Sunday, December 22, 2013

Donburi in DC

I have a confession: I often complain about food in DC, particularly if it's Asian food. It's often too expensive compared to its relative quality (and compared to good food in Los Angeles, for example).  Case in point: after several disappointing Sichuan meals, Ethan and I decided we would only eat Chinese food in the suburbs, never again in the city - a decision I stand by.

But recently, I've witnessed a small wave of donburi (Japanese rice bowl) shops hit the city.  Japanese rice bowls are one of my comfort foods. When executed well, a rice bowl is satisfying and simple.  I think I've survived on some type of donburi since undergrad.  I even had a spot I frequented when I lived in Cambodia.  

I'm thinking donburi may be a worth exception to my ban on (most) Asian food in DC.

Exhibit #1:  The karaage (fried chicken marinated in mirin and soy) donburi from Donburi, a 14-seat bar in Adams Morgan, is topped with a hefty serving of pickled vegetables, sliced onions and a half-cooked egg that seeps into the warm rice.  

Exhibit #2:  Another favorite is Daikaya's Japanese twist on a traditional Filipino dish, the sisig donburi with citrus marinated pork belly. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A visit to Baltimore

On Friday night, Ethan and I took the train out to Baltimore to visit one of his friends. We spent the weekend with him out in the countryside. It snowed. When we weren't exploring Baltimore, we made Cuban panini sandwiches, laced wheat beer with orange slices and cinnamon, and assembled s'mores with dark chocolate squares sprinkled with sea salt. 

The snow foiled my plans to dine at Woodberry Kitchen.  Maybe next time.

It was my first visit to Baltimore -- I attribute my only exposure to the city to watching The Wire with Ethan on our uncomfortable Cambodian ratan couch, in the heat.

A year ago

The past few weeks have been a blur.  I forgot how crazy this season can be. There was a trip to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving, a trip to visit a friend in Baltimore this weekend, holiday parties, snow days, brunches, house hunting, and in a week from today, our trip to Los Angeles. 

This time last year, we still lived in Bangkok, Thailand.  We spent the last days of the year in Cambodia with friends, lounging in the riverside town of Kampot, then returned to Bangkok, where we toasted 2013 on the rooftop of our apartment.  It was great, but I remember aching for the holiday season and its trappings. 

I came across these pictures of Thailand.  I cannot believe it's been a year. 

Signage on the subway train.

Bangkok food courts - awesome.
At the vegetarian food festival in Chinatown with Ethan and friends.
Same as above.

Crispy, delectable, and totally addictive E-Sarn chicken and chili sauce. OH MY.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A new month.

I took this picture while taking a walk in NYC in late October.  I geeked out a little on that trip because it was my first time having a meeting at the UN headquarters - to date, I've only been in regional offices. I remember the October air being crisp, whipping my hair across my face.

While in NYC, I was able to catch up with one of my oldest friends, Jason, who lives in Williamsburg.  A southern California transplant (like myself), he is mesmerized by the city, its energy, the constant pace.  We ate dinner at his favorite Argentinian restaurant, during which he chided me (and Ethan) for not visiting him sooner and now only because work required it.  Afterwards, we had drinks while we admired the skyline. The city glittered.  I remembered how, as a child, I was always drawn to this place.

That was October.

Then, November came, knocking me off my feet.  There were a string of tragedies, in varying sizes, each one toppling me over, chipping away at me bit by bit.  The collective effect was not good.

But that's life, isn't it?  Horrible months like November make me realize how lucky I am to be able to dabble in all the frivolous crap I often enjoy - lately, my searches for Mayle dresses, Erin Considine necklaces, and Dieppa Restrepo boots, my constant daydreams about travel.  But I don't feel guilty for these silly thoughts and musings.  They're privileges, markers of lighter days.

It's a new month.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My aunt

That Friday was not as I expected.  I had ideas of a slow day: two meetings tops, a lunch enjoyed outside in Dupont Circle park, and then the quiet commute home.  But as I walked up to the office that morning, I received a string of phone calls --the kind I've grown to dread this year--and a few hours later I was on a plane back to Los Angeles, where I stayed for over a week.

My aunt had a brain aneurysm.  She passed in the early hours of Saturday morning.  She was 66 years old.  All my memories of my aunt involved she and my uncle, a constant pair.  I didn't know too much about her past, before her marriage. She was very private, though every now and then she'd crack an infectious giggle and say something so out of left-field that it made you wonder.  I knew that she immigrated to the US at an early age, initially making a living as a field worker in northern California. She had a deep love for several things -  traveling, gardening, and her family (not necessarily in that order).

The last time I saw her was in Colorado for my wedding.  I noticed that she and my uncle would sneak away from the crowd and wander the area around the mountain house - they always broke away from large crowds.  She spoke of visiting Ethan and me in DC next year. 

My family is reeling from the shock, but we're banding together.  It's incredible to see the web of support around my uncle.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Note to Self: Inspiration


Sometimes, inspiration comes when I least expect it.  And today it came over a simple lunch with three women human rights lawyers, from South Africa, Argentina, and the US.  In my little world, they often sit on the other side of the process, and at one point, when I have a case to bring, we will likely get into heated disagreements.

But today was just lunch: grilled salmon over some kind of puree and a discussion of how we can better support communities in accessing redress mechanisms, how we can shift the development model to be more inclusive, how we deal with security issues when working in difficult countries, and how each of us landed in this weird niche of international human rights  law; a discussion of yoga, boot camp, and twin babies.

On my walk from the restaurant back to my office in Dupont Circle, I looked up and into the shiny office buildings, the red leaves lingering on trees, the cars and people jetting by with purpose, and the white clouds dotting the sky.  On days like this, I feel like I can do this work here.

Little reminders to keep going.  It's been a very challenging week. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Just things

It's important to take note of little pleasures. Here are a few I'm currently enjoying:

1. Old shoes.
2. Piles of red leaves.
3. My weekend walks.
4. My Object & Totem necklace (i.e., part of my uniform these days).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Object & Totem

I am loving Object & Totem right now. Read more about Julie Anh's pieces and process here!

And it's November?!  My oh my, how time flies.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

24 hours in NYC


I've kinda been a ball of stress lately.  A very quick trip to NYC should be compounding the stress, but it will be good to get out of this the city - and I'll get to catch up with one of my oldest friends, Jason, who I haven't seen face-to-face since my move out of Portland.

I'm attending a meeting on human rights defenders.  My packing list is small - Mars boots, tights, a silk dress, my Olympe coat.

I'm hoping to come back to the District less grumpy and more clear-eyed.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Autumn colors and 38 hours in Wisconsin!

We came back from our weekend trip to Wisconsin to visit Ethan's family.  It felt so good to get out of the city, if only for 38 hours!  It was a weekend of several firsts: my first time in Wisconsin, my first view of the mighty Mississippi River, my first time dipping into Minnesota (just across the river from town), my first time seeing an Amish buggy, and my first taste of a pumpkin shake at Michael's Frozen Custard, in Madison.  And one other first: meeting the community with whom Ethan grew up.  His mom - who helped plan so much of our wedding - held a little "meet the bride" dinner, and I was all smiles and red lips.

In any case, it's back to work.  This week, I feel like I'm herding cats - and not in a good way.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another post on Istanbul, human rights work, and my need for sleep.

Twice a year, diplomats, government officials, civil society, and human rights defenders from all over the world descend on this city for an international institution's annual and spring meetings. Those weeks are nuts for me.  This time around, it was six days straight of meetings upon meetings, side events, conversations, working lunches, dinners, endless cups of coffee, and just a touch of sleep.  It's mostly tiring, but some moments (particularly, I find, when you meet communities who have been working on human rights issues related to these international development projects) it's inspiring and a little rad.  There were a few of those moments last week.

With that week behind me, I took two days off to rest. Time off was needed.  Time off was great - except that when I have free time, I start to plot. And invariably, that plotting involves places I want to visit. 

And today, I thought:  What I wouldn't give to be back in Istanbul right now . . .

Did you know that the mosques in Istanbul were often (always?) built with an attached market, where the rents of the shops went to the upkeep of the mosque?  One day, as we walked around the tourist-laden district of Sultanahmet, we came across a small mosque. It had an adjoining garden and a strip of shops.  I asked the shopkeeper how long his shop had been in business.  He looked at his wife, and they laughed.  He shrugged his shoulders and said, "always."  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Last weekend

Within a matter of days, the temperatures went from humid and high 90s to rainy and low 60s, from summer dresses to autumn layers.  I spent one of my last warm days visiting the District Flea, sitting at Peregrine Espresso, one of my favorite coffee shops in this city, and soaking in the sun.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ship & Shape

images via

Have you heard of Ship & Shape?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Let's go camping.

The last few days, I have had the strongest urge to go camping, to drive out of this city and to wake up to open spaces, green trees, crisp air, quiet.  The funny thing is I'm not much of a camper (Ethan is), and the last time and place I camped was in a dinosaur park in Mongolia, surreptitiously, under the autumn sky, several years and a lifetime ago.

District Flea

images via

Apparently, the creators of Brooklyn Flea have started a similar operation in the District - at least for a six-week trial run.  While no Chatuchak Market in Bangkok or Black Market in Ulaanbaatar, this flea market should be a fun Saturday outing.  And what is this I hear about a kimchi grilled cheese sandwich?  An investigation is warranted.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The leaves are changing color, the sun is out, the federal government is shutdown, and it's October.

Fall list, continued.

I'm desperate for a decent pair of flats.  My old flats (i.e., pre-Asia) don't fit as well anymore.  

On my way home the other day, I walked past Madewell and, for once, browsed the store.  I am not quite sold on either of these flats, but they were comfortable enough. 

I did, however, purchase and break in a pair of Rachel Comey Mars boots.  Let's hope they work out.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Taking stock. Fall List, continued.

It's been a very busy week and one in which I've run into folks from my previous life in Cambodia (including this activist monk), which always throws me and then makes me realize that the world is small.  Or, maybe it's just that the people who work in this niche of international law (on, for example, independent accountability mechanisms) is tiny. 

Throughout the week, I found myself sitting across the table and engaging in discussions with people from all over the globe who are shaping the functions and mandates of these international mechanisms.  The discussion today centered on normative gaps in these systems and how to increase accountability and access to remedy for the poorest of the poor.  It was terribly fascinating and a little intimidating.  I sometimes don't know how I've landed here.

Anyway, this week also forced me to acknowledge autumn and to take stock of the holes in my wardrobe.  Starting with outerwear, my go-to jackets are my Mayle Olympe coat (first picture) and Fedosia jacket (second).  I'm looking for another coat, something oversized and comfortable.  


I saw the coat above, and while not an Isabel Marant coat, I wonder if it would do the trick. Straight away, I am skeptical about the quality.  I may have to make my first visit to Zara in years, which should be easy since the nearest Zara is a brisk 15-minute walk for me.  

Other items on my list:
  •  A pair of black ankle boots that are comfortable enough for walking around in the District (taking notes from the best black boot review)
  • A pair of black trousers (I simply cannot justify purchasing this pair, so I need an alternative)
  • A ceramic necklace (wouldn't mind this or this)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the week

What is it with this week?  There was the Washington Navy Yard shooting, all of four miles from where I was sitting in my office, oblivious to the news until I received several text messages and calls.  Then there is the flooding in Colorado, close to Ethan's family, who are fine. And how could I forget the veritable war zone in Zamboanga, where my father's family lives and I visited in March??? 

I don't even want to get into my thoughts on the shooting in DC and how, as an American living abroad, I would get so enraged when news of shooting after shooting after shooting would filter through the international channels. 

It's been a strange week.  I might even say it's been a bad week.

Compounding all the weirdness is the current pace of work in this city, the meetings upon meetings, scheduled and re-scheduled, with little notice, and  the realization that I am going to have to maneuver the politics of international law (as in, how the U.S. takes or doesn't take positions on these things).  I love this field of law.  I know I'm fortunate to be able to make a living doing this work.  But some days, I feel as if I'm hitting a wall.  It's this city, this process that I'm learning to navigate.

Recognizing that wall, I decided to work from home today.  I am playing music, procrastinating in my pajamas and enjoying a hot cup of Stumptown coffee.  Funny thing is, I could totally do all that in my office (yes, even the pajamas if I needed to.)   I need to take it slow because October will be busy.

On my list of priorities today are: (1) drafting some language on some submission on international climate stuff; (2) a call with my boss (who is based in the Netherlands but currently traveling around Switzerland for conferences); and (3) maybe a quick walk to Whole Foods for a slice of pie.

Update:  This song and video is lifting my mood a little. I haven't listened to a Shugo Tokumaro song in ages.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

More on Istanbul

Swimming in my mind this Sunday morning: images from the Hagia Sophia . . .

the Grand Bazaar . . . 

the Basilica Cistern . . .

and one of many sweet shops in the city.

 How was that only two months ago?
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