[News] Of the heat and hijab-wearing – completely unrelated of course


It is not an overstatement to say that I’m literally melting like ice-cream left out of the fridge for too long in the extreme heat that has taken over Hanoi. It has been 39, 40 degrees C aka 98, 99 F, no lie, for 4 days straight. Never have I wished so much for the wind to blow west, just so it can take Lao’s heatwave and spread it around Thailand rather than our already humidity-stricken eastern coast, no offense to the Thai people. My aunt went to Bangkok the other day and said you guys have it breezy and nice there, so you can understand my bitterness after a week of heat/humidity attack. It rained once yesterday bringing the temperature down to 34 C but it has shot up again today and is aiming once again for 40 C tomorrow…and it’s only June. I must say I never was a fan for warm climates, I complained daily every Massachusetts winter of my college days but this is still by far the more unbearable of the two.

Yesterday news-reading brought back memories of a project I did from first year…so long ago, and yet the hijab/burka controversy has been one to last decades in France. Don’t get me wrong, I love the country, the culture, and can’t wait to visit again but I can’t help but rethink the statement about France being xenophobic. France here perhaps being the administration in general, especially Mr.Sarkozy there creating some commission to invent a set of laws to prevent as much as possible the wearing of a hijab. He has gone so far as to say that wearing a hijab, I quote, “reduces the dignity of a Muslim woman”. I mean, seriously, what does a French white man of his status know about a Muslim woman’s “dignity”? because from interviews with these women, many have said to have their hijabs taken away would be the loss of dignity. Those who have chosen not to wear the hijab have their choice and have voiced their support for the freedom to choose. Is hijab-wearing truly religious or it is cultural? either one way or the other, shouldn’t one be able express one’s religion just in the way a Christian wears a cross or a Jewish wears a kippah and in the case of culture, shouldn’t it also be able to transcend borders as long as it’s not imposing? Why all this talk of a woman’s right coming out of male politicians instead of just saying outright how France’s history of State/Church separation hates this kind of free expression, how despite France’s highest Muslim population in Western Europe, France will still always be French. The ban on hijab-wearing in state schools is already enough, why continue to push it so far?


[France] Au revoir!

Photo taken from 2nd story-Eiffel

The decision to spend my last week in France in Paris was, without doubt, one well made. After nearly 10 quick sniff-n-run visits this semester due to train transfer, airport transfer, welcoming, and seeing people off, I was ready to never come back here again. Nevertheless, I figured I never really did give it a chance…all my visits included me…freezing my toes off, spending most of my time in underground Paris metro system, running breathlessly, dragging small and big suitcases up stairs, down stairs, from one body-squeezing metro car to another. The other enjoyable visits I had were only a day long, never close to outweighing my built-up “animosity” to the sight of Paris in general.

The warm weather has given a point-booster to my stay in Paris this time…plus the fact that I have no reason to rush myself, I have had the time and comfort to stroll down the Parisian streets and learn why it is deemed a world-famous romantic city. Sun opens access to undiscovered parks and green spaces…a book and a worry-free mind, best place to be. Sun opens access to cafe on the terrace, sipping, and munching on a melting coffee-dipped chocolate, people-watching all the colors that the Parisians have dug out of their closets for summer. Sun giving a different cheerful gleam to all monumental sites as opposed to the gloomy, rain-dripped, soul-less mass that greeted me other times. Nights here are absolutely amazing, it is warm enough, moderately breezy enough to stroll along the light-lit paths hugging the side of the Seine, who glitters in all her beauty under the early summer’s moon. Such cheesy description, yes I know but Paris in warm weather brings out the romantic in everyone.

Considering these are my last days in Paris and in France…I had a whole list of things that I needed to do. In the past 4 days, I’ve finished a box of chevres, half a box of camembert, countless bread…I’ve drank some kind of wine for every meal with my cousin. I’m a big food person, you can tell. I’ve been, in the words of Mme. Rouchet, trying to “profiter” my every day left here. I have kebab checked, I need to get a croissant, a pain au chocolat and at least 2 more coffee on the terrace before I mount my plane tomorrow.

No, my checklist does not only include food….though..,it does count for a lot ^^. I went to see Versailles, like I always wanted, spent at least 30′ in the Hall of Mirrors. I climbed up the Eiffel Tower yesterday and took a picture of myself similar to the one of grandpa with part of the Tower in the background. I walked along the Seine at night for around an hour. I ate with my cousin in a Vietnamese restaurant in the 13th district. I stood at a traffic light in the middle of Champs-Elysees and got my ‘wanted’ photo of Arc de Triomphe. I ate in the Latin Quarter again last night with Vanessa. Today, I probably will go see Montmartre again, and then visit the Jewish Quarter, find a good place to eat tonight, watch a french film, go to sleep and call it FRANCE ^^.

There were some unexpectedly exciting things that happened unlisted. I met Rit, my former co-worker at Thai Chef in DC, right in front of the Louvre, out of all the places. I had not seen him in a while and to meet a close friend like that just randomly in the middle of Paris. I was, as you can imagine, super-happy. Second wonderful thing that happened, I met Sarah Jessica Parker. Yes! I was walking on Champs Elysees and I saw this huge group of people congregating in front of Sephora. Curious like I always am, I jumped in questioning people as to what was going..turns out SJP was merely a few meters away signing autographs. So after only a 30′ wait in a crazy mass of fans, I was standing there in front of her…for 20 seconds, she said “Bonnn – jurr” (which I thought was hilarious) and then “Merrr-si” …I was kind of frozen, just nodding and stuttering a “hi” or two. Yup, anyway, that was my 1st ever 20 seconds in front of a celebrity and in Paris, out of all the places. Good way to wrap the trip up.

Vanessa was also in town, so I had dinner with her yesterday. My cousin has been out of town for work so it was nice to not be kind of alone here. My stay in Paris has also prepared me better to leave France. It is utterly beautiful here, but again as Mme Rouchet said in her “re-entry” meeting, the place is not the same without the people. It is clearly not as fun being by myself. I’ll wait for a reunion. Au revoir France! A +!

[France] La fin

The end is near, and everything in this city seems to have a stronger grip of my heart. Sunshine lingered in my room today, as it shoned through the little Brecard’s window, the sidewalk on the way to the center seemed oddly nostalgic, the rooms at IES hold a certain air of unrelenting memories, the faces I see imprinting themselves to the depth of my eyes so that I’ll never forget. This place I called home, my refuge in a foreign continent, my haven of emotional support. It is hard to let go but we know goodbyes are never easy…they also don’t last forever. Until we meet again, family, friends, love – Nantes.

Un gros calin du ciel a la terre, de la France aux Etats-Unis, de mon coeur aux votres! Je vous adore :).

[France] Chasing my tail

These flowers, which I saw in Holland, are named “Forget-me-nots”

Dedicated to my memories.

Yesterday, I found out that he had gone, half a month ago. It is a strange feeling, looking at this picture, thinking about the last time I saw him, his face clear and crisp like yesterday’s moon, guarding in the back of my mind the idea of never seeing it ever again. A piece of my heart, …now under the possession of beautiful Past.

Today, and there will have been only 5 days standing between me and my depart. It is a strange feeling, sitting in this bed, in the midst of exam papers, and objects of built-up stability and memories, guarding in the back of my mind the idea of leaving it all behind soon enough. 5 months…now all under the possession of beautiful Past.

Time has not only caught up with me, it has left me lost and dumbfounded in the dusts of its unrelenting tracks. An event or two from reality pulls me from obscurity…and it is only then that I realize Time’s departure long before. Discouraged, I bury myself in the arms of beautiful Past, seeking caress and warmth. Yet, her beauty only digs deeper into the pain.

I’ve lived birth,joy, friendship, love, separation, nostalgia, sadness, death…each dragging me down, tying me to the fate of Past. It is the guilt of my abandoning and forgetting you,Past, that pulls me back. But if I learned anything from this journey, it is better to seek concurrence with Time, and live in hope, than to chase after my tail, and live in vain.

After all..I would never cut off my own tail, I promise.

[Travel] Life goes

If they ever paid me to write a daily journal for a living, I’d be like Thoreau in a torn-up tent in the middle of heaven-knows-where now. I’m not so very up-to-date, you may say.

The Spain trip ended in February giving way to waves of midterm and essays in March, I thankfully did not drown, but there were some water-swallowing…Studying leisurely for 2 months and then all of the sudden, having to write a 10-page paper in French, History of French Art, mind you: Nothing to laugh about. The exams went eeh…yeah they went. You can only suffer during so much time, yet the papers were unlimited devices of torture because the amount of time I need would always be at least 5 times that which I would need for a normal paper in the States. As a result of this 3 week-long- seemingly-never-ending-drag, my daily habits changed…No more talks until 11 pm with my host parents, no more Dr.House in french, no more late-night leisure reading of which that pleases me. Dinner, unfortunately, still stayed late, which meant less sleep. Just me and my gigantic tea mug strapped down in front of German Expressionism, a distasteful style that became ironically more incomprehensible and unappealing the more I read about it. European Union and its enlargements served to be a more engaging subject for my second paper, yet, the eternity that it took me to do research and actually sculpt out that paper was enough to make me indifferent after I had handed it in.

Before I knew it, I was on the border of April, planning for the 2nd big trip of the semester. Last paper placed with a big sigh into my prof’s hands, last scribbles on the exams scribbled, I was packed and ready to do the typical Eurotrip with Amy. 2 weeks seemed mighty long and yet so quickly did they pass by. Eyes filled with fully-loaded 14 days of sightseeing, body flattened like tires overused, and clothes desperately yearning to be soaked in perfume…we returned this past Saturday. It never felt so great to lie in my own bed with a mug and a book, and oh, CLEAN pajamas, sleeping in only until my hungry stomach permitted it no more. Monday was a horribly out-of-it day for everyone. We need a vacation from that vacation…I need a recuperation from all that fun. To bring justice to those wonderful traveling days, I will tell them slowly and hopefully, with enough enthusiasm and memory, as if I wrote it the day of. Keep out for the next posts!

Coming back to Nantes was amazingly comforting. Traveling made me miss home like always, yet also, I longed being back at this city, with my host family, our lively dinners, a french speaking environment, an ambiance that has been attached to me for the past 4 months. It is after all my home in Europe, a place I do know well in this foreign continent. And then I find it shocking that I would have but 3 weeks to savor it. My friends here, having been hit by the same realization, are squeezing in all types of plans, and outings in the next 3 weeks…perhaps a boating down the Erdre, the river running through the center of Nantes, or a karaoke-night. Hopefully, we’ll have dinner together tomorrow after class. I’m skipping Grammar Friday, to spend a long weekend from Thursday with my host family at the seaside. They have been such an integral part of my life here, living alongside this family has pushed me confidently through my days here and learning from them was what made this trip an unforgettable experience. It’s unimaginable, leaving and yet, it casts its eeriness on me. I remember being disappointed each time my 3-day-camp ended each of the 3 summers that I was there…I can’t foresee parting ways with this 5-month life and all that it taught me. I look forward to being home, to start the summer…it is just too difficult to leave spring. Life, like a wheel, rolls on, I suppose…I’ll enjoy myself before it makes the full turn.

[Travel] Here’s the plan!

I pack 2 days of reading for those long night trains

4 days worth of clothes to survive some public laundry machines

6 days worth of food to save money for a pillow under my head

8 days worth of space on the SD card for my image-thirst eyes

10 days worth of energy to continue the next 5

countless days worth of memories to overcome homesickness…