21 January 2011

Paris: Pre-departure edition

Buy it here, if you so please

Tomorrow night, I depart for four months in Paris. There's so much to say about it that I truly don't know where to start. How about: I'm nervous, but mostly excited. I'm going to miss my family and friends, but more than anything I'm going to miss my dog and my baby nephew because they're the only ones who don't understand Skype (or the function of mirrors, why peanut butter is so sticky, or why I would up and leave for so long a time). 

Everyone keeps telling me, "But Cat, you're going to Paris," and I'm all like, "I know. DUH." It's one of the most notoriously inhospitable, proud, and frankly pretentious cities on the map. (You know, unless you try to be like them, and even then, good luck.) It has a reputation. It has a million connotations. My course of thought has gotten to the point where I don't even think of the Eiffel Tower and croissants anymore – I think of the cold glances, les bousculeurs (the passers-by who have no qualms about walking into you, be in on the sidewalk, in a store, or while you're taking a picture), and people answering me in English when I attempt to speak French (which I speak well, for an American). People tell me, Just roll with the punches, you'll be fine, to which I reply (in thought), Some advice! Do YOU like being punched?

It's a hard feeling to understand (this feeling you get when you leave a place to go on a journey by yourself, not even knowing the people you're going to live with) unless you've done it before. Paris is one of the most well "known" cities in the world. People assume it's easy to live there because it's a western, industrialized, and chic city. Everyone thinks they know something about Paris. You can read books, you can look at pictures, you can talk to people about their trips, and you can romanticize it to the billionth degree, but at the end of the day, no overarching truth can be deduced from secondary resources (despite anything Law and Order may tell you). It is necessary to GO there. True – I am judging Paris the same way I assume they will judge me, right? Right. But honestly, I've been there once, and I came back knowing even less than I did before I went. The place is baffling. And tomorrow I'm moving there.

So now it's time to embrace the adventure.

Hemingway wrote, "I do not know what I thought Paris would be like, but it was not that way. It rained nearly every day." I know that it's a rainy city, seeing as the field of meteorology is mostly accurate and at our service these days. About the first part though... how clever of him. I hope that at the end of my stay I will look back on these pre-departure sentiments, laugh a little, and think, Wow, you were so wrong about that place.

No comments: