Friday, March 21, 2014

A Trip I Didn't Want To Take Just Yet

As I write this post, I am in bed at my grandma's sister's house in the Philippines.  It's almost 5:30am, and I'm still severely jet lagged.  Let's go back a few weeks and talk about how I ended up here.

Late last month, I was preparing to go on a trip to Portland and Seattle (which I will post about at some point).  One hour before I'm scheduled to leave the house, I hear my mom screaming at someone on the phone.  She had just found out that my grandma had been hospitalized a week prior.  This is the same grandma I had written about in late January.  While I was ready to drop all my plans, my mom insisted that I go on my trip while she gathered more information.

My mom ended up flying to the Philippines a few days later.  Though I was technically supposed to be on vacation, my mind was focused on events happening thousands of miles away.  While I didn't know the entire story of my grandma's condition, it wasn't hard to deduce based on phone conversations with my mom - She's total care.  She has a large tumor.  She's very weak and barely eating.  The doctor said she's palliative care.  When I asked about prognosis, my mom burst into tears.  When I asked if I should fly to the Philippines, I didn't get a straight answer, but my mom implied that it would be best to see my grandma while she could still talk.

Upon coming back to California, I started making preparations just in case.  After learning that I would be barred entry into the Philippines if my passport is within 6 months of expiring, I spent a day in San Francisco to get it renewed.  I continued to work, but found it frustrating because I felt I should be taking care of my own family instead.  Fortunately, I work in the medical field with people who understand the severity of my grandma's condition, so I was granted leave.  After buying tickets and two days of frantic shopping/packing/cleaning/errands/finishing taxes, my dad and I boarded a plane for the grueling 16 hour flight to the Philippines.

Philippine Airlines Meal Tray. For a flight to Manila you get dinner, breakfast, and snack.
Sausage breakfast.  Not bad.
First glimpse of land after thousands of miles.
Welcome to the Philippines.

At the airport, we were greeted by my mom, uncle, cousin, and summer tropical heat.  After picking up my aunt in Manila we headed to Quezon City to my grandma's sister's house to eat lunch and unload.  Then it was straight to the hospital to see my grandma.

My grandma recognized me and my dad the moment we walked through the door and nearly started crying.  Despite being in an extremely weakened state, she's cognitively intact and able to communicate.  My hope is that the increased presence of family is able to lift her spirits a little and maybe motivate her to eat more and stand up more frequently.

Now by the time we got to the hospital I had gone 36 hours without sleep.  After passing out on a cushioned bench in the hospital room, my parents woke me up to take me back to my grandma's sister's house where I immediate went to bed.  My grandma was discharged from the hospital to my aunt's house that night.

Since then, I've spent my waking hours at my aunt's house in Malabon City catching up with relatives and spending time with my grandma.  Since leaving the hospital, she's become extremely talkative which I hope is a good sign.  At one point, she spent several hours talking non-stop about her family in English.  She talked about how she helped care for me while I was growing up and said that she hoped she could see me get married someday.  I hope so, too.

Well, that's a brief and dirty rundown of how I ended up in the Philippines so suddenly.  I'll try to post more frequent updates while I'm here and even try to work on older posts.  It definitely helps when I wake up at 3:30am with nothing to do.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Comic-Con 2014 Preregistration: Insanity Year Two

This past Saturday was Comic-Con preregistration for people who attended in 2013.  While a time of high anxiety for Comic-Con fans vying for a badge, I surprisingly was less stressed than last year due to changes to the registration process.  This year, instead of trying to access Comic-Con's EPIC waiting room at 9am, potential attendees had to enter the waiting room before 9am and were then lined up random order.  Furthermore, potential attendees were each given a code that could only be used on one device, meaning I did not have to set up 3 computers, a tablet, and 3 cell phones!  While some hated these new changes, I thought it was a fair way to sell tickets that reduced the likelihood of the EPIC waiting room crashing.  Here's how the registration process went down for me:

I woke up at 7:30am, which is for me is really early for Saturday.  After hooking up my laptop to my wired network as a precautionary measure I logged onto the EPIC waiting room.  No problems so far!

At 9:02am, the yellow bar notification changed.

At 9:03am, the yellow bar changed again to let us know they were lining us up!  

It took about 4 minutes to get the tens of thousands of potential attendees lined up.

At 9:11am, they started allowing people onto the registration page.  Sadly, they didn't tell you what number you were in line this year.

Over the next 13 minutes, the yellow status bar changed to show the following messages.  At least I knew the page hadn't crashed.  In case you're wondering, a friend of mine wanted to know when Asian American Month happens.  It's in May.

At 9:24am, my friend informed me that she got through to the main registration page.  Preview night was sold out, but I she managed to buy me a 4 day pass!  Looks like I'm going to Comic-Con!

At this point, I stuck around the EPIC waiting room to see if I could help other friends get badges.  They actually all made it onto the registration page and got 4 day badges!  I finally got through to the registration page at 10:27am, one minute before Friday and Saturday badges sold out!  Glad I worked in a group to secure my badge earlier!

Badges sold out completely by 11:35am.

For me, this year's preregistration process went a lot more smoothly than last year's Comic-Con badge insanity.  I suppose I got really lucky, and am thankful to have friends willing to buy a badge for me.  This isn't the end of badge insanity for me, as I'm going to try to get badges for my boyfriend and friends during the general sale!  Congratulation to everyone who got a badge last Saturday, and good luck to those participating in the general sale!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Grandma Is Awesome

Over the weekend, my family, boyfriend, and I Skyped with my grandmother who lives in the Philippines.  She happened to be in Manila and was visiting relatives who use Skype.  While I don't talk to my grandma much these days (save postcards/pics from my travels) because of the distance and slight language barrier, she spent many years living with me and my parents in my youth, so I consider her extremely close.  She's 85 now, but still as sharp, caring, and kind as ever.  I thought it would be a great opportunity for her to meet my boyfriend again, since the only other time we Skyped with my grandmother was over a year ago on Christmas.

Sadly, the internet connection in the Philippines isn't as fast, so our Skype call dropped a few times.  Also, my boyfriend is very camera shy, so I had to tug him a few times to get him in front of the webcam.  When my grandma and other relatives saw him, they commented that be was very "pogi" (handsome).  After translating to him what they were saying, my grandma addressed him in English and said that he was "handsome".  I've always joked to my boyfriend that my grandma would call him handsome, and I was right!

Later in the conversation, my mom commented that my boyfriend is Chinese.  My grandma's response in English, "It does not matter what the race is, as long as you love each other!"  Like the title of this post says, my grandma is awesome!  My boyfriend and I also got asked when we are getting married a few times, but we just smiled and laughed.

The one somewhat depressing part of our conversation was when my grandma talked about the time she had left.  I suppose at the age of 85, mortality is something that's going to be on one's mind.  As a good daughter should, my mom brushed off my grandma's dreary comments by exclaiming in Tagalog, "Oh whatever, you have plenty of time!"  My grandma is still very healthy, and I hope she remains that way as long as possible.

I'm hoping to visit the Philippines again within the next year or two.  As much as I hate airplanes, it's worth it to see my family and especially my grandma.  In the meantime, I'm thankful for the internet and programs like Skype for bringing my relatives in the Philippines to my living room!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Crock Pot Kielbasa

Happy Championship Sunday!  As I've said in previous posts, food is probably my favorite part of the football gameday experience.  Today, I've decided to keep it small and wait two weeks before making some of my favorite Super Bowl snacks.  Below is a recipe for crock pot sausage that's quick, easy, and delicious!

Enjoy, and GO NINERS!

Easy Crock Pot Kielbasa
Serves 4 to 6, depending on appetite

2 packages of kielbasa, sliced
1 cup of barbeque sauce (I used Bullseye since it was on sale)
1/2 cup of beer (I used Franziskaner Weissbier)
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Place all ingredients in a crock pot, cover, and simmer for 1-2 hours.  If sauce is too thin, remove crock pot lid and allow sauce to reduce to desired consistency.
2. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Onward to 2014!

2013 was certainly a memorable year, filled with perhaps the most travel I have ever done.  Not only did I mostly complete my tentative 2013 travel plans, I actually added on numerous unplanned trips that took me to new locations in the United States and Canada.  Let's just say that last January, I did not expect to travel to Niagara Falls, end up in New York City, then travel cross-country via train with a stop in New Orleans.  I also did not anticipate returning to Texas by train just weeks later to help my friends at TheSpeedGamers raise money for charity.

2014 will most likely be another travel year, which kicked off with New Year's Eve in Las Vegas.  Places I intend on revisiting this year include San Diego for Comic-Con and Texas to once again assist TheSpeedGamers in their fundraising efforts.  On top of that, I plan on taking a small trip to celebrate my birthday and a spring trip on Amtrak's Coastal Starlight to redeem my buy one, get one companion pass before it expires.  I'm sure my parents will want to travel more as well, which could potentially mean a big trips overseas

This year, I hope to blog a lot more about my travels and generally anything that gets me writing.  My writing skills have greatly diminished since leaving school, so I'm hoping to get more practice.  As a starting point, I hope to finish up posts about my 2013 travels in the next few weeks.  I guess we'll see what happens from there!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

2013 Convention Wrap-Up: FanimeCon/Clockwork Alchemy

There will always be a special place in my heart for FanimeCon.  While I did attend other conventions before Fanime, this one sucked me in and I've been attending every year since.  I suppose there are a few reasons for this, from the transformation of San Jose to a cosplay paradise, the 24 hour immersive nature of the event, to the fact that I ended up with my boyfriend thanks to this convention.  Additionally, I spent my first year of FanimeCon as a volunteer in order to get a free pass, and had a great time meeting people and getting the inside scoop on everything.

While being a volunteer was a great experience, I wanted extra time to attend panels and explore the convention.  Thus, I spent the next two years as a regular attendee.  During this time FanimeCon introduced Clockwork Alchemy, a steampunk addition to the convention.  I really enjoyed the interactive panels of Clockwork Alchemy and felt that I found the right place to spend my time as I aged out of FanimeCon's dominant age demographic (not that there's an age limit to attending Fanime!).  However, I missed being able to help out and often found myself with more downtime than I wanted.  This year after some internal debate, I decided to volunteer once again.

I definitely took on more responsibilities this year, and even got assigned a walkie-talkie for the first time. Being a volunteer was rather nerve-wracking at times since I didn't want to be "that person" who screwed up and made into one of those "what not to do" stories they tell during trainings.  Working this convention was no joke, and I'll admit that the shifts were long, grueling, and stressful.  While I am a social worker by trade, managing mobs of congoers (with the occasional angry person) was really different from anything I've ever experienced at work, and I definitely gained insight on interpersonal skills I should hone for next year.

Was the experience worth it?  While I found that I spent even less time exploring the convention than that the last time I volunteered, I'd definitely do it again.  Volunteering for Fanime allowed me to experience the event in a different way, a way that allowed me help others better enjoy themselves.  Furthermore, I really enjoyed getting to see more of how Fanime/Steampunk Alchemy is put together, and working with those who are just as passionate about the convention as I am.

I realize that FanimeCon/Clockwork Alchemy 2013 has its fair share of problems, and I also realize that tons of improvements need to be made for next year (especially after reading the forums).  This is one of the reasons I'd like to return and increase my involvement in the planning process of the convention.  With my increasingly busy schedule, hopefully I'll have the time to volunteer again next year!  We shall see how things go over the next several months!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer Travel Wrap-up!

With Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer travel season.  Sadly, I'll be spending this long weekend at work, but I don't mind too much as I've had a rather eventful and travel-filled summer!  In the next few days/weeks, I'll be posting about my various trips, including FanimeCon, Comic-Con, Hearst Castle, Catalina Island, and Star Trek Las Vegas.  Hopefully there isn't too much delay in getting these posts up as my work schedule ramps up once again.

Fortunately, the end of summer doesn't mark the end of my fun.  Autumn is by far my favorite season of the year, marked by pumpkins, cooler weather, hot apple cider, football, falling leaves, Thanksgiving, and Halloween!  On top of that, I have several upcoming trips to New York, New Orleans, and Texas which I will be planning over the next several months.  For me, I almost get as much excitement from the planning stages as I do the actual trip!

As someone once said, "Travel is about the journey, not the destination. The destination is only the means for the journey to begin."  Let the journeys continue!