Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Guess what!? I made it to France! After a long five hour flight from LAX to New York, hours of delays at JFK and a seven and a half hour flight from New York to Paris Charles DeGaulle Airport, I am finally in Europe! Of course, after exiting the plane and heading for baggage claim, everyone on my flight had realized that Air France had left their luggage in New York. So this is how it all began. The airport was huge, with an endless amount of terminals, filled with people from all over the world, many of which still had mullet haircuts. I approached the subway system, which is called the RER in France, and had no idea what I was doing, so I had to ask for some assistance. Fortunately, I met two French professors, one from Guadeloupe and another from Paris, who rode the subway with me to the Notre Dame Cathedral. We spoke about America, George Bush, the new French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his plans for France, and the selection of administrative posts in the French government. I arrived in France near the very end of these elections, and people on the subway debated whether the snooty politicians could actually identify with the true needs of French people, and protested the proposed elevation of national taxes. It was amazing to see such thorough knowledge of national politics from EVERYONE on the subway. They asked me about Hurricane Katrina, the condition of the Gulf Coast, they wondered why there were was a college in Indiana that only accepted male students, and they wanted to know if I personally witnessed Paris Hilton driving the wrong direction on the streets of Los Angeles. The scenery from the metro was beautiful. The architecture of the houses was stunning with and many of the walls in the subway system were adorned with colorful graffiti. Surprisingly, the majority of this graffiti was written in English. I arrived in the Latin Quarter of Paris and met with Cathy Saksik. We walked around the busy streets and sat down at a local café to catch up. Paris is definitely a melting pot and a haven for people of all religions, shapes, colors, and sizes. I saw gypsies, punk rockers, young kids that tried to sag their jeans and throw American "west coast" gang signs at me once they heard my phone conversation in English, and a young couple walking with heads that were completely shaved, except for the single long black dread lock that hung from the top of their heads to the bottom of their shoulder blades. I kind of felt like I was at Venice Beach! The ambience at the café was something you could never experience in America. It was so relaxing, and it gave me a chance to recognize the history and beauty of all of the buildings and towering monuments that surrounded us. As it started the rain, we headed for the metro and traveled to Cathy’s quaint hometown named Le Plessis Paté. There were no sounds of cars, traffic, or construction. Just the sounds of cool breezes, and song birds. We ran into her Aunt, who kissed me about eight times on the cheek and brought us fresh bread and vegetables. That evening, Cathy and I cooked dinner together for her brother and sister. Over the sounds of Willie Colon’s latin jazz, steaming sliced potatoes were laid in a decorative baking dish. For a small snack, we cut small radishes in half, and ate them with small portions of butter and salt. This was definitely something I had never done before. We sauteed onions, sliced pork, and smothered them all over the potatoes. We then took this glorious piece of French cheese, a name that I cannot pronounce, laid it on top of the food, and watched it slowly melt and sizzle in the oven. You could smell the aroma throughout the entire house, and it mixed with the smell of the flowers that rushed through the open window shutters. We all sat down at a small table at the kitchen, and I began a six week journey in which I would leave English conversation behind, and begin many relationships and friendships through French conversation. Tomorrow, I will leave early to catch the metro from Paris, to Nimes, to Arles, to begin orientation and meet with the other twenty seven students in my summer program.
Ryan Forbes Morris 08