CHOLA SENDS YOU PEACE
Location: Grand Palladium Bávaro Suites Resort & Spa // Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
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 ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
[L to R: Chris, Harmeet, Lindsay, Alice, Oscar]
Berkeley, California (July 2011 – Summer of CHOLA love)
[L to R: Lindsay, Harmeet, Chris, Oscar, Alice]
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (December 2017)
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 bebé
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
a chill weekend at a beach house in shizuoka with some close friends ❤ ❤ ❤
‘shizuoka prefecture’lookit! ‘the longerweenie face’batten down the hatches for typhoon Lan
Location: Kisami, Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
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…
I 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
a pair of kick ass ladies
photo credit: papa suzuki
Location: Kyoto, Japan
feat. Erika, Shirley, Kelly, Yusaku, Diane, Ebony, Dustin, Kei, Matt, Midori, Cynthia, Justin, and Fernando (other friends not pictured, I still love you)
I went to work on my birthday this year. I know, tiny violins can be heard in the distance–but since I have a summer birthday I am usually off school or off work because it coincides with the week of a major American holiday. That doesn’t apply in Japan so instead I am taking long weekends to Okinawa this weekend and Osaka the next. Plus I got to have lunch with some of my favorite
office boss ladies 🙂
To celebrate this year, I had a tequila & gyoza-fueled party at my house. We introduced a few Japanese initiates into the wonderfully varied college drinking game known as ‘beer pong’, followed by an attempt to go dancing in Roppongi which instead ended up at a costumed karaoke-kan. I wish I had taken more photos but, you know how these things go. I always get worked up trying to say hello to everyone and just manic with happiness that I get to see friends together in one place. Party theme this year was RED and I ended the weekend with my first trip to Disney Sea which is the only one of its kind in the world.
I am so grateful for the beautiful relationships I’ve made in Japan. Community is what makes the experience of living in a place much richer. Thanks again to everyone for coming out!
xo your friend alice
Location: 蔵前 Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan
My favorite part about Hanoi was perching on balconies overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake or the ever present roar of motorbikes on the street below; drinking iced coffee with treacly condensed milk, creamy fresh milk, or decadent egg cream whilst listening to compilations of romantic French chansons or bopping along to the self-appointed DJ’s mix of S Club 7 and Eurythmics. Every single day we visited at least 2-3 cafes. Partly to grab wifi to plan our next stop or meet with our Hanoian compadres, but also just to feel the wind in our hair and sit cross-legged on plush cushions. After kicking up dust all day in Birkenstocks, working on that calf curvature, my favorite thing to do was unstrap my shoes and put my feet up whenever we stopped to drink coffee. That probably sounds really gross, but no one cared and it was so comforting and freeing to be outside of my rules-based existence in Tokyo.
In the course of 3-4 days in Hanoi we visited no less than 7 cafes: Note Cafe, Pho Co (2x because this was my favorite rooftop lookout spot), Cong Caphe (2x as this is a chain), Giang, Loading T (2x because the owner Sun was such a homie), Tranquil Books & Coffee, and Dinh Coffee. I have no regrets.
[text continued below]temple of literatureon Sunday when the street is open to pedestrians only and a festival atmosphere invades the Hoàn Kiếm District…life is tops at Cafe Pho Co, my personal favorite cafe…feat. my super fly manicure from Orchids Spalittle girl practicing her roller blading in Lenin Park (Thong Nhat)Vietnamese Women’s Museum [looking down]Caitlin was my travel partner for our 9 day trip in Vietnam. We met on move-in day for college dorms and we’ve remained good friends to this day, never letting more than a year pass before we see each other, and always in different places (so far Richmond, VA, Washington D.C., San Luis Obispo, Oakland/SF, and she visited me in Tokyo). We both have ambitious dreams and every time we reunite we treat our time together as check-ins about where we want to go next. Most importantly, I cherish the honesty in our relationship. We are both very growth-oriented and want to continuously improve and learn from our human errors and vulnerabilities. As much as friends should be cheerleaders in our lives, they should also be able to point you towards real obstacles and inspire you to overcome challenges. I love that we’ve maintained this beautiful support system and our first international trip together was definitely a friendship level-up. This was taken just 5 days before her graduation from medical school. Congratulations Dr. Caitlin! ❤
Dan Q. makes a Hanoi cameo…a night at the Hanoi Opera…when lovely strangers want to take a photo with you…
hello from the Long Biên BridgeOne
You’re like a dream come true
Just want to be with you
Girl, it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me
Repeat steps one through three
Make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I’ll start back at one
‘Back at One’ by Brian McKnight is the inspiration for this blog title. It also happened to be the first dance song my brother Will and sister-in-law Priya chose for their wedding ❤
xo your friend alice
Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
Cherry blossoms represent the impermanence of life and beauty; they bloom brilliantly and fall with the gusts of wind and showers of spring in about one week. On March 10, we came upon three trees in Yoyogi Koen already flowering; quite early for the sakura season in Tokyo (full bloom is forecasted for April 3 this year). All the other trees were still barren, stubbornly bearing their winter visage, and there was hardly any one else around.
*commence dream sequence*
This is the last of the CHOLA series for this trip but stay tuned for CHOLA island later this year. We haven’t pinpointed a location just yet, but we’re thinking of somewhere in the Caribbean 😎 I love and miss you all
Location: Yoyogi Park, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Multiple cups of espresso-based coffee, strong zero tall boys, vitamin C capsules, and precious few hours of sleep later, our heroes make their triumphant return to Tokyo. But wait, their senses are on high alert. They smell, they feel the energy of this electric city. Trap behavior abounds–there is dancing in subway stations and wilding out yet to be done!
feat. Meiji-jingu shrine, Takeshita-dori Harajuku, Shibuya Crossing, Asakusa Senso-ji, latte art at Reissue Cafe, Tokyo Metro & JR, Yokohama Noodle Museum, and our ever-constant companion, Strong Zero (with a special appearance by Mone-chan, daughter of our new friend Yo)best cotton candy of my life and I am no stranger to candy floss I’m tryna telll you
kawaii Mone-chan sippin’ on her ringo juice
my boys ❤ ❤ ❤
Trap behavior led every single one of our young adventurers to miss their separate return flights to California, so that’s one for the books. But no one is going to tell them to 止めなさい よ (yamenasai yo–stop it)!
Will our best friends achieve ultimate mask-off nirvana? To be continued…
xo your friend alice
Location: Tokyo, Japan
“Forgetting the hour for departure, forgetting everything, the picknickers opened up casks of wine and proclaimed drunkenness man’s greatest delight.” – Ihara Saikaku, poet and novelist from Osaka (1642-1693)
feat. Dotonbori, Osaka Castle, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, and the Westin Osakaa call to ramen // smiles brought to you by strong zero chuhai
osaka castle plum orchard
We only spent one night and one day in Osaka, but I think I now have an inkling of understanding about the long-touted rivalry between refined Tokyo and its rebellious brother Osaka. But I laugh at the idea that people in Kansai are somehow too friendly, as I found their openness and good humor quite refreshing. I’ll reserve my judgment though and try to soak it in a bit longer when I’m back for a visit in July.
P.S. I’m really not much of a drinker–mostly because I’m terrible at it. But my friends love to instigate and because I love them dearly I can translate their energy into a kind of contact high. All the fun with none of the side effects and someone to make sure we get home safely. Cheers to you, Osaka.
xo your friend alice
Location: Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Kansai region, Japan
Every person has a hierarchy of relationships. Like most people, I have acquaintances, friends, close friends, and blood relatives. I’m also lucky to have a seester (not biologically-related, but someone I will grow old with) and friends who have become family. They satisfy the self-actualizing segment of the hierarchy of needs because their thoughts stimulate new understanding and inspiration within me; we work together to solve problems using our individual strengths, and our collective honest opinion helps us each to face uncomfortable truths. We all agree that we feel free to be our best, most honest selves when we’re together because we resonate with complete acceptance of each other. Surrounding myself in this love and mutual admiration is what family means to me.
I met this tribe through a college student group and since we each graduated and made our way in the real world, we have reunited just about every year in different places: Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, New York, and now JAPAN.
Somehow we came up with the name CHOLA back in school; it’s just the first letter of each of our names in an acronym (Chris, Harmeet, Oscar, Lindsay, Alice), and it stuck as a loving reminder of this chosen family.
Since it was the boys’ first time in Kyoto I took them to the famous hot spots I had already visited during my trip back in November. I introduced them to a traditional kaiseki meal, shojin ryori vegetarian cuisine that Kyoto is known for, and took them to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Iwatayama Monkey Park, Fushimi Inari Taisha and Kiyomizu-dera temples, as well as the Gion and Pontocho districts. I always leave Kyoto wanting more so I think I will try to return sometime later this spring when the weather is a bit warmer.
see the sky through my eyes
IS ANYONE ELSE SEEING THIS? naughty monkey!
I fed him anyway…I’m such an enabler.album cover
Many of these photos were taken on iPhone 7, can you believe it? You can hardly tell the difference between them and the ones off my DSLR. The apple camera function is getting real clean my friends. Hit ’em with the depth effect!
Location: Arashiyama // Fushimi Inari Taisha // Gion // Kyoto, Kansai Region, Japan
You must’ve heard of these rainbow sparkle Japanese photo booths that erase all blemishes, print onto sticker paper, and make you and all your friends look like adorable baby aliens. The final embellishment after your designated exposures (in which they advise you on what かわいい kawaii poses to hold), utilizes a touch screen wand to decorate your images with small animals, hearts, and airbrush makeup. Some even allow you to be temporarily blue-eyed and purple-tressed. I love souvenirs that are both a physical experience and conjure a specific memory, so I have these strewn about my desk at work of puris with friends who have visited Tokyo (including Dimitri, my former roommate in Oakland pictured here). Whenever I am feeling a bit tired or overworked, I take a quick glance and they remind me of moments of freedom and silliness with cherished people, and then it all doesn’t seem so bad… ❤
This was after dinner for my mama’s last night in Tokyo (for now), where she raved about all the dishes we had at an izakaya called Shirube. She is not easily impressed by food, so I was glad we could please her one more time. I miss her already.
Location: Shimokitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
I’m starting to think every other post on here is an homage to friendship, and I am A-OK with that. I have already mentioned Kelly-chan* here, but there are really not enough words to describe how much I adore her. We met last October at a bar in Shibuya, and since then she has been my rock in Tokyo. We understand each other and we are open about everything. In only one year we have grown so much together. The other day I was feeling pretty low and she showed up at my place with hot cocoa and hugs. Living abroad is exhilarating and renewing, but it has its challenges and like any human, I have mine. I’m grateful to have found friends all over the world who I can talk to and help me get back on track after upsets; after all it’s the community that we create around us that makes a place really feel like home.
If it’s not already obvious by these posts (1, 2, and 3) friendships are center stage in my life, and I have always relied on the collective wisdom of my people and the inner reflection I have accumulated over time to guide me through life’s travails. I have a great relationship with my family members, but we’ve never been emotionally close and able to discuss feelings without judgment or sometimes anger. It’s something that is improving with age, but having not grown up talking about our feelings, it takes more effort to reach that comfort point. ‘How is the weather? Have you been studying? Are you eating enough?’ are questions asked rather than ‘What do you want in life? Who do you love? What do you struggle with?’. When I have problems, the first person I turn to is a friend or my own inner sanctum for comfort. I absolutely adore my brothers and my mom and I hope that with time and perhaps, proximity, we’ll be able to understand more about each other on a deeper level.
To celebrate our one year friendiversary Kelly-chan and I played dress up with a double feature: girl’s night out in Shibuya at Vision nightclub and afternoon tea at the Shangri-La Hotel. A night full of carousing and booty-shaking followed by two delicious hours spent overcoming our hangovers, nibbling on petit fours, catching up on the latest feelings, and getting mad side-eye in transit with my boo. Ain’t she cute?
*-chan is an honorific attached to a name in Japanese when referring to a close friend, lover, cute baby or animal
P.S. I got my dress on super sale at a boutique called Sway on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley, next to Buffalo Exchange. Any Cal students out there know what I’m talking about? I just looked it up and it’s closed now. Telegraph is changing so quickly these days, I wonder if it retains the same character I know and love.
xo your friend alice
Location: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
I met Lin at a Dada Life concert last November and we have been friends ever since.
She was standing next to me and I thought she was just lovely, so I asked for her phone number and we had dinner that week. Clearly she is stunning, but even more, she is inquisitive, adventurous, and creative. When we talk about our ideas and desires she always challenges me to think more deeply about my motivations and why I hold a certain belief just by asking simple questions. I relate to her feeling of restlessness and wanting to burst out of her being to reach more fully formed, magical iterations of herself. This coupled with peace in the present moment, I feel inspired when we spend time together.
We both love to revel in the imagination and write in our journals about our visions for the future, so last Saturday that’s exactly what we did. Throw in some props, music, make-up, and photographs, and we had ourselves an afternoon straight out of a childhood playbook. Love you Rin-chan ❤
‘when people of the present day see these blossoms, it is as if they see them in a dream.’
“the unenlightened cannot fully perceive the flower as it really is, cannot experience it directly and purely. Instead it is approached as an object apart from the viewer, the subject. It is not seen as an extension of his or her own reality. The ordinary mind permits this dichotomy of nature, but in the Zen mind, man and flower become one, merged into a seamless fabric of life.”
– Zen koan
I don’t purport to have a zen mind, but what a beautiful idea…
xo your friend alice
Paintings by Utagawa Hiroshige (1847)
Location: Kotobuki, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan
[Victoria Peak, Wan Chai, Star Ferry Pier in Central, Harbour Plaza North Point]
Belated photos from my short trip to Hong Kong back in July wherein my connecting flight from Shanghai to HK was inexplicably cancelled (one of the many reasons I’m never flying China Eastern again) so I had to stay in an airport hotel overnight and then I caught a tropical fever as soon as I got off the plane and was down for the first 24 hours of a ~72 hour trip 😦 Nonetheless I was happy to reunite with Dan and Rainey, dear friends from middle/high school who were good sports about hanging out with a sick girl. Dan is an Associate Producer for CNN and recently relocated to Hong Kong and it is so precious to have a good friend living in Asia (P.S. he’s not a giant, just standing whilst we are sitting in that last photo).
It was my second time visiting HK and it is truly a jewel, such verdant wildness weaving through the concrete, and endless whiffs of ocean air! Taiwanese relate to Hong Kongers too in their shared struggle against rule by China. There is a certain understanding and solidarity in nations of largely ethnically Chinese populations but distinct cultural feelings from the mainland. Hong Kong has loads of Westerners and migrants and thus a slightly more diverse feel than Tokyo, its small size and density accounting for the feeling of hot-blooded, organized chaos. We witnessed a spirited shouting match between two women in broad daylight, something I can’t say I’ve ever seen in Japan. I enjoyed the lively energy, the feeling of letting everything out in the open that was a refreshing change from my current atmosphere. I missed out on boba and nightlife this time around, but now that I’ve got Dan in town I’ll have reasons and accommodations to return for a longer stay.
In other news, my mama is coming to visit Tokyo in December and I have a few days off for the new year’s holiday so I’ve just booked our trip to Seoul to welcome 2017! I am very much looking forward to it. One because I love my mama and I haven’t seen her in almost a year, and two because 7 is my lucky number and we’ll be kicking it off in style. The last time we traveled together was to Thailand at age 18 (seven years ago). I’m curious to see how it will go this time around, as that trip was quite memorable for a few reasons…
xo your friend alice
Location: Hong Kong
feat. Kelly-chan with cameos by Narumi-chan & CARAMEL CORN
We had yakiniku (grilled meat / a concept borrowed from Korean BBQ) for dinner with friends on the autumnal equinox holiday last week and then I lured her back to my place. She wasn’t feeling well so I made her some tea and made her comfortable in my bed. I lit a candle and dimmed the lights. That’s when I whipped out my camera and got these shots that I love of her. Kelly, my tokyo boo ❤
Narumi is one of my new apartment-mates and she is adorable and very sweet. I'm really happy our living situation has brought us together 🙂
(Still trying to figure out lighting/settings on this camera contraption and post-editing so bear with me. If you know of any good free software, holler at me!)
ALSO I am head over heels obsessed with caramel corn. They’re like cheeto puffs but covered in caramel; and like cracker jack, there are peanuts at the bottom. Best of all they’re 100 yen (roughly a dollar) at the 24 hour Lawson’s next to my apartment. Once I open a bag I can never leave them unattended…they get lonely without my gentle caress. I’m probably up to 3-4 bags a week. Choose your vices carefully people…
Location: Kotobuki, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan
allow me to dedicate a post to one of the most cherished things in life: friendship
and more specifically, reanimated, rediscovered, revived friendships of youth
Rainey was one of my very best friends growing up in Salt Lake City but we went to opposite ends of the country for college and I rarely went back to Utah after high school graduation because my family moved to California. Growing up and moving out, we lost touch for several years.
When I was in middle/high school I was only allowed to hang out with my friends on long weekends (3 days or more), so whenever we had a day off from school for labor day, veterans day, memorial day, etc. I could have one full day to do whatever I wanted. As you can imagine, they were cherished days that I planned in advance and made sure to leave the house early in order to take full advantage of the day and also make my 10 pm tiger-brother-imposed curfew. I usually spent these days at Rainey’s house; watching movies, using her rad panini press, walking around the Avenues, and when we turned 16, cruising around in her mini cooper. The first time I ever wore a bikini was at Rainey’s swimming pool. The first paying job I ever had was at her dad’s law firm. The first time I kissed a boy she was one of the first people I told. She was the loyal, supportive kind of friend you want in your corner during the tumult and confusion of adolescence.
After all these years, we reconnected in July by traveling to Cambodia together, getting bamboozled in Hong Kong, and hiking to the very top of Mt Fuji. Sometimes you find that the people you bonded with as a teenager no longer share the same interests, or that one aspect of their personality so nascent in youth has become more pronounced and less compatible with your own. I am pleased as punch to say that the opposite is true with us. It feels like time has only made us more aware and confident versions of our awkward pubescent selves. I admire her flexibility, mamabear preparedness, and curiosity for the world. I learn new things when I talk to her. I trust her with my secrets. I know that part of being an adult means learning to allow people to come in and out of your life and cherishing the moments you have together. I am very grateful that Rainey came back into mine with such vigor this July. It feels good to know that a decision you made as a 12 year old about who to spend your time with maintains its truth over a decade later.
Thank you for cuddling in my twin bed with me, braving hours of temple viewing in the harsh sun, South East Asian food poisoning, and that trek up the tallest mountain in Japan. Love you booboo ❤
dim sum at Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong
Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia // Hong Kong // Tokyo, Japan