Thai Things

Following my semester in Paris, I spent the entirety of my senior year falling deeper in love with Austin. I balanced my senior level classes (considerably Intermediate Accounting which almost singlehandedly committed me to the library), with all the football games, tailgates, the Greenbelt, and 6th Street.

A trade-off for traversing within Austin, understandably I didn’t travel as much as I had while living in Europe. As frequenters of my blog, you know by now that I made it a habit to film vlogs for my weekend trips. Following my graduation from the University of Texas at Austin, my parents gifted me a vacation to the beautiful country of Thailand.

In those ten days, I was exposed to a culture I had never quite experienced before. While I personally struggled with Thai food (surviving on fresh fruits and margherita pizza), the landscapes were breathtaking and the people were sincere and welcoming. In my video, I hope you can feel the energy of Thailand and enjoy it as much as I did.

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I’m a firm believer in timing. The concept of being at the right place at the right time. Moreover, how a coincidence is more than just luck, it’s the force of two elements coinciding to form purpose. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and everything has its purpose. A purpose which is driven by timing, acting as its own energy to materialize in its role to piece the parts of our lives together.

There are over 7 billion people in the world, and yet we only experience a fragment of those people in our lifetime. Beyond the friendships that we harbor, and the acquaintances we keep, it’s those who enter our lives unannounced which shape our current existence.

It’s human conditioning which regulates our comfort zones, allowing familiarity to guide our tendencies. We allow ourselves to nestle into a place where we’re admired and have a sense of belonging, dodging discord for fear of loneliness. We line our lives with an invisible barrier which shields the unknown as our minds delegate who we choose to connect with.

Though timing acts against this manmade social construct. It works freely to interrupt the status quo and remind us how greatly life’s purpose lies in the uncertainty we can’t control. While we grasp onto the notion of the inevitable and we’re taught to maintain the company we desire to see in ourselves, our lives are interjected so sporadically with those of a complete stranger. With timing acting as a guiding force, we’re brought together beyond any physical constraints, whether its age, geography, or the production of our aspirations. The trajectory of our lives which we spend so much time deliberating in our subconscious stands still, interrupted.

As a believer in timing, humor me this. For a reason unbeknownst to us at the time, our paths intersect. In the fleeting moments that we engage with each other, a lasting impression is made on our characters. Your presence has been gifted to me with reason, an invitation to thought which invokes a different perspective on my life. In mutatis mutandis, the changes have been made. Our exchange, whether it’s transient or flourishes into something greater, imprints on each other’s being for all of eternity. This exchange, should it be because of chance, fate, or coincidence, is brought upon us by time.

Timing is everything. And with every experience we encounter, the beautiful and the ugly, we’re brought to it for a greater purpose. Impressions which are meant to release us from our indulgences in our comfort zone.

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There’s nothing quite as sobering as moving to a new city and realizing that you don’t know anyone. And in that moment, you begin to question where you are, what you’re doing, and whether or not you even know yourself.

It’s a quarter till one in the morning and I’m walking back to my dorm from the Escargot, rubbing my hands along the sleeves of my sweater, trying to fight the brisk night air breeze that was biting at my skin. The pathway is dimly lit except for the lamp posts illuminating the cement road between buildings C and B, which would soon be blocked off for the start of a years worth of renovations. My phone buzzed in my hand, and I quickly looked down at the screen only to find a notification from Facebook.

So-and-so and 21 other friends will be attending Tacos and Tequila tonight in Austin. Let them know if you’re attending!

I clicked the home button and shoved my phone deep in my purse, picking up my pace as I noticed the darkness dissolve with every step I took. In the distance I heard male voices howl, whistling and slurring some words in French before being interrupted by the sharp shattering of a beer bottle. It was as if you could slice the air with a knife, the silence being the loudest noise around me.

Moments later I arrived at building B, running up the four flights of stairs to get to the third floor (oh yeah, in Europe the ground floor is level zero and I lived on the European third floor, which is equivalent to the American fourth floor). I knocked on my apartment door and was greeted by my parents. My dad began by quickly briefing me on all of the organizing he did in my room: where he installed my tea kettle, how he moved my bed to face alongside the window, and how he hid some emergency cash along the inner lining of my desk drawer.

My mom enthusiastically handed me a brown, glossy gift bag, which I reached in to and found two beautiful diamond earrings along with a certificate of authenticity, entirely in French. “This is your early birthday present, since we won’t be here to give it to you then,” she would say. I swallowed back my nervousness and indulged in the luxury of my present, paying no attention to the reality of the situation– that my parents were about to say goodbye to me as I moved to a new city, in a new country, in a different continent. Realizing the time, two hours past midnight, we exchanged kisses on the cheek and my dad prayed in a hush tone as he embraced me for one last time (a tradition of his every time I leave to travel).

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Game day in Austin, my new apartment, and my Dallas normal.

This was it. A rush of excitement reverberated through my bones, amplified by the hoots and howls which slipped through the cracks beneath the balcony door. While I was high on the adrenaline of being in a new country, a numbness sat idly in the back of my mind as I realized that I was on my own. That’s when the sobering silence began to seep in and I recognized the reality of the situation. I sat down on my bed and looked up at the moon through the large panel of windows along the wall. While I harbored a fear of losing myself in the commotion I felt relief knowing that that we all look up to the same moon. Swallowing my doubt, in that moment I knew that everything I would do was solely dependent on me. All that I was so certain of and with all other drivers aside, I’d control the reigns of my life and it would be up to me to make the most of all that would greet me in the new year.

All the sudden change and movement around me transformed into a state of constancy. My forever in the moment would soon deviate into a fond memory. As every day would pass, I would overwrite the uncertainty I’d face and discover my normal with the people I’d spend all of my hours with.

In the past year, my life turned into finding my new normal in a new city for an X-amount of time before having to move on to the next. The immediacy of every new setting sunk into my life, making that very moment in my life become my default, my new normal– square one. In France, waking up and walking down the street to Building T for class was my new normal. Waiting outside the Catacombs in the slicing, Paris night air for the 1:30 am shuttle from the city back to campus. In my home away from home I had found my new normal and in those fleeting moment, it felt as if nothing would ever change again.

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My 21st birthday in Paris.

A milestone of my life was turning 21 while I was living in France. At dinner at Paris’ Le Georges, to my surprise the waiters poured in to our private room with trays of sparkler shooters and velvety chocolate cake alongside a scoop of a ice cream and cannoli. As my friends sang happy birthday, I burst into tears and then to laughter. It only takes an instant to know something, and as my being trembled with emotion, I was overcome with the reality that I had found my new normal with the people I’d call my best friends.

As months passed, the excitement funneled into an anxiety obsessed over how the streets I’d walk and the people who I would talk to every day were only to exist in my life for a short amount of time before I’d have to move on to the next chapter. The honesty of being on my own rushed over me like a gradual intoxication. I thought my new normal was the definition of who I was, and when it came time to leave, I would have to leave behind who I became during that that part of my life.

It only took me 21 years and four months to realize that I was wrong.

Two thousand sixteen has been the year that I’ve lived mostly out of a suitcase and a carry-on. I’d start my year by leaving behind my second home, Austin, in hopes of finding myself eight thousand one hundred and ninety three kilometers away in the outskirts of Paris. Fast forward five months and traveling through 19% of Europe to when I arrived back in Houston, my hometown in Texas. Four days later, I’d make Uptown Dallas my new home and where I’d spend the entirety of my summer as an intern. After 9 months away, in the middle of August, I’d move to my new apartment in Austin.

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Wine on the Champ de Mars, Dallas skyline, and DKR Stadium at UT Austin.

I didn’t fully understand the concept of finding myself in my normal until this past summer. It’s a June, Saturday morning in Dallas and I lay in my bed, facing the large windows which overlooked Turtle Creek Boulevard, exposed to the beaming sunlight and white noise from outside. The silence rang in my ears as I wished so dearly to assimilate into my new city and clutched to the remnants of my old normal. Just a few days ago I was taking the RER into the city and drinking wine until the early hours of the morning. An hour passed of scrolling through my Instagram feed before I became cognizant of how my new normal wouldn’t come on its own. It would come when I dared to find myself in my new surroundings and in those individuals around me. I would look to spending time with others, not to mask a fear of being alone, but to discover pieces of myself through the relationships I’d form. Soon after, I quickly found my new normal in Dallas. I made the strongest friendships with some people I want by my side for the rest of my life. They made made me realize my worth, my purpose, and where I am in my life. As a young woman living outside of my comfort zone, I found that my perception of finding my “normal” was entirely skewed. I was so caught up in the momentary aspect of uncovering my normal that I overlooked how every experience and every exchange would form my person. The things you find in yourself stay with you even after you transition between your current routine of ordinary. You invent yourself in the different cities you travel to and the different people you meet. Your life should be spent finding yourself, and there’s never an end to who you are. It’s a puzzle. Everywhere you go and everyone you meet uncovers a sliver of who you are. The image of who you are in any given moment doesn’t prescribe all that you have yet to discover about yourself as you move on to the next part of your life. It stays with you and mends you in ways which may not be obvious in the present.

As my senior year begins at the best university in Texas, I reflect on the decisions I have to make that will contribute to forming my new normal picking a full time job, potentially moving to a new city, making new friends and leaving the shell of my comfort zone. Every time I leave for somewhere new, I find my routine in that new place and call it my normal. I’ve been using the word normal throughout the duration of my post, though this past year, my impression of normal has changed. There is no such thing as normal, it’s the extraordinary that we align ourselves with to challenge our journey. The excitement that comes along with our lives lies within finding yourself in the various opportunities around you and not confining yourself to your current idea of normal.

Episode 7: Paris, Je T’aime

To quote Charles Dickens, “what an immense impression Paris made upon me.”

I left the states unsure of what I’d find in Europe. I hadn’t ruled out the possibility of living my very own Lizzie McGuire moment, nor had I expectations to become fluent in French in just five months. Well, the latter isn’t entirely true. In retrospect, I’m shaking my head at how easily I was able to navigate the city using the limited French vocabulary that I learned in elementary school. My novaturient wishes were to find myself in the places I would explore, the scents I would inhale, and the people whose words and energies would stimulate my thoughts.

Packing my life into four suitcases, I bookmarked the states in my past and set off to see the grand trouvailles that would decorate my life for the next five months. Let me tell you this in all honesty– I was not disappointed.

I could write you a  novel with all of the tales of this semester, detailed with every inside joke and conversation that made me love the people I spent my travels with. Like that one time, rather every time, when I over-packed my carry-on past the 10kg limit allowed and had to give some of my things to my friend to keep so I could board the plane inconspicuously. When we celebrated the beginning of our study abroad and my 21st birthday on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower (and when Justin Bieber was having dinner at the table across from us during my birthday dinner). Those long, Tuesday night dinners at Napolitain and passing notes in 3-hour classes. And the countless amount of times my friends picked on me for trying to capture the perfect candid photo in front of national monuments and world heritage sites. Oh, how could I forget that time we went to an FC Barcelona match and spent the night on the cold floor of the airport waiting for our 7am flight?

The people I met on this trip, and the memories we shared, will stay with me forever. Words fail to express and detail all that happened in the course of five months. I’ve filmed several vlogs on this trip, and my final of this series will be around my home in Paris. I easily took the city for granted, not filming most of my adventures in the city. However, I filmed my last two days in the city of lights and some of my dear friends sharing their favorite things about the city. Because this project was the born in the midst of late night study session at so last minute, I was unable to film everyone that I wanted to (you know who you are)! But nonetheless, they made this trip what it came to be.

This is the final chapter and concludes concludes my study abroad episodes as I’ve written and filmed for you. Now, almost the middle of June, I’m in my new home in a new city, looking forward to spending my summer interning, meeting a whole new ocean of people, taking daring opportunities, and making more unforgettable memories.

I brought y’all to Paris, now come with me to Dallas.

Episode 6: Santorini & the French Riviera

Have you ever envisioned your own, unique individual place where everything is drawn to precision per your taste and preference? My place is set on the waterfront, an ocean of crisp, cerulean blue water with purity unlike anything else. Along the waterfront, gentle slopes with white Mediterranean-style houses connected with open, outdoor foyers leading to gardens of white, deep-red, and carmine pink flowers. The houses have arches and wooden accents, drawing a stark comparison to the blue of the ocean. Until just a week ago, my place was a fantasy; however, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience my place, and the place I’ve described to you is Santorini, Greece.

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Overlooking Oia, the upper side of Santorini, a few moments prior sunset.

I explored the largest island of the archipelago in the southern Aegean Sea with my sister and one of our close friends, trying to capture some of the beauty of the island through 24 megapixels. While the simple architecture itself was overwhelming on its own, I noticed a familiar feeling that reminded me much of my own Persian-roots. The kind and receptive people of Santorini instantly welcomed me to their hearth, a smile and gentle eyes on the face of those I crossed paths with. The island is populated with stray dogs that will let you play with them, particularly in Oia, my favorite part of Santorini and the upper side of the island, and at Perissa Beach, the popular black sand beach, where I found a stray and named him Demetrius.

We completed our ten day travels in the French Riviera, where I revisited Nice, Monaco, and spent a beautiful, sunny day in Cannes. My trip was a well needed break from the cyclical work cycle at my French university and the beautiful city of Paris which I’ve been able to experience over the past five months. However, I’ll tell you this much, as much as I love traveling to beautiful destinations, it’s not so much the places you go, rather the people you go with that make it worthwhile.

Edit: For copyright reasons, I can’t upload the video to YouTube. For the time being, watch my vlog on Google Drive. Filmed in HD, watch in 1080p!

Episode 5: Not Homesick

The final weeks prior to my exchange, I felt a hunch forming in the back of my mind about the complexities involved with living in a foreign country for five months. I thought about a lot of things. My Type-A, over-analytical self thought about having a hard time assimilating in country with a primary language I don’t speak, where “s’il vous plait” and “merci beacoup” could only get me so far. Then I thought about transportation: I’d have to take the Metro everywhere. Growing up in big-city Houston, where the city is so spread apart, everything is just a ten minute car ride away. I even thought about making new friends while keeping in touch with those from home. But the heaviest thought I harbored was that of homesickness.

Let me tell you a secret. I’m a family gal. I have an older sister who I look up to every day, I have a selfless mother who time after time puts my wants and needs before her own, and I have a loving and supportive father who gives me the world. But that’s not the secret.

Growing up I was in Girl Scouts, you know, camping in the wilderness, “do a good turn daily,” PTA-moms turned troop leaders, and the beginning of being your own businesswoman by going door to door and selling cookies. Well rewind to the first part, camping in the wild in the middle of nowhere, Texas. For the longest time I was horrified to go to a sleep-away camp because I thought if I wasn’t under the same roof as my parents, I couldn’t sleep. I know, logic, right? For one or two camping trips I went all-in with that strategy, staying up all night and begging the sun to rise again so that I could go home. For several years in elementary school this continued. I wanted nothing to do with sleepovers at my friends houses, Girl Scouts became a daytime hobby, and my bed was the only place I’d feel comfortable sleeping.

Fast forward to college where I go to school in a different city, travel on my own to different states, and do things like sign up to live in France for a semester. I didn’t think that I’d get homesick, but because I had heard horror stories of culture shock and homesickness, the idea festered in the depth of my thoughts.

More than half way through the semester, I find that I haven’t been homesick quite yet. I think it’s because I’ve found a home here in Paris, even though I’m just over 5,000 miles away from Texas. I love my white room with wooden paneling, twin bed and white comforter, twinkly lights at the rim of my wall-length window, and PSG flag at the door of my balcony. I’ve found a home in the way that I wake up thirty minutes before class and mosey down to T-building, where I more often than not run into friends along the walk over. I’ve most importantly found a home in the incredible people I call my friends, those who I most likely wouldn’t have met in my lifetime otherwise. It’s hard to be homesick when I know that I’m blessed to be in the position I am. I’m living in France for five months, where traveling across Europe is one cheap-plane ticket away. I’ve quickly realized that it would be selfish to be homesick.

I’m not homesick, but I’m sick. Like actually cough-cough, “where’s my medicine?”, sick. Who would’ve thought that before I became homesick, I’d just get sick. It’s kind of ironic actually, and kind of lame at the same time. It’s times like this where I realize that I took for granted the fact that the doctors office is two exits down the highway. Just prescribe me some meds doc, I’m over this. But it’s France, and the doctor is most likely away on the weekend, and maybe even on Monday because they feel like it. It’s Saturday night, my friends are out clubbing, and I’m laying in bed being sick. Until I get my medicine I’ll be resting and drinking lots of fluids. But at least I’m not homesick, right?

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When you’re sick in Paris. Courtesy of the MacBook Pro Photo Booth image backgrounds. Nailed it.

Episode 4: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Over the last two months, I’ve adapted my lifestyle to living in France where reliance on public transportation trumps cruising down the highway in your own car. I’ve been in more planes, trains, busses, Ubers and taxi-cabs than I ever have over the course of such a small period of time. Having Paris at my disposal and being so centrally located in Europe has also influenced how I spend my time on the weekends. While I do miss going to the Greenbelt for a hike in Austin, walking down South Congress with some friends for a Sunday brunch, and studying on the lake at Mozart’s, there’s nothing I wouldn’t give up to have the mind-opening adventures I experience when I travel to a new country.

I wrote to you about (almost) losing my passport in Munich, but since then, I’ve visited Milan and Prague. I’ve been trying something new by capturing some of the moments of my trip on film, so here are a select few of my favorites.