All I've been thinking about lately is how much I don't want to be here, at home, anymore. Everything that once made me feel so happy is now frustrating me, making me feel like I can't accomplish anything. Making me want to run away.

I think my trip abroad really illuminated how I was feeling about my life at its current state. Things, overall, are going well. But being away, in a place that made me feel inspired and made me aware of all the incredible opportunities that are available to me, further supported my belief that I have outgrown my home. I can choose to stay and remain as I am - content, but not entirely convinced that I am doing all I can for myself - or I can choose to find something new.

It's time to venture down a different path.

I have had the serendipitous opportunity to meet and talk with a handful of people from my past and soon-to-come future, all of whom had the same message for me: get out of here. I'm finally ready to take a risk and do all the things I've wanted to do but, until now, have previously been scared of doing. Someone recently said to me, "Do you know why Babe Ruth hit all those home runs? Because he swung at every pitch. Swing, Gina." Okay then.

All signs point east. The past few nights, I've been dreaming of Broadway stages, gleaming in the spotlight, fresh snow on slick city streets, the fusion of color and culture that only exists in the largest of cities. I want that. I want to be in a place where anything feels possible and where everything is larger than life. I need something that's bigger than me.

I also want to fall in love. I've been hurt, and I can't help but feel bitter. Leaving this place would mean leaving my heartbreak, and it would give me the chance to start over again and be someone else. Someone free from the scars of the nevers and maybes. Someone who can let her guard down once in a while. Someone who might even believe in fairy tale endings.

I want to do something adventurous with my life. I want to feel like I've accomplished something. I want to be proud of myself, I mean, really really proud of myself. And I don't think I can do any of that here. Not anymore.

That's just how I've been feeling lately.


my overseas adventure // part 4 of 4


12.28.07, day sixteen

Most of today was spent in transit to Barcelona. On the plan, there were a crapload of people who seemed to know each other, and one of them – a teenage boy – sat behind me and kept yelling in Italian and kicking my seat. Annoooying.

We’re staying at the Holiday Inn Express just outside Barcelona, which is a little more modern than our previous hotels and has large single size beds available for us. Cathy and I are also in a separate room from our parents. Dear Lord, we surely needed that for the last leg of our trip.

We got a change to explore near our hotel tonight. We picked up dinner at the Mercat Municipal, a few minutes away from the hotel. It was so nice to feel more comfortable with the Spanish language, as compared with Italian. Mom, Cathy, and I got through selecting and purchasing without having to ask for English translations. Woo! This is a much needed break; my head was starting to hurt from all the struggling with Italian.

My face is totally breaking out because of the small amount of water I’ve been consuming lately. That makes me upset.

Ay yay, my sinuses hurt again.

12.29.07, day seventeen

Barcelona – qué fantastico! Oh my God, I love this city! We spent all of today exploring Plaça Catalunya. Las Ramblas, the main street, is full of life and excitement. So many shops to visit, lots of food to try, street performers to entertain you. Cathy and I bought clothes from Zara, and we picked up some souvenirs at a discount from one of the many tourist shops along the street. We got separated from our parents for a while, which was nice but also a little irritating when we couldn’t find the place they wanted to meet us at (Mom gave us the wrong directions). After we found each other, we had a late lunch at a tapas bar – so good! And, amazingly enough, Mom let us all order sangria – Thank the Lord, I seriously needed some alcohol! We walked down to the waterfront, but by the time we got there, it was too dark to see anything. We decided to return again tomorrow to check it out and to see the site of the former summer Olympics.

The highlight of the day was visiting the Mercat St. Josep, a block filled with food vendors. There was so much color, I could hardly take it all in. The pictures will help give the experience a bit of justice. Mom loves those kinds of places because it helps us feel like we’re really in a place, shopping like locals do. It’s a lot of fun.

Tonight we shared a small dinner of baguettes and fruit, along with a couple of glasses of boxed sangria – 0.80 EUR, yeah! I was the only one who ended up drinking because my parents were tired and Cathy didn’t like the taste. Bah, alcohol is alcohol to me at this point. After two glasses, I was good and tipsy.

As our trip comes to a close, I’m starting to appreciate and understand the value of spending this time with my family. We’re such busy people, and we rarely see each other anymore in our daily lives. I’ve learned a lot about each of my family members (today’s fun fact was that Dad used to know how to Moon Walk, to which Cathy responded, “Hey Dad, you’re cool!”) and also about our family history, thanks to my parents’ stories during our train rides across Italy, which are things they hadn’t ever shared before. I wouldn’t have known these things otherwise. All in all, these last few weeks have been a-okay.

12.30.07, day eighteen

We didn’t make it out to Olympic Village today; Cathy was super sick this morning and stayed at the hotel all day while we visited a few cathedrals and the waterfront. One of the cathedrals we visited today – Sagrada Familia by Gaudí – is an incredible architectural feat that reminded Mom of Tim Burton’s animation style. At the Cathedral of Barcelona, people were gathered outside dancing together to the sounds of a wind band. Apparently, it happens every weekend. So fun!

Other random moments of the day:

  • I got hit on at McDonald’s. Really? The guy was asking every girl who walked by for her phone number, and when he got to me, I smiled apologetically and said, “No hablo español.” He shrugged and replied, “Ahhh…”
  • I got a new jacket. One of those semi-puffy jackets with a fur-lined collar. The perfect jacket for mild Bay Area weather.
  • Dad got an Armani watch. What???
  • I lost 20 EUR. I think it fell out of my pocket when I was getting my lip conditioner. Sad times. But it could have been a lot worse.
  • A lot of places are closed on Sunday.
  • They don’t have fireworks or a countdown here for New Year’s Eve.
  • There are a TON of people in Barcelona.

Tomorrow’s our last day in Spain. Part of me wishes we could have stayed in Barcelona longer. The other part is so happy to be going home.

12.31.07, day nineteen

Our last day of vacation! Cathy joined us today. We visited Olympic Village and took lots of pictures. The rest of the day was spent strolling down Las Ramblas and frantically shopping for the remainder of our souvenirs. I ate lunch with Dad and Cathy and an all-you-can-eat buffet; oh man, I forgot what it’s like to eat American-style!

Tonight will be spent with bread, fruit, and champagne in our hotel rooms. The trains close early, so we returned to the hotel early. Plus, we all have to finish packing in preparation for our flight(s) home tomorrow – two layovers, meh.

2007 was an amazing year, and this trip was a prefect way to finish it off.

Resolutions for 2008:

  • Lose weight – Always a priority, especially when you’re playing a scantily clad character in a musical that’s performed in an intimate 100-seat house (so excited for Chicago!)
  • Aim for bigger and better career goals
  • Save more money
  • Go to church more often
  • Keep in touch with and visit friends more than I already do
  • Learn how to play the guitar

Not too challenging of a list, but I prefer to take life as it comes.

Well, I guess this is it. Arrivederci Italia, adios España, and hello happy new year!

1.7.08, five days after my return

Being home now for almost a week has made me realize how much I actually fell in love with both Italy and Spain. In an email to a dear friend of mine, I wrote:

Italy and Spain are rich with history and tradition, which I'm realizing are the kind of things Americans sometimes take for granted. Like, we'd be traveling by train through the Italian countryside when, out of nowhere, are some ancient ruins. There is an evident respect for the generations of the past. On the other hand, I've learned to appreciate things that I never thought of as privilege. For example, free water, the free use of public restrooms, and toilet seat covers. Hehe.”

More than that, I fell in love with being able to completely lose myself in a place and still manage to find something about who I really was. That experience alone is invaluable.

For now, it’s back to the real world. Believe me when I say I would go back in a heartbeat if I were given the opportunity. And hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.

my overseas adventure // part 3 of 4

12.23.07, day eleven

The train ride to Rome took us three and a half hours. During the trip, I listened to my iPod for the first time during our vacation. I also slept. And that’s about all.

Our hotel is a few train stops outside Rome’s city center. It’s pretty nice – four stars. After we check in, there’s not much else to do but look around and get dinner from a nearby pizzeria. Oh man, the pizza here is good.

I’m really itchy. I think it’s because all my clothes are dirty.

We watched a German holiday ice skating gala thing that helped us get into the Christmas spirit. Cathy and I watched a Spanish news program afterwards; we understand it more than the Italian programming.

That’s definitely a plus about this hotel – though we’re sharing a room with the ‘rents, our sleeping quarters are split, so we can have a little privacy at the end of the day (we had separate rooms in Venice and shared a room in Florence). Thank goodness.

Notable quotes:

  • Me: Mom sleeps with a frown on her face.
    Cathy: I know! Like, have a drink or something!
  • Dad: You don’t get tired of pizza?
    Cathy: You don’t get tired of Chinese food!
  • Mom’s wearing her sleeveless vest…
    Me: Woah, Mom’s showing off her guns!

I’m thinking about home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

12.24.07, day twelve

We spent the entire day at the Vatican. We didn’t get to St. Peter’s Basilica (we’re hoping to squeeze it in tomorrow), but we did see a good portion of the Vatican museums and the grounds. I got myself a rosary bracelet. In the evening, we stood out in the plaza and watched the revealing of the nativity. A pretty cool thing to do on Christmas eve, actually.

Rome is nice. It’s hard to get a feel of the city because it’s so freakin’ huge. It has a lot to offer and is teeming with history.

Today was also our first real rain of the trip. We still managed to forge through the day.

Oh, at the nativity, an a cappella group was singing Christmas music for the ceremony. That made me miss home and my friends real bad.

We fly a week from tomorrow. The countdown begins.

12.25.07, day thirteen

Buon natale! I’m exhausted and my sinuses are KILLING me, so I’ll make this short and sweet.

Today’s agenda:

(1) Circo Massimo (by train – 13 stops via one transfer)

(2) Arco di Costantino (by foot)

(3) Colosseo (by foot)

(4) Palatino and Arco di Tito (by foot)

(5) Roman ruins (by foot)

(6) Fontana di Trevi (by foot) – got gelato, yelled at street vendors, made wishes

(7) Piazza di Spagna (by foot)

(8) Piazza del Popolo (by foot)

(9) Bascilica San Pietro (by foot via Ponte Margherita and Via Cola di Rienzo)

(10) Dinner to go on Via Aurelia (by foot)

(11) Back to Hotel Pinewood (by foot)

If you were to trace our route on a map, you would see that we walked across the entire city of Rome, my friends.


Highlight of the day: Christmas mass at St. Peter’s Basilica! One in Latin and one in Italian. Truly moving. We also saw St. Peter’s tomb. Cathy and I finally realized how much religion means to our parents. I found it nice to know that while we can argue and disagree about a whole lot of things, our religion is something we share as a family, without question.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a slow day.

12.26.07, day fourteen

Today WAS a slow day. Yay! We woke up at 7:00 a.m., were out the door by 10:00 a.m., and spent the day shopping near the massive Roma Termini train station. Most stores were closed today, though – probably an extended holiday.

Tomorrow, Mom wants to visit Tivoli and/or Napoli. It’s also our last day in Italy, after spending two whole weeks here.

Via di Boccea, near the Cornelia metro station and our hotel, is where two of our favorite food stops in all of Italy are located – Blue Ice (gelato and crepes) and Antica Pizzeria (incredible pizza and roast chicken). Our last dinner in Italy will include food from both places. Yum!

12.27.07, day fifteen

We went to Napoli and Pompei today, both of which were a little disappointing. Napoli was a little bit creepy, and it cost 11 EUR per person to see the ruins at Pompei. We didn’t have much time because of the train schedule, so we just ended up walking down the street of Pompei and returning to Rome for dinner and last-minute shopping.

We’re all packed for our flight to Barcelona tomorrow. It’s the last leg of our trip. As much as I can’t wait to get away from my parents, I’m gonna be kind of sad when this is all over.

I miss hearing the English language.

my overseas adventure // part 2 of 4

12.19.07, day seven

Cathy set her alarm for 5:45 p.m. instead of 5:45 a.m. We woke up more than an hour late. Shit. We manage to make it to the train station with a few minutes to spare. We get on the wrong train. Double shit. We get off in time to prevent going north instead of south. And miraculously, we make it to Florence right on schedule.

It’s a lot more metropolitan here. High-end stores with old-world flair. There are magnificent monuments that seem to pop out of nowhere. Very cool.

We’re noticing that we’ve lost weight. Yet my parents still complain that we eat too much (we’re averaging 1.5 sandwiches a day, plus a handful of fruit, and not enough water) or we aren’t walking enough (we’re at about 20,000 steps per day).

I still want my crepe.

I’m really missing all my friends back home.

12.20.07, day eight

Five days till Christmas. Doesn’t feel like it, though. This place is far less commercial than it is back home. I miss the Christmas carols.

We went to the Galleria Dell ‘Academia today and saw Michelangelo’s statue of David. It was pretty spectacular. My favorite, though, was actually a sculpture titled “The Rape of the Sabine,” a beautiful piece centered on a rotating axis, allowing for infinite points of view. The three bodies of the sculpture are depicted in incredible form, and it reminds me of the ballet, the way each body falls into the other. Truly amazing.

We visited the town of Fiesola, right outside of Florence, and it was kind of a disappointment. On the way back on the bus, I sat across from a charming old Italian woman and had the best conversation with her for the entire ride back. She asked if I was from the Philippines (there are many Filipinos in Florence), and when I told her I was from the U.S. – San Francisco, in particular – she reminisced about the time, many years ago, she and her late husband visited the west coast. From there, she told me about the the best sights in Florence, commented on the unusual cold spell they were having, an shared some of the city’s Christmas traditions. The 30 minutes I spent with her will probably be something I remember many years from one as one of my favorite moments of this trip.

Coming back from Fiesola, we shopped on the streets for gifts to bring back home. Mom helped us haggle in her broken Italian; the vendors were kind enough to use their English with us. Basically, we were all trying to make a sale. I got a beautiful Pashmina scarf for myself as a souvenir.

We had our first truly satisfying meal this entire trip. We ate at a Chinese restaurant in Florence, and while there, Mom and Dad chatted it up with some Filipinos at the next table over. Though the food was good, I’m starting to crave something American. Slash fatty and greasy. Ahhh.

Tomorrow: PISA!

P.S. Almost forgot – I finally got my crepe (with Nutella)!

12.21.07, day nine

The Tower of Pisa is just as I imagined: quite large, structurally beautiful, and Leaning. A lot. We took those cheesy kind of tourist pictures where you angle the camera to make it look like you’re pushing the tower over. The one of Cathy looks amazingly fake, and with the green jacket she was wearing today, she looks like a human Godzilla.

The highlight of the day was visiting the Italian Riviera. It was such a beautiful sight, and the water reminded me of home. We took lots of pictures, and I’m pretty sure one of those will end up as my computer desktop background when I get home.

Cathy and I have this incredible ability to make each other laugh endlessly. Everywhere we go, we find something to laugh about. I’m sure people must think we’re insane. We think it’s fun. And it’s nice to spend the majority of your day with the smile on your face.

We found out today that we get free Internet access from the hotel. Yes!

12.22.07, day ten

Our last day in Florence was spent perusing the street markets and visiting Sienna, which wasn’t all that impressive. Ah well, it was nice to take it (somewhat) easy.

My ailments:

(1) My scalp is really bothering me.*

(2) I have a hard lump on the left side of my neck.*

(3) My sinuses are aggravated by all the secondhand smoke.

(4) I’m on my period and we don’t take enough bathroom breaks for me to feel comfortable.

(5) My family is starting to irritate me.

(6) I miss my friends so much and have almost-nightly dreams about them

*I saw a doctor as soon as I got home and learn that (1) is a result of the change in the weather and (2) is possibly a swollen lymph node, which may have developed because of the series of sinus infections I had this past summer.

Realization of the day: I’ve gotten past the point of family vacations. I’m afraid to talk about a lot of things with my family because it would reveal the real me, which turned out a lot different from what they had planned. I know that speaking about anything that truly mattered to me would cause arguments of gigantic proportions, and my own sanity cannot afford that, given the small amount of personal space I have at the moment. I’m treated like a child while I’m here – I can’t walk out of my parents’ sight without being yelled at; I’m not given the opportunity to exchange my American cash, which gives my parents financial control and determines when and what I’m allowed to eat; and all my purchases are criticized for my apparent lack of taste and/or practicality. Italy is beautiful, but my experience has been near torturous. I have to hold my tongue and keep my cool for 10 more days. After that, I’ll keep my distance for a while.

Thankfully, I believe this is the last place my family and I are both interested in traveling to. We’ve talked about future trips we want to take, and it seems as though we want different things from the world. From this point on, I’m on my own.

Tomorrow: Rome, our final stop in Italy.

my overseas adventure // part 1 of 4

While on vacation in Italy and Spain, my friend Chris suggested I keep a daily journal to help chronicle my adventure and learn more about myself. I took his advice and compiled this four-part blog to help keep my memory fresh and my blog updated.


12.13.07-12.14.07, days one and two

Honestly, the flight wasn’t too bad. We had Nintendo DS and Ratatouille to keep us occupied.

We met two New Zealanders while waiting for a bus to our hotel. The older of the two made two observations about us and where we came from:

(1) That’s the thing about you bloody Asians: you don’t age.

(2) San Francisco? Everyone’s gay there, right?

The younger of the two is pretty cute. And you can’t beat a foreign accent.

Observations I make about Italians on our first night here:

(1) Dining is a quiet activity (even our whispers were far too loud during dinner).

(2) There are always tablecloths on the tables – makes me want to get one for our home.

(3) There is no water to drink ANYWHERE.

12.15.07, day three

Our first full day in Venice. Dear Lord, we walked a lot. The streets are quaint and inviting. There is so much life and activity. DOGS! DOGS ARE EVERYWHERE! Leashed, free, clothed. AMAZING!

Museums are way more fun if (a) you know what’s in them and (b) you care about what’s in them.

We are not a happy family when any one of us is hungry. And it seems as though we are only allowed two meals per day: our continental breakfast and a slice of pizza we concede to buy only when someone threatens to pass out.

Pizza and gelato are like hot dogs and pretzels in NYC: cheap and on every street corner.

It’s really cold here at night.

12.16.07, day four

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. thinking about all the things I left unfinished back at home. I can’t seem to get that stuff off my mind. And now that I’m halfway across the world, I’m coming up with all the possibilities of a bright future that may not even be within my reach.

Dad mentioned something about someone he knew who majored in music and English, “which basically means he can never get a job.” As much as he says otherwise, I know my dad hates the fact that I enjoy music and performing. I know he will consider me a disappointment when the plan for my future starts to unfold. I’m not learning not to care. It’s hard, though.

We visited the islands of Murano (known for glass blowing) and Burano (known for lace making), both of which were beautiful. I got earrings for myself, as well as a matching bracelet.

Mom doesn’t trust my judgment for my sense of direction. After she gets us lost three times, Dad is starting to mistrust her.

We’re not going to drink while we’re here because my parents don’t drink. Laaame.

My friends are giving dim sum and ice skating in San Francisco today. A part of me wishes I was there with them instead of here with my family. That’s sad.

The Italian people and their language are both very beautiful.

I’m starting to get used to all this walking.

12.17.07, day five

Milan seems to be the financial capital of the country. The buildings are much more modern. And there is a greater amount of diversity there, in regards to ethnicity. It feels like a metropolitan city, but it lacks the beauty and charm of San Francisco. Wow, I miss home. We didn’t do much other than eat and window show. We got the Chinese food Dad’s been craving; it wasn’t that good and we didn’t get any free fortune cookies at the end of the meal. Bummer. Shopped at H&M and Zara, which were cool, but also kind of touristy. Ah well.

Quotes of the day:

  • Dad: It’s better not to bring the [camera] charger.
    Mom: NO! It’s ALWAYS better to bring the [camera] charger!
    (actually from 12.16.07 when Dad’s camera battery officially died)
  • Asian woman at the Venezia train station: Good morning, what country are you from?
    Me: United States.
    Asian woman at the Venezia train station: Oh, that’s why! You have beautiful English!
  • Me: Dad, why do you call that [granola bar] a power bar?
    Dad: …Because it gives me power.

The three-hour train ride to Milan illuminated a lot of things about myself. I am the hippie of my family. I have progressive points of view and an extremely individualized perception of life. Conversations with my family certainly proved that.

On a completely different note, my dad is freakin’ ridic. He secretly changed his name from Ireneo to Reynaldo three years ago because he was tired of having his name mispronounced and misspelled. But afterwards, he realized that there were too many documents to change and too much red tape to go through, so he never used it. What? Ridic.

Chris was totally right – writing really is helping me sort out things in my head, and I’m feeling less stressed than I would have if I didn’t get all this out. I owe him a great big thanks.

Goals for tomorrow: get a Venetian mask, a crepe, and some vin brulé (hot wine). Yeah!

12.18.07, day six

First things first: I got into Altarena Playhouse’s production of CHICAGO!!! Yes’1 I’ll be paying “Go to Hell Kitty.” Not one of the murderesses in “Cell Block Tango.” But I’m just happy to be in the show at all. And with a featured role! This seriously just made my day.

Today was our last in Venice. It is such a beautiful place. I got my vin brulé, but alas, no crepe or Venetian mask. I suppose I can get a crepe elsewhere. I decided against the Venetian mask because I’m too much of a pack rat to warrant the purchase of anything that’s not practical. I already have my Murano jewelry as my souvenir from Venice anyway.

We’re walking a lot. Cathy’s pedometer marked us at nearly 30,000 steps today.