Beach Day in the Bay Area

When I was in the Bay Area last week, the boyfriend took Friday off and took me down to Pacifica and Half-Moon Bay. We rented a car and drove down from Oakland. Pacifica is a little town, a little run down, but not without its own particular brand of charm. The beach was deserted. Only a few stray dog walkers wandered along the sand. The temperature was perfect. It felt like summer was upon the Bay Area.

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The boyfriend wanted to take a cheesy photo of me pointing at something far off in the distance. I refused but he still managed to trick me into a point-into-the-distance pose which he managed to snap with his phone. I refuse to acknowledge the existence of those photos.

After we walked around the pier, we drove to Half Moon Bay. It’s a quaint little place, much like a typical small town America. It reminded me of Carmel, which I frequented while living on the Monterey Peninsula, with its little artisan stores.

By then, it was mid-afternoon and we had a hankering for some food. The boyfriend’s co-worker had recommended a place with an excellent view; the Moss Distillery has a KILLER burger with a hearty, juicy patty. The view was also well worth the visit. There was outdoor patio seating, but it was too windy that day, so we decided to sit indoors.

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After lunch, we walked down to the beach in hopes of seeing some sea lions. The tide had just gone out, uncovering, in its wake, a large tide pool. I had long been convinced that had I not chosen to become a interpreter/translator, I would have been a marine biologist. My experience with the tide pool proved this conviction to be true. I was fascinated with the little creatures the water had left behind. hermit crabs and snail-like creatures clung to the wet, cold sand. I also saw many a sea anemone that quivered and shrank upon touch. I even saw a sea anemone with a crab(?) claw in its mouth. I later discovered that they prey on crabs. Check out this video and prepared to be fascinated! I’m just glad that I didn’t poke any of them with my finger.

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When I looked up, I saw there were a few little fins in a shallow area of water between the tide pool and the beach. At first, I thought it was probably a few sea lions. But then I realized the water there was far too shallow to allow a sea lion to be submerged (it was about 2-3 feet deep). I walked a little closer to see what it was and….. it was a dozen leopard sharks!! After I stood at the edge of the tide pool and observed them for a bit, they swam even closer to the beach. So we walked back to the beach to watch them even more. It was so cool! They were literally 2 feet away from me. I could have waded into the water and touched them if I wanted to. Maybe it’s time to consider a graduate program in marine biology…

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If you are ever in the Pacifica area, be sure to check out the Moss Distillery and the awesome tide pool!

Photos: Taken by me on my HTC One X or by my boyfriend on his iPhone 4S

Having an Open Mind

For the majority of my life, I’ve socialized with a certain type of people. It’s due to how I was raised and the career path I eventually chose. I grew up in a smorgasbord of countries and cultures, eventually leading me to define myself as “international” and gravitate towards those with similar experiences. For example, I can easily interchange English and Mandarin when conversing with the majority of my friends. Or I can propose a debate on a current event or cultural dilemma and expect a plethora of responses and opinions, more often than not, offering me new insights.

After I moved to L.A., it became harder to make friends organically. First, I was at work all the time and I’m not the type of person to just go to bars or hangouts to meet new people. After I left my job, I ventured out of my house even less. Finally, I decided to reach out and make friends with a few people at my church. One of these people became my Life Group leader. One day, out of pure chance, he discovered I semi-blogged and was into social media and decided to take me under his wing to work on social media and content creation for the church where he and his brother are in charge of the creative team. Over the past few weeks, I’ve hung out in their office, shadowed them, and seen how they work. They are super creative people and do mostly graphic design and shoot/produce videos. My Life Group leader is also a singer in a band. It was a breath of fresh air to interact with creative people because their perspective is so different.

Last week when I was in San Francisco, I met up with an old friend who is currently working in Silicon Valley. We hadn’t spoken in 5 or 6 years and it was good to reconnect and talk. Being in the tech industry, he had very interesting opinions to offer when I talked about the overwhelming reliance humans have on technology. He also brought up interesting discussions and told me about non-profit tech initiatives that he was a part of.

Today, I suddenly realized that my world had been insular for far too long. I grew comfortable just socializing with people similar to me. It was safe. No one would find the things I talked about too mundane or weird. But I’m glad to venture into unfamiliar territory. It challenges me to constantly think and absorb new information. Sometimes it’s frightening, but I like the unfamiliarity. Every so often, I have to remind myself that I am an unfinished person. There are always new ideas, new challenges, new territory, new friends.

Making a Difference in a Little Girl’s Life

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One day during my first year of grad school, I was overcome with a sudden urge to sponsor a child through World Vision. It has been almost two years since I started sponsoring Aminata. She has, since, turned eight years old and sent me a few letters and drawings. She has written me about a younger siblings and how she helps her parents with chores. The drawings I’ve first received two years ago were indecipherable shapes that resembled lopsided laboratory beakers. Now, she sends me drawings of intricate floral patterns, colored in, hopefully, by the colored pencils I sent her.

A while back, instead of paying rent to my parents, they suggested I donate it to the charity of my choice. And I chose to send it to help Aminata and her community in Mali. In response, they sent me a picture of her and everything they purchased using the money I had sent. Besides from the books, shoes, daily necessities, little Aminata was pictured holding on to a mama goat and baby goat, smiling shyly at the camera.

Sponsoring a child only takes $35 a month. What may seem like a small sum to those of us living in the first world and constantly whining about their #firstworldproblems, is enough to not only support Aminata’s whole family but also help people in her community. It has been an absolute joy to exchange letters with this little girl and be a part of her life. One of my biggest wishes is to visit her in Mali before she ages out of the system at 16.

It’s never too late to sponsor a child (or two). Click here to find out more!

Lastly, I will leave you with the video of Aminata that made me choose her to sponsor out of the hundreds of other children on the World Vision website. She is adorable.

Photo and video courtesy of World Vision. (Sponsors were not permitted to publicly share these photos and videos until recently.)

Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe

After I left my job at the end of January and my kid brother also happened to be in LA on winter vacation, the whole family went on a 10-day vacation. Our first stop was at Squaw Valley, a resort on the north short of Lake Tahoe. After an 8 hour drive north from LA, we checked into our hotel room just in time for the start of the Super Bowl.

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Our suite was super nice and came with two bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen. We ended up just cooking all of our meals instead of eating out. The restaurants at the resort were overpriced weren’t anything to call home about.

20150219funsizedfitness_tahoe3The next day, my brother and I got our snowboard and boots and hit the snow. I had never snowboarded before so my brother taught me the the basics. After a while, we tried to look for a green slope but all we found were blue and black diamonds. So we were the two weirdos wandering around the base looking at ski lifts. Finally, a friendly ski lift operator told us all of the green slopes were located two mountaintops over and we could only get there by the aerial tram.

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The view on the way up was breathtaking. It was a shame that a lot of the snow had melted on the north facing side, but what remained created a beautiful sight. My first time going down the trail was rough, to say the very least. I probably faceplanted five times and the only way I could brake was by falling. Getting on and off the ski lift was a challenge too. The first time I tried to get on the ski lift, my brother accidentally inadvertently pushed me off the lift. My first reaction was to hang on with my hand and the lift dragged me a few feet while I was under it. The ski lift operator freaked out and stopped the lift, but, thankfully, I was okay.

After lunch, we tried out another slope. It was still green but it was longer and slightly flatter. The view from the top was gorgeous. I could also see a little bit of Lake Tahoe from the top of the trail.

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20150219funsizedfitness_tahoe1The next day, we headed back to the top again to tackle another day of riding. By then, I had gotten pretty good and I could make it down the entire trail without falling. The view was so beautiful and as I was sitting on the snow and preparing to head down, I just couldn’t help how good life was and how thankful I was to be alive.

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20150219funsizedfitness_tahoe7After we wound down from riding at the end of the day, we decided to drive to the lake. It was nearing dusk and wasn’t very light out. But the lake was still beautiful. I wish there would’ve been more snow. I missed seeing snow ever since I left Greece in 2008.

20150219funsizedfitness_tahoe5The next day, we did the 8 hour drive back to LA again where we rested for a day before we headed to our second stop. Check back again for my recap of Las Vegas!

Photo credits: All taken with my HTC OneX

The Life of a Project Manager

Happy Hump Day everyone!! Now that I’m have a more flexible schedule as a freelancer, I’m excited to be able to blog more! Ever since I started my job in mid-June, I had meant to write a post about what it was like to be a project manager in the localization industry. But work and life got super hectic, and I never got the time to sit down and just write. So here goes!

My company is a small language service provider (LSP) or, in layman’s terms, a translation company. Our major clients are heath insurance companies. These companies are required to provide any written material in a member’s native language if it is not English. So these insurance companies turn to us to get all of their documents translated. The type of documents can vary. It could be information on the the types of plans that the companies offer. It could also be different types of letters that are going out to members, such as denial letters, notice letters, etc.

At larger LSPs, there are different departments, such as sales, computer assisted translation tools (CAT tools), desktop publishing, client relations, vendor management, etc. Since my company is so small (around 35 people) and the majority of the employees are projects managers, we are expected to take on all of these responsibilities.

When we receive a translation request from a client, we have to prepare a quote. To do that, we have to prep the file for analysis. To analyze the file, we run it through the CAT tool that we use, which is Trados 2007, SDL Studio 2011, or 2014.We use the analysis to come up with a word count that would in turn be generated into a quote for the client. After the quote has been approved by the client, the file is prepped for translation and sent to our linguists.

At my company (and most LSPs), the translation process actually consists of translation, editing, and proofreading (TEP). As we have many project managers in-house that have linguistic backgrounds, we do a large part of our proofreading in-house. For rarer languages, we send it to linguists for final review. After the file has been proofread and vetted, it is delivered to the client.

If the formatting of the file is simple (like a Word file), it is taken care of in-house. If the file is an InDesign file that is to be turned into a PDF, we usually send it to our designer. Sometimes, we get a file that has several different versions. What happens in this case, is we only have a master version of the file translated and formatted. Then we create the other versions in-house by modifying the master. This requires the PMs working on these files to understand the basics of InDesign and sometimes even Photoshop and Illustrator. After the file has been finalized, we send the project to our accounting department for invoicing.

The main responsibilities of the project manager to is make sure all the necessary tasks are completed within the time frame allotted by the client and facilitate the transition of the file from one stage of the translation process to the next. Sometimes, the clients ask for a quick turnaround time and we usually accommodate it. Being a PM requires a very clear head and great organization skills. I could be handling any number of files at the same time, all with different instructions, languages, deadlines, etc. I have to constantly keep track of my files and make sure everything is still on track for prompt delivery to the client.

This job requires a lot of emails, phone calls, coordinating, paper pushing, begging the clients for more time, pleading with linguists to deliver quicker, the list goes on… Sometimes, it’s a test of patience. It is very repetitive. While I learned some skills that were helpful, I feel the job quickly stopped being  challenging. And I’m someone that needs constant stimulation and obstacles to overcome. That, coupled with several other factors that are directly related to management and company culture, pushed me to quit my job after seven short months.

Are all LSPs like this? No, every company is different. LSPs work in different fields. There are different company structures that change the the environment and responsibilities of the PM. PMs could even be working client side and acting as the main contact person between that company and an LSP. If a company is large enough, like Google or Apple, they could run their own translation department and that could mean a different set of responsibilities for the PM.

Hope this post was helpful for everyone who wanted to learn more about the localization industry!

And… I’m Unemployed!

It seems such a short time ago when I posted this article about accepting my first job offer. After being at this company for almost 7 months, I have decided to part ways with my employer. Being a project manager for a language service provider wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. It could be due to the type of projects/clients my company does or it could just be the nature of my company that eventually led to my decision to leave. As of February 2nd, I’m officially a freelance interpreter and translator, so I’m not really unemployed. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me. Now that I have more free time on my hands, I plan to utilize the time to pick up some new skills such as a new language and coding. I’m also excited to have time to blog more and really focus on writing. I hope to update soon!

Fun Sized Fitness: 2 Month Progress

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It’s been about two months since I became fully committed to being healthy and I thought I would do a little progress report and share some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Progress:

I’ve lost 7 kg (about 15lb) from my heaviest weight in the summer of ’14. I’ve gone down about 2 sizes in clothing. Almost everything in my closet is a little big on me right now; or if the item was a little too snug on me before, fit perfectly now. I feel lighter on my feet and more energetic. Even though the difference may not be entirely apparent in the comparison picture above, people around me say the difference is obvious. Even my family members who see me everyday say they see it too.

Lessons learned:

1. Allow yourself to have cheat meals.
During the week, I hardly eat any carbs or meat. For protein, I add an avocado to my lunch salads, have egg whites with breakfast, and/or have some fish for dinner. Because I eat so healthy during the weekend, I allow myself to eat anything I want for 1-2 meals during the weekend. During that meal, no type of food is off-limits. But that doesn’t mean I stuff myself. I still stop when I’m moderately full. By allowing myself to have these cheat meals occasionally, it stops me from overeating or binge eating.

2. Pick an exercise routine you love
I talked about this in a previous blog post. By picking something you love doing, you’ll actually go do it! I think Pilates is super fun and I actually look forward to my hour of exercise every day.

3. You will come to love it
I used to hate working out. It was partially because I wasn’t doing a routine that I enjoyed, for example, running. But once I picked Pilates and stuck to it, I gradually came to love it. The first few months are tough, but once you overcome that initial hump, everything becomes so enjoyable. Regular exercise makes me feel so happy and awesome. If I have a headache or a stressful day at work, a Pilates session with my awesome instructor makes all of that melt away. So even if you hate working out now, trust me, you’ll get over that and come to really really love it.

4. Eating healthier gets easier too.
I used to think that eating healthy was so restrictive. I couldn’t have carbs, fried food, or most processed foods. But as I got into the habit, it got easier. I didn’t crave junk food and I actually looked forward to trying out different healthy recipes. So everything does get easier, trust me!

Although I have made a decent amount of progress, I feel I’m not done yet. I’ve pegged down bigger and tougher fitness goals to tackle. I want to start lifting weights and doing more high-intensity training to really bring my fitness level to a whole new level. It’s not just a phase, or a diet, or a health kick. Being healthy is a lifestyle and one that I think everyone should embrace.

New Year, New Me

Last year, I wrote a blog post on my New Year’s resolutions expectations. Now that 2014 has come and gone, I thought I would do a little year in review and see what goals I have for myself in the new year.

2014 Expectations:

1. Exercise at least four days a week.
I did get on the working out bandwagon during the second half of the year. And it was one of the best decision I made all year. I felt stronger, more energetic, and was overall in a better mood. Even though I didn’t blog as much, I did start a series called “Fun Sized Fitness,” where I capture my thoughts on eating better and working out.

2. Eat well. Make good choices.
This sort of connects with my first expectation. I did eat a lot better during the second half of the year. I very little simple carbs and very little meat. I loved to get my protein from egg whites, avocado, and salmon. I ate a lot of vegetables and fruits and I especially enjoyed quinoa. I cut out almost all beverages besides water, but I still occasionally indulge myself. I actually started eating better before I started working out and I noticed the pounds dropped right away. After I’ve been eating healthy for a while, I notice that I don’t occasionally crave junk food as much. And I don’t get as much satisfaction from eating junk food as I used to.

3. Reconnect with God. – Pray and read the Bible more often.
This is a goal that I, sadly, was not able to achieve. It is a constantly struggle for me. I try to go to church as often as possible to serve as a reminder that I do need to work on my spiritual life, but it doesn’t always work. I find myself not turning to God as often as I should, not spending enough time with him. I also need to read His Word more often. This shall be one of the goals that I carry into the new year.

4. Graduate and pass all my professionals.
Goal accomplished! I successfully completed all of my studies and received my Master’s Degree in Conference Interpretation. I was not able to pass all of my professional exams the first time around, but I did pass everything during the retake. This was one of my biggest accomplishments of the year and it has been a goal of mine since I was a little girl.

5. Find a kick ass job.
This one is a little tricky to judge. I did land two well-paying job offers in April, one of which I accepted. But after I started working for a while, I realized not only was the job not something I didn’t love and enjoy, but the company atmosphere and morale was also lacking. But it does pay well and I’m extremely fortunate to have landed a job offer even before graduation. Some of my fellow graduates didn’t land a job until recently.

6. Smile!
I would like to think I did a lot of this in 2014!

7. Tell my friends and family that I love them. Often.
Accomplished!

8. Be thankful.
I am/was extremely grateful for all the great things that came my way in 2014. Even the hardships and difficulties were there to serve a purpose and I’m thankful for all the things they taught me.

9. Be healthy, be happy.
2014 was a great year for me! 🙂

Now that 2015 is upon me, it is time to set some new goals.

1. Continue being healthy and fit
I want to continue my fitness routine of doing Pilates everyday. I also want to add in an occasional cardio and weightlifting workout. I also want to continue eating healthy and want to explore different recipes.

2. Expand my freelance career
I’ve realized that my true passion lies in freelancing. So this year, I plan to really strengthen my freelance career.

3. Learn to code
Coding is apparently the new skill to have. I’ve been looking into various coding websites and I’ve decided 2015 is the year that I will learn how to code.

4. Improve my Chinese
This was one of my goals when I was still in school. But now that I’ve graduated, I’ve realized my Chinese still has a long way to go. This year, I aim to read more in Chinese and, hopefully, more ancient Chinese text.

5. Read more
I read a lot when I was younger. But as I got older, other things got in the way and I haven’t found the time to sit down and really finish a book. But this year, I aim to read more books, especially the classics. First on my list? Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

6. Spend more time with my loved ones
This is always important for me!

7. Take risks
I’ve always like to hedge my bets on sure things. But this year, I want to step out of my comfort zone. I’m not getting any younger, if I don’t take risks now, when will I ever?

Here’s to 2015. May it be a great year for you and your loved ones!

Fun Sized Fitness: Pilates

When I was younger, I used to swim. I also dabbled in some light strength training, tennis, and yoga. But nothing ever lasted for very long. During grad school, I tried Beachbody Insanity. It was great and I could see results right away. But it was so intense that I started getting asthma attacks every night if I had completed Insanity during the day. So, sadly, I had to give that up. But last month, I started getting serious about getting healthy and getting fit. I didn’t want to be winded after going up one flight of stars. I no longer wanted to be able to only do girly push-ups. I wanted to feel strong. But I also knew the only way I would keep working out is if I did something I truly enjoyed. And I chose Pilates.

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I had known about Pilates ever since it swept the world in the early 2000’s. And when I was in undergrad, I found a fantastic Youtube channel, Blogilates, with great Pilates videos and a great instructor, Cassey Ho. Cassey calls her Pilates “Pop Pilates” because she often pairs workouts with upbeat pop music and everyone that does her workouts are called “Popsters.” In conjunction with her Youtube channel, she also has a blog which she offers monthly workout calendars to follow and recipes, and overall great advice on leading a healthier lifestyle.

When I first started out, I could barely complete one full video of hers, let alone a whole day’s worth of videos as listed on her calendars. But I’ve gotten stronger and seen results. Not only are her videos effective but they are also super fun. She often shares entertaining stories about her life during her workouts. Most importantly, she’s there to cheer you on when  you feel like quitting. Her calendars are only available if you subscribe to her weekly newsletter, but subscription is free.

I also supplement Blogilates workouts with Pilates Reformer classes in a little Pilates studio near my house. Cassey’s workouts are on the mat and mostly do not require equipment. But I thought it would be cool to learn reformer as well. My reformer classes aren’t as challenging as my Pop Pilates workouts, but I enjoy having a real life instructor give me feedback and correct my form.

The studio I go to is small but very clean and welcoming. There only 5 reformer machines in the studio, meaning the classes are small. But the most students I’ve ever encountered was 4. Most times, it’s only 2 students in a class. I’ve also had occasions when I was the only student, which meant I received the private lesson treatment for the price of a class! The walls are lined with mirrors for students to observe their own form and motivational sayings. Several different instructors rotate through the weekly schedule. After trying out a few different instructors, I’ve settled with one that I really like and I will only go to classes that she teaches.

Before I started doing Pilates, I viewed working out as a chore or as an obligation I was extremely reluctant to complete. But now, I can honestly say it’s one of the best parts of my day. I would never give up my workout time for anything. On the days I get stress headaches from work, an hour of Pilates is usually the cure. Not only is it super fun, but it’s effective too. I’ve had more than one person tell me I look fitter.

Pilates has become something I’m super passionate about and I’ve begun to explore the possibility of becoming a certified instructor one day in the future. The morale of this extremely windy post? Find a form of exercise you’re passionate about and you will definitely see results. Plus, you’ll have tons of fun. What’s to lose?

Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving weekend was spent in the Bay Area with my boyfriend and a few of my friends from graduate school. After sitting around at work with nothing to do because all of my clients had already gone on vacation, I was finally able to hoof it out of my office at 3pm on Wednesday afternoon. Traffic on the way to LAX was said to be horrible. But I listened to my trusty Google Maps app and avoided most major freeways. Ah, what would the modern human do without technology?

Thanksgiving celebrated in style with dinner at the Frank’s house. Even though I lived in the US so many years as a child, I’ve never had a real Thanksgiving dinner before 2012. My family never really celebrated Thanksgiving and we never did the whole turkey, mashed potato, pie spiel. In 2012, I went home with my friend Heather to celebrate Thanksgiving. And her mom pulled out ALL the stops. 2014 was no different. I shall let the photo speak for itself.

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Tksgng2014_3Thanksgiving was already a cheat food day for me so I had to limit my portions, or else I would have gone back for seconds and thirds. There was turkey, brussell sprouts, sweet potato, mashed potato, gravy, cranberry sauce, creamed corn, shrimp salad, spinach salad, stuffing, Chinese stuffing, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, sweet potato meringue pie, AND LUMPIA! Lumpias are Filipino spring rolls and they ARE THE BOMB. Heather’s mom makes all of them herself and they were freshly fried when we got there. Food heaven in that house, I’m telling ya.

Tksgng2014_4 Tksgng2014_5And of course, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without good company. It was nice to spend some time with my friends from grad school again. And of course, a whole weekend with my boo! Yes, I know I look like a midget standing next to him.

Even though I try to do this as much as possible, I took a moment to reflect on all the things and people in my life that I was thankful for. 2014 has treated me well and I hope to end the year with a bang! Hope everyone had a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving as well!

Photos: all taken on my HTC One X phone