Turning 30 And Reflecting Back On The Decade Behind Me

October 6, 2015

So I turned 30.

Turning 30


And I wanted to write a little bit about it because being alive for three decades ain’t just no little piece of pie.

I wondered what kind of post I should write to commemorate the big 3-0. At first I toyed with the idea of writing a 30s themed beauty post like “30 Beauty Tips.” But the idea bored me.

Instead, I’d rather just write about what I’m really thinking.

People have asked me “How does it feel to be 30?” And my answer is, “Not much.” I don’t feel that different.

It’s only when you look back that the change happens.

And looking back at my 20s, I remember a decade full of offbeat and colorful memories.

Turning 30


These were riotous years.


My ryde or diee

I admit, I was a terrible student. I made bad grades. I hated writing papers. And sometimes, I preferred to stay in and read a book instead of going to class.

But despite what conclusion you may draw from looking at my grade point average, I did actually learn a lot. Most importantly, I learned how to learn stuff on my own. And that in itself made my college education totally worth it.

College was also formative in that I began to solidify my sense of self. I began to understand my own self-worth. And I learned how to let go when things and people weren’t right for me.

I also found out that I like to throw fun wacky parties! One party was themed a “Martyr Party” where people came dressed as their favorite martyr. Naturally, the resulting costumes were on the bloody and gory side. But what else would you expect from a martyr party?

College was the time when I met and made most of whom I now consider my life-long friends.


After college, I joined the Peace Corps.


For those of you who don’t know, Peace Corps is a U.S. government volunteer agency that sends people around the world to work in development projects and live in foreign countries as cultural ambassadors.


For two years, I lived and worked as a small enterprise development agent in Cameroon, a country bordering Nigeria and Chad in Central Africa.

What that means is that I worked to strengthen the local economy in the community that I lived in. And the experience from that was the kind of education that you’ll never get in a classroom setting.

I did Peace Corps as a challenge to myself. I wanted to take on the world on my own.

Ironically, that was how I met my life partner.


Another reason why I did Peace Corps was so that I wouldn’t take things in my life for granted. I was born and grew up in a very poor country. But after living in a country with the highest GDP in the world, it’s easy to forget how good you’ve got it. Until you find yourself back in an environment where things don’t come so easy.

Everyday I had to draw water from a well and put that water through a filter. That was a luxury! Many people in the village where I lived had to walk for miles to get water and carry back heavy buckets on their heads, then drink dirty water that often would make them sick.

My luxury came in the form of taking bucket showers while standing in a bucket, then using that water in the bucket to flush my toilet! Water is precious, my friends.



But it wasn’t all rough living and feeling sorry for myself.

Life in my little Cameroonian village called Bangou was also amazing.

I made many wonderful friends. And I continue to keep in touch with them. In fact, one of my dear Cameroonian friends is coming to visit me this week! It’s so surreal I can hardly believe it.


I also remember vividly the season of heavy rains that would pour down and cause people to run for cover and ground everything to a standstill. There wasn’t anything you could do except to wait it out.

The sound of rain on my tin roof was lulling and and often gave way to the most magical mist hanging over the tree tops and the mountains. If the electricity was out, I would have to cook and read by candle light.

Life was slow, simple and vibrant.

I loved it.


Then there was that time I live in Paris for a year and a half.


The decision to move to Paris was an escapist’s decision. I ran away so I could have time and space to heal a broken heart.

Mais c’était la belle époque de ma vie.

Ah, Paree! A lot of people dream of “someday living in Paris.” But I actually did it. I lived in Paris.

And Paris was where my most magical dreams came to life! Some of you readers may have been there with me. Because that was the time when I created Ziba.

And if you were there with me from the beginning, you may remember that the blog was an offshoot of the shop. But then I grew to love blogging more than I could have ever imagined. And inevitably, the blog took on a life of its own and separated from the shop.


Paris taught me how to enjoy living very well.

I learned how to relax and be at ease in my own skin. I learned how to savor things. Especially, how to savor buttery croissants and carefully prepared dishes!

I remember my favorite haunts. Strolling across Pont Neuf on hot summer evenings. Walking around in the Marais and exploring narrow cobbled streets. Les Tuileries was my playground, where I would jog around in the mornings.


My morning jogs often included a stop at my regular boulangerie, where the lady knew me and would have a pain au chocolate, a baguette and a wink ready at the counter for me without my even having to ask for it.

The best part about Paris was how a bunch of my favorite people all just happened to be living there at the same time!


We were a fun crew!

Picnicking by the Seine river, clambering on dangerously steep rooftops, dancing in cavernous bars and getting into snowball fights with strangers on the streets.

My heart flutters to think back on these memories!

But Paris wasn’t all glitter and magic either.

We lived in an outrageously tiny apartment. Granted, we could see the towers of the Notre Dame from our balcony. But living in such a cramped space was really tough.

Apart from the tiny apartment, everyday dealings were often difficult. France and all its paper pushing bureaucratic nonsense can be, how shall I say… un peu compliqué.


Still, when we left Paris, it wasn’t for any specific reason.

We left because… it was time.

It was time for me to find some place to call home.

San Francisco

So here we are now in San Francisco. And two years have already passed.


And in that time, life has gotten sunnier and I’m the calmest and happiest I’ve ever been.

I also got married to a lovely boy on a lovely day at the beach.

Montara Weddding

Perhaps, if life permits me several more decades, I’ll look back on this period in my life and think of it as my golden years.

Wedding Dance

And am I really settled down yet?

My restless spirit still urges me to find new grounds.

Yet if there’s one thing that all my traveling has taught me, it’s this… home is the people you love.

But while home it’s not about one specific place, if I don’t allow myself to stay in one place long enough, I’ll never give myself enough time to build and grow.

However, when I say stay…

I don’t necessarily mean here.


Because San Francisco…

Well, I haven’t made up my mind about you yet.

There’s a lot about you that I didn’t’ realize I was signing up for.

But that is another story…

4 thoughts on “Turning 30 And Reflecting Back On The Decade Behind Me

  1. helene

    I love your recap’ of your 20’s! And it’s great that you managed to do so much and experience so many different cultures 🙂 Joyeux anniversaire!

  2. Alex

    Belated happy birthday! I’m so envious you’ve lived a very colorful decade. I’ve only begun to be more open to adventures and new experiences in my late 20s, and sometimes I feel a kind of panic that I haven’t done enough and soon I’ll be too old to do so. So nowadays, I’m definitely trying to make up for lost time. Hope you’re enjoying your 30s so far!

    1. Kareen

      Alex, I have a feeling you have a very colorful decade ahead of you 🙂 Based on your super glamorous job, an awesome circle of friends and your travel adventures, your 30s is gonna be a great decade. Cheers!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *