What Makes Love Last?

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for our anniversary

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for our anniversary

I recently discovered a podcast called What Makes Love Last?  which captured exactly what I needed to hear at the moment about love, life and relationships.

Last Sunday was our 3rd year wedding anniversary, so it was good timing to hear tips from Dr. Gottman, a relationship guru on love or in other words, how not to let your marriage tank.  Apparently, what makes love last isn’t always the far-flung trips abroad. Nor the expensive jewelry or even the five star restaurant meals. Quite simply, it’s the every day humdrum of life: the words of appreciation for picking up takeout and the thank yous for vaccuuming even if your partner’s turn to do it.  A big part of this is “turning towards each other” and really taking an interest in his life like listening to a problem and showing empathy without always wanting to jump in there with a solution.

Why do these things matter?

If these small acts of love are peppered throughout the day to build the “emotional bank account”, then when conflict does happen, all that love capital acts as a buffer. In other words, we are going to be much more loving and kind to each other even when arguing and then it’s easier to ‘repair’ the relationship.  But if there’s a zero balance in the emotional bank then, well, the claws come out and it just isn’t pretty.

Introducing the newest member to our family: Baby Claire!

Introducing the newest member to our family: Baby Claire!

Did I mention we just had a baby this year?  Although we adore our new daughter Claire who is truly a joy, life has changed completely for us:  sleepless nights, cranky conversations about poo / diapers and lots of stress and uncertainty about how to navigate life with a new baby.  Moments like these can make it hard to be loving to each other. I can see now how divorce rates skyrocket during a couple’s first year of having a baby. So lately we’ve been trying hard to follow Dr. Gottman’s easy tips: showing appreciation for making dinner, saying thank you for taking out the garbage even if it’s the person’s turn anyway.  And listening to his passion that may not necessarily be mine like his enthusiasm for archery and Genghis Khan’s conquests. (Ask me anything about Genghis and I’ll tell you!)

One of the best tips I ever heard was from my friend Jenny who has two boys and she shared this: connect together as a couple for a few minutes when coming home after work.   This is so important to do because it’s easy to rush into questions about the baby, laundry and who picked up milk.  Jenny recommended a connection area like the foyer but in our tiny 2 bedroom NYC apt, the three foot radius behind the front door next to the coat rack will do. Every evening, when we come home from work we try to hug, connect, ask questions and listen before we enter into a flurry of our usual evening activities with the baby.  So simple, yet it’s not always done.

We don’t have all the answers and I’m baffled at how hard it is to manage our lives as new parents without falling apart.  Sometimes I look at other couples on the subway and wonder how they do it.  Dr. Gottman mentioned that the divorce rate is too high in the U.S. because people give up too easily.  Perhaps the idea of trying hard is insurmountable to many when actually the little acts of appreciation every day make a huge difference between staying together and growing apart.  I’m leaning more towards making our love last.  Here’s to another three years!

 

Happy Birthday The Same Sky!

The Same Sky - my travel memoir

The Same Sky – my travel memoir

Wow – a year ago this past weekend was my official book launch of The Same Sky, my travel memoir in Tibet and Southeast Asia after a failed relationship.  Looking back on that special night of the launch held at the splendid Tibet House, I feel blessed that more than 115 people came out for an evening of readings from my book, Q&A and stories from other travel writers.  And it wasn’t just any random audience – they were travel enthusiasts coming together to share the love of culture, exploration and self-reflection.

In the past year since the book launch, I’ve held three more events:  two Same Sky Cafe: Evening of Travel Storytelling in New York and another book launch in Vancouver, my old stomping ground.  There has always been a great turnout of interested travelers who come and listen to travel stories by me and other writers as well as view photography from Bhutan and Cambodia.  Wow the buzz and excitement in the room afterwards!

The night of my book launch a year ago

The night of my book launch a year ago

So why do I bother doing any of this?

To me, I want to pay it forward.

I moved to NY in 2000 feeling brokenhearted, lost and vulnerable after a particularly bad breakup.  I wanted to write about my story and how I escaped with just a backpack and journal to far-flung Tibet, Laos and Cambodia for three months to rediscover myself.  I needed to share what happened and to give hope and peace to others who also suffered calamities of the heart.  Now, years later, I finally published my story that has helped me pay it forward to others through my book and the travel storytelling events I put together.  Not only do I share the love of travel but other main messages surface:  you are not alone.  As you travel along your emotional and physical journey, you meet locals who have experienced war and death, and they can inspire you to believe in a strength you never knew you had.

And if those messages can touch someone’s heart whether through my book or at my event, then it has been well worth the effort.

Here’s to another opportune year for The Same Sky!

My book launch last year

My book launch last year

 

Q&A at my book launch last year

Q&A at my book launch last year

Great turnout of 62+ people at the Same Sky Cafe in NY (June 2014)

Great turnout of 62+ people at the Same Sky Cafe in NY (June 2014)

My book for sale at the events

My book for sale at the events

Book launch in Vancouver

Book launch in Vancouver

Most recent Same Sky Cafe event in Feb 2015 in NYC

Most recent Same Sky Cafe event in Feb 2015 in NYC

Panel discussion about the lure of travel

Panel discussion of travel bloggers about the lure of travel

We discover the most interesting things when we aren’t looking for them

When I think about highlights from 2014, I remember my trip to Buenos Aires.  I’m reminded of how the beauty of traveling is in discovering the unknown and most importantly, the unplanned.  Sure, we did the usual touristy stuff expected of any visitor to BA.  We cruised through the famous colorful Boca neighborhood, took tango lessons, and ate way too much steak, but best of all, the memorable parts of our trip were discovering little surprises along our way that weren’t on our itinerary.

MALBA Museum

MALBA Museum

This picture of this cool bench with the ‘runaway’ wood is from the MALBA – Museo de Arte Latino-Americano right in the heart of Buenos Aires.  We actually stumbled upon this museum after a long jetlagged first day in the city and almost skipped it.  It turned out to be the best museum with the innovative architecture and modern art that piqued our curiosity.

Statues at a roundabout

Statues at a roundabout

The next day, we were on the hunt for a good cheap eatery and discovered two statues at a roundabout.  I thought they were interesting – an elegantly poised female statuette with a stern-looking rigid statue in the background.  We loved how we would turn the corner and find art in the form of statues, paintings, architecture wherever we went.

 

A bicycle in a courtyard

A bicycle in a courtyard

On one particular afternoon, we turned into a courtyard and found this non-working bicycle with a pebbled arrow next to it.  This piece of art blended nicely in the background and we almost missed it.

This turned out to be an amazing soup!

This turned out to be an amazing soup!

Finally, when it comes to eating when traveling, it’s best to be spontaneous.  We arrived late in Tilcara, a small dusty town in the north close to the Andes Mountains.  As soon as we sat down to eat in a cozy restaurant, we saw a guy next to us eating what we thought looked like potato soup.  “I’ll have what he’s having,” we told the waitress.  It turned out to be a hearty TRIPE dish – not what we expected!  It was delicious and my husband Eduardo ate every last bit of it.

Rest in Peace IYee

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Me and IYee last year

One of the saddest moments this year has been my favorite aunt passing away.  My “I-Yee” was a rock for us:  she was a big sister and best friend to my mom, a pillar of strength for her six children, and a beloved aunt and friend to the rest of us kids growing up.

The funeral was last month in Seattle and I couldn’t attend due to starting a new job.  That day, I was rather sad knowing that I wouldn’t be there in person to wish her goodbye.  Just only a couple of months earlier, during a Skype chat, I saw her fatigued yet hopeful face, and I knew then it would be the last time I’d see her.

IYee and her six children

IYee and her six children

When the doctor first confirmed her cancer, we were told she would only have a few months to live.  She lived for almost two years more.  All of us felt blessed that we got that extra time with her!

No doubt, my IYee had a tough life raising six kids in a new country where she barely spoke English with a semi-absent husband.  She still managed to remain resilient and optimistic with her words of encouragement and steady presence.

IYee had a way of making everyone feel so good

IYee had a way of making everyone feel so good

My IYee had a wonderful sense of humor and a tremendously positive outlook in life.  Sometimes family members would vent and share frustrations, and my IYee often responded in the most Buddhist way with “It’s okay.  Life is short.  Love your kids no matter what, no matter how different their paths may take them.”  She embodied true openness and love.

Her heydays were in Hong Kong where she grew up as a teenager.  As a young thriving soul, she used to cruise through the Hong Kong markets, arm in arm with her friends.  She frequented the wonton noodle shops and window-shopped with curiosity.  And someone told me that back then, she loved riding on the back of a friend’s motorcycle, laughing and smiling with not a care in the world.  I’d like to keep that image in mind whenever I think of her now.

Two sisters:  IYee and my mom.  Although they were 16 years apart in age, they were very close and talked almost every day on the phone.

Two sisters: IYee and my mom last year. Although they were 16 years apart in age, they were very close and talked almost every day on the phone.

When we received the news about her death last month, we were prepared.  We had known for months that the day would come soon.  Acceptance had come in and through us, and all that was left was the waiting.  But still, on the day of her death last month, I cried.  How can she leave us?  I was then comforted with an image of her younger days when she used to ride the back of a motorcycle with her hair whipping back, the sun warm on her face.  She lived her life, freely and openly with a positive attitude that touched so many of us.

Rest in peace IYee.  We will miss you so much.

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Postcards of Argentina (Part 2)

We were so impressed by the multi-colored mountains near Humahuaca in Northern Argentina.  More than 4000 feet above sea level!

We were so impressed by the multi-colored mountains near Humahuaca in Northern Argentina. More than 4000 feet above sea level!

We were in Argentina to celebrate our 2nd year anniversary and I felt really blessed to be in such an amazing country with my hubby.  On our actual anniversary date (Aug 30), we took tango lessons!  How fun…and awkward as we tried to master a few steps in a 90-minute lesson.  It was great fun!

Another highlight of the trip was traveling north to Humahuaca (5 hours north of Salta) to see these beautiful multi-colored mountains, slowly erroded over thousands of years.   Pretty impressive.

We loved our time in Argentina with the architecture in Buenos Aires reflecting its European roots. The locals were always so generous and friendly, and the markets were alive with handicrafts and odd trinkets like knives with an eagle claw as a handle.  After visiting the northeast and northwest as well as Buenos Aires, we hope to be back one day perhaps to travel south to Patagonia to visit the penguins.

Tango lessons from the professionals!

Tango lessons from the professionals!

We got the hang of it after a while...

We got the hang of it after a while…

Overlooking the city of Salta (Northern Argentina)

Overlooking the city of Salta (Northern Argentina)

Street vendor at bus station (Humahuaca, Northern Argentina)

Street vendor at bus station (Humahuaca, Northern Argentina)

Llama-embroidered hot water bottle as a welcome sight for our beds at night.  Temperature dropped to almost freezing in the Andes Mountains where we were

Llama-embroidered hot water bottle as a welcome sight for our beds at night. Temperature dropped to almost freezing in the Andes Mountains where we were

Empanadas and lemonade seemed to be our daily lunch routine

Empanadas and lemonade seemed to be our daily lunch routine