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Hi friends,

Yesterday was a day of food. The title of this post is a little misleading because only a small fraction of this post (and my weekend) was spent in the Arts District.

On Saturday, my friends and I drove down to the Arts District in LA. The district was full of industrial warehouses, painted with giant murals. We brunched at a fusion vegan cafe called Cafe Gratitude. I got the "liberated," a kelp-noodle pad thai-inspired dish. Each of the dishes are called by an adjective so that when you order, you could say "I am…" Daniel (see his guest post about JPL here) was "humble," an Indian-inspired curry bowl, and John was "elated,"enchiladas with mushrooms, black beans, and other goodies. The food was a bit pricey and the servings a little small for some of us, but I appreciate the very intentional "peace" and "love each other" sort of vibes. To encourage "positive conversation," our waiter left us with a question after he took our orders: "What have you learned recently?" Our discussion went from Captain Underpants and other books we had read to Prince Rupert’s drops (look them up if you don’t know what they are!!) and countersteering bikes to whether or not that cafe was Christian (it wasn’t).

After our very wholesome, cleansing, refreshing brunch, we walked around and found ourselves in a nearby art and design bookstore. (Those are traps, truly, designed to capture any procrastinating college student and render them even further doomed.) There were photography books of cats in the sun, Scandinavian interior design books, minimalist design books…Yuka and John got some honeycomb ice cream at the Van Leeuwen next door. They sell organic and vegan ice cream options, and sometimes their trucks drive around Pasadena, too.We visited the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, an art gallery with a giant 30-foot tall rose ("Rose III," by Isa Genzken), a gorgeous garden complete with a chicken yard that supplies the attached cafe with veggies and eggs, and rotating exhibits.

Little Tokyo was just a couple of streets over, so we visited Fugetsu-do, a mochi and confectionery shop that is family-owned and over a century old. If you’re ever in Little Tokyo, this is definitely worth a visit. The vendors were super sweet and the mochi was, too. In my memory, mochi is a little less sweet… but perhaps they ramp it up for the market here… Still quite fantastic and just really neat to see all the varieties and shapes. Each piece of mochi is delicately crafted into a little work of art that looks almost too precious to eat, not that that stopped me, heh.

This weekend was the lantern festival, and the lanterns from the lunar new year were still up and swinging. (Actually, maybe they’re always up. I forget.) There was barely a breeze, but the lanterns appeared to be dancing. In the center of the plaza surrounded by bustling shops, an old man sang and played various instruments to a recorded beat playing from his amp. He sat in a motorized wheelchair and sang with a wavery voice, and while at first his music seemed a little funny, it carried a special magic that entranced its listeners. Shoppers slowed to a stop, lost in the eccentric sounds that composed the meandering tune. The lanterns bounced and danced on the beat, swaying side to side alternating which side like oompa loompas. Maybe it’s because I spent this year learning Japanese, but I grew more aware of and attentive to the notes of the wind, the different scents the passing breeze carried, the textured light that snuck through the cloud filters. It had been raining a lot recently, but Saturday afternoon was clean and the sky was quiet at last.

Saturday afternoon was spent in hip hop and a cappella rehearsal. The dance show is coming up, and I can finally make time again this year to dance in it. In two hours, we learned some choreo for Beyonce’s Formation. It’s quite dramatic, but I love feeling the dance take up residence in my muscles. Although we all learn the same choreo, watching everyone dance is great because the dance lives a little differently through each of us–it is filtered through our build, our hair, our clothing styles, our heights… We are the same, and yet we are distinct. A cappella rehearsal was before a mirror so we could move more intentionally and critically. We’ll be singing at Disneyland in a week! We’ve learned six songs in as many weeks, somehow between classes and homework and other extracurriculars… we sound good, and I’m excited. Hopefully I can get a video of us that I can share here later. If you happen to be going to Disneyland (California Adventure) on Saturday, 2/18, do come see us! We perform at 11 on the Hollywood Backlot stage. (Shameless plug.)

For dinner, we went to celebrate good grad school news with Daniel. He’s from Singapore, so we went to his favorite restaurant, a Malaysian/Singaporean spot inMonterey Park called Pappa Rich. He says it’s still not exactly like home, but it’s the best he’s found out here. Unfortunately, I’d only had Singaporean food once before, but now I know. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it! In short, think Cantonese meets Indian. Flavorful, colorful, texture-diversenoodles and stirfry and roti… oh my. I’ll definitely be back. (: We were pretty stuffed, but somehow discovered extra stomach-space for some shaved ice at the Snowy Village across the way.

I’m writing this in Copa Vida (I’m supposed to be working on an essay about the oppression of women in early Gothic Fiction). It’s a laid-back, sunny Sunday afternoon that’s reminiscent of childhood lazy Sunday afternoons. Church this morning was great–a reminder that the gospel, that Jesusis the Son of God and the Messiah, is what truly matters and the sole crux of the Christian faith. We continued to discuss and digest this as we lunched at The Original Farmer’s Market by The Grove, where Cherish and I tried a waffleshot (coffee in a chocolate-coated waffle cone base). We both tried the affogato (ice cream with a shot of espresso). From another stall, my roommate, Anne, got two more types of tea for her growing collection.

keep lookin’ up,


Jenny Sheng