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Understanding Paris

By msotomayor12

I wrote this article in Terminal 3 of Charles de Gaulle with a feeling of nostalgia and relief to be leaving Paris. It’s the first time I've felt this way leaving the City of Lights and I think I know why. For starters my high-school level French is almost non-existent, making it more difficult than ever to communicate with the already reserved Parisians. While awkward conversations build thicker skin, knowing that you can’t express your sentiments makes me quite hesitant, which isn’t my personality at all.

Another first was traveling alone with my brother. Man, does that make any situation fun and lively. Even though he is 17, I still act like the protective older sister; a feeling I’ve come to realize will never cease. For this reason, I was constantly on alert looking out for him more than I was for myself. I naturally went along with what he wanted to do since he always finds cool places to visit. At this point it’s in my instinct to do so. Thankfully his interests didn’t take us to the touristy parts of the city, which made me see Paris in a different light.

And although we walked around a majority of the city meeting up with friends along the way, I felt as if something was missing. I think the best way to explain this is by sharing artist David Douard’s way of understanding the world. His exposition in the Palais de Tokyo, Mo’Swallow, shows random pieces of everyday tools and resources (water, plaster, cages, lights, etc.) and mixes them together to produce “art” (I put this in quotes because many people would think his art looks more like garbage pieced together). The whole point of the exhibition was to prove that everyone’s understanding of the sculptures would be completely unique because we all live in our own “pseudo-environments.” While languages connect people, each individual can interpret the meaning of a word differently based on the experiences they associate with it. By communicate our interpretations of things we, in turn, define the use of it until it is accepted by all. In other words, things could have a different purpose if we defined it another way.

Philosophical right?

This could explain why I feel so different about Paris this time around. To clarify, the way I see Paris is how I see New York. They are two cities that are aesthetically beautiful because the buildings are almost exactly the same. That creates a perfect order, but the people in it make it quite chaotic. The people define it, which takes away from the beauty and calm that is constantly present if you look away from the streets. I think this is why I’m nostalgic and intrigued by both cities—there’s something more to it, but I haven’t found it yet. That is why I prefer to leave and stay nostalgic about Paris because if I were to stay, my romanticized vision and intrigue of the city would definitely disappear.