Thank God for photo albums

I completely forgot they existed. And when I found them, I realized I also completely forgot the little girl I once was. It’s kind of amazing really, when you see the child you once were through the eyes of the adult you’ve become. I can’t describe how it felt trying to reconcile the girl in the photographs to the woman staring back at me in the mirror.

I like to think I still remember how I was as a kid. I like to think I was smart for my age, that I knew how to share my toys and that I didn’t give my parents any trouble. I’d speak when spoken to, always in a polite manner, never forgetting to say please and thank you. I’d never forget to say my prayers at night and before meals.

But the truth is, the things I remember are more made up of pixie dust than real memories. And the truth about that truth is, I kinda like it that way. I like imagining different versions of myself as a kid and I like that I don’t ever really know which version is the correct one. There’s no reason. Just because.

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I was born 90% cheeks, 10% everything else
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Me on the left. Working on our charm.
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Me on the right. With my so not identical twin.
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Off to school… or maybe just the porch.
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We all have that one photo where our front tooth is missing

So thank God for old, dusty photo albums. Thank God for the many versions of my kid self. And most importantly, thank God for my twin sister because it is now proven that when it comes to baby pictures, two is definitely cuter than one.

Laughing at a funeral, and my amazing best friend

The grandmother of one of my very best friends passed away yesterday. She fell asleep while watching TV. She didn’t wake up again. Just the day before, she went grocery shopping and bought more stuff than their house actually needs.She was very healthy for a 79-year-old and she had a strong personality as well. “She’s like the grumpy cat but funny,” Katrina, my best friend, would say.

Earlier today, I went to the wake. Believe me when I say I am fully aware of how totally inappropriate and just flat out wrong this sounds, but I had a really good time. I went there, preparing myself to be the shoulder to cry on for my best friend. I left, being told by that very person to drive carefully and that she was very happy to see me.

No tears were shed. On the contrary, laughter was very much had.

Katrina told me funny, and I mean really funny, stories about her grandmother – how she would intentionally fart near her face, how she would unintentionally ask a store clerk for a pack of beer when she really meant a pack of bottled water, and some other hilarious memories she has of her.

And then at some point I realized I’ve never seen her cry before, which I shared with her. Which led to us reminiscing about the only time she saw me bawl my eyes out when my ex broke up with me. Which made us remember how her brother drove around campus with the windows rolled down, shouting my ex’s name so that he could beat him up for making his sister’s best friend cry.

So there we were, at the front of an otherwise solemn room, laughing and giggling.

My family loves Katrina, but they also think she’s weird. And I have to say, she really is. That’s what I love about her. I went to her grandmother’s wake, thinking that she, like any normal person, would be either consumed with grief or completely lost in it.

But it was neither of those. Because Katrina is weird. Because Katrina, unlike any other person,  has the grace to accept the bad and the spirit to focus on the good. She still has moments of sadness, but she doesn’t allow herself to stay there longer than she needs to. She can laugh with a broken heart because she knows it will heal.

Now isn’t that just crazy beautiful?

My bold declaration: 2015 is THE year for me

Two months into the year and I’m finally and officially declaring it.

2013, the year I graduated college, was me testing out the waters. I quit my first job and then settled into my new one – teaching.

2014, the year I completely immersed myself in work, was me deciding what I truly want to do with my life or, at the very least, in the near future, and me mapping out the steps I need to take to get there.

And 2015… will be me actually getting there. Well, halfway there, if I’m being accurate, but there nonetheless.

Toward the end of last year, I told Karen that this year will be a make or break for me. I knew that if I would end up putting off the things that really mattered to me, I’d be stuck in the just okay-ness of my life. I also knew that if I could just muster up the courage to move my lazy ass and do the things I’ve been telling myself I would “eventually” do, I would sleep at night with less what ifs and more happy sighs of fulfillment.

SO.

I’ll be staying in California with my twin sister and our cousins for the entire summer. In June, my three awesome cousins and I are going to Colombia for a week. We’re all going for a vacation, but I’m also going in order to check and see if I could live there for five to ten months to teach English. Regardless of what my finding will be, I’m so incredibly excited for this trip. Colombia has always been on the top of my list of countries I want to see.

I have also signed up for a small program that would see me teaching ESL to a group of students from Spain who will be visiting California as part of a summer study tour. I’m really looking forward to this one as well, not only because of the opportunity to meet new people, but also because I’ve been studying Spanish on my own since last year and I’ve been dying to use actually use it.

That said, I’m enrolling in an online TEFL course this month. A TEFL certification combined with my teaching experience will hopefully mean more opportunities for me to both teach English in and travel to South America in the future.

And I have other adventures to look forward to: going on a California road trip with my favorite group of girls, volunteering in a summer camp for families who have members with disabilities, seeing NEEDTOBREATHE live in San Francisco and a whole lot of other things I have yet to discover.

In my previous post, I wrote about how complicated this Life is. And I still stand by that. But the more complicated it gets, the more unexpectedly beautiful it becomes. And I’m constantly falling in love with it every single time.

I’m still here.

I just wanted to write something here. I wanted to take a moment to do something that isn’t necessary or required or practical. I’ve been doing a lot of planning these past few weeks. If I’m not working, I’m planning. If I’m not planning, I’m working. I just wanted to do something I truly enjoy for a change, and that’s putting these thoughts and babbles into words.

Right now, all I want to say is this whole Life thing is complicated, which is something I’ve always known.But I’ve never truly realized the extent of how deeply complicated it is, and what I realize now is I never really will. So right now, all I’m trying to do is to stop myself from trying to explain this whole Life thing, stop trying to limit it with definitions and expectations, and just live it the best I can… which is actually a lot harder than it sounds.

Valentine’s Day: Why date a guy when you can have a date your sister?

I have the sweetest sister. Sure there are times when she terrifies me with her unexpected and very extreme mood swings, and sure her evil death stare can make anyone’s knees tremble with fear. But on her good days (which outnumber the bad ones), she is the sweetest human being ever. And Valentine’s Day is a good day.

After having dinner with our grandparents, Karen and I decided to go on a dessert date at a Gelato place nearby.

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And then she gave me this…

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As my best friend said, “The romantics department may be lacking at the moment, but I am never not loved.” I am loved by everyone who matters to me and that’s all I could ever ask for.

A love letter to Siem Reap

I’ve been meaning to write to you ever since I got back, but Family Reunion Season had already begun which meant very little time to just sit down and write. Now that life is back to the way it usually is and work isn’t as hectic as it was, I can finally put into words how smitten I was – and still am – with you.

I must be honest, I did not expect to fall in love with you at all. My sister, Karen, and I initially planned on going to Bali for a beach getaway. But when that didn’t work out, we thought of Angkor Wat, which made us think of you.

We were excited, of course. It was our first trip with just the two of us and we were going to this place we’ve never been to before. But at the same time, as the plane descended onto the airport runway, a tiny voice kept repeating itself in my head, Please don’t let this trip suck, please don’t let this trip suck.

It did not suck. In fact, it’s the best trip I’ve ever had in my life so far. I enjoyed every single minute I was there. And throughout my six-day stay, I’d fall in love again and again.

One would think that the best part of Siem Reap is Angkor Wat, and understandably so. I thought so too at first. I thought my enjoyment of the trip would be directly proportional to how much I’d enjoy Angkor Wat. It turned out that while the archaeological magnificence of Angkor Park would be one of my most memorable experiences ever, I ended up loving the other little things a bit more.

I fell in love with your TukTuks. One of the reason why I love long car rides is I find looking out the windows very relaxing. Riding on a TukTuk where there are no windows separating you from the outside, I discovered, is even more so. Inhaling the fresh air of Siem Reap – which was also a surprise to me – while seeing the locals smile at you so genuinely always comes with riding a TukTuk, and I loved it.

I loved your food – I’ve never enjoyed so much vegetables in my life! After we booked our flight, I promised myself I’d try as many unusual street food as I can and I did. The tarantula tasted like chicken, which I enjoyed. The snake not so much; I had trouble chewing it. I found that eating crickets was much more fun when you pair it up with your local beer, which I also loved.

The floating village was a sigh to see as well, not because it was a spectacular sight, but because of how the people live. It’s amazing to see people living completely differently – and arguably with more difficulty – than what I’m used to, and still see peace and contentment on their faces. We spent three hours kayaking around the village with the nicest guide ever, and we got to eat at one of the stilted houses owned by a local. It was such a remarkable experience.

I also fell head over heels with your sunsets. The best part of our trip is when we drove an ATV to the paddy fields to watch the sunset. It’s one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve ever seen. Sitting on our ATVs, having a conversation with our wonderful guide, Phy, and seeing the sun disappear into the horizon, we were high on life. I am still so utterly in love with that moment.

But above all that, I fell in love with the people. From the staff of the hotel we stayed in to the guides who made sure we had the best time, from the vendors at the markets and the waiters at the restaurants to the locals in the villages and the TukTuk drivers who drove us around, every person we met on that trip touched our heart with their genuine kindness and eagerness to help. Karen and I both agreed that we’d come back in a heartbeat and the first thing we’d do is say hello to the people we had the pleasure of meeting. Your people are seriously the nicest and warmest people we’ve ever met. If we did not enjoy everything else, we’d still come back just to share a conversation with you again.

Siem Reap, you are simply amazing, breathtaking and everything in between. I cannot wait to come back.

All my love,

Kathryn

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Seen in one of the small restaurants inside Angkor Park

P.S. For those of you who are interested in finding out details about our trip like the hotel we stayed in and the activities we did, click here.