I wish Marco was older.
I almost choke on my birthday cake when he told me he was 23. He looks so mature, kind, well dressed (like most Italian) and that good boy family guy look in his face. (Marco bring his grandpa ‘Jeni’ to celebrate his birthday in Paris. How sweet!)
I laugh awkwardly after he mentioned his age, “Me too! I’m 23!” and his eyes smiling, “Great! Then we have a 23rd birthday party!” I can hear Saphia and Nana laughing uncontrollably. Of course I’m not 23. But let’s stick to 23.
It’s midnight in Paris. On my birthday night, I am surrounded by my new friends, a handsome Italiano I just met on Seine river cruise plus his awesome grandpa, who always walk faster than me. With us, I also have 2 beautiful and lovely ladies, Saphia and Nana, who’ve been accompany-ing me on my whole journey in Paris. Time felt stop for a moment when Marco, Saphia and Nana sang me happy birthday in 3 languages, Italian, French and Indonesian. The French waiter also sing and clap with us too. The best time of my life that I’ll never forget!
Let’s move back a little to year 2005, when I wrote my second book “Je M’appelle Lintang”. It’s about Indonesian girl wanting to find his prince in Paris and becoming a fashion designer. I have built my dream of Eiffel since the day the book’s launched. I wrote every single details with a careful research through various techniques, learning French on CCF course, interviewing Parisian, research heavily on the internet, all to build the story as real as possible. Write your dreams. It will come true, insha Allah. I take a step closer with photoshopping my picture so it looks like I’m standing in front of La Tour Eiffel. My dad comment when he saw the pic hanging on my wall: “Obsessed!” LOL. But, look, dad! In this picture, I’m standing in front of Eiffel wearing my own fashion line, Salsabeela!
I am obsessed with Paris, indeed. But the thought of realizing my dream is somewhat scary. What if, the reality is not as beautiful? If I make my dream come true (of coming to Paris), then what else I should dream of?
Some hard reality struck me 2 years ago, and I said to myself, hell, I’m going to make all my dreams come true. This is my time. So when the time is right, which is Summer 2012, I go to Paris.
Paris is more beautiful than what I have imagine. I fell in love over and over again by its beauty. This is the city, where even poet can become speechless, because finally there’s a place that is more beautiful than poetry.
In Paris, I explore like a true local people. I stayed at Nana’s apartment, my sis who take Master degree in Paris, and going around Paris using underground train called Metro. Metro lines are confusing, but I think I can start to master it the next time I go to Paris. Saphia, my French friend who just visited Indonesia last year, also joining us. She knew I am crazy about Paris. And she wanted to witness every single part of it 😀
Paris is more romantic on midnight. Where me and Nana would walk from station to the apartment. We walk slowly with my limping legs, Nana said I’m a limping diva LOL, because I’m not used to walk that much and I hurt my feet from the wrong choices of shoes. I ended up wearing an ugly slipper during the trip, on rainy and sunny day. Because that’s the only thing I can wear. Other shoes, just eat my feet alive.
During our midnight walks, me and Nana would talk about everything. About how the day goes. About the people we met. About Parisian. About street musician. About the food we ate and how we crave KFC. About life. About love, especially after we saw kissing couple on the street.
Some friends are worried about me wearing hijab in Paris, because it is heard that France’s policy is not very welcome to religious symbol. But I’m okay. Some people stare, but I think it’s not about my hijab, but about me and Nana being different, even from other sisters. We do experiment a lot with fashion. And we’re proud to do that. We get a lot of help from other Muslim brother and sister during our journey in Paris. Someone can give me train ticket, seat on bus, helpfully guide us the way, give us discounts or the most heartwarming was when an Egyptian lady I met in Mosque de Paris, gave me zikr beads and said that she will invite me to Egypt to study Arabic after I gave her my contact number. Alhamdulillah, insha Allah.
Like most first time tourists, I went to Eiffel tower that has always been beautiful, standing in front of Arc de Triomphe, window shopping at Champs-Elysees, admiring Versailles, cruising on the beautiful Seine river on sunset while waving at people on nearby bridge, checking Napoleon Bonaparte’s apartment at Musee de Louvre (because I’m obsessed with Napoleon), fell asleep watching an awful Napoleon play at a small theatre in St. Michel (Saphia said she can’t understand why the Napoleon died in bathrobe and holding ipad LOL), left a message in Shakespeare & Company bookstore (the place where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out), step my feet in km 0 in front of Notre Dame castle hoping I’ll come back to Paris, eating baguette in restaurant’s outdoor like a true Parisian.
After a legendary midnight birthday dinner, me, Saphia and Nana had brunch in a cafe near Eiffel tower. It’s one of my dreams to sip a cup of coffee with Eiffel Tower as background. I’m so very happy we found the perfect restaurant. I fulfilled the dreams in my head one by one.
As I’m getting ready to check-in to Eurostar that will take me to London to have my birthday dinner, I hug my sisters, and hope someday, in near future, if Allah allows us, we will have another unforgettable adventure together. Amin.
I might travel alone, but clearly, I’m not lonely.