Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Parisian Memories, Part Une

How do I tell you about Paris? How can I give you an idea of what the experience was without giving you a play-by-play, that may not be all that interesting? I'm going to try, but you may have to bear with me a bit.
I'm a wanderer. One of my great joys in life is to explore, getting to know new roads and being surprised by what I find. I look forward to getting a little turned around, seeing it that way rather than "lost." (I've actually only been lost once in my life, in Verona, but that's another story). RAK is not exactly a wonderland for wanderers. Even if it weren't too hot to bear half the year, there are not that many new and surprising things to find, so after three months being stuck up here, it was not just a pleasure but a great relief to be somewhere that I could wander. And wander. And wander. Even from the top of the Eiffel Tower you couldn't see the end of streets to wander down, and corners at which to make a choice. I find myself wishing that I'd had the forethought to bring a pedometer, because it feels like I walked 500 miles (and I would walk 500 more, btw). By the end of the second day I was going to bed with worn out feet and tired legs. Worn out and tired, but happy.
During my Friday morning wander as I was working my way from the Bastille to the Seine I found myself following the strains of a violin down a side street, and found myself in the tres jolie Places des Vosges, and the notes wafting over the air added to the ambiance of the park and the building and the statue and the rain. I've been a little deprived of live music here, as well - the little Filipino musicians in the bars sing their little hearts out, but it's just not the same, and when I snuck into the secondary assembly on the last day of school to see one of my Sunday school students play her harp, it brought tears to my eyes. I don't consider myself to be a big music fan, but I AM a music lover - re: I don't get caught up in the details of who and when, but the actual music itself has a power to derail my trains of though like little else does. For example, two accordion players got on with us at Bir Hakeim, and started playing a tune that Socrates assured me was Jewish, although I knew it from Girl Scout camp, and I almost missed our transfer. I don't think I've heard that song since I was nine years old, and yet, there it was! Now normally I have to roll my eyes at buskers...there's something a little gauche (which means "left" in French, as Socrates reminded me) about street performers. However this week I was able to appreciate the musicians - or rather, most of them. One lady got on the subway as Socrates and I were heading to Gare du Nord to see him on the Eurostar, and sang to her little music-machine-on-an-ajjumma-cart, and I was not impressed. At least the violinists, accordionists, trumpet players, and other assorted musicians that accentuated my trip with music had to work to acquire their skills. People, just because God has blessed you with perfect pitch doesn't mean you sing well. On the other hand, Thursday night I made my way up to the top of Belleville Park to a little restaurant called Le Vieux Belleville, where two men - an accordionist and an organ grinder - led us in one good old French song after another. We were having a fairly broken conversation before they got things started, and I told them that I knew one of the songs, Complainte de la Butte, so they put it into their set, and as we all sang along a young couple got up and waltzed. It was warm and magical.

Last thought for tonight deals with French men. I thought getting out of the middle east I would be free of the stares of men. Non. The first few days in Paris I was shocked by how many men randomly started conversations with me. And some of them were actually tall and good looking! Maybe I'm the type that French men go for, or maybe they are just more confident and play the numbers game. After I met up with Socrates it stopped, and wasn't sure if it was because I had a man with me, or if I just didn't look like a naive tourist anymore...I'm guessing the former, since Sunday after he left I told a man, "Pardon," on the metro, and he turned around and winked at me. If it weren't for the fact that - well-brainwashed midwestern girl as I am - strangers kind of unnerve me, it would have been a nice shot of confidence, especially paired up with Socrates' compliment that I have the potential to be quite popular with men. Too bad I don't care all that much for popularity.

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