Ciao Readers! Happy Belated Turkey Day!
Yes, it has been quite a while. Recently a friend and fellow blogger commented that I must not be blogging because I am busy at work. Honestly, while I am busy, I have just not been moved to write. When we were living in Italy the posts just seemed to write themselves, now they come sporadically. However, with our impending trip to Paris (and elsewhere) fast approaching, this post is writing itself (unfortunately for me, it decided to write itself at 1:00 in the morning).
For those of you that have followed this blog and our travels, you know that I love Paris. We’ve had a trip to France/Belgium/the Netherlands planned for almost a year now. Obviously, the pure joy and excitement building up to it took a turn on November 13th. Now, I hesitate to indulge my feelings about how such human tragedy personally affects my mindset going on a holiday trip – it seems self-absorbed, putting it mildly. But, in a way, the thoughts I have been experiencing connect me as an American to the larger world and the wide-ranging thoughts and emotions perhaps many of us share.
Since November 13th I have to admit feeling hesitant about our trip. It’s (mostly) not fear that makes me hesitate; on any given day you are 7 times more likely to be murdered in Albuquerque than in Paris. Honestly, it is mostly selfish id-centered thoughts of “this is going to harsh my buzz” (or, more apt, my joie de vivre). How can Paris possibly “feel” like Paris at this time? One of my favorite things in Paris from our trip in 2008 was the Christmas Market along the Champs-Élysées. It is wonderfully festive and charming – cute little Swiss chalets with all sorts of delicious foods and hand-crafted gifts, people strolling arm-in-arm…all blanketed by lights literally dripping from the trees all along the street….
Earlier this week I found this picture of the market as it looks now:
Not quite as festive and charming, to say the least.
So, my first thoughts were that if this trip isn’t going to be all festivities and joy we shouldn’t go. But then I started thinking about it from a different angle. I remember what it was like to experience the primary between Hillary and Obama from Japan, and the election of Obama while in France. While not exactly similar situations, there is something profound and incomparable about experiencing global history unfolding from someone else’s perspective. Here at home almost everything I learn is through the very narrow filter of our media; everything I “know” about what it’s like to be in Paris (and Belgium) at this time is through the narrow lens of CNN or ABC footage. We’re watching Paris on t.v., and imagining what they are going through and how it feels to be there at this time in history, but to actually be there and feel how it feels will be a singularly enlightening experience. And maybe this is my naiveté, but, while I never really felt this myself, any sentiments of “Ugh, American tourists,” may very well be replaced with “Yay, American tourists.” I feel like being there will show our support – not just mine and Steve’s personally, but we as Americans. What better statement of solidarity can we make than to go? (If you want a professional traveler’s take on why Americans should not cancel upcoming trips to Paris, you can turn to trusty Rick Steves).
I have to admit, the preparation for this trip has taken a somewhat somber turn – in between reading French Yelp reviews of bistros in Rouen, I have updated our wills – morbid practicality and joyful excitement battling for control of my psyche. There’s also a little Orwellian paranoia going on. I have been wanting to understand more about the Middle East and Islam, a feeling intensified by our impending travels. When I was curious about Western religions I read the Bible, so I was thinking I should read the Quran. I then starting thinking that if I ordered one online right now we might end up on some list and have a hard time getting on our plane to Paris. The weird thing is, I have no idea if that is a real possibility or a silly paranoid thought (I have decided to hedge my bets and wait until we get back from our trip). Are we really in a collective head-space where earnest intellectual curiosity can be quashed by fear of Big Brother? While these thoughts of Big Brother terrify me on the one hand, I have to admit I have thought many times that better intelligence (versus randomly searching little old ladies at the airport) is the short-term key to our safety. Conflicted times for sure.
Honestly, I have no idea what this trip has in store, but I have a feeling it will be an enriching experience we will never forget. And I am guessing several more blogs will write themselves (hopefully at more respectable hours).
Until then, dear Readers, I wish you all very Happy Holidays. I look forward to chatting in the new year!