Last weekend, our program took us to Normandy. We visited the Mémorial de Caen, where we watched a film that focused on Normandy and the unbelievable horror of WWII. Normandy, a critical region for the Western Allies’ triumph, had faced such devastating destruction. It is hard to find the right words to describe what it’s like to visit Normandy today, but it feels uplifting to see how far France has come since the tragedy that was not even 100 years ago.
The best way to describe Paris is through the oxymoron: organized chaos. Paris is lively, busy, and crowded; but the hustle and bustle of Paris flows in an orderly fashion. This week, we’ve been trying to find our place in Paris’ organized chaos. In a large city, you would expect to feel very small; but actually, I feel very large and awkward as I try to decode Paris and all of its patterns and arrangements.
Whenever our group of Americans tries to navigate the metro or shop for groceries, it is as if we are pushing through the crowd, or moving against the flow of traffic.
The only way to fit into the chaos is to KNOW what you’re doing and where you’re going—which is impossible in the beginning. Until then, we are trying our best to avoid disruption.
This may mean we try to avoid the grocery store during its busiest hours, especially if we do not know what we want to buy. There is no wandering around CarreFour like you would wander around Target. You do not stop in the middle of the aisle and look around. I cannot stress this enough. Come with a list ready and walk through every aisle until you know the layout of the store. I didn’t know I was leaving behind leisurely, fun grocery shopping when I came to Paris.
I’ve really emphasized my experiences with grocery shopping in Paris because we are now responsible for our own meals. We get to play “house” for these next few months by squeezing into our tiny Parisian apartment kitchen and figuring out a recipe together.
We also had to part ways with air-conditioning, ceiling fans, and dryers. After getting off the plane in CDG, we were actually engulfed in Paris’ humidity. This past week has been sticky and hot, but it is our only complaint.
On Friday night, Sarah and I wandered off from the larger group of students until we found the nearest metro station. From there, we went straight to the Eiffel Tower. We had just enough time for a few pictures before catching the last train home. In Paris, we find ourselves “lost”, but not astray. There’s a huge sense of adventure and curiosity to dissect the city and indulge in everything it has to offer.