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A lock of love: my Parisian promise to my future wife

People might think I am completely insane after reading this blog post, but it doesn't matter. This is how I think and feel. What can I say...I'm a hopeless romantic who still believes in analog love.

The other day my friend Adam and I were cowering outside along the Seine River. As the shade started moving we migrated to the other side of the river. As we crossed the Pont de l’Archevêché I saw a bunch of locks on the bridge's railing. At first I thought they were locks newly weds put there, but my friends Amy and Vivian later told me that visitors put the lock there as a sign, promising the city of Paris that they will one day return.

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I thought it was a wonderful idea. It made me ponder about when these people will return to fulfill their promise. Never? Next year? Next week? I loved the idea and wanted to do the same thing. Obviously, I'm not married, but I still wanted to do it. I walked down to the nearby shopping center at my apartment and bought a lock.

On the lock I wrote "April 21, 2011: David Hoang + _____________." I left a little note for her (whoever she is) on the back...

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On the 13th panel on the North side of Pont de l'Archevêché, you'll find my lock.

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I'm not going to dictate things in my life that I cannot control, but if I ever fall in love and get married, I will give her the key to my lock and we will return to Paris to bring it back. If I do get married someday, I want to give her the key, take her to Paris so we can retrieve the lock which contains my heart. I put the key around my necklace and will now wear it with me, wherever I go in the world.

My good friend once described me to someone: "David is madly in love...even when there isn't someone in his life." For the longest time I didn't know what that meant, but after spending time in Paris, I'm starting to understand. I am in love, but I don't know who she is. I'm in love with the idea that she is out there somewhere and one day our lives will converge.

I can't help myself. I am a hopeless romantic who is hopeful. I'm probably the only person in this world who still believes in faith, hope + love (charity).

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I hope one day I find you. When I do, we will go to Paris, the city in the bubble...La Ville-Lumière.

 


First five days in Paris

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Hello from Paris, France! I've finally settled into my new temporary home after an adventurous and epic trip to Croatia and Bosnia. I live in the 4th arrondissement, which is actually known as the gay district, but you know there's good food, shopping and it'll be clean! It's in the northern part of Paris and is literally a five-minute walk from Notre Dame Cathedral. Here are some quick thoughts about Paris thus far:

Parisians are very nice
I don't know why people say the French are stand-offish but they are quite nice. Then again, I think New Yorkers are nice. I think people in the United States are used to small talk, so when a Parisian server is short and to the point, people think it's rude. Even though my French isn't that great, I try to converse in their language, which they appreciate. I tried ordering a baguette the first day and seemed to only get half a loaf. Shawna told me that I ordered half a loaf. Whoops!

Bonne Vie (Good life)
The lifestyle here seems so simple for such a large city. Maybe it's just from what I've seen, but people seem so joyful here. I could sit for hours watching people walk around the city eating baguettes, riding their bikes or sitting and having conversations. I am still working full time over here, but I don't feel like I'm ever in a rush. Perhaps the 9-hour time difference helps, but I am very much at peace here.

Few things I've done

  • Ordered a full baguette (winning)
  • Went out to a bar with Adam and ordered drinks in French
  • Visited Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle
  • Had Crepes Suzette per Shawna's recommendation
  • Living my life normally as I would in Seattle

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The streets are so beautiful to walk around. Everyone j-walks and people run red lights, but it's okay. The city has such a unique energy to it. It's not as fast-paced as New York City...almost as if everyone has time for everything here.

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Yes, I stopped by the Apple Store. Don't tell me you are surprised.

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Revisiting Sainte-Chapelle, one of my most favorite gothic structures ever.

It has been an amazing journey so far and it is amazing to me that it's only the beginning. I've definitely learned to live a simpler life. Hope you all are doing well. I'll post updates whenever I can.

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Shakespeare and Company: a place of inspiration

Near Latin Quarter is a small used bookstore called Shakespeare and Company. Nikki told me that the place was owned by a relative of Walt Whitman. It was a place to get inspired...reminded me of going to Powell's Bookstore as a high school kid.

I love reading on the Kindle and iPad, but there is certainly something special about picking up a book and opening it.


Hello from Paris

It's past midnight here but just wanted to give you a quick update. Paris had been amazing thus far. I live with my friend Adam in an apartment that's five minutes from Notre Dame.

We have been working and sight-seeing a lot, with an impromptu trip to the Apple Store. My favorite part so far is speaking French to the locals...or at least trying to.

Shaking your head yes and pointing are universal.

More detailed updates soon, but here are a few photos.

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Medjugorje: simplicity, peace + tranquility

Our Lady of Medjugorje

It’s amazing that after a few days into my trip to Europe I already found what I was seeking. It was in a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina called Medjugorje. There, was the apparition site of Our Lady of Medjagorje. My friend Vivian and I drove from Split, Croatia and crossed the border to Bosnia.

I was seeking peace, simplicity and tranquility in my life, and as we arrived to the site in the village, I knew it was on top of that hill. We hiked up to the hill…my heart beat heavily with anticipation. As I got to the top I saw the most beautiful woman ever…there she was, Our Lady of Medjugorje. There stood a statue of the Virgin Mary, depcited as described by the children who saw the apparition in 1981.

“She is 18 to 20 years old, slender and around 165 cm tall. Her face is long and oval with black hair. Her eyes are blue with delicate eye lashes and thin black eyebrows. She has a nice, little nose and rosy cheeks. She has beautiful reddish thin lips and her smile is more like some indescribable gentleness. It’s visible as if somehow under her skin.”

There at the shrine was a group of Italian pilgrims. To see in the eyes of these people was simply life-changing…tears of joy about their journey to this very sacred site (regardless of what people believe). At this site, there were no egos or selfishness, but a sense of humility and thankfulness.

I brought some rosaries up that Vivian bought from the gift shop, but they were unblessed. I’m glad I still remembered how to speak Italian and asked with my broken American accent, “Scusi, dove e padre?” which means “excuse me, where is the priest?” They quickly called for the priest to come over. He looked at me and I asked:

Ti benedirò questo rosari, padre? (Will you bless these rosaries, father?)

He replied, “Sarebbe il mio onore, mio figlio” (It would be my honor, my son)

It doesn’t matter what religion one is or what one believes or doesn’t believe, this was beautiful. This area was a convergence of cultures and people seeking the same thing: peace.

We sat on the hill for a few hours, just to witness what was in front of us: a statue accompanied by world travelers, looking over the horizon of the country.

I noticed an elderly Italian man, who could barely stand up, hitting the rocks with his cane. It’s a tradition to bring rocks back from Medjugorje. I realized what he was trying to do and ran over to him. Together we looked for stones that were big enough to break. I grabbed another stone and hit the other one to break it into small pieces. “Molto difficile da rompere,” he said, which means “very hard to break.” He gave me a hug and said “grazie mille.” We shared some tears of joy…two strangers who traveled to the same place…whose lives crossed paths.

This is what I was looking for: conversation with friends and strangers alike, as I seek peace, simplicity and tranquility.

Like the myth goes, I was able to stare directly at the sun. Believe it or not.


Split, Croatia: Kanye wishes he was Diocletian

Kanye West has marble conference tables. Diocletian has a freaking marble palace right on the Adriatic Sea. Diocletian - 1. Kanye West - 0. Thanks for playing.

My good friend Damon suggested I stop by Split when he found out I was going to Croatia. I am very glad he suggested it. It's a beautiful city for a getaway with a very rich history to it. It was really hard to not think about Assassin's Creed while walking through this ancient/medieval town. It's amazing to see how well designed things were centuries ago and have still withstood the test of time.

That's one thing I've really noticed about Europe. Design is life. Everything, from the chair, toilets and palaces have been considered design-wise. They have less space so have to make things more versatile.

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My friend Vivian and I went to see Diocletian's Palace and couldn't help but notice this cat, just laying there on a seat cushion, sleeping in the middle of a huge crown. Kitty cat don't give a sh*t what Diocletian thinks!

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We climbed up San Dominik's bell tower to get a better view of the city. Those who know me well are very aware that I'm terrified of heights. That said, I always love climbing churches because they usually offer the best view of the city...at least in Europe!

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When we got to the top we saw this:

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What do you think this sign means? I think it means "don't drop your red panties, ladies."

The quote of the trip was definitely from our waitress, who definitely has a sense of town pride. She first says "one day is not enough" and when she found out we drove here from Zagreb, here response was, "In Split, Zagreb is zero."

I am planning to take Damon back here so we can share experiences together.


Hello from Zagreb, Croatia

I officially spend about an hour in Paris. After landing in Charles de Gaulle International Airport, I immediately walked out the terminal to go in another one, heading to Croatia. I don't know much about Croatia except heard it's a very beautiful country with a lot of history. That was enough for me to go there.

It is so beautiful here. The people are very friendly and the air is so fresh with the smell of plants, flowers and other wildlife—probably the freshest air I've smelt in my life. Yes, that includes Washington State. I can't stop looking at the people, who vary from olive skinned and dark hair to tall and blonde.

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, reminds me very much of Siena, Italy. The streets and architecture combined with the old men in Adidas track suits. The most beautiful thing about Zagreb though is the culture. At 4pm I realized that most of the city was outside at Cafe Bars having coffee, food and conversations. This went on all night. If I were back home people would probably still be working until 8pm or later. I believe people just open shops until late at night and just take breaks whenever possible.

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The plan now is to rent a car and drive down to Split per the recommendation of Damon. I'm planning to drive over to Bosnia to check that out tomorrow. I only wish I knew how close I was to Budapest, so I could visit. That might have to be for another time, or later in the trip.

Here are a few other photos:

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Welcoming chance and spontaneity

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Before heading to Europe I decided stop into Chicago to see my good friend Kevin. I've known him since I wad a freshman in college. We always have the best conversations. Today we talked about timing. I asked Kevin if we believes there is such a thing as "a good time for something." he said "no" but "You have to let chance and spontaneity take its course." I will certainly take this to heart: do my thing but be open to what opportunities are in front of me...but be able to recognize that and not miss or pass it up.