The First Week: Complete!

It’s funny how time works. Sometimes it flies by… sometimes it crawls. This week was a bit of both.

I woke up early on Monday and gave myself plenty of time to get ready. You can’t be late for the first day! I left my apartment at 8:30 with the intent of arriving at work by 9:00am. After two years of commuting at 6:30am with no traffic, I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily my route is a simple drive down a not-so-popular road, so there wasn’t much traffic. It is only one lane, so sometimes it gets backed up when people try to make left turns, but it isn’t too bad. My commute was only 7 minutes!

My first day was filled with the basics – tax forms, signing agreements, and getting a parking pass. Everyone was so friendly! I’ll be working in the Operations department (which is really just a cluster of desks!) with two other ladies. They took me out to lunch on my first day and told me what to expect!

The office is so Portland. It is a nondescript building with no signage except a large hotdog hanging above the entrance. You enter and immediately walk up a flight of creaky stairs under a hipster mural. The lobby is complete with a pirate’s chest full of crushed PBR beer cans, a stuffed bobcat that the owner shot on her property, and a big display of rusty circular saw blades surrounding a painting of a naked lady eating ice cream. Very eclectic, for sure! There really aren’t any rooms or doors in the entire office except for the bathrooms, the owners office, and a meeting room. The rest is an open floor plan. No cubicles – just desks and fun art on the walls.

I sit in the corner closest to the door so I can greet clients. We only have 1-2 visit per week. There also haven’t been any phone calls all week! This is definitely a change from the optometry office where I greeted at least 100 people per day and answered 50 calls!

We have a shared music system that plays throughout the entire office. We can all add songs via an app on our computer. They didn’t like my techno songs, but they seemed to enjoy when I played Fleetwood Mac!

Learning names has been the hardest part. Most of the office is female 20-somethings with messy hair and tattoos. Since my legal name is Katie, that is what I have on my resume. I wanted to be polite and not correct them to “Kate” during the interview, so on the first day when they told me there are 3 other Katie’s, I offered to go by Kate!

My week has consisted of a lot of learning! After the first 2 days, my brain was fried. I had to go home and immediately go to sleep to process it all. I don’t think I had ever been more exhausted! On top of learning how to enter receipts in to the budget and open new job sheets for clients, I made so many errands! I am in charge of keeping the kitchen stocked, preparing snacks, and making the food for the weekly Friday meetings. The office manager showed me the closest grocery stores and what they usually buy. It was a lot of walking and carrying heavy bags! On top of that, I get to help out Project Managers with their deliverables, so I was tasked with putting together presentation shipments and then hauling them all to Fedex! I’m so thrilled to have a job where I don’t sit at a desk all day. I love the variety!

The rest of the week has been more relaxed. I’ve finally gotten the hang of things and have an idea of my daily routine. During my tour, the office manager complained about the messiness of all the drawers in the kitchen. I spent a good deal of time purchasing organizer containers and getting the drawers in order. Everyone is so happy! They said they asked the girl I replaced to do it countless times and she never did.

I think the part I will enjoy the most is preparing food. I’ve had so much fun brainstorming snack ideas. For the Friday meetings, I have a $50 budget for finger food, so I’m going to make it themed! Summer is ending, so my first week is going to be “campfire” themed with s’mores desserts (click for recipe), spicy jalapeño popcorn, and hotdog rolls! There are a TON of leftover hotdogs, so I’ll use those to save money. I feel like I was born for this job because I love to cook and I’m so frugal!

Even though I’ve learned a lot this week, it has just flown by! It feels like just yesterday I was nervous about my first day. I’m still a little stressed out after a long week of new experiences, so I scheduled a float session.

Float tanks are pretty trendy right now. You can either go to a spa or a designated float shop. Usually you schedule a 90 minute session for about $50. Cheaper than a massage! During this time, you float in the tank to achieve total relaxation. The water is actually a salt solution designed to make you feel weightless. Apparently you can’t tell where the water ends and the air begins. It is also completely dark, so you have no perception of space. The “tank” itself can take many forms: a space-age pod, a tiny room with a cellar door, or an entire open-air room for those who are claustrophobic. I booked the medium sized room. It is about the size of a large gas station ice cooler. Everyone I know who has floated has loved it, so I guess I’ll give it a shot!

The Next Chapter

This summer has been a season of change.

My close friend Alicia moved away to go to grad school. My best friend from high school, Mackinley, moved to Portland! Several of my friends were offered new jobs, so we had many celebratory drinks.

Throughout all of this change, I realized I am stagnant.

I have a wonderful apartment that requires no more DIY improvements. I have a steady job with the same schedule and I see the same coworkers every day. I go to the same fitness classes and frequent the same bars on the weekends. Life is good… but predictable – and I started to become boring.

My friend Joe made me realize that the only way to feel fulfilled is to keep challenging yourself, especially in the workplace. Currently, I come to work, complete my list of duties, and then watch the clock until I can leave. I love talking to my coworkers, but I don’t have much passion for optometry. Even in school, I hated the chapters on learning the anatomy of the eye. I simply didn’t find it interesting! I certainly don’t want to become an optometrist or even an optician. I don’t want a career in optometry… so what am I doing here?

I accepted this position because I needed a paycheck, but I stayed because I genuinely enjoyed my coworkers and morale of the office. My first year was exciting because I was still learning the system and how to operate the machines, but now I know. Clicking the same buttons every day has become monotonous. The last two years have given me time to discover the type of work I enjoy. I LOVE when my manager gives me a hands-on project like unpacking the new contact lenses and reorganizing the lens room to make them fit. I don’t quite enjoy talking to patients on the phone and getting screamed at because we don’t have a same-day appointment. My coworkers are amazing extroverts and can strike up a conversation with anyone. They have the type of personality that makes them thrive in customer service. I’ve realized that my skills are more suited for organizational, data-based work. I am certainly friendly and helpful toward patients (I haven’t had any complaints!), but I get so much more satisfaction from completing a project than hearing a patient say “Thank you, Kate!” Different strokes for different folks.

I think my true realization occurred when I was talking to my brother and he urged me to look into project management. It’s a tricky field to get into without experience, but I started looking for any position that was operations-based. I started back in spring, but I didn’t want to settle, so I was picky. I had a couple interviews but nothing felt quite right. In June, I interviewed with a design agency as a studio coordinator. After a couple more rounds of interviews, they offered me a job!

What is a studio coordinator? I think of it as being the junior office manager. Technically I’ll be working under the operations manager (and maybe someday becoming it!) and I’ll be handling all of the nitty-gritty details of logistics in the office. I asked for a general run down of my daily responsibilities and they said there is no “normal.” Each day is different, but I’ll be prepping the office for meetings, assisting design teams with projects, delivering hard copies to clients, and a lot of hands-on work putting together projects in the garage (the exact work I was looking for). I’m excited to finally get out of a desk chair!

I start this coming Monday. I know the first couple of weeks will have a learning curve, but I’m not that nervous. I am a quick learner and the company seems filled with friendly people. One of my current coworker’s friends works there! I looked at their Instagram and they definitely have a fun office environment suited for millennials. Every Friday is “bring your pet to work” day!

But when a new door opens… another must close. It was so hard to give my two weeks notice at my current job. My manager has become a close friend. I went to her house for Easter, her husband reads my blog, and I even housesat for them last weekend! It felt like I was breaking up with my Portland family. I’m most upset about not seeing my front desk mate, David. We spend 8 hours per day sitting next to each other… and even more snapchatting after work! Management has likened us to siblings because we always bicker, but deep down we really care.

I’ll also be sad to leave my lunch buddy. For the last two years, I’ve eaten lunch every day with one of the doctors. She is a mother of two, so she always gives me advice when I need it. She’s heard all of my dating stories and was one of the biggest motivators in my departure. She encouraged me not to get stuck here. While it broke my heart to tell her I was leaving, she supported me and said she knew I was capable of bigger and better things. The saddest part is knowing I will never be close to these people again. Sure, I can meet them for drinks (unlikely since they all have families), but there’s always going to be this new distance. It’s a bittersweet goodbye.

Ultimately, I’m excited for this change in my life! The only part I am bummed about is my shift in schedule. Instead of working 6:45-3:45 and avoiding traffic, I have to work the typical 9-6. The office is in the better location, though! It is in the “hip” part of the SE and should be a quicker drive. I’ll report back after my first day!

A Weekend in Vancouver, Canada!

As I took the majority of my vacation days when I went to Asia, it has been hard to find the time to travel! One of my good friends, Alicia, is leaving to go to grad school, so we decided to go on a weekend trip to Vancouver, Canada, as a final hurrah!

I have been to Vancouver once before in 2013, but Alicia had never been. We took the Bolt Bus ($80 round trip!) and stayed at the Cambie Hostel ($15 a night!) in order to save money. The Bolt Bus takes 8 hours and has stop-overs in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington. It takes a bit longer than driving, but is so much cheaper! And it has wifi and outlets, so we spent the entire time napping and listening to podcasts.

We arrived at 9pm on Wednesday. We found our way to the hostel and checked in, only to find that the remaining 2 beds in the room of 8 were top bunks. Lame! I spent the first night sleeping above a Brazilian guy who kept tossing and turning the entire night. Doesn’t he know that bunk beds shake?! He also kept itching his skin incessantly which was pretty gross.

The next day, we decided to switch beds to the opposite side of the room, away from the weird Brazilian. I got a bottom bunk next to a window that had a breeze, so it was great! We spent the entire first day walking around Vancouver and Stanley Park. We walked a total of 15 miles!

The food in Vancouver is so expensive. An “inexpensive” meal in the “$$” range is $15-$20! That’s too much to spend on lunch, so we brought a lot of protein bars and ate the complimentary muffins the hostel provided. We did splurge a couple of times on nicer food. My favorite was a picnic board where you built your own sandwiches! The entire platter was $15 and we split it between the two of us. Extravagant but cheap!

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On Friday, we found a bar to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It was a lot of fun and we even got to see the city light the Vancouver Cauldron from the 2010 games! That night, we planned to go to the Richmond Night Market which is famous for Asian street food and unique wares. We spent $9 to get there and it took 45 minutes on public transit. Once we arrived, there was an additional 15 minutes of walking to the market and being shuffled around by crossing guards and crowd management. It was packed! We stood in line for 20 minutes before deciding it wasn’t worth it. The food was still expensive ($10 for street food!) and the fairgrounds were exploding with people. There wasn’t an inch to move inside the fence! We left and took the train back to Vancouver, feeling defeated.

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The next day, we took the ferry across the water to North Vancouver where we went to the Lonsdale Quay market. That was much better! We didn’t find anything to buy, but it was nice being on the harbor. We stopped by a restaurant to get brunch. Did you know that in Vancouver, Bloody Marys are called Caesars? They’re made with clam juice, too! Pretty tasty. I also got to have taiyaki – my favorite fish shaped pastry I discovered in Tokyo! We ordered 3 of them to share… one with beans, one with custard, and one with nutella!

On our final day, we stopped by Tim Horton’s, the famous Canadian coffee chain. I ordered “one iced coffee” which typically is just black coffee with ice. I was served a beverage that was almost white in color and tasted like melted ice cream. It had so much cream and sugar, it didn’t even taste like coffee! Since turning 24, I’ve realized that I need to start asking for what I want, especially in stores. So at Tim Horton’s, I had no problem with telling the barista that I wanted a BLACK coffee. She seemed irritated, but ultimately switched out the coffee. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask!

The bus back to Portland was less fun than the ride to Canada. A loud group of 20-somethings got on in Seattle and kept LOUDLY talking about attractive women and explicit topics. The entire bus kept giving them the stink eye until they got the message and shut up. Some people just don’t know how to act in public.

Overall, it was a fun trip! Vancouver is a great city with amazing food (if you want to spend the money!) There aren’t many cultural or historical sites, so there isn’t much to tour. Unless you have friends who live there or are into the bar scene, I wouldn’t recommend going there on a long vacation, but it’s great for a short trip!

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The Big 2-4!

In just 10 days I will be turning 24!

My birthday falls on a Saturday this year, so I’ve organized a big weekend event. I jokingly invited one of my best friends, Caroline, who I met during study abroad and currently lives in DC. She surprised me by buying a plane ticket to come visit! I’m taking a long weekend so I can show her around and celebrate.

Otherwise, my summer has been fairly uneventful. We are nearing the end of kickball season – only 2 games left! The season wasn’t as fun as I expected it to be. I joined to meet new friends and run around in the sunshine, but none of my teammates like to go out after games… in fact, most of them joined with a significant other, so they keep to themselves! There are also quite a few competitive people on our team which makes it less fun for those of us who just want to have fun.

The 4th of July was a lot of fun! I had a bunch of friends over for drinks before we headed to a neighborhood grill out. So much yummy food! I made watermelon jello shots that were cut into triangles on an actual watermelon rind. They were very popular.

In exciting work news, we won the Best Eyewear Shop in Portland! Thanks to everyone who voted!

Now I am just gearing up for my next trip to Vancouver, Canada, in early August. I am going for a 4 day weekend with my friend Alicia. I’m thrilled that we are staying at my favorite hostel! It will be interesting to see how much it has changed since I was last there in 2013.

Summer Kickball League!

I wanted something new and fun to do this summer, so I joined a kickball league with two of my friends – Leila and Joe!

We signed up for the league and were placed with other players who didn’t have enough people to form an entire team. Most of the teams we play against are groups of friends or coworkers who signed up together as a team. We are the underdogs! So far our season is 0-2, but there are still 6 weeks left of the season, so we might still win a couple.

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Vote for Eyes on Broadway!

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The local newspaper has a yearly “Reader’s Poll” where readers nominate local businesses in a variety of categories. We won the title of “Best Eyewear Shop” in 2015… and we’ve been nominated again for 2016!

As I am in charge of our social media, I am inadvertently responsible for our victory! If you wouldn’t mind, please vote for us at the link below…

http://wweek.secondstreetapp.com/l/BOP-Voting-2016/Ballot/LocalBusinessService

It does make you enter your email and zip code, but it doesn’t send you any spam. It is just to verify that you’re an actual person!

You can find us under “Local Businesses” and then halfway down the page “Best Eyewear Shop.” Results will be published in July! Fingers crossed!

Last 2 Days in Japan!

Our last couple of days flew by! Tokyo is such a large city, but I feel like we managed to see and do most of the major attractions. If we had another day in the city, I would have wanted to take the bullet train to Hiroshima or Kyoto. We spent our last full day traveling into the “suburbs” (a stretch considering Tokyo is so dense!) to see the hipster neighborhood of Shimokitazawa. As we were in the metro station, we spotted cherry blossom lattes! We had wanted one from Starbucks and saw them in Korea, but by the time we made it to Tokyo, they were discontinued!

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We wandered up and down the main street full of thrift shops and salons. If the city center of Tokyo was NYC and our hostel’s neighborhood of Shinjuku was Chicago… Shimokitazawa was definitely Portland. The residents were younger and better dressed than everyone we had seen so far! The skyscrapers had vanished and we were suddenly in a quaint, quiet neighborhood.

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I had read about a small bakery that exclusively made Totoro pastries. “My Neighbor Totoro” is a movie by Miyazaki that I loved when I was growing up. Joe was also familiar with the movie and wanted to check it out. We went to the bakery and had another confusing incident. Apparently the house it is located in is separated into a restaurant and a bakery. We walked into the bakery and she asked if we wanted to eat it there. We said sure and she said “Then you must order upstairs at restaurant.” We walked upstairs and were told it would be an hour long wait! We had to return to the bakery and explain that we actually would just take it to-go.

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Once we got our pastries (I got banana cream filling and Joe got custard), we went to Yoyogi Park to eat them. I expected it to be quiet and relaxing, but apparently there was a giant festival! The park was PACKED with people. It looked like ants swarming an anthill. We found a spot and started eating our delicious Totoros!

Joe wanted to go check out the Meiji Shrine attached to the park, but I had already toured it the day before, so I chose to grab lunch in the park. I ordered two of the most popular street foods – yakitori (meat on a stick) and takoyaki (a vegetable batter ball with octopus inside, topped with eel sauce and mayonnaise and seaweed!).

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It was great people watching in the park! I saw so many interesting things! One group of people were filming a shoe commercial and another group were playing drum music. A boyfriend was trying to take care of his sickly drunk girlfriend who was sleeping on a bench and another boyfriend was trying to hold his stumbling girlfriend upright. The Japanese can definitely drink! And this was at 4pm on a Saturday!

Joe and I met up and decided to go get dinner. It was our last dinner in Tokyo and we wanted ramen! We found the best ramen spot in Shibuya. We expected to wait, but there were only a few people waiting outside the door, so we got in line. We were quickly informed that the line “actually” began on the opposite side of the sidewalk behind 20 more people. The restaurant actually employed a hostess to stand outside and organize people in line to keep the sidewalk clear due to the high volume of pedestrians. After 1.5 hours of waiting in line, we made it inside! It was a tiny restaurant with 21 seats. Each seat had its own window into the kitchen. You purchased your meal ticket at a vending machine upon entering and then filled out a questionnaire about your ramen preferences. Then, you rolled up the window and handed it to the chef who soon delivered your food. It was pretty weird, especially considering the window was tiny and you couldn’t see the face of whoever you were talking to!

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My ramen was okay. It wasn’t as great as the ramen we had the very first night! These noodles were thin and I like mine pretty thick. The pork was also sliced into thin pieces, whereas the pork before was in giant chunks!

We had planned to go out to celebrate our last night, but we were just too exhausted – this seemed to be a common theme of the trip! We crashed early and set our alarms early the next morning to check out of the hostel.

10am rolled around and I was in the lobby waiting for Joe. We had planned to leave at 10 to get an early start on the day. Soon, 10:15 rolled around and he still wasn’t anywhere to be found. Turns out, he slept through his alarm! We didn’t leave until around 11:30 after we checked out of the hostel.

We made our way to the Hello Kitty cafe called Cafe de Miki in the Diver City mall in Odaiba. It is a giant man-made island off the coast of Tokyo. It was nice to be near the water! The island is known for its modern architecture and skywalks!

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I had heard about a candy store nearby, so we went to check it out and found the infamous flavors of Kit Kats! I bought wasabi, green tea, sake, and cherry blossom flavors. They were absolutely delicious – sake was my favorite. I brought a bunch back for my coworkers and friends to try!

We wandered along the waterfront and saw the beach. Interestingly enough, it restricted swimming. I read online that this is because of the pollution in the water! Gross.

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Joe wanted to go to a design museum, so we split up and I walked around Odaiba. A couple days earlier, we tried to find a purikura, or traditional Japanese Photo Booth. We found one, but it was already closed so we couldn’t use it! Taking photos in a purikura was one of the main things I wanted to do, so I was determined to find one. While wandering around the mall, I stumbled upon an arcade and took a chance to see if they had a purikura area. They did! I spent 30 minutes and $10 to take the most amazing photos of all time!

First, you walk down the narrow hallways between the machines and try to decide on which one you want to use. I didn’t quite understand the difference, so I did a bunch!

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There are 3 different sections to the machine – first, you pay on the outside and select your soundtrack and background, then you enter into the “photo area” where you take the pictures, then you go into another room where you can edit the photos. The process is pretty confusing! And you only get 30 seconds to edit each photo which is difficult when all of the menus are in Japanese!

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And that’s just one of the photo sheets! I have 3 or 4 more! I wish I could have a higher quality copy. There was an option for the machine to text the photos to you, but it only used Japanese numbers and carriers😦

I met up with Joe at the Tokyo Tower. It is a similar attraction to the Tokyo Skytree, but the Tower is shaped like the Eiffel Tower. As I was looking over the guidebooks, I realized this was the only spot we didn’t visit, so we planned to meet there before we left for the airport.

Getting from Odaiba to the Tower was… interesting. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have data on my phone. Before we split, I had Joe route me on his phone and then I took a photo of it. I went back to the Odaiba metro station and didn’t see any lines that matched the instructions on his phone. I went with my best guess and went 3 metro stops before I realized it was NOT the right way! I had to retrace my steps. Once I was back in Odaiba, I realized I was supposed to leave from a different metro station! I tried to swipe my card to leave, but the machine started an alarm and wouldn’t let me out. I assume it is because I didn’t actually GO anywhere and it was confused why I was trying to exit from the station I entered. I flagged down the worker and he let me leave with a chuckle.

I followed the instructions and made it into the city. I just had to take a bus to the Tower. I found the bus station and compared the Japanese on my phone to that on the stop – it matched exactly! I was so proud of myself. I got on the bus and followed my GPS location on my phone. The bus was following the intended route… until suddenly it veered off track and started going the wrong way! I immediately pressed the “stop request” button and got off. I still have no idea why the bus route was different than that on Google Maps!

Joe and I had planned to meet at the Tower at 7:00pm. We agreed to wait until 7:10, and if the other one didn’t show up, we would meet at the hostel at 8:00pm. When I got off the bus, it was 6:55 and I was 25 blocks from the Tower. There was NO way I could walk it and I didn’t have any way to figure out an alternative route. If I missed meeting Joe, I would have to figure out how to get back to the hostel and that seemed impossible without wifi. This was the first time I felt truly lost and helpless! I did what any stranded tourist would do – flag down an expensive taxi.

I made it to the Tower on time and met Joe after a $10 cab ride. We took the elevator to the top and got a gorgeous view of the city!

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We took the metro back to the hostel to pick up our bags and then headed to the airport. We wanted to get a good dinner in Tokyo, but there were no places along our route, and we didn’t want to have to haul our luggage into a small restaurant. We made it to Haneda airport and found a table with an outlet and ate and drank to our hearts’ content. He ordered a burger and fries and I got my favorite… ramen!

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The flight back to America was painless. I didn’t intend to sleep, but I nodded off during the second movie I tried to watch. I think I slept for about 4 hours! I woke up as they were serving the meal. I got the pasta and it was a simple mac and cheese… disappointing!

We had a 3 hour layover in San Francisco, so we went to a bar and drank a few beers. I looked at my passport and realized I’ve filled 12 pages and only have 8 to go before it expires in 2022. It is my goal to fill it, but thats only 6 years. Even if I do one major trip per year, that isn’t enough! I need to step up my game!

This trip was so much fun. I know I say this each time I travel, but I didn’t realize how similar we all are. I imagined life in Asia to be much less… western. I didn’t expect to feel the hustle and bustle of America, but Japan is a thriving city with just as much excitement. Both Korea and Japan are much more inclusive and I found it more difficult to meet locals. Going out is also much more difficult due to the lack of “just bars” and the requirement of a cover charge or mandatory food. We still had fun nights… but it sure was expensive!

I also realized that I’m growing up. Traveling in my early 20s was all about partying and eating at the BEST restaurants and maximizing every moment. My goal of NOT planning this trip resulting in a much more relaxing time. I caught myself appreciating the moment a lot more frequently. Joe became the “Planner” during the trip and I could tell he was a lot more stressed out than me. Our generation has a tendency to want only the best – the best restaurant, the best menu item, the best seat at the show – but, in reality, anything can be the best if you take the time to enjoy it. Our favorite bar in Tokyo wasn’t one that we found online… we stumbled into it and ended up loving it! I’m going to try to adopt this way of thinking in my life in America. Instead of planning out every weekend, I’m just going to go with the flow and see how it works out.

But for now… off to plan my next trip!