Wednesday, May 13, 2009

American Girl in Paris – Part I

Due to flight schedule to reunite with my family in Taipei, I ended up with a three-day layover in Paris. I know, life is tough. Thanks to my French connection, Gary arranged for me to stay with his friends in the center of Paris for the two nights that I was passing through. When he said the center of Paris, I thought it would simply be Paris proper. But center is quite literally the center. His friends live in a fabulous top floor flat in the 1st arrondissement next to the métro station Les Halles.

Since the flight arrives at some absurd hour of 6am, I told Gary that I'll just find my own way into Paris and I'll call him to meet up when I arrive. I took my time going through customs, picking up the luggage, and finally bought a RER métro ticket into Paris. I was really nervous and greatly overwhelmed when I was on the train. While looking out of the window, I was unknowingly digging my nail into my hand with nervous force. I didn't realize I was doing this until I looked down on my hand and saw fingernail print all over the hand from my thumb.

The buildings overwhelmed me, all the white people, and my heart would jump a bit when a train would pass from the opposite direction – I forget it does that. When I got off the train, the busy Parisians were rushing to work. Since it's a busy station, people were coming and going from all directions. I was walking at turtle speed and with a big bag on the back, I was quite like a turtle. Relieved to get out of the busy station, and then I was hit by a bigger shock – the shopping mall connected to the station; shiny marble floors, merchandises galore, etc. Since the time was still early, there were only a few people meandering about the space.

After a few unsuccessful try of finding a reloadable SIM card for my phone, I saw a Starbucks and it was quite like seeing a refuge. I decided to go in and order my Grande Skim Caramel Macchiato before thinking of the next step. Once I sat down, with latte in hand, I decided to try calling from the Cameroonian MTN phone. Miraculously, it worked and Gary said he would come find me. Just as I was trying to digest all the strangeness, I get a call from a villager. I didn't answer at first out of sheer weirdness, but then he called again. I answered, and he wanted to drop off some proposal for me to look at, and I had to explain that I am in France but that he can drop it off at the Bank and I'll look at it upon my return. That few minutes of conversation took the idea strange and weird to a whole other level. The mixture of the two worlds was too much.

After meeting up with Gary for a while, we stepped out into the streets and I was faced with another shock. WHY IS IT SO COLD IN PARIS IN MAY?! I was absolutely not prepared and was sporting my sandal and light jacket. On top of the cold, I was still freaking out by the modern world. Thankfully Gary had also spent time in Cameroon and therefore did not look at me as though I was crazy when I commented on all the clean people and such! The transition into the "real world", albeit temporarily, was certainly made easier with someone who "gets it".

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