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Paris

It was a beautiful autumn day, last Sunday. I jogged past the Wall for Peace four times that morning, and I walked past it another time that evening after strolling along the Seine. I have missed the colours of the sunset at its most intense but it was nevertheless a beautiful sight. *Camera click*

**

Friday the 13th. I don’t have any particular emotion attached to the day, I don’t get superstitious over it, I would even treat it as a good day to buy the lotto just to defy the conviction of some to the notion of unluckiness. Just another day. It is just a day like any other day.

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A whopping decade of blogging

Time flies; it appears I’ve been charting of (mis)adventures for a good decade now. I started blogging on the suggestion and encouragement of my friend D, back at a time when I was searching for a solution to share (travel) news with my family and friends while trying to limit the use of photo attachments that could easily clog up emails. Remember, once upon a time, we did not have mailboxes with 1G+ storage space nor super high speed internet! With the help of Ed and JC – they are awesome technical rockstars! – I managed to get something up and running in no time.

DiXit

Of course, there aren’t ten years worth of blog posts on this site. Blog 1.0 was hosted elsewhere, written at a carefree time where I was less concerned about public sharing of personal information. With time came better awareness and the want to protect the privacy of people in my life so when I acquired this current domain name, I made a conscious decision to keep their stories away from Blog 2.0. F does get regular mention because often, it’s our story that I’m retelling.

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Tales of two photos

Weekend morning, every now and then, I allow myself the luxury of a lie-in. What was different this particular morning was the effort F put in getting breakfast ready. He didn’t just got me any random croissant, he had gone to a rather fancy bakery (where you must not stretch your hand beyond the glass barrier to point at something!) and picked up a selection of goodies. With tea and mandarin juice to complement the pastry.

Breakfast

Breakfast

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Forming new habits

At the start of the year, I figured I would start working on self-discipline, a concept that somehow escaped me in the past year or two. Nothing too drastic though. The plan is to identify key things I would like to do each month and then adopt a handful of daily actions that contribute to these goals and be mindful about maintaining them. This way, every month, I will be consciously doing something rewarding, advancing self-development and most importantly, reinforcing discipline.

River Seine

Reading though a couple of articles (1,2) I came across yesterday, it appears I have gone into the realm of habit forming, even if I had not specifically targetted such an action from the start. I was not even aiming to change my behaviour into automatic deeds per se but the mechanism I’m applying is similar, all for the sake of “focus”.

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Let peace be the guiding light

I had not realised how significant these photos could be when I took them a few days ago, on a night out with friends to catch a ballet flamenco performance. I thought I was just photographing things that I thought to be pleasing to look at.

Peace and light

Today, millions – French and non-French alike – came out to demonstrate unity against extremism and terrorism, to defend their rights and that of their compatriots, and to mourn the deaths that remind us how fragile life can be if we choose violence against peace.

Anyone who the need to kill, to pillage, to rape, or to strap bombs onto a 10-year old little girl so to make a point, the only point they are making is their barbarism knows no moral nor ethical bound. How sad is that? Sowing fear does not make one a hero, but a coward who fear living a righteous life; the scheming, the plotting, everything in utmost secrecy. How sad is that? Living half a life and mostly lies; nearly loveless and nobody that truly cares. How sad is that?

Please, let peace be your guiding light, no matter where you are, which religion you adhere to, what custom you practice.

Let peace be the core of your being.

Laughing with

No one laughs at God in the hospital
No one laughs at God in the war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God, we’re all laughing with God

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(re)focus

Happy New Year! Bonne Année! Selamat Tahun Baru!

Lightshow

I suppose this signals another yearly recap is due. Did I learn and did I make mistakes in 2014? A-plenty! Did I go off (life) tangent and lose sight of goals that I’ve set for myself? Ab-solutely! Did I carry bagfuls of regrets and mutter sorries along the way? Nope!

I refuse to wallow in laments for things I cannot change.

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To learn and to make mistakes

Index cards

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

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Another chapter closed

Happy New Year

I pondered about writing a recap of my 2013, but after a few false starts (text typed, deleted, typed, edited, deleted, typed, deleted again etc), I realised my heart is not in it. How could I? Sitting right next to me is a list of things I have to do in the next 2-3 days, largely because F and I will be moving to a new apartment.

Sometimes, things happened at an incredible speed in Paris. Moving is usually one of them. Mind, apartment-hunting is not. My head is still whirling at the timeline involved: apartment viewing (2 weeks ago), verbal acceptance (a week ago), lease signing (yesterday), inventory visit (this evening), moving day (end of the week). Had we not been away from Paris for the Christmas break, everything could well took place even sooner.

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Most read in 2013

I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to my blog stats, but since I noticed a few interesting questions that landed readers to the blog (and planning to write a post on that soon), I thought, why not make a list of ten most read blog posts of 2013? This should also fall nicely into the end-of-year-listicle phenomenon, so this is my minor contribution ;)

A number of general observations: the posts are mostly Paris-related, the number one post had been read more than the other nine combined (just to show how often it has also been searched for people needing such information), and these posts were mostly published in the first half of the year – I suppose those later in the year haven’t got the equal amount of exposure time thus not as widely read yet.

Amiens

10. Daytrip: Paris to Amiens

Since I had a little free time on my hand (and I needed to grab some points for my SNCF frequent traveller status) I went to Amiens for the day to see the famed cathedral and to suss out the city in general. With a journey time of just over an hour, it’s a very do-able day trip from Paris. I wished I had opted for a late return rather than one in the late afternoon, for I lacked time to check out the Hortillonnages.

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It’s not all about chocolate

This may sound odd but I am off chocolate. I am not entirely sure how it comes about, just that I eat a whole lot less of them (or none at all for extended period) and I am no longer tempted to buy them regularly either. On the other hand, F is chomping in chocolate on a daily basis, at just about every main meal of the day. I reckon he’s eating enough chocolate for the two of us in any case. And yes, we have a stock of chocolate tablets at home to sustain his habit (and this is just about all the chocolate I pick up nowadays).

So when Salon du Chocolat came rolling into town this week, I debated. Nearly an annual pilgrimage for me, I hemmed and hawed about going this year. I probably would have skipped it had my childhood friend not been in town and curious about this large gathering of chocolate vendors and other purveyors of sweet goodies. :)

Salon du Chocolate 2013

Salon du Chocolate 2013

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Always a learner

One question that used to pop up a lot when people see me, especially among older (and extended) relatives, was if I was done yet with studying. Granted, back in the days, every time they saw me, I was still a student and showed no sign of graduating, even if the reality pointed to multiple graduation ceremonies and the upward move in the academic ladder.

Even a few of my friends have teased that I never seem to tire of being a student, and if given my way, I’d be voted as “most likely to be the oldest student in the class/course”, not because I’ve failed or anything but I would happily register myself to one after another.

Street art

You know what – I didn’t (and still don’t) mind this remark at all. I love learning. In fact, I’d say “thank you” for recognising my effort to learn continuously, regardless of my age or my attained level in education.

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Sarah asked me 10 questions …

My friend Sarah loves to create and she blogs about her hobby over at Crafty Sorcha. She recently nominated me for a Liebster Award in which she has 10 questions for me. I’m honoured – merci, Sarah – and you can read my responses following the photo break.

It has been a while since I participated in a meme, and I’m afraid this particular chain of meme will also end here. One of the conditions set out for this award asks for its re-rewarding to bloggers with limited audience, and somehow, in recent months, most blogs that I read have large number of followers while the smaller ones have stopped being updated. (A sign of losing popularity of blogs among small-audience writers?)

Sunny

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When I grow up, I want to be…

… a dance choreographer (I was really young then)
… an explorer (life can get very imaginative indeed)
… a paediatrician (on deciding college application)
… a traveller (at quarter-life crisis)
… a superwoman (no, no, just kidding, maybe?)
… happy.

A prayer

It really shouldn’t be that complicated to figure this out.

Logically, I knew it and have known it for a long time. I am not tied to a career identity, nor should I let it define who I am. And yet, many of us, when asked to complete the sentence of “when I grow up, I want to be…”, we would inevitably try to put ourselves into a mould. One based on family’s expectation, peer’s pressure, society’s dictate, our own ambition and dream that we were encouraged to steep ourselves in.

And yet it was hard to break away. Invisible threads hold me to place, not to mention my Type A personality guilts me into thinking I’d be a failure if I don’t see through any one of the journeys that I have started. It doesn’t want to acknowledge the sunk cost fallacy that is staring back intently. As an emotional being, I remained steadfast to my – perhaps misguided – convictions.

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Musing: when love and culture collide

Last weekend’s wedding in Lorraine (the region in France with 3 international borders!) kickstarted what I have dubbed the summer of wedding attendances. With six invitations – two coming from a same couple but for celebrations in different countries – under our belt, of which two had to be declined due to timing issues, we have effectively three more to go, unless there are more invitations due to arrive that we are not aware of…

Heart

A little something I’ve noticed – none of our friends and family are organising monoculture weddings. Each and every single one of these weddings involve the coordination of customs and celebrations of two different cultures; Indian-Irish, French-Dutch, French-Lebanese, French-American, and Malaysian-Chinese. Now, how’s that for diversity?

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101 goals in 1001 days

Today marks another milestone in my life. The next steps are up to me to make them work, and a friend sagely advised that I should have some sort of anchor that I can focus on during this period of time. She is not wrong. It could be easy for me to drift if I don’t have goals to aim for, discipline to keep.

Clocks

This is where Day Zero Project comes in. I can’t remember how I came across this a while ago (maybe after I drew up my previous list of 50 goals in 5 years?), and it has always been at the back of my mind to revisit the idea. I finally did, and this new list of medium-term goals was born. I will not be tracking them on DZP website though; just here, on this website itself.

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What an oblication…

Vacation. Ideally, budget permitting, we’d like at least a couple of them per year. Luckily for us who live in France (and many parts of Europe), time is usually not an issue given the generous annual leave allowance that we get. Then came staycation following economic downturn where many opt to enjoy their break a little closer to home and hopefully need not spend as much by staying local. A few other portmanteaus cropped up quickly – foodcation, nudecation, etc – you get the idea. And now there’s oblication too.

Tulips in Luxembourg Gardens

Initially, I thought it refers to compulsory vacation time imposed on overworked folks given the risk of burnt out. Errr, no. Collins dictionary online has received suggestion to accept this new word as “[a] vacation that’s scheduled and/or planned to allow you to fulfil some obligations, like visiting friends or family”.

Oh my… it makes these visits sound like a real chore so I’m not sure where the “-cation” part comes in to play. Isn’t there a fun part normally, and perhaps some down time, to actually make it a vacation to look forward to? Maybe oblication should be swapped for oblivisit, or something a little less “yay holiday!”?

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Spring blooms

Spring has finally decided to make its appearance, and as I type this post, it is sunny outside, with streaks of blue sky among some diffused clouds (go away clouds!). However, I’m going to be holed up indoor for most of today, trying to get some work done before a presentation on Monday. The aim is to cram as much work as possible so I’ll have at least tomorrow free to be out and about. Allegedly, the temperature is going to hit mid-20s tomorrow!

Spring blooms

In the mean time, to keep myself happy, I compiled this series of photos from springs in the past 2-3 years. Some little thing to remind me of the reward I’ll get when I go out for a walk or a cycle tomorrow. More the incentive to get focused (after I finish this post :p) and knuckled down to hard task at hand.

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Is it expensive to live in Paris?

This post happens quite by chance. In preparation of some changes to come in my life (and no, we’re not talking about starting a family or buying an apartment – not yet anyway), I started tracking my expenses not so long ago. Normally I have a pretty good idea what I spend my money on, but to actually see the amount I spent on certain things, I scared myself along the way!

Pastry from Pierre Hermé

Then a couple more things came my way: (1) an article that I saw on Twitter last week about budgeting based on the 50/20/30 rule – more on this below – and (2) curious friends who have been asking me about the cost of living in Paris. The former had me pondering if I’ve set my financial priorities right, while the latter had me seriously thinking about feasibility of living in Paris.

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On staying positive

Dusk by the sea

It had been a frantic few days.

As a result, the small pot of daffodils which I bought in support of Institut Curie sat there for 4 days before I got round to replanting it into a bigger pot. I did buy the soil for re-potting right the next day after I brought the daffodils home though.

As a result, I didn’t have time to bake some goodies for a girls’ evening with my friends and I ended up with a store-bought cake.

As a result, I was enormously happy to squeeze in a walk at Luxembourg Gardens with Frédéric on Saturday, when he surprised me after my science outreach activity afternoon and just before I left to meet the girls.

And so forth…

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In retrospect: St Patrick’s Day 2008

My social media feeds have been flooded with various St Patrick’s Day-related photos, videos, well-wishes, articles and more. They are making me very nostalgic for the good ol’ days when I celebrated the festival with much gusto, as well as certain level of silliness, with my friends.

Today, I found a folder of photos from St Patrick’s celebration back in 2008 on my computer. These photos are precious to me. I have not been in Dublin for Paddy’s Day since 2009 (I was elsewhere, then I moved to France) so this was more or less the last time I properly celebrated the big day with the whole shebang: parade, céilí, pub crawl! (Previous years I even hosted parties at home – fun, but a lot of work!)

St Patrick's Day 2008

St Patrick's Day 2008

St Patrick's Day 2008

St Patrick's Day 2008

St Patrick's Day 2008

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It’s my 2nd Pariversary!

Photo mosaic

9 March 2011

I woke up in the morning with things strewn all over my soon-to-be-former bedroom floor. I was supposed to have put everything I wanted to keep into boxes and nicely stacked in the conservatory (to be pillaged every time I go back to Dublin, of course, so I can bring more things over), set aside books and clothes that I planned to give away to charity (with my cousin assigned the duty to bring them over to the charity shop), threw everything else into the normal and recycling bins accordingly (mostly recycling), and the top priority of all – pack my suitcase!

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A couple of animated short (love) films

A couple of animated short films came to my attention in the last few days, and they have been nominated for the Oscars 2013. Without a single spoken word, both of them – Paperman and Head Over Heels – made me smile and teary at the same time. The former tells the story of the whimsical side of falling in love, of fate and what’s meant to be. The latter shows how love may yet bring people together after drifting away in separate yet intricately linked worlds for many years.




Paperman went on to win the category but Head Over Heels had me reflecting more on the issue of love in a relationship. Love for the sake of love does not sustain a healthy relationship. It requires nurture and effort, a lot of give and take, but most importantly never to be complacent and assume that love will always be there.

There will be times of disagreement and hurt, disappointment and anger, but there will also be times of consideration and care, small (yet significant) gesture and joy. The path which the relationship takes depends on us to steer it in the right direction. The hope is for continued banking of love, no matter how little, because it will all matter.

I am not saying I’ve got it all figure out (far from it!) but I have learned how easily one can take things for granted, and inevitably resentment will follow when things go pear-shaped. And perhaps at time like this, it is even more important to remember why one love in the first place, and find his/her way back towards the guiding light.

Happy be one!

Happy birthday Elise!

The little girl

This little girl turns one today.

Missing her very much!

Unfortunately she’s about 5 hours – an RER trip, a flight, and a bus ride – away; else I would be throwing her a grand good party to celebrate her first birthday! I trust her parents to do a good job of it nonetheless, so will be waiting for photos and videos to come my way soon.

Yo bro, do you hear me? ;)

On welcoming 2013

Sunset in Paris

If there is one certainty in life, it is that life is uncertain.

This time three years ago – 2010, that is – I was at the brink of finishing my thesis and completely ignorant of how the year would unfold. In my stressed-out mind, there was only one thing to focus on: hand in the thesis already! I figured once that was out of the way, I can take a deep breath, have a much-needed break, start job-hunting, and we’d see how things would go.

That would be too simple, wouldn’t it?

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How did I do in 2012?

Semi-bared Santa

Earlier in January, I wrote about working on life resolutions and tasked myself on 12 little things to do. Let’s have a quick recap on how that went, and then I’ll let you know my opinion on this endeavour.

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Scammers in the city

Oh they were bold alright. Very bold. Had I not witness it myself, I would have a harder time believing it.

Paris, for many, is an idyllic and nostalgic city. And romantic. And classic. And [fill in appropriate adjectives as you wish]. On a recent drizzly afternoon, Frédéric and I were out on a walking tour of Île de la Cité after which I decided we should extend our time out with a stroll towards the general direction of Place de la concorde. Despite the weather, he humoured me and went along my whimsical request.

From Pont Neuf, we took a scenic walk via Jardin de Tuileries and had just detoured onto Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor when we saw an old gypsy woman trying to persuade a couple that they have dropped a massive gold ring. As if watching an episode of a telenovela, we sat down at a bench nearby and I whispered to F that the couple had just been had when they accepted the ring. He was confused.

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Keeping up, you and I

I know I’ve been a pretty sporadic blogger for a few months now. A good deal of things happened, and there are so much that I really want to share with you, whether it be about Paris or elsewhere or something else altogether. So I’m working on catching up on the news right now, new and old. Yup, running parallel time lines. It is not easy to try to juggle it all, but slowly and surely I’ll get there.

It would be easy for me to just decide to forget about the last few months and get on from where I am right now, but I made the decision not to. Just bear with me for this couple of months while I get things sorted, and then we should be on smooth sailing. Yell at me then if I fail to stay disciplined ;)

In the mean time, I know it must not have been easy for you to keep track of my haphazard postings. One post I’m talking about the most current thing, and the next I’m back to something which happened in March (and back-dated as such too). Even I had to create a list so I can keep track myself of what I’ve managed to share and what else I need to write about!

A couple of ways you can follow this blog without missing any of the posts: (1) follow this blog on Google Reader, as it compiles the posts as they are published regardless of the date stated on the post; or (2) via the comment system of blog entries, tick “Notify me of new posts by email”. If you notice the lack of mention of RSS feed, that’s because it comes in the order of the dates of posts. I don’t think that’s going to be very helpful at all.

Thanks for sticking around – I really appreciate it!

Sooo… I’m a Monsieur?

I have good reason to believe, in most countries of the world, my name gives a clear indication that I’m female, owner (or carrier?) of XX chromosomes. In the past, I’ve used the title “Miss” and “Ms” interchangeably and still there wasn’t an issue of mistaken gender even for someone who hasn’t yet met me in person to confirm that I look like one.

So imagine the great fun I’m having in France where Lilian, sans E à la fin, is famously masculine in nature. This country even proves it by putting forth a famous international export in the form of Lilian Thuram. Here, the pronounciation is not how you’d imagine it’ll be pronounced elsewhere. It’s a guttural-sounding “Lee-Leon” that’s correct given the orthographe.

Liliane is how they like to change things up here for me.

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Playing tourist, family-style

It has been a well-charged fortnight with one visitor after another (it’s like we’re running a B&B, but free!) and this week, it’s time for a little family vacation. With my brothers and I living in different countries, a get-together for all of us has never been easy. We’d be so lucky if we manage to all be in the same place together once a year for a few days. Even more precious is when we could squeeze in a rare holiday within this period of time. They are in town to visit and I, for one, am very very happy!

While I’ve always maintain the philosophy of playing tourist on a regular basis – you know, visits to various (lesser-known) museums and walking tours to explore different neighbourhoods – this time, we’re talking the major sights. We’re even talking chez Mickey! Ultimately, our schedule will be dictated by a toddler, otherwise known as my adorable niece. Lucky girl gets to visit Paris at 8 months old!

For now, as time is precious, I’m just going to share this one photo which I adore. Beejay took a series of these by stealth when I offered to hold Elise while her parents worked on snapping some holiday shots. I normally shy away from the camera and prefer to stay behind the lenses, but this works out really well and I think this photo will be printed very soon for safekeeping.

I’ll be back in a few days with more posts (accck all the drafts sitting there which I really really should get out!) and till then, have a wonderful week. :D


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