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Christina: Paris bound

February 24, 2010

I knew only one thing about my trip to Paris: that I wanted to probe beneath the immaculate shroud of expectation to find something truer. An American tourist in Paris was something I could not and would not allow myself to be. With that thought, I had made the difficult decision of leaving my camera at home. It would not be kind to subject this city to my amateur skills as photographer, and no picture of me lopsidedly posed in front of the Eiffel Tower could ever be just.

This was an experience that would rest within my mind alone, and I would have to do my best to find the words and the space in my memory to keep it fettered there forever. I would need both honesty and vigilant consciousness for the next four days, but I would not view this place through a glass lens.

It wasn’t until I began packing my suitcase that I realized I had been here before. That January afternoon when I arrived in France was little more than a few weeks ago, yet it felt years away. On that day, missing my train from Paris to Montpellier found me in cold desperation, my French-English dictionary a weak weapon against my own burgeoning fear. This language was being used against me in what felt like the most violent way possible, and where was the France I had dreamed about? I could not see beyond my tears of frustration, could not see beyond the grey gloom of the freezing train depot. Paris as a land to be discovered was lost to me.

A month later the slavish February rains had settled and March promises warmer winds. Although this language continued to humble me daily, I was astonished to realize how far I had come in only thirty days. Buying a train ticket, understanding a simple transaction in a store or restaurant—these were things I could now do without thinking. I knew I was willing to give this city another chance, so perhaps the trip would require reconciliation as well.

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