Mother’s Day Without Mother
“She’s too tired to talk right now.”
This was the reason week after week why I couldn’t talk to my mom on the phone. I was living with my uncle’s family in the States, and my mom was somewhere in Korea dying from breast cancer. By the time the excuses started flowing, she was already dead and I was oblivious.
A couple months later, we’re all sitting cross-legged in the middle of my grandpa’s senior home apartment in La Mirada, and I’m bawling my eyes out. My dad had just announced the news that my mother had passed away, which hit me like a ton of bricks, and noticeably missed most others as I was one of few shedding tears. Everyone else had known for a while now.
Every day is some variation of waking up to my grandma yelling at me that I’m late for school, eating my grandma’s home-cooked Korean meals (and once in a while finding a stray hair resting on top of the fluffy white rice), and listening to her singing praise songs and clapping next to the dinner table after finishing her daily session of copying down Bible verses.
My grandma has been my mother for nearly a decade and is recognized as such not just by me but also by the US government. My legal adoption to my grandparents is complete, and my fun fact — my birth father is my legal brother — is born.
Grandma dies due to a weak heart and a host of other problems. I wish I could say that she died peacefully, but the last months of her life had been nothing but discomfort and frankly, suffering. I had moved away from home, away from my grandma, to San Francisco only a week prior.
Two days before Mother’s Day
“What are you doing for Mother’s Day?”
I don’t know how to answer her, the cute girl with blue eyeliner raising money for Greenpeace next to Barnes and Noble. I don’t want to let her know that this will be the first year in which there is no one to celebrate, well there is, but she’s six feet under. I hem and haw for a while because I don’t want to drop this heavy emotional bomb on this unsuspecting stranger who probably thinks she’s asking an innocent question that will make for some polite conversation. I tell her the truth. She doesn’t apologize for the next 20 minutes which so many people are prone to do after hearing the news of death. I appreciate that. She shares that her dad also died this past October, he from a brain aneurysm. My Mother’s Day will be her Father’s Day, and I feel for her.
One day before Mother’s Day
My sister, my grandpa, and I drive over to Rose Hill, where my grandma had been buried just 7 months prior. We have some trouble finding her grave, but we eventually find it. We say our greetings to the air, leave some pink roses in the hole in front of her plaque (which apparently cost a bit extra to install), and sit around for bit talking about grandma and admiring other graves with small fences and entire gardens. Grave envy is a real thing.
Mother’s Day 2013
Facebook and Instagram are exploding with cute pictures of people and their moms. It’s weird not having anyone to buy flowers for, not having anyone to kiss on the cheek, not having anyone to wish “Happy Mother’s Day!”
My sister and I look inside the crowded Starbucks, exchanging joking-but-not-really-joking comments that all these people should go home to their mothers so that we can take the table adjacent to the door that has an outlet right next to it. We clearly deserve this table because everyone has mothers at home and we do not. We are owed.
The powers that be hear our cries for justice and a couple minutes later, the table opens up.
An Overdue Update
I should let you know that I haven’t been posting any of my travel posts or uploading any pictures on Facebook because my laptop was stolen on a train ride from hell through Bulgaria. More on this later. The important thing is that I’m still safe and traveling!
Vienna Travel Tips
- I bought a 48 hour pass. Didn’t have my ticket checked a single time.
- Hostel Ruthensteiner: For the love of all that is good, don’t stay here. You have to put in the bedsheets, pillowcase, and blanket cover yourself which is the last thing you want to do when you’re exhausted from travelling all day, there’s no space above beds so you have to crouch at an extreme angle when sitting on your bed which leads to immense back pains, there’s no outlet next to your bed, and absolutely no social vibe mainly due to barely any other people staying there. What a terrible hostel. The place has phenomenal reviews on hostelbookers which makes me think that my bad stay was a fluke, but my, what a disappointment.
- I mostly relaxed and recuperated from all the going out in Prague, so I ended up only going to this bar called B72 to check out some live bands. I largely wasn’t a fan of the music nor of the idea of standing around watching someone play on stage while having minimal interaction with the people around you which is like having the worst of both worlds of a concert and a bar, so I can’t really recommend this place.
- Johannes, the friend who stayed with me back in San Francisco, lives in Vienna and he knows all the good vegetarian places. There was a self-serve pay-by-weight vegetarian place called yamm that was pretty neat, although it was quite pricey. The highlight for me was this small shop called Reformhaus Buchmuller which had amazing food for fairly cheap.
Vienna First Impressions
Alright, so this post is way overdue because I’m not even in Vienna anymore, but I’ll write down what I remember of my first impressions.
- I was drinking overpriced hot chocolate at Starbucks out of a huge glass mug (do we have those in the States? I don’t really go to Starbucks so I don’t know) and two young teenagers came into the store to ask for money. This is the first time I’ve had people ask for me indoors in Europe, so that was pretty interesting. Apparently it’s not uncommon.
- Things are much more expensive than in Prague. Damn.
- Back in Euroland!
Prague Travel Tips
- You can walk pretty much everywhere.
- The Mosaic House (St. Christopher’s): Great bar, great facilities, and there’s live music, too. The chill-out room for this place wasn’t very social, but there were a lot of people hanging around the bar so it was nice. St. Christopher’s (it’s a chain) hostels are always high quality. If you go here, look for a cute bartender with a tattoo of an incomplete tic-tac-toe game on her arm and challenge her to a game. :)
- The MadHouse: If you want to party, this is hands-down the hostel to go to. I’ve never been to a hostel more social than this one — from the moment you walk in, you’re greeted with a free beer and a wall that has a picture of tits on fire. Everyone hangs out in the kitchen and plays beer pong until we all go out together to a club or a pub every night. The staff here is the best. In case you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here and would easily recommend it.
- Five Stories Club: The bartenders at The Mosaic House poo-pooed this place as having bad music, but I think “bad music” is just top 20s stuff. I personally didn’t go here, but some girls at The MadHouse really liked it.
- Roxy: They had a shitty DJ when I was there. Not a fan.
- Chapeau Rouge: Good electro music, but I got really tired and left a bit early.
- As mentioned in my First Impressions post, the Czech Republic still uses Czech Crowns (Korunas). For easy conversions in your head, just divide Crowns by 20 to get the US dollar amounts.
- Buy groceries, drinks, and longer-lasting food while you’re here! When I arrived in Vienna, I realized how foolish I was for not stocking up on stuff when I was still in Prague because Prague is really cheap. Also, I bought the best apple juice I’ve ever tasted from one of the supermarkets; sadly, I don’t remember the brand of the container. Sorry, I’m a tease.
“Where are you from?”
Let’s be real, saying “Fullerton” is out of the question.
I used to say Orange County, but only a handful of people from Europe who have seen “The OC” knew where that’s located and I felt like a snobby American who expects everyone from all over the world to know where Orange County is located.
And then I switched to saying California, but that only delayed the problem because quite a few people would ask the follow-up question of where exactly in California I’m from. Back to square one.
A possible solution was saying that I’m from Los Angeles, as it’s reasonable to assume that the vast majority of people have heard of LA and know where it’s located. But then some people have actually been to LA and would tell me about all the fun, tourist activities that they’ve done there and I would just nod and smile and feel like a fraud because I’ve never properly explored LA despite living 30 minutes from it. Shame on me.
So now I just tell people that I’m from Disneyland. For people who don’t know where it is, I tell them it’s “around LA” and I get the added bonus of having people associate me with the Happiest Place on Earth. Success!
Prague First Impressions
- The Czech Republic still uses Czech Crowns, which was disappointing because the ancient Lonely Planet guide that I read on the train said that the Czech Republic would adopt the Euro by 2010. Lies.
- Apparently this is also present in some parts of the States, but I was surprised by how all the cashiers in the supermarkets were sitting down as they rang people up. Also a disproportionate number of them were overweight, middle-aged women as opposed to the young students that you often see in the States.
- This is pertinent to travelers and Europeans in general: everyone smokes cigarettes. It’s really weird.
Berlin Travel Tips
- If you go in the winter, dress warm and have shoes without a million holes so that your feet won’t go numb from the snow. Yup, speaking from experience.
- Unlike London’s Tube, Berlin’s public transit is pretty much based on an honor system. If you do decide to try your hand at fare evasion on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn, be warned that both guys that I met on my train from Berlin to Prague were caught and forced to pay a 40 euro fine during their stay in Berlin. I personally didn’t have my tickets checked at any time, but apparently it’s becoming more and more common.
- PLUS Berlin: Nothing but scorching hot water came out of the sink in my room so washing up was quite the dangerous adventure. The hostel wasn’t set up to have a very social atmosphere where travelers can mingle, so I wasn’t a huge fan.
- Circus Hostel: Good hostel, and the free pasta that they give out on some nights was pretty great. That said, you need to scan your card a minimum of three times in order to get from the lobby to your room (once to activate the elevator, once to get into your hallway, and once more to get into your room) which got really old very quickly.
- Baxpax Downtown: I would recommend this hostel the most, because they have an actual bar and chill out area in the hostel which is most conducive to creating a social environment. I had the most fun here.
- Go to Berghain, even though most likely you’ll be standing in line for an unreasonable time in absolute silence while losing any feeling in your hands and toes and end up being dismissed by the bouncer when you get to the front of the line.
Traveling, the Art of Hit or Miss and the Occasional Bullseye
Walking around indecisively with an unlikely conglomerate of new friends from Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, and Japan and trying doner kebab (vegetarian version, naturally) for the first time.
Watching Peter painfully struggle to translate “bark” into English for a full minute and finding out that the Swedish word for it is also “bark”.
Discussing “The Matrix”, the blue pill and the red pill, the pervasiveness of media and its effect on our thoughts and our perception of beauty and finding ourselves in complete agreement despite coming from completely different backgrounds.
Bobbing my head to Erid serenading the room with a classical guitar, an effortless voice, and popular American songs.
Sharing bottles of white wine and thoughts on the attractiveness of stability (for Molly) and passion (for me) and listening to her nail American accents perfectly thanks to her experience with musical theater.
Meeting people is hands-down the best part of traveling.
Berlin First Impressions
- It’s cold. Like even-my-overpriced-smartwool-socks-are-failing-me cold. I haven’t seen snow since I ate bucketfuls of it for a full day while having a board strapped to my feet two months ago, so this is definitely conjuring up some good memories.
- Berlin parties hard. When I left Club Soda this morning at 5am, there were still a ton of people there. Pretty nuts.
- The green man that shows up for pedestrian traffic lights is unique here, and it’s pretty much a brand because you can buy all sorts of merchandise bearing a green man with only limbs and no body.