Tuesday, June 22, 2010
On another not, I think that I have learned a lot in general in Paris. I have a new appreciation for art and for architecture as well, and I think that from now on I will look at cities from a different point of view''especially those that have such a rich history. I have a new curiosity about cultures that I do not understand, because I came to Paris thinking that I already had a general understanding of French culture', some of which was true, but also much of which was incorrectly assumed. I have also learned a lot about myself. Even though I was living with a family and had the support of professors and students, I also think that this was the most independent time o my life thus far, when I could do anything and go anywhere and feel as if the world truly did hold endless oppoprtunites for experience.
Another thing I wanted to mention was the concept of beauty and how it exists in every city, but I think that it would be easy to overlook it sometimes in view of the bad things''Paris is a beautifuil city, but sometimes there arre things that can taint your view, but I think it is like that anywhere, which made me stazrt thinking about my hometown and the things that are there. It might be difficult to see the beauty of it on the surface, but having not been home in 4 months I have realized all the things about it that I truly do find beautiful--the little things that I miss about it --I think that I have developpoed a greater appreciation for things in gereneral, and perhaps I will not take things for grqnted, or be able to so easily neglect the beauty that is in life that can so easily be overlooked, simply because of the regularity of it. LIke the Eiffel Tower for example, I lived very near it in Paris and saw it about every single day, and it was true that I soon became desensitized to it, I no longer wondered at it as I had the day I arrived, and in fact (and I hate to admit) I sometimes didn't even notice it. Realizing how easy it can become to simply just not see the things that are so wonderful and right in front of your eyes has made me try to see and observe as much as I can, the good and the bad, for it is all part of it, and I hope to be able to carry with me the change and appreciation that Paris has given me. I love Paris, and I will miss iot dearly, but it has also made me appreciate my home town(s) of Michigan and the people and places and culture I have left to come her, and so I think, all things considered, I am ready to go home, but with the certain hope of coming back. After all, I may venture to say that Paris is a part of who I am now.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Okay, so I have attempted one of the five things that we have to do for the blog...I have attempted to follow someone. It ended up being several people, since most of them ended up either at home or in a cafe with someone for a very long time, and I was doing my best to be an "inconspicuous spy," so I often veered off to find my new subject. This made me nervous at first, following someone I don't know around the streets of Paris, and I also did not follow anyone into the metro station...I simply decided to stay on foot, seeing where people walk to. I must say that in all of this "observing" the thing that I noticed most, ironically, is how little people of Paris seem to notice things. Not just things, but things around them. Maybe it makes me seem more like a tourist, or gives me away as not being "Parisian," but all of the people I chose to follow seemed more or less unaware of everything that they were passing by. For example, I know that when I am walking around everything seems to catch my eye. From the details on the facade of "just another apartment building" or the grandeur of the monuments that overwhelm the entire landscape of Paris, it is a consistent swirl of new sights, sounds, and discoveries around me. But not to people that live here. Or so it seemed, today. The first person I followed was a girl close to my age, walking along the street with her ipod on and her headphones playing music rather loudly...I walked behind her from the Avenue Victor Hugo as she wandered past shop after shop, as I was trying not to look at all of the windows of each unique store...she walked right past them as if they were simply stone walls. She continued down the road, not seemingly paying attention to the people or the stores around her...and ended up at the Arc de Triomphe. I have seen it several times but I still stare up at it and at the people around in slight awe...perhaps that is because of all the romanticized images I have seen of Paris during my lifetime, many of which have included this grand mark of the city...but she didn't even look that way. Not from what I could tell, anyway. She just continued along, as if the only thing that held importance was her object, where she was headed...nothing else seemed to be at all important. She followed the street around, and headed down the Champs Elysees. She walked very fast, and as I tried to keep a certain distance behind her, I noticed that I wasn't noticing any of the other people around, or the buildings or anything of the sort, as I was just trying to keep up with this "girl on a mission." She ended up turning down one of the side streets and after about 10 minutes and one more turn onto a small street, she stopped at a large door, and went into the building. I don't know if she lived there, but I am assuming either she did live there or perhaps she knew whoever did live there very well, since she knew the code to the door. Slightly disappointed with what I found from following her, I turned back and headed to the Champs d'Elysees, and decided to choose someone else. There was an elderly man walking down the street, he wore beige trousers and a brown over-coat with brown leather shoes, the kind that shine when the sun hits them, and a brown hat to top-off his ensemble. His white hair was peeking out from the bottom of his hat and from what I could tell from behind him he was in his late 70s, perhaps in his 80s…and he was moving very slowly up the street. I kept at a distance behind him, which made me look slightly strange, since I was more or less taking about 10 steps per minute, usually stopping to look at a store front, and then turn to follow again. He seemed to never look up or regard anything around him, but perhaps he needed to watch his step. This continued for about fifteen minutes until he stopped at a café that has an outdoor seating area. He took a small table inside, after addressing the waiter (in French, since I chose to pass this time and see if I could pick up conversation) and he sat down, having ordered a coffee. I continued to mosey my way just past the café and into a store just down from it, planning to walk by again to see if he was meeting with somebody. I could come out of the store and see into the tent-like structure that he sat in, and he remained alone. I went into several more stores and would peek again (hopefully none of the waiters noticed my suspicious and frequent reappearances in the area). But the old man remained alone at his table, he ordered some sort of small plate to eat, and sat at that small table all by himself. He has no newspaper, no book, no ipod or anything electronic to entertain him—but he had no company either. I wondered what he was thinking, or if he felt lonely sitting there all alone. From what I saw, he didn’t seem to be people watching either…he was just, well, off in his own world, enveloped in his own thoughts perhaps. Or perhaps he wasn’t thinking anything of it at all. In fact, maybe he does the same thing every day, and perhaps he has been doing that very same thing for years, and not a thought crosses his mind about sitting and dining alone in a city full of interesting people and things to talk about, he sat in lonely silence. I had to fight a momentary impulse to go and ask if I could sit down with him! I didn’t look if he had a ring on his left hand, I didn’t really get close enough…but maybe he was a widower. That thought occurred to me, and then I thought maybe he still does all of the same things that he did when he was married except now he just does them by himself. This man sparked my “question-imagination,” where you start asking all of the what, who, when, where, why, how…I was suddenly interested in everything about him. I began to wonder how long he has lived in Paris, what he has seen here, what he has experienced…there are so many questions…and in that moment, in that café, he seemed to have no one to share any of it with anymore. Then again, perhaps he lived his whole life alone, and wasn’t really one for conversation anyway. Perhaps he has seen things and lived through things that he doesn’t even want to share, or that he has never told anyone.
So this experience made me wonder a few things: first of all, it made me realize what people notice, or don’t notice and the stories that can be read, or at least imagined, in so many things. Secondly, it made me wonder about our own stories, people’s stories, and who we share them with, what we share, and why—why tell a certain thing to a particular person? Anyway, to address the first question, I wonder if, as a tourist, we notice a lot more of the city, and perhaps we notice the other people more as well. It seems that people who live here are so in the habit of doing the same thing and are so familiar with things, that they no longer notice any of it. Perhaps staring up at every building I pass, or taking a picture of a gate in front of yet another parisian window with flowers blooming outside, or looking at people as I walk down the street completely gives me away as a tourist, but that doesn’t matter to me. I want to look at every building, every detail, and all of the people, because all of it has a story, and whether I find out the actual story or not, knowing that there is one, and that we all have one, things have happened in all of these places and in the lives of all of these people, and it is those stories that somehow connect us, I think. We tell those stories to people we know, people we care about, all for different reasons, but I think that it is the sharing of experiences that makes people connect, and it all starts with what we notice, what we think, what we imagine…and then spread that thought to those around us. Then again, there may be some who have no one to share their stories with. Like the old man, in the café…I wonder what his story is, and what he would choose to tell of it and to whom, if given the chance…
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
On Friday I took a very long walk around my neighborhood, the 16th Arrondissement of Paris. It was a really good walk, I think I took close to 100 pictures on Friday alone. I saw so many things just in a matter of hours! I always go the same direction from my apartment, toward the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero metro station...so I decided to go the other way. Maybe 100 yards down the street and I hit the Avenue Victor Hugo--full of beautiful shops and boutiques and all kinds of cool stuff! There is one store that is entirely different kinds and shapes of candles, and another that is an apparently really famous chocolate shop where the owner makes all sorts of different shapes from chocolate, HUGE shapes, I mean like bears that are almost as big as me...there were actually eggs made of chocolate across a table, one with a chicken on top of it that was about 5 feet tall. Then the street hit the Place de Victor Hugo, so I just continued around the circle down Victor Hugo...and hit the Arc de Triomphe! Yep. 15 minute walk from my house...who knew? So of course I had to follow where curiosity lead me: right down the Champs d'Elysees! There were sooo many people, so I just continued walking. I was simply noticing the people that were out and about and how many different kinds of people are in this city. Compared to the town I come from Ann Arbor is pretty diverse and seems to have people from all kinds of places...but Paris is exceptional in its diversity. I have met people (some in my French classes) from Russia, Africa, Sweden, London, The Netherlands, Korea, Germany, Italy, China, Australia, and various areas of the U.S. It is just such a cultural center of the world that I am still trying to comprehend it. So I simply people watched...taking in the different languages that I heard and the way people would interact with each other. I was sort of trying to see if I could tell the tourists from the true Parisians. I still have no idea unless I hear someone speaking English...even then I suppose they may not be tourists. So I people watched, taking in how much of the of the world is represented in such a small part of it. Then I got to the end of the Champs d'Elysees, to the Les Invalides and took a lot of pictures, especially from the view I had on the Seine River. Some of the architecture of that spot was absolutely magnificent. I found myself paying close attention to little parts of much larger, grander things...like on small statue that was situated on the edge of the bridge...it was a small, winged figure that had some grafitti in red on the side of its abdomen. I wonder why someone chose to put the graffitti there, if it was supposed to symbolize something. It was actually quite sad to see; it almost appeared as if the it was bleeding, being made from very dark stone the red stood out very well, you can sort of see the red in the photo on the right...I tried to cut it out at the time but looking back I wish I had taken a picture of the whole thing so that the effect of the red could be seen. Anyway, I turned around and began walking along the Seine river. I took pictures of the boats that were alongside of it, tied up--not because they were necessarily pretty or extravagant or anything of the sort really, but simply intriguing. They reminded me of an old movie I have seen (and certainly don't remember very well) where the grandfather has a boat and takes his grandkids for a ride down the river. They all seemed sort of old, well-loved. That's why I liked them I think...I know Paris is know for it's beauty and high-class sort of things, where every building looks fit for the king from an outside perspective, but to me it is the little things that people have here, the small places that are well-loved and little-known that I think are interesting. In other words, what is the "Parisian lifestyle" on a smaller scale? What happens when we think of it in the context of someone we normally wouldn't think twice about, like the old lady who "slowed you down" as she walked in front of you on the sidewalk, or the blind man who sat across from me on the metro this weekend...what is Paris to them?