I’m in Paris! I got here at 6 AM on Tuesday, having flown through the night and slept hardly at all. I was fortunate enough to have time to nap while AirFrance scrambled to find the bag that I had checked–apparently the bag had been loaded onto the plane I was on, but the ground crew in Boston “loaded the bags into the wrong part of the plane, so it will take much longer to bring them up.” This sounded odd to me, as were repeated assurances that my bag was “in transport” or “only 20 minutes away.” Whatever. In the end I got the duffel, paid a ridiculous fee to store it at the airport for 4 days, and equipped with only my backpack and my meager wits I got on the RER to center city.
Well, it was wonderful. I surfaced in the heart of Paris, with Notre Dame looming over me and the Fontaine St. Michel bubbling away, and immediately it felt like home. I knew exactly where to find a store to buy a phone(06.59.35.36.69, works til tomorrow), knew exactly where the ATM was to withdraw money, and having done both of those things I decided to walk to the Sweet Briar office in the 6th Arrondissement to visit my old study-abroad program. It was great to meet up again with friends from the program and meet a couple of the new students. My friend Chris and I went off to Montparnasse to drink coffee, and eventually met up with Jacques and set off across the city looking for food. Walked 4 kilometers, ate nothing, but it’s all good cuz I like walking here.
In the afternoon i got caught by the RATP for riding the metro without a ticket, and had to pay an enormous fine on the spot, because they made clear to me that the punishment for riding without a ticket was a 25 year sentence of hard labor in the Pyrenees with hardened criminals. They don’t catch you often, but when they do turnstile jumping is not taken lightly. This was the first time I had EVER been checked.
That night I went to revisit my wonderful former host family in the 5th, where we drank a glass or three of champagne and talked about the recent election, their upcoming trip to Brazil, and Eastern European geography. I also met their current homestay student, a Venezuelan named Federico, who happened to be high-school friends with one of the interns I’m about to work with in Senegal. Crazy coincidence, really nice guy.
Finally I went off to meet up with Ah Ouh Puc, the club ultimate team I played with while I was in Paris. Over the course of the night about 20 of them came out to the bar where we met up to say hello again and wish me a bon voyage in Africa. I nearly WEPT to walk into the bar and see a whole table of 15 people jump up to greet me. Stiff upper lip, however, and we had a raucous night that reminded me of the LAST time I said goodbye to PUC in that same bar and had a hectic adventure that will have to be recounted elsewhere.
So that was day 1, in Boston for dinner and in Paris for breakfast. Since then I’ve been hanging out with my Brazilian friend Gui, who’s hosting me in his really nice apartment a mere 500 baguette-lengths away from the Bastille. He and I and a flock of his friends have been going out and exploring Rue Mouffetard, Place Contrescarpe, and other places that used to be my neighborhood while I was here.
And tomorrow I fly to Dakar. For a while I was nervous that landing there would be a major shock, because Paris is so overwhelming and different from what I’ll encounter there. On the other hand, this brief stay here has prepared me pretty well for new adventures. I’m once again familiar with the feeling of being completely on my own, at once free and self-sufficient but also dependent on my friends for places to stay etc. The simple acts of moving around the city and feeding myself here is good preparation for being adaptable and self-sufficient in Dakar. I can’t wait.