Those who dream are resourceful and those who are resourceful make their dreams a reality

Friday, 7 August 2015

C h i c a G O :

Chicago, Illinois (the loop) 

July 20 - 23, 2015

Hustle and bustle in the loop that wraps around its heart. Eat a deep dish pizza. Listen to some smooth jazz in the park and break your reverie, look up. 

It's a classy city of neighborhoods with the business district booming and all empowering.

... for those who make it, that is.

South of the loop may as well be another world. Crime statistics vary street by street and the standard of living significantly less. Ancient houses stand uninviting next to yellow fields of dead hope. Sidewalks cracked and deserted. Men stand along the train line in shadow of their fathers who stood not too long ago. A cloud of smoke from lighted cigarettes cover brick faces of teenagers that have never seen better days. Rap is the voice of the community. A pulse of suffering and poverty, something that understands this world.

I walked the streets in the comfort of my boyfriend's presence, his hand in mine and my heart next to his. The day was scorching and the sun unrelentingly beating my forehead and shoulders. It's a day I'll never forget.

Chicago, the loop, a near suburb, is the place my boyfriend and I will call home for the next two years. Not the south. As controversial and depressing as the south may be, I felt inspired. Inspired to keep on changing this world through love, empathy, understanding and compassion. The first step to understanding is empathy and the action is change.

What I had seen is exactly what I am changing. I am learning more about myself and pushing myself to grow more so I can help others. Why? Because people matter. What we do matters.

Chicago is my future home. And the lights, a reflection of radical hope.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

To the Sea

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
July 10 - 12, 2015

Grainy sand between gold painted toes. Shoulders bronzed and kissed.
I sit on the beach, my partner right beside. I scan the raw terrain, critically then softly all at once.

I try and understand the overgrown weeds, the rocky low cliffs and the discolored sea. I see the imperfection and ever more embrace.

Nature is not about perfection but the flaws that make it beautiful. It is why we seek the unusual. The "out of place" that explains the rules or the ordinary.

Monterey is not a white beach. It's no Bondi. It's no Manly. It is a city that rests on rugged coast. The beautiful found in the distorted and twisted.

The choice, to see all. Experience all for what is and perceive through the power of refocus.

I looked to the sea. What I found is what I'm still finding.

Metaphorical? Yes.
Annoying? Maybe.
Truthful? Honestly so.
The Jellies Experience (special edition), Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monday, 25 May 2015

旅行与心脏 - 中国 (Travel with Heart - China)

 Pearl River, China
March 19, 2015

Discovering Liberation of Spirit and Mind

Cold piercing hearts sit behind barred rusted steel windows. A minuscule opening to the world buried deep within politics, communism and dollar. Bleak skyscrapers reach higher and higher, gasping for air that is flooded with chemicals from factories next door, down the street and within. Creativity is scarcely salvaged from industrial markets dominating the once traditional cultural utopia.

Despite monopolistic destruction to both nature and being, China is a land where one can find liberation. It is freeing. It is where spirit and mind shatter barred imprisonment and leap into imaginative pristine beginnings.

It is a land of milk and honey for those who see themselves. I saw myself. But did I like what I had seen?

On March 19th, I flew from Los Angeles to Guangzhou, China to challenge myself. I booked the ticket on a whim (~2 weeks in advance) despite money uncertainty - because why the hell not?

I had already discovered Australia (& was on my way there once again to visit my boyfriend for his 22nd birthday - *shout out to my very own Aussie: I love you Nick!) and New Zealand and was ready for something more. I needed a culture shock, I wanted to experience. I desired to learn.

Below is a summary of events that added to an enlightening understanding of self:

  • Met Shannon, Matt and James from Kalgoonie, Australia. They were on their way home and had a 17 hour layover. I decided to make some new mates (it seems I am attracted to Australians) to explore Guangzhou with. 

My new Aussie mates and I. From Left to Right, James, me, Shannon and Matt.

  • The exploration continued all day. We figured out how to navigate a new world in a language foreign to ourselves.
Poverty is everywhere. Western and Traditional culture surround the city as one outlandish sphere.

Traffic is horrendous. Lanes do not seem to exist. In one lane there is a brand new Mercedes and the next there is a man on a scooter with woven baskets piled high on his automobile.

But yet I was happy. I felt liberated. I was present. 
So, what's the big hype? I mean so what? People travel everyday. 

Yes, no one spoke English. Yes, people were horrid and gave me the cold shoulder. Yes, no one returned my smile. And yes, I was lost in a foreign city and culture. 

But I was liberated. Enjoyably so. 

I relied on the person I know best. The girl I believe in every day who keeps fighting despite being knocked to the ground time after time again. The woman who will never stop traveling, learning and educating. The person who never stops writing. Because that is who she is. Words is her world and the feelings tied to those words, her universe. 

She is a writer. A journalist. 

A sharer of information to those who need to feel. Those wanting nothing more than to break free from those barred rusted steel windows they unknowingly set for themselves. 

I was me. All it took was a trip to another world to appreciate a driven being composed of the intricate pieces of spirit, mind and heart. 

The (not so) End: 
At the airport about to board my next flight to Sydney, Australia:
- Left boarding pass on cart (Because I am a doofus)
- Directed to immigration. Told I had to go through security again although my plane was about to board...
- Got replacement boarding pass from the nice Chinese gentleman. My panicked demeanor broke down the language barrier. Emotions as universal language.
- Ended up at the wrong gate and asked for help but no one spoke English.
- Figured it out and ran my butt off to the third floor to the correct gate.
- Boarded the plane (last call). Sat down in my seat. Had a conversation with a stranger about the meaning of life.
- And eventually... found my way home into the arms of my loving boyfriend.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Free Falling

Skydive Cairns, Australia 
December 18, 2014 

I wanted to live.
To stare death down and laugh without fear.
I wanted to feel.

So what better way is there to be aware of body and mind than jumping out of a plane 14,000 feet off the ground? Well... maybe yoga or meditation. But that's not the point! I craved an adrenaline rush that would push my spirit outside of the limitations we sometimes set of ourselves. I hungered for a challenge. A test of my own confidence and faith. I needed to fall.

In the troposphere there are no restrictions. No safety nets. No places to hide. There is only you.

Body and Mind, Free Falling.

And so I decided to fall, fast.

The other divers and I boarded the small plane with our experienced skydiver buddies. My diving mate was the oldest and most seasoned diver, having made a career of the sport over the last 20+ years. He was witty and provided words of comfort for me on the plane:

Skydiving Mate: "The worst that can happen is that your parachute doesn't open and you die."
Me: "Sounds like I'll get more free fall for my buck. I'm excited!" :D

The view from the plane as we flew up

Cracking jokes with my skydiving instructor as I eagerly awaited my jump

Before we knew it we were sky high (literally). Pairs started jumping out and falling hard like bowling balls being dropped from the Empire State building.

My buddy and I made our way to the open door of the plane. The surprisingly cool humid wind tasselled my hair and whipped my skin. I looked down... a long way down. I screamed, "I'm ready!"

We jumped.

My body, weightless. My mind, free of tangled thoughts. I felt every sensation. Every part of my body enveloped by a forceful wind demanding to be reckoned with.

My eyes wide open, branding images of creative beauty in my heart. The hills, green and inviting. The ocean, tranquil and placid. The vast distance, not far enough.

I was finally present. I had no worries of today or tomorrow.

Just me. My curiosity. One body. One mind.

Friday, 3 April 2015


Sunrise in Cairns, Australia

December 17, 2014

Static Heights 

Clarity. Focus.

It was a morning spent in high resolution. A hot air balloon ride with my mother and random tourists from around the globe. What did I find up there? Was it a higher power? A deity amidst the clouds?

No. Definitely not. I found something more important.

I found clarity.
I found focus.

I stood, squished against the side of the basket. A woven imprint slowly tattooed itself on my left unclothed thigh as people piled in, struggling to find space. I took a deep breath. Found my inner peace and exhaled negativity. This was it. I was finally going to see Cairns, basked in the light of a rising sun from great heights. I was ready, I was excited... I was a little nervous.

What to do now? Ponder the meaning of life? What if I died? What would happen to my most trusted companion Maxximas (aka poopy face, aka my best friend - dog -)? My thought process harshly disrupted by a rough voice. The rope attaching us to the soil, untied. The basket lifted. And suddenly.. we were Up.

The view - Up - as we ascended

My breath quickened as I looked down at the ground escaping below me. My heart thumped to the beat of a million drums. My feet, glued. My legs quaked. My tummy, uneasy. And then, I looked Up.

I stared straight ahead at the sun on the horizon. My horizon. I was rising.

The air was crisp and my senses clear. I saw myself from above. I understood. Every moment, every struggle - got me here. It got me on top. Looking forward and looking out into a horizon of opportunity, a chance to change this world through empathy and influence. The view, rare. Seen only by those with conviction and a firm belief in self.

I found clarity.
I found focus.

I was Up.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Misfits

Road trip to Draintree Forest From left to right: Catti Jimenez (Sweden) Alex Prikhodko (Washington, D.C.) Peter Ma (San Francisco, CA) Kelly Hellman (Sweden) Hendrik Bandholz (Germany) Pontus Karlsson (Sweden) and me (Los Angeles, CA).
"It's that F***ing Bird!"

December 16, 2014

Pro Dive Cairns connected me with people from around the world living one life. One of passion for diving, travel and adventure.

I had met Pontus during my first day on the boat. His fiery red hair and freckles made him stand out like a Labrador among Poodle Terriers. I was intrigued by his "Swedish" ways and his expertise in diving. Naturally, we became close friends and diving buddies. From there I met the rest of the crew on the boat and off for some drinks - nothing like a cold beer after a dive - in Cairns.

On a whim, we decided, "Why not rent a car, go on a day road trip and experience all Australia has to offer?"

And that's exactly what we did.

The crazy bunch. Alex drove while I helped with navigation in the front. 
Just two hours from Cairns, Daintree Rainforest is a site to see. It stretches 1,2000 square kilometers and is the longest continuous rainforest on the Australian continent. With luscious green trees, cool flowing water and small critters; this sanctuary of rejuvenation is a prime example of mother nature's finest.

It is home to the colorful Cassowary, an endangered bird species vital to the Daintree forest's survival.

"The cassowary is vital to the wet tropics region throughout Far North Queensland because it provides a role of seed disperser for over 100 species of rainforest plants with large fruits. Without the cassowary, these plants would be concentrated around a parent plant and would not spread throughout the rainforest ecosystem."

As of 1993, there were only 54 cassowary birds left in the Daintree forest. Although the species is starting to repopulate, it is still listed to be at risk of extinction.

After learning about the endangered bird, Peter and Alex decided they had to see it.

We were a rare group after all, why not add one more unusual sight to the experience?

The Daintree Rainforest : A view stretching past the green and into sea blue
With only a day to spare, we chose a path and treaded lightly. We worked all of our senses, enjoyed the power of being (with each other) and lived deeply with no regrets.

Finding our own path and following it with confidence and peace of mind
With the day coming to a close and a van running out of gas, we decided to see one more natural beauty. Recommended by the locals and situated at the very edge of the forest, Emmagen Beach became our destination and conquer. The only problem was - we couldn't find the darn beach.

From high to low, left to right, we searched for the famous (but ridiculously hidden) Emmagen beach. We were lost and frustrated but we never lost hope. We were a determined bunch with a fascination in discovering the unknown. It was our mission and we wouldn't leave until seeing it with our own eyes.

Locals and tourists could see our frustration and gooberish ways as we searched for path openings/markers along the road. A couple of locals had us follow them back the way we came, claiming they knew where the beach was. These people took us for fools, oh the trickery and deception. We stopped, turned around, and headed back the way we came.

Dusk was falling and mosquitoes were biting. The humidity was scorching and our crave for accomplishment and reflection in nature was deranged. A little ironic but when has life ever made sense?

Two frustrated German girls stood stranded by their broken down car. We stopped. Hey! We had a German mechanic after all. We left Hendrik with the German girls to work on the car and told him to stay put as we explored the forest on either side of the road.

We had seen beautiful beaches through out the day:

A quick stop along our road trip
but still, no Emmagen.

We almost lost hope until...

By Golly!!!! We found the path. We pulled back the shrubbery hiding the narrow trail and leaped forward. We couldn't believe our very eyes. In a half-walk, half-jog , I let the green leaves and vines smack my legs and face as I stepped forward, eager - craving a sight as delicious as cheesecake, The forest cleared and...

Was that it?

A narrow stretch of white golden sand lay facing a calm grey ocean.

I stood there, perplexed. How could this be? We traveled all this way, had gotten bitten by thousands of mosquitoes and led astray by the locals. For what?

That's when it hit me. This beach, this simple and plain beach was exactly how it needed to look all along. It wasn't the destination that I was meant to find solace in but the journey. I had grown. I had changed. Australia gave me a reason to be adventurous, to travel with complete strangers and to learn how to live every experience as a life lesson granted upon me by my own thirst for challenge.

We quickly walked back to the van as dusk enveloped the small beach behind us and the forest stretching ahead.

Where was the broken down car? The German girls? Most importantly - WHERE WAS HENDRIK -

Oh dear friend, please be alive.

We searched and searched and searched until we drove. We drove back the way we came, praying to pass him on the way. Our prayers were answered.

Hendrik and the German girls came rolling forward in the now-working sedan. Relief spread across Alex and my face as we spoke about our discovery of the mission-almost-impossible beach.

Our cars were idle and our spirits high....

"It's that F****** bird!" Alex screamed.

For a mere second we caught a glimpse of the rare species walk in front of our van and disappear into the thick forest.


We bolted out of the van and ran to the outskirts of the forest. We searched, squinting our eyes, trying to see between the trees. But it was too late. We had our moment. And just like that, the moment was gone but forever etched in our hearts and line of vision.

We did it. We saw the bird. We saw Emmagen Beach. We saw Daintree Rainforest.

Most importantly, we saw ourselves.

The endangered Cassowary Bird in the Daintree Rainforest

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Diving in Deep (The Great Barrier Reef)

The view of the sun setting from The Great Barrier Reef

December 11th - December 15th

Cool blue. Sun above. Nothing below.

Heart, adventure and a rebellious thirst to defy the laws of human nature.

Have you ever breathed under water? How did it feel? Did you breathe heavily? Or did the scenery down under take your breath away?

Cairns, a small city in northern Queensland is home to the worlds largest coral reef system known globally as The Great Barrier Reef. According to its website, the reef is "larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space." Pretty gnarley huh?

Fortunately, I received the opportunity to dive into this experience...deep.

I arrived to this natural oasis of wonder on November 10th and was immediately taken aback by the scorching heat and sticky humidity. Yuck. I wasted no time in escaping the tropical weather and splashing into a cool pool of learning.

Before even arriving to Australia, I knew exactly what I had to experience. I chose Australia because of The Great Barrier Reef. With global warming and coal drilling near the reef coming in at full force, I knew it would only be a matter of time before the majestic reef ceases to exist. So, I chose adventure and I chose challenge. Scuba Diving had always seemed to be a serene yet adrenaline inducing sport.

A small tank of oxygen, a stinger suit, a mask, and you - 18 meters under. Who would put themselves in such danger just for a closer look at coral? Who could possibly have that much faith in themselves to make snap decisions that are possibly life saving? Crazy, right? Maybe, or just challenging. And that's exactly what I did.

I won't bore you with the logistics of pool training, skill sets and my day to day so here's all you need to know:

December 11th - Training Dives (Pool)
December 12th - Training Dives (Pool) + PADI Exam
December 13th - First day on the boat (2 Dives)
December 14th - Open Water Scuba Diver Certification and Night Dive with Sharks (4 Dives)
December 15th - Last Day on the boat (3 Dives)

Getting pumped for a dive on The Great Barrier Reef
A picture of the diverse coral and marine wildlife found throughout the reef. Photo Credit: Charlotte Serkumian 
My beautiful scuba diving mates from around the world. Jason, my diving instructor, is in the back wearing an aqua blue shirt.

Some would say their favorite part of the experience was observing 400+ types of coral while others would say it was studying 1500+ species of tropical fish while still others would claim it was the sheer thought of becoming scuba certified on The Great Barrier Reef.

Although a fan of all three, my favorite part was in conquering my own fears. It was in testing my ability to defy comfort and exert bravery and fierceness under pressure. It was being surrounded by God and all holy while maintaining my logic. Swimming with sharks...feeling my blood heat and my heart thump clicked something inside of me. Only I control me. The situation is meaningless. What matters is how I react to the context and how my actions reflect my values.

It was beautiful, the air was fresh, the water pure and my heart, a feasting ground for personal challenge. This was my experience. Who I was before was irrelevant. I had reclaimed my optimistic mind and hunger for challenge. I could withstand all adversity, conquer and then grasp a greater meaning regardless of context. All I needed was a rejuvenated mind reclaimed 18 meters down in the depths of a land down under.

The Great Barrier Reef and Nemo himself. Photo Credit: Peter Ma