First, I have to apologize for my absence the past couple weeks. As finals have come to an end, I finally have some catch-up time. For any future students doing an abroad program in France through their university system, be ready for a storm at the end of each semester, the French like to pile everything on during the last couple weeks. You might not have any work until December, then all of a sudden you’ll be buried in it. Attention!
So in the spirit of catching up, I last left off in late November, just after a short excursion to Lille. After eating an American-style Thanksgiving feast at a lovely restaurant, all organized by APA, I went off to London to visit my roommate from back home and to indulge in the sights of jolly ol’ England.
Staying mostly on the touristy side of things, my roommate showed me around all the important parts of the city. Of course we went to Big Ben, parliament, Westminster Abbey, all lovely and stately. I continued on my own the next day to visit the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge and the Sherlock Holmes pub. I have to say I ate the best fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life.
However, after a while, the buildings and streets start to look quite similar. The roads are very wide, everything is spread out and planned, everything is neat and in its place. At first I just thought this was just the British being British, but my roommate explained that after the great Fire of London in 1666, when essentially 80% of the city burned to the ground, hundreds of regulations were put in place (speaking of the British being British, everyone is so polite in London it’s almost painful. They are the most passive people I’ve ever encountered). After the fire, buildings could only have certain dimensions, a certain height, and were only constructed from brick to avoid fire hazard. When these architectural choices are added to the muddy color of the Thames, London ends up looking very brown.
While I enjoyed my time there and especially enjoyed visiting my roommate, I began to long for cobblestone streets, hidden alleyways and the grey roofs of Paris. The other issue was, of course, the value of the pound, which far exceeds that of the American dollar or the Euro. London is not cheap!
What truly began to frustrate me was at every turn, whenever I encountered any stranger, especially in my hostel and I told them I live in Paris, a dark, shocked look would appear on their faces and they would ask, “So…. You were there? When, you know… It happened?” Referring to the week previous, to the bombings, and yes, I was there. I would explain that I was at home, that I heard sirens, that it was scary. The next question would be, “So are you scared to live there now? Did you want to go home?” I would answer of course not, nothing could take me from Paris. I love it and the hate of others can’t stop Paris from living. I would have to explain that the people of Paris are resilient, they don’t want to stop their lives for anything, for “Paris est une fête.”
However, I got very tired of this game and I got tired of talking about it. I got tired of being sad and appearing mournful. I began to take on a façade of apathy, the one which Parisians always wear so well. I appeared disconnected, stating that these things happen, throw in a “c’est la vie” and wait for them to stop caring. Because in reality, they just want to hear the story. They don’t really care. I may have come off as rude or unaffected, but it had the desired effect. They left me alone. I started to realize that this very attitude, the rude, blunt, brusque attitude of Paris is simply a way for the French to live as normally as they can when Paris is the most visited and loved city in the world. After a while it must get tiring, and if being rude to everyone makes them leave you alone, it’s not a bad tactic.
After living here, I have seen first hand that the French are not actually rude people. They are fun, loving, kind and wonderful people who love to laugh, dance and eat. I find they appreciate good wine, good company and a good time better than the rest of the world. And though London was a blast, I was pretty happy to return to the place I now consider another home.