The best part of getting to know the city is knowing now where to go so you know what to do, economically. This NYT piece as on how do a $1,000 day on $100 bucks. The best part of the city is undervalued: go for a walk. I did that with a friend last Sunday, and it was everything.
I’ve been wanting to write about the Charlie Hebdo thing ever since it happened, but every time I go to organize my thoughts, they kind of squirm away. So, fine, disorganized it will be then…
I remember where I was sitting when we learned of the news. It felt like the whole cafe had their phone buzz at the same time. I was sitting with Curt at a coffee shop (Cafe Loustic) in the 2nd arrondisement, with our new friend Rahaf. I remember what she said, and how we felt, and how good the dirty chai was. We had just finished sharing with her that we’d be staying for another year. We were a little excited, a little hopeful. And then it felt like *our* city was being attacked. That feeling as we were going to the metro to get our kiddo, that the gunmen were still at large, somewhere near us. Maybe just around that corner.
That night we learned that the person who had let the gunmen into the building had just returned from picking up her kiddo, and at gunpoint had to decide to save her child or her colleagues. We did a post on FB so friends would know we were okay. We didn’t go out that night, but had a quiet evening watching it online. This is a picture from that night taken by Jessie Morgan (Rahaf’s husband and photographer/ videographer extraordinaire). Thru them, we felt we were there.
I asked a lot of people what this means, for them. I mean, what did a march together mean or what does it mean to say #jesuischarlie. Some say that they are defending the rights to say what they want. Others feel it is to stand up for freedom. Otherwise, say it is to say we will not be divided. I learned a lot about the people not necessarily by each answer but by the multitude of answers. That is France, at this day. People did not feel that they had to say the same thing.
And yet I could see that the sentiment was different amongst those who are of Algerian decent. If you were cutting the data by that sort, you’d find a different result. In The Times Charles Bremner said, “the whole French establishment has been reluctant to acknowledge the residue of anger felt among a former colonised people. It denies the flaws in the doctrine of assimilation that requires the six million immigrants and their descendants to meld into a supposedly colour-blind national family.”
But even to see that some of this was optics. On Sunday, there was a big “manifestation” held in the same Place de La Republique. This time, would leaders were flying in. Again, the city full of sirens mostly to get people here and there. I stayed home because i was coming down with something (again) but the boys went. I watched on Twitter. And probably had a better view than the boys. Curt described how at some point, his group was halted and then moved and then all of a sudden some very well dressed people came and stood in front of them and there were photos. It’s weird to think that whole thing was so staged… but apparently it was. In The Daily Express Peter Hill said “can’t help thinking that the line of world leaders at the front of Sunday’s Paris demo was one giant selfie, a photo opportunity not to be missed by politicians shouting: ‘Look, we are with you – so vote for us.’”
On Twitter, people were taking jabs at that front line of politicians many of whom don’t believe in the definitions of free speech that were supposedly being celebrated that day. I read on Twitter that France jailed a 16yo for posting a cartoon, in fact literally a Hebdo cartoon w/the Muslim swapped for white guy. Oy.
My friend Brian Keating sent this reminder of reasons not to visit France. Which reminds me of me last week. I was in NYC and Austin without the family, while my sister-in-law was visiting Paris. When I called home, I asked: did you show her the river, and the Notre Dame? Did you take her to Poilane, did you feed her a croissant, etc.
I love this place (there’s lots to love) and it’s good to share that which you love. Neri left today after what seemed like a low-key visit but I’m hoping she took a little bit of love home with her.
We are in the USA this week, our first visit since leaving for Paris. We’re marveling at the differences. Kiddo keeps trying to turn on the lights from the outside of the bathrooms (for those of you who don’t know, french bathrooms have the light on the outside…)
Temperature: 1 degree in Paris, 22 in California.
Salsa: nowhere, everywhere.
Sunshine: rare, prevalent
Curt says everything seems really big: Supermarket aisles are really big, so are products. (People also.) Our son in law has a 48 can box of beers in the garage, and we’re amazed.
And, the thing that I really noticed is how much the waiters say their name to us here. I hadn’t really noticed this much before I left but knowing a waiters or waitresses name is not appropriate or necessary in France. It struck me as overly familiar or something. Food service in Paris is a career. People take great pride in it, and they earn decent money, and so there’s not a solicitousness in the hopes of getting a bigger tip. It’s built into the bill, into the normal transaction. There was a great piece written up about the “notorious French waiter” while we were here, worth reading: http://www.wsj.com/articles/in-defense-of-the-notoriously-arrogant-french-waiter-1424371178
But the one thing California has that Paris does not?
Our Kids and Grandkids!!!! This one is saying, he’s on top of the world.
In an interesting piece of research that my professor friend Tim Kastelle sent me, it turns out that learning a second language helps people know that your experience shapes you, and thus reduces stereotypes and prejudices.
It’s what one learns, rather than what one is born with, that makes you into whom you are. Interesting that I’m writing a book on a similar thread here in Paris.
I remember when we first got inspired by this idea to move abroad, and help Kiddo to have a more global mindset. A book a friend recommended helped us navigate a short sabbatical of 9 weeks. It was called “the Family Sabbatical Handbook”. It helped us navigate simple things like health care and how to set expectations with kiddo. But mostly it gave us some kind of roadmap so we didn’t feel we were trying to figure it out from scratch. We found several people who had done it before we did and they inspired us to keep going.
But one thing we’ve never needed to be convinced of is how much this is a good thing. To see anew, is a gift. For kids and for us old foggies.
I used to come to Paris for just a few days when I needed a mental refresh. I used to wander the seats, sit at cafes, fill journals with fresh ideas, and walk and walk as I heard my own thoughts more clearly. I fell in love with it, and who I was when I was here. It wasn’t just the food or the wines or the walking (all things worth loving) but that here I felt freer. Unlike other big cities, I was not afraid here, and it’s as if I could leave fear behind. Unlike other places, I did not feel alone here even when I was by myself.
It’s changed since moving here as a Family.
At first it was worrying about how Kiddo was transitioning. Then it was dealing with the new obligations and demands of setting up our place. And of course we brought with us existing worries and concerns about deadlines and commitments. But I remember what it was to fall in love here. With this place, with myself. And I hope we can find a way back — not just me, but us — with the act of being present and relishing every day for what it is — lovely.
An essay written as “Book of Home” here captured that early sense of being in love:
Here are some of the things that make falling in love wonderful:
the wild rush of feelings
the sense of possibility and potential, fettered only by a distant reality on a horizon
the glorious, unexplored territory, not yet homesteaded by domestic routine and minor irritations
It’s easy to lose the sense that love is a verb, as much as it is a noun. It is a choice. To say you will love “our place” is to say you will be present to it, to witness it, to explore it. To CHOOSE to be in love.
We appear to be coming around the corner on language and logistics. And have decided to stay for another year. Maybe soon, we can remember what it is to fall in love.
As we all learn French, it’s clear that Kiddo’s immersive 9 hours a day in all-french school is paying off. His professors comment on how well he’s progressing, and last week he got an 18/20 on a french quiz. 2nd highest score in the class. And the only non-native speaker. It’s awesome to see.
Which is not to say he’s fluent, yet He still has to look up things, as vocabulary may not be exhaustive but he can basically do most things now in French. It’s quite an accomplishment to do in 6 months.
Curt and I are lagging behind (imagine that!) as we forget a bunch of things we learn and it seems not to stick as well. Kiddo has taken to correcting us. It doesn’t seem to bug Curt as much as it does me. At one level, I want the help but it also gets exhausting because at some level you have to try in order to get better. When both of them correct me word by word, sentence by sentence, the criticism gets to me, and I get pretty frustrated (when Sarah was here, it was 3:1 — oh what fun!).
The funny thing is when we’re in public settings, like getting seating at a restaurant, I’ll practice my french while all three of them hang back.
All this especially bugs me when I say something well (enough) for someone to completely understand me …He then says, “well, mom, another way you could have said that.…” As painful as I were peeling off my own skin. I’ve taken to clenching my hands to not respond out of the pain. It makes me not want to try. And to keep showing up, vulnerable, and trying means exposing oneself to all this criticism. I wish I didn’t take it that way. I wish I could see he’s really trying to be of help or to show all the things he’s learned. But the well has been drained from months and months of depleting experiences. I speak more french when away from the family now. And, when I finally get something right in French (not very often, mind you), I want to do the happy dance. The other day I bought a lipstick exactly the shade I wanted in all French, and I could have written a whole post on that joy. 😉
But we’re trying to work through this criticism-as-a-constant-thing. This Sunday, I was struck by the phrase in a Corinthians lesson at the American Church in Paris: “Knowledge puffs up, but Love builds up.” We talked about this over lunch post-church — a little chinese place we stop by sometimes on the way back to our place — and, now, we’re all trying to stop focusing on proving our knowledge and more on the love we have for each other. Build each other up.