Tag Archives: vacation

call me, may(be)?

ooh work. you take away all my free time and yet i love you so.

i haven’t been able to “blog” very much lately, but my month of may was a good one. the weather in iowa is absolutely beautiful and a lot of the month was spent hanging out with good family and friends. here are some good things.

  • i spent the first few days of the month of may in belgium with the most handsome man i know. oh, and evan was there with me as well. 😉
  • the avengers came out. let’s see… iron man, thor, and hulk… yum.
  • ^ and then i saw it again the next day.
  • went to the farmer’s market and got my first papusa of the year. also yum.
  • a group of us went out to north carolina for our good friend erin and sam’s wedding. it was southern, beautiful, and besides being alcohol-free, absolutely perfect. 😉

  • sand volleyball began. and we have continued our streak from last year….our losing streak, that is.
  • it was my daddio’s birthday.

mo money… mo problems

i don’t make a lot of money.

…but i don’t make a little amount of money either.

the weird thing about me, and i’ll be the first to admit it, is that i like paying bills. i find it soothing- like the money i’ve collected has a purpose. i pay the mortgage, student loans, car payment… and then i assess.

my problem comes after the assessment. i simply do not know what to do with my extra cash. i want to spend it. and usually on stupid things.

now, before we dive into this, do not judge too harshly. i’m not just frivolously throwing around my money (so back off, mooommm). i have a 401k set up through my work and i also contribute 6% of my earnings to it. i donate money every month to my sponsor child in Sri Lanka (his name is Nandakumar and he draws me awesome photos), and i am in the process of setting up a roth ira. i pay more than required on all my loans per month, and my credit score is better than average.

some people i know, my parents included, do not own credit cards because they don’t want any loans. i think that’s completely understandable and very smart. live within your means, don’t make extravagant purchases you can’t afford. work to be come debt free.

but the one thing i simply cannot comprehend, however, is not living now because you are afraid you do not have the cash. people want to save up for retirement, and i get that. they work to pay off student loans, house loans, work to becoming debt free. they want the security, they want to know that they will have the money to do fun things when they get older.

but what about fun things now? i would rather go and test limits, to experience life while i’m in the prime of it. before i have children or any major responsibility that is holding me back from doing exactly what i want, when i want to do it. not that those responsibilities are bad. but they are life changing.

and i am a person who craves instant gratification.

and these are the things i am wanting most right now:

1) a new tattoo. it’s been years since i got a tattoo. i have an appointment scheduled for february 9th- i plan on getting my side tattoo expanded up past my ribs. and then screaming and crying a lot at the pain.

2) little martin guitar. i’ve recently started taking guitar lessons, but i’m not really improving. (granted…i’m not really practicing either, but i digress.) i have really small hands, making it difficult and frustrating to play certain chords. originally i didn’t want to get a smaller guitar because i thought they might look silly. but i’m not delusional. i’m not going to be a famous musician someday. i want to play for my own enjoyment. so i will buy a guitar that i can maneuver. and then i will play.

3) vacation. i am going to belgium for work in april. while that is not the most exciting news ever (though it’s close), what makes it even better is that evan is coming with me. we are taking a few extra days ahead of time to see the country- evan says that he thinks belgium is his “dreamland.” he imagines a lot of biking and beautiful country scenery. i imagine beer and chocolate. i think it’ll be a win-win situation.

no need to russian-to-it.

i think i may have mentioned it a time or two (or eight or ten if you are around me often), but i am going to russia in february for work. this “will she, won’t she” game has finally come to an end, and i will be traveling out the last week of february/first week of march.

at first i asked my boss if she was punishing me (because i imagine winters in russia are even worse than winters in iowa), but the more and more i think about it, the more and more excited i become. i will be spending a week in st. petersburg- 4-5 days of video interviews, working on product positioning with product managers and technical service people, etc and then an additional 2 days checking out the city.

plus, it gives me an excuse to wear my awesome hat:

(my mom thinks these hats are super dorky so my sister-in-law and brother got her a similar one for christmas last year. i make her wear it around the house with me sometimes.)

and to make matters even more exciting, an old college friend of mine is thinking about meeting me there for the last portion of the trip. i love seeing people i haven’t seen in a long time, and this man is no exception.

ladies, meet ari. he’s single and ready to mingle: (and finnish. and adorable.)

i met ari my senior year at wartburg college (you-rah-rah-rah!). he was a freshman at the time and under normal circumstances i wouldn’t have even noticed him. for one, he’s blonde (and we all know how i feel about that). and for two, he was a freshman. when would i ever have a class with a freshman?

lucky for both of us, one of my roommates was on orientation staff and she brought him around a time or two. we quickly became friends- i mean, sure, he was blonde and young… but he was FINNISH. He was stylish. He was worldly.

…and his hair was beautiful. 🙂

one of my favorite things about ari is that he always laughs at my last name. my last name is lundberg. it’s swedish (just like me… haha… sort of.)  in most european languages, “berg” means “mountain.” i’m not too upset about that, it’s an easy translation, and i probably could’ve figured it out for myself. another [sad eyed] friend has told me that “lund” in swedish means “grove,” so apparently my roots trace back to the people living off the land between the grove and the mountain.

but in hindi, “lund” is a slang term for male anatomy– most specifically it translates to “dick.” so ari calls me Dickmountain, or DM for short. …he’s a real classy kind of guy. 🙂

after i graduated wartburg at semester i ended up seeing ari a few times [when i visited school for homecoming and also at my fake-prom party], but he soon returned to his homeland and we haven’t really seen each other since. i am STOKED that he is making some time to come and visit- especially in the cold of winter!

neither ari nor myself have every been to russia, however. seeing as i want to soak in as much as possible, i would appreciate any tips or ideas of places to see while i’m in st. petersburg. a small group of work colleagues (the fun ones) are also staying for some extra time, so hopefully someone will have an idea of what to do. don’t get me wrong, i love to travel and explore new things, but one fault of mine is that i’m too laid-back when it comes to itineraries. if i have a rough draft i will follow it, if i don’t, i will play it by ear…

…and my ear usually leads me to a bar. so help a sister out and give me some good ideas! 🙂

reminiscing on england

the first time i ever traveled abroad was in 2006. and the feeling, the excitement was so contagious that i think i came down with a bad case of ‘travelitis.’ for those of you have never heard of travelitis or the perils that it entails, it’s a very serious (but not very rare) condition. and i have not wanted to sit still ever since.

when i was in high school i had a “pen pal” from england named chloe. we would pretty much email every day and shoot the shit; we’d talk about celebrities, schooling, and the differences between england and the united states. i told her that if she ever wanted to visit the good ol’ u. s. of a. she would have a roof over her head if she came to iowa.

my senior year of high school she took me up on the offer. my parents and i went to go pick her up at the des moines international airport (…funny title in itself, considering we don’t do international flights, but thank you fedex) and we took her out to see the exciting things in iowa. you know. the exciting things.

anyway, in 2006 my best friend mallory (who had also gotten to know chloe well over the years) and i decided that we would like to visit her in england. she was living in whitstable (kent) at the time and her parents graciously said they would host two twenty year old girls during our two weeks of vacation. haha, suckas.

i don’t think i slept on the plane ride i was so excited. [mallory has corrected me and said i did sleep, it was her that did not, haha] when we finally arrived in england both mallory and i were extremely jet lagged (or maybe just tired from not having slept) so we took naps. i woke up a bit earlier than her and decided to go downstairs and make conversation. mallory woke up in a pitch black room to find me gone. gave her a bit of a scare, hehe. but that was the most lethargic we were all week.

we argued about who had the room with the big bed.

we checked out the local scene.

we had our first fish and chips on the beach of whitstable.

overall, the trip was a blast. we got to experience the slower, smaller living of england while staying in whitstable and while visiting canterbury and dover.

(we look so young!)

(dover’s castle didn’t have a gargoyle, but don’t worry… i took care of it)

but we also got swept up in the excitement and sight-seeing adventures in london.

seeing as the trip was over 5 years ago, it’s hard for me to vividly remember everything. even when i was looking through photos i was having trouble figuring out where some of them were taken (because, i’m not going to lie to you- cathedrals, for the most part, all look the same). but there are a few things that i do remember from the trip. and, of course, the most important thing i took away from the trip: i will never be done traveling.

things i remember from my trip to england:

  • i tried curry for the first time. it was spicy as hell. go figure.
  • there was this dog named Jim who liked to look out of the windows. i managed to get a great shot of this cat tormenting him by sitting on a pillar right outside the window.
  • driving in england, though confusing and on the opposite side of the road, is a lot slower than in other countries.
  • this was the first time i went to a country where tips were not the norm and waiters and waitresses didn’t come around very often. i think we sat and chatted in a restaurant for a few hours before the waitress got around to asking us if we wanted anything else or to get the check.
  • ^ oh, also, apparently asking for a box for leftovers is absurd. (don’t look at me like that, i might be hungry later!)
  • they aren’t kidding around- those guards will not talk to you. and they are slightly intimidating. (but some guards do talk, and they even oblige to pose for photos) 🙂
  • i had my first pimms & lemonade while in england. i thought it was delicious. years later i still haven’t had one as good as the first i had in whitstable.
  • because the drinking age was 18 (and we were 20) we got to take advantage of many opportunities. this was also where i had my first strongbow and learned of scrumpy jack. i also remember chloe getting upset because neither mallory nor i got carded for a club and she did.
  • i loved taking photos of touristy places, things, etc. i think mallory took a majority of the candid shots and i focused mostly on the landscape. i regret it a bit, but looking at the photos now i’m glad i got some of the shots i did.

  • there are parades in england and people throw pennies at the floats instead of the people on the floats throwing candy out to the crowd.
  • there was a man at canterbury castle who had the most fantastic mustache i had ever seen. even to this day, none can compare.

things i discovered while in ireland.

now, i’m not claiming to be a travel connoisseur or even have a good handle on what to do or what not to do while you’re on vacation/holiday. but here are a few tips/observations that i took down while in ireland that may not be in every travel guide.

Alcohol (because this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart)

  • Smithwicks (pronounced “Smit-icks”) is a beer and it is only 3.8% alcohol, but cost 4.5 euro. This is a rip off, do not be tricked.
  • It is more expensive to buy in “bulk” (like a six pack) than it is in the United States. You are almost better off buying the bottles individually.
  • A Guinness & Black is a Guinness with black current added, it tastes a bit like licorice. Females will usually order this to make the drink sweeter, although I’ve been told “if you don’t like the taste of Guinness, this isn’t going to help.”

The Lay of the Land

  • Your State-side insurance does not cover you in Ireland. This may seem like a rip off, until you start driving. Then you realize why.
  • The roads are bat shit crazy. Just get used to it.

[photo borrowed from ms. jamie to prove my point]

  • …To expand: the roads are narrower, the shoulder is almost non-existent, and there will usually be shrubbery right next to the road so if you veer a bit too far you will get a passenger side-full of leaves. Tour busses are usually oversized and will naturally cross into your lane of the road. Everything is backwards. Driver’s side is on the right, shifting components on the left, you drive on the left-hand side of the road, and you take roundabouts (“rotaries” in Ireland) in the opposite direction as you would in the US.
  • Roundabouts have two lanes, but just always stay in the outside lane. It’s safer for you.
  • Invest in a GPS unit. It saved our lives.

Hotels/Public Places Toilets

  • Toilets are not made of porcelain, they are plastic. It’s the same in Italy. I’d say they just don’t know about how superior porcelain is for your bathroom needs, but they have bidets (bedays?) and those are made of porcelain, so they obviously know this material exists.
  • While you’re in the bathroom, look around. The hot & cold knobs are always separate. I’m not sure why. You either have to choose hot water, cold water, or just splash around to get a happy medium.
  • The normal European adapters do not work in Ireland; the outlets are the same as the ones used in England. I feel I knew this ahead of time but just disregarded the information.
  • Some hotels will have adapters and will let you borrow them, but don’t bank on it. If you forgot one or brought the wrong kind, they are usually fairly cheap to go out and buy. Most grocery stores, pharmacies, etc will carry adapters.
  • “Ground floor” – The ground floor is always 0, not 1. If you have a room on the first floor, go up a flight.  I guess it makes sense.
  • Can’t get your lights to work? Some hotels require a key card to be left in a slot by the door for your light switches and power to become active. Seem strange and pointless? It is. (Also note if you are charging something while you’re out you will need to leave a card in the slot for your outlets to stay active as well.)
  • In Europe it seemed we could pick up free Wi-Fi at every hotel/B&B. I don’t know if this was just luck, but it was very handy.
  • FREE breakfast is FREE. Enjoy it.

Other Observations

  • Bacon – It’s just ham. Fried ham. This alone would be a reason why I couldn’t survive the rest of my life in Ireland.
  • It’s so much colder in Ireland than you think it will be. In June I think the highest temperature it reached was 65 degrees F. I wore a sweatshirt or a jacket the entire time we were there.
  • Cliffs of Moher – The Cliffs of Moher are worth the drive and the six euro entry fee. (And I’m cheap!) It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. While you are there, go through the areas you’re not supposed to– nobody stops you, everybody does it, and the views are incredible. Just don’t blow off the cliffs… I’ve heard that happens.
  • People are very nice and friendly in Ireland– probably because we speak the same language, but it made the trip even more enjoyable.
  • Everyone in a bar will know the words to American Pie. I find that funny.

“inertia is a property of matter”

did i ever tell you about the time i met bill nye?

no, your eyes did not deceive you. bill nye the science guy. not to be confused with bill nighy (which would be even more awesome, but i digress), THEE bill nye, you know, the guy who made science cool for you as a kid. the bill nye who wore a bow tie with his lab coat, showing that he’s not only a scientist, he’s a gentleman. bill, bill, bill, bill!

back in the summer of 2008 my friends jimmy and ben and myself made a journey to california. never having been there before, i wanted to see as much of the state as possible. and forgetting that california is roughly the size of, well… the midwest, i made the itinerary, thinking it would be a simple, relaxing trip. we would fly into san francisco, take a (6.5 hour) night bus to los angeles, and then take another bus up to napa valley, then fly back out of san francisco. the obvious choices, right?

the moral is: people shouldn’t let me make the itinerary.

but besides the silly travel schedule that i created, we had a great time. we explored san fran (our hotel was conveniently located right outside of chinatown), stayed with a college friend who happened to live right outside of LA, and got plowed as we toured the beautiful countryside and chugged sipped wine from different beautiful wineries.

while we were in LA we were doing the normal touristy stuff: going to disneyland, seeing the hollywood sign, putting our hands in the handprints at the chinese theater… getting interviewed by bill nye for his upcoming television show…

wait, back.it.up!

so, yes, we all remember bill nye from his days as the science guy on pbs. what some of you may not know is that he continued his career to make other educational television shows, such as the eyes of nye and the television show that i was on, stuff happens. stuff happens was a six part series on the green channel that talked about…um… stuff. environmental stuff. how stuff in your every day life is affecting the world. i don’t know, i can’t give too much detail on this because i never actually saw the show.


i was on it.

bill nye was doing one of those “man on the street” moments where he interviewed random people and asked them questions about the environment. i don’t even remember what question i had or how i answered (i’m assuming i got it wrong if i made it onto the show), but one of my friend’s moms recently told me that she saw me on the re-run of the show.

and now it must be mine.

since i can’t find the youtube videos anywhere online, i am thinking of purchasing Stuff Happens on Amazon.com. i mean, it’s probably well worth the $13.99, no? or if anyone has it and can get me a video clip of the befuddled asian girl stumbling through an answer, please let me know! i will repay you with kindness and smiles. or maybe a photo print or something? i don’t know, i’m not much of a bargainer.

i will keep you posted on my findings. but for now… T-minus seven seconds! Science is cool!

ben, jimmy, other ben, bill nye, and myself. california 2008.

italia, mio amore

i will just start this post by saying that i love italy. i love italy so much that i paid a ridiculous amount of money to try to learn the language through rosetta stone, then remembered my inability to finish any long-term project i aspire to… but yes, there is just something about the place that i really enjoy. i had the good fortunate of going there for work in 2010 and then the even better fortune of going there for fun in 2011.

jessica and i had decided that, since it was much cheaper to fly from one european country to another than it would ever be to fly from america, we’d be silly to pass up the chance to go exploring. we bought our plane tickets from ireland to italy for around $130, got a list of hostels, booked our stays, and off we went. the original plan was to fly into venice, stay there for a day and a half, go hang out with my co-worker bruno in verona, and then take a train down to rome. unfortunately, bruno got called to des moines for the week we were in italy (bummer!) so we had to find last minute plans. the whole thing didn’t go as smoothly as we anticipated, but i think that is half the fun. you might want to get jessica’s take on the matter sometime, though… she’s a “make sure you know where you’re going” kind of lady. (aka: a bitch. [just kidding {or am i?}])

while we were sitting in the airport in dublin, getting grouchy with each other, we found a map from the water boats (vaporetti) to where our hostel was in venice. as much as i give jessica a hard time, she was really dead useful when it came to getting around. i’m kind of a wanderer, i’ll follow people, i’ll get lost, i’ll ask for directions or i’ll just keep wandering. jessica remembers things; she knows where we turned, where we should go, and has pretty good intuition which helped keep us from getting lost. so needless to say, we arrived in one piece to our hostel, casa petrarca.

after we got settled, and they made us pay them in cash (highly suspicious, but happened EVERYWHERE we went), we got our giant key (i’m not kidding, i wish i had taken a photo of it) and we went out to explore venice. everything in venice is so tall and narrow- the buildings are like slender (ancient) super models. they were so old and beautiful, it was easy to get lost in the moment. the weather was nice, albeit a bit hot (compared to ireland), and everything was definitely within walking distance because the city was so small (yet extremely populated). admittedly, i looked like a huge tourist since i had my camera around my neck, but since i’m asian… well… i thought i could get by with it.

there’s an old charm to the city and everywhere you turn there’s something you could take a photo of. cathedrals, town squares, gondola rides, people letting pigeons crawl all over them… wait, what?!?

this was such a mystery to me. i mean, i can understand not wanting to take a gondola ride (they were around 80 euros during the day, 100 euros at night!), but why on earth would you want filthy, diseased pigeons crawling all over you. and do that for free?

this whole phenomenon was weighing on me the rest of the day. i couldn’t see the appeal. maybe i’m biased and have a thing against birds (sort of true), maybe i just have one too many scars from the species (literally *cough*eddie*cough*).

i couldn’t see the appeal and yet, and yet… i really wanted to try it. we tried to sit to see if the pigeons were interested in us, but we realized pretty early into this endeavor that people were selling bird seed, which of course, attracted the dirty rats with wings… ahem. anyway. i wasn’t going to pay for any stupid bird seed just so i could have this… strange… experience.

…but i will take the extra crackers from my table at dinner and use them.

(as you can see, i’m not handling it very well)

okay. now that i have that out of my system…

our time in venice was fairly short. it’s a fairly expensive city and i feel like you can see most of it in two days, which is roughly the amount of time we spent there. if you are traveling to italy, venice is a place you definitely need to see… but i would never live there. don’t get me wrong, i liked the place and it was fantastic for photography. but it was very touristy, very crowded, and just not the place i would hang my hat and call home.

in our last few hours in the city, i have well documented trip photos of us trying to find our way to the train station and also jessica’s frustration with how the names of the street kept changing. she tried to figure it out… i took photos (i am not much help in most situations).

after realizing that there are signs that point you to the train station (although it is called something different) we realized we had plenty of time to spare and did a bit more actual sight-seeing. we went to the cathedral to look around. a friendly tip: you are not allowed to wear tank tops or shorts into a cathedral in italy. if you try to enter in non-proper clothes they will give you a shawl to wrap around yourself while you’re inside. oh, and by “give you a shawl” i mean “they will make you pay a euro for a paper towel like piece of fabric.” just a fair warning. i’m not saying it’s not worth it.

jessica and i hung out at the train station in venice for a bit. since the original plan was to go to verona we still had our train tickets to there, but because bruno was no longer in town we did not have any housing. right before we left for vacation i had gotten us a room at a holiday inn (or something similar) at the train stop right outside of verona. it was fairly cheap and, besides worrying that we might be mugged, raped, and killed on our way there, the hotel was actually SUPER nice for the price. there was a complimentary buffet breakfast, good utilities, and super nice rooms… it was easily the most relaxed night of the whole trip. and sometimes you need to just relax, to be able to recharge your batteries. the next morning we woke up refreshed, we got ready, and we were on our way to rome.

when we got to rome we immediately found our hostel and fell in love with the place and our adorable hostess, Isa (who also made us pay in cash). let me just say, if you ever go to italy, do not hesitate to stay at the B&B Smart. it’s reasonably priced, it has a great location, and seriously, Isa is the best. she gave us water and drew us out a map when we first got in. she made us breakfast every morning. she hung up my clothes for me while we were touring the town. she brought us fresh watermelon while we were in the room lounging around. bless her little asian heart.

rome.is.huge. it’s old. it’s beautiful, it’s everything you think about when you think of italy. we, of course, did all the touristy things like go to the coliseum, the roman ruins, the fountain of trevi, the vatican…

sigh… the vatican. here’s a thing about the vatican. there’s parts of vatican city that you can see for free- there are other parts that aren’t free. and you will wait in line for at least 2 hours to go see the stuff. probably closer to four. hindsight being 20/20, i might have taken up the “fake” tour guides for their offer of tickets and a tour for $40 and skip the line. in fact, i might’ve paid $40 in itself just to skip the line. don’t get me wrong- the vatican was so AMAZING. there’s so much culture and history to it (and a surprising amount of mythological creatures and ideology), but my feet hurt so damn bad by the time we were there that i was ready to be done around 3/4 of the way through.

all in all, i can’t pinpoint what it is about italy that i like so much. it’s fun to see all the touristy, site-seeing places. it’s fun to walk around and go places you’ve never been. but it’s something about the culture, the architecture, just the country in itself that i can’t explain. i want to go back to italy as often as i can, for as long as i can, for as long as i’m able.