It’s very likely that there would be no THATLou blog without Edna Zhou. I first met her at the now famous Angels + Wings THATLou (which she reviewed in her blog, Expat Edna), and within a short time we became close. We have much in common as fellow Asian Americans who’ve traveled extensively and have lived in many countries. My toddler, Storsh, is in love with Edna. With the gravity of first love he solemnly comes over and hugs her legs when she visits. No messing about, no cute-kid-giggles that he’s happy to give most the world. His love for her is palpable and there’s nothing funny about it. She prompted me to consider my neighborhood in Paris, when she asked me to guest post on her I Love My Neighborhood series. She has probably been on the most THATLous of everyone, her third one being written up in Fodor’s. All of this, as well as our regular lunches, make Edna a very dear friend — but as a Friend of THATLou I cannot thank her enough for being instrumental in showing me the bare basics of the blog back office that I am too dimwitted to understand on my own. So without much ado, I shall leave you with Edna’s appreciation for what Paris has given her:
The standard opening line when speaking to an expat is always a variation on the theme: “Why are you here?”
Well, I came to Paris for my career.
I didn’t come here to eat foie gras and drink wine and fall in love with Paris, like a misty-eyed Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris.
I thought I would spend one year in Paris, learn French, then move to Asia and continue following a career in sports media there.
But the French didn’t come as easily as I thought it would.
I picked up a decent amount of Mandarin after spending time in northern China, so I thought the key to my linguistic success would be full immersion. For the first three months, I was spending nine hours each week in full immersion classes at Alliance Française.
Now, I’d moved to France with no French knowledge save the two words I remembered from my eighth-grade language class: “merci” and “poulet” (very handy for someone who only ate fish at the time). I was beyond clueless at the beginning: it took me two weeks to comprehend that when the teacher said “mem shoze”, he meant “même chose”, and that that meant “same thing.”
So for various reasons — frustration, work schedule, forming a social circle of mostly Anglophones — I found my motivation to study French slowly waning.
And with that free time I decided to throw myself into something else: writing.
I had deserted my blog after I graduated in 2010 and moved to Singapore — there was just too much life happening for me to stop and write it all down. Between work, traveling around Southeast Asia, a social calendar that never stopped filling up with pool parties and barbecues, not to mention hanging out with this guy I’d met…there simply wasn’t time.
But here in Paris, I found myself with nothing but time. The social calendar failed to come alive like it had in Asia and the guy — even though we ended up dating and getting engaged — still lived 6,000 miles away in Singapore.
So I started writing. A couple months into it, I “got serious” and purchased my domain name.
I started guest posting. I started reaching out for guest posts. I learned the art of the cold email.
WordPress featured one of my articles. Traffic started to pick up. I moved to self-hosting. I even had a logo made for the site.
Advertising offers came in. I learned how to negotiate.
Complete strangers started to comment on my posts. To email me for travel advice. I felt like I’d laid claim to my own little travel corner of the web.
I was even more grateful for my months of blogging when I found out I was going to the Olympics in London.
Before, I would drag my feet to start a post and once I finally did, it would still take hours to refine and polish. By the time I arrived in London, I was up to my hundredth post on my blog, and those months of forcing myself to sit down and just write helped me push out stories more quickly and concisely.
My blog is a labor of love and my pride and joy. I’ve never worked so hard on something that has no monetary gain, yet I continue to be happy to spend hours each day editing photos and text, just to be able to hit “publish” on another post.
I might not have learned French, but my blog has taught me how to be a better writer and photographer, how to network, how to be business-savvy. It has opened doors for me, and will continue to be a source of happiness and community in whatever cities I choose to move to next.
So in the end, Paris was a good career move after all.
Edna can be found on her blog Expat Edna, as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@ednacz).