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Friday, April 24, 2015

National Stationery Week Spotlight: Chroma Stationery

It's National Stationery Week in the UK (yes, this is a thing!) and I am the biggest hoarder of stationery ever.

My obsession started when I was five. My dad took me to the little stationery shop below my grandma's apartment in Happy Valley, Hong Kong, which was every little girl's dream because they stocked every single Hello Kitty product imaginable. With the pocket money my dad gave me, I'd buy sticker books, journals, pens (SO many pens!), erasers, pencil sharpeners, pencil cases (SO many pencil cases!), and basically whatever I could get my hands on. 

In junior high, I'd buy stationery from Borders and by high school, I was into Papyrus. College was all about creamy, white monogrammed card stock (so East Coast, so preppy!) and as an adult, I love anything quirky, pretty, or just a little bit fabulous (see here for examples - I'm especially a fan of Rifle Paper Co.).

But after arriving in the UK, my love for stationery waned: I couldn't find any indie shops I liked (although Paperchase stocks some fantastic indie designers and artists) and "proper" stationery (think Smythson) was totally out of my price range. So I stock up whenever I go back to the States.

But then I heard about Chroma Stationery and their notebooks were a game changer. Specializing in personalized notebooks made with good quality materials, Chroma is all about color and the personal connection we have to stationery. After all, its founder, Gabi, named all the notebooks after her friends and family!

It was so difficult to select from their beautiful colors and bindings, but I chose the unlined, spiral bound "Daniel" notebook with silver embossing to jot down all my blog post ideas and thoughts.

And it's gorgeous - a refreshing step away from my usual array of black, boring Moleskines.

If you're a stationery fanatic like me and want to support an indie stationery designer, then Chroma is a great place to start.

What about you? Do you love writing letters as much as I do? Do you carry a notebook around with you? What are your favorite stationery brands?

The gorgeous Daniel notebook was generously provided to me by Chroma, a company that I love. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile. Stop by their online shop to see more pretty choices!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Expat Talk: Gratitude

After a glorious week of sunshine, cherry blossoms, and blue sky, London is ... well, grey again. Temperatures are dropping and, in some parts of the UK, snow is even being predicted!

I've lived in London for over 8 years. In that time, I've slowly allowed myself to forget the charm and novelty of the city I once fell in love with. After bidding Sri Lanka a tearful goodbye a few weeks ago, I felt crushed about returning to England - the very place I once dreamed of living in. The place I worked so hard to build a life for myself in. The place I'd taped a postcard of next to my bed, so that it'd be the last thing I'd see before I closed my eyes at night.

And then: I was so angry with myself.

This life I have in London? These buildings, the traffic, the red telephone booths, the accent, the Thames, the afternoon teas? The coveted job in publishing? This used to be my fairytale. When did that change? My thoughts horrified me.

Gratitude is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I have so, so much. And yet I find myself wanting so much more. A new camera, a new watch, a new holiday in some exotic location abroad ... there's always something on my wishlist. And I want to stop wanting.

Have you seen that hashtag, #lifegoals? People use it liberally: from describing the perfect dip-dye to capturing an Instagram-worthy desk. I hate it. Especially now, when so many friends of mine are struggling with some serious life issues - some health-related, others not.

Wishlists and life goals are fine; forgetting to be grateful for what you have is not. Health, family, job security, shelter ... those are the important things in life. Most of which are completely beyond our control. When it's grey, when it rains, when I've had a bad day - I lose perspective.

In those moments, I want to shake myself.

What about you? Do you make gratitude lists to help keep yourself in check? If you live abroad, do you often lose sight of why you moved in the first place? It can be easy to forget.

p.s. the sun came out again, just as I finished writing this!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Angloyankophile Awarded "Highly Commended" at the UK Blog Awards 2015!

I'm thrilled to announce that Angloyankophile has been awarded Highly Commended in the Individual Travel Category at the UK Blog Awards 2015! Although I didn't sweep up the grand prize (which went to Family Affairs and Other Matters, and deservedly so!), I'm so grateful for this recognition!

Thank you so much for voting for me in the preliminary round, and for sticking by me: your support means the world to me.

xo Jaime

p.s. I now have a shiny new badge on the right ... :)

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Weekend in Colo(u)r

Hey. How was your weekend? I had a colo(u)rful one, and would love to share some photos, if you'd like to see!

You know those languid, lazy Saturday mornings, where you sleep until you think you can't sleep anymore, and then you stretch out underneath your thick covers and revel in the sunlight streaming through your windows? I had one of those mornings. Until I remembered that I was late to meet Robin for lunch, so I hopped out of bed, threw on some hole-y jeans, grabbed my mom's bright red vintage Dooney & Bourke, and painted on a slick of red lipstick before heading up to Jones & Sons in Dalston.

After we had our fill of pancakes and I overdosed on bacon (Robin's veggie, so she passed hers on to me ... I kind of don't want to see, taste or smell bacon for a few months) and we chatted all things expat and friendship and writing (she's the best at that), I met John in Dalston before heading up toward Walthamstow to explore a park.

I spotted the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural while waiting for the bus and couldn't help snapping a pic ...

It's crazy how a piece of art can make you start imagining sounds ... does the same thing happen to you when you look at this? It sounds so loud and joyous to me, even though I can't hear anything!

On our way to Walthamstow, we saw a sketchy amusement park (you know, the kind that's just set up on the side of the road somewhere and the people running it are a bit scary looking?) and, for some reason, I just had to stop by.

So we got off the bus, paid the £1 entrance fee, bought some tokens, and ran to the elephant ride. I know. I'm an adult, I promise.

We didn't know that you had to press the pedal by your feet in order to raise the elephant, so we were going around in circles at ground level until one of the children's parents shouted at us through cupped hands, "PRESS THE PEDAL! PRESS THE PEDAL!" "WHAT?" I mouthed back at him. Then the ticket collector got involved. "What are you DOING?" he shouted at us, hands clutching his head (a bit dramatic, right?). "PRESS THE PEDAL!" My bad. I've not been on an elephant ride lately.

Then we moved on to my personal favorite, The Ghost Train:

As a kid, those rides always seemed to last forever (while I clutched my dad's arm in sheer terror), but as an adult, it's all over in about 5 seconds and you wonder where your £3 went. Sigh.

After buying ice cream and cotton candy (I know, we went all the way), we ended up in the bumper cars (or "Dodgems", as they're called here, apparently - another instance where John was like, "Let's try the Dodgems!" And I was like, "What?" Him: "Dodgems!" Me: "What?" Repeat x 25 times), which I did not enjoy and remembered why I didn't like them when I was aged 5, either.

I disliked it so much, I removed all the color from this photo:

So, there.

Here's to colo(u)rful weekends, spontaneous moments, blue skies and sunshine. I hope you have a great week!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why I Chose to Attend a Women's College

On March 3, 2015, Sweet Briar College - a women's liberal arts college in Sweet Briar, Virginia - announced that it would be closing at the end of the summer, due to financial difficulties. Among the outraged alumnae who set out to "Save Sweet Briar" was popular blogger, Fashion Fois Gras, who wrote this post about her experience in attending Sweet Briar as an undergraduate.

Which was not unlike mine. 

You see, like Emily, I'd never intended to select an all-women's college based in rural, Western Massachusetts (a campus, might I add, which has been ranked as one of Princeton Review's "Most Beautiful College Campuses" for more years than I can remember). 

Later, when I worked in the Admissions office as a tour guide and Admissions Fellow at Mount Holyoke, I was asked by students and parents alike: "How did you choose Mount Holyoke?"And I'd smile, because I hadn't chosen Mount Holyoke - it had chosen me.

First, what you've got to understand is that the whole college admissions process is completely different in the US, compared to the UK. It's extremely competitive, extremely expensive, and the selection, as the alumni interviewer who conducted my interview for Harvard put it, can be "total crapshoot". If you don't have perfect grades, at least five extra curricular activities, volunteer on a weekly basis, and aren't involved in a leadership role (preferably student government), then you can count yourself out of the running to most competitive colleges and universities.

In addition to this, a much bigger emphasis is placed on where you went to college in the US, versus the UK. It can rule you out of certain jobs and it's an association that you have for life. In short, it's kind of a big deal. Even now, as a 30-something adult, I'm asked when I go back to the States, "Oh, where did you go to college?"

Needless to say, I didn't get into Harvard. But when it came time to apply to colleges (you're encouraged to apply to 5 - college applications cost between $85-95 a pop in my time, so if you were particularly privileged, you could apply to more), I picked with very little knowledge of what I really wanted out of my college experience. I had no idea. I came from a tiny little town in the Puget Sound. I'd never heard of the Seven Sisters, let alone the small, private liberal arts colleges on the East Coast like Williams or Vassar or Amherst (which also would have been perfect for me). 

I didn't know.

So, I did what my peers did: I applied to the University of Washington (undergraduate enrollment of c. 30,000 students), University of Southern California (c. 20,000 students), Harvard, and Stanford (or Yale, I can't remember, but I didn't get in). I'd just received my acceptances to UW and USC when I dug out a college brochure to read along with my breakfast one morning before school. I'd originally tossed the flyer (as a high school junior, you were sent tons) because it was from an all-women's college, which had zero appeal to me. Boring. Insular. One-sided. Snobby. Unnecessary. These were all the thoughts that ran through my head when I first saw it.

But today was different. I stopped chewing. I read about the small class sizes (enrollment is c. 2,000 versus 30,000 at UW), the interdiscplinary majors, the equal strengths in sciences and the arts; I read about the Ivy League professors, the clubs, the study abroad programs, and the beautiful campus. I read about its music department. After feeling adrift and anonymous during campus visits to UW (where I sat in lecture halls that seated hundreds and hundreds of students who all looked the same), I felt like Mount Holyoke "got" me. It understood my uniqueness and catered to that.

I applied. And shortly after, I was invited to visit the Mount Holyoke campus - all the way on the other side of the country. A six-hour plane ride. I returned with a Mount Holyoke sweatshirt and my eyes shining with ... something. I didn't know what it was, but I knew that it was where I belonged.

When the acceptance came, I screamed. And when I saw my merit scholarship amount, I wept. I was going to Mount Holyoke. Up until then, my dreams had always been vague and fuzzy. But now I knew: my dream was to go to Mount Holyoke (cue Dirty Dancing references here!). And it came true (thanks to my parents!).

Recently, an article by Diane Halpern appeared in the New York Times, adding to the discussion topic: "Are Same-Sex Colleges Still Relevant?" Aside from the many points in her article that infuriated me, Halpern wrote, "By many measures, today's women are flourishing in higher education and do not need a protected environment to develop their intellectual potential." Condescending tone aside, Mount Holyoke was not a "protected environment" for me and my peers to "develop our intellectual potential". The school that Halpern writes of may be the Mount Holyoke of 1837, but today, it is so much more than that. It is a place where we were constantly and repeatedly pushed outside our comfort zones - socially and academically - where we, if anything, were reminded of our privilege and of our place in this world, where we reclaimed (yes, I used that word) our voices, in a world where we are almost always talked over. That's not protection, it's called practice. Practice for life outside those gates.

Fashion Fois Gras said that attending a women's college taught her about bravery. And I would agree.
Sometimes, I sit in meetings at work where I'm the youngest, most junior, female member in the room. As I did in undergraduate seminars, I like to sit back and listen. But when I have something to say, I might be nervous about saying it, sure, but I'll say it, and I'll make my point clear. If I don't feel as though I'm being heard, I'll say it again. 

That's what Mount Holyoke taught me. Speak until you are heard. Use your intelligence. Be skeptical. Be inquisitive. Work hard. You can do better.

Those lessons aren't protective; they're necessary.

Yesterday, I met a young alum for lunch. She was also from the Puget Sound, had graduated in 2013 and moved to London after studying abroad in Bologna, Italy during her junior year. Her emails to me were polite, inquisitive, and charming. We chatted and shared our respective Mount Holyoke experiences, and though we had just met, I could tell that she was bright, adventurous, multi-talented - typical of Mount Holyoke.

This week, I received an extraordinary box of gifts from a friend (and fellow Mount Holyoke alum), Anna. "You've been ELFED!" the card on the blue and white box read, and reminders of MHC tumbled out: a t-shirt, magnet, lanyard, and sticker ... all emblazoned with the logo I'm proud to wear (and people in London probably think is some random made-up university from Primark!). Elfing is a tradition for first-years at Mount Holyoke - their "elves" (sophomores) drop small presents outside their door in the mornings (some not-so-nice elves prank their elfees by saran-wrapping their doors, but we won't go there) and at the end of the week, you meet your "elf". It's an induction of sorts, but more of a get-to-know-you tradition. 

Anna wasn't my elf, but she still insists on elfing me every year. Even if that means making cards and sending things to me in London all the way from Boston - when she's 8 months pregnant!

"Ugh, you Mount Holyoke people are soooooo weird!" John said, when I showed him my beautiful gift. "What is with you guys? Why do you keep doing this kind of stuff?"

I laughed. "You just don't get it," I said.

"No, I don't!" he replied, while simultaneously admiring my new t-shirt."Looks good on you, though."

And that's fine. Some people just don't get it. But for those who do, it's an amazing, wonderful thing.

p.s. And if you're still not tired of reading, and want to know more about my experience at Mount Holyoke College, read my Baccalaureate speech from our Commencement weekend here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring Is Here.

Folks, in a desperate attempt to make use of that quickly-fading tan from Sri Lanka, I'm sporting bare legs today, and that can only mean one thing: spring is fuh-inally here.

This also means:

Cherry blossoms. Everywhere. Specifically, on Instagram and Twitter, but the pink petals dusted my commute into work today like wedding confetti. It was wonderful.

Wild cherry ice cream from my favorite London ice cream establishment, Udderlicious, on Islington's Upper Street - which I ate outside the store while John went to look at headphones in Bose. I tried to look as content as possible and make "MmmmMMmmMM!" sounds of approval so that more people would go in and follow suit (I love supporting that family-run business!). They did.

Eating lunch outside on a work day. A small luxury in itself and a good excuse to get out of the office.

Enjoying pizza Fridays at Sweet Thursday - outdoors. I tell ya: a carafe of house red and a wood-fired oven baked pizza is the best way to celebrate #TGIF. The best.

How's your spring shaping up? Have you got your sunnies on, or is your thermostat still turned up? Let me know.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sri Lanka: Baby Sea Turtles (Enough Said.)

It's Monday. And I know how you all feel about Mondays. So, to cheer you up, here are some pictures of newborn and baby sea turtles we held during a whirlwind visit to the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Hatchery and Conservation Project in Sri Lanka.

To protect turtle eggs from poachers and other predators on Sri Lankan beaches, the hatchery purchases eggs from fishermen at a higher rate than what they'd receive from selling them on at markets for consumption. The eggs are then brought back to the hatchery, where they incubate in the sand until they're ready to hatch and ... voila. Newborns are then released back into the sea as soon as possible (at night-time!), but the hatchery is also home to some sea turtles that haven't been so lucky in life: those that are maimed (e.g. amputees from fishing net accidents), blind, or have some other disfiguration which would prevent them from surviving in the ocean, are cared for at the hatchery for the rest of their lives.

The one I'm holding in my hand above was born that morning. I was told that she liked the heat of palms, so she kind of just stretched out sweetly on my hand and didn't move too much, except to squirm a bit here and there, her flipper curling slightly over the curve of my palm. Love.

I was so sad to put her back in her tank! I couldn't stop looking at the photos I'd taken when we climbed back into the car. I wanted to play with them for forever.

John's was a bit feistier - attempting to paddle his way across his palm. I'm not sure that I've seen anything cuter than this.

Sri Lanka is home to five species of sea turtles: the Green turtle (most common), the Loggerhead turtle (rare), the Hawksbill turtle (named for its narrow, bird-like beak, and very rare), the Olive Ridley turtle (endangered), and the Leatherback turtle (which is considered to be critically endangered). Aside from the eggs, which are bought and sold on the black market, turtles are often killed for their beautiful shells to make jewellery, hair slides, and combs (tortoiseshell, anyone? Yep, that's where they come from, sadly).

We saw some of these unimaginably gorgeous shells when we visited some of the older babies in their tanks, which were just about to be released back into the ocean.

Aren't their patterns beautiful? It's incomprehensible to me how anyone could kill such a sweet and gentle creature for consumption or vanity.

This sweet girl that John and I held was 17-months old, but already quite heavy! We were told to gently support her neck with our fingers, and she timidly, languidly, stretched her head out from under her shell to explore while we held her in amazement.

I'll leave you with my favorite shot - a newborn that was bewildered (and probably alarmed, poor thing!) to be taken out of the water, flippers flailing.

So, happy Monday.