Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

Paris with the Seine River.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....on my little Thanksgiving trip to Paris with three friends. I was able to practice lots of French, see beauty in the people, books, art, the Seine, museums and architecture. Our "bike about Paris" tour was invigorating and informative fun, even though I felt a bit elderly on the uphills. The night boat ride along the Seine with the Eiffel Tower all lit up in the distance was one of my highlights.

Notre Dame in Paris, France.
I saw Monet's Waterlillies, Leonardo's Mona Lisa and a ton of lively Van Gogh's, Renoirs and many impressionists. I saw Venus de Milo and a host of other fantastic sculptures. It was an art major's dream come true. I walked by some paintings in the Museo D'Orsay and said, "Hello old friend" because I'd had that particular painting on many an art history test. I wanted to stay and sketch with the students who were sketching the sculptures.

I was able to eat wonderful foods such as real French onion soup, real coissants and delicious hot crepes day or night. I was warmed by hot wine (vin chaud) while walking down the streets in the evening. I saw pretty Christmas twinkle lights scattered throughout the city and on the big Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. Amazing stuff.

I was also robbed by three pickpockets in the metro. It was on line number four; we found out later this line is notorious for thieves. The metro car was packed, I was clutching onto my purse tightly, but three men surrounded me and accomplished the dirty deed seemingly effortlessly. Two kind girlfriends accompanied me to the police station and the US Embassy and helped me secure a temporary passport. 

Credit cards were cancelled, and I hope all is well in my financial world. It's probably a little sticky. Fortunately, all but one card did not work for them. They had bought more tickets to ride the metro and rob more people with the one card.

Venus de Milo in the Louvre.
My difficult day occurred with one day yet to go, and I must say, the last day was an answer to prayer. I had wanted to quit being a tourist, just hunker down in my little hotel room and read or feel sorry for myself. Yeah, probably just feel sorry for myself and not read. 

I felt poor Venus with her arms missing and all staring at her. Maybe I am exaggerating slightly.

Am I the only one who wants someone big and kind, someone larger than my life or your life, to come and comfort me, pin the thieves against the subway wall a month or two, and hand me my money belt back with nothing missing? If only my grandsons could truly be super heros and get the bad guys.

My Friends and me in front of Notre Dame.
My friends prayed with me, and I joined life again. God's grace. It's in a prayer or a kind word of encouragement said with a friend who stops their life for yours. Maybe you think it's your grace or your being kind, but I think it's a direct reflection of the one who gave us the capacity for such things, made us capable of kindness and the stopping part. Let's not just stop with the person; let's continue to see the creator of that person who cared for us.

On the last day in Paris, I did enjoy L'Arc de Triumphe, Napoleon's self-absorbed pomp, and the walk along the Christmas market booths. We all worked through the money situation, and were able to enjoy ourselves on our last day in the city that really never seems to sleep! Yes, it was the best of times and the worst of times in Paris, filled with beauty, ugliness and grace. Grace triumphed in the end.

Book and art vendor in Paris.

Evening service inside Notre Dame, Paris.
And now...back to teaching art in Morocco.  A friend kindly reminded me that I am a Christmas light in Morocco.

Now that's something to think upon.

and from Judy:

"I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed."– Matthew Henry (wrote this after the night he was robbed)

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