Nothing gets rid of pent up exhaustion like an open invitation to a new city. The last week has been….not fun. I just wish I could explore Spain and forget classes.
I’ve tried to look at it from a little outside perspective, but I am really at a loss as to the purpose of the educational system here. And that eats at me. It’s not that I’m not learning things, it’s just I don’t know why what I am learning has value.
When I consider all the philosophers I’ve yet to study, the history I can barely explain, the economists whose names I only know, the speeches I’ve never read, the 40 book queue on my Kindle that just starts to touch on these topics, and the knowledge that I can only teach myself the things I know I should know (meaning there is a lot I don’t know enough to know that I should know), I can’t help but feel a final paper requiring me to contrast one book with Animal Farm, a book I read as a freshman in high school, is an assignment that’s not worth my time.
Combine that frustration with the need to learn things that I know has value, but really stink at memorizing, like nitty-gritty Spanish grammar rules and thousands of new words.
By the end of last week, I had about all I could healthily bare, which made waking up in Paris with no plan for the day and the freedom to do whatever I wanted all the more welcome.
It felt foreign, but not because I was in France. I’m just not used to having that much freedom and mobility. I had no responsibilities and the time and resources to do just about anything I wanted to with the day.
I folded the free map I picked up at the airport, stuffed it in my coat pocket, and set out for a metro stop that seemed to be near important things. When I got there, I just picked a direction started walking.
It felt a lot like those first couple days in Santiago, when I would just step outside the dorm, look around, and realize that all the pictures I’ve seen of places like this were real. When you hear so much and about a place, but never see it, it just doesn’t feel real. And that’s because it’s not.
No photo, video, or story can ever actually portray reality. For that, you really have to be there.
So it was a morning of slowing strolling through new streets, admiring architecture and coincidentally finding the Paris Opera, the Tuileries Garden, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe.
And that was all before lunch, which was awfully tasty. I met Coralie, and while I haven’t actually the slightest idea what we ate (other than it was some kind of cheese and marmalade on toast), it was very French and delicious.
That afternoon, I set off to find Notre Dame, which took me awhile. But it gave me a lot of time to contemplate all the assumptions I had made about France. I must admit, I was never too fond of it, as a country. I might not be a real scholar of French history, but I tend to side with Mr. Burke’s arguments when it comes to the French Revolution, I see nothing to admire in their government, I don’t follow the French political mindset, and I’d always heard the people were rude.
The first two are still completely true, the third mostly true, and, in my own experience, the last one’s not true at all.
From the guy who showed me where to run to catch the last train, to the guys who held the door open as I ran down the escalator to catch that train, figured out how to help me at the store despite not knowing a word of what I was saying (a situation made worse/slightly comical when I then immediately/instinctively began speaking to him in Spanish), to my friends’ hospitality, and to the people they introduced me to, people were always very kind.
Whenever people ask me where I come from, I usually just say Kentucky and Pennsylvania. If they inquire about my family’s pre-American roots, I’ll boast my German and English history, but I don’t often say much about the French part.
I think I might mention that first now.