So after having slept in the street I took a long walk through the city.
It was sunday and the streets were almost empty as the day began, apart some workers cleaning the leftovers of a saturday night and the casual sports guy going out for some exercise early in the morning I was alone in the streets of Paris.
I went through some cool neighbourhoods, saw the Shangri-La hotel near Iena metro station and then went down to the river Seine. After that I was very close to the Eiffel tower and I went to check it out. What can I say, it makes an impression but once you get close to it, it’s kinda dull. I also met someone on my way there, totally high on something I’m not sure what it was, he talked and talked and talked.
I had breakfast and I walked for some hours, then set to find a cheap hostel, which I did. I found http://www.aijparis.com in the Bastille district and I booked 2 nights, Sunday 20th of April and 21th. The prices were cheap for Paris, 28€ and 24€ respectively. The hostel isn’t anything beautiful or too cozy, but it worked great, safe and clean. I’ve also met some cool people there.
In front of the hostel there was a bar where I went to have a beer on the first night. I talked with some french people of my age (28 ±) spent some time there and went to bed as I was really, but really, tired.
The next day it rained a bit but you could walk the city without getting soaked so I went to check a small second-hand market in Bastille and then strolled the city for some more time.
In that night I went out for a beer with Yamel and Pamela, two mexicans, who were studying in Madrid and went to Paris for about a week. We met in the hostel when I was charging my computer and cellphone. It was funny. In the end we met 3 french guys sitting at a bar’s terrace and we sat there talking and drinking beer. They ended up offering some cognac which we accepted. Perks of going out with 2 beautiful girls.
One funny thing they said was that it’s difficult to meet other people in Paris, they meant if your from Paris it’s not that easy to make new friends from there. I dunno if it’s true. I guess it goes depending on the type of person you are. There I was talking with a lot of people, just for the sake of it. People who sat near me, people who were doing something I thought interesting, or like them, people who were in a terrace and I went to ask for a hand-rolled cigarette and by asking a question and simply saying something they become interested and start talking, leading to a kind of sharing that prompts interaction and can unfold into many things, depending on how it’s handled by all.
I had planned to go out of Paris by the 22th of April but in the meanwhile Andrea (who I know from Portugal) said she was back to Paris, so I ended up staying there for another day. In the meanwhile I got a message through Couchsurfing, from Miriam, who wasn’t from Paris but was there for a few days, inviting me to go for a photographic stroll during the day, which was great because it fit my schedule perfectly. Before meeting her I went for another big stroll and besides seeing the city a bit more I got two great portraits. One of a future football player and another one of a Romanian worker. He was there searching for work with a nice group of other romanians. They talked italian so we ended up talking a bit and in the end I had to refuse a beer with them because Miriam was waiting for me. I’m sure it would have been fun, talking and drinking. I like their gipsy nature, I think I’m a bit of a gipsy as well, but I had to say farewell and wish them luck in finding work.
After meeting Miriam we went to see a bit of the city and ended up visiting Père Lachaise cemetery. It’s a weird touristic place to visit right? I mean, it’s a cemetery. But on other hand it’s calm and kind of a reminder of the constant passage of time. I like to be reminded of death (it’s not the same as thinking about death), being reminded that my time is quite limited and because of that, I should use it wisely. Sometimes I hate doing what I do, regarding retouching, because I have to stay so much time in front of a computer screen when life flows outside this screen. I want to do a tattoo, a skull, to reming me constantly of it. Not that I need that, but I like tattoos and want to do some more small ones.
Over a coffee we talked about many things while the sky poured down a heavy weight of water. Regarding my openness to meet new people while traveling she made a very valid point that had gone totally unnoticed by me. Most people I meet on a more superficial level (metro, bus, trains, coffees, etc) are only following their traditional routines, so many aren’t interested in getting out of them, many don’t even have the time to do so, many may be just enjoying their time alone. That made sense. One can’t really know what is the other persons live so there are many reasons why people wouldn’t be interested in talking with one another. Actually I may look a bit like a crazy guy starting to talk with random people, but I find it funny nonetheless and I’ve met some cool people through this process so I guess I’ll keep on doing it. Who knows who you can meet. I hope we happen to meet again. We should have in Switzerland but things happened – wasted!
Later that day I went to meet Andrea and Marta, we went to shop for the dinner and I did risotto – which I think was quite eatable – I should start taking pictures of what I eat and what I cook – really – I’ve been eating very well during this trip which was something I thought wouldn’t happen. It was a pleasant evening with familiar faces, which felt great. Next day I catched a bus through Eurolines and went back to Lyon, where I visited the Regus offices there to work a bit while I waited for my train to Lausanne in Switzerland, to spend some days with André Miguel, a longtime friend, who’s a musician besides being an excellent cook.
On another topic. The european union is just a mix-match of different countries and cultures, political systems and ways of governing – although we call them all democracies there are subtleties among these states, specially the social component of them. Besides the free circulation of people and goods it’s very divided. There’s nothing I could really call Europe and I think that stems from the lack of an European language. I think that is central and I believe it more and more each day. Regarding economics it’s really sad what they’re doing and it’s creating an animosity towards difference and foreigners. You see it in Portugal, you see it France (Le Penn is rising considerably), you see it in Switzerland (that isn’t European in a technical sense though), but I mean there are a lot of swiss that are currently talking against immigration and foreigners, which is kinda dumb. The same in France for instance, even people who are foreigners are talking against other foreigners (from different countries), because they think the reason why the social welfare state isn’t working is because these poor families that sometimes take advantage of it are such a drain on the system. Really? You just have to see the numbers. The weight of this is irrelevant if you compare it to bailouts, corruption, money evaporation, interest rates and loans made in the name of the country, and the list goes on.
I think the biggest problem is that we are continuously unsatisfied with our slave roles, so we have to find someone to put the blame on. Since it’s fairly easier to place the blame in foreigners, they don’t talk the language, they don’t want to be part of our so advanced culture, and so on, they become the principal target of this blaming game, but the truth is, facing Power would be the courageous step to take. Taking responsibility for our democracies, would be the right thing to do. Letting go of this rigged game and rat-race is much more difficult than just blaming minorities. It’s funny, in most countries they say “foreigners” come to take our jobs. It’s funny because usually the foreigners do the shitty jobs the natives of that country feel they shouldn’t do.
In France, although they are so proud of their “openness” and progressive way of thinking, you just have to go to the supermarkets, the construction industry and all the other low-paying/hard jobs to see who is taking those jobs. And in Portugal you go and see the same, but with foreigners from other countries. In England the same but once again with foreigners from other countries. In Switzerland the same. In Italy it’s the same. So we always think of our times as being something of free, democratic and civilised but I think we’re quite far from something as that. And most of us don’t want that either. If given the power I believe most people would want to have slaves and slavery. Even if they’re slaves just the same, they rejoice in being slaves with better conditions. Our political leaders are also to blame, in a sense. They’re very cynical and hypocrite. Things can only change by giving and setting examples, there’s no other way. No dogma, no unquestionable truths, no right way to do things. This system needs an overhaul but it has to begin from the bottom and even though I’m becoming less marvelled by the cyber technology, I believe it’s this technology that can allow us to put in place a different system, connecting easily people with their areas of interest and allowing them to fill in the democratic gap, through easy access to decision – something that communications systems can make happen. It would be impossible to make a referendum through the old voting system for every decision, but with internet or communication systems it’s very easy to do it. From simple things to big things. Of course participation couldn’t be only in the form of clicks and comments, but I believe if people knew they could make a change through their input they would also be more likely to participate outside in the real world.
I may have a word or two more about France but until then I’ll leave you with the music from one of my favourite movies, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (you should see it if you haven’t) and with a soundtrack by Yann Tiersen, totally made in France.