Love in Tanzania

The fork in the road (2009)

I have to admit that I am one of the many who binge watched Emily in Paris within a span of a few days. And I’m certain that I wasn’t the only one mesmerized by the cobblestone paths, the overly romanticized French language (except for “La Plouc”, of course), and the many outfits that were so vibrant in colours & style that it made me start to pile up my online shopping cart. Of course, I was quickly reminded of the pandemic reality we are in, so where in the world would I be going wearing a cute beret and poncho?

Emily (Lily Collins) in Netflix’s Emily in Paris. Photo: Netflix

But I do have a point. I had a very similar plan right before I left for Tanzania on a volunteering trip. In the summer of 2009, I travelled to Paris with one of my best friends, Karen, and there, we met with my cousin Di, who is the epitome of fashion and just about the most free-spirited person I know. She possesses just the right amount of “je ne sais quoi”, and frankly I don’t think anyone can resist her charms. She was working for a big-name fashion brand in Paris, and took Karen and I around. We met at Cafy Marly near The Louvre for coffee, and then she took us shopping (she knew the key to our hearts), and later brought me to her office, where I tried on my first designer dress – just for fun.

My bestie Karen & I in Paris (2009)

The many beautiful dresses we laid our untrained eyes upon

My forever cool & fashionable cousin Di and I

In our brief three-days visit in Paris, I was also able to meet up with a friend I met back in Yonsei University during my time abroad in Seoul. And as it so happens, I had a crush on him since we first met, a blue-eyed French guy who I often referred to as the French Brad Pitt to my close friends. So when we arranged to meet for a one-on-one dinner, after five years, I was beyond ecstatic. Let me point out the fact that I changed several times before going out to meet with him. It wasn’t a date or anything (or was it?), but this definitely deepened my infatuation with Paris at the time.

(Bruno, I hope it’s okay to include your photo here, and here I confess my crush on you back in 2004)

Before that, it had been an uneventful year in Vancouver. I liked this one guy for a while but my feelings weren’t being reciprocated, and my 9 to 5 job was getting repetitive and life was not exactly what I had imagined it to be at the age of 25. So after this short whirlwind of a trip to Paris, I made up my mind to do something about it. I was going to move to Europe (having my mind set on Paris or Florence) for a year. I craved for something new and exciting, and this was going to be it. I almost had myself convinced.


Meanwhile, in Tanzania, Sam was working as a safari guide, traveling between Kenya and Tanzania. It had been his goal to be a wildlife guide, with a penchant for birding. In Kenya, where they have more developed curriculum in higher education, he was actually contemplating of moving to Kenya permanently and continue his studies in birding and eventually find a job there.

In Nairobi, where the safari company was based in, he also had an interesting encounter with a young hotel receptionist from Hong Kong. After we started dating, I’d jokingly refer to her as his first Asian girlfriend, but he insisted (to this day) that it was one-sided and nothing noteworthy ever happened. She was stationed in Nairobi, and worked as a receptionist and because Sam’s guests were all arranged to stay there, they began to make casual conversation and it later became apparent everyone that she had a small crush on Sam. Or vice versa. Just joking, but I guess we will never know for sure.

Here’s Sam when he was young and sans kids

Sam again, living his dream as a safari guide in Tanzania & Kenya

In any case, 2009 turned out to be a big year for the both of us. We both stood at the fork of the road in our mid-twenties, seemingly to have figured out our next steps. But here is the thing about life and all of its astonishing elements – it is as unpredictable as a summer storm, and your plans can never catch up to the many, many surprises life has in store for you.

Our unexpected encounter will be in my next post.