Come on baby light my fire

Bet you thought I would use a more standard image of Paris for my cover photo. Nope. Jim Morrison was just around the corner from where we were staying, so we had to go to see his grave.

In all seriousness, Paris has been strange. Not because Paris is strange – on the contrary it’s all very familiar. It’s been strange because we’ve been away from the West for six months.

We’ve spent the last few days in awe of garbage cans, drinkable water and the sound of emergency vehicles. We’re still unsure whether we should wait for drivers, or whether we should dart across the street. We get confused when they stop for us, and I’m sure we’re going to get a jaywalking ticket at some point.

Weeping angel or Menacing Cupid?

Weeping angel or Menacing Cupid?

We’ve been to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. The girls saw weeping angels everywhere in the Louvre and were on the lookout for Dr. Who at every corner.

We’ve been to Notre Dame and been “shushed” by an electronic “shusher.” Seriously. The Catholic Church now feels the need to shush people when the noise gets above a certain decibel. An electonic voice calls out in a stern voice, “SHHHHHHHHHH! Silence (repeated in about five different languages). SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

How Western. Not at all fun like African Catholics up singing in Moshi at 4:00 am. But Africa is a world without bylaws. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s very bad.

This guy did soccer stunts high above the crowd at Sacre Coeur

This guy did soccer stunts high above the crowd at Sacre Coeur

We’ve seen bones arranged neatly in the catacombs, including a heart made of skulls (again with those priests!). We’ve been to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, which is a heck of a lot more funĀ  than Notre Dame. Live music, street performers, and Heineken beer sales actually drew crowds (I think Jesus of the people would be proud).

We’ve been able to walk and walk and walk on sidewalks that go on forever. Sidewalks that don’t trip me up because they are so damn even. No random unmarked holes here.

And poop comes from only one animal as opposed to the variety found on other continents.

We’ve seen road rage, which I just don’t get. Horns are used everywhere in Asia and Africa, but never in anger. They let people know you are there, not to crash into you. People just watch out for each other. They expect the unexpected and don’t get angry when it happens.

I think we could all chill a bit more in the West.

We no longer have to barter for everything we buy, and language is no longer a problem (well at least not for me). But I no longer get cute smiles when I butcher Swahili or say the five words in Vietnamese that I’ve learned. Now they just expect me to know.

I look at African immigrants and wonder if they are freezing just like me. It has snowed twice since we got here. The longest pants the girls and I have are capris.

I’m sure if I asked they would laugh and say, “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!” Just like our Ghanaian neighbours said when we moved to Calgary.

We’re missing Africa and wonder how all the people we met are doing back there. Most of our volunteer friends have also moved on. But judging by Facebook posts we all seem to be experiencing the same kind of grief that comes with leaving.

I guess we all have to be somewhere in the world. And Paris is a pretty fine place to be. There’s cheese and wine, and no bats on the way to the toilet…

2 Comments on “Come on baby light my fire

  1. I had a re acclimatization after travelling to the Philippines years ago that sounds similar to this. The key is not to lose all the learnings that came with the exploration and discovery. I am glad you are not coming back into routine as you will stay open and aware.
    Love to you all,

    • It has definitely given me a window into how strange immigrants must feel when they turn up in the West, especially when they are not quite prepared for the cold. I hope I never forget this feeling of how safe, clean and orderly our world is. And I wonder, just where does our anger come from? What are we afraid of?

      – Heather

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