Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thrifting for Earth Day (pssst sale codes)

Ready for a secret? For the last few years, I've bought most of my clothes on eBay.

I have a system. I get brand names for super cheap. It works and it's amazing (and unfortunately addictive, like a game) (but oh, such a fun game!)

Recently I've been hearing more about online thrift clothing shops, where you can both shop for used clothes and also bag up your own goods and send them in. I'd been wanting to investigate this route, so when Schoola contacted me I was like yyyaassss. (Just like that, in my head. Yassss.)

Schoola is an online thrift sore that sells clothing to benefit schools in the U.S. and The Malala Fund internationally.

From our conversation, I became an even bigger advocate of thrift shopping. For one thing, I learned that Americans send 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills every year. (Tons! That's the unit they weigh elephants and cars with!)

In total, 40% of Schoola's proceeds go to benefit children's education. All the same fun for an online thrift junky like myself, plus the opportunity to contribute to a good cause? SOLD.

They have both adult and child sizes, and right now they're having an Earth Day Sale! So go take a peek around and see if any of the clothes are up your alley (I spotted this and this and this and THIS) and check out these sale codes:

Translation: buy $50 worth of clothes and get it for $25, then don't pay for shipping. MAKE HASTE MY FRIENDS.

Here are a few things I picked up recently from their site:

They also sent me this cute jar full of little treats and school supplies!

How can you donate your own clothes? It's easy AND free!

First, request a donation bag. They send it to you, you fill it with clothes, you send it back free of charge (I love that part!), and bing bang boom, you've done your spring cleaning AND contributed to a good cause! I call that a productive day. You can read here for more details on how it works.

I've got my own bag stuffed full of clothes that are ready to move on to a new home.

Happy Earth Day my friends! Go forth and thrift.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Grad School & Calm Spaces

I'll start by saying that the best part of my MBA program thus far is qualifying for student discounts at the movie theatre again.

Because this is a magic card:

jk, I haven't actually taken advantage of that perk yet. But when I do, it will be the best part. And yes, I put lipstick on for that photo because giirrrrrlll I gotta look at it for three years.

Katie but seriously, how's school....

You know what I love about education? It explains the world around me. I love hearing things in class that make me think, "OMG THAT MAKES SENSE OUT OF THINGS." I wish I could cement all the facts and quotes in my brain and never lose them.

Take this week, when I read an article about cultural business communication differences. Remember my Japan trip? As I read the article, it validated my struggles from that trip and explained to me what mindsets I have that may have caused some barriers. I was practically licking the pages of the article; it made so much sense to me.

So, ask me again in a few quarters when I'm potentially more exhausted, but right now I am really loving school. I feel like an eager sponge soaking up everything I'm hearing (or trying, when it comes to my accounting class -- first test on Monday, yipes!)

But on that exhaustion note....

I don't feel overwhelmed yet. Three weeks in and with class and full-time work I am definitely very busy, but I'm not dying. I've had stressful moments, that's for sure. Something I'm really trying to do (with varying degrees of success) is to be deliberate about carving out space for calm in my life. Reserving afternoons or an hour here and there that isn't devoted to work, or school, or any deadline or obligation.

Historically, I tend to swing to either extreme: so busy I'm working myself into an anxious frenzy and can't sit still, or so fed up with the previous situation that I just lie in bed all day and don't do ANYTHING. So, I'm working on a new approach. Little breaks. Deliciously satisfying portions of rest spooned out amongst the chaos. Small spaces.

Today, it meant stopping at Chick-fil-a for lunch after my 8am Saturday class, driving home on a slower road with the window down (hellooooo warm California season! please do stay awhile!), blasting Journey and looking forward to an hour or two of blogging, watching an episode of the new Kimmy Schmidt season (#theyalivedammit), and opening all the windows in my apartment to let some air in before I settle in to study for that looming accounting test and create a presentation for next week's Saturday class.

It's the little things, but they're also big things. Especially when they're waffle fries and a pretty blue sky.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Japanigans Shenanigans

Oh heyyyy! I mean, Kon'nichiwa!

I returned from my trip to Japan a couple weeks ago, then promptly started my MBA program the next day! Between working full time and going to school at night and the added commute it takes to get to campus and recovering from jet lag and trying to make time for a social life as well....I'm beat, kids! But I'll post about grad school on a different day.

Today, this is about Japan!

Japan, Japan, Japan. Here's the thing: this trip was challenging for me. Probably my most challenging trip to date. And that is hard for me to admit, considering all the people I know who have seemed to travel there without a hitch. (Just me??) I want to stay real about that in this post because I know social media often portrays one picture when the real story might be another. Obviously my experience isn't necessarily a reflection of Japan or its people so much as it was things to do with my personality/taste buds and some unfortunate perfect storms of mistakes leading to costly/discouraging setbacks here and there. I will say upfront that overall, I do look back on this trip with fondness for the good parts and people that I loved :)

SO! I saw amazing things in Japan, I took amazing pictures, I had an amazing travel buddy...and yet, challenging! My other international trips felt more accessible to me. I think one mistake with this trip was to cram 3 cities into one week, which meant by the time I felt oriented in each city it was time to hop along to the next one. As someone who has felt confident and secure on all previous trips, it put a dent in my travel confidence to feel so overwhelmed on this one. And, it seemed like the phrases and politeness we used in one city would work well and in the next city would result in getting waved away or yelled at. I am sure tourists experience the same thing anywhere in the world, depending on who they interact with, but somehow it was a first for me.

Also, the food was admittedly difficult for me, which I didn't expect. I had a few things I loved -- like some fabulous sashimi at the fish market in Tokyo, and some amazing bowls of ramen. A lot of the times though, the flavors and textures I encountered didn't sit well with me (turns out Japan is really into tofu and I am...not so much...haha). Obviously this is all personal preference, and I'd never want to deter anyone who might actually have the right palate for this country. But for me and my travel companion, it meant a lot of feeling hungry and....just going to own up to this...eating at McDonald's four times just to feel full on something familiar. (Probably equals the number of times I've been to McDonald's in the past two years combined haha) (More of an In 'n Out and Chick-Fil-A girl, myself.)

This trip taught me a couple key things:

1) I want to be much more compassionate toward tourists and refugees in my own country. How overwhelming it is to feel like you can't read any signs, the food feels really foreign, and it's hit or miss if people will help you out or turn you away. I neverrrr want to make anyone feel that way! And I can't imagine experiencing those barriers AND having no home country to ever go back to. Makes my heart hurt. I was so, so, so, so grateful for the people along the way who answered our broken-Japanese questions or walked us across train stations to find trains we NEVER would have found on our own, etc. Heart throbs for those beautiful people!

2) Next time I travel to an Asian country, I'm hiring a guide! I definitely got a confidence boost whenever I figured something out on my own (who's your daddy, Kyoto metro map), but the time/money spent on the setbacks would have been soooo nice to avoid. With a guide (or just a friend who speaks the language), I could have enjoyed all the amazing sights without all the time/money/frustration spent figuring things out. Plus, Japan is super safe. I kept thinking how much worse those hard moments would have felt in a country where I'd also have to worry much more about my safety when things went wrong. Lessons learned in advance for next time!

3) Life is a continual practice in patience, both with myself and others. I kept thinking along the way, "Why isn't this easier for me? No one else told me they had a hard time in Japan. I've never had such a difficult time while traveling." At one point on this trip, I lost the key to my Airbnb somewhere in Tokyo. It was embarrassing and frustrating to email the owner and have her come meet us to give us a new key. On another day, we missed a flight boarding time (not the takeoff time -- the boarding time) by ~10 minutes and were not allowed to board. We could literally see the boarding area from where we stood, but no amount of pleading could sway them, and we ended up having to purchase a new flight for 2 hours later that was no cheap replacement (and weirdly no easy feat to purchase a new ticket -- one example where I felt like something that should have been so simple seemed so out of my reach). Literally, we sat in the airport's cafe after that in crushed moods while Lionel Richie played over the speakers. It felt right, haha.

With all of THAT you can see all the beautiful pictures :) Please note how CLEAN everything is in Japan. Seriously, spotless subway cars with freshly vacuumed, plush benches. I loved that about this country. And I will say, if I ever find my way back to Japan I will feel much better prepared and more confident going into it. Lessons learned in not cramming too much into a week-long trip and assuming it will be as easy to figure out as other trips somehow were!

The lows on this trip were low, but the highs were stunning. Enjoy!

Indoor slippers always and forever:

The guy guarding the ramen place:

The magically delicious ramen at said ramen place:

Fish market in Tokyo:

This egg salad sandwich on the train had all kinds of raw fish in it. I like raw fish but not so much in my egg salad, haha. Also I thought I ordered turkey but that's how it goes sometimes:

The photo booths in Harajuku were UHMAZING:

One course of the many-course meal at our traditional Japanese inn. Loved this place, struggled getting half this meal down. No insult to them -- again, just apparently learned on this trip that I'm not crazy about really legit Japanese food, though how I wish I was!

Michelle is happy that the meat in this course was cooked :)

I would begin every day of my life with a steamy indoor hot tub overlooking nature if I could:

Vending machines are a THING in Japan! Our approach was to toss in some yen and gamble on a picture. I loved this green grape soda with pieces of aloe. Not pictured: hot cans of hot chocolate and coffee. Now THAT I could go for in my home city.

No creeper-petting the women. Rules I can get behind.

The torii gates -- a must-do if you're ever in Kyoto!

A cat cafe! I like cats and yet this was a horrifying experience. haha

Bamboo forest at Storm Mountain:

Sunrise pic on one of those spotless subway cars:

Ocean break in Okinawa....

....home country of Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid!

This CD is a hilarious story. Michelle and I stopped into a grocery store to get snacks, and we saw this delightful puppy CD in a bin that we thought was labeled "4 for 20." Score! So we put it in our pile and then enjoyed it in our rental car (yes, I drove on the left side of the road! champion!) Later while checking the receipt, we deciphered that it actually cost us $20. Haha. It was full of such gems, though!

I really wanted to see tons and tons of cherry blossoms on this trip but we were about a week early for the full bloom. Caught some ambitious early bloomers though:

Into the ocean in Okinawa! Michelle went scuba diving and then we both went snorkeling. They're not in any pictures, but we were literally swimming amongst schools of neon fish. It was amazing.

American Village in Okinawa

Our fearless dive-shop friend, Yuma!

And that's all! Sayonara!