Thursday, February 23, 2017

wilde zwijnen

After my 2009 pre-orientation visit, I didn't expect to return to Amsterdam. Of course I'd enjoyed the charming city, and I'd been introduced to Indonesian cuisine there— as well as polarizing populism: we studied the tensions following Theo Van Gogh's murder by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch, Moroccan, and Muslim man—but I wasn't exactly hooked. Then, Lorelei was hired to work in the Hague and Jorgie was accepted to a Master's program at the University of Amsterdam. Last November 19th, I returned to the Dutch capital for the third time (via a train from Paris) to reunite with my brother and best friends. Rachael had flown in from London.
From Centraal Station, Rachael, Lorelei, and I ventured to Brouwerij't for a beer before our dinner reservations at Wilde Zwijnen, where we then opted for the chef's tasting menu and sparkling apéritifs. By the time Jorgie came to meet us, we were a few glasses of wine in, giddy in our catch-up. We'd already fully debriefed on the then-recent election results. For a night, all felt right in the world.
And it really was, because there's something to be said about being thoroughly cozy and well-nourished, surrounded by those with whom you can freely express ridicule of impending new rules and the elimination of others while also admitting cynicism towards infinite Bey-worship... we're all equally human, no? (I suppose the question itself suggests some of us do "opt for enlightenment".)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

friday in seattle

I used to pride myself on being able to blend in well. I'm pretty intuitive and can navigate new with an innate sense of cautious yet curious direction. I've been mistaken as French/Dutch/Italian/Turkish in the corresponding country that I entered seamlessly with my American passport. What I haven't regularly recognized, is that this natural skill is actually a privilege I happened to be born with. Perhaps I learned to understand its utility while socializing with "white" kids on the playground or taking summer leadership courses with those who hadn't gotten full scholarships to do so, but I played no part in acquiring my light-to-medium skin or soft brown hair or relatively slender figure; I did not choose to be born into a religion that doesn't inform my daily wear; I had no control over the fact that my parents' cells combined, aligned, and duplicated "normally" nor that I ended up having crushes on boys, not girls. Besides the fact that I'm clearly a woman, I'm conveniently able to hide most markers of identity (difference) that some might consider less than.
The morning after the 2016 election, I flew up to Seattle for work. Two days following, Leslie joined. We walked through Olympic Sculpture Park to the Elliot Bay Trail. We—the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, the grandchild of Jewish refugees—were perfectly safe and thoroughly devastated. Nearly every signature coming out of the White House this past week has validated our response then.

Yesterday, the ACLU won a case to issue "an emergency stay", halting deportations under the President's executive order to ban entry to the U.S. from seven predominately-Muslim countries. The simplified rationale: sending these immigrants back could cause them "irreparable harm". Although hope is not lost, there are still so many reasons to be horrified. Screw blending in.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

the unresolved parisienne

There's so much to be said about this country, and this world right now... I fear words fall short. My hodge-podge of sentiments—anxiety, concern, exhilaration—is too intimidating to capture. Instagram feels more appropriate in its visual short form. As such, please excuse the self-declared banality of my reflection below. It errs on the personal side of Heather Havrilesky's words (via Ask Polly): "If you can’t own the life you have right now, ask yourself what needs to change to make you feel like more of a conquistador."
On November 17th, 2016, I landed in Paris. It was dark and chilly as I commuted from CDG to an Airbnb a mere three blocks from where I'd once lived. The route itself was jarring in its familiarity. I affectionately recognized the corner brasserie, and neo-bistro, and all the other shops and bars (save for a few that were obviously new). I WhatsApp-ed Lorelei, "I don't know how you do this regularly. I want to relive every moment of life here, on repeat times a million, plus more memories." And then, after settling into my Airbnb, I texted Ben, "the apartment has high ceilings and antique furniture and my host is an older impatient woman who offered me fruit upon arrival, so I basically feel like France welcomed me back with open arms." I wasn't kidding. It felt painfully good to be back, again.
The following morning, I woke up relatively early. I Facebooked Deanna to make plans: petit-déj at a café across from a metro stop on his line so she wouldn't get lost, we'd figure out the next steps from there, Rémi would meet up with us after class. Some context: my sister is (quite ironically!) dating a French guy she met over the summer in New York; she has visited him (and Paris) twice since.
We wandered through the Latin Quarter across the Seine and into the Marais, stopping into clothing stores we couldn't afford, a free exhibition at the Swedish Institute, and a worth-every-penny visit to the recently-renovated Musée Picaso. Then we lunched with Rémi at our beloved Nanashi before dragging him into Merci—at which he was the only consumer. They (being too cute) caught the bus home at Bastille while I returned to the 17th to freshen up. Later, I ventured outside the city to join Mia at a Salif Keita concert.
Those first 36 hours were too easy, too normal... it was hard to believe I'd ever voluntarily left! And then, before traveling to Amsterdam, I brunched with Lou at Rose Café. In her thoughtful way, she reminded me of my critiques: the cultural superiority, the unyielding otherness, the callous social capital bred from famous haute-couture fashion houses and the like. Paris, too, has an ego.
A week later, I saw Lou once more whilst staying in Melun with ma famille française. I also arranged plans with Melissa, and Rithy, and Julia, and my AUP professors on campus. We spoke about politics and ideals, life and love, ambition and responsibility. I was so perfectly inspired. I found myself overcome by immense gratitude as opposed to tragic-nostalgia. Every moment was to be savored, so I did exactly that. And I was actually ready to fly back to Los Angeles when the time came—even with its infuriating civic passivity, empty "nice days", select inhabitants trying so goddamn hard to be seen as cool, laid back, and creative in unacknowledged privilege. As my sister reminded me today (from Paris, I might add!): But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?