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Parker: Open Ears

May 19, 2011

Being abroad has not only brought out new parts of me. It has sparked new interests to my life as well. Some things are trivial, like my new appreciation fro cassis, some are odd, like my new obsession with skulls (see one of my favorites below), and others have come as a result of integral changes in my life. As I stated in post earlier in the semester, Paris is much quieter than being back with my friends and family in the U.S. People are relatively private, and tend to keep to themselves. If someone is speaking in a loud tone of voice, something big is happening.

These quieter surroundings have led me to listen in ways I never have before, and in doing this I have found that for me, one of the best ways to experience a moment is to just listen. It could be the sound of conversations on the metro (even if I’m not actually listening to what is said, but rather the low constant murmur of voices), the sound of people and cars on the street, or the sound of people celebrating, partying, or maybe even mourning. In the last few weeks, I began to collect these sound bites from my life (yes, I know it sounds like Save the Last Dance, but I haven’t gotten quite that intense about it…). However, in the process of uploading pictures and videos from my camera to my computer, they were accidentally erased. In some ways, I was extremely upset; these were parts of my life, parts of my experience, that I will never be able to retrieve, and therefore relive. But on the other hand, these moments as they existed are engrained into, especially the sounds.

For example, when I visited Marseilles a couple of weeks ago, on the way home from dinner, the soccer match ended and Marseilles was the winner. It just so happened that we were right on the main drag for bars in the city, so we were there as the road flares were lit and the crowd roared in celebration. The group of celebrants continued to grow, and did so all through the night. Through our hotel window, which was a little removed from the main action, we could hear the sounds of revelers late into the night. It was almost eery with the way the silent, empty streets were quickly filled with the sharp cries of people headed toward the celebration at the Vieux Port.

Although the neighborhood where my host family lives might not be the best in Paris, I have been blessed to have a panoramic view of the Parisian suburbs from my 12th-story French windows (which, I must add, are one of their greatest creations). When I am at home, I usually open the windows to let in a little fresh air, and with the air comes the quiet buzz of the neighborhood; children playing, cars honking, birds singing, and if I’m lucky, the sound of the bells tolling from the towers of the two churches nearby. Although I may be sitting inside, the sounds instantly transport me to the street, and I always feel connected to my environment.

Although it may seem like a small aspect of my 4 months in Europe, this newfound interest in the sounds that surround me has definitely become one of the things that will stay with me. Not only has it enriched my time abroad in experiencing everything with all of my senses, it has helped me to acclimate in every situation, by listening, learning, interpreting, and repeating.

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