Anchorage, Alaska

10 Jan

2016 was a wild ride of a year. I finished up my Masters degree, reached my goals for Mandarin Chinese, and moved three times going from Monterey, California to Taipei, Taiwan to Friday Harbor, Washington. However, somewhere along the line, I fell really behind on this blog. So 2017 is here and it’s time to get back into the swing of things. My friend and fellow blogger Sean (who writes the blog Going Postal, featuring interesting facts about the postcards he’s sent and received and the locations they came from) also fell behind in 2016, so we’ve made a bet. We’ll be writing at least once every 2 weeks, and if we fail we’ll have to reward the other (the actual reward is still in the works.)

To kick off the next couple of entries will be catch-up posts covering short trips I took in late 2016. The first of these is the fun stuff I did in Anchorage, Alaska while attending the NAFSA Region I conference in October.

The city of Anchorage was pretty happening, lots of good food, and gorgeous scenery. There was also a lot of interesting street art (including the trash cans) and most gift stores have stuffed animals outside of them that I couldn’t resist taking pictures with.

The Anchorage Museum offers a mix of exhibits, there’s usually a few temporary art or history exhibits, while permanent exhibits include Alaskan Native Cultures and a discovery center. If you’re looking to learn more about Alaska and its history, this is definitely recommended.

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is open all year and is free to enjoy, it starts near the downtown area. The trail is rated easy, as it is mostly flat and paved. For maps check out the website. I walked the first 2 miles of it starting from the downtown area and took in the views of the mountains and water just on the other side of the train tracks.


Of course, this wouldn’t be a Karmenvasion post without talking about food, and if you’re looking for hearty and flavorful fare, then Anchorage will not disappoint you.

49th State Brewing Company was where I went for dinner on the first night. They serve a great array of their own beers, pizza, and other delicious dishes. After a long day of travel their elk and reindeer pizza, yak-a-dilla, and a beer were just what I was looking for.


Snow City Cafe was our stop for breakfast one day, they have a great variety of breakfast dishes using local ingredients. I got the deadliest catch benedict featuring a crab cake and salmon cake, as well as hashbrowns. The simple diner atmosphere plus the food, made for a great dining experience.


I only stopped by Club Paris for a drink, but I can say that the man next to me at the bar had what is one of the biggest and juiciest steaks I’ve seen in a while. It’s a great place if you’re looking for a chill vibe and a strong drink.


While at Club Paris, the man with the steak told us of a Speakeasy in the area called Blues Central. To find Blues Central you must go to Williwaw another restaurant, where there are a few phone booths. Look for the one in the back, if there’s a blue light on the Speakeasy is open. Simply pick up the phone, which will ring the bartenders, follow their instructions and get the password then head upstairs for some delicious cocktails and other libations!


The final place I’d recommend is Mad Myrna’s, a gay bar on the edge of the downtown area, they have a lot of events such as karaoke and dancing. They also do productions of plays and musicals. We were lucky to catch their final dress rehearsal of The Rocky Horror Picture Show while we were there, unfortunately, I have no pictures from it, but the cast did a fantastic job! img_3608


NAFSA Region 1 Conference

25 Oct

Two weeks ago I attended the NAFSA Region 1 Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. A little back story, last year I started my Master’s in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. I’m currently doing my final practicum semester, while working at Spring Street International School in Friday Harbor, WA.

NAFSA is an organization for professionals working in the International Education field. Many professionals are working with high school or college students studying abroad or international students coming here for degrees and Intensive English Programs. The conference is a great opportunity to learn about new products and programs from sponsor tables, network with other professionals, and attend sessions presented on current issues and trends in the field.


My name badge at the conference

One the first day of the conference I attended four sessions. The first talked about recognizing fraudulent credentials (transcripts, diplomas, etc.) from international students. It was a lot of new information for me, as they gave examples of what authentic credentials look like, something that I haven’t had the opportunity to see before. The second and third sessions that I attended covered dating/relationships and supporting LGBTQ students. As these areas are something that US colleges are really struggling with lately, it was good to hear about the challenges that schools are having, and what those campuses have done to overcome it and better support their students. I wrapped up with a presentation on social media and how three professionals at Concordia University – Portland have used it in their outreach for different departments.

The second day I attended two sessions. One talked about specific trends with Chinese students coming to the US and how many are starting to turn away from the traditional four-year college route. Some students have started in high school, while others have done high school completion courses at community colleges and later transferred to a university. The second session was about marketing, and how to think about your materials and branding when doing outreach. As I want to work someday in this area of the field, these both were vital presentations for me to attend.

In the afternoon they brought in a local bird rescue group Bird TLC, who brought an owl and a hawk for us to see.

The final day I focused on sessions about international student engagement outside the classroom, and how to develop these students’ leadership skills. A lot of them told stories of how students were offered positions on campus, what clubs were started and more.

Overall it was a valuable week for my career, I met a lot of professionals in the field and have kept in touch with a few about collaborating on projects in the coming months. The sessions have informed my practicum deliverables as well. I will definitely be attending another conference next year.


Downtown Anchorage

North Cascades National Park

19 Oct

My internship here at the Spring Street International School lead to me visiting the North Cascades National Park. The school does a yearly backpacking trip for one week in the fall. The entire school goes out in small groups for a few days, before coming together as one big group the final night.

It was my first time out here, and the park quickly became one of my favorites. The hikes were challenging, but the views made it all worth the struggle. Below are some pictures of my time there, broken up into groups by which trail they are from.

Thunder Knob: This trail was our shortest hike at just 3.6 miles round trip. From the highest point, we got a good lunchtime view of Diablo Lake. It’s got some elevation gain, but compared to other trails, it’s a fairly easy hike.

Maple Loop, this is by far one of the most beautiful and challenging trails I’ve done thus far. The trail started with a steep incline through the woods for a few miles, before giving us a fantastic view of the lakes. On the way down the trail was a less steep, and we enjoyed the fantastic scenery as we descended.

Blue Lake: A fairly relaxing hike compared to the day before. This short 4.4-mile trail (round trip) takes you up to Blue Lake where you can enjoy the beautiful water and see some rock climbers nearby. Really great place to relax, eat lunch, and read a book for a while.

Washington Pass Overlook: This overlook offers some amazing views of the mountains and highway 20 below. It’s fairly accessible and there is plenty of parking there.

San Juan Island

4 Oct

This past month I’ve been settling into my new life in Friday Harbor, WA on San Juan Island. I’ll be living here for the school year doing an internship and finishing my graduate degree. This month I’ve had a chance to do a lot of hiking and exploring the island. Here are a few of the beautiful places I’ve gotten to check out.

Friday Harbor 

Let’s start with my new town, Friday Harbor, the downtown has a lot of cool shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. The most beautiful place to be, though, especially at sunset is by the water. Right when you get off the ferry here, you’re in town and can take in all these gorgeous views.


Lime Kiln State Park 

Beginning in the 1860s, this area was used as a limestone quarry and lime production area. The stone was burned in kilns on site, before being loaded onto boats and shipped off. Today the area is a Washington State Park, where you can day hike, check out the lighthouse, and hopefully see a whale (sadly I didn’t get to do the last part.)

San Juan Island National Historical Park – American Camp

The San Juan Island NHP has two parts on the island the American and English camps. In 1859, both sides set up camp here and almost went to war, while disputing ownership of the island. I have yet to visit the English camp but did some day hiking at American Camp one day. There are a lot of beautiful wooded areas, ocean views, and rolling grassy hills.

American Camp Trail

If you’re looking for a nice long day hike on the island, the American Camp Trail starts near the Friday Harbor airport and ends at the visitor center of the American Camp. Round trip is about 11 miles.

Jackson Beach

A beautiful area here in Friday Harbor, Jackson Beach is covered by driftwood. There’s places to BBQ and play volleyball here, as well as a paddleboard rental place, which you can take out to the island nearby.

Where’s Waldo(Wally)?

21 Sep

Last post of my Taipei summer! The Huashan Creative Park near my house had an exhibit recently that celebrated Where’s Waldo (Wally). It featured a lot of the published books, blow up wall-size works, and statues.

At one point, you could pick one of these cards, which challenged you to find a character among the wall-sized photos. img_2883

There were a few Taiwan-themed parts including famous landmarks and a night market. img_2887img_2890

The rest of the exhibit showed books and statues of the famous characters: img_2875img_2877img_2878img_2880img_2864img_2865img_2869img_2871img_2860img_2863

Elephant Mountain

11 Sep

My last day in Taipei, I started with a hike at Elephant Mountain (象山)which gives a great view of Taipei City. It’s an easy trail to get to, as you just need to head to Xiangshan Station (象山站)and walk for a few minutes. It’s all stairs up the mountain, and in the heat, it’s a bit exhausting, but the view is wonderful. Below are some of the scenes from our hike.


Taroko Gorge

5 Sep

I’m back, after the year of grad school taking up my time, I’m currently doing my practicum semester, which while busy, does come with a little more free time. Therefore I’m bringing back the blog.

My first few entries are going to be some catching up from this past summer, I was doing a Summer Intensive Chinese Program in Taipei, Taiwan. It was great being back there, catching up with old friends, improving my language skills, and having some time to travel outside the city a bit more.

This first entry is about a scooter/camping trip I took with a good friend while back this summer. We drove from Taipei to Taroko National Park, located on Taiwan’s east coast. The drive took about 8 hours one way by scooter, so it was a long Thursday and Sunday both ways. We spent 3 nights camping in the park and waking up each morning to beautiful hikes and views. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. Below you can see views from our drive down and our time in the park.

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