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?
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!
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.
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.
— Mirabel (@chibi_m) June 5, 2017
— Mirabel (@chibi_m) June 7, 2017
We stayed in a beautiful, bed & breakfast inn in a charming part of Eldoret.
— Mirabel (@chibi_m) June 6, 2017
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.
— Mirabel (@chibi_m) June 7, 2017
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!
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.
— Mirabel (@chibi_m) June 8, 2017
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.
David Sheldrick elephant orphanage!
— Mirabel (@chibi_m) June 8, 2017
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…
— Mirabel (@chibi_m) June 9, 2017
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.
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!
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!
My first sunrise in DC:
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.
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.
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?
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-
Being the excited tourist I was, I walked and wandered around a lot.
More wandering around led me to a field of cherry blossom trees that hadn’t fully bloomed yet, in front of the Washington Monument-
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Autumn is my favorite time of year! It’s been a good past month to attend a lot of events and enjoy the transition into fall.
We went to San Francisco a few weeks ago to watch the Blue Angels during fleet week. I wanted to visit a place I’ve been eyeing for a while (La Marais Bakery), because I heard about their delicious french desserts – I tried a nutella creampuff and it was amazing…
Wearing a handmade dress to match SF!
We went to Berkeley this past weekend to attend and photograph a beginner ballroom dancesport event. It was a lot of fun to see newcomers enjoying themselves. We got to dance just a little bit, too.
While in downtown, we checked out this dessert place for delicious taiyaki with black sesame ice cream… it was pretty delicious.
Later that night, we attended SJSU School of Music and Dance’s first annual Kaleidoscope event! My cousin performed as a pianist for one of the acts. Overall, it was an ah-may-zing show!
So, I’ve been having a lot of fun lately- attending shows, trying out all the food, attending new/familiar events, keeping up my physical health, dancing, staying in touch with good people and colleagues, being in a great career, seeing new sights in familiar places in the Bay Area. I’ve even recollected some materials to bring back sewing and crafts into my time again. The past year has been really good to me, and I’m really grateful for where I am now. Because one year ago, that was certainly not the case.
Autumn is really important time of year to me. It’s been almost a year since I underwent a major change, closing a new chapter and starting a new one.
In the past year, I’ve discovered how fulfilled I felt working in the tech sector of the nonprofit world and contributing towards an international cause. For the first time, I feel like I’ve finally arrived at a working environment and mission that’s right for me. An article on Medium.com that recently went viral dredged up some sudden memories from last year, and I’ve been reflecting a lot on that experience lately. Too much of the article hit home and were eerily similar to what I experienced and observed. A friend told me a while ago that I was basically coping with post-trauma. I’ll be finally ready to share that story soon.
At the same time, I’ve been inspired by positive friends, family, colleagues, podcasts, and media to try some projects and have a little bit of fun, with a little bit of challenge and and a little bit of vulnerability. Not sure how things will go, but figured I might try this!
Inspired by a few things and itching to do more things outside of work and dance, I’m excited and nervous to share:
1. An experimental podcast project, featuring friends and colleagues in the arts/tech/creative industries
2. A writeup about my transition from startups to nonprofits
I’ve been listening to a lot of excellent podcasts lately, in genres ranging from comics to coding to fiction. After mulling it over and planning it out through September with ideas, I decided to try it out as an experiment, and have asked a few initial people about it. I have a list of people in mind, and have already asked a few. Microphone and the rest of the equipment is basically ready to go- it’s just taking the first step that’s the hardest! I hope to be a better speaker and a better listener through this journey. More details to come later!
Back in mid-March, I spent a lot of time at the San Jose Convention Center downtown for two awesomely-nerdy events: the first annual Silicon Valley Comic Con, and the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference right after! I loved both of these events in different ways, and I wanted to write about and share these experiences here (photos from DSLR + smartphone, heads-up for varying quality)!
We spent only 1 day at SVCC (Saturday), but will definitely spend the whole weekend next year for sure! We attended Opening Ceremonies by Steve Wozniak, got to see the Jeremy Renner spotlight (seeing his handsome angry resting face in person was awesome <3), checked out a lot of great exhibits and art, saw a brief glimpse of Stan Lee’s head, and ended the night with dinner with a friend and a Super Soul Bros. concert!
It was a lot of fun, albeit quite a bit more crowded than expected for the first year(with the experience of Fanime crowds though, it wasn’t too difficult to navigate). The BF and I were very lucky to grab our wristbands ahead of time, and thus entirely avoided the massively epic linecon that wrapped around the center.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the event grows in the next few years, and how they’ll improve upon the first… and of course, getting the chance to see more celebrities in my hometown!!
Just a couple of days later was the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference in the same location, so I swapped my Captain America T-shirt and hairbow wings and out for Silicon Valley start-up fashion of business casual jeans-and-blazer. It’s my first work-based conference, so I was excited. The world of technology in nonprofits is fascinating, and I was looking forward to learning many new things to bring back to my own workplace.
There was so much to learn at 16NTC. I was super grateful to see passionate people and professionals from different cultures, interests, and knowledge in my hometown. The panels and speakers were informative, diverse, educational and engaging… I nerded out so hard each day, wondering which session I should attend from the 100+ choices offered throughout the week. It was a geek/philanthropy heaven come true, and reaffirmed how grateful I am to be working at a place I love for a great cause. I also think that week was the most I ever tweeted in a single timespan, ever.
Great sessions by amazing panelists
So many interesting topics.
Buttons collected throughout the week!
Of course, like any other awesome convention/conference… free swag
I learned so, so much about digital communications, WordPress, Google Analytics/Adwords/things, nonprofit, content, etc… so many notes were taken that I’m still trying to compile and reflect on them even now!!
These events have been an excellent experience, intersecting everything I love into one place- comics, culture, tech, philanthropy. All this convention time has been a great warmup to the craziness of FanimeCon, which is happening pretty soon! Work has been blowing up with exciting news, competition season has been rough and busy. It’s been challenging to prepare for BW Ball again with our recent competition lineup, but… I’m really excited to dance for it again!
We’ve got something fun in store for a showcase routine at ball this year-these recent experiences have shown that there’s nothing better than combining something geeky with something unexpected, like ballroom dancing… 😉 Stay tuned!
The last half of 2014 through the start of 2015 brought a lot of big changes as I navigated my identity in the Bay Area: a young female in the tech industry, a recently graduated digital art student, a start-up company worker, teacher, developer, hobbyist, artist… Being part of the working adult tech culture taught me a lot and built a lot of character, but I’m still hovering between being a practical worker in the Silicon Valley and being a creative independent artist. I feel it will be a lasting process- things in life change every moment!
I’ve been involved in a lot of photo and video related projects with friends and colleagues lately, and I’m excited to improve on my craftsmanship and share more work. My interest for creative web design and development, my original high-school hobby, is being sparked again- but I’m really behind on all the latest languages and technologies, so I have a lot of learning and hard work to catch up on.
I hope to continue working and presenting more of my projects!