Awaiting the Camino

 
The journey for a pilgrimage begins as you prep to go to the airport.  Regardless of your method of accessing the airport: walking, metro, bus (we took all three), it’s all part of the Camino.  It’s interesting how your zen center can be tipped off balance easily, with pushy fellow passengers, a lack of air conditioning, overcrowding, people coughing behind you without masks, or the joys of going through security check and dropping your laptop.  All happened, and therefore I wanted to relax and have a cappaccino and asked the barista if there were espresso shots in the cappacinos.  He said yes, but I did not see him or anyone prepare them.  They were premade espresso shots.  I asked for espresso, and therefore he made a separate shot, he double charged me.  A small cappaccino somehow equated to 6.70 euros.  Lost in translation, he complained to his coworkers about me, and I internally repeated the conversation complaining to myself.  This is all part of the journey, and I am writing this now to decompress and realign myself with my chilled nature.  
               My friend and I are flying from Paris to Santiago de Compostella to embark in part of the Camino.  Yet this part of the voyage is a walking pilgrimage from Santiago to Finisterre, also known as the end of the earth.  Pilgrims have taken this voyage for hundreds of years. 

               You don’t want the beginning of a spiritual pilgrimage to be tainted with tiny aggravating occurrences.  But one cannot be blissed out for an entire trip.  We are human who deal with other irritating humans.  The goal is to not avoid all stressful situations, but  how to bounce back, find your center so it doesn’t ruin an entire trip. 
               Perhaps for you it’s taking several deep breaths, or listening to music to drown out the world, writing, or walking to a secluded area of the airport.  Do what you need to decrease that sympathetic nervous system and align with the chilled you.

20 Observations of Paris: A 6 Month Review

“Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.”
― John Berger

 
               I am headed to the states for the third time today since living in Paris.  It’s been six months since I have moved here, and everytime I leave I can’t help but reflect on what my experience has been like.
 
What I have learned in France so far….
 
1.People have opinions of your dogs : are they healthy enough, where they should go to the bathroom, how long should they live, should they walk more, who to play with ?
 
2.Women don’t wear shorts, sweats, or yoga pants.  Floral dresses and skirts seem to be preferred.  Until 2013, it was illegal for 200 years for women to wear pants.  It sounds preposterous, but I found this out reading the Bonjour Effect. Women were forbidden to wear pants to keep them from dressing as men and going into the workforce.  
 
3.The double kiss on the cheek is the real deal.
 
4.Life does feel like a scene from the Disney cartoon Beauty and the Beast, where one must greet everyone with a bonjour.  To avoid doing so is rude.  It’s best to comply.
 
5.Many Parisians do not drive or have a need for a driver’s license.
 
6.Most people speak English, particularly the younger generation.  Those fifty and over years old, I have learned to not expect this.  If you don’t speak French, and find yourself in conversation with someone who solely speaks French, you can basically figure it out.  Guestimate it.  
 
7.Paris is full of diversity and interracial relationships, which has been beautiful to witness.
 
8.Apartments are small, anything over 400 sqare feet is killing it with space ! We all seem to partake in tiny home living here I’ve learned to survive in 290 square feet, between me, my English bulldog, and my chug.  I’ve even hosted a guest for a month .  .  
 
9.Parisians are quiet on public transportation.  If they talk on the phone, it’s a whisper, the dogs don’t bark, and even the children are behaved.  This becomes apparent when other Americans get on a metro. 
 
10.Paris seems to be the quintissential American European dream.  There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t hear an American accent (which isn’t my own).  
 
11.If you try to speak French, they may speak back to you in French.  Or they may find it amusing, and want to minimize your embarassing accent, and just respond to you in English.  
 
12.There are over 130 museums in Paris, to appear cultured, one must attend an exhibit at least once a month.  
 
13.The French dress simply, but classy.  One doesn’t find much bright colors, and due to minimal closet space, they make the most of what you have.  A camel winter coat,  military green trench coat, and simple white sneakers go a long way.  
 
14.Parisians love their parks.  Apartments are small, but the parks (in addition to the cafes) seem to be where locals extend their living rooms for picnics, celebrations, or even dates.  
 
15.Everyone drinks tap water.  Je voudrais un carafe d’eau s’il vous plait. 
 
16.There’s no guilt over the pleasures in life, whether this is gluten, calories, wine, or sex.  Joie de vivre is real.  Who needs a gym when you walk everywhere ? 
 
17.Parisians are serious about their food and desserts.  Everyone has an opinion, and generally it’s « not bad. »  Compliments are infrequent for cuisine.  
 
18.You can feel the creativity, history, and dreams as you walk the streets and boulevards of Paris.  All who inspired by it once haunted the same pathways as you, and if you observe and listen closely, you may absorb the Paris effect as well.   
 
19.Many Parisians long to explore other parts of the world too, and dream of living in other places.  It’s universal to desire what we don’t have.  They have a curious interest towards the American Western dream, cowboys, land, and the unknown.
 

20. There’s a mystery to the city, in trying to define it.  How does one do that ?  A flaneur is someone who walks around not doing anything in particular but watching people and society, according to the Cambridge Dictionary.  And I feel one can spend a lifetime doing this in Paris, trying to absorb the wisdom and creativity that are embedded in the historical streets of the 20 arrondistments. 

 
And so I will continue to explore more of the complexities of Paris.  I am an outsider looking in, roaming the streets, wondering if I will ever be an insider…

Puzo’s New Lease on Life

            Recently Puzo had a near death experience.  Or at least so I thought.  Puzo is my English Bulldog who was extremely sick days before his 15th birthday.  I had gone away to Majorca for 6 days, and he developed diarrehea when I left.  When I returned, his illness would not stop.  He would not eat, and everything was coming out of him.  Pure incontinence.  I was preparing for the worst with each day.  Would I have to put him to sleep the next week?  With each area I cleaned up, I reminded myself this was a meditation.  All my love for him.  I distracted myself by binging on the Netflix’s reality show Love is Blind, just to not have to think of the horror awaiting me.  

Luckily I was able to secure medication for him prior to his vet appointment, and we celebrated his birthday in pure doggie style, with rotisserie chicken.  The day after his birthday, we even made it to the Champ de Mars with his stroller, as his incontinence stopped.  The vet confirmed his prognosis.  Nothing was wrong with him, he’s just old.  I made the realization, that when I go on holiday, his anxiety exacerbates and he somaticizes his stress.  The other two times earlier in the year, something similar happened and he acted out.  We picked up anxiety meds for my next vacation.

             Since his illness has worked through his system, he seems to have a new lease on life.  He’s been given another chance, not even a second chance.  At this point, it’s easily his fourth or fifth chance on life.  He seems to be appreciating life more.  I know I am anthropomorphisizing him a bit, yet I can’t help and notice shifts in his behavior.  He is waking up earlier in the morning, as soon as the sun rises.  He is wanting to take in more of the day.  He soaks in all of the rays when we go to the Eiffel Tower, and sit on blanket in the grass. I swear this Parisian monument and park inspires him.  People wait their whole lives to visit here, and this is the park we go to several times a week.  Puzo tries to get out of his stroller as we near the park or when we leave, his excitement on his wrinkled face shows.  He wants to prove he can walk further than I let him.  Even on our tiny promenades in our tiny passage, he is walking more with ease and down the hallway.  I am witnessing his exploratory nature increase, he is showing me he is not ready to give up.  He loves his wanderlust life too much.  A dog who my mom purchased for me when I was in my 20s from Amish country to Ohio.  He’s jetsetted with me to New York City, California, Hawaii, back to California, the United Kingdom and now Paris.  He has a new perspective on life, and so do I .  

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring—it was peace.” – Milan Kundera

Smile, You Are In Spain

Paris may be my favorite city, but Spain is my favorite country.  Again and again each time I visit, it pulls at my heart.  Perhaps it is because, I know somewhere in my family lineage I am Spanish.  Spain invaded the Philippines centuries ago, and some of the cultural aspects I feel I have inherited.   There is a sense of familiarity I have each time I visit, regardless the city or island.  Flan, ensamadas, and empanadas are all cuisine that I use to eat with my family in our gatherings.  The brightness of clothing the locals wear matches the pop of colors my maternal lineage embraced.   And the language is easier than French, I can actually pass for speaking it.  I took Spanish for several years in high school and college, therefore I feel comfortable enough to get around.  Understanding Tagalog assisted with the ease of Spanish language embedding into my bones.  The California-esque terrain and eternal sunshine warms my heart.  
 Previously there was a Spanish tourism advertisement, whose slogan was   « Smile you are in Spain. » And I couldn’t agree more.   I know Americans are mesmerized with France and Italy, but Spain may have it beat.  The euro stretches far, the siestas are tranquilo, the atmospheres are lively, the people are friendly, the tapas, and the flamenco ! Visiting Spain seems to give you that extra boost of Vitamin D you didn’t know you were lacking. 
Espana is the hidden gem.  Last week, was able to have a brief sibling vacation to Mallorca.  I was open to visiting and had visited this Balearic island years ago, but mostly stayed in the capital of Palma and the confines of my all inclusive hotel resort.  I was curious what the fascination was with this place, but I realized what was to be discovered with the independence of a rental car.   The island has 300 beaches to visit, and numerous villages to wander around in.   On this occassion, I did not visit the capital Palma.   Therefore what was interesting, was I felt i was stepping back in time, when we drove the rural landscape.  Throughout our time there, the only stoplights we encountered were linked as warnings for railroad tracks.  Nature surrounded us in every corner.  The vastness of the large mountains, the rural dessert like atmosphere in the center of the island, the village towns that existed up the mountains, the beauty of the cool blue water.  My brother poignantly said, « Americans talk about freedom, but this is freedom. »  This trip did taste like freedom, but it did not relate to a politcal party, or being in the U.S.A., or the amount of money we had.  It was the luxury of time and the ability to explore vast terrain without boundaries.   If you have the opportunity, visit.  Any location in Spain will do.  This is freedom, and you will say to yourself « smile you are in spain. »  
 

‘Any reasonable, sentient person who looks at Spain, comes to Spain, eats in Spain, drinks in Spain, they’re going to fall in love. Otherwise, there’s something deeply wrong with you. This is the dream of all the world.’ – Anthony Bourdain

Stumbling onto the past

Recently, I found myself lost after getting off at a metro stop.  I had plans to visit the local hammam, which was a six minute walk, according to my GPS.  Yet, when I followed the GPS, I found myself getting further and further from the destination.  Minutes went up, but the arrow was off.  I found myself walking in circles, and found myself by the Pantheon. I had just visited there the week prior.  As I walked in the direction I came, the minutes went down.  I got closer to the hammam.  But I stumbled on something else.  A Roman Arena.  Arenes de Lutece.

I had heard about this place the week prior.  It is located in the 5th Arrondisment, and according to history, it was hidden for centuries.    It was constructed in the 1st Century AD, could hold 15000 people, and existed to demonstrate the valiance of gladiators.  Romans once ruled the land, and throughout time were overtaken.  Eventually the arena became a cemetery.  More and more was placed upon this site.  Over time people knew the arena once existed, but the exact location was unknown until the 1860s when it was discovered by individuals wanting to build a tramway on the site.  Allegedly, there were protests to stop the demolition of this historic site.  One person who fought to preserve this was Victor Hugo himself.  

I felt guided to visit this place, perhaps this is why I was lost with my GPS.  My eyes were alert to go to this arena. I have lived in Paris for several months, and visited many times before, but never heard of this place.  Locals informed me this is hidden from Paris, and I can see why.   Arenes de Lutece has turned into a special park, that has a sense of tranquility from the busy-ness of the city.  I went on a weekday, and the stands had people sharing lunch with their friends, or reading, or journaling.  It’s located in the Latin Quarter, and it’s a quiet spot to simply be.  

I appreciate the little ways this town continues to surprise me with it’s history, allure, and magic.


“You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden.” — Allen Ginsberg

An Old Pastime

When I ask a lot of French people what they like to do here for fun, there is a response that arises again and again.  Walk. Marcher. Flaneur.  People like to walk, not as a means of transportation to get to point A from B, as a way to hit 10,000 steps, or to engage in exercise.  They walk simply for the pleasure of walking.

         This reminds me of the Jane Austen days, when people would take turns about the grand estates or gardens.  Outside of going to the fancy ball, the local market, or working on skills to impress others (instruments, singing, reading) there was nothing to do.   And so they walked.  

         We live in a world of distractions.  Non-stop entertainment on endless devices.  The French engage in these activities too, along with the rest of the world.  But the Parisians also like to walk.   This brings joy to me.  As over the years, I have found I take pleasure in walking.

         In my Midwestern hometown, the only people seen walking are children or those who have gotten a DUI (driving under the influence).   Nobody would be caught dead walking.  Most of the time one will drive from one shopping plaza to another for the sheer convenience of it.  But here that wouldn’t be an option.

         I was speaking with my friend the other day, and noted the French do not count their calories.  It is not listed on menus, or boards where one orders food.  Nobody seems to be calculating how many carbs were eaten or fat consumed.  But perhaps they do not have to.  They walk it off.  This is part of life.  

         Walking does not cost any money.  All it requires is good walking shoes.  One may wear out their shoes more easily, but view it as an investment.  There’s no need for a gym membership or gas money.  Let your feet take you there. 

“After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value.”

-G.M. Trevelyan.

Happiness is a Human Right

I was at a my first raclette party the other day filled with expats, who mention they may not return to the United States due to several things: healthcare, guns, and education.  “Healthcare is a human right, it should not be for profit.”  I cannot disagree with this statement, and it ruminates in my head as I live here, and ponder my future.  

Later that evening, I got off at the metro stop Varenne by the Rodin Museum (my favorite sculptor).  The Eiffel Tower was in the background shining, as I walked towards my apartment.  I was leaving a dinner with a new group of friends, I had just gone on a date that surprisingly went well the day prior, and had plans the next day to meet up with creatives to lead an Artist Way workshop.  I thought “this is my life!”  I’m shocked by this fact repeatedly.  Paris is my current hometown.  I live in a city people dream for years to visit, and I was doing it.  I was living in a town filled with delights in pleasure. But I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt.

Did I deserve to be happy?  I wasn’t working.  I thought of the judgements others may have towards my happiness that I was lazy, a freeloader, or a drifter. I even thought of so many people who are suffering, who may believe I wasn’t worthy of this emotion.  

I was setting limits on the bounty of my happiness.  

Why do I feel guilty for feeling happy?  It’s as if I feel happiness should be earned.  I felt guilty that I was not working in a job.  I had this false belief that I could only receive happiness if I clocked in 40 hours and received a paycheck.  

I was setting rules to how I could enjoy myself.  

But as I walked home, I battled that thought.  Happiness does not have to be earned.  It is a human right, just like health care is a human right.  We all deserve and have access to happiness.  It’s not a limited resource, or tied to profit.  I have the right to be happy.  And I will continue to remind myself this, as I live in the city of my dreams.  

“You stumble, you soar. And if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while.” — Amy Howard

Oh La La

While taking a stroll in a local Parisian park, a recent expat said to me, “The French really like saying Oh La La.”  Prior to living in Paris, when I heard the phrase “Oh La La”, I thought it simply would be the phrase that would come out of Miss Piggy’s mouth from The Muppets when she saw Kermit.  For me, it meant “Wow”, “Sexy”, or “I love this.”  But it’s multidimensional.  I heard the phrase three times this week, used in different contexts.

1-Frustration:

I was in the line of a marche (market).  I had several items, the woman behind me had one item, and the old man in front of me pulled out his entire rollie of products to be scanned.  The woman behind me sighed “Oh La La,” as he emptied the entire contents of 20 plus products to the cash register.  She did not want to wait and was frustrated there was only one cashier that day.  

2-Disappointment:

Earlier in French class this week, we each had to read our answers to various homework questions.  When one person was asked to read the number 85, she could not recall how to say this.  The teacher breathed out, “Oh La La”, disappointed that we were already at the end of 8 weeks of French and a simple number could not be read.  For those, counting it’s pronounced “quatre-vingt-cinq.”  

3-Adoration:

My nearly 15 year old English Bulldog loves going to the park, but does not seem to have the energy or motivation to walk two long blocks to our destination.  Therefore, I transport him in a stroller.  Upon our return from Champs de Mars, a man looked at the tired but content Puzo, and smiled saying “Oh La La”.  I could sense in the hint of “how precious.”

I am sure there are many other ways to use this phrase.  It’s a catch all like, “Oh my gosh”, “Ay ya ya”, “Geez Louise.”  This is one phrase that seems stereotypical, but I am going to try to embed into my vocabulary.  Perhaps you will catch me next time saying “Oh la la,” but hopefully in a complimentary way. 

Positif ou Négatif

The other day in French class we were learning various adjectives for emotions or character traits: triste, agreable, serieux, desagreable.  We had to quantify if these words were positive or negative.  We got to a word “orgueilleux,” which according to google means “proud.”  A classmate noted, “c’est positif.”  The teacher disagreed, and the student looked at the class, shrugged his shoulders and said “depends.”  The teacher then shared that it means more than proud, it means “arrogant.”  This is pride discussed in the way Jane Austen would back in the day.  So the class agreed, “c’est negatif.”  

It’s interesting as a psychologist, to sit in a classroom and label emotions as “bad or good.”  This is what we are trying to get away from in society, as all emotions should be welcome.  There’s a time and place for sadness, anger, joy, and seriousness.  But I understand, we are doing this exercise, solely as a learning experiment.  The images shown to describe the emotions were the universal language of emojis. 

 

When you are in a beginners language class, generally there is no room for debate or philosophical discussion.  It’s basically a time for memorization, particularly if the words are positif or negatif, or feminin ou masculin.  

The Test

“That step, the heroic first step of the journey, is out of, or over the edge of your boundaries, and it often must be taken before you know that you will be supported.” Joseph Campbell

         Did I really want to move to Paris?  But this was one of the biggest risks I would take.  I had planning it for months, quit my job of 8 ½ years, got rid of my car, put everything in storage, and now was ready to make the Great Resignation during the pandemic to start my new life.   This was all because I was tuning into listening to my intuition and not just following out the logical path.  

But there were numerous tests along the way.  I would have to get a negative covid test 24 hours before, my dogs needed their health certificates, I would navigate sleeping on the floor for five days as the movers came, and numerous other minor details.  But the massive test came several days before.  On Thursday December 16th, France made a declaration that the only people from the UK that could come to France were those with a “compelling reason,” this meant residents, French citizens, or those travelling for a funeral.  I was going to be a new resident, would that count? 

         We had to think quickly.  My mother had flown from the US to assist with the move. Decisions were made for her to fly back in two days to Philadelphia to not chance it of being rejected into the country.  The taxi driving me and my dogs from the United Kingdom to France cancelled on me without giving any alternatives.  I chose instead of freaking out to think of other solutions, I could freak out later.  I called the taxi company pleading to ride with another family days earlier.  I then phoned my moving company to see if my dogs and me could ride with the boxes to France.  Both said no, but I was eventually able to find a company that assisted with ease. 

         For one week, I lived in shock, mania, and extreme caffenation.  I knew I could do this.  I knew I could empty out a four floor house and squeeze into less than 300 square foot apartment.  I made too many sacrifices to quit now.  And I pushed through. 

         I took the risk and it paid off.  

         In the midst of this, everyone is asking the following questions: 

         What do you want to do first thing when you get there?

Answer: sleep and rest (which works because I have to quarantine for 48 hours)         

         Do you speak French?

                                     Answer: No, but I will learn.

         Do you know anyone?

Answer: Acquaintances, but I will meet people in my French classes.

How does it feel to be here? 

                                     Answer: relief, joy, and gratitude.  

And so it is…

Whatever dream that is pulling at your heart, know it’s possible.  Adversities will arise, but so will angels to help you out.

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” Joseph Campbell