the unbearable lightness of being

“The heaviest of burdens is simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

What then shall we choose?

Weight or lightness?

– Milan Kundera, Czech-born, French-nationalized writer (1984)


Encore une fois, en français

Le plus lourd fardeau nous écrase, nous fait ployer sous lui, nous presse contre le sol. Le plus lourd fardeau est donc en meme temps l’image du plus intense accomplissement vital. Plus lourd est le fardeau, plus notre vie est proche de la terre, et plus elle est réelle et vraie.

En revanche, l’absence totale de fardeau fait que l’être humains devient plus léger que l’air, qu’il s’envole, qu’il s’éloigne sa la terre, de terrestre, qu’il n’est plus qu’à demi réel et que ses mouvements sont aussi libres qu’insignifiants.

Alors, que choisir? La pesanteur ou la légèreté?

– Milan Kundera, écrivain né tchèque, nationalisé français (1984)img_0907img_1110img_1047img_1063img_0941img_1103img_1106img_0951img_0956img_0927img_0931
Location: Prague & Terezín (aka Theresienstadt), Czech Republic 

the conquest of happiness

“The man who acquires easily things for which he feels only a very moderate desire concludes that the attainment of desire does not bring happiness. If he is of a philosophic disposition, he concludes that human life is essentially wretched, since the man who has all he wants is still unhappy. He forgets that to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

– Bertrand Russell (1930)

Some of the wisdom in this book is really dated, but much of it is really true, nearly 100 years later. Does human nature really evolve? Or are we reacting to so-called ‘disruptive technology’ in similar patterns to how our ancestors responded to basic stimuli related to success and internal drive? I think we can all relate to achieving benchmarks we thought would make us happy only to find further restlessness. One thing I think Russell got wrong though, is that you can be of a philosophic disposition and still conclude that the attainment of happiness is a continuous practice that has no end point. Contentedness and growth are not mutually exclusive, indeed both require daily practice.


“A man who has once perceived, however temporarily and however briefly, what makes greatness of soul, can no longer by happy if he allows himself to be petty, self-seeking, troubled by trivial misfortunes, dreading what fate may have in store for him. The man capable of greatness of soul will open wide the windows of his mind, letting the winds blow freely upon it from the world as truly as our human limitation will permit; realizing the brevity and minuteness of human life, he will realize also that in individual minds is concentrated whatever of value the known universe contains. And he will see that the man whose mind mirrors the world becomes in a sense as great as the world.”

xo your friend alice

auvers-sur-oise

Here rest the Van Goghs…

In the last 70 days of his life Vincent stayed in Auvers-sur-Oise at the Auberge Ravoux Inn, where he produced 80 paintings and ultimately ended his own life. He is buried next to his brother and confidante, Theo, who died only 6 months after him.

The city and surrounding Oise valley served as a kind of impressionist’s art colony in the late 19th century, home for a time to Pissarro, Cezanne, Monet, Daubigny, and Gauguin. Its pastoral way of living has rendered little change to the little town, with many scenes identical to their immortal paintings to this day. While it was still snowing in mid-March during our visit, we imagined the wind rolling through the wheat fields he walked through from May to July, which served also as his primary subject matter during the last prolific burst of his decade-long art career. 000408390007.jpg
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000408400014.jpg000408390009.jpg000408400018.jpg000408400021.jpgall analog film shot by the great MK , my kindred spirit and travel companion to auvers ❤
Location: Auvers-sur-Oise, Pontoise, France

a little life

“The axiom of equality states that always equals x: it assumes that if you have a conceptual thing named x, that it must always be equivalent to itself, that it has a uniqueness about it, that it is in possession of something so irreducible that we must assume it is absolutely, unchangeably equivalent to itself for all time, that its very elementalness can never be altered. But it is impossible to prove. Always, absolutes, nevers: these are the words, as much as numbers, that make up the world of mathematics…he had always appreciated how elusive it was, how the beauty of the equation itself would always be frustrated by the attempts to prove it. It was the kind of axiom that could drive you mad, that could consume you, that could easily become an entire life.”

– Hanya Yanagihara (2015)

Continue reading

tokyo somewhere (part ii)

un autre très petit journal des photographies autour de Tokyo…
another little diary of photos around Tokyo…
東京の写真パート2

take a peek at part I here

feat. Shinjuku Gyoen Botanical Garden, コフィノワ Coffee NOVA (my favorite coffee spot in Kuramae), Tokyo Metro, Shirube izakaya in Shimokitazawa, Daikanyama graffiti, Senso-ji Temple AsakusaIMG_6599_MG_6512IMG_9001.JPGIMG_1098IMG_3179_MG_5554IMG_7001
xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

CHOLA island (pt. I)

Ahh CHOLA.

It’s a somewhat dorky anagram of the first letter of each of our names which we made up one summer in college when we spent virtually every day together, and has stuck with us through years of friendship and life changes. (And before you say we’re culturally insensitive I should disclose that it started out as HOLA, since we are welcoming of everyone we cross paths with, but it became CHOLA because we love Chris too.)

We met in Berkeley in 2011 and our travels have taken us to Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, New York, Japan (check out our adventures in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo), Miami, and now the Dominican Republic! I love seeing this list of hosting locales for our adventures expand with each year of our friendship. A big lesson in my adult life, and especially my time in Japan, has been the acceptance of impermanence and how the passing of time and change lends unquestionable beauty to life. As much as people and circumstances evolve, I know this core unit of family will always support and love one another and it is one of my greatest blessings in this life. Te quiero mucho mi familia de CHOLITOS y CHOLITA ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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[L to R: Chris, Harmeet, Lindsay, Alice, Oscar]
Berkeley, California (July 2011 – Summer of CHOLA love)
IMG_9887.jpg[L to R: Lindsay, Harmeet, Chris, Oscar, Alice]
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (December 2017)

El Farsante

Si todavía me amas como antes 
Ya nada me parece interesante 
Yo sé que en el amor soy un farsante 
Yo sin ti no vuelvo a enamorarme bebéIMG_9875IMG_9942IMG_9944IMG_9902
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IMG_0095IMG_0117IMG_0107IMG_0067IMG_0073smudge on my lens and a smirk on my friend’s faceIMG_0070keep that el presidente flowin’ jefe IMG_0015IMG_0016IMG_0014

 


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IMG_0157.JPGIMG_0174our uber driver who serendipitously led us to the best pescado frito and johnny cakes we’ve ever had 😛IMG_0179IMG_0149IMG_0200IMG_0186IMG_0206Location: Zona Colonial, Los Tres Ojos, Meson d’Bari, Palacio Nacional, Catedral Primada de América, Playa de Boca Chica, Calle La Venezuela

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 

marunouchi から ginza

my walk to work and back home…

I am staying with a lovely friend in higashi-ginza right now and as my days as a resident of this country wind down, I’ve got to savor and memorialize these daily sights and routines.

shin-marunouchi building…where I spend most of my days in JapanIMG_8951IMG_8949IMG_8959IMG_8966IMG_8969views from our balcony…

Location: 銀座 Ginza, Chuo-ku & 丸の内 Marounouchi, Chiyoda-ku // Tokyo, Japan

hunger of the pine

Deep under the cover of leaves and rolling mist, the trees whispered their secrets to me. My heart expressed its sorrows and the moss blanketing the forest silently understood. I have been experiencing some personal heartache recently, and as much as reason exhorts emotion to be still, sometimes all you really need to do to reflect on pain is to temporarily remove yourself to a different reality to encourage a likewise change in perspective. It almost always works for me.

I flew to Kagoshima and then took the hydrofoil (a fancy word for a quick ferry) to Yakushima for a strong dose of shinrin-yoku (森林浴 forest bathing), calling upon nature as therapy. My friend Daniel, who I met back in January on a ski/snowboard trip to Nozawa Onsen, joined me (*friendship level-up!).

Mononoke Hime, known to English-speaking audiences as Princess Mononoke, is based on this forest. Apparently Hayao Miyazaki, one of his main animators Masashi Ando, and a team of artists went to Yakushima to sketch landscapes for the film back in 1995. Japanese people hold a deep reverence for nature and I felt this peace ring through my body in my two days in these forests. I could not have asked for a more warm embrace by my friends the veteran 3000 year old trees, moss, gentle deer, sly spiders, and mercurial skies. Not only beautiful to look at, but they expect nothing in return and are the best listeners 🙂

Heartbreak can manifest in many ways, whether it be romantic or platonic, and I believe it to be an essential human experience. It’s okay to feel sad, just remember that you are magical and you will keep radiating love into the universe. You will attract what you express. You may stumble, but you will not stay down. IMG_9542.jpgIMG_9141IMG_9399

IMG_9121.jpgIMG_9398.jpgIMG_9248.jpgIMG_9252IMG_9281IMG_8038.jpgIMG_9323Japanese wilderness explorer uniformIMG_9333

IMG_9343IMG_9448IMG_9429hi cuties

IMG_9441IMG_9481IMG_9471my spidey senses are tingling…IMG_9541IMG_9547IMG_9422IMG_8032

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xo your friend alice


Location: Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan

in the midst of adolescence

Now is the time in my life
that has been filled with aspirations
over many long years
that I shake off the anguish of my heart and
send my lofty aspirations high up into the sky till
they reach the end of the universe
This fierceness of living
through joys and sorrows of life
sometimes distressed and sometimes
comforted by a joy
Agonising over the undulation of life and
moved to tears at the weight of life
I want to keep living until the last days of my life

– Yayoi Kusama, AnOther Magazine (2012)

I’m not an adolescent anymore, but neither is Kusama-san, who wrote and published this poem at age 83.

I couldn’t snag tickets to her new museum in Shinjuku (yabai) but luckily I caught her ‘My Eternal Soul’ exhibit at the National Art Center back in April. She has achieved a sort of legendary status in Japan and abroad with her ‘instagrammable’ infinity rooms and polka-dotted multi-colored, whimsical pumpkin art. Her concept of “self-obliteration” is to become completely engulfed by art. But I most admire her utter lack of apologism. She is completely free and unassuming about her sexuality, mental illness, abstraction, joy in life, love of freedom and desire for fame. Her soul strikes me as dense and light at the same time–but most of all she is free–and I understand why people are drawn to that feeling.Image result for yayoi kusama youngImage result for yayoi kusamaxo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

kindred spirit

Every now and then my wanderings around the internet cause me to stumble upon a personality that draws me in like a whisper. Nancy Zhang is a painter and fashion illustrator in Berlin whose love of coffee, fashion, books, and travel touch the marrow inside me like she could be my blood donor. I recognize that these are broad categories that many people are interested in, but her exact aesthetic and sprite-like essence reached out to touch me amidst all the internet noise. She paints strangers who strike her on the streets and in trains and weaves narratives about them, wondering about their intimate histories. She is moved by them. I want to be her friend. I’ve gone through the entirety of her blog and the realization of her intention to grow as an artist is very apparent from 2011 to the present. She develops from a cutesy whimsical style to something more geometric and careful.

Okay, I’ll stop fangirling now. You can find her art on her page: nancy-zhang.com

But I probably won’t stop daydreaming about moving to Europe and wishing I was an artist…
Jacquemus_artistic_0Mmorz_s_Wide5Nancy_Devaughn_index_s0001I have befriended kindred spirits who inspire and energize me on a few occasions. You know, the type of people whose minds and hearts you are eternally curious about. Megan Kang is one of them and really, she was a big source of inspiration for this blog as she has a natural instinct and eye for uncovering beauty. We met on the first day of a history seminar our last year in college and by happenstance encountered each other at a campus leadership event. That same evening we attended a new moon women’s circle and solidified our bond. The thing I cherish most about our friendship is that I always come away from our time spent together with greater clarity and organization to my thoughts and goals. She always challenges me to give basis to my assumptions and think critically about my motivations with a gentle hand, and I love that about her. When I stop to consider who I feel most inquisitive about, I realize that most of these individuals for me happen to be Asian women. Growing up in Salt Lake City where there were very few other people of Asian descent, I did not have very many Asian friends during my formative years. But I guess there is a certain feeling of affinity that underlies charm. The recognition that the other person is either similar to something you see in yourself (partly due to shared experience) or is a representation of what you aspire to be. I am happy whenever I stumble upon these personalities through different mediums, whether in-the-flesh encounters or leisurely perambulations in cyberspace, as it breathes life and urgency into my soul.

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

japanniversary (year two)

It’s September 24th again and time for another round of what did I do during my year in Japan?

This same time last year I thought I would be slaying the LSAT. Sadly I have not proven to be the all-natural standardized testing whiz I once thought I was, so while I ponder my fate as a legal professional, let’s take a look back on this wonderful year in Japan filled with a few transitions and leaps forward.

October

November

December

  • served on bonenkai committee for my company holiday party
  • saw one of my all-time favorite bands, the XX in tokyo
  • took the LSAT for the first time :/
  • trip to atami in izu
  • hakone xmas with mamaimg_4984

January

February

  • attended my first bikram yoga class in Japan at Bikram Ginza
  • ran the Tokyo Marathon and Friendship Run, raising ¥100,000 to support Special Olympics NipponIMG_5294.jpg

March

  • CHO(L)A takes Japan (a return to kyoto, my 1st time in osaka & kobe, and tokyo)_MG_6140_MG_6389
  • start of hanami season (yoyogi park)IMG_5508
  • celebrating the first day of spring in fukuoka

April

May

June

  • britney spears concert at yoyogi national stadium
  • Puroresu FMW (Japanese pro wrestling)
  • trip to fuji-Q highland roller coaster park & lake kawaguchiko

July

  • 26th birthday (star festival)
  • tokyo disney sea
  • trip to okinawaIMG_8647
  • maguro cutting & tokyo bay cruise
  • osaka & kyoto with the Suzukis
  • universal studios osaka
  • moved from kuramae to ginza (more on that later)
  • softbank hawks vs. nippon ham fighters baseball game

August

September

  • took the LSAT for the 2nd time
  • worked on law school applications *crossing my fingers & toes*
  • ultra music festival
  • booze cruise in tokyo bay

Firsts

Goals before I say Ta Ta For Now to Japan this December…

  • visit all 4 main islands in Japan [hokkaido, honshu, (coming for you!) shikoku, kyushu]

Looking back at this second year in Japan, I feel so happy and blessed to have witnessed so much beauty, both in humanity and nature. Of course there have been low points but they serve to make the moments of connection and growth all the sweeter. I’ve had a few personal revelations and challenges this year that I will save for reflection at the end of 2017. If you’re curious, take a peek at last year’s japanniversary post. Thanks to you for dropping by dear reader.

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan