Under the red and gold holiday decorations, the barista keeps his eyes glued to the tv screen above the booths where a group is sipping coffee, necks craned to hear the news on l’Assemblée Nationale. In the 14th, life outside the café windows proceeds as normal, afternoon shoppers and traffic on Alesia, fruit stands and street sweepers. But it’s clearly not quite normal, and between the texts from friends and family asking for details, our diner-time discussions with our host families, and articles of all kinds opened on different tabs, the corner table of étudiantes étrangers put down their coffees.
Les gilets jaunes are, without contest, the prime topic of conversation during our last month in Paris, and especially since the last two Saturday protests. On our final APA group trip, our bus encountered excited protesters on a round-about in Chartres—there was much cheering and fist pumping outside of the windows, although we did not necessarily know how to react. Of course, we know we’re in the middle of something—maybe not the calm before the storm—but it is very clear that this is one national event where we are very much on the outside—the opposite of how we feel back in the States (not that events like these don’t have global effects of course, because…history). Now, I’m not a reporter, so I’m afraid I can’t get into the nuances or report on what’s happening from a journalistic standpoint (not that I would be capable of that, anyway), but it would be impossible to live out the last few weeks here without noticing.
It’s also pretty impossible to ignore it when your final exam gets cancelled. It’s not the best feeling to be standing outside of a locked classroom door ten minutes before you exam is scheduled to start. As we found out from two students walking to the RER, the student body called for a Blocage (which explains the pile of plywood and pallets outside of Batiment L), and all exams were off. Fairly disorienting for three U.S. students who don’t get the emails, but we did get to see a direct effect of the protests as it manifested on campus.
So we’re okay, just taking in as much as possible, trying to have conversations and get as much information as possible (and staying away from l’Arc). We’ll be keeping an eye on the news throughout papers and exams, and speaking of all that…
Happy Finals Week(s)!