On Meditation: The Booming Market and How to Meditate

Written by Maria Rincon and edited by Rick Dunham

An estimated 200 million to 500 million people meditate around the world.

The meditation trend has accelerated as health, wellness and self-care are becoming top priorities among people today, most recently in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in 2012, only 4.1% of the U.S. population reported using meditation. The number increased to 14.2% in 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available.

While meditation does have spiritual and religious ties, the practice itself is largely used today as a form of relaxation or as a tool to reduce stress.

In today’s world of conflict and fear, levels of stress around the world were on the rise well before coronavirus-related anxiety gripped the public. One of the most common causes of stress is work-related. According to a study by Regus Group, six out ten workers in major global economies experience increased workplace stress. A 2019 survey on stress published by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that the top sources of stress for Americans were health care, the upcoming 2020 election, and mass shootings.

More and more people are turning to mediation to alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety, and the meditation market is booming.

“We’re living in a time where everybody is feeling more squeezed — whether it’s an increasing amount of responsibilities or commitments or just the busy-ness of life,” said Andy Puddincombe, co-founder of Headspace meditation app, in a 2017 interview with Vox. “I think there is no question that the digital revolution has only exacerbated that. People are really feel overwhelmed by the amount of communications they’re involved in.”

Five years ago, the U.S. meditation market was valued at around U.S. $959 million. By 2022, the value of the U.S. meditation market is projected to be more than $2 billion.

That’s a lucrative market for the ancient practice of training the mind’s awareness and attention. The practice dates back around 2,600 years ago originating from East and Southeast Asia.

Until the mid-2010s, people learned how to meditate from books, videos, or classes. Now, more people are turning to meditation apps to get a moment of serenity.

According to Sensor Tower, an intelligence and insights provider for the global app market, consumer spending on the top ten meditation apps worldwide grew from U.S. $8 million in 2015, to U.S. $195 million in 2019.

A recent study on why people meditate found that general wellness is the top reason given. Scientific research extolling the benefits of meditation is also increasing the popularity of the practice. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that meditation can help ease psychological stresses such as anxiety, depression, and pain. The systematic review and meta-analysis reviewed 18,753 citations and consisted of 47 trials and 3,515 participants.

Meditation often goes hand in hand with other health and wellness practices such as yoga, physiotherapy, and even acupuncture.

Dr. Javier Rincon MD is a holistic doctor and acupuncturist who commonly prescribes meditation as a supplemental treatment to patients suffering from insomnia, anxiety, depression, or some types of chronic illness.

“I believe more and more people are turning to meditation because it is one of the simplest ways to connect with your own heart. People are in desperate need of connecting with themselves as they’re encountering an increase in sudden and unexpected changes from their external environment,” says Dr. Rincon.

There is no easy solution to coping with stress coming from our external environment. However, introspection may be a way to deal with stress symptoms, doctors believe.

The rising mainstream phenomenon of meditation is backed up by health and wellness practitioners, meditation enthusiasts, and the technology industry. While the practice is certainly not for everyone, pausing in between our busy day and taking a moment of serenity for ourselves may not be a bad idea after all.

Bored in Quarantine? Here’s a look at what everyone is doing

Written by Maria Rincon and edited by Rick Dunham

Enjoying a daily dose of caffeine at the local coffee shop. Going to the gym. Meeting friends for dinner or drinks. Just a few things that seemed ordinary weeks ago now seem like distant memories.

Staying home is the new norm as people are doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 around the world. While self-isolation restrictions differ from country to country, people are now spending most of their time indoors.

According to the World Economic Forum, more than one-third of the world’s population is currently in lockdown during the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The terms “self-isolation” and “quarantine” are used interchangeably by many people, but they actually mean different things. Self-isolation means you are staying indoors and avoiding other people because you have symptoms. Quarantine is a formal restriction of movement for people who may have contracted an illness or have returned from a dangerous place.

What both terms have in common is that they lower the chance of spreading illness to other people. We’re saving lives by staying home and practicing social-distancing. But what are we doing at home?

University students and young professionals were asked this question and we came up with a list of the most common activities people are pursuing during this time of isolation. Participants included 90 university students and young professionals in cities such as Vancouver, Paris, Perth and Osaka.

The favorite activity of these young adults is watching television series and movies: 54% of respondents said that this is one of the top things they are doing in quarantine. These results reflect trends reported by the Nielsen survey research company, which found that Americans streamed 85% minutes more video in March 2020 than in the previous March.

Binge watching is also becoming the norm. According to online streaming service Hulu, binge watching (defined as watching three or more episodes in one sitting) grew more than 25% in mid-March versus mid-February 2020.

Currently trending on Netflix is Tiger King, a bizarre “docu-series” about American exotic big cat breeder Joe Exotic. The show, which attracted 34.3 million viewers in the first ten days of its release, has attracted a large following. The Netflix original series has become atrending topic on Twitter and plenty of online memes have been created about Tiger King personalities Joe Exotic and Carol Baskins.

“I actually haven’t watched Tiger King yet — I’m currently binge watching Money Heist on Netflix and I’ll probably check it out after,” says 27 year-old Eileen Wong, who works in project administration in Vancouver, Canada.

Just behind the top quarantine activity of watching Netflix and movies, 38% of respondents said they spend their time scrolling through social media.

Whether you’re turning to social media to receive the latest news on COVID-19, watching TikTok videos, or swiping right on Tinder to your next potential Zoom video date, we can all agree that social media usage is going up. According to Facebook’s analytics department, in Italy and other countries hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week from March 17 to March 24.

With user engagement increasing we took the opportunity to ask people on Instagram what they missed most about pre-quarantine life.

“I honestly just miss being around people, especially because what I do for a living revolves around events and public relations,” says Michelle Moon, an entertainment blogger in Toronto, Canada.

Looks like for now, social activities will just have to wait. Taking online classes (36%), exercising (34%), sleeping (32%), working from home (29%), and cooking/baking (25%) followed as the top quarantine activities, according to time spent on each activity.

With gyms refunding memberships, cancelled sport practices, and public parks being closed, people at home are turning to virtual fitness classes to get their sweat on.

Public basketball court in Richmond, Canada is “closed until further notice.”

Having more time to try out their culinary skills, people are spending more time in the kitchen. Making bread from scratch has become something everyone is trying. According to Google search trends, “bread recipe” spiked significantly as a trending search term in February and March 2020.

Supermarkets and grocery stores in cities such as Vancouver have suffered a shortage of baking supplies on items such as yeast, all purpose flour, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.

It seems like everyone is jumping on the baking craze.

Sign in Vancouver grocery store limits amount of yeast purchased by customers.

“I made the choice to allocate this spare time for cooking and try new recipes. Every meal is an occasion to try something new and let your creativity run free. If you fail it’s not a big deal because you have many opportunities to catch up and try again,” says Pierre-Antoine Nougué, a Tsinghua University Master’s student majoring in Environmental Engineering in Paris, France.

Bulgur and semolina salad with salmon and fresh vegetables by Tsinghua student Pierre-Antoine Nougué.

More time in the kitchen means more delicious food to devour. Eating (25%) was ranked as the eighth most popular quarantine activity, followed by gaming (21%), cleaning (18%), listening to music (18%), reading (16%), video calling (15%), and reading the latest updates on COVID-19 (13%).

Below is the full data on what people spend their time doing during quarantine:

Top Quarantine Activities According to Most Time Spent on Each Activity

Sample size: 90
Data collected between April 2 -8, 2020

The current “staycation,” with no end date in sight, may begin to feel monotonous for some people, but practicing social distancing and quarantine can ensure that the health care system doesn’t become overwhelmed.

Continuing with your favorite at-home activities will benefit the community as a whole.

So while we may be houses, cities, or countries apart, remember that we’re in this together.

Image: @josie.doodles

Featured Image courtesy of Pikisuperstar

My Little Sister's Journey Home Amidst COVID-19

“I was so nervous and nauseous that I was sweating through my latex gloves the entire flight.”

This is how Suani Rincon describes part of her journey from Shanghai to her home in Vancouver, Canada amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

In late January, after celebrating Chinese New Year, 22-year-old Rincon first noticed a shift in the city’s energy when she boarded an almost empty Shanghai metro. Shanghai’s metro is never empty. 

The only passengers on board were all wearing masks.

Rincon initially thought that the panic about COVID-19 would die down quickly. When she found out that all pharmacies, convenience stores, and supermarkets in her neighborhood were sold out of masks, she realized that things were more serious than she thought.

She immediately went on Taobao, a widely-used Chinese online shopping website, and bought a box of 200 facemasks.

Wearing a 3M mask in public places, Rincon went on with her regular routine. She went grocery shopping, walked the dogs she was dog-sitting, and practiced for her Master’s in Musical Theatre program audition.

For the last four years, Rincon has called Shanghai home. She attended the Shanghai Conservatory of Music after moving from Vancouver at the age of eighteen. 

She describes how she never experienced such an empty Shanghai before.

Suani Rincon walking Wallace and Napoleon on Julu Road in Shanghai.

“I admit it was kind of nice at first because the streets were empty and my boyfriend and I would take Wallace and Napoleon (the dogs) out for long walks. We even walked all the way to the Bund and it felt like we had the city to ourselves,” says Rincon.

Her mentality changed immediately after hearing that Singapore imposed a travel ban on all visitors coming from China on February 1.

Since October, Rincon had been preparing for auditions to Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and Guildford School of Acting. Both drama schools based in the UK were holding auditions on February 13 in Singapore for students applying from Asia. Rincon was one of them.

With the travel ban imposed, Rincon’s options were to stay in Shanghai or head home to Vancouver. 

Rincon and her boyfriend, Antti Vuori, decided to wait a few days to see how the situation in China would play out. After no sign of the things getting better, they bought tickets to Vancouver departing on February 9. With no more direct flights from Shanghai left, the couple would travel through Taipei to get to Vancouver.

The decision to head back to Canada was also largely influenced by Rincon’s mother. 

“Things were worsening and I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to leave China. I sent her voice messages everyday trying to convince them to come back to Vancouver as soon as possible,” says Mrs. Wang, Rincon’s mother.

Wang’s gut feelings were not far off. 

On the morning of February 5, Vuori read on the news that Taiwan would be imposing a travel ban on those traveling from mainland China starting February 7. The couple immediately changed their flights to leave the following day, February 6, at 9:40 a.m.

Rincon and Vuori scrambled to pack their suitcases and arranged for Wallace and Napoleon to be looked after by the dog-sitting company that hired them. 

The taxi ride to Pudong International Airport the following morning was silent and tense. 

Photo of Rincon and Vuori’s taxi ride to Pudong International Airport

Rincon, Vuori and the taxi driver wore masks and latex gloves. In her backpack, Rincon carried alcohol spray, sanitization wipes, and a pack of Vitamin C.

Fifteen minutes before reaching the airport, Rincon received a text from June Yao Airlines. The text message read that anyone travelling to Taiwan on that day would be offered a full refund as a travel ban was already in place for travellers coming from mainland China.

Rincon says her heart froze. The couple discussed their options. 

With the airport being less than 5km away, they decided to try their luck with the flight.

The check-in process for their flight to Taipei was surprisingly smooth. Along with all other travelers in masks, Rincon and Vuori had their temperature checked twice by airport staff in hazmat suits.

Before boarding their flight, Rincon and Vuori were told that there was a high chance that they would not be allowed to enter Taipei once the airplane landed. The other possibility was that they would have to self-quarantine for fourteen days once they arrived in Taipei. 

The decision would be in the hands of the immigration officers in Taipei.

Struck with anguish, the couple proceeded to their gate. Their temperatures were checked once again by a flight attendant before boarding the plane.

“I was so nervous and nauseous that I was sweating through my latex gloves the entire flight,” says Rincon.

When the airplane landed at Taoyuan International Airport at 11:30 a.m., Rincon and Vuori exited the plane and lined up at immigration. 

The immigration officer did not smile as he took their passports. He stated that Rincon and Vuori had been in China in the last two weeks and a travel ban had been imposed that day. 

The couple was told to wait aside. With their passports in hand, the immigration officer got up from his seat and went to consult two other colleagues.

Rincon says she was holding her breath the entire time. 

When the immigration officer came back, he stamped their passports and let them through.

“I think we were just incredibly lucky because there was some miscommunication on when the travel ban was being enforced. On the news, it said it would begin February 7. But airlines and airports were already beginning implementation on February 6. Honestly, I think if we had landed that evening instead of that morning, we would have been told to get on a plane back to Shanghai,” says Rincon.

Rincon and Vuori finally relaxed a bit for the next three days before their scheduled flight to Vancouver departing on February 9. Better yet, they were in for a treat as the city of Taipei was celebrating the Lantern Festival.

Lantern Festival display at Ximending

People on the streets of Ximending enjoyed large displays of bright red lanterns with live music in the background. Night market vendors sold snacks such as fried chicken steak, pearl milk tea, and stinky tofu. It seemed like everything here was back to normal, except for the fact that everyone was wearing masks.

Vuori and Rincon in masks on the streets in Taipei

“I never thought I would be saying this, but it was so nice to be around people again,” says Vuori about their time in Taipei.

On February 12, Rincon and Vuori boarded a plane to Vancouver.

“I’m incredibly grateful that we made it back to Vancouver. I still don’t know when I’ll be able to head back to Shanghai. I’ve been here in Vancouver for almost a month and things just seem to be escalating rather than getting better. I just heard the Canadian Prime Minister’s wife has COVID-19, the hockey game I was supposed to watch this weekend got cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions, and our province (British Columbia) has around 200+ cases of COVID-19 right now (as of March 20, 2020). There’s also a rumour that public transportation might be temporarily suspended in the city by the end of the month. It’s ironic that I escaped China to be safe in Canada, but it seems like things are getting worse here while they’re stabilising in China,” says Rincon.

Rincon and Vuori are currently staying in Vancouver until they receive further notice.

The Phenomenon of Dancing Grannies: Guangchangwu

By Maria Rincon, Angela Jie Wang, Natalie Meyer, and Margot Lambilliotte

It is 7:30 p.m. on a wintery, dark Monday evening in Beijing. Wang Qingli, a 63-year-old Chinese woman, has just left her apartment. Like most evenings, she is headed to meet six of her friends for a weekly practice session of guangchangwu dancing.

Dancing Grannies in Beijing

All over China, millions of elderly people meet on a daily basis to dance with groups in public places. Known as guangchangwu, or “public square dancing,” this social activity draws the attention of locals and foreigners alike.

According to Xinhua News Agency, there are 100 million retirees in China who belong to these groups, most of them being women. This gender majority has earned participants the affectionate street name of “the dancing grannies.” Usually gathering at night in parks, on the pavement or in public squares, they move their bodies in synch to lively Chinese pop music. 

Guangchangwu is an affordable and inclusive activity; all ages are welcome, but some groups require auditions. The activity creates a sense of belonging for dancers, especially in today’s fast-paced, digitally-charged society. Guangchangwu allows the middle-aged and elderly to connect with a community and socialize with others their age.

“I wait for this moment every day. It is not only a way to exercise, but [also] to meet other people my age as well. Being retired can be difficult; we can easily feel lonely and useless. Now I feel like I belong to a community again. I tried to exercise on my own before, but that was different. With this group, we are like a big family,” says Wang.

Guangchangwu is one of the main ways that elderly Chinese people stay fit and healthy.

However, providing sufficient public facilities for these dancers continues to be a challenge for the Chinese government. This is why finding a permanent space to dance is an ongoing issue for guangchangwu groups.

Dancing grannies often have to fight over dance space in areas such as parks, shopping mall plazas, residential complexes, and parking lots. Some groups have had to become more creative with finding a place to dance; from construction zones and empty lots, to basements in buildings, and spaces under bridges. 

Beijing Guangchangwu Sites
Image Credit to Caroline Chen

 “We try to get here as early as possible. Otherwise another guangchangwu group can steal our dancing spot. This happened last summer. Both groups were putting on their music louder and louder to try and make the other group go away.” says Huang Anxi, who is 69-years-old and has been dancing for seven years.

Performing in noisy environments is part of the routine for the dancing grannies who grew up listening to Chinese patriotic songs in public. However, not everyone in the neighborhood feels the same way about the loud music blasting from speakers. 

Noise pollution complaints have continued to increase in the last few years. In 2015, the Beijing government decided to impose sanctions on some guangchangwu groups through fines or other kinds of penalties.

Guangchangwu dancers perform in a plaza
Photo Credit to Zhang Minhui

“For these reasons we try to stay discreet. We don’t like being filmed or being photographed. But we will never stop dancing. We only stop when there is pollution or bad weather because it is unhealthy to stay outside,” says Huang. 

It seems that nothing can stop these dancing grannies. For them, belonging to a dance group is a way to take part in an outdoor and stimulating activity with several health benefits.

More than just a recreational activity, guangchangwu has been taken to another level by some dancing grannies. Guangchangwu competitions are held in many communities across China. The participants spend hours choreographing and rehearsing dance routines to compete on stage with costumes.

In Ningbo, Zhejiang, 70-year-old Mei Qin is part of a guangchangwu performing group who won first place in their community’s guangchangwu competition last year. Including Mei Qin, Sunshine Dance Group consists of 35 dancers that practice guangchangwu in front of their neighborhood’s Wanda Plaza every week. Since 2017, Sunshine Dance Grouphas taken part in several performances each year. They perform for community events and in senior homes.

Sunshine Dance Group in Ningbo
Photo Credit to Mei Qin

“We’re sisters that dance together and grow together. Even though we’re getting older, I think our posture is getting better because we dance. I forget my age when I dance guangchangwu because dancing to the music makes me feel young. Sunshine Dance Group is like my family,” says Mei Qin. 

Sunshine Dance Group in Ningbo
Photo Credit to Mei Qin

In Vancouver, Canada, guangchangwu is a common sight: small groups of Chinese women dance amongst children hanging from monkey bars and teenagers playing basketball.

Most of these middle-aged Chinese women are young grandmothers. They immigrated with their families to Vancouver from provinces in China such as Sichuan, Hunan, and Zhejiang. Besides spending time at home, cooking, and watching television dramas, they say taking part in guangchangwu is one of their favorite past times. 

“Back in Chengdu I played mahjong and danced guangchangwu with many friends. Now I am here to take care of my grandson and granddaughter. I find happiness in dancing guangchangwu with others here,” says 63-year-old Fan Xiao Yang. 

Yang has been living in Richmond, British Columbia, for two years now. She dances guangchangwu every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening at Garden City Elementary School Park. 

Spreading worldwide, guangchangwu has also taken on public theater. Back in 2016, a 80-minute drama starring six dancing grannies took place in Penghao Theater in downtown Beijing. “50/60 Dance Theater with Dama” included guangchangwu choreography with inspiration from Beijing opera, ballroom dancing, and daily chores. The six performers are retired dancing grannies with no previous professional training or stage experience. and also performed on the international stage at the Vie Festival in the Bologna, Italy.

Guangchangwu in Beijing Park

The phenomenon of dancing grannies continues to attract more and more participants in China and across the world. While certain challenges remain, the passion and talent of guangchangwu dancers is truly inspiring. More than just a way to stay healthy and connected to the community, guangchangwu has become an integral part of Chinese society.

Dancing grannies and pom poms
Photo Credit to Zhang Minhui

A big thank you to all the participants who contributed to this project. The Phenomenon of Dancing Grannies: Guangchangwu is for the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University.

Zijing Yuan: Voted Favorite Canteen Among Tsinghua International Students

You voted. We listened.

Zijing Yuan (紫荆园) has been voted most popular canteen among Tsinghua University international students.

Zijing Yuan
Address: Shuangqing Road No. 30 Tsinghua University (located north of building C and Zijing field)

In a survey completed by 80 Tsinghua international students in October 2019, Zijing Yuan came in first place for favorite canteen. In second place came Qingfen Yuan (清芬园), followed by Taoli Yuan (桃李园) in third place.

Zijing Yuan is located in the Northeast part of Tsinghua University. It is a 5-6 minute walk from the Zijing Student Dormitories. Proximity to the student dormitories was one of the main reasons this canteen was chosen as the top choice. Other reasons included large variety of choices and pricing.

Location of top three canteens voted by Tsinghua international students:
#1 Zijing Yuan, #2 Qingfen Yuan, #3 Taoli Yuan

Zijing Yuan is around 13,000 square meters and features five floors. The canteen serves different types of Chinese cuisine on each floor, and has a total of 3,300 seats.


  • Opening Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • Outdoor patio seating available on top floor (weather permitting)
  • Take-out is available for a small extra charge in plastic bags. It is recommended you bring your own containers, unless you enjoy eating a medley of Chinese food from a clear plastic bag
  • Bathrooms are located on basement floor
  • Tip: Bring your own pocket tissues as napkins are not provided for free (or you can purchase pocket tissues at the beverage stalls on each floor)

Five Floors of Food Options

Basement Floor: Enter Zijing Yuan and walk down the stairs to find Qing Qing Pizza Restaurant. This restaurant offers Western food options such as pizza, chicken wings, fries, and pasta. 

First Floor: Divided into eleven food stalls, Zijing Yuan’s first floor is busiest during breakfast time. Students come here to grab fresh soymilk in take-out cups, bowls of noodles, steamed buns, ma la tang, and baked goods. 

Freshly made meat and vegetable bao zi (steamed buns) from Zijing Yuan first floor

Second Floor:  Featuring cuisine from the Southeast part of China, here you’ll find dishes that are mainly stir-fried and stewed. You’ll also find traditional Beijing snacks such as tanghulu (candied hawthorn berries on a stick).

After choosing your dishes, the staff will ask, “要米饭吗 (yao mi fan ma)?” which translates to, “Do you want rice with that?”

Third Floor: This floor contains cuisine from the Northeast part of China. Here you’ll find vegetable and meat dishes that are boiled, braised, stewed, steamed, and stir-fried.

If you perhaps find some Chinese food to be too oily or salty, the recently opened “Healthy Food” stall will appeal to you. This salad bar features a wide selection of raw and cooked vegetables with protein options.

Fourth Floor: For those that like it hot and spicy, the fourth floor at Zijing Yuan features Sichuan cuisine that will satisfy your tastebuds. You’ll find dishes with bold and spicy flavors, including ma la tang and ma la xiang guo.

Pricing for food at Tsinghua University canteens is quite affordable. Some food stalls have set prices for food items or plates, while others charge by weight. A typical lunch at Zijing can cost anywhere from 4 to 20 RMB.

All floors at Zijing Yuan contain stalls that sell beverages including bottled water, plum juice, soft drinks, and tea. Fresh watermelon is also offered when in season.

“It’s hard to choose between all the canteens, but if I had to choose one I’d go for Zijing because it’s conveniently located near the dorms, the food is great and cheap, and the size [of the canteen] is impressive,” says Federico Zaiter, a Master’s student in the Department of Computer Science and Technology from Uruguay.

“I would say Zijing because it’s near, there’s a huge food variety, and my friends eat there a lot,” says Guido Meyer, a Master’s student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering from Germany.

Behind the Name: Zijing Yuan (紫荆园) translates to Bauhinia Garden. The Bauhinia flower is the official flower of Tsinghua University.

Qingfen Yuan: voted second most favorite canteen.
Address: Shuangqing Road No. 30 Tsinghua University (located at intersection of Xuetang Road and Zhishan Road)
Taoli Yuan: voted third most favorite canteen.
Address: Shuangqing Road No. 30 Tsinghua University (located behind building C, at intersection between Xuetang Road and small road above Zijing Road)

A big thank you to the Tsinghua international students that participated in the survey.

If you’d like to contribute your opinion or any additional information, please contact me here.

6 Must-Know Terms Used by Tsinghua Students

From THU and C-Lou to Schwarz and a famous Chinese quote about Tsinghua sports, we’ve got you covered for the terms you need to know to survive at Tsinghua University.

Here are the six must-know terms:

1. THU

The official abbreviation for Tsinghua University. Established in 1911, THU is one of China’s top universities. The university’s motto is, “Self-Discipline and Social Commitment.” 

Fun Facts:

1. Chinese President Xi Jinping attended Tsinghua University (Class of 1979).

2. THU’s official school color is purple.

Photo: Tsinghua University

2. PKU

The official abbreviation for Peking University. PKU was the first modern national university established in China in 1898. The university’s motto is, “Ensuring Quality and Pursuing Excellence.”

Fun Facts:

  1. Former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, worked at PKU’s library in 1918 while auditing courses.
  2. PEK’s official school color is red.

3. C-LOU

The term students use to describe Tsinghua University Building C. Lou in C-Lou is the pinyin writing of the Chinese character 楼, which means building

This term is pronounced “See Low.”

“I’ve gotten used to calling it C-Lou since that’s the Chinese name of it,” says Jenna Guðmundsdóttir, a first-year Master’s student in the School of Public Policy and Management from Iceland.

C-Lou is the C-shaped building in the middle of the campus map:



The term students use to refer to Schwarzman College or a Schwarzman scholar. Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University hosts the Schwarzman Scholars, a prestigious international scholarship programoffering students a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs. 


5.“无体育不清华”  (wu ti yu bu qing hua)

Direct translation: “No Sports, No Tsinghua”

Actual translation: “If you don’t play sports at Tsinghua, you technically don’t go to Tsinghua.”

A famous Chinese phrase to describe Tsinghua University’s emphasis on sports and physical education. Back in September 2017, Tsinghua University implemented a new law requiring undergraduate students to receive basic swimming certification as a graduation requirement. 

“Tsinghua has always been tied to sports and it’s part of our spirit,” says Dai Run Tao, a Chinese second year Master’s student in the School of Journalism and Communication.

Photo: Nico Gous

6.“难进好出” (nan jin hao chu)

Difficult to Enter, Easy to Exit

Another well-known Chinese phrase used by students to describe the academic experience at Tsinghua University and other top universities in China. The phrase refers to how it is more difficult to get admitted into university than to graduate from it. 

“In general, it’s a famous term about the universities here,” says Tiger de Jongé, a second year undergraduate student in the School of Aerospace Engineering from New Zealand.


Tsinghua University Photography Project

This photography project of Tsinghua University takes you on a journey to two unique places on campus.

The first set of photographs is of the Ziqing Pavilion. Situated beside a vast lotus pond, the pavilion structure stands out in vibrant colors of red, blue, and green.

The second set of photographs is of a mini market tucked away in Building 11. The space is quite small, yet crammed from top to bottom with snacks and packaged goods.

Both places are drastically different— which is why I decided to photograph them and combine them in this photography project.

Chaos and tranquility co-existing.

Just like inside of us.

This photography project is part of a series of blog posts for a course in the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University.

Meet Stella: Tsinghua Student, Fashion Influencer & Aspiring Journalist

She’s waiting in front of the School of Journalism and Communication building in a maroon Burberry fleece sweater and black Valentino knee-length skirt. Her jet-black hair drapes elegantly over her shoulders, and she’s holding a black Hermes Picotin tote bag. 

From afar, her elegance and sophistication make her seem slightly unapproachable. However, as soon as she sees me walking her way, a sweet smile appears on her face.

Stella was born in Chongqing, China. Her family moved to Beijing when she was twelve months old, and later to Vancouver, Canada, when she was 10 years old. “I feel like I’m culturally split between these three hometowns,” she says. “My birthplace is Chongqing, but I don’t speak the dialect. So I consider Beijing as my home in China, yet Vancouver is most familiar to me,” she explains.

Stella attended the University of British Columbia, where she majored in English Literature before arriving in Beijing. “I have always been inspired by the art of persuasion through language,” she says.

Happy to be back in Beijing and pursuing a master’s in Global Business Journalism (GBJ) at Tsinghua University, she has high aspirations for her future career. Stella would either like to run her own magazine focusing on fashion or travel, or be the host of a show that bridges Eastern culture and Western culture.

Details on Stella’s Outfit

To say that Stella is the most fashionable student in the GBJ program is an understatement. To her, fashion is more than just showing her personality through garments. When asked what her favourite clothing brand is, her eyes light up as she says Dior and D&G. 

“Fashion is important to me because it brightens up my life. To me, it’s not about impressing other people. When I’m well put together I’m in a better mood. Good taste in clothing contributes to your charisma.” Stella says.

When asked how she would ideally blend fashion and journalism together, Stella says she hopes to inspire other girls interested in fashion through her own magazine or show. “I want to use the skills I learn from this Journalism program and focus on topics I care about, like fashion or travel,” she says.

Get to Know Stella

Name: Stella Zhang

Age: 24 years old

Horoscope: Libra

Hometown: Chongqing, Beijing and Vancouver

Favorite Season: Summer

Hobbies: Traveling, watching movies, and dining

5 Questions with Stella

Describe your style in one word:


Favorite accessory?

Handbags and shoes

Favorite blog and why? because it keeps me up to date with fashion. I like the fact that she’s a successful Asian female businesswoman with both a Western and Eastern based audience.

What fashion advice do you have for others?

Find the right color for your skin tone.

In two years time, at our master’s program graduation, what will you add to your cap and gown to make a fashion statement?

I will probably add a brooch to my gown, and tie my hair in a ponytail with a twilly. Oh, and have a nice manicure of course.

Follow Stella Zhang and her fashion style on Instagram: @babystelaa

Stella and I are both from Vancouver and in the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University. This interview is part of a series of blog posts for a course in the program.

Behind the Scenes: Stella and I looking through photos I took of her for the interview.

(Photo credit to Yasu)

My List of Must-Knows Before Coming to China

Whether you plan to visit, study, or live in China, you’ll soon realize that your everyday life relies heavily on your phone.

So first off, here’s a list of apps to download on your phone that will make living in China a breeze:

VPN App: Download a VPN app before you enter China to access Google, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Quora. There are free VPN apps such as Betternet, and paid VPN apps such as Astral, Flow, and Expres VPN.

Wechat 微信: The equivalent of WhatsApp + Facebook, with other cool functions such as Wechat Pay. This is the number one social media app in China and is the top app for communicating. Get on your Wechat game now!

Alipay 支付宝: A paying app that is linked to your credit card or bank card (similar to Wechat Pay). Alipay and Wechat Pay are the two main apps for mobile methods of payment.

Metro app: For your convenience in getting around town through the metro, download the city’s metro app.

AirVisual: The best app for checking the pollution index and air quality in whichever city you live in. All my friends living in Beijing (including myself) have this app downloaded on our phones.

Taobao 淘宝: Equivalent of Wish app in the States, this is the most popular and cheapest online store app. Taobao has a huge selection of things to buy from clothing and electronics, to souvenirs and everyday household items. It basically carries anything you can think of.

Meituan 美团 /Elema 饿了吗: Food ordering apps for when you get sick of the neighbourhood’s noodle house, or are craving something in particular but are too lazy to get up. Next time your stomach is calling for a Dairy Queen strawberry milkshake or pork dumplings at 2am in the morning, you know what to do.

You’ll spot the food delivery drivers the minute you walk out on the street. They’re literally everywhere.

What to Bring to China:

Besides this list of essential apps I came up with, here’s a list of things to bring to China:

While most of these things can be found here, they definitely do cost more and may not be the favourite brands you love from home.

Healthy snacks: Nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter, almond butter, granola bars, protein bars, and protein powder. Next time I head back to Vancouver, I’m going on a big Costco run.

Chocolate: Chocolate lovers will come to know Dove chocolate when they come to China, but I just know it doesn’t compare to the chocolates we love from back home. For some reason, Ferrero, Lindt, and Godiva are more expensive in China, and the Nestle variety isn’t great. So bring your favourite chocolate bars from home!

Clothing Brands: We’re talking Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Gap, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Champion, Adidas, and Nike (plus all the other brands alike). These brands are more expensive here, so best to bring these from outside of China if you like to shop these brands. Also, don’t fall prey to the counterfeit stores claiming to sell these brands for cheap!

Last but not least, bring an open attitude when you come to China (super cheesy, I know).

China is not for everyone, and there will be things you won’t like about this country. However, keeping an open and positive attitude will always make your experience a great one.

I also recommend learning Chinese and immersing yourself in the culture here. While most of my friends here are foreigners, I’ve found pleasure being able to talk to locals in Chinese (and it definitely makes your life easier).

For me, living in China has been great so far. There’s so much to discover here, and I hope that with some of the tips I mentioned your life will be more convenient here!

Thanks for reading 😄

Sliding Down the Great Wall of China

Ah, the Great Wall of China. One of the world’s most impressive architecture feats dating back to 7th century BC.

While the Great Wall of China can’t actually be seen from outer space (that’s a myth), it is definitely a must-see tourist attraction when you visit China.

This time visiting the Great Wall of China for the second time, my experience was heightened by a slide.

And yes, by slide I mean the playground structure designed for children aged 12 and under.

But more on that later.

The morning started at 7:00am with a 2 hour bus ride from Beijing to Mutianyu (70km distance). Once we arrived, a short walk led us to the base of the stair hike up to the Great Wall.

Public toilets, souvenir stores, and plenty of restaurants greet you once you arrive to Mutianyu. I was not surprised to see that prices here were a little absurd (so make sure to bring your own water bottle and snacks). But it was strange to see Burger King, Baskin Robbins, and Subway here. I guess you’re never too far from the fast foods you find back home…

The hike up to the Great Wall consisted of well-maintained wooden and stone steps that left me out of breath but not exhausted. The path was surrounded by trees, shrubs, and a small waterfall. The air was the best I’ve experienced in Beijing!

4,000 steps later, I was on the Great Wall of China!

I could’ve taken the two-rider chairlift or gondola, but opted for using my feet and easily surpassing the 10,000 steps/day goal.

At the top of the Great Wall, the magnificent stone structure stretched further than the eye could see!

The watchtowers were my favourite to walk through, and climbing on top of them was a pretty incredible experience.

I highly recommend checking the weather forecast before planning your trip. We were blessed with clear skies the day we visited and my pictures turned out fantastic.

After gazing at the breathtaking view, walking through several sections of the Wall, and taking plenty of pictures, it was time to leave.

I’m not sure if it was the kid inside of me, but as soon as I saw the toboggan slide from the side of the Great Wall descending down to the base of the hike, I knew there was no way I was going to pass up this chance!

I happily paid the ticket price of 100 RMB (around $15 USD) for the ride and prepared for what would probably be the longest and most exciting toboggan ride of my life.

Watch my vlog below of the trip! Holding the camera while tobogganing was not the safest idea, but hey, I consider myself a Youtuber now.

For some, the Great Wall isn’t necessarily one of the most exciting attractions of all time. But process this for a second: It took 1 million people over 10 years to build the entire Great Wall of China which stretches for 21,196 km.

Mighty impressive in my opinion.

Today, not only is the Great Wall of China a significant part of China’s history and mega tourist attraction, but also a venue for marathons, raves, and camping trips. Hikes along the less well-maintained parts of the Wall are super popular and I definitely plan to do that one day.

Thanks for reading and watching!

Let me know if you’ve ever been to the Great Wall or plan to visit it one day.

A Mixed Girl’s Life in China: City of Changsha

Welcome to Changsha, a city that seamlessly blends elements of modern and old China together.

Located in the province of Hunan, this is a city that’s known for being one of the cultural and entertainment capitals of China. It’s also the city where Chairman Mao studied and lived, and is known to people as a city that never sleeps (or stops eating).

While filming 《湖南 I GET YOU》, my co-host Mack and I had a chance to learn a lot about Changsha.

But what you guys haven’t seen is my own personal side of Changsha.

So this is what I want to share with you below:

The memories I have of this city revolve around the wonderful people I met here. My colleagues helped me improve my Chinese, and my English-speaking friends were the relief when I needed to express myself in English.

During my time here, I also interacted with people on a daily basis. I became friends with the local shopkeepers around my apartment complex, and had conversations with almost all the taxi drivers I met.

I met a taxi driver that knew greetings in Spanish and had been to Venezuela, another taxi driver that had been driving taxis for 20 years, and one taxi driver that gave me some unforgettable life advice. The translation of his exact words were, “When you try to control things that are out of your control, you only get upset.”

Pretty deep, wouldn’t you say?

He was referring to traffic.

But still. Definitely something to remember.

Now the places I usually took taxis to were places to eat. Changsha is known for its spicy cuisine and unique dishes, including mini spicy lobsters (小龙虾), stinky tofu (臭豆腐), and rice noodles (米粉).

And while my favourite food in Changsha was home-cooked Hunanese cuisine, my friends and I opted for different styles of Chinese food when we went out to eat. We had coconut water chicken hot pot, Chinese BBQ, and pizza with frog meat.

Here in Changsha I found my favourite milk tea of ALL TIME. No joke. The orchard milk tea (幽兰拿铁)  from Modern Tea Shop (茶颜悦色 ) comes with whipped cream and is topped with candied pecans. This is no ordinary milk tea, and is only available within Hunan province.

In this video you’ll also see a tiny bit of the work I had the chance to do in Changsha. Working with the production team of the “World’s Eyes on Hunan” television show, I worked behind and in front of the camera.

On the side, I did some promotional work for Apesso. This is a coffee beverage (containing coconut oil and sweetened with honey) marketed to fitness enthusiasts as a pre-work out drink (hence the shots of me in the gym). It’s currently only available in China.

Filming this promo was a blast because I enjoy working out, and had the chance to connect with like-minded people. So getting paid to work out and walking away with free boxes of coffee was a dream come true.

I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of my Changsha life! Comment below any thoughts, and let me know if you would ever visit Changsha if you had the chance.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

A Beauty Queen’s Singapore Travel Journal

Singapore, or ‘Singa Pura’ in Sanskrit, means Lion City.

Now that’s a majestic name for a city, wouldn’t you say?

On this trip to Singapore, I explored everything this city had to offer. I was there for 5 days, got little sleep, and tried to pack as many activities as possible in the short amount of time I was there.

My travel buddy was a good girlfriend, Miss Chinese Toronto 2016, and we travelled to Singapore to attend the wedding of our other pageant friend, Miss Chinatown Singapore 2016. We all met during the Miss Chinese International Pageant 2017 in Hong Kong, where I represented the Vancouver title.

The direct flight from Changsha, Hunan, took 4 hours. A few hours after boarding the plane, I was in paradise!

Day 1 & 2

I hit up Kampong Glam for Indonesian food and Teh Tarik, Orchard Street and Dover Street Market Singapore for some window shopping, and checked out the National Gallery of Singapore. Have a look at all the random friends I met along the way!

Day 3

We started the day off with a traditional Singaporean breakfast in the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, and walked around Tiong Bahru Market. The day continued at Marina Bay and Merlion Park with some breathtaking views. For dinner, we met the bride and groom for Chinese-Singaporean food at Two Chefs. Ever heard of milk powder ribs? Take a look below!

Day 4

There’s nothing like beginning the day off  by the pool. The big event of the day was Lovelle and Garrick’s wedding at Sofitel Hotel and Resort on Sentosa Island. Then, the celebration continued at Marina Bay with drinks to end the night. Congrats to the bride and groom!

Day 5

My last day in Singapore 😦

I checked out the Singapore Art Science Museum and Gardens By The Bay, and had some delicious Bak Kuk Teh for dinner with a new friend. Hear my final thoughts on my entire trip at the end of the video:

In 2018, I explored a lot of places in Asia ( China, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong), and out of all those places, Singapore was definitely one of the highlights.

I’ll be back, Singapore! ❤

What Nobody Tells You When You Move to China

I just completed a bit over a month here in Changsha!

So you might be wondering how things are going so far…

Do you want the sugar coated version? Because then the answer is that things have been splendid and China is the best country ever.

The 100% honest version?

I’ve learned so much about myself through smiles and tears in the time I’ve been here.

I’ve had days where I’ve felt on top of the world. I’ve had days where I’ve questioned if I made the right choice coming here. I’ve had amazing days exploring the city. I’ve had one slight anxiety attack (so far). I’ve had days where I’ve attended many fun events. And I’ve had days where I’ve felt lonely.

And boy, there are so many things I miss.

I miss my mom and home cooked meals. I miss healthy smoothies and legit brunch (why can’t I find a brunch place here???). I miss my friends. I miss hiking. I miss random neighbourhoods in Vancouver like Gastown and Kitsilano. I miss $3.50 California rolls and non-crowded gyms. Oh, and I also miss breathing fresh air (jokes).

So what does nobody tell you when you move to China?

Here’s a list of my personal favourites:

– The noise pollution is INSANE. As in “wear-earplugs-to-sleep-even-though-you live-on-the-27th-floor” insane.

– Your phone and a portable charger are the only things you need to carry. Forget cash. Wechat Pay and Alipay are your entire wallet and BFFs. Even locals selling fresh vegetables on the street have a QR code for you to scan (which is crazy to me).

-Welcome to the country where you can find amazing knockoffs at great prices. You’ve heard of knockoff designer shoes and handbags, but what about art exhibits? Like the Kusama exhibit I visited in this mini vlog:

-China is extremely safe. Need to walk or bike home at 12am by yourself? No problem, you’ll get home safe. Maybe it’s due to all the CCTV on the streets?

-Smoking is allowed everywhere. And by everywhere I mean in elevators, in hotel lobbies, and coffee shops. This is something I really can’t get used to.

-Healthy, western food is expensive. Good luck finding Chia seeds, Kombucha, and organic Almond milk. And why are nuts so damn expensive here? Somebody please ship me a giant $20 tub of Costco mixed nuts…

So, here’s what I’ve resulted to for my breakfasts:

But overall, my experiences so far have been positive. I’ve been focusing my energy on work and working on improving myself in all aspects.

Sometimes I forget to be grateful for what I have in life, especially this opportunity. I guess I just never realized how difficult it would be moving to a new place by myself.

I’m so thankful for getting to live the life I’m living right now, and the support from the people around me. I’m also realizing and learning (slowly) that everything is about perspective, that nothing is perfect, and to always focus on the positive things in life. If you puked a little reading this, you need to work on being more accepting of my “living life to the fullest” attitude. 

On an end note, let me share with you some pictures of this beautiful city I’m slowly exploring!

Young Chairman Mao statue – He was born in this province!

Graffiti I discovered in the city! Does not feel like China at all…

Arts and Culture Centre in Changsha – designed by Zaha Hadid!

KAWS x Changsha “Seeing/Watching”

Breathtaking sunset at Orange Isle by downtown Changsha

Thanks for reading!

Colombia Travel Journal: Caño Cristales “The Liquid Rainbow”

Two years ago, I came across Caño Cristales on a random Facebook video from Business Insider. I was blown away by the natural colours in this river, and even more excited that it was located in my birthplace of Colombia.

So without a doubt, on this trip to Colombia, Caño Cristales was at the top of my list.

Caño Cristales, also known as the “river of five colours,” is a Colombian river located in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park. From June to November of each year, the river becomes a spectacle of vibrant colours from the aquatic plants that grow beneath the water.

Day 4

Getting to Caño Cristales was a journey in itself. We travelled by air from Bogota to La Macarena (flight time 1h20), got on a boat, jumped on a 4×4, then reached the inside of the park by foot.

Fun Fact: Our luggage had not arrived from our initial Vancouver to Bogota flight yet…

So we were literally travelling to La Macarena with what we had on hand. An extra T-shirt, a lightweight jacket, toothbrush, contact solution, and pair of underwear was all I carried. Thankfully, in the town of La Macarena, I managed to buy a swimsuit and a pair of cheap hiking boots.


Back in the mid-2000’s, this place wasn’t the most tourist-friendly. There was guerilla activity (yes, guerilla) that made this area inaccessible and dangerous. However, the Colombian military took back control a few years ago, and La Macarena is now considered safe.

For precaution, there’s still a military presence in La Macarena. Here is a photo of a few Colombian military friends we saw on the way:

When we arrived at the hacienda (our home for the next two evenings), we were welcomed by a talking parrot and the smell of fresh-made arepas con queso (corn flour flatbread with cheese).


As you can see from the photos, this was no five star hotel.

This rustic home was owned and operated by Armando and his family. Armando and his nephew Mario were our tour guides, while the aunt took care of everyone’s meals. We were warmly welcomed into their home, and little did we know that by the end of the trip, we would all become great friends.

Tired from the day’s travel, we unloaded our things and headed to the nearest river for a quick swim before dinner.


Day 5

There’s no better authentic rural experience than waking up to roosters at 4:30am in the morning. Thanks to them, I was right on time for the 5:00am sunrise hike.

Imagine this: You are seated on a rock and hear nothing but the sound of water trickling and rushing through the rocks. You look up at the sky, and watch it slowly open up to reveal the sun. You watch the tranquil mountains, as you inhale the purest air imaginable.

Everything is still, yet everything is flowing.

And that my friends, sums up the most memorable sunrise hike I’ve done in my entire life (so far).

After a hearty breakfast of arepas, scrambled eggs, and tinto (black coffee), we headed out on a hike to see the official Caño Cristales. 

Have you ever seen anything this amazing in your life before? I was completely blown away. I literally kept repeating “que belleza” (what a beauty) while furiously snapping as many pictures as possible.

Making our way upstream, we also found other amazing treasures that the nature here had in store for us.


Finally, we ended the hike in a part of the river where we were permitted to swim.


On this day we actually got pretty sunburnt. We weren’t allowed to wear sunscreen, lotion, deodorant, nor insect repellent when entering the water. This is done to protect the river and the aquatic plants from the chemicals in those products.

While my mother (who is Chinese) would highly disapprove if she knew I went two days in the blazing sun the without sunscreen, the chance to swim in the river was something I was not going to pass up.

Day 6

This morning we went on the last sunrise hike before leaving Caño Cristales. 

I honestly never realized how much happiness nature could bring me until I came here.

Growing up in the city and being a pageant girl, I honestly did not care that: I hadn’t properly showered in 3 days, had been wearing the same clothes for the last 3 days, had no wifi to go on Instagram, and was not getting enough beauty sleep.

This trip made me realize that being able to experience the beauty of nature with incredible people was one of the most amazing gifts I could ever ask for.

So I speak from the heart when I tell you that if you ever plan on travelling to Colombia, please visit Caño Cristales. 

Tips for Travelling to Caño Cristales:

  • A yellow fever vaccine is required. You may be asked for proof that you have this vaccine before you board your plane.
  • If you’re planning on swimming, don’t wear sunscreen, lotion, insect repellent, deodorant, etc.
  • Bring all your swimming essentials: swimsuit, goggles, and waterproof shoes
  • For the hikes, bring a good pair of hiking shoes, lightweight clothing, and a hat
  • Bring a reusable water bottle as plastic bottles are not allowed inside the park

Lastly, don’t go crazy searching up pictures of Caño Cristales before arriving. Let the nature do the talking. A lot of the pictures on Google and tourism sites are edited to make the colours of the water appear more vibrant and vivid.


More to Know about Caño Cristales:


Serrania de la Macarena National Park is one of the most biodiverse areas of Colombia. This is where three ecosystems meet: Amazon rainforest, Andes mountain range, and savannah plains of the East Llanos.

With more than 500 species of birds, 100 species of reptiles, and over 2,000 species of plants, this protected national park has all the best that nature has to offer.

While tourism is developing quite rapidly, only 200 tourists are allowed inside the Macarena National Park per day to conserve the area. Reservations must be made a few months in advance. We made our trip reservation through Colombia Oculta.

So we were extremely lucky and a huge shout out to my dad for booking this trip! Gracias papi.

Sunrise hike with sister and daddy.

Colombia Travel Journal: Biking and Big Booties in Bogota

Day 1

“Colombia, tierra querida,” I exhale as the plane lands at El Dorado International Airport. 18 hours and 6,753 km later, I have finally arrived in the motherland.

Our first stop was the capital city of Bogotá. Bustling with people and cars, this big city is the economic and cultural centre of Colombia.


After sitting on an airplane for more than 10 hours, a bike tour was the perfect way to begin an adventure around the city.

So we got on bikes, put on helmets, and began pedalling.

In just a few hours, my knowledge of Bogota expanded tremendously. This concrete jungle filled with traffic, street vendors, never-ending construction, colonial architecture, and graffiti was beyond mesmerizing.


Mike, our bike tour guide, was so passionate about his work. As a social activist, he spoke about some deep issues I was not expecting to hear on a bike tour.

Identity, or the struggle of identity, was one of the topics that captivated me. A large number of factors, including Spanish colonization, oppression of Indigenous peoples, European influence, and the diversity in each region, have created an identity crisis for Colombians.

So how do Colombians deal with this? By embracing their differences. The history of welcoming ethnic diversity within the Colombian population has made the country home to a wide range of cultural expressions. And while some ideologies between Colombians are certainly not the same (I’m talking politics here), there’s a strong urgency for peace.

Violence and government corruption continue to be pressing issues, yet there’s a movement and an energy from the people that can not be ignored. The Colombian people don’t just want peace, they demand it. 

This urgency for peace is something that has united all Colombians; They believe they will achieve it one day.

La Paz es Ahora = Peace is Now


Day 2

Which artist does the best job of celebrating the bodacious, full curves of a Colombian woman?

If you’re thinking of a Latin reggaeton artist, that’s not what I was going for.


The correct answer is Fernando Botero (also known as the most famous artist and sculptor from Colombia).


In the Museo Botero, we had the chance to see Botero’s paintings and sculptures. The art museum itself was charming, contained Botero’s personal art collection, and admission was free.


Botero donated more than 200 artworks to this museum so that the Colombian public could enjoy it for free. This really impressed me because it demonstrates that the art scene in Colombia is highly appreciated and meant to engage the public.

Art is for everyone to celebrate. And whether you see Botero’s art as unique, satirical, or downright hilarious, this art museum was worth the visit.


Out of the chubby naked women, chubby fruit, and chubby animals, my favourite paintings were the Mona Lisa and El Ladron (the thief).



Day 3

This next place I visited had a “goldmine of information.”

Museo del Oro, South America’s most famous gold museum, features 55,000 pieces of gold from pre-Hispanic cultures. This place was literally dripping in gold!


Before coming to the Museo de Oro, I thought gold was just used as a way to show off your wealth. I was expecting to see gold jewelry and big golden ornaments dating to the Spanish colonial times. But boy, was I wrong.


The gold artifacts in each exhibition were not for decorative purposes. In fact, they were archeological artifacts that taught us the history and societal norms of pre-Hispanic cultures.

To pre-Hispanic cultures, gold was not a symbol of material wealth. To them, gold was a sacred metal that received the Sun’s energy. Gold was a source of  fertility, and was used in religious offerings.

For example, tunjos (gold offerings) were thrown into the Laguna de Guatavita (Guatavita Lake) by Muisca chiefs between 600 and 1600 CE. One of these tunjos was the Balsa Muisca, also known as the El Dorado Raft. This tunjo gave birth to the legend of El Dorado.


While it might sound crazy how throwing gold into a lake will bring fertility to anyone,  I was impressed to see this museum celebrate, preserve, and exhibit the culture and history of Indigenous Colombian cultures.

My next destination is Caño Cristales. As I sip my cafe con leche, I imagine what this river of five colours will be like. My expectations are high, since it’s considered to be “the most beautiful river in the world.”

Ready to leave the city, I reflect my final thoughts on Bogota. To be honest, this is definitely not a city you fall in love with right away.

Just like me, you will probably lose your patience in the traffic jams.

You will probably feel a tiny bit suffocated by all the people in the city centre.

You will probably notice that the air quality is not amazing.

You will probably complain about how cold it is.

And yes, you better watch your personal belongings when walking on the street.

Bogota is a huge, sprawling mass of metropolis. So there’s a reason why things are the way they are. My advice? Don’t let those little things take away from your experience, because Bogota is where you’ll find a perfect blend of urban life, history, art, and culture.


Mixed Girl Problems

While it’s pretty common to be of mixed-race in the world of today, the “oooohs” and “aaaahhs” I get don’t seem to be stopping. Being Colombian-Chinese, one of the first things people tend to ask me when they meet me is, “What’s your ethnicity?” or “Are you mixed?”

The answer is (obviously) yes, but I always like to hear what ethnicities or mixed-race combos people come up with. The ones I’ve heard the most include:

  • Italian and Chinese
  • Mexican
  • Filipino
  • Hawaiian
  • Mexican and some sort of Asian (Japanese, Chinese, or Korean)
  • Filipino and Chinese

These combinations (among others) are super interesting to hear and always lead to the question of “How did your parents meet?”

And while I get asked this a lot, I never get tired of answering this question.  I still find it amazing how two people from complete different parts of the world could meet, fall in love, and start a family like my parents did. It’s super romantic and this story is such a poster-child for mixed-race love stories. Long story short, my dad, who is Colombian, met my mom in China and swept her off her feet!

Another question I frequently get is:

“Which are you more of?” (referring to which ethnicity am I more like)

Which to be honest, I have no clue.

I love dancing and music like a Latina, love spicy food like my Chinese mother, watch telenovelas and Chinese dramas, think and dream in English (even though I am fluent in Spanish and Chinese), and absolutely love all the cultures I am part of. As cheesy as it sounds, I embrace all the best parts of the cultures I am exposed to. I like to think I’m like a chameleon, I can easily adapt to different cultures depending on where I am. Bring me to Sichuan, China, my Chinese mother’s home province, and I’ll speak Chinese everyday, sip congee for breakfast, go out for hot pot, and play mah jong. Bring me to Colombia, I’ll yell in Spanish in the soccer stadiums, eat arepas, tamales, and patacones, and dance to Vallenato. And while I live here in beautiful Vancouver, Canada, I’m just a combination of everything.

So unlike the title of this blog post, I really don’t feel like I have “Mixed Girl Problems.” I am super thankful for the diversity of cultures and races that have made me who I am (literally and figuratively).

And just to end this post off, here is my list of sexiest mixed-race celebrities:

1. Jessica Alba

I knew her from Fantastic Four and Honey (where she danced hella sexy). Jessica’s dad is Mexican-American and her mom has French and Danish roots.

2. Enrique Iglesias

I’d want Filipino-Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias to be my Hero any day of the week!


3. Arianny Celeste

My all-time favourite ring girl Arianny is of mixed Filipino and Mexican descent.

4. Wentworth Miller


This Prison Break actor has a hugely diverse background. His dad is African-American and his mother has Russian, French, Dutch, Lebanese, Syrian, and Swedish ancestry. 


5. Vanessa Hudgens

Gabrielle from Disney’s High School Musical! Vanessa’s dad is Irish and Native American, while her Mother is from the Philippines.


Vlogging in China

Hello beautiful people! It has been way too long since I last blogged…

While no blog post I write could ever encompass the incredible trip I had in China from January to March 2018, I still wanted to share my incredible experiences with you.

So below please see 4 travel vlogs I made while in Shanghai, Xishuangbanna, and Chengdu:

Shanghai: My study exchange at East China Normal University


Shanghai: Travel Vlog


Xishuangbanna: Travel vlog of “China’s Thailand”


Chengdu: Le Shan Big Buddha


I’m sure you can tell from the videos that I really did have a wonderful experience in China!

You’ve probably heard of Shanghai, but what about Xishuangbanna and the Leshan Big Buddha? Do comment below what places in China you would love to visit one day! 🙂

Moving On From Pageant Life

Just last week, the 2017 Miss Chinese Vancouver Pageant winner was crowned (by me).

This time, I had a great time experiencing the pageant as an audience member. It was a complete different experience from last year. I could actually enjoy the show!

My mom snapped this picture of me when she was watching me on TV back home! Check out the HUGE piece of jewelry I’m wearing from the jewelry sponsor.

While people assume that passing on the crown is a sad moment for former pageant queens, that really wasn’t the case for me. I am thankful for the platform Fairchild TV provided me as Miss Chinese Vancouver 2016, but I am also so excited to move onto other things.

Looking back, my favourite part about being Miss Chinese Vancouver 2016 was having the opportunity to do a lot of charity work:

Serving Christmas dinners at the Union Gospel Mission.

Participating in the SUCCESS Foundation Charity Golf Tournament.

Selling daffodils for the Canadian Cancer Society.

One year went by extremely fast, and right after the pageant I got back to work.

Two days after the pageant, I emceed the 5th Golden Panda International Film Festival.

This show was held at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and 14 awards were presented. This international film festival received over 1,000 film submissions from 88 countries!

Days later, a friend and I also made around 60 sandwiches for the homeless people of the Downtown Eastside.

A neighbour heard about our little project and donated around 60 fresh croissants. So we made ham and cheese sandwiches and PB + J sandwiches to give out around Oppenheimer Park and East Hastings.

And in January, I will be heading to Shanghai’s East China Normal University to brush up on my Chinese! 我讲中文没问题,但是读写我都要努力学. My younger sister is living in Shanghai (studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music) so I’m excited to spend time with her.

Now that I’ve closed this “pageant” chapter in my life with 2 titles: Miss Chinese Cosmos North America 2015 and Miss Chinese Vancouver 2016, I probably won’t do a pageant again. I think I’ve put my boyfriend through enough (haha). The truth is that I think I’ve learned what I need to learn from pageants and it’s time to move onto the next goal.

So for those of you that followed me along in my pageant journey, thanks for the support!

I’ll definitely be blogging or vlogging about my experience in China so stay tuned.

From Pageant Queen to Loser?

From winning Miss Chinese Vancouver 2016, to not making it into the Top 10 in Miss Chinese International, my life has been a huge rollercoaster the last few months.

Being at both ends of the spectrum in the pageant world made me realize that at the end of the day, I am not defined by a pageant title.

Winning the Vancouver pageant was one of my goals from 2 years ago and I worked extremely hard to achieve this goal. I am so thankful for all the support I received during this pageant.

Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Hong Kong to take part in the Miss Chinese International Pageant. Being in an international pageant was such a unique experience as I competed with pageant queens from different cities from all over the world.

The whole two weeks in Hong Kong and Malaysia were packed with activities such as promo filming, photoshoots, press conferences, travelling, and rehearsals. The amount of work that went into producing this pageant was incredible.

Everyone survived on 3-4 hours of sleep each night, which demonstrated to all of us pageant girls that the entertainment industry is not all glamour like people think. Despite our lack of sleep, we still had so much fun during this entire journey.

As the heaviest contestant, I dealt with a lot of body shaming from the Hong Kong media. I realized people did not care that I could speak 4 languages, graduated from university with distinction, and was a talented performer and dancer. To them, the number on the scale was all that mattered.

The HK media even grouped the girls who were “more gifted” in the chest area and asked us in an interview if we drank papaya milk. That’s because in Chinese culture papaya milk is considered a natural food that can help enlarge a woman’s breasts…

This kind of experience really opened my eyes to the fact that being in the spotlight means you have to be prepared to deal with negative attention.

The international pageant I took part in taught me a lot. I made new friends, learned a lot about the entertainment industry, and learned one thing that will stick with me for the rest of my life: you can’t always control life’s circumstances, but you can control how you deal with things.

There’s always so much to be thankful for and that’s how I feel for having this opportunity. After all, this might just be a blessing in disguise…

The Perfect Summer Meal: Big Island Poke

The Poke craze started in Hawaii but is making its way all over North America. Poke is a raw fish salad from Hawaiian cuisine which is healthy and delicious. With a few Poke restaurants opening up later this year, Poke will definitely be part of the next food craze in Vancouver.


I couldn’t wait to try Poke, so heading south of the border was my chance at trying this Hawaiian dish. A little further down from Seattle sits Big Island Poke in the small city of Renton, WA.

In this “Subway-style” restaurant you build your own Poke bowl using fresh ingredients.

  1. BASE: rice, salad, or tortilla chips
  2. PROTEIN: tuna, salmon, octopus, or crab
  3. TOPPINGS: avocado, cucumber, furikake, green onion, masago, sesame seeds, sweet onion
  4. SIDES & SAUCES: seaweed salad, kimchi cucumber salad, and sauces like wasabi mayo and siracha garlic aioli


On the left is the Hawaiian: tuna, green & sweet onion, sesame seeds, limu, shoyu, sesame oil on brown rice. I also added cucumber, seaweed salad, and wasabi mayo (spicy!)


On the right is a self creation: Hawaiian tuna and spicy ahi tuna on white rice with cucumber, seaweed salad, tobiko, and arugula salad.

In the mason jar is the Big Island Poke home-made Passionfruit Lemonade. Super refreshing and great souvenir to take home!


The ingredients were all very fresh and I liked the creativity in the sauces. My only concern was that I couldn’t taste the fish very well (but maybe that’s because the other flavours overpowered the fish).

I had a pleasant experience at Big Island Poke and service was fast, the place was clean, and the food was decently priced (around $11 per bowl).

I can’t wait to try the Poke restaurants that open up in Vancouver, but for now, Big Island Poke is my Poke place to go.


Photo credits to Nathan Ng

Kishimoto: A Sushi Staple in Vancity

Sushi restaurants are as common as Starbucks and marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver. While this makes it easy to stop for sushi in pretty much any neighbourhood, it can become difficult choosing a sushi restaurant that is always fresh and delicious.

Kishimoto is a small Japanese restaurant located on Commercial Drive. While more on the pricey side, the presentation and taste of their dishes is top notch. They offer basic rolls like the California roll, and special rolls like the Salmon Aburi Oshi.

Sushi-wise I had:

  • Salmon Aburi Oshi
  • Hamachi roll
  • California roll
  • Spicy Tuna roll


Here is the 6 piece of wild salmon sashimi. Very fresh!IMG_1657

I have to award Kishimoto with the best Chicken Teriyaki award. The Teriyaki sauce is incredible, along with the tender chicken and fresh vegetables.IMG_1661

Their dessert special when I visited was the Tempura Ice Cream: home-made Vanilla bean ice cream deep fried in tempura batter with a side of caramel sauce. Mmm!IMG_1663.JPG

The ending at Kishimoto is always sweet until I see the bill (just kidding). While more expensive than other sushi restaurants, the quality of Kishimoto always keeps me coming back. And I’m sure the entire neighbourhood feels the same way because there are always long lines outside this restaurant.


Visit Kishimoto: 2054 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC

Photo Credits to Nathan Ng.

I GOT LIK’D IN VANCITY: Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

Liquid nitrogen ice cream has made its way to Vancouver! Having tried this ice cream treat in Hong Kong, I was super excited to try the Vancouver version.

So what’s so special about liquid nitrogen ice cream? It’s made by blasting cream with freezing liquid nitrogen until the mixture is frozen. Then, toppings and a LIK syrup syringe are added to the yummy creation.


Here’s the mango extreme and the cookie monster. Around $15 for both (pretty pricey for ice cream if you ask me, but worth the try!)


Mango Extreme: Mango ice cream topped with mango cubes and a LIK syringe of condensed milk.

Super good and refreshing! Especially great for those who don’t like their ice cream too sweet.


Cookie Monster: Blue cookies n’ cream ice cream, topped with oreo crumbs, a chocolate chip cookie, and a LIK syringe of chocolate syrup.

This one was sweet, creamy and crunchy! Perfect for satisfying your chocolate craving and sweet tooth.


The place was buzzing with people taking pictures of their ice cream and enjoying the messy treat. The place was small, staff was nice, and there were lots of ice cream flavours to choose from. LIK is a summer treat must try, and is guaranteed to impress your date!

Visit LIK at 320 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6B 6B3.


Photo credits to Nathan Ng.

Shishinori: Healthy Japanese Food That Won’t Leave You Feeling Guilty

Forget the bento boxes, ramen, and sushi rolls for a second. Japanese food is being served the really healthy way at Shishinori. Here, salad bowls featuring lots of healthy ingredients will leave you satisfied without feeling guilty.

Ahi Tuna Carpaccio Bowl ($12): brown rice, spinach, ahi tuna carpaccio slices, 1/2 egg, edamame, carrot, radish and apple slices, grapes, and a side of ginger.


Hawaii Ahi Poke Bowl ($12) : leafy greens, brown rice, sprouts, chunks of tuna sashimi, avocado, carrot and radish slices, and grapes.


From my experience, all the ingredients were very fresh and I really enjoyed my salad bowl. You’ll be getting yummy protein from the sashimi, and the brown rice will leave your tummy satisfied and full. If dessert is a must for you, daily desserts (such as matcha mousse and matcha ice cream) are available!

Shishinori is located off Broadway and Cambie and also features subs, desserts, and breakfast options. The place is tidy, small, and especially busy during lunch hour.

Shishinori: 2328 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC

Feed Me Vegas, Baby!

As one of the food capitals in the world, Las Vegas is not just known for its famous seafood buffets. During a recent trip to Vegas, I indulged in so much good food that I just had to share it with you all.

From food court items to celebrity chef restaurants, here is a list of of my favourite food spots in Vegas.

Shake Shack 

I ate Shake Shack three times during my trip and could not get enough. Conveniently located in the centre of the strip, it was hard not to go in when walking by.

  • ShackBurger: Cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, ShackSauce™.
  • Chick’n Shack: Crispy chicken breast with lettuce, pickles and buttermilk herb mayo.
  • Cheese Fries: Fries topped with American and Cheddar cheese sauce.



Made a special trip off the strip for this famous burger chain that I’ve never tried before. Yes, the burgers are as good as they say…but the animal style fries with the chocolate shake was a combo made in heaven.

  • Cheeseburgers and fries
  • “Animal Style Fries” from the secret menu: fries topped with cheese, grilled onions, and In-N-Out sauce
  • Chocolate Shake


Nathan’s Hot Dogs

Conveniently found in almost all food courts, these bad boys are perfect for a quick snack or lunch.

There’s no other way to describe Nathan’s original all beef hot dogs besides being the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. No sauerkraut, relish or onions needed.


Sake Rok

This place serves Japanese cuisine and sushi amid dances, lip-sync battles and impromptu performances. The Sake Rok staff was engaging and killed it with the dance moves. One of the most entertaining dinners I have ever had.

I’m Philled with Cream Roll: salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, avocado

Girl on the Beach: ebi, snow Crab, cucumber, avocado, topped with tuna and a spicy sauceIMG_0735Salt and Pepper Shrimp: Crispy shrimp with dry miso, garlic, and Shiso ailoiIMG_0744Karaage: Japanese fried chicken with soy sauceIMG_0741IMG_0727


CUT by Wolfgang Puck

Upscale and chic steakhouse with some of the most incredible appetizers I have ever tasted. Service was top-notch and cocktails were good too.

Bone Marrow Flan: Mushroom Marmalade, Parsley SaladIMG_0637Maple Glazed Pork Belly: Ten Spice, Sesame–Orange Dressing, Rhubarb CompoteIMG_0636Roasted Loup De Mer: Meyer Lemon, Italian Parsley-Sage GremolataIMG_0640New York Sirloin 14 Oz: USDA PRIME, Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 DaysIMG_0638IMG_0642

Gordon Ramsay Steak

Who wouldn’t want to dine at a restaurant created by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay? This is my favourite Ramsay restaurant out of Burgr, Steak, and Pub & Grill.  Everything was exquisite and delicious, especially the mac & cheese. I also died over the cinnamon ice cream that came with the pear tatin.

Signature selection of breadsIMG_0880

Gnocchiblistered heirloom cherry tomatoes, royal trumpet mushrooms, ibérico jamón, mushroom creamIMG_0883Seared Hudson Valley Foie Grasherbed goat cheese pop overs, gooseberry jus, pickled rampsIMG_0887Roasted Beef Wellington: served medium rare. glazed root vegetables, potato purée, red wine demi-glaceIMG_0884Mac & Cheese: served with blue, cheddar, and parmesan cheese, topped with truffle oilIMG_0888Pear Tart Tatin: golden puff pastry, caramelized pears, frangipane filling, and cinnamon ice creamIMG_0891

Jean Philippe

Located inside Aria hotel and casino, Jean Philippe serves an array of crepes, gelato, desserts, and chocolates. I’m always blown away by the life-size displays that are made entirely out of chocolate.

Banana Foster Dessert Crepe: Caramelized bananas topped with powdered sugar and a generous amount of whip cream


Serendipity 3

Located near Caesar’s Palace, Serendipity 3 serves comfort food that comes XL in size.

Frrrozen Hot Chocolate: A creamy hot chocolate slushy topped with a mountain of whip cream and chocolate shavings.



Just like there’s something for everyone to do in Vegas, there’s also something for everyone to eat! Coming from Canada, it’s always an adventure trying new foods in Sin City.

I have to admit though, it should be a sin for so much good food to be conveniently located on the Strip. What made me feel a little bit better about my over-indulging was the amount of walking I did…

I can’t wait until my next trip back because there is always something new to try. Until next time, stay delicious Vegas!

Photo credits to Nathan Ng. 

On Yogurt: Vancouver’s first “ice-fried” yogurt

b7252370763209772da10123d917da79Recently I tried Vancouver’s first “ice-fried” yogurt shop, On Yogurt, in Yaletown. On Yogurt offers a wide selection of yogurt flavours, yogurt-gelato, and drinks.

While all their menu items looked delicious, I was most eager to try their signature “ice-fried” yogurt.

The “ice-fried” method sure is magic, and it is a popular method of making ice cream in South Asia.

“Ice-frying” yogurt takes a flash freezer and skills. Once yogurt is put on the flash freezer, the extreme cold temperature turns the yogurt crispy on the outside. This is when a metal spatula is used to scrape the yogurt into rolls.

This process was mesmerizing to watch!

The finished product: “ice-fried” yogurt rolls that are icy and crispy on the outside, and soft and creamy on the inside.


I had the Mango “ice-fried” yogurt, which had mango pieces and mango syrup mixed into the yogurt. It was super delicious and the perfect mix of sweet, creamy, and sour from the mangoes.

It was so fun eating these yogurt rolls!  I’ll be coming back soon to try their other flavoured creations.

Best part is, all of their yogurt selection is organic and gluten-free, and sourced from local organic farms in BC.


Make sure to visit On Yogurt at 95 Smithe St, Vancouver.

BEST RAMEN in Vancouver: Kintaro

In the heart of downtown Vancouver, this famous restaurant serves bowls of ramen in a compact, unpretentious setting. Kintaro Ramen serves the tastiest ramen noodle soup with toppings such as BBQ Pork, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, corn, and green onion.

The place is small, simple, and always packed. Have they given much thought to interior decorations? Nope. But it’s not relevant because their ramen is the star of the show.

The three main ramen soups you can choose from include:

  1. Shoyu Ramen $9.95 (special soy-sauce soup with pork bone stock)
  2. Shio Ramen $9.95 (mild soup made from pork bone stock and sea salt)
  3. Miso Ramen $10.45 (known as “Kintaro’s BEST!!” features a soup with a blend of soy bean pastes and 12 spices)

All come with BBQ Pork (lean or fat), bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, corn, and green onion.

Taking a look at the menu outside while waiting for seats.

Now for the special items of the menu: I’ve heard the Spicy Garlic Ramen is super popular, but I always order the CHEESE RAMEN. 

That’s right, I said cheese. As it says on the menu, Kintaro’s Cheese Ramen ($11.75) comes in an “exquisitely balanced special miso soup and two kinds of cheese. Ladies just lo-o-o-ve it!!”

Couldn’t agree more, I do just “lo-o-o-ve it!!” IMG_0495IMG_0496

The melted cheese along with the perfectly cooked ramen noodles in the miso soup is amazing. The (lean) BBQ pork is fresh and tender. The miso soup is rich and savoury, and the toppings just add to this great combination. Once you taste this you will feel your soul melting into your stomach. It’s beyond good.

You won’t find Cheese Ramen anywhere else in the city, so make sure to try it here at Kintaro.

Lastly, a few things to note:

  • There are long wait times to get seated and for your ramen to arrive. But be patient because it’s worth it!
  • The portions (and bowls) are pretty big here
  • Kintaro is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday

Kintaro Ramen: 788 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2L5

I’m Maria and I’m a Cell Phone Addict

I’m Maria and I’m a cell phone addict.

I wake up to my cellphone, it’s in my pocket every minute of the day, I always get a constant urge to check for new notifications, and it’s the last thing I see before I go to sleep.

Wow. I am finally admitting to myself that the dependency I have on my phone is a little ridiculous.

How did I come this conclusion? Because I started observing:

“It still amazes me how many parents and children I see on their phones while having lunch or dinner at a restaurant. It still amazes me seeing a bunch of people beside me looking down at their phones while waiting for the next skytrain. And I’m not here to criticize or judge all that, because I’ve found myself doing the same thing, but man it’s a problem.”



I get it. Sometimes we just want to shut out the world around us and play a game of Candy Crush or scroll our Facebook feed because we’ve had a long day at work. Or sometimes we spend so much family time together that we don’t mind being on our phones while sharing a meal. I get it, and I’ve been there.

But isn’t there something so messed up about us wanting to be huddled up with a texter’s neck reading something on our phone, rather than conversing with somebody and making a real connection?


We need down time from our cellphones. To make that easier, I’ve made some obvious and simple rules to try to live by:

  1. No phones while having a conversation.
  2. No phones during a meal. Even if you are eating by yourself.
  3. No phones while walking or driving (way more people do this than you think).
  4. No phones during work or class (it makes checking your newsfeed during your break that much more satisfying).

Are you able to admit you are a cell phone addict? Or you think that term is complete nonsense?

Take the Are You Actually Addicted To Your Phone quiz and see what score comes up (be honest). I got “mildly addicted” to my cell phone.Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 9.25.06 PM


Cover photo by Paul Rogers.

Back from Paradise

Aloha friends! I just came back from an incredible trip to Hawaii (Honolulu island to be exact) with my mom and sister and wanted to share a few photos. Besides soaking up the sun on Waikiki beach, we hiked to the top of Diamond Head, went snorkelling with giant turtles, visited the Polynesian Cultural Centre, and attended a Hawaiian Luau dinner.

While I hate to sound like a cookie-cutter tourist, I absolutely fell in love with Hawaii and the energy there.

Besides learning how to say hello (Aloha) and thank you (Mahalo), I learned some interesting things about Hawaii.

  1. It’s expensive. Housing prices are comparable to Vancouver (which is scary to think about) and a gallon of milk costs almost 10 dollars. $10 for milk!!! Hawaii is one of the most expensive states to buy a home in the US.11.jpg
  2. People who have lived in Hawaii all their lives want to get out. I talked to a few young locals and they all told me the same thing. The lifestyle and pace in Hawaii is too damn slow. Then again, people who don’t live in Hawaii want to live there so badly.11
  3. The flocking groups of Japanese people in the area are tourists from Japan. Signs around the city are all in Japanese and there are special tours and buses just for Japanese tourists.11
  4. Linking from the fact above, Hawaii’s biggest industry is tourism. Can you guess the second biggest industry? It’s not flowers, Macadamia nuts, or pineapples. The second biggest industry is the military.
  5. Native Hawaiians are Polynesians and have a distinct culture and traditions originating from the islands in the Pacific Ocean.11
  6. Outside the tourist areas of this island, a lot of poverty surrounds the city. I noticed many run down houses and homeless people on my way to our hotel from the airport. This just goes to show that Hawaii isn’t perfect and just like any other place in the world, it faces many economic and social challenges.11
  7. The native fish of Hawaii is humuhumunukunukuapua. Try saying that!

And now, the photos…

Beach time by the hotel:


Fun on a sailing boat and pictures of the giant turtles:

We were swimming and snorkelling right above these majestic creatures! (Thanks to a friend with a GoPro for the awesome pictures)

The hike up to the top of Diamond Head (known as ʻahi to Hawaiians) and all the breathtaking views:


Polynesian Cultural Centre:


Last breakfast in Honolulu before our flight:


Overall, our short trip to Hawaii (4 days) was incredible and it was so nice to be away from all the rain in Vancouver. I can’t wait to go back and explore the other islands Hawaii has to offer.

See you soon, Hawaii!



Best Upscale Sushi in Vancouver

Living in Vancouver, I think it’s safe to say that almost half the restaurants here are Japanese sushi restaurants. The joke is that they are like Starbucks because they can be found on every other block (haha).

Sushi is sushi, but Miku really steps it up a notch with their unique Japanese fine dining experience.

Situated by Canada Place, this beautiful restaurant is buzzing with chatter, laughter, and people enjoying the food.


There’s always so much to choose from on the Miku menu, but below are my favourite items that I highly recommend!

(Excuse the poor lighting on the pictures, the lighting was dim and I did not want to be rude and disrupt other diners by using flash)


Ebi Fritter ($14): White tiger prawns, herb-beer battered, sweet chili aioli, soy-balsamic reduction, chili powder. If you are a fan of prawn tempura, you are going to love this dish!

Jidori Chicken Nanban ($13): Sweet and sour soy chicken, house made tartar sauce, basil-citrus slaw. The chicken is juicy and pairs deliciously with the home made tartar sauce.


Miku Roll ($18): The BEST sushi roll you will ever have! Contains salmon, crab, uni, cucumber, Miku sauce, all wrapped in tobiko. (This is the only sushi roll I pay $18 for and it’s sooo worth it)

Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi ($16)The signature Miku dish. Prepared using their famous flame-seared technique with signature sauces, the Salmon Oshi features pressed BC wild sockeye salmon, jalapeño, and Miku sauce.

Don’t be fooled by other Japanese restaurants who offer Salmon “pressed box sushi.” Salmon Oshi Sushi was made famous by Miku and they make it the best!

That day I also had the winter feature roll, which featured chopped scallop and cucumber topped with Yellowtail (Hamachi).


While I don’t usually order nigiri at an upscale Japanese restaurant because you can get it for so much cheaper at other Japanese restaurants (it’s just raw fish on rice anyways, right?), the Yellowtail (Hamachi) nigiri is beyond fresh and I always order it at Miku.

On their menu you can choose from Sea Urchin, Tuna belly, Flounder, Mackerel, and other seafood in traditional nigiri, aburi-style nigiri, or sashimi.

With so much sushi, I don’t feel the need to order a main entree. But there’s always room for dessert!


Kaffir Lime Panna Cotta ($12)Manjari chocolate cremeux, cassis and mango reduction, sour cherries, pear granita, spiced espuma, cinnamon tuille.

I was honestly blown away by this dessert. The panna cotta mixed with the spiced espuma and pear granita with sour cherries was sweet, tart, and just the right amount of sour that it was the perfect mixture. It literally tasted like Christmas. Plus I’m a huge fan of panna cotta.

On the side I also ordered a coffee macaroon (made in house) and a scoop of Caramelized Honey Oatmeal ice cream. The macaroon was the perfect blend of coffee bitterness and sweetness. Oh boy was I in heaven eating all this.

Desserts change by the season, but another notable dessert that never changes is Miku’s Green Tea Opera.

Miku is my favourite restaurant to go to for special occasions and while it is on the expensive side, it’s definitely worth it.

Miku Restaurant: Located at 70-200 Granville Street, by Canada Place and Howe Street.



Fun fact: I used to work at Miku a few years back as a hostess (and I loved the discount I got on food!)


Best Eggs in Vancouver: Yolk’s

If you haven’t been to Yolk’s  yet, you need to pay them a visit for brunch.

With the best Eggs Benedict made from free-range eggs, and items like Chicken & Waffles, French Toast, and Truffle-Lemon Hashbrowns, you’ll be hooked!

Located at the corner of Clark Drive and East Hastings, this light blue pale building is home to the best Eggs Benedict in Vancouver.

Build your own creation of perfection through their menu and choose from double smoked bacon, honey carved ham, or portobello mushroom, topped with aged white cheddar or Hollandaise.


You’ll also have to try the truffle-lemon hashbrowns with Yolk’s home-made spicy ketchup and Tapatio’s spicy hot sauce. It’s my favourite combo.IMG_0144

I’ve tried everything on their menu but keep coming back for the Eggs Benedict. Yolk’s food looks good, tastes amazing, and is locally sourced (which is an awesome bonus).

Service is great as well and the drink menu includes hot chocolate, fresh squeezed orange juice, and breakfast cocktails.

Visit Yolk’s for breakfast, brunch, or lunch and you won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: There will be line ups on holidays, Fridays, and weekends. So expect to wait, but I guarantee you it’s worth it!


Q Shi Q Japanese BBQ in Vancouver

Q Shi Q, offering “Yakitori” grilled to perfection, is a hip, Japanese BBQ restaurant in the heart of Olympic Village. It just opened up recently in October and I had the chance to try it after hearing about it from word of mouth.

This review on Q Shi Q is not biased, but I admit that I stand behind good food. Before we talk about their food, I want to point out the amazing interior and exterior design and look of the place.

The inside is small but cozy, featuring a long counter table beside an open kitchen and bar. The entire look of the place mixes wood, contemporary art, and modern music.

The menu is super fun and you can try almost everything on it because it is meant for you to order by individual skewers.

You can choose pork, chicken, beef, seafood and veggie skewers in Oishii (blend of green onion, garlic, ginger, sake, soy, lemon, and other authentic secret ingredients based upon a traditional Japanese recipe) or Shio (seasoned simply with sea salt).

The one skewer you must try is the 48 hour pork belly skewer! It is certainly the most talked about one, and is so tender and juicy.

One other notable item on the menu are the Nana Fries which are amazing!

For those brave souls or adventurous eaters, I recommend the chicken liver skewer, too!

Knowing me, I never leave a place without trying (at least one) dessert. The dezato we chose was the rare cheesecake: a rich and zesty Japanese unbaked citrus cheesecake with yuzu marmalade. Yummmmm!

Service was great and the waiters were very attentive and knew the menu really well.

IMG_4586Overall, really awesome and unique Japanese restaurant to eat at! Q Shi Q is definitely worth trying out.


Price: $$ (individual prices are not bad at all, but they can add up depending on how much you eat)

Parking: There is a free visitor parkade and tons of street parking

Seating: You might be touching elbows with your neighbours, but hey, isn’t that a trend going around all the hip restaurants now?




Canadians Eat 88 Pounds of Sugar Per Year

Currently in my second-last semester of my university career, I embarked on a social issues project for a Communications class about sugar.

Check out this fact:


How scary is that?

I was inspired to begin this project after a weight loss journey last year that had me analyzing how many calories and how much sugar I was eating. I’m still not a health nut, but I realized that labels on food products were confusing, impossible to read, and truly unhelpful.

Research led me to hard-hitting documentaries and facts about how our Canadian health regulator has failed to take into account the role of sugar on increasing health risks including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

“Let’s Uncover Sugar” will hopefully bring more light to the issue and inspire people to be more aware about their dietary sugar consumption.

The goals of this project are:

1. To continue educating consumers about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption

2. To get policymakers to create clear, transparent, and helpful guidelines regarding the amount of sugar on food product labels

On my website, “Let’s Uncover Sugar”, I also teach you how to figure out how much sugar is actually in your food. Read below to find out:

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 11.02.49 PM

Hidden sugar in foods is what’s scaring me the most. Even by trying to stay away from fizzy drinks, candy, ice cream, etc., we are consuming huge amounts of sugar in foods that are marketed as healthy due to the fact that food labels are not telling us what we need to know.

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Take away fact: Engage in Sugar Awareness!

To find out more or sign the petition that calls Health Canada to get their act together, go to:

I Don’t Eat Garbage, Do I?

Eating healthy and exercising regularly is important to me. That’s not the way it always was though. In high school I would eat junk food regularly and considered my P.E class as more than enough exercise. My weaknesses were chocolate bars, candy, ice cream, and Smarties Mcflurries. They are all still my weaknesses but I give in to them way less than before.

Currently a 4th year university student, my views about health from an inside perspective (the food I put in my body) and outside perspective (physical exercise) have changed for the better.

Or so I thought.

I’ve noticed that I only take pictures of food when I go out to eat and the food looks drop-dead gorgeous and delicious (aka food porn). After compiling a gallery of my favourite foods I eat when I go out to restaurants, I realized that my sugar addiction has not slowed down. I’ve always been eager to try new desserts and the following images prove that.

Besides the mango topped with chili powder, all these desserts contain a lot of sugar. I get that it’s okay to eat desserts once in a while, but my dessert-craze has truly gotten out of hand.

Completely by accident, I have made a huge realization about the foods I’m eating. While I eat healthy at home and stay away from fizzy drinks, my obsession with desserts needs to be contained.

I don’t think it will be easy, especially since there is scientific evidence that our brains are wired to crave sugar and sugar is just as/or more addictive than cocaine.

BUT being aware is the key! So if you take pictures of your food, I urge you to compile a gallery and make some conclusions about the foods you are eating (even though they may be eaten once in a while and not all the time).

I’m not going to become the sugar police, but I’m going to try my best to cut back on those fit-for-the-gods, chocolate-coated, irresistible desserts.

My Little Adventure at Golden Ears Park

If you live in Maple Ridge, I am officially jealous that you can call Golden Ears Provincial Park your backyard.

Golden Ears Park is a provincial park that has it all: hiking trails, camp grounds, beach, lake, and waterfalls, all just a 90 minute drive from Vancouver!

While I did not get the chance to explore the entire park (which is 62,540 hectares), I found what I claim to be the most amazing part of Golden Ears Park: hiking the Lower Falls Trail.

Starting at the parking lot, Lower Falls Trail is an easy, well-maintained hiking trail suitable for the whole family. Along the way, you encounter the beautiful coastal western forest vegetation and a stone beach with gorgeous clear water before reaching the magnificent Lower Falls.

While the hike seems to end there, you should keep going by continuing on a trail on the upper right. Follow this, and you will arrive at a body of water above Lower Falls. This magical body of water is deep, clear, and the most magnificent shades of blue and green.

So if you are looking for an easy hike with a picture-worthy destination, I suggest that you visit Golden Ears Park!

Wait, so you’re an MC? What does that mean?

Yes, you’ve probably heard of the word “MC” before, but by no means does it mean I am a hip hop artist or rapper!

“Emcee” or “MC,” which stands for Master of Ceremony, refers to the official host of a performance or show. I’m that person that gives you an official welcome and guides you through the show (letting you know what performance is coming up next). Think of me as a sort of “tour guide” for any shows, performances, pageants, and galas.

And surprise! Emceeing is an actual job. Being a wedding host or television host (think Ryan Seacrest from American Idol) are full time jobs for people out there!

To put it frankly, we emcees are paid to talk.

While our onstage presence may be glamorous, a lot goes on in our heads and backstage. Sometimes we are given paragraphs of descriptions to memorize, and other times we have to improvise if the next performance is not ready yet. Not to mention, we have huge pressure to keep you, the audience, entertained throughout the night.

Picture this: There are 10 minutes until show time. In all the crazy backstage chaos, you are sitting in front of a mirror. You are going through lines and last minute script changes. Your hair and make-up is just about done. Your stomach grumbles as Chinese take out boxes are being handed out. You hastily put on your heels (or dress shoes) and pray they’ll be comfortable since you’ll be standing a good 2-3 hours on stage. Just then, the show director yells, “EVERYBODY STAND BY! The show is about to begin!”

Not so glamorous anymore is it?

Emceeing is definitely not a job for everyone, but it is certainly rewarding and challenging. It takes a lot of practice and experience to become a good emcee, and I’m just starting out on this fun little journey!