Chez Soi

Adventures of a Year Abroad

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Safe, but…

uk telegraph taxi-paris_2694943kI was in a cigarette-scented cab from CDG, window opened slightly for relief, coming home from a Zurich SDN meetup when I heard. Sirens all around us made the driver call someone (and roll up my window as he listened) and then he shared…in French that I only partially understood that 3 explosions had occurred. Wife and kiddo were at Bond movie nowhere near the action but not home when I arrived… which felt weird but I was pretty sure they were safe. They texted about 20 mins later.  I waited with a box of Sprüngli chocolates, a Swiss peace offering for missing family movie night.

Instant comparisons to Charlie Hebdo, but this is different in approach and scale. And response.  Yesterday morning we went to Bon Marche high-end department store to exchange something.  We arrived about 11:40, just in time to hear a (loud, repeated, bilingual) announcement that the store would close at noon “due to the events of last night.”  We left the store and walked back home, very irritable, snapping at each other for minor things.

I think outdoor markets are all closed as well, though grocery stores seem open. We’ve read that the American Church in Paris will hold services this morning, probably with heavy attendance in terms of both congregation and security detail.  Kiddo’s school sent an email: school schedule will hold steady, though excursions cancelled and no parking or gathering near entrance, same as post-Charlie.

We have this contrary feeling of wanting to hunker down inside, and also wanting to get out and burn off pent up energy somehow.  I want to go for a long run, justifiable as I’m signed up for Paris Marathon in April (which of course now reminds me of Boston’s event).  Indeed, I would be running instead of typing but phone (with running app) wasn’t charged, and I’m missing a sock but don’t want to disturb the sleepers.  That means I’ll probably not run till after church.

Gut reactions are all over.  I was already stressing a bit over unrelated news from a pre-flight phone call.  Now in the back of my mind the unrelated news is all tangled with emotional reaction to the violence. On the other side, there is this rush of empathy for victims and their families. I don’t yet know if all my colleagues in Paris are safe. Nilofer found the #PortesOuvertes hashtag on Twitter and for a while in the wee hours post-event we thought we would be hosting a stranded friend-of-friend college student. Went to sleep expecting to be awoken by the doorbell, but it turned out she managed to get unstranded somehow.

I feel multiple urges… First is to hug, to physically embrace, all the diverse citizens of Paris.  It’s a mental image of tolerance and solidarity.  Next is revenge against the brainless intolerance of extremism, wholehearted support for all-out campaign to squash them.  Plus a nagging thought that somehow my personal petro dollars are funding them.  And of course that visceral need for the 10 (or 12?) mile run mentioned earlier.

Usually I like to find a clever little finish to a blog post.  Nothing comes to mind.

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Latest chart-topper in Paris neighborhood tooth rattling hit parade

We’ve been here 1Paris tooth rattling6 months now.  The blogging dry spell signals a lack of inspiration.  Just this morning I got inspired.  How?  Well, for 15 of our 16 months, the building across the street was being renovated, including installation of an underground parking garage.  (It seems more people own cars now than when the building was first put up in the 1890’s.)  Lots o’ jackhammering, etc.  Always some new and delightful way to make the entire apartment shudder and shake.

But it finally ended last month!  Yay!  Just at the end we were spooked by an unrelated street project wherein the GdF was replacing the local gas pipelines (lingering evidence visible in the dark patches in the sidewalk across the way).  But that was pretty short-lived, a week or less, and actually finished before the apartment project.  You might just be able to imagine our collective sigh of relief as we began to grasp that we might be done with the daily drumbeat of noise.

How naive!

This morning something new…  There was a bit of activity this morning with the little green separator walls this morning, I noticed when returning from walking Kiddo to school.  I actually thought “Hey, this looks like good news… maybe they will be removing those yellow plastic parking-blocker posts (one is just visible in bottom of the photo) from the street… The last vestige of the building renovation is disappearing!”  Uh, no. Just as I began a phone call, the building shuddered when an extra jumbo machine punched a hole in the sidewalk.  No idea what they are up to (unlike the GdF project, there were no signs posted in advance), but whatever it is requires the removal of a truckload of earth.

The upside: this week mom is in San Francisco area for a business meeting.  Timing of the trip seemed annoying for various reasons, but since she managed to miss out on the latest rock-busting concert on our doorstep, maybe it was a blessing in disguise?  It depends, of course… Will they finish before she gets back?  Fear not!  A new neighborhood effort aimed at cracking the earth’s crust or rerouting the Seine will be along soon!

This is probably not specific to Paris, just life in a big city.  Nevertheless, I’m just a wee bit wistful for our quiet suburban home in California.  On the other hand, my fresh new cynicism tells me to stop romanticizing things… No doubt the dilapidated house next door in California will undergo scraping and reconstruction the day we move back home.  And here in Paris, this sidewalk root canal will be over soon. I resolve to appreciate quiet days one at a time.