My 2019 Annual Review

My 2019 Annual Review

Date: 1/14/2020
Time: 3:05PM

I wanted to try something new, an annual review of the major highlights and experiences for 2019. I got this idea from James Clear’s Newsletters.

The annual review aims to answer three questions:
1. What went well this year?
2. What didn’t go so well this year?
3. What did I learn?

It’s half for me to review my own personal life choices, but to also invite others to see what I’m doing.

1. What went well this year?

Peace Corps Uganda.

It’s the biggest change I’ve made this year. I’ve been living in Hawai’i for almost all of my life, only seldom traveling to mainland America, I have never got to explore and learn about the world surrounding me.

In my perspective, environment is everything, so I had a resolve to immerse myself in an environment that completely strips away my islander mindset, my American mindset, my Western mindset.

I believe that my transition from my comfort zone in America to becoming a volunteer in Agriculture and Economic Development. Obviously, the job comes with many new challenges and obstacles that I’ve had to manage on my own without the support of my friends and family by my side.

I don’t think I could have grown this much in any job I could have in America.

Tough skin, confidence, and cultural competency is what I’ve personal gained thus far.

More computer languages and learning electronics.

At the beginning of this year, I started strong as an IT worker, and to this day in Uganda somehow I’m still working as a website designer even though I don’t have electricity haha.

Through the year I got to learn more in Python, Ruby, C++, reading ASM which helped me to make meaningful change within my jobs. Making scripts to record information, modifying and reading installation scripts for Ubuntu, and even setting up my own VPN server (unfortunately crashed because of updates, I’ll fix when I get electricity). Reading and learning about C, C# and C++ came especially handy when trying to learn about keyboarding code.

I soldered and programmed two of my own keyboards and learned a lot more about electronics and soldering through that. Learning about the keyboard matrix, the work and time that goes in to making mechanical keyboards, as well adjusting my own keyboard for my taste, it was really fun. Also got to type at 100WPM for the first time!

Reading more books.

In total, I’ve read 13 books for 2019. A personal best since my years in high school!

I wasn’t quite the reader, well ever. Lol. But with the amount of free time I have to myself, and the peers around me that have influenced me to be a better reader. Being amongst a group of people who enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning has really pushed me to be more cognizant about what I’m doing in my free time.

From the riveting stories of Shantaram, the epic tales of The Odyssey, the spiritual stories found in Siddhartha, The Koran and The Bible, and rounding off the list with the works from Murakami, namely The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, has helped me to improve my vocabulary and storytelling capability.

Swimming, running and calisthenics

From 2018, I really pushed myself forward with what I have been doing with my body.

Picture was from late summer 2018, close enough lol.

In swimming, I completed two biathlons, placing 2nd in my age division for one of my races (there weren’t that many, but ayeee) and coaching/training with close friends, my sister, and brother in-law to complete their first open-ocean swimming event. Woo hoo!

In running, I actually became more fond of running for enjoyment. It became part of my routine more and more as I started practicing for the biathlon. I enjoyed it so much that I ended signing up for an 8.2mi race and half-marathon for that year. Practicing this with barefoot shoes, this was a year of firsts in running.

In calisthenics, I became much stronger without the use of a gym. Going to the local park and setting up there, using the calisthenic parks at the beach and overall being more conscious of my body mechanics.

The goal in calisthenics was to become more aware of my body, especially in my swimming and running, I was a lot more aware of how my body was moving and, by coincidence or not, helped me in all of my competitive events. Practicing on gymnastic rings really pushed my mental game up and, for a time, I felt really good about my body’s strength and appearance.

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Inconsistent writing streaks.

I started the year off strong with my writing habits of 500 words every morning from January to March. But as the months went by, I started to slack off. The daily habit became an every-other-day habit, to a sporadic whenever-i-feel-like-it habit. A lack of electricity to write on my laptop, access to internet to post it, and missing my music to write to made it particularly difficult in Uganda.

You can call them challenges or excuses, nonetheless they were hindrances to my progress in writing. My endeavors to become a better writer even made me commit towards completing Novel November.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in the month of November, I like to call it Novel November for short, was going to be the time where I would finally sit down and crank out a novel. But because I was underestimating the 50,000 word count, as well as a lack of novel planning made for a complete disaster.

I actually started out with 4 solid pages of writing, but as I continued to write the story, I became less and less interested in the idea of writing fiction. Maybe I just need to focus on a better story.

Forgetting and breaking things.

This is a trend that haunts me every year haha.

I’ve lost my iPhone to the pit latrine. Lost numerous amounts of clothes from staying in different hotel rooms. Broke a couple more phones. And a few other things… I think.

Its cost me a pretty penny for all of these things, all of which I definitely did not need to be losing in the first place, where I could be spending the money and time on better things.

Not writing enough…

Before I left for Uganda, I wanted to get better at writing letters and updating this very website. Preparing for a lifestyle without electricity and other luxuries, I was prepared to write every week by hand and get to sending or publishing these works on the weekends. Alas, a combination of laziness and personal challenges has beaten me down.

If I want to get better at this, I think I’ll have to come up with a more realistic system of doing this.

3. What did I learn this year?

The human experience is amazing.

Being here in Uganda, traveling around and trying to understand the world from the many people’s that I’ve met thus far, I’ve learned so much about the basic fact of the human experience.

People want to be happy. People want to be without stress. And while the means to reach these ends are all incredibly different, we all just want the same thing. We all want the peace of mind of going to a job that we enjoy, to make a difference for the lives that we care for so much. Our families. Our loved ones. The ones who have died. The idols were adore and the gods that we praise.

I’ve learned to be more open to the ideas of others, especially to those that oppose mine. I’ve learned that some people just can’t get along with each other, no matter how much you try to understand what’s going on in their shoes. As simple as the living experience can be of the eat, sleep, breathe routine, the human experience is much more complex than that.

Nelson had it right, language is powerful.

I’ve been able to use the power of language at my disposal wherever I’ve gone.

With a bit of Korean, Japanese, Lusoga, Lugandan, and Lugisu, being able to speak just a little bit in each language has allowed me to get through barriers in each of these respective communities. Knowing a little about another language beyond English has yet to fail to prove its utility.

6379 Pictures.

2019 was actually my best year in the number of photos I’ve taken.

Ironically, in the previous years, I was actually shooting a lot less. Since I was shooting in film in the previous years, the obvious limiter is how much film I could process. With digital, I have been able to surpass the amount of images I’m making. While more pictures doesn’t necessarily mean better pictures, I have grown as a photographer regardless and for that I’m happy.

I’ve gotten to assess my style and shooting habits a lot faster shooting digital and with that I can tweak my shooting style even more as I continue through 2020.

Normally I would shoot close to 30 or 60 rolls of 35mm film a year, amounting to about 1000-2100 pictures.

Personal Identity as 1st Gen. Filipino-American.

Being a first generation Filipino-American has influenced my American experience a lot more than I could have imagined.

I feel happier to say I’m Filipino.
To say I’m American.
And to say that I am a proud son of my immigrant parents.

I’ve been able to learn so much more about national and global politics, international relations, and cultural identity through my unique experience as an Asian-American living in Africa. Comparing experiences between my Peace Corps colleagues has allowed me to get a better perspective on what it’s like to live in mainland America. Speaking with other people who serve internationally as Asian-Americans share similar experience of being so far removed from their personal culture and values admonished the lessons I’ve learned about my experience growing up in my Filipino household.

4. Favorites

New favorite songs:

  • 3AM (ft. ScHoolboy Q) by Maxo Kream
  • We’re Going to be Friends by The White Stripes
  • Honesty by Pink $weats
  • Distance by Emily King
  • Now or Never (ft. Macross 82-99) by Flamingosis
  • Complaints and Extra Coffee Stains by Ragamuffs
  • Numb Numb Juice by ScHoolboy Q
  • Chicago Diner by Kota the Friend
  • God is by Kanye West
  • Do Ya Head Like This by E-40
  • How Will I Know by Whitney Houston
  • Pin – Demo by Hippo Campus

New favorite books:

  • Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
  • Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • The Odyssey by Homer

Kim Jung Gi is Awesome:

Kim Jung Gi
– Instagram:

These annual reviews are pretty cool.

These are the highlights I wanted to share about my 2019. It was a year of big jumps and learning about the world beyond Hawai’i.

I plan to do more of these annual reviews as the yeas go by. Far too often, people are exclaiming that the weeks go by far too quick to process and enjoy, yet with each passing day, the day seems to go by far too slow.


  • Shahid , January 26, 2020 @ 11:51 pm

    Wow, you’ve been through a lot in 2019. Looks like you’ve been having fun lol. I’m glad that you are doing well and keeping us updated.

    Are you setting up a system and network at your peace corps?
    What was the most difficult thing you had to deal with in 2019?

    • Josh , January 27, 2020 @ 2:24 am

      As far as system and network with people, I just talk to a lot of people and see how we can work our way forward. I’ve met people throughout the country that I think I might want to do business and stuff, and most recently with people visiting from South Africa to talk more about our community involvement.

      But as far as system and network with computers and stuff, I ain’t got no electricity, so nah lol.

      The most difficult thing? Being misunderstood for being Chinese or Korean, when I’m actually Filipino. Identity became a real challenge for me because there are only so many Asian people around that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my troubles. But now that I’ve found friends who listen and empathize, they really helped me out a lot.

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