Best Laid Paris Plans

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This photo instantly reminds me of a "coincidence" I didn't fathom the morning I left my Lyon apartment in hopes of meeting my dear cousins in Paris. 

I have four cousins who were more like my sisters when I was little. We were all born and raised in Brooklyn...kids of the 90s. I was an only child back then - a lonely one at that. They came over often and my mom adored them as the daughters she'd never had. She loved doing their hair, spoiling them, and treating them to good food and recreation. There was so much love in my home, it was a wonderful haven. Having my cousins around helped fill the void I used to feel before my brother was born.

Fast forward to 2017, and the five of us are adults. The girls are still in New York, but I've long since moved to Florida. During my brief May stint in New York that preceded my flight to Lyon, I had dinner with the oldest two of my four cousins. (The above button adds context to what it took to even reach New York in the first place.) During dinner, they told me they'd be in Paris soon with their two younger sisters. In other words, for about a week, we'd only be two hours from each other. We enthusiastically started making plans to meet. The idea was too cool. Usually, we're 1,000 miles apart, but soon we'd be a modest train ride away from a far out cousin adventure.

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It was a Tuesday in Lyon, and by now I had told my new French friends about my upcoming Paris trip to visit my cousins. My train ticket was booked for the following day. I messaged my oldest cousin to remind her that we should solidify plans as far as exactly when and where to meet. Winging it would be asking for failure, especially because I would have little to no WiFi access once I left my apartment. I went to sleep that night unsure of the time and location of our meet up. I would find out the next day that my cousins had gotten in very late the night before and slept in. After all, they were sisters in Paris. I'm sure they gained fast popularity. These girls have all become absolutely gorgeous, bubbly women. I'm sure they had heads turning.

Things definitely felt uncertain on Wednesday morning as I sat on a bus bound for the train station. But it was cool, I had faith that things would work themselves out and we'd manage to find each other.  

When I got to the train platform in Lyon, I recognized a Peruvian man named Frank who I had met a few days earlier. He didn't remember me at first because unlike the first time we met, I wasn't in a suit and tie. We were attending the same place of worship during our corresponding visits to France. I was supporting a French Sign Language congregation, and he was visiting the local Spanish congregation. Both language groups shared the same space, while occupying different rooms. It turns out Frank was headed to Paris on the same train as me. I was somewhat dumbfounded by the coincidence. He wasn't traveling alone. His friend Stephen - also from Peru, and their friend Loida, a local - were nearby. The four of us sat together as the train traversed the countryside. Frank taught me some Spanish Sign Language vocabulary. My linguistic mind was loving the exposure to yet another mode of communication. 

Funny side note: on several occasions during my stay in Europe, I'd meet someone and have to pause before communicating. My mind would go through this figurative Rolodex... 

"Hmmm, which language should I be using right now...? English? No. French? No. American Sign Language? Nope. Sssspanish [my Spanish is lousy] But yes, I'll have to struggle and break out my limited vocabulary."

Frank, Stephen, Loida, and I spent the whole day sightseeing together.  We hit as many rites of passage as possible: Champs Élysées, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre. We did all of this on foot and probably took hundreds of pictures.  It was on this day that I first tried using the portrait beta on iOS.  I have been in love with it ever since. 

Our Parisian adventure wrapped up around 4p.m. outside of Disneyland Paris, where I finally found WiFi.  It was too late to meet my cousins.  They tried to let me know that they were at the Louvre...we missed each other by an hour or two.  Isn't this turn of events painfully ironic?  It's almost comical.  Ultimately, I'm grateful that I went for it and just proceeded - uncertainty aside. This is far from the only "small world" experience I had in Europe. The way people cross paths and connect never ceases to amaze me.