04 July 2008

Remembrance of Things Past

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain, American humorist/writer (1835-1910)

This being Independence Day sparked a particularly strong memory of times past...

During the summer of 2000 I lived in Paris for a period of several months, studying the French language at La Sorbonne. I lived on the 5th floor of an apartment in the 5th arrondissement, a few blocks from Notre Dame - the famed Left Bank. The building was just around the corner from Place Maubert. I was quite a bit older than most of the students in my classes. Most were just out of high school or in their first few years of college while I had already earned my bachelor's degree. My roommate, P, was a nutty man and very much shared my world view of bohemianism, hedonism, and wanderlust.
On this particular day (that happened to be July the 4th), we were all standing around outside the classroom building in Montparnasse. We were trying to decide where we should go to dinner that evening. One young lady spoke up that we should call first to make sure the restaurant would be open. P and I looked at each other somewhat confused, and asked her why they wouldn't be open? She replied that some things might be closed because it was the Fourth of July. We laughed and asked her why the French would feel it necessary to close for an American holiday that, while they had helped to bring about, they certainly didn't celebrate. She didn't understand, and we had to patiently explain to her that while certain holidays were truly world-wide events, such as Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Ramadan, others that we celebrated in the states such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving were not celebrated or even known in most "foreign" countries. It took a while of explaining, but eventually you could see the dawn of comprehension in her eyes. It was kind of a cool moment. She had just shaken off the veil of ignorance that we all wear from time to time, but that is most permanent on those who haven't ventured from their home shores, or even home towns. She really began to look at things differently after that day. It may have been one of the best lessons she learned during that whole summer.
KJT - Paris, France (2000)

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