Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Today I was invited to a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (200JPY entry fee) with Naoko and friends. It was nice to explore parts of Tokyo that I have not seen before; I’m currently located in the calmer, more residential Koenji area. The garden itself is so peaceful and clean, and there is a large greenhouse inside of its boundaries that contains many beautiful flowers and other plants that I’ve never seen before. I took a few snaps of some of my favorite ones and definitely plan on visiting the garden again before I leave Japan.

Automattic Theme Division Meetup in Lihue, Hawaii

I spent all of last week in Lihue, Hawaii, with the Automattic Theme Division. We’re growing — 14 employees currently make up the group and we’re looking to hire more people — but make time to meet in person at least once annually and talk about high level objectives for the year.

Of all the Theme Team and Theme Division meetups I’ve been to so far since beginning my work at Automattic, Lihue has been my favorite, hands down. The weather was spectacular throughout the entire week, the stars shone more brightly than in any location I’ve ever been (although, the Catskills do come close), and the chats I had with teammates over dinner, getting to know them beyond the work that we do, really was quite lovely.

I’ve made a few very close friends at Automattic and know that whatever happens down the road, I’ll always be thankful that my career choices have brought them into my life. It’s easy to grow cynical, jaded, frustrated, and tired of the people and politics in my industry, but when I take time to meet people face-to-face, talk about life that exists away from the computer screen, and spend a few moments appreciating the good instead of the bad, everything feels much better.

Life is so short and when my time is up I’ll look back to these moments with a joyous heart, and will only focus on the wonderful memories that were shared in far away places with like-minded individuals. Everything else will fade away into the background.

Donna’s Wedding Day

My best friend’s wedding finally happened today and I took some photos to remember it forever. Words can’t describe how happy I am for her and her husband, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to fly all the way from Vietnam to spend time with her and the family for a few days. My favorite photo of the following set is of course that of Donna and I. We’ve been best friends for the last 15 years and it’s incredible how far we both have come since then. I love her so much and her husband is a great, great guy. All in all just spectacular.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner at Kim Son Restaurant

My best friend will marry tomorrow; tonight was the rehearsal dinner at Kim Son Restaurant in Houston, Texas, and I am so happy that I was able to make it, despite living so far away.

The food was amazing and all of the family and friends who I hadn’t seen in many years looked wonderful. This was also the first truly bilingual—Vietnamese and English—wedding rehearsal dinner that I’d ever attended. I’ll likely write about the actual rehearsal a bit later but it was so lovely that, for right now at least, I’m at a loss for words.

Lễ ông Công ông Táo

Shortly before Tết and my work trip to the United States this year I spent time celebrating the kitchen gods with my close friends at Khách sạn Quang Hiệp, my old home in Hanoi.

It’s amazing to think that instead of moving into an apartment or house when I first arrived I decided to instead spend 18 months living in a guesthouse. It was an interesting—to say the least—experiment in patience, privacy, and the mixture of business and friendship.

When I made the decision to leave the guesthouse and move into my apartment in a district that’s 30 minutes away by taxi from Hoan Kiem lake, I knew that it was the end of the QH chapter of my life. I’ll certainly stop by every few weeks to say Hi and check in on the guesthouse, but things and people change, and a year from now I’ll likely hardly stop by.

That’s the way things go sometimes, I guess. For now, though, I’ll gladly take pleasure in knowing that without the gang at Quang Hiep Hotel my life would have been half as happy during the last year and a half. I’m fortunate to have met everyone there, and it gives me joy to know they feel the same way.

Here’s to the kitchen gods…