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Paris: Not so horrible after all

So there’s this stereotype that the French are arrogant assholes. Maybe they are and I’m just so endearing that I bring out the best in them. Or it’s also possible that, for once, a stereotype is untrue. Quel Miracle. One of my colleagues suggested that the stereotype used to be truer, but there’s been a cultural change. I don’t know, I’m just a bit ashamed that I was so intimidated by these people, who have been so kind. They allow me to limp along in French (which I’ve never studied, but Latin + Spanish + how is it one manages to pick up so much French vocabulary? I really don’t know…) and then when things get tricky they switch to English in a way that doesn’t make me feel humiliated.

I haven’t traveled abroad alone in a long ass time. As my trip draws to a close, I have some observations. First, unless you are traveling with someone who knows all the languages and is very good at making decisions, it may be easier to travel alone. When I’ve traveled with other people, we spend a lot of time wandering in circles because none of us can pull the trigger, on, say, sitting down at a particular café. This one? This one? This one? *All starve to death* By myself, there’s no one to have an opinion but me. There’s also no one to be embarrassed by the language barrier but me. It somehow takes the pressure off. Second, I have changed quite a bit since the last time I did this. I am still timid, but I used to be SO TIMID. I was so afraid of dining in a restaurant that I’d eat every meal in my hotel. Now while I am still tempted to eat in my hotel, the prospect of alcohol gets me out on the street.

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I’ve become a lot more confident as I’ve aged, and I think becoming a parent has a lot to do with that, though I don’t quite know what the connection is. Finally, DAMN, traveling is much easier in the era of the smartphone. No more wrestling with maps and guidebooks. Want to find a lovely toy store? BAM. Found.

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Cadeaux pour les enfants

I suppose it might cut down on the look at the charming thing I discovered just by wandering experiences a bit, but I still managed to have one of those even if the charming thing I discovered was a lot of prostitutes.

Also, I can’t thank you enough for your suggestions. They had a really magical effect. They inspired me, and reminded me that there are lots of things I enjoy. I planned to do a great many of them, but only managed to find an adorable fabric store before my walking feet gave out.

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It’s easy to find cotton, even in my sad city, but this place had tons of beautiful viscose, which is my preferred fabric for dresses.

My conference went well. The room was packed for both my talks, which made me feel good. And I had many good scholarly interactions. I am now an Old in this community, but this was validating rather than depressing, on account of how the young sprouts gazed up at me with such admiration.

I miss the babies very much, and the constant pumping is a weird addition to my professional experience. I am a bit worried about my supply being totally shot when I get home, but there’s not much I can do because if I pump any more than I have, been my nipples will fall off.

So that’s the news. Now I will watch this TV show which I believe is about dysfunctional families being healed through the power of doing an obstacle course (????) until it’s time to brave the streets for one more dinner.

 

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sounds like you are having a wonderfult trip! Glad the French have been kinder than expected (I’m sure you even trying the language wins major points). Congrats on your conference success, as well!

    July 23, 2016
  2. I’m so jealous of your alone traveling and your fabric shopping. SO JEALOUS. I love my family, but I haven’t been alone for longer than nap time in over a year now.

    July 23, 2016
  3. Steph #

    Hooray for adorable fabric store, lovely viscose and pattern…And for your entire trip of course! I’ve been wondering how it has been going. I am so glad it has all worked well. Huge success on all fronts!

    July 24, 2016
  4. “I was so afraid of dining in a restaurant that I’d eat every meal in my hotel.”

    Oh, god, I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one who does this…

    I, too, have gotten better over the years; for me, it’s partly practice (lots of foreign travel for academia when you’re in Europe), but I think you’re right about parenting, and for me, it’s because you learn to make lots of decisions quickly and without any basis, simply because you must. And it generally works out.

    July 24, 2016
    • I’ve thought about this more, and have put my finger on another reason. It is that I want Gwen to grow up to be fearless. And the best way I can do this is to be fearless myself. So many things that I wouldn’t do on my own, I will do if she is watching, so that she doesn’t see my fear. And after awhile, pretending to be brave morphs into being brave, in part because you’ve now bravely done a bunch of terrible things (like going in to a restaurant, ordering food, and paying for it) and YOU DIDN’T DIE.

      July 27, 2016
  5. Je comprends tres bien que les francais t’adorent, ma chere. C’est parce que tu es adorable ❤
    I had a feeling you and Paris would enjoy each other. So glad my feeling materialized. And I'm glad that your attendance at the conference was a confidence boost instead of a drain.
    I must say, I wish I could have sat in that empty chair in front of you, ordered myself a glass of chardonnay, and settling in for a long, wonderful conversation with you.
    Safe return home to your bunnies (love the mama bunny, with two little buns and a fox <3)

    July 25, 2016
  6. How fantastique! Well done. Sounds all very good. Yes. I also have more confidence in these years of my life, and while I do think (recent) parenthood has made it more so, or maybe just more devil may care and AH SURE FECK IT I’LL GIVE IT A WHIRL, also perversely things seem to go better when your real attention is elsewhere, BUT in any case though, I think the GREAT AGE thing helps. You start thinking they’re just other people, after all, and get less deferential and see the long view of things. Also, if not now, when? Life is short, and so on.

    (Sorry this came out as a stream of half baked thoughts.)(Hope you get my drift.)

    July 25, 2016
  7. So lovely to hear. And special kudos that the academia-ness of the whole thing was so pleasurable and satisfying. Thought of you tons and wished you peace and pleasant sidewalk cafes. And yes, also lovely wooden toys.

    July 26, 2016

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