Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stroller vs. Stubborn

This morning’s bus ride was a study in stubbornness against common courtesy. Halfway to the office, a woman got on the bus with a stroller. There was a woman (we’ll call her sit-woman) sitting in the fold-down chair in the spot “reserved” for strollers and she refused to get up. She and another woman (civil-lady) got into an argument with civil-lady reading the sign next to sit-woman’s seat out loud and saying that giving up the seat to make room for the stroller was a question of “politesse” and civility. When sit-woman claimed that she couldn’t read, civil-lady pointed out the image on the sign declaring that images speak to everyone. The heated exchange lasted several minutes and even when a second stroller entered the crowded bus, sit-woman still wouldn’t stand up, causing several passengers to give her less-than-friendly looks. I thought she’d give in and stand up when the third stroller entered (especially since civil-lady had exited a few stops earlier). Mais non, sit-woman held her ground.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I took a day off from work this past week and decided to go to the neighborhood sushi place to get take-out. While I was waiting for my order I heard a couple of Americans at a nearby table. Even though I tried to tune them out, I couldn’t for very long. I’d focus on something else, but a minute or two later I’d realize that I was listening to them again. Then it hit me that this happens quite often. When I’m out and about, I can usually tune out French conversations if I choose to. I just go into “not listening” mode. But English, particularly when spoken with American accents, tends to cut through any other noise. When I’m in France, there’s something about hearing an accent from across the Atlantic that makes my ears automatically perk up. Funnily enough, the same thing happens when I’m in the US and hear French.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


A couple weekends ago I went to Buttes Chaumont with my roommate to take advantage of the great weather. Buttes Chaumont is quite different from the more popular and manicured parcs of Paris like Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg that are famous with tourists. Going to the Buttes was another reminder of how much I’ve been missing the presence of nature everywhere in Seattle. I was in France for a few years before I began to realize how much I took the ever-present greenery for granted in my home city while I was still there. In a recent Guardian article, English-born write Jonathan Raban perfectly described Seattle this way “By day, it doesn't look like a city at all. The trees out-number the houses…You can't quite tell: is it a city, is it a suburb, is the forest growing back?”

(The photo is from Gasworks Park in Seattle

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama Campaigners And Racism

The Washington Post ran an article a few days ago about the blatant racism Obama campaigners have encountered in parts of the country. While it’s no shock that there are people in the US who will not and would not vote for Obama because he was born with a certain skin color, I am a bit surprised that they would be so overt about it. The fact that Obama has a real chance of becoming president illustrates how far the country has come in a short amount of time – just a few decades after the overturning of Jim Crow. But situations and encounters like those described in the article highlight that we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I recognize that different cultures have different personal space boundaries and I tend to adjust mine according to where I am. That said, there is something that still bugs me about riding the metro here – people with newspapers invading the personal space of others. It’s one thing if the metro isn’t full and you have plenty of space for your paper, but if there are people next to you have some consideration and fold the friggin’ thing! Just because you decided to catch up on recent news during your commute doesn’t mean you should take up someone else’s space in the process.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I’m back in Paris after a 3-day business trip to London and my hate-hate relationship with the city may now be on the track to a less pronounced state of dislike. This past trip across the channel was surprisingly not unpleasant. I still wouldn’t say that I like the place but now I’m starting to think that the brit might be right when he says London has some nice bits...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

International Grass Rules

So I’m in London for three loooooooooong days and the UK immigration checkpoint at gare du nord was as pleasant as ever. Surprisingly, the London weather is sunny and warm (but a bit muggy). I had some time to kill before my meeting started, so one of my colleagues in the London office (an Aussie) took me to a cute little park near the office. The first park we went to was closed so we went a couple of streets over to another smaller one. And guess what this park had – a sign to stay off the grass!! Maybe the English and French aren’t so different after all….

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Grass Is Resting

Paris weekend weather has been amazing lately and to catch some sun I decided to go to a park near my apartment. I expected the park to be flooded with people (as it always is when there’s even a tiny bit of sun). What I didn’t expect, because I forgot about this annoying French quirk, was for the grass to be resting. Those of you who live here or have visited know what I’m talking about - the signs that signal the grass is “en repos”, or in other words “Stay Off!”.

This is something that I still don’t understand. If the grass needs to rest when the weather is crappy – fine, but when it’s sunny and in the 70s the grass is meant to be enjoyed. The French are so strict about this that they even have grass police in some parks. I was having lunch in a well known, large park near the office (I was on a bench) when 2 women appeared blowing whistles and motioning to people who were lunching on the grass to get off. It’s times like these when I miss Seattle and it’s abundance of non-resting greenery…

Friday, May 2, 2008

Le Muguet du Mai

Yesterday was la fête du travail here in France a.k.a. May Day and today Paris was a bit of a ghost town. Since this jour férié fell on a Thursday, a lot of people did a "pont" and took today off to make a four day weekend. This is VERY common in France. We'll have 2 other holidays this month which makes May a bit of a mini-August, because so many people faire le pont and have a month of long weekends. For those of us who work the holiday Fridays, it can be a nice change. Today my commute took less time and the office was very quiet since there were only two of us (both non-French).

It's common for people to sell and offer muguets (lily of the valley) on May 1st as a sign of good luck. I passed three stands selling them in between my front door and the bakery.

To read more about the May 1st muguet click here and here.
And for a photo pop over to ParisDailyPhoto.