Saturday, August 20, 2016


(music: Love Myself - Hailee Steinfeld)

So last week, I stayed in the West Hollywood area for a bit. I was staying with two Jewish people, which was interesting, especially when they found out I'm a Muslim. Singapore doesn't have that big of a Jewish population, so it was cool to interact with them.

It was a Jewish community they lived in too, their neighbours were also Israeli and when I walked around there were many Jewish-centric businesses and kosher eateries. Very intriguing and such an eye-opener.

I don't know if it's a good or bad thing that LA is sort of "racially" segregated. On the one hand, it's great for the migrant communities who live together and can feel familiar among themselves. You can easily find food and knick-knacks of the various cultures in their enclaves and "sections" of town. But then the different communities don't really mix around as much as they optimally could.

Anyway, I went to the Trader Joe's near my host's place. Trader Joe's is one of my favourite American things, you can find so many things to eat at bargain prices.

Some days I eat three meals on a $2 Trader Joe's item.

I also went to pick up some postcards to post to my friends.

The giraffe is for Huda, the robot for Viv, obviously, and then the rest are for some of my other best friends.

I saw what used to be a Fight Club mural/sticker thing on a wall, but unfortunately they weren't very kind to Edward Norton.

I also saw an eatery that boasted of "Malaysia/Singapore/Indonesia" food, so I went in:

It was terrible! I was looking forward to getting nasi lemak or rendang or nasi ayam, even if heavily Americanised, but the only thing that was remotely Asian/Indonesian was satay, and everything else was like, salad/quinoa, NOT Singaporean/Malaysian/Indonesian at all! Much disappoint.

So my host Netanel was really nice and generous and kept asking if I wanted to eat more food, and then, although I said I was already comfortable with my air mattress, he got me sheets and a blanket and pillows. He has a three-year-old daughter so he said he has like more protective instincts, which is so adorable.

I went to Barnes & Noble at The Grove, a really fancy, upscale mall in LA (apparently with a few celebrity sightings) and finished Harry Potter & The Cursed Child in two sittings. I don't have very positive remarks about it, if you have finished it and would like an exchange of opinions, lemme know, but I won't spoil it here.

Once I was done with Cursed Child, the Humans of New York compilation book caught my eye.

I was so excited to see Lin-Manuel Miranda!!! If I'd picked up this book three months ago, I wouldn't have recognised him!

I wonder if this man brings his passport around everywhere he goes, just to prove his statement, lol. So cute tho.

This lady's Triumph motorbike made me think of Joey, whose new bike is also a Triumph (it's his new favourite toy, omg you can hear him smiling when he talks about it going faster than his Mazda).

I felt wistful reading HONY, seeing as I so desperately wanted and still want to go to New York this summer, but I guess some plans just take longer to come true than others do. I'm cool, though, California has been so kind to me, so there's that.

One of the days, I cooked the risotto from Trader Joe's and it lasted me the entire day. If I lived in the US, I would just live off Trader Joe's.

Netanel was video-calling his daughter, Shylee, who lives in another state with her mum. You know, I would reckon some Muslims and some Jews would say not to interact with each other's group of people, I'm sure I know some people who still harbour deep-rooted mistrust.

He was such a nice guy though, and regardless what race or religion or ethnic background you are, we all love our children the same, we all want to raise them the same way, we all feel the same things. It's really strange to have any hatred when our philosophies are generally common ground.

I was due to leave Netanel's place last mid-week, and I was too lazy to actually look for a new host, so I asked Joey whether I could just head back to his place. Plus, obviously I like Joey, so it would have been a welcome move.

He ghosted me, though, didn't respond to my text at all for an entire day. I felt really bad because we had actually had plans to go watch the new Star Trek film together on Wednesday, so it would have made sense if I headed back to his place after the movie, but he didn't reply all of Tuesday or Wednesday.

I cried, and I told Huda I cried. I was sad, because two blogposts ago, I mentioned that I'd felt lonely and isolated so I cried in front of Joey. After I cried in front of him, I felt safe and comfortable so then I naturally began to feel very happy with him and liked him even more.

But then he disappeared so it just really disappointed me. I told Huda though, that if I could cry in front of Joey and then use it to be happier with him, then I can cry by myself, anytime, and be stronger and happier in front of me. I have seen myself at my worst, and I accept it. I'm safe and comfortable with myself at my saddest, and I can use it to be happier by myself.

I went to my next host Sam's place, in East LA (a sizeable Hispanic population). It was really fortunate that I caught him on the perfect day, because he was leaving LA for Lake Tahoe, and he asked if I wanted to tag along, so I did!

Before we left for the long drive, I went over to the East LA district and had breakfast at an authentic Mexican place. Sam ordered a horchata latte which was delicious! Horchata is this sweet rice drink, that I really like.

I think it's Joey's favourite, he always orders it, but in any case it's a really nice flavour. I wonder if I can find sachets of instant horchata so I can bring it back to Singapore and make it for my friends and family to taste.

I had Torta De Huevos, which is like an omelette sandwich. There were only vegetables in my omelette sandwich but there was so much texture and it was so tasty!

I also had tamales for the first time, which are made of corn and wrapped in corn husks. Tamales are not my favourite, but they're okay.

Sam drove me around the district and down Whittier Boulevard, which is also known as the "cruising street", 'cos people (usually guys) would drive their cars slowly down the road and catcall to girls on the street, or stare at people from rival gangs driving in the other cars. It was fascinating.

We drove about seven hours up to Tahoe/Nevada. It was all mostly scorching desert, but there was a lot of cattle and horses. I played the Hamilton soundtrack for Sam to listen to, and he seemed to appreciate it.

I sort of missed Joey on the drive there, because Joey would have sped most of the way, 'cos he's a racer and the roads were pretty much empty (I wanna say deserted but psh), which would have cut the time by a bit. Joey also is a little more silent when he's driving, whereas Sam is a fan of banter.

I mean, I don't know, I guess I just click better with Joey 'cos I tend to enjoy getting lost in my own thoughts. I did really learn a lot from my conversations with Sam, and he is super super sweet for having allowed me to follow him on his trip anyway.

We arrived in Tahoe late Thursday night, and made it in time to catch a bit of the Perseid meteor shower. I was ecstatic, because we were sort of in the woods, and very high up in elevation, so it was perfect to see the sky and stars.

I had never seen a shooting star before, but I caught I think six of them during the meteor shower. I made wishes on behalf of all my loved ones and myself, it was so mesmerising and I wish you could capture memories with the human eye, but technology is not so advanced yet.

Also, when I was about to sleep, Joey texted me and apologised 'cos he said he was getting a bit freaked out over my... uhhh... fondness for him, I suppose, and so he didn't respond, and he said he felt really bad, and then on Saturday night, he called me to give me recommendations for Tahoe and to say he missed me.

I don't know what Joey wants. He's annoying, and yet I like him, and he knows it. I don't think I'll be seeing him again, though. I just don't like it when people aren't dependable, I would rather someone be upfront and honest about things, and he isn't. Like, you telling me you're freaked out makes more sense than disappearing and then still saying you miss me. What the fuck? Make up your damn mind.

Anyway, the next morning I woke up in a beautiful lodge.

We stayed with Sam's college roommate, James, and James' fiancée, Annie. Annie and I had many similar interests: we loved Harry Potter (she was going to start reading Cursed Child and before I'd even told her of my opinions, she was already feeling apprehensive based on other reviews she had heard), and word games, and we enjoy Hamilton and reminisced the fandom of Downton Abbey, etc etc.

There's lots of natural light in their home, which I loved.

It was just so... romantic to read a novel with the sun shining through the pine trees and a window pane in a slanted roof.

Sam let me have the guest room and he slept on the couch outside instead, which was really, really sweet. I wouldn't have minded the couch, as I've gotten used to sleeping on most couches in LA (I must say not all couches are created equal though, some are pretty much beds and others are.... more like chairs).

The guest room I slept in was definitely my favourite room I've been in the US so far.

With the sloping roof like an attic, and light pouring in through the windows, I loved being in there.

That morning, I Facetimed my best friends, who were having dinner together and also playing carrom.

I'm not sure why the video orientation was landscape instead of portrait, sometimes we are really not as smart as our smartphones lol.

Tiqs kept saying she had a double chin and using her hand to block it, silly girl.

After our Facetime session, Sam, James and I went hiking on the wildflower trail. Unfortunately, I think the ideal time of the season was over, so there weren't as many flowers in bloom.

Rookie mistake: I felt like my backpack was really heavy although there was nothing much inside, and when I got back after the trail I realised my laptop was in the laptop compartment (so I hadn't seen it). I brought my laptop on a hike yo!

Although the flowers weren't like covering the entire meadows or whatever, there were still many pretty ones scattered here and there.

That Friday evening, after Annie was done with work, we went to Lake Tahoe, and I tried my hand at kayaking.

It was nice and very calming, being out in such a huge yet calm(ish) body of water.

James and Annie have a Norwegian Forest cat, and it is the fluffiest, puffiest, most adorable cat I've seen in LA. I think it even rivals Huda's Rahul!

(The discrepancy in photos is 'cos the not-so-nice ones were taken with my iPhone, and the better-lit/sharper ones were with my camera.)

She would hang out in the guest room with me sometimes, ergh so cute. Look at how manja she is! She loves chin rubs! I think I had an affinity with her 'cos her name is Princess and you know, Sarah means princess. :P

They had an apt mug in the house. I deffo need one of these, for when I'm old and alone with several cats.

On Saturday morning, we went to one of the casinos (there are casinos right across the state line, because gambling is allowed in the state of Nevada but not in California). We had breakfast there.

Americans are quite particular about "high fructose corn syrup".

I had a bread pudding pancake, which was everything that is sweet, plus cinnamon. I loved it, but it was too sweet for me, but I loved it anyway.

This is the stateline marker! We were right between Nevada and California. If you stepped one foot on the right of it and one on the left, you'd be in two states at once. :D

After walking around town for a while, we went to the creek.

I collected some flowers for a tiny bouquet of sorts. There are so many pretty flowers you can find!

I saw James climb the tree, and I got tempted, so I climbed it as well.

Once I was up there, I got too scared to climb down. Never forget this lesson: the way down is always, always harder and scarier than the way up.

I also swung myself into the creek. The thing that made it so exciting was I climbed down from the tree branch to the wooden seat attached on the rope. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Once we were tired out, we headed to Divided Sky for lunch. We had such good sandwiches, James and Annie and even their neighbour Suzanne recommended it 'cos it's more of a locals than touristy place, so the food is good and not gimmicky. We had an amazing spinach dip that tasted like hummus, served with carrots and warm bread, and all our sandwiches were delicious.

After Divided Sky, we drove up to Emerald Bay for the view, and then went for a karaoke session. Only in USA (I would guess) can you find two ladies pushing 60, singing Miley Cyrus' Party in the USA. Such fierce ladies. James got drunk and got sort of touchy about me calling him a gringo (he said "only in Mexico am I a gringo!") but he didn't remember any of it the next day.

Sunday morning, Annie made waffles for our breakfast.

We had waffles with bananas and whipped cream and maple syrup and it was the perfect Sunday breakfast.

She then made heavenly dijon mustard chicken sandwiches, and we went to Lake Tahoe to supposedly "swim" (it's an alpine lake, though, meaning it's way colder than flatland LA, and I never once immersed myself in the water there).

Annie was dog-sitting for her friend, and kinda taught Raegan to doggy-paddle.

I saw #420 bags in the supermart, lol.

When we got back, they made chicken and cucumber and rice pilaf for dinner.

It was so freaking good. I love simple but comfort food.

Annie made date shake from dates and vanilla ice-cream.

This was perfect. I was just amazed that everything they fed me was delicious all the way, I kept thinking like, "this streak has to end somewhere?????"

Sunday night, Annie and I played Scrabble. James' mum had gotten a wooden set for Annie, 'cos she knew that Annie loves Scrabble.

Look at how perfectly it matches the wooden aesthetic of their home!!!!!!! #Tumblrgoals

I enjoyed playing with Annie, it was such a chill game and I didn't feel pressure like I usually feel with my family (my family members are crazily competitive when they play Scrabble).

James bought Annie a book of all the two-letter words that exist. They're such a sweet and adorable and healthy couple, I really admire them!!!!

I got 331 points, which was of course only possible 'cos there were only two players.

On Monday, I hiked Freel with Sam and James while Annie was at work (James teaches at a school in Tahoe so he was on summer hols). They didn't inform me beforehand that it was the highest summit in Tahoe, so I went, thinking I could survive it.

It was such a steep incline, and together with the really thin dry air, I had a hard time breathing. Some parts were just sandy and my feet couldn't get a grip, I wondered how goats do it. You know how goats stay on almost-vertical cliffs like it ain't no thang???? How even???

This was the most welcome sandwich I'd ever had.

My boots went from pink to a sand colour.

At long, long, last, I finally reached the summit, about half an hour after James and Sam had reached it first, lol.

There was a tin box of notes from people who had previously summitted Freel's Peak.

:) :) :)

We pretty much slid back down the sandy parts. My knees were hurting and I didn't really wanna bend them. When we finally, finally got back to the car (the hike took from 8am to 4pm), I was pretty much a dead girl walking.

We went to have sushi for dinner.

The most appetising nabeyaki udon I'd ever had, if only because I had to work so hard for it.

Throughout my stay in Tahoe, I felt that James, Annie and Sam were all sort of enlightened/aware of their privilege as white people. In fact, most of the people I've stayed with fully acknowledge the fact that native Californians were Mexicans, and white people pretty much took away everything.

I'm glad that I got to meet and now know people who are informed, etc. It was really nice, the back-and-forth learning encounters between me and most of the people I've interacted with.

Speaking of privilege, I really don't know where to place me. Sometimes, because my peers are mostly very privileged, I feel underprivileged. It all started with my mum marrying my (pretty much estranged) dad, especially because my dad hasn't really been the most positive contribution to our lives.

Because of this, I always feel like I want to live the most fulfilling life possible before having a kid, something which I'm so sad that my mum couldn't do. (I mean, I know most people used to marry young, but at least that was voluntary and not to an asshole, lol.)

And then they got divorced and there were always financial battles and struggles, and it doesn't help that I didn't have the strongest male role model for a dad, so I'm always fucking my life up with the worst assholes. It's like I get so distracted from what really truly matters, and I know it. I know some men are inherently bad for me, but I didn't have a healthy model to look up to, so now I'm stuck with going for whatever man, any man that pays me any attention.

But then I think again and I'm like, I was born in freaking Singapore, man. It's the land of privilege. I'm privileged that I never really had to learn to drive because the public transport system works (although not privileged to have been financially comfortable to actually go for driving lessons, you understand).

I'm privileged that I speak English perfectly, as well as two other languages. I was born into the most loving and supportive family. I have never had to worry about having shelter above my head, my family feeds me food at any and every instant they get. At 26, I've been fortunate enough to have travelled to some of the most beautiful, inspiring places, for sightseeing and for living.

Recently, I've begun thinking that if I ever have a kid (I'm not sure if it'll happen, I mean I think I want kids but who knows if I will ever have them), I might wanna raise them in USA. I've met so many people who are not native Americans, who've told me that because they brought their family here, their children are entitled to a world of opportunities, just by birthright.

And the thing is, even the local Americans are open to me starting a family here. They're very proud of the US and everything you can achieve here, even for immigrants. Education-wise, there are safety nets to catch even those who don't excel. Even if my kid doesn't go to an Ivy League school, there is always something else they can do.

I kinda love that America sort of has everything. One thing I've greatly enjoyed about LA is the diversity of experiences you get in one place. It's no wonder you don't really find American tourists internationally. It's true, in LA (which is only one county of one state), you get good food, you get access to the biggest entertainment industry, nature trails, beaches, great weather most all-year-round, you have so many different communities you can expose yourself to, so you don't seem ignorant.

It's a real melting pot, cliché as it is. I've been here for five weeks, and I haven't been bored or stopped learning something new every single day.

Anyways, wow, what a tangent.

Here is another tangent: I highly recommend Couchsurfing for solo or two-party travellers. I reckon it would be tough for bigger parties like families to do, but if you have the chance to do it, I would never say no (but then that's also because I'm an extrovert and I hardly ever say no to anything).

It's just so enriching. It might not be the most comfortable or extravagant at times, but then really, think back to all your hotel stays in different locations. Can you really recall which bed/pillow/blankets provided which level of comfort? I mean, even if you're actually able to, what kinda stories would they make for?

In contrast, when you couchsurf, you interact with people from all walks of life. They have different jobs, different passions, they watch different TV shows, they read different books, they practise different ideologies, they support different political causes and you learn. so. much.

Of course, a huge advantage is you save money (which is why I've done it, because I'm flat broke --- I'm 26 and I don't have a boyfriend, I don't have a job, I don't have money --- but I have a treasure trove of experiences and memories). A downer is sometimes you meet creeps, but if you screen the potential host profiles, it shouldn't be such a problem.

I felt this really strongly especially while staying with James and Annie in Tahoe.

Somehow I really clicked with Annie, and I would never have gotten acquainted with her, and known that we shared so many similar interests, if I wasn't staying at her place (technically I only got there 'cos I was couchsurfing with Sam, but Annie also has her own Couchsurfing profile and has hosted her own surfer-guests as well).

It just felt so homely, staying with them, how they always took proper care of us, and made us wholesome food. You know how you could tend to feel lonely if you travel by yourself (maybe you've never gone solo, I guess), well most hosts never allow you to feel alone. They're so hospitable and charitable and caring, and I dunno, it just brings out your faith in people and their kindness.

It's the best feeling and beats comfortable hotel blankets any day (although of course I was also really comfortable in most of the rooms/homes I've been in).

After a scorching seven-hour-drive back to LA, we made it back safely to Sam's place.

I got introduced to Tapatio sauce, which is a great spicy sauce.

I had it with my turkey pot pie, and it almost tasted like karipap with the sambal that they provide! Super sedap. (I miss speaking Malay/Mandarin here, but if I lengthened my stay, I'm sure I would pick up Spanish. I'm linguistically-inclined, after all. :P)

The night we got back, I heard a cute musical sound from outside and asked Sam what it was. He said it was an ice-cream truck, and you know I love (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) ice-cream, so I rushed out.

This was a guava ice-cream, and it's delicious, and only $1. ICE-CREAM TRAVELS TO YOU AND IS ONLY A DOLLAR. Guise, THIS IS THE LAND OF MY DREAMS THAT I WANNA LIVE IN. ($1 is about $1.30 in Singapore Dollars)

Okay I think I'm done being excited. Have a lovely weekend. So Much Love from Sarah Mei Lyana! ♥ x 28

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