Barcelona

Vivir, tener, amar

I always say I don’t get why people try to go to sleep cuddling, to be sweet or romantic, even though it is completely uncomfortable. Today he told me, last night we fell asleep holding each other. With a grin on his face.

And then I thought, maybe it is not that terrible if I fall into sleep next to this person for many more nights. I felt like I can finally relate to those pop song lyrics. I want to go to sleep feeling his heartbeat after a long day. I want to wake up next to him in the morning sun. Maybe we can even grow old together. We can be vulnerable, be silly, be confused in front of each other. We can be true to each other. Together. We can dance to Bailando under the bright Spanish daylight with window wide open. We can cook instant green curry and be so proud of our fruit of labor. We can practice languages. We can hacer amor.

The tackiest, most cliche question is, is this love? People ask all the time, but usually confusing “Do I love her/him?” with “Should I tell her/him I love her/him?”. Cosmopolitan has articles and articles talking about when is the right timing to tell your partner the three words, but it does not tell you when you know that you are in love. Surely voicing it out loud somehow makes it more real. But is it love?

And then again, are bubbles fascinating because they break within seconds? As Japanese philosophy sees the most beautiful moment of cherry blossom is when the pedals fall in the spring air? Are we capable of having something real while constantly hopping around the world trying to discover ourselves? Either way, it is always exciting to start off somewhere new, even though it does not get easier to say goodbye to old ones. May our paths cross again. The world is not so big after all.

travel

When life gives you lemon, make limonchello

Sitting at office and watching the gloomy sky outside the window (seriously, Paris?), I am still settling in the post-vacation itch, both of my soul and my sunburned shoulders.

Sicilia is an astonishing, vival yet rugget island that was way bigger than we anticipated. Although not unfamiliar with the map of the region, I somehow pictured it as an intimate tiny island where you can circle around the beach by bikes with cute Italian baskets. While this picture was entirely wrong, as Palermo was actually a very crowded city with wide streets and insane traffics, the “living is all about good food and a family to share it with” mentality seems to be remained on this land.

We decided we didn’t want to be tourists walking around the site but just wanted to be lazy in the sun, catching up with some readings (I know, I feel old), so we managed to find a beach house which was literally five steps away from the water on Airbnb, a train ride away from Palermo. It turned out to be in a small village with absolutely no tourists. People actually stare at us two Asian girls with curiosity on the street, which was not unpleasant at all due to their friendly expressions.

Y, my girlfriend since college, with whom I shared a tiny bedroom with two other girls for four years, also lives in Paris.  When we were 18, the university stipulated that lights must be cut off at 11p.m. in the dorm. It was extremely unhumane and ridiculous but also gave us a lot of opportunities to chitchat, since that was the only thing we could do in the dark. We would just lie down on our own beds and talk about school, future, boys, dreams and those things 18 year olds would normally talk about until we all fall asleep.

Life is strange like that. We were lying in darkness talking about our bright future in Beijing, having absolutely no idea where we will end up in a few years. 9 years later somewhere in Sicily, we were lying under the sun remembering those days in our dark dorm room, still have no idea where all of this is going.

Paris

La fete de la musique

Fête de la Musique, or World Music Day, is an annual music festival taking place on June 21st. In Paris, all sort of music took over every street corner for the day. French pop, billboard top 100, jazz, chanson, or rock, performed by from teenagers to grandpas.

We met up in front of the fountain at Saint Michel. It was a cliché chick-flick moment. He showed up in a dark navy shirt and a baby blue blazer, as if just walked out of a J Crew catalog. I was wearing a coat in baby pink, so together we pretty much looked like colorful cotton candies. The sound of African djembe performance and the fountain was mixed with the yelling of football fans marching through, yet it felt silent as he held me in his arms tightly.

We walked by the river, holding hands with fingers interlocked. Every two blocks there were bands playing. There was a heavy metal band consists of four to five middle aged men with big beer bellies. They were shaking their heads so hard that you could see the splash of their sweat. The drummer was trying to drink beer while performing, ended up cleaning up his instrument with his red bandana. Audiences seemed to be, well at the very least, entertained. A classy lady in her 60s, wearing a beige spring coat and a well-maintained vintage Chanel flap, was elegantly nodding to the rhythm with a slight smile.

Just passed Musee d’Orsay, we heard a familiar melody, Unforgettable by the great Nat King Cole. So we danced. Even though my heels got trapped into paving stones many times, and we weren’t remotely graceful, but the lighting of the ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde and the (finally) warm summer night wind somehow made it worthy of a blog entry.

Paris

Almost midnight in Paris

I have always thought the greatest art or literature comes out of darkness. The long and cold Siberian winter nurtured the Russian literatures that are tough to read at the first sight yet desperately romantic. Or it could be the inner madness that drives them to rumble, to line, to color, to hum, just to avoid drowning in their own thoughts. Gaugin was depressed, as thousands of other painters, Munch screamed “death was knocking his door” due to a severe hallucination, London tried to kill himself, Hemingway actually killed himself.

But Paris, oh Paris, the summer here is so bright. The sun sets at 10p.m., and La Seine still reflects the golden light at 11p.m. There is no time for you to pity your horrible job or other sorts of misery. Only, you feel forced to stare at the blueness of the blue sky, redness of red wine and the beauty of Parisiennes in chic dresses, feeling a slight chill from the breeze blowing through the river. How could such a fluffy city give birth to such grand amount of greatness?

Hemmingway, Beauvoir, Fitzgerald, Wilde, Miller, Duras, Celine… Some of them were bathe-in-wine-and-polish-shoes-with-perfume kind of extravagant, some of them lived dangerously and scandalously, and some of them were obnoxious bastards. Two things they had in common though, are that for one, they sure knew how to write, and for two, they were absolutely hopelessly in love with Paris.

Cafe du Flores, Les Deux Magots, bars in the Latin Quarter, pubs in the narrow, winding streets in Le Marais. Nowadays these places have become venues for tourists and writer-wannabes to spend 8 Euros on a cup of Cappuccino and talk about their spiritual connection with this “movable feast”. But then again, there is nothing wrong in this desperate attempt of getting closer to those insane brains. We could always sit at the very spot and wonder what view had inspired Pablo Picasso.

– Wanting to be a genious (and end up waking up at 7a.m. just to watch the new episode of Game of Thrones)

Paris

A Norwegian man

A half Norwegian half German man said he was ‘6 feet 4’ in an almost perfect American accent.

He was born and raised north of the Arctic Circle. He stayed in the US founding a tech start-up after graduating from an Ivy League school. A casual but smart grey T-shirt, well-combed blonde hair, lean muscles from sailing and skiing. In short, a living example of the new generation of entrepreneurs in the time of globalization.

When he talks about being a co-founder of a start-up, his blue-grey eyes wander a lot, trying to find precise wording to express his mixed feeling. “I mean it is a lot of pressure because the tech industry moves so fast, and you are always anxious trying to keep up,” he takes a sip of his dry cider and continues, “we have an amazing tech team working with our product, but usually when problems happen it is on the management side, and that is super frustrating. I had a staff, who was a very nice guy and we had a really good personal relationship. You know, grabbing a couple beers every now and then kind of friends. But I had to let him go, because it just wasn’t working at office. He wasn’t capable.” “Well, you gotta do what you gotta do, to pay your insane rent in San Francisco, no?” “Exactly!” he cracks up.

When I told him about how I respond to some people in the US asking me “But you eat dogs in China, right?” (I usually just shrug and say, “yeah and we eat American people too”), he tells me about a horrible Tinder date he had in San Francisco. They went to have sushi. After ordering, they started with some small talks. “What do you usually eat in Norway?” the girl asks. He said something about well mostly international food but regarding to traditional Norwegian cuisine, reindeers and whales. The girl screamed, say what?! No!  “She was like seriously mad, yelling ‘I am a member of an ocean conservation organization, and whales are SO CUTE, and how could you eat them?!’” he imitates a valley girl accent in high pitch. “I was a bit annoyed because the whales we eat in Norway are not hunted from wild, and it is not endangering their species, but I didn’t want to ruin the date, so I just went on joking ‘yeah I know, sometimes we eat dolphins too’”, and he bursts into laugh, “and she actually got really upset, so we packed our food and left in an awkward silence.  It was like a 5 minutes date.”

“Well, personally I eat meat because I don’t have the heart to waste our ancestors efforts, fighting hard for us to get to the top of food chain,” I joked, “But honestly how unfair is it that we aren’t supposed to eat whales or dolphins or dogs because ‘they are SO CUTE’? Wait, it is okay to eat pigs because they are ugly? Such discrimination by appearance!” “Haha I will steal this argument from now on!” …Of course, we tacitly kept ours voice low having this conversation in the terrace seat.

When we are walking along La Seine enjoying the sun that finally showed up after a whole month of gloominess, he mumbles how he was jealous of me being back in grad school in Europe. “I like what I do and it’s a lot of fun, but I don’t really see myself continue doing this for the next decade, you know” he says as he looks over the Notre Dame wearing the 9pm golden sunlight across the river. “I am in the middle of being trapped into my career path and still feeling like a child with uncertainty and possibilities.”

Uncategorized

The morning after without a night

I woke up with a cute French guy next to me. I could barely open my eyes, but I felt his smile as he gently stroked my hair. When I got out of shower, he was sitting on the couch, with two cups of tea and some fruits.

It was a classic ‘morning after’. Except that there was no night.

I met him for a couple times at a tennis court. The night before, after playing tennis, we had a very late dinner (Ugh, Europe!) and finished at 1:30am. It was pouring hard, and he was biking, so he crashed at my place. We talked for a while. No alcohol, no kissing, no touching, no flirting. Just tea, blankets and some life-story sharing. He told me about his childhood moving around the world, med school and his mildly wild adventures (recently he swam in the flooded La Seine and got chased by police in the river, with cheering audiences on the banks). I told him about law and policies, life in Asia, and my definitely wild dreams. And then we went to sleep lying next to each other like two kids taking a nap at the kindergarten.

Under the Parisian morning light, everything was so real yet surprisingly not awkward at all. In fact, it felt perfect. So we kissed, and it was indeed perfect.

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So heavy, so light

That was two summer ago. I was lying on the hardwood floor in the study, whimpering so hard that I couldn’t breath. I was crunched into a strange shape, my whole body was cramping. Tear wet my cheek, chin, hair, shirt and floor. One voice was haunting me, hovering over my brain over and over:

I am fat.

I gained more than 10kgs in the year before last summer. At first, it was normal. The stress from working in an investment firm, a lot of drinking and way too little exercise and irregular lifestyle put a few kilos on me. So as many girls, I started dieting. At first, it was even fun seeing my weight drop fast. Everyday I felt prettier, and I couldn’t wait till get on my scale to see the new achievements. But again, as many girls, it went wrong. I started the bad cycle: not eat at all for days, even weeks, then my brain and body cannot handle it anymore so I binge eat everything. Afterwards, I starve myself again out of guilt…

For one month, I didn’t consume anything solid. For the next month, I was eating bread and chocolate in the subway, walking, at office and in bed. Sometimes I ran to the supermarket nearby to buy a huge bag of bread out of burning urge, and started to stuff them into my mouth on the way home. Couldn’t wait that five minutes to get home. I remember the calories of most of food. I spend an hour wondering in a store, staring at food and labels, not being able to bring myself to buy anything.

I was becoming a monster. A slave of food.

After a couple cycles like this, before I realized, I reached the largest in my life. I couldn’t look into the mirror, yet I stepped on the scale every hour. I couldn’t see my friends because I was so ashamed. I couldn’t go shopping. I was angry at life. I was unhappy, and my weight, which was perfectly healthy according to medical standard, was crushing me, suffocating me.

The weight should be the lightest thing in our life, yet often becomes the heaviest burden.

Many things happened since then. New city, new school, new friends, new view from the window…My body as well as brain has slowly recovered, or so I hope. I still  sleep with guys because my insecurity is eager for some validation. I still feel uncomfortable exposing my body. I still want to kill myself when looking into mirrors every now and then.

But, at least, now I am able to enjoy a decent dinner with my girls with a glass, oh well, glasses of wine.

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THE FIRST

We are not fair-faced queens, okay, not even plain-faced ones, and there are not that many kings left on this earth. But still, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.

We are heading everywhere, we are heading no where. There are moments with so much joy that we shed tears, there are moments with so much sorrow that we couldn’t.

Fifty years from now, when I sit quietly on my lovely armchair with grey hair, would I remember the dreams and hopes and mountains, all those things that I would kill to have? Or would I just giggle to the memory of riding on the back of a motorcycle with a cute stranger in Athens, full speed towards the hill behind Acropolis? Would I remember the persons I teared my heart for, or the random guys that I shared my bed with.

Not knowing leads to anxious sleepless nights, but knowing is the depression. I guess that is the beauty and cruelty of life.