Can’t stop thinking about this. So inspiring.
Paris in Danger -
Haven’t yet found the courage to publicize my feelings about the terrorism threat that has become very real over the past few weeks here in Paris. I once again revert to Ali Vitali for her words of wisdom, and hope the Parisians soon stop grèving long enough to get her train to Paris this weekend.followmeroundtheworld:
Je suis americaine. I’m sorry to say so, but it’s true. Just like you happened to be born in France, I was born in New York City, NY. I didn’t choose it, or ask for it – though if I could’ve, we’d probably still be here having the same “conversation.” I’m going through a period now of realizing that there are people out there who want to kill and terrorize others simply because of where they happened to be born, what religion they choose to follow (or not follow), what color skin they happened to be born into. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought of it – of course my mind starting recognizing these things very quickly at age 11 when the Towers fell. But even with the Times Square Bomber in the most recent news of my “local” terror, there was some feeling of “OK, we’re all Americans. We’re all together.” To experience the threat of terror while abroad is something completely different and, honestly, something I did not even think twice about experiencing during my 4 months abroad. Yet, here I am reading warnings, news reports, constantly looking over my shoulder and having a new found motivation – more like a necessity – to speak French in public. I guess I can thank Al-Qaeda for fluency? Still, it’s a strange feeling that of walking around with a target on your back that could, potentially, be of your imagination and irrationality, or, peut-être, totally rational and real. Either way, I don’t like it.
I can’t help who I am and I don’t wish I were anything different. Nor do I wish for anyone else to feel ashamed of where they come from or to bend to fit my views. I’m just a little confused – I’d even go so far to say as to say I’m incredulous – that those with many years more wisdom than I can’t reach this concept in their minds but I, a twenty-year old kid (because let’s face it, I am), can see the logic to the world around us. I learned a long time ago from a very wise teacher (Mrs. Tenser if you ever see this, IOU 1,000 thanks for the amazing lessons you taught me) that the answer to all of our problems really boils down to one word, which I do really feel the need to underline, bold and italicize: tolerance. If I can simplify our problems down to three syllables, why is it so hard for everyone else? Realize, tout le monde, that we all have the same two eyes, nose and mouth (even MJ had these things at one point); the same heart, the same organs; the same wants, needs, desires; we’re all born, we all love, we all hurt, we all cry, we all die the same. And this is so atypical Ali, especially for this blog, which is – let’s be honest – a very sarcastic and “my life is a joke” account of my experiences abroad. That’s how I am, that’s how I speak and I’m always the first one to find the humor in my personal life. But when my trips, plans and general well being start being threatened by men and women who wear cultural blinders and can only see their point of view, I feel the need to get serious. And maybe this entry is a completely random cultural manifesto or totally naïve and idealistic – I can agree that it probably is all those things and more – but there’s truth in the statement when the Little Prince says “Les adultes sont bizarres.” We are so ungrudging, so open, so tolerant when we’re young. “You can’t say you can’t play” (for all you Todd School grads, you get that this phrase marked our way of life) isn’t hard to follow until we grow up. At what point do we learn that it’s OK to discriminate? At what point does our lens become tainted with hatred? Shouldn’t it be that as children we do these things that lack all sense and logic because we don’t know any better that we are all, at our cores, the same? I pose these questions to start a discussion because, clearly, they have no real answer. I’m not about to change the minds of radicals, conservatives or criminal masterminds with one blog post and a few (good) questions. But if I’m going to have a blog, I may as well put down some actual thoughts along with my anecdotes of total self-deprecation and this is something that, especially of late, has been a constant preoccupation inside my head.
Last night I went to the Monet exposition at the Grand Palais with my host dad. With nearly 200 works by the famous French impressionist, it is the most popular show of the season. Including paintings from collections around the world, the exposition has drawn international attention (see the NYTimes article here). Though I’m no art student, I found myself moved by the beauty and history attached to the paintings around me. More on this exhibit to come soon.
Happy 70th, Mr. Lennon.
Guest Lecturer: Ali Vitali -
My friend from HS Ali is currently spending her semester away from her beloved New Orleans campus in the somewhat less-drunk French city of Aix-en-Provence. Her blog always makes me laugh, so I figured I’d share this one with you since it discusses similar experiences to the ones I’ve been having here in Paris. (Soon Vitalz will be getting her derrière to Paris, where she, Gabe Bender and I will relive the glory days of high school French classes- je blague. After which I’ll be meeting up with her in Rome for Halloween!) Cheers to mon amie Ali, and her all-too-true rules of living in France.
I figured I’d codify (wow, Student Conduct Board Member much?) the “rules” that I’ve learned since in France. I’m sure that this segment of the Semester Ablog Blog will be repeated a few more times this semester as I’m finding there are quite a lot of new social rules here in France.
Rule #1: Do Not Feed the Animals. This requires some clarification: by “animals” I mean specifically French females. This has to be a rule because walk down any street in France and you’ll feel the urge to buy every female age 15-35 either a huge cone of ice cream, a pie of (Boot) pizza or a very large sandwich. Look into any cafe at any time of day and you’ll see crowds of females but no plates in front of them - maybe a cafe or a drink of some sort, definitely cigarette in hand but where is your food, women of France?!
Rule #2: French music doesn’t really exist. Again, clarification: everywhere I go, I hear American music. In fact, the first song I heard when I arrived into Paris was “Come Together” by the Beatles followed by something by Katy Perry. I wondered, for a moment, if I had landed in France or in Heaven. (Turned out to be France.) Even my host mother’s ring tone is a Beatles’ song! My sole source of musical immersion is with the show N’Oubliez Pas Les Paroles. Otherwise, it’s pretty hard to find French beatz. Even the night clubs and bars play everything from John Mellencamp to Akon - I think I even heard some Weezy the other night…
Rule #2.5: My personal rule for Pop Music, if I haven’t heard it out of an F&M’s/Boot speaker - it doesn’t exist. Thus for those of you still in the states, educate me musically.
Rule #3: There’s no such thing as too many bisous. This rule applies mainly to French men. In my texting experience - albeit limited, thus far - every single text ends in “kisses” or “big kisses.” Really, men of France? I have never felt more College Frat Boy in my life than when I first reacted to this French habit of texting affection. All I wanted to do was put down the phone and run for les collines. Too many virtu-kisses!!
I’m sure I’ll learn more rules (after breaking them, I’m sure) when I’m in Munich this weekend. For the French this little 3 week period of partying is called La Fete de la Biere. For us, more commonly known as OKTOBERFEST!!!!! I’m planning on surviving. If you don’t hear from me by Tuesday, start checking the beer gardens. Now, in typical French-fashion: Gros-bisous tout le monde!
I can’t even begin to describe my escape into the world of fashion last night. I’m going to blame this on the fact that I just spent two hours in a beautiful but dark Parisian theater trying to understand what was going on in Samuel Beckett’s play “Oh Les Beaux Jours,” but it also could be the fact that I didn’t get back to chez moi till 5 am this morning. Last night was the nuit blanche here in Paris- the night when the city and its attractions stay open till 7 am (aka the night Paris tries to do New York). I celebrated with a friend of mine who happens to be well-respected in the fashion world, and consequently the night was filled with 6 foot tall women, superfluously expensive champagne, and unlimited VIP access to all that epitomizes Parisian decadence. (Personal highlight: conversing with Lisa from ANTM cycle 9 in the bathroom at La Villa, even if it was just about getting gum stuck to your shoe…) The night was long and the line (which we got to skip) to get into Le Showcase was even longer, but it was an experience I’ll always remember.
Of course, I couldn’t post this without including an excerpt from an NYTimes article detailing the night’s mood (plus it also happens to reference a Glee cast member).
“Saturday night marked the midpoint of Paris Fashion Week with yet another round of parties, including an event to introduce a collaboration between Karl Lagerfeld and Hogan and a dinner at La Société for Glamour magazine, not to mention a citywide celebration called Nuit Blanche, during which museums and restaurants stay open all night and half of Paris seems to be on the streets.
Lea Michele, the actress who stars as Rachel Berry on Fox’s “Glee,” was the guest star of Glamour’s dinner, which drew a mix of international designers and executives including Narciso Rodriguez, Zac Posen, Peter Dundas, Eddie Borgo and Lars Nilsson. Ms. Michele, who appears on the magazine’s October cover, arrived here Friday during a rain storm. “Yes, it rains in Paris, but that’s the kind of rain that people write songs about,” she said, sparkling in a gold Victoria Beckham outfit.”
I remember subway rides with my dad when I was little. My sister and I would try to hold our balance as the subway car tilted, careening from side-to-side beneath the bustling streets of New York. I used to sing “Surfing USA” and hold my arms out, riding the pre-determined but seemingly mysterious path of the C train as it transported us uptown. My dad would coach us- keep your knees bent, lean with the turns. Be flexible.
Somehow, in the years that followed, I’d forgotten this lesson. Maybe it was too much time spent sitting down on subways, too many times holding onto the poles, or being spoiled by the smooth ride of the DC metro system. Regardless of how it happened, the effects of forgetting this lesson have pervaded my life more than I knew until this past Sunday night, when a simple metro ride provided me with real perspective on my experience abroad and my outlook on life in general.
I entered the metro, as I have done everyday since my arrival in Paris, without much thought. A simple swipe of my PassNavigo (unlimited metro rides per month for a flat rate, pretty sweet) provided me access to the 7 train, which would take me from Opéra to the Pont Neuf. Within two minutes (the French metro is extremely timely, contrasting that of DC) my metro arrived, and I stepped on. All the seats were taken, so I threw my backpack filled with Chateau pamphlets on the floor in front of me and began reaching for the pole to stabilize myself. But I was too late. With a jolt, the subway began my journey to the “aha” moment I’ve been waiting for.
I teetered backwards, and did a jumbled tap dance as I tried to prevent myself from falling over. Those few clumsy steps set off a flashback to my early days of “surfing” on the subway, and I decided to try to test my balance once again. I stood up straight, and unbuckled my knees. As the train turned à gauche, so did I. À droite, I followed suit. I allowed myself to be moved by the train, and by making small adjustments, I was able to comfortably follow the trajectory in front of me without leaning on anything around me. The child inside me was jumping for joy, Surfing USA style. It was fun.
There are some things that are very challenging about living in Paris. First of all, the language barrier can rear its head at the worst times. Next, the French sense of timing and patience is certainly not conducive to someone who’s lived her whole life at a New York pace. Not to mention the seemingly rude comportement of nearly all French strangers in public places, plus the inevitable solitude that accompanies moving to a foreign city. Add to this the extremely steep price of living, and you have the package of concerns that I’ve been stiffly carrying since my arrival in Paris almost a month ago. A good friend of mine once told me, from his own experience, that “abroad is where you grow up,” but I was having a hard time deciding whether or not this was true yet for me.
But there I was on the metro, having lost my balance, and all I needed to do to help my situation was bend my knees. Be flexible. And voilà- my aha moment. Living in Paris will never be the same as living in New York or being on campus at Wesleyan. With the differences come certain challenges, which have clouded some of my experiences here thus far. It takes some adjustment- some flexibility, some commitment to and trust in the path ahead of me- to make the trip to my future enjoyable. In order for me to keep moving forward in a positive way, I have to let go a little. Leave New York where it belongs; allow Wesleyan to run its fall cycle “Hurricane Hannah”-free. In the mean time, I’m here in Paris, loosening my grip and learning to balance on my own.
When I emerged from the metro, from my epiphany, I was at the Pont Neuf stop. It was raining, and I was tired from my long weekend trip in the Loire Valley. But there in front of me was Paris, my new home and the place where I am growing up. The city has never looked so beautiful.
P.S. See my photos from the Loire Valley and Paris
When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” -Oscar Wilde