July 2, 2019 – Fashion, Fascism, and the Blue Danube Waltz (OOTD #524)

I’m a big fan of walking bridges.

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could you tell me the abridged version?

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And I think the Margaret Bridge in Budapest may be favorite yet. It connects Buda and Pest, the two halves of Budapest (clever naming, right?) across the Danube from each other. Walking, I’d say it takes maybe 15 or 20 minutes to cross.

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i see why johann strauss ii wrote a waltz

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The view either way is gorgeous, though I would personally say that looking out at the Pest side from Buda is a particular treat, as you can see both the Parliament Building and St. Stephen’s Basilica across the water.

In addition to a lovely walking bridge that stretches the Danube River, Budapest also has the oldest Metro line in mainland Europe (the award for oldest Metro in all of Europe goes to the London Underground), with Line M1 dating all the way back in 1896.

I actually had the pleasure of riding Line M1 for a brief commute with my friend Bilal, as he needed to go from his university in the downtown area to a neighborhood a ways away. Maybe is a quirk specific to me, but I love testing public transportation systems in new cities. I grew up in a city without one (well, I suppose they had city buses, but there were no stops near where I lived so it was irrelevant to me), and so visiting places that have a metro or a train system is super exciting to me.

Budapest’s M1 had such a vibe. It looked more like it came out of the 1960’s rather than the 1890’s, but I can’t pretend that I know exactly what 1890’s public transit design looks like. I feel like most rail systems feel like walking into a time capsule, but this one had an especially strong aesthetic.

The final stop of the day was a monument to the former communist (note the lowercase “c”) Hungarian Prime Minister and leader of the failed Hungarian Revolution, Imre Nagy.

Let me tell you a little about this monument, which I think may have been up there in the list of my favorite things I saw in all of Europe this summer: it’s some spectacularly subtle design. Or at least it was, until it was moved to its current location.

Originally, this statue was located in Liberty Square, a plaza with some highly-political, highly-contested statues and monuments. Among other, less debated pieces, one can find controversial (depending, of course, on your opinion of the subject matter) monuments to the Red Army, to Ronald Reagan, and to the victims of German occupation (which features a makeshift protest installation right next to it) there.

Up until January of this year, Imre Nagy was right alongside the others. He was near the monument to the Soviet Red Army, which is a controversial monument in and of itself. It is the only Soviet monument in Budapest that has been allowed to remain in its original location; all of the others were moved to a park well outside of the city after the fall of the USSR.

Nagy’s original placement near the monument to the Red Army was very intentional. His gaze was fixed on Parliament, with his back to the Red Army. As a leader of the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which attempted to drive out Soviet control following its establishment during the liberation of Hungary from Nazi occupation, this is of course rather symbolic. He looked away from fascism and totalitarianism and towards democratic governance. With his relaxed and non-confrontational but defiant stance, he made a clear political statement through a few purposeful, subtle design choices.

However, Nagy’s statue has been moved to a new location near Margaret Bridge next to the Danube. He still looks towards Parliament, but he no longer has his back directly to the Red Army, and he is no longer so centrally located.

Was his relocation a political statement as well? Did Viktor Orbán himself order the monument’s movement, as one of his many attempts at historical revisionism? I don’t know. I can only say that I don’t like that the statue was moved, as it takes away from its original meaning and artistic intent. It’s an offense to Imre Nagy, to Hungarian history, and to good design.

Anyway, that was more than I meant to say today about historical revisionism and Hungarian politics. In summary: more fashion, less fascism. 

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: The LOFT

Skirt: Forever21

July 1, 2019 – The Grand Budapest Student Dorm (OOTD #523)

*post does not actually feature any images of said dorm.

It took a very long time for me to decide to go to Budapest after Rome. Here’s what happened: when I booked my plane tickets from the US to Europe, I booked a date to get to Rome that aligned with my start day for work. Then, to go back home, I booked a date from Zagreb, Croatia that fell approximately two weeks after my last day at my internship. I knew I needed to end up in Zagreb at the end of those two weeks, and that I needed to vacate my room in Rome two days after the end of work, but I didn’t have any plans for where to go in between then.

By chance, a friend of mine messaged me while I was in Rome and told me that I should visit him in Budapest, where he had just completed a year of study for his master’s degree. This friend has actually featured on my blog before: his name is Bilal, and he was one of the madrasa students from Pakistan whom I met during Madrasa Discourses in Nepal and Qatar. Bilal and I had become closest friends during our time in Nepal and Qatar, and so I was ecstatic when he suggested I visit him in Europe. Plus, Budapest has always been somewhere I wanted to visit, and now I had an excuse.

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eye don’t see what the big deal is

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Apart from the part where I tumbled down a moving escalator at the Fiumicino Airport and broke the handle of my suitcase, the travel from Rome to Budapest went relatively smoothly. It was a super cheap ticket on Whizz Air (yes, that’s actually its name), but it did the trick and got me where I needed to go.

I stayed with Bilal in his dorm room on an air mattress, though I ended up having to switch rooms with one of his friends (and then switch rooms back again) because a housekeeping lady saw me and they’re not supposed to have overnight guests in the dorms. It wasn’t the most glamorous sleeping arrangement I’ve had during my travels (though it beats the time I slept on a bench in the lobby of London Heathrow — more on that later), but again, it did the trick. No Grand Budapest Hotels for me.

On my first full day in the city, I visited the Parliament Building, the Danube River, the Budapest Eye, and St. Stephen’s Basilica, most of which I just looked at from the outside and had little other interaction with. Parliament was closed to the public, the Danube isn’t exactly a river you just go swimming in, and the Budapest Eye was overpriced to ride on. St. Stephen’s Basilica was the only one with both free and practical admission (as all churches should be, in my opinion).

At one point in the afternoon, after I’d finished visiting all of the major tourist sites within walking distance of each other in the city, I wound up having to wait for Bilal for a few hours to finish up an assignment at his university. I decided to sit in a bookshop for a while, where I read The Little Prince and The Old Man and the Sea for the first time. I don’t often just sit and read books if they’re not required for schoolwork (the most recent one I’d read before then was Shortest Way Home, Pete Buttigieg’s autobiography, which my friend Joe lent to me and that I had to finish within a week in order to give it back to him before he went back to England).

It was refreshing to just sit for a while and read something short and poignant, a description that applies to both The Old Man and the Sea  and The Little Prince, but especially to The Little Prince. If you’ve never read it before, I highly recommend that you do. It’s probably my favorite thing I’ve read in years, and perhaps one the best children’s stories I’ve read ever.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Thrift

Jacket: H&M

May 24, 2019 – Climate Strikes and Religious Sites (OOTD #507)

One doesn’t often go on strike with their boss.

There’s something ironic about marching alongside your supervisor in a packed Roman street, the sound of Italian teenagers’ chants overwhelming your senses and making an already-unusual situation even more surreal. I hadn’t been in this city a week yet and somehow, I’d already traded my quiet office space for the pulsating streets. As cries like “change the system and not the climate,” and “don’t rob us of our future” swelled through the crowd. I couldn’t help but feel the corners of my mouth tug upwards in bemusement – it was my fifth day on the job, and, in a quintessentially Italian experience, I was already on strike.

And here I half-expected I was going to be stuffing envelopes all day.

May 24 began for me in front of Santa Susanna in Rome, with a morning prayer with members of the the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Though I’m not Catholic, my internship was with a Catholic organization, and so a lot of meetings and events began with prayer. “Thoughts and prayers” as a phrase has been mocked for its overuse in the mainstream media to indicate a lack of willingness to do anything about an issue, but I actually found that the GCCM’s prayers offered some meaningful insights and reflections about the impact that climate change has had upon the planet. And more importantly, they weren’t just there to pray — they were there to protest.

Around the globe, it was estimated that 1664 climate change protests took place in 125 countries. The time of the marches coincided with the (then) upcoming elections in Europe, as well as the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s second encyclical (look at all of these things I’m learning in Catholic school!). Several thousand gathered in the Piazza de Republica to march to Piazza de Venezia. I was one of them.

Some of my favorite messages on the signs included: “More ass, less gass” (though I don’t think my boss, Sr. Sheila, was as much a fan of that one), “Change the system and not the climate,” “I am away from school to teach you a lesson,” and “Don’t rob us of our future,” to name a few.

 

It was so inspiring to see so many young people— most of them the same age as me—come together to advocate energetically for the care of our planet. Often, I think, the youth get a bad reputation— we’re rebellious, we’re selfish, we’re too idealistic.

This march, with so many teenagers and young adults walking peacefully along side elder climate change advocates, demonstrated that if we seem rebellious, it’s because we’re passionate about this issue. If we seem selfish, it’s because climate change will affect our gen- eration and each one that follows—and we want our children to know we did everything we could to give them a healthy planet to grow up in. If we seem ideal- istic, it’s because we are. We truly believe that a drastic but coordinated effort by our governments and fellow citizens can help prevent catastrophic climate change.

For me, as a student of history and peace studies, what I appreciated most was that the march was non-violent, from start to finish. The-students were assertive, but peaceful, and that is the kind of action I hope to see more of in the world.

I walked alongside Sr. Sheila and her friend, Sr. Cecilia, in what must have been a very odd grouping of people: an American nun, a Filipina nun, and an Chinese-American student. Sr. Cecilia and I carried a sign that read “Laudato Si” in remembrance the encyclical, in which Pope Francis offered the Church’s promise to care the environment and for the integrity of creation.

Sr. Cecilia was a cool nun. I haven’t met many nuns in my life to compare her to, but I’d have to say that she’s probably the coolest nun alive. Not only was she there at a protest, a little old Filipina lady in a crowd full of Italian teenagers, but she would yell at them if they looked at us funny  (which they did, because like I said, we looked rather out of place).

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i don’t know what to do with my hands

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And she took invited me to lunch the Basilica Santa Sabina, her convent, after we inevitably got tired of walking slowly in a huge crowd for what felt like forever (a theme that I’ve found across the marches I’ve attended — they’re boring and slow most of the time). Between the walking during the march and the walking tour of the as the Aventine Hill Rose Garden on the way to Sr. Cecilia’s convent, I really got my steps in that day.

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stop and smell the roses

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That fifth day of work with Srs. Sheila and Cecilia captured fairly accurately my experience at the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission in Rome. During my internship, what I learned to expect was only this: the unexpected. One day I’d be dutifully making my way down a list of 100+ countries to compile research on their most pressing social and environmental issues; the next, I’d be shaking hands with the UK Ambassador to the Holy See and introducing myself.

But that was simply the culture of the office. Though the uncertainty was, at once, exhilarating and daunting, it quickly became part of just a normal day. Trying to tackle a massive issue like refugees fleeing the war in South Sudan when we were just a team of a few people in a small office in Rome could feel like an insurmountable challenge. Yet even though coordinating volunteer activities when we were not physically there in the community to see the impact of their actions could feel trying, it was also enlightening.  In a field like diplomacy or international aid, it doesn’t matter that a challenge feels insurmountable: it must be treated as if it is not.

More so than any language barrier or social norm, this was the cultural value that stunned me the most about this Italian office: their tenacity and optimism despite the misfortunes they worked in. It stunned me, but it also stuck with me.

So while the American in me chuckled internally at the irony of attending a strike with my boss, the developing Italian in me understood that this too was important work – the kind of work that could not be accomplished from a desk chair. Sometimes, you must go out into the streets to try to make a change, even if you are unsure if anything will ever come of your actions. With my broad interest in law and social justice, this internship gave me some insight on what it takes for change towards social justice to actually occur.

Sometimes it takes stuffing envelopes, because those envelopes contain information that may inspire a brother or sister to not just hear “the cry of the earth” or “the cry of the poor” – but to actually tend to it. Sometimes it takes protesting in the streets among a swarm of passionate and hopeful teenagers, because their nonviolent demonstration must speak louder than politicians’ special interests. Sometimes it takes hammering away at the computer keyboard on a 40+ page document that summarizes the shortcomings of over a hundred governments, because we have to acknowledge what is broken in order to fix it.

But if I’ve learned anything at the JPIC, it’s that just as important as whatit takes is whom. Who is needed to tend to the cries of the earth and the poor, to organize the nonviolent demonstration, to fix what is broken?

Anyone. Anyone at all: from the teenager in a gas mask marching next to you, to your beaming boss behind you, to you, a small but idealistic intern who somehow wound up on strike on her fifth day of work.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Thrifted (it’s good for the environment!)

March 2, 2019 – Markets and Mixups (#463)

It’s been nearly a year since I last went to the South Bend Farmers’ Market.

It’s honestly one of my favorite places to go in South Bend. I mean, farmers’ markets in general are cool, and though I don’t have a lot of other ones that I’ve been to to compare it to, but I think the South Bend Farmers’ Market is something special. For one, it has its own little building by the river, and so vendors are able to actually have permanent booths and displays year-round.

It also feels more like a flea market more than a farmers’ market — and that’s a good thing! I like flea markets. There are vendors who sell more than just produce — they have vintage books, houseplants, homemade jewelry, and eclectic goods of that nature. It’s my favorite kind of market (excepting, perhaps, a vintage market or an art fair).

Unfortunately, I don’t get to go often. It’s not really within walking or biking distance to campus (and let’s be honest — campus is basically the only thing in walking distance to campus), and so I only ever go when someone else drives me. It was Dads’ Weekend for my dorm, and so one of my friends’ dads offered to take anyone who wanted to go to the market one Saturday morning. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity. Any chance I get to leave campus (especially with an adult who will pay for my food), I take.

img_3651

Now, I don’t really feel any deep resentment for what I’m about to describe next — I’m sure my friend’s dad didn’t mean to do it. Granted, I don’t think people typically mean to do it, unless they’re purposefully trying to be assholes, but I haven’t really had to deal with that since my 9th grade Civics teacher, who was all kinds of problematic anyway. Nonetheless, it gets under my skin.

While we were loitering around, waiting for my friend to finish looking at a display of organic tea, he asked me how I liked Vietnam.

In case anyone here doesn’t know, I’m not from Vietnam. I’m from China, actually but my other Asian roommate, Lan Anh, is Vietnamese. He’d confused the two of us, something that seems to happen quite often. You can see Lan Anh in this batch of pictures, so you can decide if we really look a like or not, but I’m of the opinion that we don’t. Not enough to justify people constantly confusing us.

For one, she has dark hair and mine is bleach blonde. Like, you’d think that would make things easy for people. How many blonde Asians do you see a day?

What made the difference for me with my friend’s dad — why I’m perturbed but not really with him directly — was how apologetic he was afterwards. I could tell he felt badly, and that he recognized why his mistaking me for Lan Anh implied more than just that he was bad with names. I mind that he confused us, of course — I’m really tired of the all Asians look the same thing — but I appreciate that he was able to acknowledge his mistake. That’s all I want out of people . It’s okay if someone confuses Asian faces or names once or twice — we’re a minority, and people will be less attuned to facial differences if they don’t see us much — but I hope that they make an effort to do better afterwards. There are people I’ve known who have never bothered with that second step — with doing better after they make the initial mistake — and that’s what’s discouraging.

On a side note, I saw Pete Buttigieg and his husband at the breakfast café we went to. I didn’t go up and say hi because I didn’t want to bother him, but it’s cool to see a presidential candidate out and about living life like a normal person.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Forever21

Jacket: Hollister

Skirt: J. Crew (thrifted)

January 19, 2019 – A Sign of the Times (OOTD #440)

And in that moment, I remembered why I wasn’t meant to be a design major.

Sometimes, I like to pretend to myself that in some alternate universe out there, there’s a Meilin who decided to go a more unconventional route and went to art school instead of a research university. I’m good at art. I could have gone to art school — I mean, I have friends who weren’t good at art who still went to art school, so it’s completely feasible that I could have gotten in somewhere. I ultimately chose not to go (or even to apply) because I like the idea of job security, and because I figured art would be something I could incorporate into my life without making it into my career.

While I’m happy with my choice to become a corporate sellout or whatever, I do wish Notre Dame had a better visual arts program, and I do sometimes regret not even applying for a design program.

Then things like this sign happen.

Okay, some background: the Friday after the start of classes, I went with a cohort of other Notre Dame students on a trip to Washington DC to attend the 2019 Women’s March. It was the first year that they’d gotten enough interest and enough money to organize a bus to go, and so, 4 AM Friday morning, I hauled myself and my suitcase to the bookstore to board a bus for the 12 hour journey from Chicago to DC. For those of you keeping track at home, that was the sixth weekend in a row of significant traveling — though thankfully, it wasn’t a flight. I didn’t need six weekends in a row of flying.

Anyway, when you go to a march, the fun part is making a cool sign to carry, and so I was determined to use my artistic skills to make something worthy of posting pictures on Instagram. I’d been thinking of this design for weeks leading up to the march, and I thought for sure it’d be brilliant.

So the idea was the make something that said “A Sign of the Times,” but with the G in “sign” turned into a female anatomical sign. It’d be clever on multiple levels — it’s a play on the fact that it’s literally a physical sign, that the Venus sign is a symbol for the female sex, and that the phrase “a sign of the times” implies change. It was going to be the next great feminist quip, people were going to print it on t-shirts at Forever21 — Susan B. Anthony can step aside.

Unfortunately, I misjudged the distance I needed to put in between “A “and “Sign,” and it ended up reading more like ASIgN. You know what “ASIgN” looks like? Asian. My sign ended up reading “Asian of the Times.”

That’s not what I was going for.

Thankfully though, I am Asian, so it didn’t look that strange when I was carrying it around. Can you imagine if I weren’t Asian, though? Like, if I were white and I was carrying a sign that read “Asian of the times?”

So why am I ranting about my failed sign-making endeavors in this blog, when I could be talking about the Women’s March itself, my time spent in DC, or my experience sleeping in a church basement with 50 other people? The truth is, the march itself wasn’t that interesting — I don’t know what I expected, but it was about three hours of just…walking slowly in the cold. I’m all for nonviolent social change, but apparently, it can be rather boring.

The other unfortunate bit was that Washington DC itself was pretty much dead when we were there due to the government shutdown. All of the museums and buildings were closed, so all you could do was walk around and see the monuments from a distance. I did get to see the White House and the Capitol Building from afar, but you couldn’t do much other than take pictures. And even then, I saw them at night, so my pictures weren’t that great.

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tag yourself i’m feminist dad

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I still really appreciate the time I spent on the trip. It was an opportunity to get off campus, and selfish as it may sound, that was probably what I liked the most.

I guess it didn’t take that long for me to get restless staying on campus after all. 


Coat: The North Face

Jacket: Ralph Lauren (thrifted, Goodwill)

Shirt: Banana Republic

Skirt: Abercrombie

Hat: Target

July 8, 2017 – Unconventional Pride Outfit (OOTD #62)

London: Day 4


We told ourselves we were going to give ourselves a “relaxed” day today – it wasn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still fun – but relaxing? You could probably cross that off the list of descriptive words.


We began by heading over to Waltham Abbey, a small, historic town just about 15 minutes away from Broxbourne. Amanda and I agreed, it was one neat little area. The oldest towns in America are only a couple hundred years old because, of course, our country is also only a couple hundred years old, but this, this just made Jamestown and Plymouth look like children. The church has been around since 1030 (or so the Wikipedia article says), and every building in town oozes with antiquity.


After walking around a bit there, we were dropped off at the station to catch a train into London….only to find out after Sue drove away that the Waltham Abbey station was closed. It was whatever, we were able to walk over to another one that was open, but it was 20 minutes of stress in my life I didn’t need.


We had originally wanted to go back to Oxford Street today, but, as we found out, the Pride Festival was going on in that area, so it was closed. That didn’t phase us though – we decided to go to Pride then, instead.

Since we didn’t know we’d be going, we didn’t have any rainbow attire, so we might’ve looked kind of out of place, but it was so packed and crowded, I doubt anyone was paying attention since the number one priority for most people was just to stay standing. I’m used to crowds, and I don’t mind them, but this was bad. There were moments I couldn’t move, I was so smushed up against other people. I’m sure they had really tight security, given everything that’s gone on in London in the least year, but it was an excellent place for a terrorist attack.


We got a few photos and decided to get out of there quickly.


After that, we hit up Buckingham Palace. We didn’t get to see the inside or anything, but the outside was enough. It was stately – beautiful, grand, and kind-of cold. I’m glad we saw it – it’s arguably one of the most British things in all of England, and as a tourist, it was fun to see – but it’s not like a museum you got to walk around. We got our photos, and within 20 minutes, we were done.


In my opinion – the best kind of tourist site!


Last on the agenda was to get some food and drink at a pub. We opted for this old one called The Camel, which, let me tell you, had the most delicious chicken pie I’ve ever tasted. I also bought a pint of ale, which I managed to get through maybe 3/4 of. The more I drank, the more I liked it – or, rather, tolerated it. I’m not an ale person, apparently.


That’s it for today! I’ll see you in the next one. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Shirt: Forever21

Bralette: Aerie

Pants: the LOFT