22 February 2011

Paris, Tu Me Manques!

Tastes like success!
February 13th, 2008 I took my last final exam of college.  It was in my French foreign policy class at Sciences Po in Paris.  What a remarkably exhilarating feeling walking out of the building: FREEDOM.  Finishing college, I’m sure, is exciting in any circumstance, but in my case it was probably exponentially more liberating because I had been doing my final international relations courses in French. AND in the context of France’s education system which is a burdensome paragon of bureaucracy and antiquated ideology, or simply put…French.

Last week marked the third anniversary of that day I skipped down rue Saint-Guillaume grinning. (If you want the full account of that day, read here.) Thinking about it brings back a rush of Paris memories colored with the forgiving tincture of time. I love Paris, as anyone can tell you. And I’m probably a bit of an elitist about it, for which I make no apologies. I hope that you have the opportunity to spend some time in the City of Light, but I don’t think a visit really does it justice. I’m gonna hit the breaks right here and change directions because if I don’t I will be in serious danger of turning this into a rambling ode to the wonder that is Paris. I’m not saying that’ll never happen in a blog post,   but it is less necessary since I already have an entire blog nearly devoted to the topic.

First visit to Paris in 1994. 
(Yes, I'm wearing a Lion King shirt at the Louvre. It says "Ooo! The Little cream-filled kind!" 
Feel free to gasp in horror.)
My point here is that I’ve been thinking about my time in Paris a lot during training.  It is only natural, I suppose, since living there was my most significant cross-cultural experience and much of what we are learning is about living and ministering in a cross-cultural environment.  With all the constant reminders, I had begun to feel a bit homesick for Paris and a bit sad that I must now abandon my beloved and laboriously learned French in exchange for Spanish.  Fortunately, February 13th we celebrated European peoples during our cultural worship service and I was asked to pray in French.  We had scripture readings in Polish and Spanish, worship songs in German, a children’s skit in Welsh, and then the message in… French! It was an excellent message about how we as Christian workers measure success and about patience. I wish that everyone would have been able to understand it all. But beyond the content, listening to him preach in French was a little like going home.  It would have been easy to wax melancholy again about letting go of my French language and culture, but instead, I decided to focus on how nice it’ll be when I finally reach a level of comfort in Spanish where worshipping and listening to the Word of God in that language also feels like “home.” There’s a whole new realm of exciting cultures to be explored in Latin America, and I do not doubt that I will grow to love the people and places there.

My first attempt "growing to love" the Peruvian flute.

Of course, it’s also nice to remember that moving on to new adventures doesn’t mean leaving the previous ones behind. No one put it better than Hemingway:

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

Nutella is also a moveable feast. 
If it had existed when Hemingway was alive he probably would have written about it instead. 

*Want to hear something ironic? When I was discussing my possible international job options with my dad, he was less than thrilled with my choices in South America, Africa and the Middle East.  He voted for Texas. But then, conceding that while practically its own country, Texas was not in the company’s jurisdiction, he agreed that he would be okay with me going back to France. Well the other day a speaker discussing security issues pulled up the current threat list as maintained by the State Department. You know what’s on the list of serious threats of danger? France. You know what’s not? Peru. I think the State Department underestimates the threat of vicious llamas.* 


  1. Don't show your dad this picture. It's a scary world out there!


  2. I absolutely love our blog! How you're able to put so much of your personality and self into a computer screen of words, I'll never know! When do we get you back for a few days? Miss you!!!