Posted January 1, 2007 9:20 pm (about 4766 days ago)Paris Entry One:
The fact that I’m chillin’ in Paris on New Year’s Eve means that I can’t really complain too much. But jet lag sucks! I’m sooooo tired, but can’t fall asleep.
It’s 8:36 AM local time on January 1, 2007, which means it’s 11:36 PM, December 31, 2006 in California. They’re about to do the countdown to kick off the New Year. It would’ve been nice to be there. I had this fantasy about calling people at midnight, California time, but that requires a major operation at my end. I’m staying at my friend Mari's apartment and I’ve only been here a few hours. She’s fast asleep and has to work this afternoon so I don’t want to wake her. I don’t know where the keys are to unlock the two doors when I return, if I wander around till I find a payphone. I’ve been stuck wandering the streets of a foreign country for hours in the early morning and it can be great, or maddening. In this case I would probably be on my own for another six hours since everyone is knocked out from the NYE parties and everything is closed due to the holiday. It’s rainy and cold in Paris now so I’ll pass. There are just some things that you need to let go of.
So, instead I’ll blog and reflect on this Paris excursion so far….
I was pretty anxious about this trip. I’ve been on the road a lot lately, haven’t been spending enough time with loved ones, been stranded at airports, and feel overwhelmed with work. Once I arrived in Paris I had to wait nearly three hours to get picked up because my friend Alex was held up by a bomb threat. There was an unsupervised piece of luggage in the next terminal that had to be blown up. But once he arrived, all of my apprehensions were gone. There’s something deep, even spiritual, about reconnecting with old friends. We had some great times the last time I was here and the flood of memories continued. But, more on Alex later.
I can’t reiterate how much I value traveling since it’s so easy for us to get stuck in our ways. One thing that struck me was how much more relaxed French customs requirements were to enter. The form basically just asked for name, address, date of birth, profession, and your airport. In the U.S. they want to know what you bought, how much money you have, how long you were gone, were you on a farm, and other stuff that I can’t even remember. In France, I think only 15 minutes passed from the time that I exited the plane, picked up my luggage, and passed through customs. The agent barely glanced at me as he waved me through. I didn’t even get a stamp for my passport marking my entry! Blah. So much for filling my passport with stamps from “exotic” locales. I saw some random people get stopped for questioning, but I in spite of my curiosity, I just wanted to get out. There were soldiers patrolling about with dogs and machine guns, but there wasn’t the same tension as in the U.S. with all of our color codes and such. It just reminded me of how the entire culture or mentality of countries can differ.
I remember a few years ago having an impassioned discussion with an angry French woman about the arrogance and self-centeredness of the U.S. Although I was able to give her a more nuanced view and we both walked away enlightened, one thing that stood out to me was her point that people in other countries have fought wars longer than the U.S. has existed. She talked about how the U.S. was like a young child (albeit powerful one) that still hadn’t formed an identity and had an inflated view of self. Until then, I had never heard someone state that view so succinctly. Security concerns in the States are understandable, but France’s more lax attitude hasn’t led to higher incidents of terrorism and their enemies and political situation certainly isn’t less intense than ours.