trip report: D23 expo!

From July 14th through the 16th: I had the time of my life attending my very first D23 Expo!

SO and I like to go to Disneyland often, plus attend a lot of local conventions, so we consider ourselves decent nerd-fans and somewhat con-experienced. But D23 would be the largest event we’ve ever attended, and we wanted to do it right! Se did some preparations and research: watched videos, planned out our itinerary, wrote down panels, considered backups, and anticipated long lines. I bought my first Gold Membership in hopes of being able to use some of the line benefits. We got camping gear and Japanese snacks for potential overnighters outside.

I asked him, “are you willing to actually spend the night in line to attend this one panel the next day?” And he was like, “yes!” “ARE YOU SURE? Because I’m pretty darn crazy/nerdy and I totally understand if you don’t have the patience for that.” I picked a great guy!

I was so excited about the weekend, and a little anxious, because I’d be seeing a whole lot of Disney and Marvel things, and hoping for some neat moments and cool swag! As a huge Marvel fan, this was a pretty darn big deal!

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July 26, 2017 - 6:54 pm | Comments

trip report: kenya

One month ago, I was thousands of miles away from the United States on an intense, week-long, life-changing trip. It’s taken me a while to absorb the intensity of everything- there are so many things that happened and details I’m aching to share, but it’s been so difficult for me to express what I saw and what I felt for a lot of it. I finally put together whatever I could to write up a short summary of my travels in Kenya!

I had never traveled this far before, and especially not to a place that would be so wildly different from everything I’ve known. Before the trip, I was already in a whirlwind of preparations and thoughts. Between getting paperwork in order, scheduling my long list of vaccinations (fun), packing, navigating dance and event obligations (FanimeCon was just a few days before before I left!!), and being very aware of the fact that sheltered and non-worldly me had never even traveled outside of the United States – I did my best to get my LIFE together in the weeks leading up to the trip.

I had a lot of swimming feelings before I even left. How would I feel when I saw what I saw? What was I expecting? Was I nervous, excited, or both? Would I be handle everything coming my way, being so far from home, in a place and culture I didn’t know?

Taking off from San Francisco:
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And landing in Amsterdam, before the next leg to Kenya:
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Two long flights, consisting of 10 hours to Amsterdam, and another 8 hours to Nairobi. At least I watched a ton of Chris Pratt movies, and KLM Airlines offered complimentary wine!

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We landed in Nairobi and had the next day off to explore. It was my very first experience in seeing a culture and people so different from where I’m from, and experiencing what Kenya’s capital had to offer! Personal observation: Wow, most people in Nairobi dress so well (business casual) compared to what I see in the west coast in the US.

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A view of Nairobi, from the top of the convention center.
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Masai market, in downtown Nairobi:
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…and the dress I bought from the market, which I haggled for with the help of a local!
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My first taste of Kenyan coffee – it was so delicious, along with all the other cups of coffee I had on the trip!
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After resting and exploring Nairobi, the next day would be the start of a busy, back-to-back multi-day journey through parts of Kenya. We first drove to visit a partner hospital in the area, where I had the chance to meet surgeons and patients of our work for the first time.

From there, we flew to Eldoret – the home of the Olympic champions. Located in the countryside, the town was incredibly beautiful and such a stark difference from the industrial, city feel of Nairobi.

We stayed in a beautiful, bed & breakfast inn in a charming part of Eldoret.

My first experience with bed nets

My first experience with bed nets

The next day, we drove to visit another partner site. I saw and experienced things in the hospital that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

And again the next day, we drove 3 hours from Eldoret to Mumias to visit our 3rd partner site, in a relatively more rural and remote-ish part of Kenya. The drive for this felt quite adventurous and wobbly, as we navigated through very bumpy streets and off-road areas! As we drove in, we were welcomed by a joyous parade of dancers following our cars, celebrating our visit. It was such amazing!

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Afterwards, we drove again (a lot of traveling!) through the countryside another 40 minutes away to make a more personal visit. We exited our cars and hiked a little ways up to visit the home of a patient in the area.

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From Mumias on that same day, we traveled to Kisumu, and caught a flight back to Nairobi to spend our last night in Kenya before heading home.

It was an exhausting few days, traveling from site to site, and immersing myself in all things so grand, so personal, and so very difficult to express. I was so touched and so humbled to have seen what I’ve seen, but it was also very physically and mentally overwhelming.

On our last day before our flight, I was able to squeeze in some free time for some much-needed and chill tourist activities.

Breakfast while overlooking the Nairobi National Game Park.

Breakfast while overlooking the Nairobi National Game Park.

David Sheldrick elephant orphanage!

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Feeding giraffes!

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I’m grateful that I got to see and experience a range of things from Kenya – the city, the countryside, the ugly, the beautiful, rural villages, remote sites, crowded slums, somber hospitals, cute animals…

Reflecting on the trip, I realized that I wasn’t completely surprised by some of the things I saw, so maybe I would give myself a pat on the back for handling certain first-time experiences well. I think I should feel proud of how I handled meeting different people, aiming for professionalism, and remembering my place as a foreigner from the US, in a space and culture that was not my own. But it didn’t make the trip any less difficult, or less emotional, or less impactful. Some nights on the trip, I cried. And these moments came from a place that felt new and heavy, that I’m still reflecting on and learning how to navigate today. I think it’s important that I carry these moments for the rest of my life.

Anyway, despite all the rough times that happen around the world every day, I’m extremely grateful that I have the privilege of being in a place where I see great work being done to help others worldwide. But wow, what an eye-opener. I think I didn’t too too badly for my first time out of my comfy place in the US. Now I’m feeling a little more confident, and a whole lot more wanderlusty and eager to keep seeing the rest of the world!

Surprisingly, which I think was impressive, I didn’t get sick on the trip. Yay for not catching malaria from mosquitoes, and remembering to take my Pepto Bismol! At least, I didn’t get sick until I rode on the crazy-ass Super Shuttle from SFO on the way back home. Nononono. Dude was driving like we were still in the crowded streets of Kenya, but we were on the CA-280 being thrown around in the van like rag dolls in the van at like 80mph. At this point after a 20+ hour trip to the US, all I wanted to do is be home and not feel like puking. worst car ride of my life. almost threw up. never again super shuttle 0/10.

July 9, 2017 - 2:45 am | Comments

trip report: washington dc and 17NTC

I’ve had a busy start to spring!! It took me a while to put this together, and it’s a bit of a late post- one month ago, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a conference: the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference! There was a lot of learning and fun times, and I got to visit and experience Washington, D.C. for the first time. Here’s a report of my trip!

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I got to bring my Nintendo Switch on the plane and get some Legend of Zelda time… just like in the commercials. Several people noticed it, including a flight attendant, and were super curious! I was pretty surprised, but I had some good conversations with people about it!

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My first sunrise in DC:

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The conference itself was fun, informative, and great for nerdy, passionate people to support each other in a collaborative environment. I brought a lot of good notes and takeaways back home to my work.

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I got the chance to visit the Smithsonian National Zoo (free!). Unfortunately, many of the animal exhibits were closed, probably due to the colder weather.

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Earlier at the conference during one of the lunch sessions, I asked tablemates for recommendations on desserts and/or cafe recommendations (because finding dessert places in every city is my #1 goal in life)- and one lady said, “You need to go to Un Je Ne Sais Quoi!”

And I was like okay coo I love French places, where is that and how do I get there?

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The Metro in DC is the cleaner, nicer, more crowded version of BART here in California. 100x better and more enjoyable to ride than our Bay Area transportation.

I made my first stop to Metro station in downtown-ish DC somewhere near the National Mall-

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Being the excited tourist I was, I walked and wandered around a lot.

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White House!

More wandering around led me to a field of cherry blossom trees that hadn’t fully bloomed yet, in front of the Washington Monument-

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So with all that walking around, it was time for me to find this French cafe, which would mean another hop on the metro to another part of the city. I ended up in Dupont Circle, one of my favorite spots:

A post shared by Mirabel (@chibi_m7) on

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At Un Je Ne Sais Quois, I ate the creampuff first and tried a cup of their mocha, and OH. MY. GOD. If that wasn’t the most delicious creampuff and cup of mocha I’ve ever had. I’m ruined forever. Because I can definitely taste the difference compared every other creampuff + mocha I’ve eaten. And I’ve eaten a lot of creampuffs and drank a lot of mochas. It’s one of my favorite pastimes.

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I brought back more goodies to the hotel, one of them being the most delicious thing in the world, the MERVEILLEUX. Am pretty disappointed I can’t find another one of these anywhere near me…

There was a cute little French-inspired boutique called Lou Lou’s, which had a lot of goodies – picked up some souvenirs for me and my family here. I really liked shopping here.

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I sat on a bench in front of the fountain as the sun was setting, watching salsa dancers and people going by, with the romantic sounds of aggressive rush hour traffic honking around me. I loved it!

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The rest of the trip and the conference was really enjoyable! Of course, I spent the return trip home on the plane playing more Zelda.

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Was very grateful for the opportunity to come here and learn, as well as be a tourist. As a city girl from the west coast, I’d love to come back and take more time exploring the area, and the east coast in general. Of course, having friends, family, and an SO can be great travel buddies, but seeing new city sights solo is really a special experience that I was long overdue for.

April 28, 2017 - 4:25 pm | Comments

starting off 2017 with a magical vacation!

Kind of a late-ish post. After a busy holiday season at work and dance at the end of 2016, I started off the new year with a wonderful trip! Sharing a report of highlights from our trip from earlier in January, with a few photos taken by me and BH!

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Our January travel timing worked really well. We caught the tail end of the holiday season and lights at the Disney parks, and made it to Las Vegas and home after CES, but before the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend holiday crowd came in. So, prices and crowds were really manageable for a beautiful time of year.

We drove with our buddy down to Anaheim first. He had never been to any Disney parks before, so we were excited to show him a good time. Our first day was at Disney’s California Adventure! I wanted to try so many holiday goodies.

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Photo by BH

We introduced him to the wallet-emptying magic that is pin trading.

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Photo by BH

Our timing for the evening at Disney California Adventure was fantastic- we were able to make it into the Cove Bar (!!) right before it closed, allowing us to land a view of the upcoming World of Color show from the bar. Delicious lobster nachos, delicious drinks, and delightful company with a delightful view? Couldn’t get any better than this!

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The next day was Disneyland. We tried to jam pack everything we could, since it was the last official day of the holiday season (and for other things!). All the major rides, Mickey beignets, Magic Map, Paint the Night’s last showing, holiday fireworks and lights.

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Photo by BH

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Photo by BH

The next day was our buddy’s last day at Anaheim. We ate a great breakfast, and did more pin trading and shopping.

A photo posted by Mirabel (@chibi_m7) on

He went back home that day, leaving me and the bf to do one last Disney visit alone on the day before Vegas. It was kind of sad, actually! We realized that Disney magic really is the people we spend time with along the way. Ha.

The next day, we packed up and had our first ride-share experience to LAX, and headed on a short flight to Las Vegas!!

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I’ve been in Vegas a lot with family as I was growing up. This was my first time going without parents, post 21 years old, and getting to enjoy it fully as an adult! Boy have things changed!

Also wanted to mention that it was our first time redeeming our MyVegas points and getting our Mlife rewards- super easy and very worth it, indeed!

We stayed in Paris with with a view of the Bellagio Hotel- was able to land a high tier room at a good price. The next day, we did some buffet-eating, sight-seeing. We had tickets to see Cirque du Soleil – Ka at MGM Grand that night. Amazing show!

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After the show, we ended the evening with drinks at The Chocolate Bar in NYNY.

A photo posted by Mirabel (@chibi_m7) on

The next day was Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef, with more sight seeing, and more eating!

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We rode the monorail a few times back and forth to see the length of the strip…

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And we later found a nice and crowd-free spot at Caesar’s Palace to take photos.

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We went back to our hotel room to get dolled up a bit (so I didn’t look so much like a little kid, too) and came back to have a little photoshoot in the area!

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On our last day, we used up the last of our Mlife rewards to nab another buffet and check out the secret garden at the Mirage. At this point on Friday evening, the weekend holiday crowds were really starting to come in! We headed to Excalibur to watch Tournament of Kings- a dinner show I watched exactly 10 years ago! It was as fun as I remembered.

More food and more walking.

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A photo posted by Mirabel (@chibi_m7) on

We gambled a little bit of our entertainment money throughout the trip, did a lot of sight-seeing and lounging about. And did a whole. Lot. Of. Eating.  Overall, it was a fun and successful trip, with a lot of discounts and deals acquired! Relaxed and fat, we flew home the next day. Both Las Vegas and SJ airports were very empty.

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I’m really grateful to be at an age and means to experience trips like this. With bf’s graduation and the start of the new year, it was a good time to reflect and appreciate childhood and adult fun… by doing both! We’re already looking forward to the next one!

January 20, 2017 - 1:40 pm | Comments

sacanime 2016!

Last weekend, we attended SacAnime in Sacramento, CA (and admittedly, I think it was our first anime-themed convention outside of FanimeCon!). We staff full time for FanimeCon as dance instructors/performers every year and enjoy it immensely, but we don’t really have the time or bandwidth to experience it as regular attendees anymore. The only event there I’ve attended outside of Black & White Ball was probably a fashion show or two!

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Our performance at this year’s FanimeCon Black & White Ball

 

So, it was nice to go to SacAnime as a con-goer with an itinerary of events to choose from and enjoy the weekend with. We were really excited about the opportunities to attend panels and have never really seen a famous VA up close before, so it was our chance to check it out!

Our first panel was a Q&A by Travis Willingham and Laura Bailey. They were a lot of fun, and it was kind of surreal seeing them in the flesh and hearing their voices live! I enjoyed hearing their answers about the industry and their insight into their voice work.

Next was a Cowboy Bebop Reunion panel, which I was super excited for! The anime Cowboy Bebop means a lot to me, and it aired during a time when I hit adolescence and transitioned between awkward and socially difficult phases of my life. Things are obviously different now that I’m an adult with a good life, but after all these years, I’m still a sentimental fan.

You can see me sitting in front! 😀

 
The panel filled up quickly, but we grabbed decent seats. Seeing my childhood voice actors up close and hearing them talk live was a crazy experience! I was lucky to get the chance to ask a question to the Bebop crew, and felt incredibly honored to receive such a reflective and insightful response from them. We got it on video!

 
The next day, I had the opportunity to meet VA Steven Blum and grab his autograph! He remembered me and my question at the previous day’s panel and took the time to comment on it- I was so grateful. What an awesome and humble person!

My highlight of #SacAnime! 🙂 #steveblum #cowboybebop #seeyouspacecowboy #bang

A photo posted by Mirabel (@chibi_m7) on



 
It’s been a few days later, but I’m still feeling inspired and childhood-nostalgic from the experience. The boyfriend and I are feeling convention crazy and are wanting to try out a lot different events around the Bay Area this year. Now that I’m a little older, I have a better appreciation and understanding of the work and travel that artists and actors in the anime/game/entertainment industry do for fans. Looking forward to attending more cons, and hopefully seeing more guests of honor!

In the meantime, look out for a new blog redesign coming in this week or next! 🙂

September 8, 2016 - 5:26 pm | Comments