Monday, November 17, 2008

Dreaming in Glaswegian

This weekend, I was strolling down my street, past my favourite appartment building (which I will take a picture of) and thought of an amazing post. Unfortunately, I did not write it down. I am currently in the process of remembering it. Which may never happen but I will try.

Last week, we had our reading break. I went to Scotland for five days with my friend, Michelle, a Hungarian-American with indentity issues like me sort of, to visit Navit, a friend of mine from Hampshire, and see Glasgow and Edinburgh. I seem to be having trouble transitioning from vacation to Sciences Po. During vacation, I justified eating out by saying, "They don't have tea and scones in Paris," or "Indian food is much better in Scotland," so I didn't cook for myself at all. During vacation, I just went to museums and hung out with Michelle, strolling amongst Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glaswegian buildings and along the Royal Mile, passing tourist shops playing bagpipe music and signs for ghost tours at night. During vacation, I read only Agatha Christie and tourist information in English. Life was simple, fun, and easy to understand.

But those are the little things. Really, the hardest thing for me has been to convince myself that people in Paris really are nice, or that humans in general have the possibility to be good. It's harder to believe here that it was in Scotland. This comes from two things, principly. The first is that in Scotland, I was talking to two great friends of mine about whatever topic came to mind, in a language in which I can generally express myself easily. In Paris, I tend to be in classes with a majority of French students who are (obviously) fluent in the language used in the classroom and who are, in all seriousness, very intelligent. We also tend to cover subjects that are less entertaining and more worrisome. These subjects range from the Palestinian conflict to Hugo's Les Miserables to torture and why humans can torture other human beings. In other words, the subjects upon which I dwell tend to be less than sunny.

The second thing stems from the attitude of others around me. In Scotland, Michelle and I were generally well-treated by everyone around us. The police in the airport joked with those around them, a drunk man in the line for taxis laughed when we couldn't understand his accent and told us about his family in the States, people smiled at us in the streets, and the man at our hostel on the last night woke up at 4am to call us a taxi, start the coffee machine, and give us breakfast (even though breakfast was only from 7-9am usually). In France, many of us exchange students will talk to someone during or after class, only to find that outside of class that person will not even return our greeting. Parisiens, and the northern French in general, tend to think that people that smile at them in the streets must be crazy. The general demeanor of people outside, in restaurants, or at school ranges from a little less than friendly to intimidating.

I combat my negative thoughts about the French and Paris in the following way: I try to find one thing a day that makes me think that people are good, friendly, or helpful in Paris. Last week, a girl ran to catch the RER and barely made it in time. Her bag got stuck in the door, which usually isn't too much of a problem as the door will open again at the next stop. Only on this train the door opened on the other side for the next few stops. Those around her laughed and smiled, and everyone tried to help her get her bag unstuck from the door. I missed class one Friday, and a student, V. wrote me an email asking how I was and saying he hoped I was okay. I've never had a student anywhere, in any country, at anytime write me when I missed class to make sure I was okay.

These things are what make the hard times pass. These small moments make all the rest of it worthwhile. Because by spring, I'm hoping I won't need the little things because I'll be used to the culture, people, and school life in Paris.

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