cheers!

xo, J.