Posts Tagged 'gratitude'

Gratitude List and the Giving of Thanks

Hot on the heels of Halloween is another holiday American expats have to improvise over here. I like this celebrating of traditions in new ways.

I’ll be heading to a Thanksgiving “apero” on Friday (hey, it’s a cultural melange!), but in the meantime, here is an abbreviated gratitude list. I’ve been incorporating this practice of recognizing life’s bounty into my regular routine anyway; the holiday is just a more formalized chance to say thanks!

I’m thankful that my close friend came through his heart procedure successfully today. I’m thankful for my own open heart.

I’m thankful I can sit with uncertainty, though it can feel scary and hard.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do,” artist Georgia O’Keeffe once said.

I’m thankful for inspiring quotes. Inspring stories. Inspiring people and lives.

I’m thankful for the proverbs on each sachet of Yogi tea.

I’m thankful for silly status updates from friends far and wide – though I really shouldn’t spend quite so much time online.

Continue reading ‘Gratitude List and the Giving of Thanks’

A Quiet Birthday

Pere Lachaise

Pere Lachaise on a sunny day

The sound of rain woke me before the light had come, but the day gave way to sunshine by afternoon. I stayed in bed late, then read, then rose. It was a tranquil beginning to my quietest birthday yet.

I usually plan a celebration of some sort – I love my birthday! – but this year I didn’t feel that’s what I wanted for some reason. It might have had something to do with the storm – seeing the damage it wrought across much of the Eastern seaboard, but most personally, of course to my beloved New York.

Maybe it had to do with my anxiety over the impending election, too. (Please vote!)

But today there was no sadness. I was happy to face the day on my own terms.

After my languid start, I went to the library to work for a few hours, as has become my habit. Some would say, rest! Don’t work on your birthday! But slowly getting back into a committed writing routine is the gift I’m giving myself.

Continue reading ‘A Quiet Birthday’

Magic Moment: Glen Hansard at Shakespeare & Co

Last Tuesday Glen Hansard played an afternoon acoustic set in Shakespeare & Company bookshop. Hansard is perhaps best known  for his part in the movie “Once,” but he’s a veteran musician (with The Frames and more recently The Swell Season).

What a privilege to be in such an intimate space listening to gorgeous, unadorned music! One voice and a guitar. That’s it.

“Lots of traveling takes a toll on the flesh,” Hansard said, “but not the soul. Voice may sound broken but it’s singing its heart out.”

His voice sure didn’t sound broken to me. Strong, emotional, and yes, full of heart. In an age of cynicism I find Hansard’s earnestness – those life and love songs he belts out at the top of his lungs – so refreshing.

(Poor quality video, but to give you an idea):

Shakespeare & Co’s upstairs library doesn’t hold many people; we packed in as we could. Hansard recounted the first time he came to play in Paris in 1993 or ’94. He heard that Serge Gainsbourg and Samuel Beckett were buried in Montparnasse cemetery near the Irish bar where they were booked. He decided to pay his respects.

Continue reading ‘Magic Moment: Glen Hansard at Shakespeare & Co’

The Good People of Paris

Paris 2012 Tweetup at O Chateau

One of the things I am most grateful for about my life in Paris is all the amazing people I’ve met. Common themes often arise when you ask expats how they ended up in the City of Light – love, work, happy accident.

But it takes a special measure of fortitude and creativity to pick up and move to another country. So it’s no surprise then to run into so many interesting folks. We may not be the “Lost Generation,” but I think there are deep things we have found.

What do I mean by that? Well, last night was the first “Tweetup” of 2012, held at O Chateau. (Jeez there are of a lot of us bloggers/Tweeters! There must have been 40 of us packing the friendly wine bar.) As I chatted my way through the crowd, this reality that so many people have remade their lives here kept coming to the fore.

Continue reading ‘The Good People of Paris’

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we speak, this wonderful, witty woman is making + baking a Thanksgiving feast.

Good times at my birthday

(To avoid confusion, I’m referring to the woman who is not me in the picture, of course. You know by now, yes? I don’t cook or bake. I am very thankful others do!)

Molly is my fabulous American friend who is hosting Thanksgiving dinner tonight with her French partner. I think it will mainly be French people, which is why the feast doesn’t begin until 8 PM. (Don’t they know you’re supposed to eat and drink all day?! Well, it is just a regular Thursday here, I suppose.)

No matter, this allows me more time to reflect on what I am thankful for.

Continue reading ‘Happy Thanksgiving!’

In Love with Istanbul

Cruising along the Bosphorous

Sometimes when I travel I feel as if I’ve just lived an entirely different life. Of course, we travel for new experiences and to immerse ourselves in other cultures.

But I mean there are a few instances where I sink into the new place so deeply it feels as if it’s become my whole reality. An inexplicable feeling grabs hold; I’m full with the sense that some part of me belongs even as everything is also foreign and unknown.

Ceiling of the Blue Mosque

On rare occasions – Paris was such a case – this feeling does presage a new life.

It’s been awhile, though, since I’ve felt thus transported.

Well, add Istanbul to the list. I can’t believe I was only there for a week; it felt like its own small lifetime. It helped, I’m sure, that 1) I was with my family so I truly was with people from my “real” life and 2) we had an extraordinary homebase that made us feel like we already had family there.

I don’t usually stay in hotels when I travel. I couchsurf, stay with friends, do apartment swaps – these feel like they put me in closer connection to the true city.

For our reunion, though, I wanted to join my family where they were comfortable and we chose a modest hotel in Sultanahmet in the Old City. We couldn’t have chosen better.

View from Hotel Peninsula

It’s no luxury experience. No. It’s a basic hotel but it has Ruhat at reception who by the end of the week was part of our clan. When I had to move for the final day, in fact (I stayed an extra day alone and the hotel was full), I still used Hotel Peninsula as my base and felt as welcomed as if I lived there. The man who served breakfast each morning literally told me I was family now. He looked as if he was going to give me a hug when I left.

And that’s sort of how the whole week felt: like an intimate, familial gathering – no matter that we were strangers.

We stayed mainly in our area, which, yes, is very touristy. We barely scratched the surface of the big, sprawling city. But when the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar are all a stone’s throw from your hotel, it’s hard to get further out at first – so much to see on every corner!

None of those sites are what did it for me, though. (To tell the truth, I had to flee the Grand Bazaar and felt a bit let down by Topkapi). No, it was the vibe of Istanbul that drew me in. Laid-back, friendly, international, intriguing.

We hopped on a ferry to Asia one day in what has to be the easiest inter-continental commute in the world (and only 1.75 lira to boot). Cats roamed everywhere – over ancient ruins, rooftops, cobblestone streets. The Muslim call to prayer rang out 5 times daily, punctuating time with a strangely beautiful soundtrack.

Business, socializing, wooing were all conducted over tea – I can’t count the number of complimentary cups I was offered.

A grungy, cosy nightclub with a view played French, Spanish, American, Turkish, and gypsy music and a relaxed international crowd (no dress code) got down. Bustling crowds at Taksim Square bristled with energy. This might be the easiest way to say it then: Istanbul is alive.

Continue reading ‘In Love with Istanbul’

Happy Thanksgiving

Last year on Thanksgiving Day, I was flying over the Atlantic, worried, scared. My mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and I was coming back to be with her through surgery and recovery. So much unknown. It’s times such as those that the reality of living so far away hits home.

This Thanksgiving, I sit calmly in Paris where a strange sun is breaking through the gray clouds, a sky that might even promise snow. I am thinking about all that I have to be grateful for, how light can pierce through what at first looks bleak.

I am happy to report that my mom is doing great; breast cancer is something we can beat. I am also grateful that despite the distance, the ocean cannot break the most important of bonds. In fact, I think being an expat makes me think even more about gratitude, how much I have to be thankful for in my life. Sometimes, at a remove, we can see how precious everything is; stand back and we see things shine.

This past year has been quite challenging, on many different levels. There have been times that I felt my light burning low. But it is also through struggle that I become so intensely aware of the many gifts that surround me. Daily miracles. I am one of the luckiest people on earth. I know what love means.

I have family, friends, my health, my imagination, my dreams, a beautiful city, new possibilities, opportunities – and a voice inside me that tells me to leap at them with everything I have.

I am also grateful for your readership and comments. Thank you. I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving filled with joy.


paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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