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New York: A Tribute to the City I Adore

With only 2 weeks left in NYC, I decided to create a video that aims to capture the essence of the city and the spirit of its residents.

I wanted to showcase the qualities of this city that I adore; the dynamic energy, colorful diversity and sense of endless possibility and wonder. For me, it is these characteristics that make this city so incredible.

Here is New York from my perspective, condensed into one and a half minutes. Enjoy!

Quarter Life Reflections: 24 Things I’ve Learned in my 20s

At the age of 22, I moved to New York with a sense of naive idealism and a general lack of life & adult experience. 4 years later, I am still impractically idealistic (though less so) and I still have much to learn, but through the experiences I’ve gained and the people I’ve met in this city, I’ve discovered a couple of things about myself and life.

  1. Take risks and do what you won’t regret (even if it scares you, alot). Take risks and live outside your comfort zone because it’s precisely those scary, uncomfortable experiences that are the greatest source of growth and strength.
  2. Don’t compromise your own happiness in the pursuit of trying to please and make others happy. In my constant desire to make others happy and to avoid “hurting peoples feelings”, I have often made decisions that were not optimal for my own happiness because I prioritized other people’s happiness over mine. At the end of the day, it is your life and ultimately you are responsible for your own happiness and wellbeing.
  3. People are motivated by self-interest (most of the time), and sometimes what someone else wants is not in line with what you want. People don’t always have your best interest at heart (which doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes them human). Just keep in mind that what they want might not be what you want. Be discerning and guard your heart.
  4. Trying to please everyone is a losing battle. You will never make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try (and that’s okay).
  5. Attitude and grit are greater determinants of success than talent and intelligence. Provided you are a fully functioning human being, I believe you will go as far as your drive and hard work takes you.
  6. The only thing certain in life is uncertainty. Things rarely go the way you plan. Regardless of how much you plan, the reality is, alot of things in our life are influenced by factors and events that are beyond our control. The important thing is to quickly adapt to whatever life throws at you.
  7. Trust the timing of your life. Just because things are not working out now as you hoped, things will always get better. Its just a matter of time.
  8. Comparison is the thief of joy. There will always be someone who is more popular than you, who is better looking than you and who has a better job than you. If you constantly compare yourself to others, you will never feel happy.
  9. Most of us are faking it. You do it, I do it, we all do it. Another reason why we shouldn’t compare is that when we do so, we are only comparing someone’s (idealized, crafted) outsides with our insides. There is a lot more going on than how we present ourselves to be on the outside (especially on social media).
  10. Happiness has less to do with circumstance and what you have, and more to do with perspective and gratitude. The permanent kind of happiness is cultivated through habit and a positive mindset, rather than the outcome of events and circumstances.
  11. Your attitude and energy are everything. If you radiate positivity and feel good about yourself, you will attract people and positive experiences. On the contrary, if you are wallowing in misery and negativity, you are more likely to attract negative experiences.
  12. You can’t have it all. Something has to give. The perfect life is a fallacy; you always have to compromise in one area of your life. The pursuit of freedom and independence may be accompanied by loneliness or the pursuit of a successful career may compromise your personal life. Everything comes at a cost, we need to figure out what we value most in our life and prioritize accordingly.
  13. Know when to let go. Sometimes it is better to let go and walk away than try and stick around and change someone.
  14. Invest in and spend time with people who value you as much as you value them.
  15. Basic abilities and traits are fluid not fixed; we can always change and improve our skills, talents and even personalities, if we work on it. By nature, I am painfully shy. Over the years, I have put myself in social situations which initially have made me uncomfortable, but through years of exposure and “faking it”, I’m a lot less shy than I was 10 years ago 🙂
  16. You are not your past. But you are your patterns and habits.
  17. Other people’s (negative) perceptions of you don’t define you and don’t have to be your reality. Sometimes people’s perceptions of you are more of a reflection of them, rather than you.
  18. Showing vulnerability is not weakness, but strength. We live in a society which equates vulnerability with weakness. I think being able to expose the most intimate parts of yourself and putting yourself out there is actually brave, rather than weak. Vulnerability is where the magic happens; only in the presence of vulnerability, can we develop truly meaningful and deep connections.
  19. Having said that, there is a time and place to be vulnerable. Protect your heart and be careful about who you let in and trust.
  20. How you view yourself and your sense of self worth permeates every aspect of your life – from your career, to your social and love life. Life is infinitely better when you love yourself and practice self-compassion.
  21. Noone will respect you if you don’t respect yourself. The way you treat yourself determines the way others will treat you, which leads me to my next point.
  22. Setting boundaries are essential for a positive self-esteem. When you create boundaries, it lets other people know how you expect to be treated and what behavior you are willing to tolerate. You are establishing the consequences for crossing those boundaries.
  23. Self-worth is not something you accumulate, it is inherent. Your sense of self-worth shouldn’t depend on external validation, it should come from within. If you rely externally for your sense of worth, you will never ever feel good enough, regardless of how much you accomplish.
  24. No amount of validation and love from others can replace the need for you to love yourself. Sure, receiving compliments from other people makes you feel good. However, the issue with giving others so much power means that the moment someone starts to criticize you, your world starts to crumble and fall. Your sense of self-worth shouldn’t come externally. It should come from within. It comes from the realization and acceptance that you are deeply flawed, but worthy of love and belonging anyway.

 I’m still working on executing alot of the things I’ve learnt, but atleast I am armed with self-awareness. 🙂

Hello Retro Floral Fashion

I am a big fan of floral prints, bright colors and retro dresses. As Spring is just around the corner, I thought I’d share a Spring inspired outfit 🙂 I bought this Floral Arrangement Artist Dress from Modcloth, an online store that specializes in vintage and retro-inspired clothes and accessories.

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An Introduction to Studio Lighting

As part of my Computer Graphics certificate at Pratt, I’m taking a Lighting for Photography class this semester. As a freelance photographer, I’ve shot mostly outdoors with natural light. It’s great to finally learn about studio lighting. In yesterday’s class, we set up tungsten and strobe lights. Here are a few photos from the shoot 🙂

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28 Hours in Philadelphia

I got to spend 28 hours in Philadelphia over the weekend. I caught the train to Philly from New York on Friday at noon. I arrived in the city at 2pm on Friday and left the following day at 6pm via BoltBus (only $10 – totally worth it!).

Philadelphia is a colorful city rich in history, culture and unique in character. Despite the brief trip, I managed to pack in quite a few of the major attractions of the city, to my surprise. Within 28 hours,  I was able to (aka my recommendations):

  1. Enjoy a campus tour of the University of Pennsylvania: I was fortunate to have been given a tour of UPenn by a family friend who is currently pursuing his PhD here. This Ivy League school was founded by Benjamin Franklin and is one of the first universities in the U.S.
  2. Visit Liberty Bell: The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American independence.
  3. Check out Independence Hall: Independence Hall is where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted.
  4. Catch a glimpse of Magic Gardens: Although I didn’t make it inside the gallery space, I got to view some of the unique and quirky mosaic art work from the side walk. Magic Gardens is a gallery space on South Street in Philadelphia. It is the largest work created by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar.
  5. Eat Cheesesteak at Jim’s Steaks: I had cheesesteak for dinner at one of the highest rated cheesteak places in Philadelphia. Although the dish was filling and greasy, it was most definitely delicious!
  6. Ice Skate at Rothman Ice Rink: Despite my lack of ice skating skills, I had alot of fun. This rink also provides amazing views of the Philadelphia skyline.
  7. Get Cultured at Philadelphia Museum of Art: This museum was made famous by Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)’s famous run up the front steps, now widely known as the “Rocky Steps”. In addition to the great architectural views, I got to check out the International Pop art exhibit which is currently running. The exhibit showcases Pop art’s emergence as an international movement, migrating from the UK and the US to western and eastern Europe, Latin America, and Japan.
  8. Indulge my senses at Reading Terminal Market: Philadelphia’s historic public market is home to a wide variety of food stalls, offering baked goods, fresh meats, seafood, southern food, icecream and more.

 

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Trainride from New York to Philadelphia

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Colorful street art makes me happy

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Liberty Bell: The symbol of American independence

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Independence Hall

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Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Philadelphia Museum of Art: Rocky Steps

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International Pop Art Exhibit

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Reading Terminal Market

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Pine Street

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Despite the brevity of my trip, I had a wonderful time exploring this city for the first time.  Whether you’re a history buff, culture junkie, self-proclaimed foodie or simply in need of a weekend getaway, you’re bound to have a great time in Philadelphia 🙂

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Greenwich Village: Where my Love Affair for New York Began

I used to stay awake at night dreaming about living in New York. In my idealistic, adolescent mind, it was a city of dreams; it represented freedom, opportunity and celebrated cultural diversity and artistic expression. I imagined a colorful city that was constantly on the go and full of energy and life; filled with interesting people who were driven, smart, talented and different from me.

This daydream was brought to life 4 years ago upon receiving my acceptance letter from NYU (thank you NYU and thank you parents!). And so, my New York chapter began at Greenwich Village, home to NYU, in 2012.

I vividly recall the mixture of emotions I felt when I arrived in New York for the first time during the summer of 2012; I was overwhelmed, anxious, scared (moving to a new city alone yikes), but most of all, incredibly excited. Excited for the new chapter ahead and all the colorful possibilities new beginnings bring.

I remember the first time I walked through Washington Square Park with my parents on a hot summers day. Despite the scorching heat, the park was pulsating with life and buzzing with energy. Music filled the air; there were jazz musicians and artists on every corner and the park was packed with NYU students, locals and tourists. I looked around with wide-eyed wonder.

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A Quaint Neighborhood with a Metropolitan Edge

Greenwich Village, often referred to as “the Village”, is the neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan. Greenwich Village is regarded as an artists’ haven, the Bohemian capital, the center of the modern LGBT movement, and the East Coast birthplace of ’60s counterculture movements.

Despite its popularity, Greenwich Village exudes an intimate, neighborhood charm. It’s packed with 24-hour dining, shopping and nightlife, yet remains personable, with ample greenery, low-rise brownstones and a plethora of boutique shops and specialty stores.

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Summer of 2012: My first walk at Washington Square Park 🙂

Neighborhood Gems

Having been acquainted with the neighborhood over the past few years, I’ve developed a list of my favorite spots and places worth checking out. Here are a few I recommend:

  • La Lanterna: This neighborhood gem was recommended to me by my friend Elly. The atmosphere is warm and intimate and the food is always delicious. This iconic Greenwich Village restaurant serves thin crust pizza, Italian pastries, a selection of wine and liquor, and boasts a charming garden area, fireplaces and live jazz.
    www.lalanternacaffe.com
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La Lanterna

  • Kati Roll: A kati roll is a mixture of meat and vegetables rolled in Indian flatbread. I used to come here all the time with my friends after a study session at Bobst library. My favorite items on the menu are the chicken kati roll and chai masala tea.
    www.thekatirollcompany.com
  • Think Coffee: Steps away from Washington Square Park, this spacious yet cosy neighborhood coffeeshop is great for meetings, NYU hangouts, and studying.
    www.thinkcoffee.com
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Think Coffee

  • Caffe Reggio: Come here to sip an “Original Cappuccino” and enjoy the beautiful collection of artwork, some of which dates back to the Italian Renaissance period.
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Caffe Reggio

  • Kungfu Tea: Conveniently located next to Washington Square park, this chain store serves my favorite bubble tea in the city.
    www.kfteausa.com
  • Artichoke Pizza: Famous for its warm, buttery, cheesy Artichoke base and crispy crust, the unique Arthichoke pizza has become a signature dish in New York.
    www.artichokepizza.com 
  • Saigon Shack: Stop by for a delicious bowl of classic beef pho to soothe your soul. There is always a wait, but its always worth it.
    www.saigonshack.squarespace.com
  • Blue Note Jazz Club: If you’re a jazz lover, Blue Note is a must. Legendary jazz musicians take the stage at this intimate club that also serves American cuisine.
    www.bluenote.net 
  • Comedy Clubs: If you want to see stand-up comedy, look no further than Macdougal street. This street is home to several comedy clubs, including the infamous Comedy Cellar, as well as Greenwich Village Comedy Club, Comedy Village and more.
  • Washington Square Park: Aside from Central Park, Washington Square Park is my favorite park in the city. This vibrant park, famous for the Washington Square Arch, has a tradition of celebrating nonconformity and buzzes with talent and creativity. This park has long been a hub for politics and culture in New York City. Today, you’ll find chess players in the southwest corner of the park, and a diverse array of entertaining performances delivered by talented musicians – from jazz to classical, dancers and artists. 
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Washington Square Park

  • NYU: Last but not least, your visit to Greenwich village won’t be complete until you check out NYU. Although NYU’s schools are scattered across the city and New York city itself is a seamless extension of the campus, Greenwich Village serves as its main campus. Prominent schools including Tisch, Stern and the law school as well as the Bobst library are located in this neighborhood.
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NYU

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Graduation photo at Washington Square Park: NYU class of 2014

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Happy NYU graduates 🙂

This quaint yet dynamic neighborhood celebrates culture, diversity and music. It’s filled with plenty of dining options, boasts a vibrant nightlife and exudes an idyllic and artistic charm. These reasons alone make it one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. But what really makes a place special is the meaning and memories you attach to it. Greenwich village will always hold a special place in my heart because it is home to NYU, making it the birthplace of my dream of living in this city. I will look back at my days spent in this neighborhood with great fondness.

 

Momofuku Mania: Indulging in Ramen & Other Delights

Momofuku is an international group of restaurants owned by chef-founder David Chang. The collection of restaurants include Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar and Momofuku Milk Bar amongst others.

I had received a Momofuku gift card 2 months back and finally decided to use it on the first Momofuku restaurant that was established – Momofuku Noodle Bar. This restaurant is most famous for its ramen (surprise surprise) and flavored buns, specifically the pork belly.

The noodle bar opens for dinner at 5:30pm. We arrived at 5.40pm on Saturday and waited in line for about 15 mins (which wasn’t too bad at all). This restaurant is always busy and packed so I recommend going there early to avoid the long wait.

Spotlight Dishes

Here are the dishes that I tried:

DSC_3397Smoked Chicken Wings: Pickled chili, garlic, scallion sauce
These tender chicken wings are coated in a delicious sweet, tangy and spicy sauce. I definitely recommend this appetizer to share, so delicious! It was probably my favorite dish of the night.

DSC_3399Chicken Meatball Bun: Jalapeño, iceberg, paprika mayo
Sumptious and tender chicken meatball sandwiched between a soft bun and coated in a tangy paprika mayo sauce, topped with jalapeño – very tasty! I’ve also heard that the pork buns are notoriously good here. It’s not on the official menu but just ask the waiter, and they’ll serve it to you (too bad I only heard about this after eating here). According to the waiter, the brisket buns are also extremely popular here.

DSC_3401Momofuku Ramen: Pork belly, pork shoulder, poached egg
A well presented hearty bowl of ramen, perfect for a cold winter’s night. The tender pork meat produced a hearty flavor but the broth was not very salty, unlike some of the other ramen I’ve had in New York. It was appetizing and satisfying, but in all honesty, I preferred the ramen at Ippudo slightly more. It was better suited to my palate.

All in all, Momofuku Noodle Bar was a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience! The food was great, the service was attentive and the restaurant was buzzing with energy – an East Village treasure.

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