Bonjour from Paris

Though I have found free wireless internet access in Paris, it happens to be on the front steps of a church, outside along the street. This would be a bit odd to passerby, but otherwise fine, except that I think it is beginning to sprinkle…

But while I had the chance I wanted to say that yes, I made it safely out of Malawi and had a wonderful trip. I have a selection of my pictures posted.

The other big news is that my friends Stuart and Julianne and I all successfully finished the Belfast Marathon! The course was a bit random…including a jaunt by the city dump, a finish line hidden along a winding path through the Ormeau Park, and a remote stretch of no spectators and no water stations from miles 18 to 22 (when we definitely could have used both!) but we had fun and we did it! Pictures from the marathon (I bought a disposable camera and carried it along our way, and Stuart’s parents came and cheered us on and took photos at three different points along the way) as well as some other Northern Ireland adventures are also posted.

On Saturday I flew into Paris to begin my ten day photography course here. (I have to say that a man just walked by and said something to me in French—keep in mind, I am just sitting along the street, on the ground! I looked at him, smiled, and didn’t say anything back (I know more Chichewa, the language of Malawi, at this point than French) and he caught on and said ‘addiction’ pointing to the laptop…who me, addicted to the internet, sitting on the ground in the almost rain? Nah.) The course is taught by an American who lives in Paris and there are twelve of us in the course, all Americans (it is an American company that offers these workshops around the world). There is one guy from San Diego in the course, another woman from Vermont whose family lives in Huntington Beach, and another man who lives in NYC, Jewish, and very involved with the Israeli/Palestinian issue, so much so that when I said I was Presbyterian he responded by giving me an earful of the Presbyterians recent discussions on divesting from companies that support Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Needless to say (which Jack says is a pointless thing to say…if it is needless, why say it?) we had quite an interesting dinner conversation last night, given my recent experiences in Israel and Palestine.

This morning as I was heading out to shoot (photos) I met a guy from Bosnia who asked me about the situation of Muslims in America. Yesterday I met a guy from Sudan who has come to Paris to find work, due to the horrible conditions of life in Sudan. This morning I also talked with a man from India and two from Senegal who were selling Eiffel Tower key chains. I did talk to one woman, who I asked for directions to Rue Cler. She shook her head and said something that sounded like Spanish, so instead of my faltering Bonjour, do you know where Rue Cler is, I switched to ‘hablas espanol?’ She was from Columbia and gave me great directions to Rue Cler, in Spanish.

So, so far I’ve got Bosnia, Sudan, India, Senegal, Columbia, oh, and the guy who works at my hotel (more about the hotel in a minute) is from Morocco, a few New Yorkers, Vermont, California…maybe soon a Parisian?

Just a word about my ‘hotel.’ It was the cheapest thing I could find. It did mention that the bathroom was down the hall. I was prepared for that. What it did not mention was that the shower was down the hall, separate, and requiring a key. The key is stored at the reception desk. This is better than the hotel I stayed in in Venice where the actual bathroom was behind the reception desk (I vowed to never skimp on an ensuite bathroom again…til now) which meant going with your towel and toiletries and saying hello to the people waiting to check in… The shower key issue was marginal when I was on the 2nd floor (really what we would call the third, as they start with zero). But the room on the second floor opened out to a very busy street that did not quite down until about 4AM. After three nights of trying to acclimate to the trucks, cars, drunks, tow trucks, motor bikes I realized acclimating wasn’t happening and switched rooms. The only catch was that the only other single room available was on the 6th floor…remember the shower key? Oh yeah, and the other disclaimer, when I was booking the room, along with the showers being down the hall, was that there is no lift. Let’s just saying showering frequently might not be all its cracked up to be…

The sky seems to be darkening, so I will end this for now. One other thing—for those on the west coast you may get this in time to know that the Today Show is broadcasting live today from Paris! Apparently it is in honor of the Da Vinci Code, which opens here tomorrow.

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