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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Long Way Back

Advice we received many years ago from a lecture on the needs of Third Culture Kids: always try to take a few days en route to spend as a family, in that suspended time between "field" and "home" when you are not immersed in ministry or pulled by donors and relatives and friends . . . For families with high mobility or massive transition, building those memories together goes a long way in providing solidarity. Our missionary travel agent put a three-day gap in our ticket connection in Amsterdam, and so here we are in Europe, between Africa and America. We landed Sunday evening in Amsterdam and were met by fellow-WHM-pilgrims Bob and Miriam whom God has given an unaccountable love for us, a graciousness in welcoming us into their home and encouraging us with Dutch pancakes and conversation and showers and sleep.
Next morning we followed Bob like ducklings on the metro to the main train station, and then took a 3 1/2 hour high-speed train to Paris, where we we had arranged over the internet to stay in a 7th (top) story apartment on a busy street. We look out of our windows and see the grey steep roof tops topped by rows of clay chimneys, iron grill-work balconies and geraniums, trees and buses. Everyone has a bed (if you count the couch) and we are loving the sense of "living" in the city, slipping into the quarters of a family who takes July and August vacations elsewhere. Monday evening we bravely set out with our 3-day metro passes and made it to the Eiffel Tower. There we bought tickets to take the stairs to the 1rst and 2nd platforms, calf-burning, panting climbs up the massive steel-girder structure that looks more impressive up close. Great views of the city, and a great way to orient ourselves. And to feel glad we didn't have to stand in the mile-long line for the elevators . . .
We came back via the Seine, boarding a water taxi to cruise through the heart of Paris, the evening breeze cooling us as we drifted by the Louvre, palaces, cathedrals, musicians, artists, hundreds and hundreds of people simply enjoying the setting sun. We were pretty tired and hungry . . and no wonder, though it was barely dusk, it was well after 9 pm. That's what happens when you fly due north 8 hours from the equator, the days suddenly become ridiculously long.
This morning Luke, Scott, and I were up before the rest, and like true Parisians took the net shopping bags from our apartment kitchen and explored the open-air market nearby. We returned laden with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, even a few blackberries, crunchy baguettes, butter and jam, pastries, and coffee to make our own cappuccino. Ahhhhh. . . . a family breakfast to remember. A glimpse of heaven, which even in the Bible usually involves food . . .
Our goal for Tuesday was to see Notre Dame, which in July is nearly an all-day endeavor. We waited in the mid-day sun for almost two hours to gain entrance to climb the 400 stairs of the towers, for up-close views of chimeras and gargoyles, the massive bell, the spreading city. Then we wandered through the cathedral, built almost a thousand years ago, and at the time the largest and tallest place of Christian worship in the western world. The gothic grey stone, kingly statues, glowing glass, forest-like arches, majesty and solidity, echo a stately beauty that even thousands of tourists can not fully mar. Our wilt was restored by a 3-course lunch in an auberge off a small alley in the Rive Gauche district, and then I dragged the kids through one more hour of cultural literacy as we breezed through the Impressionism at the Musee d'Orsay, vivid Van Goghs and delicate Monets and sweeping Renoirs.
Paris: ancient, artsy, bustling, delicious, arrogant, tasteful, intellectual, romantic. Every siren evokes a Jason Bourne movie, and we could easily imagine Julia Childs in the morning market, so it is a bit surreal, like walking into the set of a movie or a great book. One more day, and then we resume our America-ward journey.


Tim Wills said...

You made it through the impressionists in one hour?! That is quite a feat -- they must have passed in a blur!
Good to hear you're having some buffer time before arriving in the States.

Wendy said...

Jennifer, you look like one of the kids!! How have you managed to stay so young-looking? Must be that African hair you're stylin! You go, girl! :) These photos of Paris bring back many memories for me: Your trip mirrors ours, just after Rick broke up with me in Montpelier! Ugh. Somehow we managed a good time out of it anyway. Guess we were destined to be together! Nothing like Paris in springtime! Ah hem... Anyway, like you, we also visited the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, and the Musee D'Orsee. I remember getting chocolate crepes outside the museum while waiting in line. Yum! We waited FOREVER to get into the Louvre because someone stole a painting while we were waiting in line, and they weren't letting anyone in...or out, more importantly!! Strangely, saw Jenny Wilson and her parents while waiting in line there too. Every morning we were there, we struggled to find pastries and coffee in one place, especially coffee-to-go. I'm shocked and jealous that you did it so easily on the first morning! Sat in an outdoor cafe that was frequented by some theologian, but I don't remember who now. Anyway, Rick got a big kick out of that, as you can imagine. (Why are so many of my memories about food? Oh well...) So much to see, and so beautiful. Have fun!