Firstly, the past few weeks I have been feeling extremely anxious and pressured by the expectation to make the most out of this experience, to make the most out of my time here, to profite-bien! I am seized by the plenitude of cultural events in Paris. Let take for example, theatrical shows:

“Avec près de 300 spectacles par semaine et 130 salles, Paris est incontestablement la capitale du théâtre. Elle offre un éventail très varié de pièces, des plus classiques aux plus avant-gardistes, pluridisciplinaires, sans oublier les spectacles pour enfants et adolescents.”

300 shows/ week. How could one consume all that (?!)… How can i aaaaaa aaaa aaaaaa gluttony !!! Just theatre alone! There’re cinema, gastronomy, poetry, ateliers and a and b c d e z!

Now I’m very curious that how could this be made possible for a city? How and why Paris is the way it is today?

I am overwhelmed! There are just simply so many things to do, to see, and I am suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) for the first time in my life! Maybe because I was used to the uneventful peaceful life in Walla Walla. So, I read through a myriad amount of flyers and booklets and websites and put things on my calendar and ended up locking myself in the confined space of my room at the weekends stress-eat and regret about how much fun I could have out there. I guess I would just miss out. If I were in Saigon, I wouldn’t care this much. I read Rose Heising’s blog and in her most recent post, she also mentioned the difficulty to not say yes to things, to find the balance between social and individual time. The goal to travel to all countries has been more of a burden than a thrill and I think I need to re-evaluate my goals. Travelling takes so much time to research and money, and I’m the kind of person who wants to save as much as possible, in fact, to do things most efficiently. Bref, I make efforts now so that I will not have headaches in the future and end up having headaches for making too much efforts. What irony!

The mignon booklet I received in my mailbox on activities in my district 14th. You know how many districts there are in Paris, to each their own booklet ?!

Nuit Blanche is around the corner!

I read through all that …

The number of flyers and brochures I threw out this morning. There are 5 booklets I’m keeping still in my desk drawer…

Secondly, I LOVE MY CLASSES AT IES ABROAD. All the professors are so learned, so sensible/ sensitive, so subtle, so well-humored, so expressive, so genuine, and care so much about what they are doing, one is so unapologetically politically incorrect *star*. Most of the time what is being taught does not matter as much as who is teaching it because I learn so much more from the people themselves, from their approaches, their choices, teaching, and communicating styles, the ways they present and carry themselves, their characters. Awesome bosom, good time good time. In fact, what could be better than studying Art History in Paris? We had physical and intellectual workouts 3 times a week in the Louvre, d’Orsay, d’Orangerie, Centre Pompidou, Musée du Cinéma, photography foundations. I couldn’t be more in love! And the staff, they are just as dedicated. I appreciated the activities they organized, big and small, to motivate us to stick to our goal of improving our command of French and also to step out of our comfort zones in the process. 

Here are some tips:

If you are here for a year, get the Navigo Carte Imaginaire R Etudiant– 350e for unlimited metro, bus, train ride all year.

I also recommend Tang Frères the Asian supermarket in district 13 for groceries because products are so much cheaper there (and I find things normally I cannot find elsewhere). Please DON’T go there on a Sunday morning. I did last week and it felt like a festival to this Vietnamese kid, but only for once, you would not be able to move an inch trust me it’s super crowded on Sunday. It seems like all the Asians in Paris come here on Sunday! My extended family!

A product of Nhi Cao Productions

Classic chicken teriyaki. 2 lb of chicken wings for 2e at Tang Frères. 😉 See, a single metro ticket can cost me 4 meals!

Je suis toujours étudiante

I shared this photo 2 years ago on FB and now guess where I’m at… Chances are our lives. Most of the time I’m very rooted in the present moment (and at the same time a hectic planning mindset) so little things like this remind me to appreciate how far I’ve gone.

Sometimes as I reflect, it’s is just simply awe-inspiring, the fact that for all my life I have been living in one place, like a tiny blue dot moving around in Ho Chi Minh City in Google Maps and now me, the little blue dot, is on the other side of the big blue dot (earth). It hops around everywhere to see, to learn, to absorb. One thing I could be so sure is that I have such a strong passion for learning, a curiosity of a child which never cease to grab at any opportunity to see the world. There’re sparkles in my eyes when somebody tells me something new, sth interesting, or I have never known before and to me, nothing is not worth learning. There’s always something to learn from the world around us, our fellow human beings (even tho sometimes y want to strangle them), and within ourselves.

I would say I’m not the best at applying the things I learned. Like if it is a linear process, ie. learn and then apply, I think I haven’t got there yet the application part. I may forever be a student, not a such-and-such something-something but I’m no longer stressed out about that–fear of people judging me “oh this girl she can only/ is only good at learning/ studying she cannot do anything actually”). Now I can not give more fuck about this because I have so much happiness in the things I do, I learn. I’m happy where I am, being a learner and thus I’m gonna carry on this way.

The past week I have been sitting in class with people who studied French for 5+ years, who has French nanny, who studied in Bordeaux for 10 years. And here we are, on the same page, at the same level and my command of French is no less than any of the student. I understand perfectly the lectures, I write, I read, and I want to improve my speaking skills and level of comfort with speaking the language a bit more. I was even thinking in French. What’s else? I talked to people on the streets; I went to several different insurance companies and xx dealers to ask them about their policies and communicate my needs. I walked around like a little bird. I engaged in some administrative situations. All these little things, it does not seem grande compared to the experience and skills of a translators/ interpreter. There’s so much I’ve got to learn. However, compared to myself yesterday and yesteryear, I’m making huge progress. And of course, I will not let it get into my head but I also have every right to indulge in this celebratory moment.

So cheers to myself who never ceases to learn!

FB Page Amazing Photos in the World, October 7, 2016

Chamonix, France



Journées du patrimoine 2018

As you have known, in the US there’s the White House in DC, here in France, in Paris, we have le Palais de l’Elysée, where French president Emmanuel Macron and his family currently reside. This palace is not accessible to public all year round, except for 2 days a year—Journées du patrimoine (European Heritage Days)! This year, it were 15-16/9 in France. These 2 days are quite a big deal across Europe and the world as there are hundreds of special events, spectacles, house openings, cinema, theatres, gardens, workshops, festivities, all sorts of things within EU countries (days vary), and their embassies in other countries also host many different events. There was literally a world map of events on their website.

At first, I was overwhelmed by the plenitude of offerings, and after several hours of research I was smart enough to find out the sites which were not open to public on a normal day.

So, without further ado, here is the experience and tips to visit le Palais de l’Elysée:

The day before my friend and I was kidding that we must wake up early and be there at 6am to avoid the long line.  I was thinking to myself it wouldn’t be that bad (yes, very optimistic), and then on Saturday I had some other arrangements, so I did not check it out. On Sunday, thinking this was my last chance, during the afternoon, I passed by the place and noticed a long queue, long but not terrible. Thus, I walked all the way to the entrance and was met with 2 guards saying “We were closed.” The reason for the temporary closure is that there were 2 many people waiting in there that it would take 7 hours for all of them to proceed. It was 11am at the time and they officially closed at 6pm, so that reason made sense. “Quel dommage!”-I thought. “I should have known better.” I was just standing at the entrance for awhile, looking at people complaining to the guards how hard it was for them to get there, that the same thing happened to them yesterday, they came and were sashayed away, that the officers should have put on some kinds of signs to tell people that the building was closed, etc. There was no point, really, because I knew these people were just doing their jobs, following orders. However, there was this little girl who came and said that “I’m joining my family.” and the guards let her in. There was also another woman who told the guards she just went for a bread and joining her husband. Others people were still irritated. Observation noted, I parted my way for the museums nearby, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.

French gardens tend has the let-it-be style while English gardens are very well-groomed.

After I finished visiting the museums, I returned to l’Elysée Place’s entrance with a bit of a stressed/ hurried face telling the (of course in French) that my sister is waiting for me at the reception. He asked me again where she was waiting and I said the reception and that was how I got in l’Elysée, a bit of hustling! I did notice that French police have a soft spot for babies, small kids, and family in general. I guess it’s not just the police but it’s their city’s priorities. Anyway, the wait was deceptive as there were 3 security checkpoints that you will not see immediately. After the super long first wait in the sun outside, I thought I was in, just to be met with another one before I saw the gate, and another one before I saw the mansion, and just another one to enter the door of the palace for an interior tour! What a huge crowd! It was 3 hours before I could get inside! Later, I was talking to the same friend about how crazy the wait was and she told me how stunned she waited for 5 hours straight. So friends, hustle a lil bit!


Salon d’argent. Room gilded with silver.

I would feel pretty badass if I woke up working in a room like this. Salon doré, Macron’s bureau. Room gilded with gold.


The very work table of the president ! Position of power!

One of the many dining rooms. This one is for hosting other national representatives on a casual Wed night …

I’m so happy to be here.



The palace also has lots of modern spaces. I love the ceiling of this room. (below)


Office of First Lady Brigitte Macron

This shows how much Macron cares about the environment in his policies.

Press release area

It feels like a chandelier showroom.


I don’t want to leave this palace. I want to live here.

And voilà! Flowers for you and me in the office of First Lady Brigitte Macron. (She is 65 y/o btw, talking about age difference …) To sum up, if they do not let you in, say that “I’m joining my family members at the reception!”



Normandie Excursion

Our first excursion is to Normandie. Why? Because all the Americans go here- one student was kidding. In fact, this place is loaded with history and I felt a real honor and gratefulness for being able to visit Normandie of today.

After a 3-hour bus drive from 7am, we arrived at Memorial de Caen. It is a museum where you will be able to get a background on the major military conflicts in Europe during the 20th century: WW1, WW2, D-Day, The Battle of Normandy. The museum was comprehensive and touching. Some time ago, I used to tell my friends that sometimes I wanted to know how it was like to be living in wartime, that if only a war would happen so I know it was like. That was ignorance speaking. After the visit, I was deeply moved and educated that I never never ever want war to ever happen again in any place to anyone. So much injustice and hate and violence. I hope that we are learning to not make the same mistake twice.

gas mask for baby. 1st time witnessing this.

inflation was rampant

ration tickets

Seeing these weapons in real life is 100 times more different than on the screen. They are so so much bigger than they seem on screen in those war movies.

Then we drove to the Pointe du Hoc where the Battle of Normandy took place. For detailed information on the history of this site, I recommend watching the following video: https://youtu.be/G3UGje5INJk. Years after years, the land healed itself. However, one will be immediately struck by how much the ground was ravaged in the past. There are huge, gigantic holes everywhere, the earth’s scars. I could not comprehend how lucky I am to be able to stand here in peacetime, and that years ago, this place was a battlefield where limbs were bombed flying around, so much blood of people my age was shed, so much courage, so much sacrifice and selflessness.

When I was in this pitch dark chamber (photo with flash), I couldn’t help not seeing the image of so many soldiers swarming in this tiny space looking out of that tiny hole. This chamber is the preservation of their lives.

These are the photos from my photo series: The land heals itself after all those years. Here, I want to portray the harmonious coexistence of weapon and groundscape, remnants of war and nature, destruction and growth, the past and the present. Here, nature takes over, transforms weapons of war and heals itself to a harmonious melody.

My new friends. I think they were just trying to be friendly, or more exactly they wanted someone to take their photos in that mellow sunset. I’m a cynic.

On Friday, we had a small French breakfast at the youth hostel before traveling to Bayeux. In the city of Bayeux we visited the Musée de la Tapisserie. To learn more about the tapestry and its history, I recommend the videos and lessons presented here.

After your visit of the museum, we had some free time to explore the town of Bayeux and its cathedral.

The cathedral opposite to our hostel. Very imposing at night, hein?

This tapestry is 70 metres long !

To-do: Do research to figure how people built these huge-ass mind-boggling cathedrals



American Cemetery …


This reminds me of how I learnt history in middle school.

I want to leave you readers with a poem.

Mon Arrivée

Bonjour! J’arrive à Paris ! (Finalement)

After a long and exhausting flight, I finally arrived in Paris. My first impression of France, which took place at Charles de Gaulle Airport, strangely enough, is the Chinese language is everywhere. In fact, it was a Chinese commercial that welcomed me. Then, I was considering whether or not to take the train to Paris (~10 euros) or taxi (~55e)/ Uber (~40e). I ended up taking the Uber because of my heavy luggage which made it impossible to keep dragging them around. When I arrived at the center I was welcomed by Elyse, our apartment RA who also happened to be my housemate! Here is a photo of my room when I first arrived:

There are 2 beds in the room, and normally, according to the program, one would have a roommate, but because I requested that due to mental health reason, I did not want to share a room with anyone, and in the worst case scenario, I could only share room with a person of color. Of course, there is not many POC in the program, so I got this beautiful space to myself, which I am very glad about. It’s very draining to be constantly surrounded by people so different from you, your values and lifestyles. Thus, please do not hesitate to voice your concern to your IES advisor because they would try their best to accommodate your needs.

My apartment is on rue Alphonse Daudet, district 14 and only a 15 minute walk to the IES center where I would spend most of my time attending classes. There’s also a metro 3 minute walk away, so the location is super convenient! I have heard from several other program participants that their homestay families live a bit further (like the other side of the city), if location matters to you or you do not want to travel far for school (even though the metro system is very sufficient), this is also a point to keep in mind and ask your IES advisor. For example, if you live in the suburb (le banlieue) then it will always be a ~30-40 minutes metro ride to get anywhere.  

During our recent “CORE session” together with IES staff, we students were asked to prioritized our goals for this semester abroad. Here are my goals in order of importance:

  1. Improve my command of the French language. Measure of success: pass DELF/ TCF B2 at the end of this semester. DELF C1 at the end of the year.
  2. Reach out to professionals for internship opportunities in the visual industry, to work at photographer’s studio or a theatre. Next semester I will definitely do an internship.
  3. Ultimate Euro trip: travel to all of Schengen states. <- This is actually the first and foremost objective of so many students in the program

View from my window

The reason why I wanted to be in Paris for a year instead of one semester is that currently, in the trajectory of my lifetime, I’m hopping around the world to see where else besides Vietnam (my home) that I can live or base my career. And so, I was thinking if I only stay in Paris for a short period of 3-4 months, then I would only experience the honeymoon phase, in which life is beautiful and there’s nothing to complain. It would be more like a vacation rather than le quotidien. However, my goal is to have a taste of the burdens of living in Paris, and in France generally. What would stress me out, frustrate or scare me? What kinds of compromises I would have to make? etc. in order to have an idea if I could live in France or not.   

And so far so good! Apart from the language, Paris feels exactly like home, Saigon, Vietnam. The vibrance, the grittiness, the activities, the colors, the people, the store fronts, the trees lining up on each street, I feel so at home in Paris. I belongs and fits in instantly. My feet and my heart both frolicking the streets of Paris like I was doing in Saigon. This feels like home. This feels good. And the motorbikes! the scooters! I will look into getting my own scooter here! À bientôt!

Elyse took all of us to our first dinner at a crêperie. This Galette Nordique cost 11.6 euros.

Mont Blanc 7.7e


Meanwhile, with 9e you can get this legit filling bowl of phở. I personally think that Western food is priced ridiculously compared to Asian food. Vietnamese food is best btw. I found a place for cheap: Pho Bida Viet Nam 36 – 38 Rue Nationale, 75013 Paris

Abroader’s blank slate

There’s only 3 left until I leave for Paris. 3 days and counting down. For the past week, in me there has been a strong feelings of excitement mixed with uncertainty which I discussed extensively with my best friend. It’s like my feelings before going to study abroad in the US, anticipation joined by uncertainty, not knowing what to expect. However, I also experience fear, which is totally different from my previous feelings. I tried my best to get a hold of this fear growing out of my experience in America. Unlike before, now I do know what to expect. Now I do have an idea of the challenges of living abroad—the recurring sine wave of cultural shock and loneliness, the renewed sense of patriotism and nostalgia, learning it the hard way how to handle an unwanted, imposed, and inevitable identity that automatically put one in a position of minority and pricked holes in one’s self-esteem (as articulated by a Canadian professor: “One day I woke up and I became a person of color.”), learning that home is no longer ready-made, home needs to be built, and recently the limbo of being an abroader flapping in the middle of nowhere, not knowing where home is. I’m afraid it’s gonna be the same grind when I’m in Paris.  

Expectation is a dangerous thing. Sometimes I do appreciate my efforts and personal strength I have developed, my precious exponential growth over the past 2 years as a human being. Nevertheless, sometimes I still see myself as much as a failure because I’m nowhere near my expectations. Strangely enough, the very moment I just admitted that, liberation immediately came to me. It makes me re-evaluate what my expectations are and if they are relevant to my personal values or not. Sometimes we get the most of life by letting things go and what makes it so hard for me to let go of expectations because they are the very things that built me up and got me where I am today. Really? Yes, really. In certain senses, yes. And thus, the upcoming year in France where nobody knows anything about me presents itself as a precious opportunity for me to choose how I want to present myself. A blank slate to begin again.

At the same time, I also want to do Paris justice, to let us have the rightful novelty of relationship untampered by my previous experiences. Why did I make an edit to “my” instead of using the word “our,” which feels more natural to the sentence? Because I don’t do that to Paris. I make no judgement towards Paris. In fact, I’d love to know the previous experiences (aka histories) of the city. This is revealing: It is me myself that I have judgements towards, it is me myself who think that my previous experiences are going to hurt our relationship, instead of enriching it. Why do things have to be either positive or negative anyway? This binary rejects the complexity, sophistication of our human experiences which unify us. Indeed, I am today, this loving, caring, and more connected to the lives of other fellow humans, is thanks to all the hardships and struggles I have been through. And thus, I can also see this upcoming year in France as a continuation of experiences, of continuing building upon who I am today and what I have.

And so, Paris:   To begin and continue.  

At home, my mom calls me Bi /bee/. I’m indeed a lovely and hard-working bee.


A visual ode to Walla Walla

Walla Walla has embraced me and given me more than what I need and want

Solace I find in the natural landscapes that abound

Walla Walla gives me my friends, my family, the community, and the many people I have not met

Gradually, I learned to love every aspect of this place, every face, every movement, season, as loving the body and soul of my own growing up on this land


Leaving for the City of (artificial) Light, I’m gonna miss Walla Walla.

Leaving the Wallas be like this