Saturday in Paris, Sunday on the move

Catching up on my blogging … 

Saturday was one of my few really touristy days up to this point.  

I started the day trying to figure out my way to the Musee d’Orsay.  Not hard – later I would have some more significant challenges – but I hadn’t given myself any time to do my planning the night before so had to do some screen shots for my trip.  I didn’t get data on my phone, so if I don’t find a wifi cafe, then I don’t have the ability to quickly get information.  It makes it so much easier when I have not only my physical copy of a map, but I also have screenshots of the streets and street names.  

Went to the Musee d’Orsay through the Toileries Metro station, which meant that I got a chance to walk through the gardens and see the Louvre again from a distance.  I love that in Paris there are just these occasional wonders, well-place masterpieces of stone set about to just draw you in.  I also enjoy that there are so many green spaces and spaces to just relax and people watch.  

Walking across the bridge from the Toileries Gardens to the Museum, I saw what appeared to be a family of three women:  a woman in her 40s/50s, a woman in her early 20s, an adolescent, and a small child.  All of them had dark hair but one, so it seemed that at least three were directly related.  The other had this bright blond hair and didn’t seem to belong, but she was walking with the three.  The oldest of the three was carrying one purse across her body and another with a snapping handle.  Watching her, something didn’t quite seem right.  It seemed in the short time walking behind these women that there were very few exchanges, like they were casing the area.  The older woman saw me watching them, and when I stopped at mid-bridge to take in the Seine, they kept walking.  I was right to be wary.  When I crossed, giving the women my distance, the older woman sent the adolescent across the street to beg while she stayed with the child.  The woman in her 20s posted herself a little ways off.  From then on, I was even more wary of pickpockets.  That extra purse immediately stood out for me; it looked like netting.  The lid snapped closed, easy to lift a wallet and quickly stow away.  

The Musee d’Orsay was lovely.  No pictures from there, but I enjoyed the architecture of a converted train station.  Knowing where to find the escalators to the top floor (all the way at the back by the cafe), I went there immediately and went straight to see the Impressionists.  I love Renior, Cassatt, but especially Degas in his treatment of dancers in paint and in bronze.  I hadn’t noticed before all of the movement within the Impressionist paintings, how the layers of paint seem to suggestion a vibrant, moving world.  I wish I had just spent my time there, though I did enjoy seeing the rest of the museum.  Wrote down a lot of names, information, folks to look up.  

After the Musee d’Orsay, I walked to the Cafe Le Saint Germain, which is nearby the Musee Rodin.  I went there to have lunch with Priscilla Azaglo, an undergraduate student starting her senior year.  She’s in Paris on a summer course studying African Americans in Paris.  We met at Culture Rapide where Paris Lit Up does its open mic.  She’s a phenomenal poet who is interested in pursuing a PhD in African American studies, most likely with a literature focus, and so we talked about that, her experience in Paris, and some organizations she should seek out as a poet.  I told her about Cave Canem and Furious Flower.  She actually lives a short ways away from James Madison University where the conference is, so I do hope that she will go.  

After a great lunch and conversation, I went off to the Musee Rodin to see some of the sculptures there.  Interesting place.  I have a lot of pictures.  Really interested in the movement present within Rodin’s work and how sculptures are able to imagine in 3D, also the process of being a model for such a figure.  For some reason, I’m also really interested in Rodin’s personal life, as it seemed especially quirky.  What little information there was intrigued me.  I have to say that I was a little disappointed.  I didn’t really recall the museum, so what disappointed me was the fact that it seemed to me that the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia actually had more pieces in it that the Musee Rodin of Paris … located in the last building in which Rodin lived.  

I was also interested in the buildings themselves that housed the museums.  Want to do some reading around that.  

After the Musee Rodin, my transportation worries began.  I got on the train towards the Institut D’Arabe and ended up taking three different trains, arriving, getting lost in the neighborhood and after a very long spell, finding my way.  My map just didn’t have all of the names of streets listed, which is very weird, also distance is difficult to calculate through it.  

The Institut also annoyed me.  I arrived with my 2 day Paris Museum pass, went up to the entrance of the museum (7th floor), and then was told that I have to get another ticket at the main entrance (why did security let me in?!), so I had to take the elevator down, get a ticket, ride up again, and then I was able to go through the museum, which is actually quite small.  Two floors.  The most interesting pieces were from Syria and Iran, in my opinion.  I hated the organization around theme, but I suppose that its primary purpose is to educate people who have no idea about Islam as well as the other faith traditions in the Arab world.  I did like that there were some great examples of pieces from previous heathen faith traditions, including very old pieces.  I loved that there were also some examples of traditions from Andalucia.  

Outside the Institut, there was an Orient Express exhibit.  I wasn’t interested in riding the train, so on I continued to Mass at Notre Dame. 

Long line, mass was lovely.  It’s cool knowing what’s coming up, because all Masses (otherwise known as church aerobics to me and my immediate family) are pretty much the same.  It’s a cool church that seemed small this time to me.  I had a moment of near meltdown when I realized that I didn’t need to buy a rosary here for Mami Juanita.  I had done that 12 years ago for her … and now she’s gone, so who would want a rosary now?  I thought to myself that if I wanted to buy a rosary then it should be for me.  I didn’t want one; I have plenty.  I thought it also might make me sad to see it.  

After Notre Dame, I tried to find the Avres station … but there was a HUGE hip hop concert going on and I fear the station was somewhere hidden in the crowd.  Usually, I would have stayed, even if it was in French and, while I can pick out written French, spoken French is another story, especially in songs.  In addition, I was super tired, my feet hurt, I was getting majorly annoyed with people for just walking, and I just wanted to relax.  So after spending 30 minutes walking around in circles, I gave up my easy, one-train stop, and just went to another metro that required me to make two changes, BUT at least I was on a train.  

By the time I got to the hotel, I had just about what little patience I had.  Luckily, I wasn’t traveling with people and I didn’t have to communicate with anyone.  Steaming is better in silence.  I went straight to the Moroccan place near my hotel (that only takes reservations and I didn’t have one) before settling in at a French cafe.  An English couple ended up sharing my table for a good conversation.  The service was great as was the company, so I started to chill out again.  Around 10 or so (still light outside … so that I barely registered the time), I went back to the hotel to meet a man on a screen and share our days.  

Today, I caught up on the news, the horrors:  Hamas, Israel, Gaza, people told to flee but where to go, missiles, Ukraine, bodies in railroad cars, chokeholds, a man saying “I can’t breathe” with no effect, civilians with their children on rooftops hoping that would stop the bombs, neonatal units in bomb shelters, hospitals as targets, the othering of peoples, the use of the term “terrorist” … and I am traveling and in love and all the world is aching and what can I do with these two hands but write?  

There’s a lot of writing to do … 

For the past two years, I have been considering reaching out to Bethlehem University to learn about education there and what efforts have been made to reach across borders of identity.  I don’t know if it will ever be safe to go, but I am still thinking about it.  Life is very short.  My plane can be shot from the sky while you are listening to my favorite jazz record; My body could be found with headphone plugs still in my ears as has been the story with those killed over the Ukraine this past week.  Still, I always want to say that I tried to do, change, work as an advocate for positive change.  I always think I can do more, more than write and teach.  Where will the new winds take me?  How can I best serve others?  Questions that I ask myself after I read of horror.  

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