A Day in Paris Part 1

Essays, France, Paris, Uncategorized

With two full days in Paris and two half days— and on one of those days, I wouldn’t even be in Paris but instead trotting along the coast of Normandy—we really had one day to “do Paris.” One rather cold, windy, rainy day smack dab in the middle of summer. But we were nothing if not determined.

We woke up bright and early to leave our hostel at 8 am. And when I say that we woke up bright and early, the struggle was real. My eyes hardly wanted to open. I wanted to huddle in my bed forever. Outside looked grim at best, scaring at worst. I threw on what I hastily referred to as my Paris Dress, a dress I purchased ten years before as a high schooler in the city. Made from cotton with an open back that haltered around my neck, it was completely inappropriate for the day. I wore it anyway and threw a jacket over it.

A steady drizzle greeted us when we reached the Arc de Triomphe at 8:20 am. A steady drizzle and no one in the area, so a win some, lose some. A few cars whipped around the roundabout surrounding the tall war memorial, enough to warn people not to cross the street. After a few shots across the street with umbrella whipping through the air, a Chinese tour group of no less than fifty people surrounded us.

“Let’s go before they cross the street,” I said to Reese. Beat the crowd, is what I always say.

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We passed through the underground tunnel and walked up the stairs to the center of the roundabout. Only a few police officers stood in the center. The wind continued to pick up and I tightened my zipper as I gazed 90 degrees in the air to look at the intricate detailing of the Arc. Napolean must have had some cash to commission this piece at the time. There’s something strange about the giant Roman-inspired structure surrounded by the emptiness of the roundabout and the modernity of the restaurants and shopping just beyond.

Across the street, we saw the Chinese tour group begin to disappear into the underground pass. Quickly, we snapped pictures of each other among the arches, trying our best to look natural as the wind whipped our clothing and hair around in uncomfortable ways and droplets of cold rain hit our skin.

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As soon as the first of the tour came up, we dashed back under to the safety of the tunnel and decided to walk down the Champs-Elysees. We made it about five minutes down the street, sometimes veering down side streets to take pictures of interesting architecture before heading back to the subway station and finding our way to the Eiffel Tower.

By the time we arrived, the drizzle became sparse enough that the use of an umbrella became questionable. We managed to get there a bit early, so we waited in line for the 9:30 elevator booths to open. They moved us quickly through, putting us on a packed elevator and shooting us up one of the legs of the tower.

We arrived at the top, were ushered off onto the first platform and scrambled to the railways.

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“I’m going up,” I realized, motioning towards the stairs leading to the next deck. A cool breeze made me shutter.

“Okay,” my friend said as she drew closer to the anti-falling fencing to take pictures.

I shuffled past a couple awkwardly on the stairs, got my camera ready, and was promptly blown back by a sudden gust of wind and rain whomping me in the face. “Argh!” I cried and struggled to open my umbrella in one hand while holding my camera in the other.

I didn’t want to miss a single moment, clearly.

Heavy rain fell. Wind tour through my thin cotton dress. I stumbled down the stairs to find Reese. No luck. Among the miserable, soaked tourists, she was gone. I dashed around the first platform, then the second.

A strike of bad luck hit me on the stairs—a sudden gust of wind tore my skirts up. I yelped and attempted to push them down whilst still carrying my umbrella against the wind and my camera in the other hand. I stumbled down the steps still yelling and trying to get my skirts under control only to turn back and see a young family of five staring at me open-mouthed.

“Ahh,” I said smartly before attempting to disappear into the crowds.
Good luck with my white dress.

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Another horror of the oncoming rain.

After twenty minutes of searching, I decided to make my way to the top to find her. No luck. One last time checking the beginning platform, and I gave up and headed down to the ground level.

I hastily wiped off a bench near one of the concession stands and sat down at a perfect angle to see between the two working elevators. If she came out, I would find her.

Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Then thirty.

Every crowd that came out made a rise of hope bubble in my chest then promptly squashed it. I suddenly couldn’t remember what she was wearing. What if she came out, but I missed her?
With a breath of relief, I saw her come out of one of the elevators and rose to meet her.

“I looked for you everywhere!” she said.

“I looked for you too,” I said.

I think it struck both of us at the same time that we couldn’t argue over who looked harder. The rain had stopped, the wind wasn’t quite so fearsome as it was from three stories up. We both seemed to decide that exploring some of the streets around us was the next best option, and took our time trying to find the perfect place to get the Eiffel Tower in the background.

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At one point, while we were messing around trying to get crossing-the-street pictures, I called out, “Did you get it?”

“No, she didn’t,” an older French gentleman yelled back. “You better walk again.”

He made me walk another four times without even seeing what the camera pictures looked like. After, he explained to us that particular street was used in many movies over the years. We thanked him and walked away. On to the next adventure.

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Silent: The Street Children of India

Delhi, Essays, India, Uncategorized

They are admittedly cute as they rush up to you with large eyes, grown-up bargaining words, and big expectations.

In their hands can be any number of items: keychains, snow globes, gum, snack mixes. Next to them are adults selling the same items at a competitive price you’ll never hear because your ears are blocked by the cuteness of the child offering up items for you.

They are the street children of India. Often, they look slightly too skinny, with either tattered shoes or none at all, and clothing that is either to big or too large for their bodies. They look like children who have scuffled and played and been roughed around with a few too many times, but here they are, selling whatever they think you’ll buy.

South Korea: A Food Journey

Essays, South Korea, Uncategorized

Exhaustion leadened my weary bones on the seemingly endless drive my first hour in Korea. Outside, only the towering of lights from skyscraper apartment buildings indicated life in the dark.

“In the day, you can see hills,” my boss told me as she zoomed past other cars.

I murmured something and attempted more conversation with a woman I barely knew—a long blur of vague flight details, the experience of my cousin’s wedding, what my family was like—until we arrived.

“Suwon,” she said as she turned down a side street, then another.

We ended up crawling down a bright street hardly two lanes wide with multi-colored awnings set up with a range of wares beneath: silvery fish set on ice, hills of cabbage, pots and pans, hair dye.

Another turn and we ended up on a barely lit street and parking. Without fully comprehending, I was jostled out along with my two suitcases that held my entire life and tattered Kipling backpack.

A woman with blonde hair came out to greet us. She helped me lug my suitcases into my small studio apartment. It was far smaller than I expected.

I looked around the glaringly white space and wondered if it could possibly really be that bright, that small, that empty.

“Are you exhausted?” both she and my boss questioned. “Want to grab dinner?”

“Sure,” I said as I followed them blindly out beyond my apartment and through the market. They sat us down in a chimaek restaurant—a fried chicken and beer place.

A Week In… South Korea (with mom)

A Week In, Essays, Jeju Island, Seoul, South Korea, Uncategorized

Palace with Plant

After constant badgering, I finally got my mom to come out and visit me for a short week at the end of July. At the moment, it’s difficult to believe that it’s already been four months since the last time I saw her in person. So much has happened since then. I’ve experienced election woes, decided to sign another contract to stay in Korea, started making plans to go to a wedding in India and to go to Europe next summer.

Tokyo oykoT: Reflections on Tokyo

Essays, Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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“Hurry, hurry, we need to get in the van,” the little Filipino women said as she urged us into the back of a relative stranger’s 7-seater white van with darkly tinted windows. In other words, it was everything that driver’s training told me not to enter.

My friend piled into the back, I followed, then the woman squished into the back seat with us and we waited.

The Bathing Suit: Body Image and the Pursuit of Satisfaction

Essays, Uncategorized

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The seaside city of Busan was marked by below chilly weather and relatively deserted beaches with biting wind at that time of year. Yet, with a few friends, I decided to make the trek there through Korea during a winter holiday.

“Taking your bikini?” A friend asked days before, face alight with laughter as we ate Korean fried chicken on Valentine’s day, still bundled in our winter coats although we were indoors.

Let Your Heart Be Broken

Essays, Uncategorized

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“People from all over the world have passed through this village, son,” said his father. “They come in search of new things, but when they leave they are basically the same people they were when they arrived. They climb the mountain to see the castle, and they wind up thinking that the past was better than what we have now.”

-Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

Soulful eyes framed by an expressionless face popped up everywhere: Facebook, Instagram, my newsfeed, and email. Successfully over a week, I avoided clicking on the picture to follow a trail to an article. My avoidance came from a purposeful root. Similar pictures led to heartbreak and a cracking in my own shamefully apathetic nature. Cracking is painful and I like to avoid pain. But, that night, the same picture popped up through my languid browsing. This time, instead of scrolling past it, I ran my cursor over it and clicked.