Saturday, April 13, 2013

“Paris is always a good idea.”

With Linda Rubin at The Editeurs cafe
You will be the same person in five years except for the books you’ve read, the places you’ve visited, and the people you’ve met.” – Peter Legge  (An unknown motivational speaker who reads books, visits places and meets people.)
            While I certainly don’t have time to read a book, my third full day in Paris already embodied the two parts about places and people one meets. I started my morning with my daily four hours of French classes, which wouldn’t be significant except for the make up of the students in class: they were all very young and came from all corners of the earth. My study partner that day was a Saudi woman wearing jihab, (Muslim women’s full head covering.) Our assignment was to analyze the writing voice and grammatical forms in newspaper articles. I was relieved that the publication was a Parisian Left Bank circular with local news that did not include international news…. After working together for a while, I relaxed.
            Later in the afternoon, I attended a mixed conversation group of French and English speakers (half the meeting people chatted in English, half in French, so each got to practice.) I met Brigitte, a former French teacher who wanted to practice her English, and after the formal meeting, the two of us continued at a café. We developed a rhythm in which I spoke French and she responded in English, and we corrected one another.  
            Other French conversations groups—of which there are quite a lot here—select different cafés around town, and each new destination makes that street or intersection my flitting home. One afternoon, I was enchanted by the fabulously designed Metro station of Arts et Métiers, its brass ceiling and the dramatization of machinery wheels peeking through celebrate the skills of mechanics and engineers that brought industrialization. Every day, my walk both ways to Alliance Francaise classes has taken me through the Jardins de Luxemburg. One late night, walking away from my second Toastmasters’ group I looked at the lit Louvre across the rue Rivoli. Glistening after the rain, the road reflected the many yellow lights, and had it not been for the late hour and the possibility of more rain, I would have crossed it and walked back home. Instead, I ambled on rue Rivoli under a portico housing art galleries. Devoid of tourists this late, it was my own yet again. 
            At an expats soirée, I met Linda, a retired veterinarian from Florida on the same one-month visit as I am, and whose joke-telling skills about the animals she’d treated would qualify her to become a stand-up comedienne. The next evening she invited me to dinner at her place and we’ve been sharing resources and fun places—last night as “Shabbat welcome” at the traditional French chansonniere Au Lapin Agile. Tonight, I was invited to dinner at friends of a friend of my late cousin Sharon. Talking about six-degrees of separation! I couldn’t have imagined a warmer welcome from this very lovely couple, with whom, it turned out, I had a lot in common.
            The point of reporting these new acquaintances is that in one week in Paris, I’ve never been alone or out of things to do. In fact I am exhausted…. But rest? Tomorrow there will be more conversation groups to attend and I will be a guest speaker at Patricia’s soirée.
            Also, finally today, with no French morning classes over the weekend, I carved a window of time to exercise. I located on the internet a Zumba studio nearby. However, when I arrived, it turns out that the website was not current, and the class scheduled was an advanced choreographed dance. Whatever we think of the French, the instructor was terrific in making sure that I became familiar with the steps. He did so in the fastest French possible, not realizing that I wasn’t a native. It felt great to know that I could already fake it. After class came a Parisian moment: The single dressing room had one shower. As I was gathering my stuff, the instructor came out of the shower in his turquoise-colored briefs and casually got dressed while chatting with the disrobed female students….
            As Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea.”

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