Notes from Paris

I.

Paris is exactly like I imagined, and yet not at all what i was expecting.

Delicious bread and coffee? Oh yeah.

A gorgeous city drenched in centuries-old history? Oh yeah.

Art everywhere you looked? Absolutely.

Yet it could be because it was raining half the time I was there and I become quite maudlin when the weather is dreary. But I felt… like an outsider. I have always suspected I will never truly find a place to call “home” and I will forever wander the world in search for it. But the streets were cold, the clouds covered everything in gray, and my steps were brisk as I frantically searched for a place to wait for the rain to stop.

I loved Paris, i really did. It was magical and gorgeous. I just don’t think it likes me back, very much.


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II.

I never liked the word “expat.” “Expats” get the privilege to not learn the language of their adopted country. They get to soak in all the cool cultural tidbits while ignoring the ugly history that comes with it. They get wasted on Friday nights and tell the most interesting stories at parties.  They get to live in cool apartment buildings and experience the bohemian lifestyle while the rest of the world lives on in mediocrity. They have so much privilege they are not aware of, yet they deign to complain about their circumstance.

“Expat” is in a higher level than “immigrant.” “Expats” are a welcome breath of fresh air. “Immigrants” are a virus that must be contained.  

I am an “immigrant.” My own head of state hates me. I am painfully aware of my own accent whenever I open my mouth. I did not get any choice in the matter. I carry this burden everywhere I go because, as painful as it is, it is a privilege many women will not get. I was one of the lucky ones who got out and I must enjoy myself because they will never be able to.

This is the shit I think about when I travel. There are some mental scars that come with being ripped out from your home country, some things you have to carry around with you even if you don’t want to. And in my case, whenever I leave my town I look for the immigrants, the homeless. Because I know a little about how it feels to be in a place you are not wanted, but being unable to stay where you were.

I wish I wasn’t this way, sometimes. I think I’d enjoy myself a little bit more. At least, I wouldn’t be as wary of everyone. But then again, I don’t know how to live any other way.

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III.

Paris has utterly, completely ruined me for coffee and bread. I am Colombian, I thought I knew coffee and I thought what I had at home as adequate, but now I have found the light and it is in the form of a cappuccino served in an Italian cafe tucked by the Arc of Triumph. I never was choosy about my coffee, of all things; I mean, I drink the dark grimy water that passes for coffee at work, so I didn’t think I was the person to care too much for coffee. Yet here we are.

This is a silent plea for help, really.

I shall need to do scientific research about the best coffee in Tampa.

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IV.

The Louvre is entirely too big and too wonderful and my body gave up well before my mind exhausted of that place. My inner art historian geeked out pretty hard at seeing Delacroix and Michelangelo and David and Rembrandt. The scholar in me wanted to leap in joy and grab anyone who looked slightly knowledgeable in the subject so we could talk about it. I could’ve stayed there all day, really. Many of my friends who’ve been there agree with me.

Mostly, I was humbled by the fact that my mom stood next to me as I watched. She had wanted to see Paris for years, and so I raged and cried and hustled until I made it happen. This is not self congratulatory; I don’t want adulation or admiration. I just want my mom to get everything she deserves and more. As I demanded she smile for the camera and told her little fun facts about the art, all I could think was, We did it, Ma. We fucking did it, somehow.

V.

People in Paris like to sit down in parks and coffeeshops and bars and restaurants and watch life pass by. They kiss their significant other unabashedly, speak in hushed voices because they are so close they don’t need to be any louder. They live their lives openly and allow others to see them doing so.

Wow, I found my people.

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VI.

Despite all we saw, I enjoyed the most the moments spent in coffeeshops. The world moved around me, but it wasn’t the fast urgency of being on the street--it’s something kinder, slower, people deliberately pausing to enjoy every sip, waiting for the rain to stop, waiting for the next train home. Doesn’t help any matters that the coffee there is so heavenly. That’s what I take home with me, really: a good coffee in a cold afternoon when we were the only people in the universe. 

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What did I learn in Paris?

I am an odious, obnoxious walking cliche.

Figures.


Laura Alejandra