Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The One About Rome...

My mind is made up. If I weren't Samoan, I'd want to be Italian. Five days in Rome will do that to you.

Favorite Sites: Coliseum and Sistine Chapel

Sure, both are well known attractions but they were so impressionable and wondrous. While walking through the arches of the Coliseum, I could really imagine a boisterous crowd cheering for their favorite warriors and/or secretly hoping their fate was sealed by a large saber tooth tiger... haha. The Sistine Chapel silenced my heart. Well-known biblical characters came alive at every inch of the chapel. I spent 20 minutes poring over every image beautifully detailed in dreamy colors.

Favorite Restaurant: Trattoria al Varesino

Tucked away in a very small basement off of via Marghera and Veranese was my favorite restaurant. Completely run by patriarch Fernando and his family, Varesino produced the best spaghetti carbonara I've ever eaten. But I was more in love with their homemade ravioli, beef steak and tiramisu (hold on to your seat!) from my second trip (yes, I ate dinner there twice...)  And the environment was homely. Fernando and his family knew most of the customers by their first names. To borrow from Olive Garden: When you're here, you're family... And I felt like it.

Favorite Moment: Emaline Fonoti

This trip cemented one thing for me: I am my mother's son. I completely forgot how similar we are. I basically went to Rome with myself (in ~30 years). My ability to quickly develop relationships with others, bargain shop and survive in any environment were innately passed down from my mom. As travel companions, I never once worried if we were separated or randomly took the wrong bus/train. We somehow always caught up with each other and adapted seamlessly (well... for the most part! haha) to any circumstance. We didn't even need to talk most times as we wordlessly followed each other throughout Rome. 

Taj Mahal (Agra, India) 
Chichen Itza (Yucatan, Mexico)
Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) 
Petra (Ma'an Governorate, Jordan) 
Great Wall of China (Beijing, China) - NEXT
Colloseum (Rome, Italy) 
Macchu Picchu (Cusco region, Peru) 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The One About The Cheshire Cat...

I randomly re-read Alice in Wonderland after finding a very used copy at the airport. I enjoyed the dizzying conversations between Alice and her nonsensical acquaintances but one particular interaction stood out.

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? 
Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to
Alice: I don't care where
Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't matter which way you go 

Almost three months since we buried my father in Samoa and I'm finally realizing how dazed I've been.  In my hastiness to cope with this sentimental loss, I've continued a vigorous routine of work and school (and work again) with no true sense of direction or purpose. I've wallowed into just surviving each new day. My new church calling as activities chair has helped tremendously. Serving others has that tendency of putting life back into perspective. I still think of my dad every day with incredible sadness. But I'm at least slowly hobbling on a path away from aimless wandering. After all, my dad would have never approved of me asking a cat for directions...

Up to Bat: Starting 2nd half of last semester of my first year (dizzying, right?)
On Deck: Trip to Rome with the Madre in 3 weeks 
In the Hole: Christmas/Holidays with the entire family!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The One About EP...

I remember when I first discovered my love for singing. It was when Whoopi Goldberg told Lauryn Hill that if singing was the first thing she thought of after waking up in the morning, singing was her true passion. (anyone know what movie?) I definitely empathized. Not that I wake up every morning singing... I don't live in a musical. haha. But I'm always humming a tune during my morning routine. Will even belt a couple melismas if its a great morning.

This last weekend, I was part of Everyday People's 25th Reunion Show. Everyday People (EP) was the college a cappella group I sang in during my undergrad years. We wore all black, wailed soul, r&b, and Motown classics and even traveled the world. Seriously. I've toured the east coast (DC to NYC), Jamaica, Mexico, Bahamas and Hawaii with the group. That's pretty impressive for a financially independent student group.

There are a number of groups and communities that I have been affiliated with over the years. One group I will always have time for is EP. Not only was I constantly enveloped in music but heftily supported by great friends. Trust me, you'll always be close to those you sing oohs and aahs with... haha. EP25 allowed me to reconnect with old friends but also remember how much I enjoy singing. Will attempt something musical until EP30. Aca-amazing.

                                                 25 Years of Everyday People

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The One About Disney Animals...

I just spent the last hour perusing random blogs and I noticed two trends:

1) I am a minority blogger. There are rarely any blogs maintained by single males... (prob contributes to my singleness)

2) A significant number of bloggers are mothers and wives sharing valuable household advice

I wondered... Is it possible for these trends to intersect? Could my blog dispense household advice? I highly doubt that my experiences are at all applicable to these busy matriarchs. And then I realized that my ability to pawn off domestic responsibilities could and would surely be helpful to someone. Maybe even you, dear reader. So here it is: my first attempt at sharing a great "homemaking" tip. 

Convert Your Help!

Groupon, Living Social and City Deals frequently offer cleaning services at great prices. I recently purchased a 4-hour cleaning service for $70. Yesterday, two cleaners came by and I worked from home  to let them in and huddle over what I wanted cleaned. Like adorable Disney animals, they mopped floors, scrubbed tiles and dusted every surface quickly and happily as I sang and waved from my work computer. I would occasionally ask them questions: Do you like your boss? Are you treated well by your agency? Is there adequate compensation? I passed them bottles of water and fruit after asking this question... By the end of their cleaning period, I hired them as independent contractors paying $80 for the same two hours of work per cleaner once a month. This was drastically cheaper than the usual $150 fee charged by their agency in which these cleaners earn $10/hour. They now make $20/hour. 

Look, we can argue about the true value of $80/month until we're blue in the face. But I'm more concerned with the opportunity cost --- the great and wonderful things I can do with the time and effort saved from cleaning my own house. I'm sure you can too. Plus, this feeds into my fantasy of living in a hotel and having daily room/maid service...

Let me know if you local SLC peeps are interested in this great deal. But be warned, they're booked every last Saturday morning of each month. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The One About Fonoti...

My dad passed away on July 23, 2012. I had already braced for this news. He was in a coma after a tricky procedure cleared all hemorrhaging in his brain. While my father's body still functioned with assistance, the lack of brain activity forced my mom to remove life support after 30 hours.

Within two days of hearing that my dad was rushed to the hospital, he was gone. And I was completely broken.

Fonoti Oliovaigafa Toni is my best kept secret. He and my mom are the true source of any of my successes. Looking back, he pushed me both athletically and academically. From early morning beach runs to multiplication/spelling tests, he was relentless in ensuring I did well in school and sports. And that was at nine years old. During my collegiate years at Stanford University, our relationship was slightly strained as I felt burdened by his expectations. They looked incredibly lofty from where I stood. In the last couple years, I realized that his expectations were based on potential he recognized in me. Potential I had no idea existed. Regardless, he loved me the same - celebrating my successes and comforting me during my failures. He rarely expressed his love verbally but I felt it vibrate in my soul.

My father worked his entire life providing for our family. Even up till when he finally collapsed while designing our new family house in Samoa. It was only fitting that we buried him there, on our land in Malololelei. Our land has a prime view of Apia and the Pacific Ocean. A view from which I hope he watches us, his children, continue to honor the sacrifices he made. Bringing us to America so that we be educated, independent and continually god-fearing. Manuia lou malaga, Dad.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The One About the Seaman...

When my younger brother turned 25 last week, I realized I missed him immensely. I don't know why. He's quick to point out my weight gain. Complains incessantly about my singing. Borrows clothes/shoes without permission. Haha! I could go on... In some ways, he'll always be my little brother. I still feel the need to pay for his meals, buy him gifts from my travels and somehow attempt to make his life easier. In some ways I feel guilty for when I was in college and rarely kept in touch during his latter high school years. At one point of our childhood, we were all we had. It wasn't until he was almost done with college that I realized how quickly he had matured outside my peripheral. 

My brother spent the last four months at the Great Lakes naval training academy. I decided to spend this last weekend in Chicago catching up with him in this new chapter. My brother is still a kid... Laughs hysterically at any accidental reference to toilets. Haha! And yet I could tell how the military ingrained a more disciplined mentality. He's more grown. And probably doesn't need my help. I still can't help but be here for him in case he does. 

Chicago was a blast. Sydney tomorrow night. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The One About Bob...

I woke up this morning and didn't recognize my own room. Even the sunlight peering through my window looked... different.

It wasn't NYC.

I just spent two weeks working in NYC. Two weeks is a long time anywhere. And I immediately fit in. My full-length strides matched colleagues while simultaneously multi-tasking my personal iphone and work blackberry. Haha! As soon as I graduate, I'm moving out of SLC. Not sure where but NYC is a top contender.

Probably a tacky move (c'mon it's me...) but I inconspicuously snapped a pic of my personal driver during my trip. "Bob" met me at JFK airport and was extremely helpful as we navigated the city. And yet this picture sums up my trip perfectly. I've been to NYC a number of times. But never have I felt that it was more than just a work trip. Not sure if she remembers but before leaving to college, my mom told me that there are few opportunities, if we are mindful and recognize its potential, with the ability to change our lives completely. I can't help but recognize this opportunity as such. Like Fate is calling me up to bat. In my case, Fate is a burly white man named Bob... haha! Be on the lookout for Bob when your opportunity arises!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The One About Peru...

Best. Trip. Ever.

Peru was that amazing, kiddos. I should have lit a cigarette and blew droopy smoke rings afterwards as a sign of my gratitude. Yes, that good... haha! But I digress. I've summarized my trip into three parts: the good, the bad, and the ugly...

the GOOD
Cusco is an hour flight southeast from Lima and served as the official Incan capital during the ancient civilization's heyday. While the Spanish eventually took over, the native Quechua culture is persistent amongst the heavy catholic influence. The scenic mountains, throwback cobblestone and completely relaxed lifestyle will make you forget about the outside world. My recommendation: stay close to Plaza De Armas! As above pictures shows, the Plaza is a sight to behold. It was also the perfect eye of the storm and jump off point for any adventure. And McDonalds was right there too... haha!

the BAD
Incans were some bad people. Their use of rocks as the basis for home and agricultural structures transcended mere functionality. They created visual wonders with great purpose and insight. After turning a corner and coming into the base of the ruins, I literally gasped out of sheer amazement (have since pledged to never gasp like that again...). My recommendation: Explore the rest of the Andes Mountains! Machu Picchu is the most well known ruins but there are tons of other gems hidden in the Andes. My friend and I rented ATVs for 5 hours and explored Quechua towns, other relevant ruins, local salt mines and other obscure areas oblivious to visiting tourists.

the UGLY
While Machu Picchu was a pretty penny (about $200 alone), everything else was relatively inexpensive. Peruvian clothing, trinkets, massages, taxis, hostels, and (my personal favorite) food were sold at ridiculously ugly prices. I bought my mom an all white Al Paca fur shawl for 30 soles (about $12). This was the same price for an hour massage. My recommendation: get lost! We found some of our best deals wandering through the city and finding shops in unexpected places. Even the alley in picture above resulted in some great finds. Shout out to my high school spanish teacher (Mr. Cush!) for teaching me everything I should learn to get by. I was pretty fluent in broken spanish by the end of the trip. haha.

One of my new goals is to visit all seven new wonders of the world. Next stop, Rome! Wish me luck.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The One About the U...

Red is my favorite color. Don't worry, I'm not gang affiliated (anymore). It's just been a part of every school I've attended. Kahuku's colors are red and white. St Louis rocked red and blue. Stanford kept it classy at white and cardinal (preppy red) So when I was accepted into the University of Utah's MBA program, I realized that my yellow brick road is actually red and fashionably compliments my ruby red chucks.

I was initially disturbed by the lack of diversity in Utah's MBA program. In our class of 55 students, only 5 are ethnic minorities. There are also only 5 females. Regardless, this is an amazing opportunity for which I am extremely grateful. It won't be easy. I'm already having a hard time motivating myself to complete problem sets instead of camping on tv... One thing I am particularly excited to see is a large population of pacific island undergrad students. They are everywhere. Hopefully they consider Utah's graduate programs later in their careers. If their favorite color is also red, it's probably already destined...

But be forewarned. While I'm happy to be a Ute, my allegiance still belongs to Stanford during next season's pac-12 clash... In the meantime, I'm hoping to crash undergrad parties as a sketchy grad student... haha!

Upcoming Events: Exploring Peru/Machu Pichu in three weeks. Half Marathon in nine weeks. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The One About EW...

Truth: I have a secret obsession for pop culture.

Don't worry, I'm not one of those spastic teens on TRL (remember that show?). I'm very subtle. Like when Cee-lo and I accidentally collided at Heathrow Airport, he had no idea I was obsessed with Gnarls Barkley. By the time I accepted his apology, my facebook friends were already liking our chance encounter including my random observation that his unusually soft hands smelled like cream cheese frosting...

And to ensure that I'm always in the loop, I surf Entertainment Weekly's online site ( at least once a day during the work week. It's not a trashy gossip site but a review of movies, tv shows, books and music. One thing I love about EW is their annual list of pop culture's best and worse moments. It's interesting to see which artists and events had a lasting impact. And I couldn't help but wonder what an EW issue would look like featuring my life in 2011. Well, wonder no more! Because I haven't blogged in over two months, I've decided to present my 10 Best and Worse moments of 2011.

Puerto Rico/Thailand - BEST

2011 trips include Miami, Hawaii, Seattle and San Francisco but none can hold a candle to this year's international destinations. And because I couldn't decide between Puerto Rico and Thailand, I'm giving them both the top spot. Just how good were these vacations? After both vacations, I temporarily forgot what I do at work. Now that's how you know you had a good time.

Dad's Misprognosis - WORST

I blogged about my father having these scary black outs. I then spent the next week with him as doctors conducted multiple tests in hopes of determining the root cause. Just when it seemed that he would be discharged, a female doctor told my father that there was partial blockage in a heart valve. As a result, he was now terminal and only had a year left. My father's silence was deafening. Hearing him relay the news to my siblings was extremely difficult. I've never seen such humility as my father understood and accepted his limited mortality. And then it dissappeared in a string of curses as we realized that the doctor (still within initial stages of residency) had misdiagnosed the blockage.

Missing Twin's Church Blessings - WORST

Best: Twin nephews were born this year. My father flew in from Hawaii to help bless the newborn twins in our church. Worst: We slept in and didn't have a proper ride from Salt Lake City to Utah County (about 40 minute drive). My father and I got to the church just as my younger brother finished blessing his sons. It broke my heart to see my father miss this special occasion involving his newest grandsons.

Adele LIVE! - BEST

I can still remember the first time I heard Chasing Pavements. The sad yet sentimental lyrics blew me away. And so did the first single off of Adele's sophomore album, 21. I've seen a number of amazing artists live. But none had me completely spellbound by the raw emotion, sassy chatter and vocal prowess of this British songbird. I dare you find anyone else with the same allure without back up dancers or pyrotechnics.

New Roommate - BEST

I randomly told my female friend/former coworker that I was looking for a roommate. I had no idea she would throw her own hat in the ring. And even more shocking, I thought it would be a great idea. Two months later, I vaguely remember life before she moved in. If you've seen the tv sitcom, New Girl, my roommate gives Jess a run for her money in the adorkable department. Looking forward to many more adventures in 2012.

Used Car for Sale - WORST

I normally lie that I spent $500 on this car. Truth is that I slid $600 in cash across a table at the local Carls Jr (I should have known then it was a mistake!). Mr X handed me the keys and led me towards the fastfood restaurant's dumpster. I immediately dubbed the car, Buster. Sure, Buster gets me from point A to point B. At this point of my life, I was secretly hoping to arrive at Point B in style. Not park a block away from work and pray that no one sees me. BBC's Keeping Up Appearances, anyone?

Revenge - BEST

TV shows/movies driven by lead females are hit or miss. These characters always seem overly emotional or robotic (and sometimes both... Looking at you, Bella Swan!) It's for this reason why I'm in awe of Kill Bill, Nikita (latest tv effort) and now Revenge. If my father took the fall for a heinous crime committed by his super-wealthy friends, I would exact revenge in the same manner Emily Thorne does. She navigates Hampton's slippery society with a confident (and pearly white) smile all the while plotting her enemy's downfall. The overwhelming number of twists and turns will definitely keep me warm this long winter season.


Standardized tests suck. And the GMAT is no exception. As much as I think an MBA would supplement my work experience, I am still disturbed by the need to ace this Business School entrance exam. I didn't get my ideal score. But I'd rather take my chances with this score than take the dreaded test again.

Promotion - BEST
Any sort of recognition feels good. But a promotion at work almost reduced me to tears. It even allowed me to achieve temporary enlightenment. Instead of some crazy celebration, I wrote the following hoping to truly express what I felt. Goal is to remember this feeling as I bog down and vie for Vice President...

"The road less travelled is less travelled for a reason. It's incredibly hard. You might want to give up. And maybe you should. But stick it out and you'll realize why the drive was worth it."

Christmas - WORST

I had planned on spending Christmas in Samoa with my mom and sister. We had planned a fun-filled time including overnight stay at Samoa's best beach resorts. Due to some terrible flight operations (shaking my fist at you, Delta!) I didn't make it... And while I spent some quality time with my younger brother and his family, I couldn't shake the feeling that I missed an amazing opportunity in the homeland.