As someone who has traveled and lived in many different environment (towns, cities, suburbs), travelling to new places is hardly a daunting process for me. I adjust rather fast to new environments, and with the help of Google Maps, to me there are few places in the world that’s daunting to travel to.
Los Angeles, however, was one of few that I dreaded to visit despite all the vibrant, exciting places to explore. One of the largest cities in the world, LA has a failed infrastructure on top of a terrible public transportation. I dread the heat. I dread the smog. I dread terrible traffic and confusing highways. As much as LA had to offer in terms of opportunities and networking, I did not want to come here for more than a quick tourist stop.
Fast forward to earlier this year: I finally hear back from my top choice in internship position, and where do I end up? Here in Los Angeles. It is also a 40 hour drive from Michigan, which means my family did want to risk my old car breaking on my way here. The whole set-up seemed like a nightmare; my internship required travelling to two offices in a week, as well as many community events. I had to not only find a place that’s affordable to live and easy to travel from, but also a sound way of transportation – for a two month period. I knew immediately that I was going to need financial aid to help with this internship, so that I can get the most out of it as I can, or even, just to afford the experience. Thankfully, my university aids students in almost every way imaginable — the LSA Internship Scholarship helped me out so much in improving my living situation and transportation method. I could not be more grateful.
With lots of math calculating finances, painstaking searches on Craigslist, e-mail exchanges and awkward Skype calls, I was able to finalize my home and rental car for my internship. I found a lovely townhouse owned by two graduate students at USC; they had a roommate living downstairs, and said roommate left for her internship and I was able to sublet her room for cheaper than what I pay to live on Michigan campus. I found a car company who was willing to rent at reasonable prices to even people under 25 like myself, (thank you for family owned businesses!) and a Prius to save me some gas money at that. In these strokes of great luck I was able to start living in the daunting area of Los Angeles with ease.
I work a full scheduled week of 9AM-5PM; outside of the office I do get to visit downtown LA often due to the extra events, and on the weekend I try and squeeze time to explore. Of course, the night time of the city is beautiful; the metropolitan landscape always excites me whenever I see it. I am a big lover of night lights, and it makes the city feel alive and warm even when it’s late. I have always found that driving downtown and parking downtown is an absolute, and I mean absolute, nightmare. Imagine approaching being instructed to leave the highway at exit 5, and exit 5 leads to 4 different streets and the signs are impossible to read in a split second while you’re driving. Not for the faintest of hearts, especially when in everyone driving in LA seems to have somewhere very important to be at all times. I must say my driving skills have leveled up to a place I never imagined that I could achieve, and I have become much more assertive while I drive.
Learning from my mistakes the first few times, the smart way to travel to downtown scenes is to drive to a metro station nearby and go from there. I have visited Chinatown and Little Tokyo numerous times now, along with some other notable buildings in downtown LA.
I have also found that the palm trees are indeed everywhere in Los Angeles. Not a single street I drive by go without a nice palm tree sticking out somewhere along the road. It was almost humorous when I first arrived, and even more so when a friend told me that these trees are actually invasive species. I also have a friend who lives in Arcadia; when I to visit her, she held up some peacock feathers that she had behind her TV.
“I picked up some new ones recently, aren’t they pretty?”
“Picked up from where?”
“Oh c’mon. Don’t think you can just fool me because I’m not a native to LA.”
She laughed and took me for a drive around her neighborhood. Turns out, she wasn’t making fun of me, pulling my leg or trying to be funny. Peacocks are everywhere. Everywhere. I mean every block we drove in her neighborhood these haughty, pretty birds would walk around; there were also female peacocks leading a team of little chicks behind them. My most memorable moment had no doubt been the first one I saw, in which my friend pointed outside, and I looked up at a tree and there it was…
I was also so stunned when I heard a peacock chirp. (Can it be called chirping?) A large male peacock stood on top of a roof by a person’s window and chirped with a booming sound. Imagine waking up to that.
Besides the city scenery, however, there are beautiful gems of serene destinations all around Los Angeles. For a tour with my office, I had a chance to visit the Storrier-Sterns Japanese Garden in Pasadena; a garden designed by Kinzuchi Fuji, a landscape designer from Japan invited by the Storrier-Sterns couple, the garden is hidden in a beautiful, quiet corner away from the business of the city. I felt an incredible sense of peacefulness during my visit.
I still have a few weeks left in Los Angeles and I hope to get a chance to find more hidden gems. And of course, find more food places to visit! Many wonderful restaurants to explore.
As much as I had qualms and concerns before coming to LA, I am in love with the city and the area overall. It is exactly what I want my future to be, to be bustling with energy, be the center of movements, events and happenings, and with incredible diversity. I truly wish to be able to settle here somewhere down the road.