Hi everyone –
it’s hard to believe that I’m half way done on my big summer adventure. I have now been in Paris for five weeks, and I have another month to go. Starting next week, I am entering the second phase of my trip. This week is my last week at school (which I’ll talk a bit more later), so the second phase of my trip will include a few trips – NYC, then back again to Paris, then South of France, and maybe another short trip some where, and then my last week, one of my sisters and friends will be out here in Paris. So – it’s time to do a mid-term grade …. And for me – the mid-term grade could only be an A. I thought about A+ but – let’s do A right now since the trip is not yet over.
I think I’d mentioned before where I think the decision of enrolling in the French language school was a brilliant decision. Not only has it given me a structure, something that I know I would do everyday for 4-5 hours a day, but it’s provided me with the challenge of learning new things. I am loving learning this new thing so much, that I’ve decided to actually go back to LSI the last two weeks I’m in Paris. And I’m thinking I might start taking some French classes again when I’m back in the bay area (I actually had taken some classes before – West Valley College, De Anza). I don’t know whether or not I’ll ever get to use it daily, but this has awakened the passion I have about learning languages I used to have when I was a kid. I am thinking I should at least try it. Now how’s my french going? Well …. that’s another story 🙂 French is an incredibly difficult language to learn, and there are not many patient Parisians you could talk to. Often times when you go to the store or restaurant, as soon as they could tell you can’t speak the language, they’d just start speaking English to you, which was a bit discouraging. But at the same time I also didn’t take any of these as personally as I might have the first couple of weeks. Now …. I just don’t care. There have been some wins – when I did say something in French, and the people on the other side understood…. and there have been some … “let’s just not butcher my beautiful language and just speak English already” 🙂 You win some, you lose some.
The one big thing I was missing was just personal connections and interactions. In my last post I mentioned that I started signing up to do things with some Meet Up groups, and I’d also started hanging out with a few people in my class. And that was really awesome.
- I went to this outdoor party “Sunset by the Eiffel Tower” [pictures] with the two cousins from Mexico, Nishla and Amal. That was super fun! The party was like this pop-up party that was organized by one of the event planner here in Paris. It was in front of the Aquarium in Trocadero by the Eiffel Tower. And it was just fun being with out there – got to see the sunset by the Eiffel Tower – great atmosphere, music, food, drinks!
- Another highlight was that I got to do one of the most “Parisian thing to do” I was told. And that was picnic-ing at the Saint-Martin Canal. I went with Nishla and Amal, and also Negin – another girl from our class. It was so much fun. It was only less than 10 minutes walk from my place. So we met up at one of the Metro stops, then we went to do the “cliche” thing – got our wine, baguette, cheese, some salumi, and other food. We walked to the canal – and just like what I’ve read and been told – the whole thing was packed with people just hanging out in the sun (sunset is close to 10pm here). It was so much fun – we got ourselves a little place, just chatting, meeting w/ some people. Then there was an impromptu music. It was – this is probably one of the highlights of my stay here so far. Here’s the link to pictures from the picnic.
- Then one of the weekends I took a train to Zurich, Switzerland – it was a nice 4-hour train ride. I haven’t been to Switzerland before, so this was my first time. Sadly, my boy Roger Federer was in Germany at a tournament at the time, so I didn’t get to see him 🙂 But the train did stop at a train station of his hometown, Basel! That was as close as I got to him this time. I got to go to Lucerne and also went to the top of Mount Pilatus – I took two different gondola rides, a cable car thingy coming down, a boat back to Lucerne, then a bus back to Zurich. I seriously felt like I was actually on the Amazing Race, except there’s no possibility of winning $1 million dollar at the end. But miraculously, I did not get sick at the end of it…. well, not that sick at least. I met up with Nishla and Amal the next day and we hung out in Zurich and also went to this little town outside of Zurich to get to this tower where you could see Zurich from the top. I have to say….. I mean, I obviously already love Switzerland coz that’s where my boy Roger’s from 🙂 … but I really really do enjoy my trip there. The people were so nice and open. And I had no understanding of their language at all since they speak Swiss-German, but the people were so nice and spoke English without looking and sounding like they wanted to spit on you at the same time. I really enjoy this trip. I also got to eat what I think is probably one of the most delicious chocolate I’ve ever tasted at a place called Sprungli – which is a well-known chocolate place and cafe in Switzerland. You could see some pictures from the trip here.
- Then continuing on living like a rock star 🙂 A couple of hours after I got back from Zurich (I took the train back to Paris) – I met up with the ‘American Expats in Paris’ Meet Up group for the Fete de la Musique in Paris on Sunday, June 21st. What a FUN FUN DAY!!! That was the day I told you that Paris became a music ground… music and dancing everywhere. I met up with the American team and got on this “Cyclo-Cafe” thing – which is a new thing here in Paris that’s started out by an American guy. It’s this ‘moving cafe’ thing – where a group of people then pedal to keep the thing moving (it’s hard to explain, please just check out the pictures here 🙂 ). We stopped by a couple of places – the Invalides and in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was very nice to just be able to speak English for a few hours, and bunch of Americans who are here for work, to go to school, there’s one who’s here coz her husband is French, and just a few other very interesting people. We also have a couple of musicians on our cyclo-cafe thing – so I got a chance to sing in front of the Eiffel Tower with the guitarist. That was so much fun. I’d missed singing out loud so much since I got here. I usually sing out loud in my car, but since I haven’t been driving since I have been here…. I haven’t been singing out loud much. So that was such a great relief! Then we hung out for a couple of more hours at one of the bistros, then I walked for about 3.5 miles back towards my area, and saw different bands / musicians in different areas of Paris. I love love love live music, and to be able to experience this, to me… is quite humbling. I felt so fortunate to have been here at this time. Then I got into my area – Le Marais…. 🙂 It was really fun. It was like a combination between San Francisco’s Castro Street, and New Orlean’s Bourbon Street. When I passed it – my phone had died. So I actually went back all the way to my place, then went back to the center of Le Marais so I got to take some pictures and videos and all that. That day – I think I walked a total of 8.5 miles. Anyway – checkout the pictures – it was a fun event!
Becoming Parisian…. -ish
I wrote on Facebook a bit more about this – that after a couple of weeks, I had now developed my “Parisian look” – which is a look of disdain, boredom, above it all, and basically the “this is my world and y’all just happen to live in it” kinda a look! On Facebook I posted a picture from when I was a kid 🙂 That was how I looked. Smug! But…. that is how most Parisians are. I love Paris…. it’s a magical city. I walk around the city and I’m still at awe at some of the things I see or experience. Parisians…. I’m not in love with them. Perhaps because I haven’t made friends with Parisians. But right now – our relationship is more on the “they tolerate me and I tolerate them” stage. And though the first couple of weeks I was ‘hurt’, I’ve since learned to accept and try to assimilate as much as I can 🙂 At least when I’m on the street. I’ve soon notice that when Parisians walk on their sometimes very narrow sidewalk on the street – they don’t budge… for anyone. My first couple of weeks I was forever trying to avoid crashing into people, I was getting dizzy. But I am a very quick learner… as soon as I figured out that’s how they operate – I started doing the same thing! When I now walk on the street, I walk like I fucking own the damn street. No smiling to stranger. Walk straight. And not budging for people. It’s amazing how many people then would just walk around you and let you have the street. And if I happen to encounter another Parisian who also won’t budge, then as we pass each other, we just move our shoulders away from each other so that we don’t crash. Otherwise… please get off my way!! 🙂 I have also now learned that Parisians don’t like to chit-chat in the store. They don’t care if you think some stuff in their stores are “cute” – in fact, they’re a bit turned off by that. They’re not trying to get your money! They’re not trying to “rip you off”. Believe me, for the most part, most of them think it’s your privilege to be in their stores! They also don’t have a lot of patience for people who don’t really know what they want in the store “should I get the red or the black?”, “should I get chocolate or vanilla?” So while the first couple of weeks I was my usual expressive-self when I get into a store… after a couple of weeks, I’ve learned the art of “you’re as privilege to have me in your store” – attitude. Very short, quick, decisive. Tell them what you want, you pay, and you leave. The “-ish” part is …. of all my Parisian-ism (is that a word?!!), once I’m in my elements – once I got to my class, once I’m with my friends – then I could just be me again 🙂
This week …
This past week – one of my best friends, D, is in town. Before she came – my daily average walk is about 5 miles (some days more, rarely it’s less unless I really stayed at home all day like that one rainy day where I got all homesick and feeling sorry for myself so I just stayed at home watching “Something’s Gotta Give … I KNOW!!). Anyway – going back to the walking – since she came, our average is 8 miles walking a day! My feet hurt, but at least I know I earned the champagne and the food I am having. She and I have taken a “croissant-making” class, which was comical only because neither of us really cooks or likes to cook 🙂 But…we had fun, and our croissants turned out pretty well too!!
We also then went to Reims, Champagne region coz we both love Champagne!! I’ve done a couple of day trips to Reims before, but this was the first time we spent the night. It was a very lovely town. And my highlight on this trip was that I got to visit Veuve Clicquot which was my favorite Champagne, and the tour was not disappointing at all. I had such a great time there. Oh also…. I finally got to eat some Mediterranean food with some chili sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been loving the French food I’ve been eating …. but I’ve missed some spicy food so much! I can’t wait to get to NYC and eat my Halal food from my favorite food truck there with their super spicy sauce!
We took a boat ride along the Seine river. It was a very touristy thing to do, but I’m so glad I did it because it was beautiful, and when we got to the Eiffel Tower, the timing was serendipitous as the lights were on. It was beautiful. I took a video of it. I’ll post a link to it some time later.
The other awesome place I found and we got to go to was this cafe / bar at the top of the Printemps department store on Haussmann. We got on there and could see almost 360 degree view of Paris including the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur. It was beautiful.
About “making connections” – it’s like multiple one night stands with multiple people!
I am learning something during this trip too – that I think I’d learned before throughout my solo travel, but even more so now because I am traveling longer than 10 days on my own. I am …. an extrovert (no, that’s not the ‘new thing’ I am learning 🙂 ) … I look for connections wherever I go. But because traveling, by nature is temporary – I’ve experienced these “short” and sometimes “deep” connections while traveling. I am talking about people I meet throughout my travel – some of the day trips I’ve taken, the events I’d signed up to do when I travel, etc. Some of these encounters – have turned out to be more of a long term relationships / friendships, but for the most part … they’re usually short-term connections, but like I said – some can be a ‘meaningful’ one in that short term. And never has it been more true than this travel. I have now met and made these short-term and deep connections with some of the people I have encountered so far. I was trying to explain how it is to one of my friends, and I told him that the best way I could explain it is that it’s like having multiple one night stands with multiple people. It’s like “I know that we probably won’t hear from each other again tomorrow or after a month or two months or whatever, but right now, you make me feel so good, and that’s good enough for me right now!” I don’t know if that’s the best analogy but it’s the best one I could come up with. That though some of them are short … in that moment when the encounter happens, that connection – that human connection we were feeling – was real at the time. And that – can be quite magical. And some…. as I’d mentioned, have turned out to be long-term friendship / relationship. And that’s a bonus!
From this trip – the ones I think – I hope could continue are the friendships with the two cousins from Mexico, Nishla and Amal. Have I told you guys about their story? It’s amazing! They’re cousins – one is taking a gap year after graduating from high school, and the other one – decided to quite her job as an engineer and join her cousin in this one year adventure. I envy and admire their journey. For the past almost one year – they were in England for 7 months taking English classes – then in between, they travel all over – to Spain, Germany, Finland, then they continued on to Paris to take French lessons with no French at all before…. and again in between traveling to Switzerland, Belgium, different parts of France. They’re about to end their journey – they’re leaving for Egypt and Jordan next week – they’ll be there for a few weeks, then go on a cruise to Greece and Turkey before then going back to Mexico and end their one year journey. Tomorrow I am leaving for NYC, and when I come back to Paris, they will have left for their trip. So tonight we had dinner together. It was bittersweet as – though I had only known them for the past month, being ‘on the same boat’ sure makes you feel connected real fast! I hope this is one of those ‘one night stands’ that could turn into something more.
So…. mid-term grade : A
I could not have been happier with how the last few weeks have turned out. I am traveling, I’m learning, I am making connections. I have a couple of people asking me “How are you really?!” – if you’d asked me week 2, I would have said “terribly homesick”. A few weeks ago, I would have said (and I did) “Things are settling”. If you ask me now … the answer is “It’s great!”.
The timing is also great as the second part of my journey is starting tomorrow – I am leaving for NYC tomorrow. It’d be great to be “home” for a bit. This will definitely helps the homesickness that I do get. Then I’ll come back to Paris and have a couple of travels already planned. Then last two weeks will be in Paris back to school before finishing up this trip.
Thanks for reading my very long update. I haven’t gotten a chance to re-read and review what I am typing (so apology in advance for misspelling and/or some ESL errors), this is totally just what’s in my head and heart. I am not as good at blogging, but I do want to give you all an update on how things are.
I have been getting a lot of the “You’re so lucky!” comments and messages. Those of you who know me know that I don’t particularly like that word “luck” – as if we didn’t have any saying on what happens to our lives. As if we just happen to stumble upon our lives (am I making sense?!). I of course believe there are things we cannot always control. But that we all work hard to give ourselves opportunities we want. So – perhaps this is luck, I don’t know…. but I do know how very fortunate I am to have this opportunity… and that I do not take any of this for granted.
I thank you all so much for your love and support!!
Till the next one!