Paris Spring

May 4, 2012

in Europe, France, Spring 2012, Yaqi Tong

Today is my last but 25th day in Paris. The spring break (almost 20 days) has just ended and life in Paris restarts

After a tour of Barcelona, Madrid and Rome during spring break, I find Paris the best because it has all: the classy, the vibrant, iconic architecture, picturesque park, the connection to the past and the vision of future. I feel really refreshed coming back from spring break and find myself in love with it even more.

I’m now standing in the queue in front of the Pompidou Center public library, writing journal to make one and half an hour waiting times seem shorter. For the coming month of May, we will only have 8 days of class plus 3 days of exam at the end, and tout sera fini.

Then, I will be back to China for the summer. Sometimes, instead of thinking it as being physically out of China, I’d rather think it as experience it in a different way. In other words, I tend to believe that I can never leave China. No need and no way to. My semester in France once again tells me that.

Host Mum going to China in July!

My host mum Mm Randon had well recognized that my name is not English before she met me. When she learnt that I’m from China, she was delighted to tell me that it’s her next country for visit with her son’s family in July this year. During the past two months, we have been looking at her itinerary at times and she constantly gives me Le Figaro in Chinese without realizing most of it is actually advertisement. She invited her sister-in-law to dinner once, who had been to China in 1989, one year before I was born. That lady had taken photos of the Tiananmen student movement on June 4th 1989, and in fact she took the last plane back to France before government crackdown and diplomatic freeze happened in Beijing at year. To avoid embarrassment, as always, my host mum shows only her interest in things traditionally Chinese: the garden, pavilion, temple, bridge and bicycles.

As the spring break has ended, we start our dinner with news again. I know, at this moment, although most news will be on the imminent second voting tour of presidential election in France, China will be in it. This time, it’s about l’affaire Chen Guangcheng. The blind village lawyer, also prominent dissident under house arrest, has escape successfully to American Embassy in Beijing. Even thought Chinese people are not informed about his Shawshank escape due to excessive government control of information, I realize that the world is watching. Le monde, nytimes, BBC, media in Hongkong, so is today’s French TV 2 news during dinner.

Two professors speaking Chinese!

Our sociology professor at L’ACCENT for this semester has been taking Chinese for five years. The second day of class, I was early in class, sitting on the front row. She brought to me her Chinese textbook and asked me to read for her what seems to be an ancient poem (four lines with 7 characters each). I burst out laughing when I saw it close enough. What I expected to be a literary piece of writing turned out to be an advertisement for diapers. “less than six seconds to absorb all liquid”.

Now I understand that she is learning business Chinese and actually she knows a lot about China, definitely more than I know about France.

The other professor is the language professor at Institut Catholique. She reads my name perfectly, qi sounds like chi not qui. In one class, she asked us to write a news title in French about our own country. I put down Chinese word清明节 (Ching Ming Festival) beside the title to make it look decorated, she reads out loud and corrected me saying that it was yesterday!

Half an hour at the airport!

However, not all unexpected encounters are delightful, something serious happened to me too. During the spring break trip, I was detained for half an hour in the airport in Rome just because I looked Chinese. I, travelling alone with one backpack and a side-bag, exhausted after spending one night at the airport, was asked to hand in my passport and all the cash I had when I exited the airport in Rome. The police at the airport have their rationale: I look Chinese and I travel alone (not typical tourists in a group), I have a full backpack so I might be trafficking something. How absurd! Good or bad, I had only five euro with me so they let me go. In fact, I can hardly relate my experience in the airport to the aestheticized Rome I still hold in mind. It reminds me another façade of China that I usually do not want to deal with.

Less harmful, Le musee du Louvre and Le musee d’Orsay do not have audioguides in Chinese. I guess it was because Chinese tourists usually come in groups with their own tour guide, so the museums have less interest in doing so. On the contrary, all the commercial places, Lafayette,Le Printemp, LV, Chanel, have salespersons speaking Chinese. For me, this paints an intricate picture of China.

Despite all these, I still believe it’s a good time. Two years ago, I had received questions like “Do China have TVs or Trees?” but now people forward their questions to “which part of China do you come from” indicating that China starts to make more sense to them, and maybe to me too.

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