Guide to Paris, France

Eiffel Tower

I’m back. Well, sort of. In the time that I’ve been gone from blogging, so much has changed. We’ve elected a president who tests my ability to be scared/shocked/appalled with each passing day, I’ve discovered I’m really not with the times anymore (What is this millennial lingo? Stay woke? Fleek? Why am I referring to it as millennial lingo if I’m Gen Z? So many questions), and graduation is encroaching yet again somehow. I’ve also made my first trip to Europe and here’s my guide to Paris.

I’ve never been in a place that I’ve felt so comfortable and amazed by. Cliché but the architecture is amazing and I’ve come back with a lot of photos of random buildings and things.

IMG_0965 Stay

Les Jardins du Marais is a hotel in the Marais part of Paris and the location is perfect. Marais is the historical quarter of Paris (or as a French woman called it, “Ah, old Paris”). There’s a grocery store (Carrefour) that’s a block away, a pharmacy that’s on the corner (stock up on French pharmacy skincare!), and two close Metro stops (Robert Lenoir and Saint Sebastien) nearby. The rooms also come with kitchenettes, which is nice if you want to stay in for a meal. The concept store Merci is also really close. The staff are fluent in a multitude of languages (Spanish, English, German, Chinese, Japanese and more) and at breakfast I met a lot of Americans. I occasionally thought I was in the US somewhere but alas.

IMG_0944 IMG_0946 Book from Bibliotheque Interuniversite Sante Read

What trip to Paris is complete without a trip to Shakespeare and Co? Photos are forbidden within the shop but I snuck in a lot of photos here and there. The inside is as quaint as you'd want a bookstore to be, with original books from when the store was first founded on the second floor, and areas for people to read. Their schedule is something to look into because they do really cool talks. A cat crawled in through the window and scared the bejeezus (#reasonswhyI’mnotcool) out of me when I was on the second floor but I’m sure that’s not a typical experience.

Since I actually went to Paris for academic reasons, I was able to see some really old medical textbooks at the Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de Santé, some of which were from 1595. The director, Guy Cabolot, took them out casually with his bare hands and I was amazed, not only by the preservation of the books but his casualness with the books, some of which were rare. I suppose it’s the American in me as “Americans think 100 years is old but Europeans think 100 miles is far”.

Versailles Versailles Pont Alexandre III Eiffel Tower Notre Dame
I didn’t check that many things off my list since I didn’t have a lot of free time but I did go to Versailles and the Eiffel Tower (definitely do the ferry tour of the Seine River). Everywhere I went, I spoke English and was understood with relative ease. How much of a power that is, to speak your native language in another country that speaks another language and be understood! Not something that is common (try speaking French in New York). I did try to say bonjour/bonsoir, merci and au revoir when I could though. The only non-English language that I did speak ended up being Chinese at the Carrefour since the cashier I had was Chinese and I wanted a bag for my groceries.

It’s through moments like these that I marvel at how fortunate I am, knowing English and being able to go to a non-English speaking country and be able to survive relatively alright. It’s not just due to the fact that I fortunately had free data (mostly 4G/LTE within Paris) and texting in France through my T-Mobile plan, which made getting around really easy, but the fact that English is so ubiquitous.

Currently, I’m seeing how I can go back to Europe again and if I can fit in a trip. Meanwhile, I’m dreaming of the Laudarée macarons that I finally had for the first time in my life and the experiences I’ve had. Paris, I’m coming back for you.

Mary Oliver: Wild & Precious Life Desktop Background

It's interesting how the world works sometimes-- the odd coincidences where somehow, you read something that you just needed.

Recently, my friend Kate posted on Facebook:
From Liz Gilbert as she quotes "Richard from Texas,"

"He said, with such sincere tenderness: 'When will you begin to understand the preciousness of your own life?'"

Before you can decide what to do "with your one wild and precious life" (Mary Oliver), you have to BELIEVE that it is!

Thank you for the reminder, Liz Gilbert.
I've been juggling a lot lately and while usually I can handle it, sometimes I wonder, what am I doing this all for? It might because I hit my twenties this year and suddenly the fact that I need to go through life more smoothly than this guy going up an elevator. #adulting

Mary Oliver's poem, "The Summer Day"  with the last line, "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" touched me. It has since the day I first read that line and it will continue to do so. It's so easy to fall into that trap of doing what everyone else is doing because society deems it so without realizing that your life is precious and crazy.

And so, to pass on the quote to someone who may need it, here's a desktop background that I made. Hope you enjoy!
download link (without watermark) after the jump

Los Angeles Review of Books Review & Into the Past to the Future

Somehow I ended up taking a rather long hiatus, but let’s go back to summer for a moment, when the days were long and the temperature was much, much warmer (curse you, chilly 40 degree Fahrenheit fall weather).

It’s July. I’m reading Dragonfish, on review assignment for the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), a really great publication filled with the great writers and thought-provoking writing. Zach, noir editor at LARB, had emailed me asking me if I wanted to contribute and of course, I jumped at the chance.

Dragonfish is a novel that’s about Vietnamese refugees, the lives that they lead and the stories that they tell, years after coming to America. It’s classified as a mystery but at it’s core, it’s a story about survival, love, hope and the things we do to have those things. A white-American goes to search for his Vietnamese ex-wife after she disappears and he’s found more questions than answers on his search.
It’s to no one’s surprise that I support Asian American writers and literature, as well as the greater awareness of Asian American issues. Too often we are characterized and stereotyped as the model minority and left out, without a voice. What are our stories? The stories that keep us up at night, the stories that we listen to, the stories that we keep, what are those? 

After my review went to publication, I had found a Reddit thread that was about old-school cool but it started to discuss the Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos refugee situation in detail, with posters sharing their personal family histories. It was a mere coincidence of course that these two events had occurred within days of each other but it was eye-opening and a reminder that there’s so much that people don’t know and so much that isn’t talked about.
A poster in the thread writes on how his (her?) grandfather crossed the Mekong, “My grandfather blew up a plastic bag for a makeshift raft and swam across in the middle of the night. The rest of the family, including my grandmother and my parents (with my mother pregnant with me at the time) follow afterwards on a boat (had to find someone who were willing). Again in the middle of the night.”

It’s these stories that need to be told, whether in fiction, on TV or elsewhere. Dragonfish was a great read for me, emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating.

Read my review of Dragonfish for Los Angeles Review of Books here

Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance: Discussion

About a month ago, I pre-ordered Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance on a whim. I take book buying pretty seriously so it’s pretty rare that I’ll buy books “just because” but I think it was due to an overwhelming curiosity to what Ansari might write and find out about the current Gen X/ Y and our dating habits other than the oft repeated “hook-up culture”.

Instead of my usual review, I thought I’d discuss the some of the topics that Ansari explores with one of my friends, Sunny K. She’s a person who’s a lot cooler and a lot funnier than I am. If she ever wrote a book, I’d read it (subtle hint, Sunny).

Modern Romance Aziz Ansari / Graphic: Jessica Yang

Classic Book Titles Turn Cheesy

Warning: Puns ahead. 

All my friends know that I tell really bad puns. "Stop trying to make it happen" they tell me. A while back, Cee, Charlotte and I were talking on Twitter about a palette color website that I found and before I knew it, I descended down the rabbit hole of puns again

When I found out June was dairy month, I rubbed my hands together and make some cheesy jokes with classic book titles (sorry, I couldn't resist). 

I hope you'll like them as much as I do. Let me know in the comments if you think of any additional puns!

Waiting for Gouda
Waiting for Godot Literary Pun | Crazy Red Pen

Review // Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can't shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.
Released: June 2nd, 2015 Published by: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan) Goodreads

With the recent news about the Duggar family and Josh Duggar's molestation of two children, it's almost fitting that Jennifer Mathieu's Devoted, which is about the story of a girl named Rachel Walker as she questions her own faith and spirituality in a church that's similar to the one that the Duggar family is in.

In a press insert that came with the advance reader copy, Mathieu writes that her inspiration for the book came from her obsession with the Duggar family reality show. The Duggar family are a part of a Christian subculture called Quiverfull. As many know, the Duggar family are especially concerned about modesty to the point where females can't wear pants, cut their hair and go on dates (A line from the show comes to mind where Jim Bob, the patriarch of the family, says to one of his daughters, "Now you may side-hug").

To most people, the Duggar family is strange and the subculture that they belong to is mind-boggling. A recent Salon article titled, "I could’ve been a Duggar wife: I grew up in the same church, and the abuse scandal doesn’t shock me" written by a woman who left the same church that the Duggars belonged to,  details the beliefs that she grew up with. It's definitely worth a read.

Devoted traces 17-year old Rachel Walker's questioning about her faith and I found the story to be insightful to the world of Quiverfull. Rachel Walker is unlike her siblings and finds solace in learning, which is frowned upon as females are supposed to be good "helpmeets", women who help the men and bring glory to God's word through early marriage and childbirth. Her curiosity into the world gets her in trouble, first with reading A Wrinkle in Time and second, for going on the computer too much (females are also frowned upon for having occupations).

Travel | Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater

Like most things in my life, my love for architecture was spurred on by books.

At age 9, I received a book about the world's architectural landmarks and so for the next years onwards, I covered that book in post-its, reading, "Must see!" and soon the whole book was covered post-its about places to see, buildings to visit. 

Oops. So much for being selective about the places that I want to visit. 

In reality, I've yet to visit 10% of those places, a problem that I chalk up to time, specifically lack of time. That's a struggle, that particular cliched response about traveling, it's never the right time, maybe later when there will be adequate time. A friend sent me a link to Kate from the State's post about traveling, without planning or savings, and while I don't necessarily agree with her stance, I do agree with her comment about how we're always waiting for the right time to travel. 

Fallingwater, arguably Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, surpassing the Guggenheim, was one of the places that I wanted to visit. Past tense, because I've crossed it off my list of places as I just visited it. A house cantilevered over a waterfall? Yes, please! 

AAPI 2015 Debut Authors You Need to Know

“I’m going to blog”, I told myself repeatedly, through March, Spring break, after midterms. Finally, here I am after finals, finally sitting myself down and creating content I’ve been meaning to do for the past few months. Meetings and work took the better part of my time that I wasn’t spending on school and this blog, along with the social media that’s associated with it, were put on hold. 

However, it’s apt that it’s May, not because school is over (for now) but because it’s Asian American Pacific Islander Awareness month, which is one of my favorite months, not only because I'm able to celebrate my own heritage but also share it with others.

When thinking about my own experiences as an Asian in the US, I constantly find myself referring to Alex Dang’s spoken word performance, “What Kind of Asian Are You?” and Carlina Duan’s “Our sacrifice, our shame”.

Last year, I compiled a list (part one and part two) of young adult and adult fiction AAPI authors, along with website resources about the AAPI experience. This year, I’ve decided to share some 2015 AAPI debut authors.

Lessons Learned

When this year started, I had the intentions of blogging a lot more than I'm blogging now. Suddenly we're almost a third over with 2015 and I've probably blogged about three times since 2015 started which surely isn't doing me any favors. 

Time flies and bam, seven years have passed since I've first started blogging. 

There's something about New Tier of Education, New You (this sounded better in my head and a lot more catchier) that I've almost always believed in throughout my childhood. I was magically going to go through a transformation in high school (still waiting for my High School Musical transformation here), then as I got to college, I was magically going to become a butterfly.

JK, nope, still pretty awkward as evidenced by the seemingly lack of a transformation as 5-year old pictures show.

But recently, au contraire to what I think, looking back at my blog (seven years in the making in a couple of weeks), I have changed and learned a lot. Learning and growing is in the passive, fleeting moments, in the moments where moments where the world seems to be crashing down (#teenageangst), and in the moments where you're happy. I may not have everything I thought I'd have before reaching the grand old age of 20 but here are some lessons that I've learned over the years:

1. Workouts, including early morning ones, aren't as bad as they would seem.
Hitting the gym early means that it's not packed and I've learned to enjoy working out, which I never thought was possible. Grabbing a friend to go with you is key in the early stages, I've learned, since there's more motivation to get up and get to the gym when there's someone expecting you.

2. Saying no and that you can't please everybody.
It's not that "No" was never in my vocabulary because but it wasn't until recently I've learned to say no to people, even if there's an initial unhappiness. There's always going to be someone who's upset and it's hard for me to say no, especially when someone in the equation will be upset but believing in yourself and your ideas is important. It's taken me a really long time and it's still a work in progress to really reconcile myself with the idea that saying no will not really harm me in the long run.

3. The path to happiness is never a straight path.
There's a great graphic where people's idea of success is a straight upward path whereas in reality it's a bunch of squiggles that are somewhat in an upward incline. I do a lot of things for fun that leave a lot of people scratching their heads but it all makes sense to me. It's taken me a while to find what I like and dislike as well as my hobbies but I'm also thankful for the lessons I've learned along the way.

4. Do whatever the hell you feel is right. 
Of course there are limits to this but I used to, and still to do a certain degree, care what other people think. I used to get teased for reading classics when I was younger and it was something that I would hide but honestly, if I didn't read that many classics when I did, I probably would've never read them since I find myself a lot more strapped for time as I get older. My parents have always said for the longest time people whose judgements I fear, I wouldn't see again in the next few years and it turns out that parents are right. On a minor scale it's making a fool of myself at the Metropolitan Museum trying to imitate a Greek statue as seen above and on a larger scale, it's pursuing a career trajectory filled with two opposing disciplines.

5. Best friend inside jokes somehow will be amusing three years, five years down the line. 
Some things never change. The silly joke about alpacas and sheep, with it's original meaning long gone will always hold a special place. The joke about friendship will keep on going on even if one person has a blurry recollection of the initial event.

Maybe it's not about a transformation a la HSM but a slow maturation like Neville Longbottom. One can hope right?

Joking, joking.

What are some things you've learned over the years? 

DIY| Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng card

I have no idea how time flew by and how it's March already. It seems like it was only last week that I was standing on a chair on my tiptoes in the common room in my post-workout gear, shooting some of my favorite Asian food staples. It was early morning and much to my chagrin, one of my suitemates just woke up and came out, seeing my somewhat precarious situation.

But looking back, a half-month full of early morning workouts and insanely cold temperatures (you know it's bad when you have no idea if the temperature you're given is in Celsius or Fahrenheit; is it -20 in Celsius or Fahrenheit? It turns out it was the latter.) has passed. Phew. 

The last DIY I made was about the book of 2012 book so it's only fitting that the next DIY I post is about the 2014 book. Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You is one of my favorite 2014 books and I'm so incredibly happy that it's gotten the recognition that it deserves and more. 

I adore the fact that it's about a Chinese-American family exploring a multitude of things-- family, identity, meaning of life, but I also love the fact that the book ultimately transcends race. It's not just a book about race, but a book about how to love, how to deal with grief, and more. There were so many moments where I was able to connect. 

If you haven't read the book yet, seriously, get on it. Even Buzzfeed has

CNY 2015 | Sheep in Literature and Pop Culture

One of my favorite holidays growing up other than Christmas was Chinese New Year. While Christmas was mostly an excuse to exchange presents (#consumerism), Chinese New Year was an excuse to eat good food, relax and be merry.

Since most of the time I never got Chinese New Year off (my school started giving the day off sometime in high school), my family just ate foods that took slightly more work than the foods we'd normally eat throughout the week. At night, my parents would turn on the TV to catch the elaborate Chinese New Year festivities that always aired on Chinese TV while I went back to doing homework.

I'm back to not having school off on Chinese New Year and last year, the dining halls made an effort to have some Chinese foods (though it was a far cry from Chinese food). I spent the night watching the broadcast of Chinese New Year Gala with some international friends from down the hall.

This year is the year of the sheep. My friends joked that it was my year since I tend to associate myself with sheep (it's less of a love of sheep and more of a play on words with my last name). I've decided to celebrate the sheep in literature and pop culture.

DIY// Valentine's Day Cards

Pablo Neruda Valentine's Day Cards

Your easy-peasy way to get Valentine's Day out of the way-- or at least the card portion of it. 

DIY Where'd You Go Bernadette Card

Winter break for me ended quite uneventfully (unless you count the plane ride back when a passenger broke the overhead bin or the fact that the x-ray machine for luggages broke for a good 15 minutes in security). I'm back in the grind of school and unforgiving chilly winds of winter with snowstorms here and there, which for me is the deal breaker in this whole whole business. Not the school part, just the weather part.

But the weather leaves me with a good excuse to stay indoors and curl up with a book or two while sipping hot chocolate or tea. Occasionally, I'll DIY something if I have time.

Over break, I made some bookish cards to send out and some to keep. Where'd You Go Bernadette was such a card that I kept. 

Where'd You Go Bernadette is probably the book of 2012. I bought it late 2013 but I didn't read it until last summer. It's an epistolary novel about a woman named Bernadette Fox living in Seattle who finds so Seattle insufferable that she has an assistant in India do even the most basic jobs. To her husband, Bernadette is opinionated. To her daughter, she's just Mom. Yet to other private school moms, Bernadette is a disgrace and a nuisance. One day, Bernadette takes off and Bee, Bernadette's daughter is left to figure it all out. 

I really liked the book as well as the cover so I thought I'd do a tutorial on how to make a Where'd You Go Bernadette card. For those who are curious, Keith Hayes, who's an art director at Little, Brown according to LinkedIn,  designed the cover. Talking Covers has a great interview with both Maria Semple, the author, and designer Keith Hayes about the cover

Travel// Welcome to New York

There's something about New York-- the perpetual flow of people no matter the weather and the liveliness of the whole city that makes it so incredibly fun to go to. My parents don't understand my fascination with the city-- what do you do everytime you go?

Go places, of course. There are so many quaint neighborhoods in New York and it's impossible to see all of them at once. On one recent trip, I went to East Village for the first time and it was really different from the usual New York that I see, with indie shops and for the first time in my life, I saw a part of New York where Starbucks aren't dotted all over the place.

The words "New York" always refer to NYC for me. When I went away from the East coast for the first time, I would say "New York" and people would ask, "the city or the state?". In my mind, it's always the city and sometimes forget that there's more to New York than the city.

New York is always and will be, an adventure.

Tech Meets Books// The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

I don't normally read science fiction but I made an exception for Fox Chronicles. I don't normally read fantasy (or books with love triangles either) but I made an exception for The Kiss of Deception. Mary E. Pearson always brings out the unexpected in me and I always find myself enjoying myself as I read genres I don't normally read.

It's either me or the book. 

The book is usually the right answer.

I adore Pearson's writing and I am quick to tell all my acquaintances to go read her books, much to everyone's chagrin because my thought flow only makes sense to me. Drinking coffee and talking about how organic chemistry is puzzling? Oh, you should read Fox Chronicles*. What? 

But it does make for a good blog post. 

I think. 

The first Tech Meets Books wallpaper was the one that I made for Fox Forever and it's strangely fitting that the last wallpaper that I make for 2014 is for Kiss of Deception because 2014 is the Mary E. Pearson Forever Year of Deception (I have no idea what that means but it's the best that I could do trying to combine the two titles. Please do not try to make any sense out of this because trust me, it makes no sense.)

Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson wallpaper
For the full-size wallpaper without the watermark, click below the jump
© Crazy Red Pen
Maira Gall