Today, I am 9108 days old. No, I didn't count. I Googled that shit, like a smart person, and found a website that told me.

I can never find time to blog here, mainly because I don't think any of the updates about myself that I want to share are especially noteworthy.

Or are of any interest to anyone but myself.

Does anyone really care about how excited I am about finding Coffee-mate's Strawberry Cheesecake creamer and Dulce De Leche creamer last night at Wal-Mart?

Or my annoyance that Nabisco hasn't released any new and creative Oreo flavors recently - just a lilac-version of the Marshmallow Peeps edition (they already did this flavor last year, but pink) and a yellow-colored Oreo for springtime (that's basically the same flavor as the original - just recolored cream - yawwwnn)?

Or how my cute Siamese slept on his back, cradled in my arms like a baby, looking up at me with a sleepy kitty smile? (Seriously, he let me hold him like a baby, and then promptly passed the fuck out and started snoring.)

What about how I gave up on the Oxford comma last week because now that I work in SEO, I suddenly care very deeply about saying the most with the least amount of characters? (If you must know, writing a meta title with optimized keywords and keeping it under 70 characters can get very tricky. And that's why I am giving up on the Oxford comma. Sorry to everyone whose papers I edited in college because chances are good that I snuck one - or multiple - in there. I have converted to the way of the Internet, and it now owns me and all my thoughts.)

I could talk about my new obsession with LUSH body conditioner. Or, on a similar note, how the dry Arizona heat is affecting my hands... leading me to apply tons of rose-scented hand lotion every hour, much to the dismay of my male non-lotion-wearing coworkers. (I'm making assumptions that they don't use hand lotion because I've never seen it happen. I'm also making assumptions that they smell my rose-scented lotion, and politely say nothing to me about it.)

Or my furious battle with other Yelpers to be the Duchess of Costco (Gilbert) and Winco (Gilbert). And uh, Wal-Mart (Gilbert) too, if I'm being honest.

Or how I beat a 3rd playthrough of Borderlands 2 with my friend Alice last night. (Note to all: Playing Zer0 is really boring. And this is coming from someone who likes sniper rifles in general. Seriously, when choosing a class, pick Mechromancer or Psycho or Siren. Don't do Assassin. It's really boring.)

Or that I learned what prone is. And how to do it. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, or PUBG, has officially contributed to my vocabulary. Who says video games don't teach you anything? (By the way, prone is when you drop to the ground and crawl. It's like crouching in any other first-person-shooter, but on steroids. You want to prone when you are in a field of tall grass, because it's harder for enemies to spot you.)

I have a lot to say. However, none of it seems important to the public. And so I hesitate to post my ramblings online. And then months go by, and subsequently, my blog is never updated, and I have a handful of unpublished drafts that are about everything and nothing.

Eh, fuck it. HAVE AT IT! Go forth, my thoughts, into the vast abyss of the Internet! You are now free! (I like to have fun, see.)

Day 48

I've been here for 7 weeks now, and I can't decide if my time here has felt long or short.

Rather, it's felt like I just got here - that the weeks just flew by.

I say this because last night I officially booked my flight home. My brief adventure in the Philippines will end on February 9, when I fly back to Arizona. It's a little over 9 weeks from today - that's 60+ more days. I'm like, not even 50% done with my trip.

And yet it feels like February 9 is around the corner!

It's been so nice living with my family again. I play video games with my sister every night (or at least, wait for her to finish homework so we can play games) and go out on the weekends. And get my nails done with my mom every few weeks. (She keeps a close eye on me to make sure I don't relapse with my nail-biting habit.)

My sister and I finished Doki Doki Literature Club.

48 days in, 65 days till I leave. That's 113 days total, huh?

Ahh, it's always been hard to say bye to my family here - even when I was a kid and would spend all summer in the Philippines, I always HATED leaving - but I'm so grateful I was lucky enough to live here, albeit shortly.

Time is flying by so fast!

One month in

Time has been flying by. It's been a month since I arrived in the Philippines. So far I have:

  • Frantically stayed active on Yelp - a hard endeavor considering how unpopular Yelp is in the Philippines. And the fact that I don't have cellular data.
  • Spent 5 days in Baguio, a northern city in the mountains. When you live on a tropical island, people vacation to places that are cold. By cold, I mean 65 degrees at night. Sweater weather, indeed.
  • As for my Witcher 3 progress, I have successfully found Ciri, romanced Yen, unlocked Yoana’s forge, and worked on completing my Gwent deck. If you must know.
  • Planned a Boracay trip for my friends visiting me in December. True love is your friends from California coming to the Philippines to see you (and to be beach bums).
  • Researched on what I’m planning to do when I’m in Japan at the end of the year. Got overwhelmed and decided to just prioritize visiting districts (rather than really specific stores or restaurants): Akihabara and Harajuku.
  • Trying to plan a Palawan trip, as that’s on my bucket list before I fly back to Arizona.
  • Eat food. Take pictures of said food.

From Booger to Bougie

I have a puppy now.

Kind of.

He's the ugliest thing I've ever seen in my life. 

My mom saved him at 1 week old when my grandma's Shih Tzu died after giving birth to one ugly puppy. Half pug, half Shih Tzu.  A rat bit his tail, so he was infected. And like, double the dying.

He was really, really ugly. And my cousin named him Booger. Because of the ugliness. 

Today he's three months old. He's INCREDIBLY hyper. And very much alive. And still extremely ugly. And he's not house trained. Much to my dismay.

I've decided to rename him Bougie. Bougie, the ugliest dog. Bougie, the furthest thing from bougie. Bougie, not Booger.

Here he is, in all his ugliness.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

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Hurricane Nic's made landfall!

I landed in Manila this afternoon. It felt different this time - maybe because I know this will be home for the next few months. It felt final. More final, at least. Not forever - I'm coming back to the US, I'm sure of it - but when I landed I didn't have that rush, that high, that usually comes from knowing I only have two weeks on the island and that I must savor every second. I didn't feel that as much today - instead I felt very, very calm. 

I've got fake followers showing fake love to me! (But I actually don't because I'm too cheap to buy them.)

Call me naïve, but it blew my mind how frequently – and how easily -- people “cheat” at social media. And while all these black-hat tactics can be used across multiple platforms, I’m mostly fascinated with them being used for Instagram.

I only started working in SEO this year (that’s search engine optimization, mom - except I gave up trying to explain to my family what this is, and now whenever someone over the age of 50 asks me about my industry I say “internet marketing.” Or if I’m feeling particularly playful, I tell them I fux with Google rankings.) so you could say, despite my many years of browsing the Internet (insert obligatory #millennial), I’m a novice in my field – all things considered.

OK, so I knew about buying followers – bot accounts, basically, which are coded to follow you, Like your posts, and sometimes – for the advanced bot – even comment on your posts. Ah, the beauty of AI…

But it goes deeper than that. (“We have to go deeper!”)

Into the rabbit hole we go.

There’s social media pods, which is 9 times out of 10 a Facebook group OR a Viber/WhatsApp group or a Slack or Discord (ok, a 3rd party platform, you get it) filled with people who have mutually consented to liking and commenting on each other’s posts.

(If you look at Yelp – a platform that insists it’s NOT “social media” – you can see the work of pods more evidently; for example, a popular Yelper may post a review for the gas station down the street and within 15 minutes there’s 30+ upvotes validating how “useful/funny/cool” said review is.)

There’s also the case of sell-out feature accounts, and this surprised me more than it should have, considering I work in SEO. Yeah, you know that super artsy food account you’ve been following? The kind that says “Use #MYHASHTAG to be featured” on their profile, so all aspiring foodie bloggers tag them in the hopes of being featured and getting more promotion…?

MANY OF THESE ACCOUNTS ACCEPT PAYMENT TO BE FEATURED. It’s basically the same concept as those blogs that accept paid guest posts. You literally pay them like, $50 and suddenly you’re featured. It’s less about the organic content and more about the $$$.

And here I was thinking Instagram was run on aspiring photographers or honest creatives. It turns out THE SYSTEM IS CORRUPT. It’s pay to play, all the way.

Yeah, there’s the honest photographers or curators on Instagram still. The ones who think if they throw enough popular hashtags in their caption plus excellent content will guarantee a slow but sure hard-earned success.

You just haven’t heard of them because they’re buried by the black-hat Instagrammers.

I collaborated with my team here at Eminent SEO to create the infographic below, accompanied by a brilliantly written piece by my colleague Remy, who goes into more depth regarding the black-hat tactics I briefly mentioned above:

 

Wanderlustful

I was never one to feel restless or antsy by staying in one place for too long. 

I think I'm a little vanilla, in that sense. I enjoy routine. I appreciate predictability.

I like staying at home.

And yet, after a series of unexpected events... here I am, about to embark on a sorta-kinda-ish spontaneous journey to Manila.. where I will be residing for the next 2 or 3 months. Or so.

A new home, albeit temporarily.

I haven't lived in Manila since I was 13. I spent two years going to Brent International School, before moving back to San Ramon, California with my mom and sister in 2007.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. I've been searching my mind for WHY I'm so anxious for this big move - but I can't pinpoint why. In all likelihood, moving back home is going to be exciting and fun. I haven't lived in the same roof as my little sister in years. Why am I so nervous?!

Despite how exciting living in Asia will be, I think I'm going to be a little homesick for Arizona. And I'm going to miss the routine I've built here.

It's not a forever goodbye - I'll be back - I just need to put on my big girl pants. Kind of like how I moved across the country to attend Boston University. Except now, I'll be moving across the entire planet.

THINGS I AM EXCITED FOR WHEN I MOVE TO MANILA ON OCTOBER 17:

  • My family, obviously. 90% of my extended family lives in Manila too, so that'll be great. 
  • Awesome food. ESPECIALLY compared to the drab foodie community of Arizona. My Instagram is going to be flourishing, LOL. 
  • Cheaper cost of living.
  • I can reap the benefits of living with a parent, i.e. FREE DINNER!!!! Thanks mom. 
  • I would love to reconnect with old middle school friends from my Brent days. 
  • I'll have time to tour the beautiful beaches and cities of the Philippines: Palawan, Boracay, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, etc. 

Adventure is good. I must not fear jumping out of my comfort zone. In the wise words of some probably drunk freshman biddie stumbling down Commonwealth Avenue.... YOLO.

Manila, I'm coming for you.

Pokemon Go took over my life BUT IT'S STILL NOT ENOUGH.

Despite Pokemon Go being launched over a year ago, I've noticed that the community is still going strong - if you know where to find them.

The hype's died down, that's for certain. I predicted - correctly - that after the first couple months, all the bandwagoners would have quit, and only the true Pokemon fans would be left.

I've played Pokemon Go every single day since launch, with the only exception being a 2 week hiatus because my phone was stolen (it happened a few days after the second gen launched - I was MISERABLE) and another 1 week period where I desperately begged my sorority sister in France to try and catch a region-locked Mr. Mime for me (spoiler alert: she didn't find any) because my ten-year-old cousin had gotten one, and I was jealous.

What stood out to me during the initial hype was how crazy it felt to sit at home and obsessively play Pokemon Moon on my Nintendo DS, and then whenever I had to venture outside and do errands, I put the DS away and whipped out my phone... to play Pokemon Go.

It's kind of fun being consumed by Pokemon.

The introduction of legendary raids have really awakened my excitement for the app. Despite failing to catch Articuno and Moltres, it was exciting to meet random strangers in seemingly random locations around Tempe in an effort to work together to battle a legendary.

I met a 34-year-old woman who was absolutely hilarious... At first, she took me off guard, because I can be a judgmental ass and - well I'm just going to go out and say it - I totally thought she was on drugs. She was talking a mile a minute. But I soon realized she was fucking awesome when she started name-dropping the most recent 3rd party gym raid tracker and more impressively, the /r/TheSilphRoad subreddit. (If you don't play Pokemon Go or surf reddit obsessively, the sentence I just said was probably absolute jargon to you.)

In a nutshell... this lady was a total Pokemon nerd. And being a low key Pokemon nerd myself, I thought she was freaking awesome.

It also blew my mind that she was level 34. (I was only 30 at the time. OK, fine, I still am technically, but once I pop a Lucky Egg and evolve my Pokemon, I'll be 31.)

And then I felt kinda bad for judging her and thinking she was on crack or something. Like, she was probably just super friendly and nice. I need to remember this moment, so future Nicola can avoid acting like a judgmental asshole again.

Later on during the Pokemon Go hunt, I met a level 40. This time she was a very quiet, very meek-mannered but nice foreign woman. I say foreign because she had an accent but I really couldn't quite place it - Spanish maybe? Or Mexican?

In fact, during the raids, I obsessively checked all the other players' levels and I found myself on the lower end of the spectrum. 30 was considered low!

It was very, very humbling to say the least.

You know that quote where it's like - There will always be someone prettier, smarter, and younger than you?

It kind of felt like that.

Cat life.

Some sleepy pictures of Lambert, because he's so cute and I love waking up to that sleepy kitty smile.

 I'm not a kitty, but Snapchat lets me pretend.

I'm not a kitty, but Snapchat lets me pretend.

I was confused why my family members thought I had another cat.

Then I came across pictures of this little guy.

This cat kept mewing outside my door until I let it into my apartment. I hear mewing nonstop for a good five minutes, but didn't really expect a cute little kitten to rush my apartment as soon as I opened the door.

I played with it for a little while and then I went to go eat dinner. And when I came back, I found his owners and gave him back lol. He's cute, his name is Simba. And he lives in the apartment underneath mine.

He was my new cat for all of two hours.

San Francisco

I met up with my mom and sister in San Francisco for a weekend full of family, cousins, and FOOD! I introduced them to Boiling Point and, in a typical fashion, went twice on consecutive days.

It's awesome when your family is as food-obsessed as you are.

 Philz Coffee Mint Mojito is a MUST if you visit the bay.

Philz Coffee Mint Mojito is a MUST if you visit the bay.

 Zanze Cheesecake is amazingly creamy. My only criticism is that it is lacking a decadent graham cracker crust, which is one of my favorite parts of a cheesecake!

Zanze Cheesecake is amazingly creamy. My only criticism is that it is lacking a decadent graham cracker crust, which is one of my favorite parts of a cheesecake!

 My sister is so cute.

My sister is so cute.