I hate Paris and I am weary of France
But I appreciate her giving me the most precious lessons of my life
So that I could completely remove everything and start my life over
USA > Mexico > Peru > Bolivia > Chile > Argentina > Portugal > Spain > Morocco > France > United Kingdom > France // 2012 - 14
France Itinerary - Aix-en-Provence – Valensole – Hyères – Toulon - Paris – Aix-en-Provence – Marseille – Montgenèvre Alps - Aix-en-Provence
This French trip was meant to be a relaxing holiday for myself because I was not only physically but also mentally exhausted after my one year of long adventure going to extreme landscapes, getting drunk at crazy parties, looking for work and studying Spanish every day. And most importantly, I didn't have any clue of where to go, of which direction to head to, in that moment of my life. So I guessed it was time for a real break, to let my body rest and let my mind refresh, to carefully consider of where I should begin my new life, to chase my dreams again.
Unfortunately life is never the same perfect as what we dream. I never dreamt of being sick in France, I never dreamt of living with horrible flat mates, nor I ever dreamt of having depression in this depressing country and eventually I had to stay for six months I just couldn't leave when I really wanted to.
I chose to have my holiday in Aix-en-Provence at the first place was because my younger sister lives and studies here. Aix is a city full of students and universities but not too many crowds nor landmarks, it is a very relaxing and modern city having local shops, international brands and open-air cafés everywhere. In theory Aix should be the best place for a short break but very unfortunately I was suffering from flu and cold and diarrhoea and sore throat and all kinds of sickness after I arrived. But actually I knew the reason behind, guess my body was complaining my journeys from South America to Europe then to Africa and then again back to Europe in the past month, yes I knew my body was really tired.
My body started functioning normal again after two weeks of sickness, that I finally had some strength to go out and walk around. Even though Aix is a really small city that anyone could finish walking the city centre in just an afternoon, I enjoy wandering through the same narrow alleyways and passing by the same beautiful plaza every single day, to look at the very soothing blue sky in Southern France.
Every morning there is a market around Place Richelme selling all kinds of local products. My happiest moment of the day was to shop for ingredients for my meals, because everything here including veggie, fruit, meat, pastry, bread, chess, ham, paste, herbs and anything you could name are just real good quality products. French people are very serious about food and beverage and it is very important part of their life, the government strictly monitor the industry and therefore it is very difficult to see any rotten product in the market. During the days in Argentina I only saw rotten products because good ones are always exported, often I had to pick the best rotten tomato among other rotten tomatoes, this is why I felt extremely excited when I could finally reach all these fresh, healthy and pretty food.
French cuisine is world famous because the chefs' dedications to food, dishes created are like delicate art pieces. Even though I did not have the budget to sit inside restaurants to taste the many different specialities, I did enjoy it a lot more when preparing my own dishes in a country where culinary is treated as art. I started cooking myself three meals a day since I embarked my journey, eventually it became some kind of enjoyment rather than just necessity. I have no secret recipe but I believe anyone could make delicious dishes and live a quality life when you got fresh ingredients. Simply because a quality life to me is just to eat healthily and to live gratefully, truffle or foie gras or macaron or champagne are never needed in my quality life recipe.
Aix is one of the major cities in the Provence area. Together with Marseille, Cannes, Nice and some other cities in the south, they are the popular holiday destinations in France. Tourists from around the world come to Provence every summer to taste good wines in vineyards, wander around old towns, relax under palm trees, and most importantly, to enjoy the dreamlike lavender scenes and the lovely beaches. The area is specially packed during August because its very beautiful mediterranean coastline under the very blue sky is always the priority vacation choice of the French people themselves.
The most popular route to see lavender in Provence is to drive from Valensole plateau to Les Gorges du Verdon canyon. Along the up and downs of the hills you could see the endless fields of purple flowers blossom. However there is no public transport to go there and it is very inconvenience for someone like me who do not drive. That is why I hopped onto the car of a friend who decided to go there during late June, but very unfortunately we didn't have the luck to see the most romantic lavender fields because it was like 10 or 20 days before the blossom.
After my relaxing holiday I still have no idea of where to go next. Luckily at that time an artist friend of mine invited me to Paris to work as her assistant. Even it was only a month of trial work, at least it had given me a direction or maybe I would have more opportunities after arrival. To me I considered Europe as one country because I have the right to move around and work, it doesn't matter if I was going to Berlin, Vienna or Stockholm if I could see an opportunity, anywhere is the same to me as long as I could start a new life in this country. Yes, I was looking for a place for rebirth in another saying.
I suffered from the return of my old injuries on my arm and shoulder during my stay in Argentina. The injuries is caused by my intensive use of computer and camera during the past ten years of my career, often I had acupuncture treatments while I was living in Macau. My injuries hurt for a couple of weeks during that time but I didn't manage find a doctor when I was in Argentina. That's why I thought it was a good idea to see a doctor in Aix before I start working again, even though I was already recovered by then. So I went to see a French osteopath and I let her pull and drag me for an entire afternoon. She told me I was alright so I thought I was alright. Even the next day I started having headache I still thought I was alright. And even the next next day I continued having headache I still thought I was really alright and boarded onto my flight to visit my Argentina good friends in London. But of course I wasn't alright, just I had never thought I should listen to my body before listening to my doctor, nor I ever thought that headache would eventually change my life.
During my stay in the UK, not only I was very depressed and confused I was physically in bad shape, still I had to carry my heavy bags and luggage with my sore arms when taking a train from Edinburgh to London and then boarding onto a Eurostar to Paris. I could hardly breathe at all when I finally got off the train. Made it even more worse was that I had to wait for an hour to buy my ticket because the only ticket staff at the busiest Gare du Nord metro station was in absolute slow motion and terrible attitude, not to mention I later had to walk in and out and up and down for the platforms and the transits and it took me another hour to reach my destination. When I finally settled down in comfort I suddenly remembered that there were direct flights from Edinburgh to Paris, omg I guessed I already lost all my conscious.
Honestly, I never really thought about it carefully regarding to this move to Paris, I didn't care if I would love it, or if I would have any problem not speaking the language. I just wanted to extend my time, to give myself more and more time to think about where I really want to go and then continue moving on the road. Paris to me was like a transit stop but I wouldn't mind to stay here longer if I had the chance, because it is definitely the place for art, culture and creativity.
Unfortunately when I started doing online promotion for my artist friend my hand got numb when I pressed on the keyboard button, after a few days I had a stiffed shoulder and a painful arm that I couldn't even bear looking at the monitor for half an hour, and eventually in another few days all the muscles and nerves of half of my body started crying crazily in pain that I couldn't even finished writing a short email, the pain continued to grow and I couldn't even sleep. Of course I couldn't work with such a disabled body, so I explained my injury to my friend and I started doing housework for her in continue exchanging for my accommodation. My very kind friend then found me an acupuncture practitioner from huarenjie.com, a community website for Chinese people in France. During the first time I saw my practitioner he asked me if I had been fighting in a war, saying that my extensive travel in the past year had given me general debility, a total loss of strength in my body. As a result, having acupuncture treatment in China Town, inside the 13th Arrondissement (district), turned out to be my only landmark and itinerary during my first month in Paris.
Every time I went to China Town I had to take RER A to Châtelet, the transportation hub of Paris, where I shuttled through the many labyrinthine passages before boarding onto Metro 7 that connected me to my destination. And every time I returned home I would get off at Musée du Louvre metro station, walked to the plaza inside the Louvre Museum and unconsciously staring at the many tourists from the many different countries who repeatedly queuing for the same spot to take a same happy photo from the same lovely angle, and then I would walked along River Seine and randomly followed any group of exciting visitors who then later passing through Avenue de l'Opéra together with me, until I reached Opéra metro station to take the RER A home.
In every journey I only saw tourists smiling but never any Parisian. It doesn't matter the person was selling ticket or pastry or magazine or coffee or any kind of services, all I saw were long faces. In the very beginning I couldn't even say 1 to 10 so I could only inquire in English, most likely in return I had to bear an unwelcoming face with an impolite voice talking back in French. Yes I of course understood the fact that not many French speak English, however to the very impatient Parisian it wasn't even possible to try body languages. According to the very unofficial stats of mine, I guess half of the Parisians speaks English and half is having friendly attitude, but I was never lucky enough to have met a few people with both of the above mentioned.
The Parisians I saw were always carrying a sense of sadness on their faces. Sadness was even deepened inside metros when they were shuttling through the passages with loneliness and sitting inside the carriages with unfriendliness. Eventually I became one of them as time went on, also having sadness on my face and carrying it to the metro carriages. In every journey I shouted in my head, I should be alright because the doctors said I was alright!! And in every stop I screamed in my heart, I did already recovered I did got no pain but why do I had to go suffer this again and again!?! My body collapsed and so did my soul, I really couldn't accept the fact that my injury had returned and I had to repeat the same old horrible recovery story that I had had in Argentina.
One month passed so quickly and summer had arrived, my friend and her family had to head to Southern France to enjoy the beaches and sunshine. My severe pain were gone but I felt sore occasionally, I needed to continue the treatment so I had to find a room asap. In this City of Love there are so many beautiful elegant buildings in traditional european style, always I imagined myself living in a penthouse inside a French apartment building, relaxingly opening the big white window, drinking my cup of aromatic espresso and enjoying the romantic street view from above. But of course the reality was not like that, not unless I had lots of cash. It is not only very expensive to rent a place in Paris, it is in huge shortage as well. Even those who got a permanent job have to go through difficult interviews to fight for favors from owners, I didn't see myself any outstanding talent to rent a place in such a short time, when actually I got no job no bank account and nothing provable at all in this country. Seriously I wouldn't lease anything to myself if I were the owner, because even I myself didn't know how long I would be staying, and not to mention I didn't had much to spend.
I couldn't think of any better solution than searching on huarenjie.com again, for the very obvious reason that cheap stuff could always be found from the Chinese community. After some searches I found a small room located at the 20th Arrondissement that costed me €300 a month at the end. Honestly, I was really excited when I got it rented because there was a big white window inside the room, the kind I always fancied. When I first moved in I really thought I could calm my mind and heal my body inside the window, but not too soon later I realized this low point of my life was not yet low enough that many more nightmares were about to come up.
My housemates came from the north of China and of course there were huge cultural differences between us, that's why when they were playing it real loud their techno music of the mainland style every morning every night, I still considered their enjoyment for noises only a kind of very special characteristic of the nation, even though I couldn't sleep well with it. But a bad sleep was still a sleep, what made it worse was two days after my arms and my legs started having unbearable itchy reds and swellings that I couldn't even sleep at all. According to my experience working at the hostels in Argentina, I was absolutely sure that there were bedbugs in my bed. Bedbugs are the most horrible bugs among all because they have super strong lives, they know too well where to hide and are resistant to normal pesticides, the only way to kill them is the calling of a professional pest control service. Some people don't feel anything after the bites but some people like me would be allergic to the bites, I had seen a girl who got inflected from her bites which turned into blisters that she needed urgent treatment from the hospital. Knowing such a disaster happening on my bed I immediately reported that to my landlord. However out of my expectation he denied the existence of any bug, just because he never saw any and no one got bite before, he even insisted that it was my own skin problem and advised me to see a doctor asap. But what made the whole thing even more horrible was that everyone in the house were saying the same thing, that there were no bug, that I were sick. Omg after hearing it for so many years I finally had the chance to personally experience the special talent of the Mainland Chinese, the collective power to invert right and wrong. Well... okay... I was on the road and I didn't mind to step back a little to solve the problem, so I requested the landlord to allow me to temporarily move to the next room and share it with the girl who was already living there. The girl worked full time providing massage services part time selling body and soul, but honestly I wouldn't dislike anyone doing anything as long as they harm no one. However this lady were so good at gaining my dislikes, that every night she kept moaning and complaining about life, that she was scared and lonely, that she wanted to hug me and sleep with me, also this very kind hearted lady loved sending my numbers to the men I didn't know to offer me opportunities to earn pocket money.
Even though the living situation was crap I really had no energy to move again, I could only wait until my body got stronger before making another plan. Another thing was that, in this sun shinning August my three good friends from three continents would be visiting me in Paris, all I wished was to enjoy every moment with them and wipe away my depression but think of nothing else. And that was why I started learning French myself, as I hoped I could be able to manage my daily tasks and reduce the chances of seeing long faces when having fun with my friends.
Despite the fact that many Parisians staffs offers no friendly services but rude attitude, Paris is impressively beautiful that it definitely worth a visit. Île de la Cité is that heart and the 1st Arrondissement of the city, extending from it there are 20 arrondissements in total where most attractions are located. To travel around people could rely on the very well developed transport system or the easily accessed bike rental service, but I myself preferred wandering around on foot seeing everything in details, since the size of each arrondissement is quite small indeed. Metro Zone 1-2 is covering all 20 arrondissements, providing with lots of tickets choices including one way, carnet of ten tickets, day pass, weekly pass, monthly pass and many more options. My €67 monthly pass had provided me unlimited travel with Metro, RER, Funicular plus other transports, allowing me to go everywhere with my friends again and again. In particular I had made uncountable visits to Tour Eiffel, Musée de Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Cœur and Notre Dame, that I almost believed I could be a tour guide for these places.
Unfortunately it is impossible to relaxingly walk around at the above famous landmarks because it is always packed with tons of tourists and blended with professional thieves. I would suggest you to walk along River Seine if you wanted to see Paris quietly. On the two banks of the River is where people enjoy their easy pace, from time to time there are someone reading a book, drinking a glass of red, or having a warm hug. Every summer at the right bank there is an artificial beach provided for those who don't have a chance to get out of the city to enjoy sunshine by the sea. For me my favorite section of the river is between Notre Dame and Musée de Louvre, where it locate the Bouquinistes. It is series of large green boxes not only selling used books but also antiquarian maps, posters, comics, letters, postcards, and many other old treasures that you would surely enjoy hunting.
Pont des Arts, the favorite bridge among lovers from around the world, is situated at one end of the Bouquinistes right next to Musée de Louvre. There is a myth saying if a couple write their names on a lock, lock it on the fence and dump the keys into the river, then they will never be apart and will forever be in love. The colorful locks had indeed turned a ordinary wooden bridge into some kind of installation art in vivid style, however the tens of thousands of thrown keys are in fact serious pollution to the river. Another thing is that the fence itself doesn't have unlimited space, that the government has to keep sending out staffs to clean out more space for lovers to make more rubbish. To be honest the couples are really stupid to copy a romantic moment to prove to themselves they are in love, they should know that only one's heart could lock another one's heart but not no single lock in this world will do.
My favorite arrondissements are the 3rd and the 4th because it is stuffed with museums and galleries, original stores and creative graffitis, that offered me ongoing inspirations. Among all the world-famous Centre Georges Pompidou is the all time favorite among art goers, not only because it got a revolutionary architectural design with skeleton exploded on exterior which is highly acclaimed by the industry, it has a huge amount of modern art collections and exhibits masterpieces from around the world, also on the roof it provides a beautiful bird's eye view of the city, and at the plaza there are lots of street artists offering entertaining performances.
There are numerous museums and galleries in Paris, some of its permanent exhibitions are always free, some others are free to enter only on the first Sunday of each month, please visit ParisInfo.com for details. However for me I preferred using iPhone app Sortir avec le Parisien (Going out with Parisian) to search for all kinds of free gallery exhibitions or bar gigs. Art galleries are everywhere in Paris, but again in the 3rd and 4th arrondissement there are more of it comparing to the other districts. Some galleries got a shinning window selling expensive products, some others are real tiny just displaying less than five items, but it doesn't matter what size it is you can always find some unique art pieces.
The 3rd and 4th arrondissement is having different styles of trendy shops selling latest fashion, cool gadgets, antique accessories, and all kinds of eye catching products that may equivalent to "lifestyle", "good taste", "attitude" or "waste of money". I didn't have any money to waste but I enjoyed wandering around the area to be inspired. Merci, a three floors concept store, was my favorite one among all. The store not only is having fashion for men and women, furniture, decoration, book, stationary, perfume, accessory plus many more items you could think of, also it got a veggie restaurant and a second hand book cafe for you to stay longer to flavor more good taste.
Montmartre at the 18th arrondissement is my another favorite district. The peak of Montmartre is the highest point of Paris where it locates the pure and white Sacré-Cœur, the bottom is the red light district where the enticing and glittering Moulin Rouge is found, while on the way to the top there are the former residences of the greatest artists, a plaza where street artists gather, a wall which is all written with I love you, and many more places with an interesting story hidden behind.
So many great artists had helped created the the most beautiful era of Paris, world famous genius like Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh had lived and worked in Montmartre since the late 19th centuries. Le Bateau-Lavoir was the workshop and residency of Picasso and other poor artists during their time, Musée de Montmartre is the former home and back garden of Renoir and other great painters, while bar Lapin Agile and nightclub Le Chat Noir was the gathering places for the greatest minds. Also in Montmartre Espace Dalí is found, which is a museum that exhibits masterpieces of Dali in different periods. I really suggest you to have a walk in Montmartre if you wanted to know more about the Bohemian philosophy of the greatest masters of all time.
Place Georges Pompidou and Place du Tertre usually are the two plazas with highest number of street artists, but it is same easy to find all kinds of amazing performances when walking on the streets of all the other arrondissements. Some of the artists are drawing huge images on the ground, some others are painting graffiti on the walls, some are playing music alone, some are dancing in a group. There are so many artists from different fields and in different styles, adding liveliness to this gloom city while painting a colorful life for themselves.
Every time when I saw those passionate artists striving so hard for their dreams I felt very encouraged but also very afraid. For more than 10 years I had been relying on computers to express my creativity, I don't know how to draw, I don't know how to sculpt, I don't know how to sing, I don't know how to play any kind of instruments, I just don't have any special skills other than computing. I wouldn't be able to work in my professional field, to do creative using my special skills, to stay in touch with the latest softwares and equipments, to keep walking on the road as a Traveling Artist, if I wouldn't recover soon enough. The feeling of losing my speciality and professionalism was absolutely terrible, I was totally feared, so dreadful that my nerves and muscles went on screaming in panic together with me inside my body.
Luckily Paris is a very green city which allowed me to easily walk into any park and relaxingly sit inside, make a deep breath and release my negative energy. The several hundreds of park lawn in Paris are always packed during summer, people are having a picnic, writing a poem, kissing a lover, or they are like me just doing nothing but observing others for an entire afternoon. The French pay a lot of attention at the art of gardening, they don't just grow the plants and flowers as it is but always having a detailed, elegant and harmonious design. Among all beautiful gardens in Paris the most romantic and dreamlike Jardin du Luxembourg is the favorite of most people. However to me my favorite was a little backyard garden with no name which is hidden between Place des Vosges and Rue Saint Antoine, every time I went there I felt like I had fallen into a fairy tale story when I saw the big green wall after I passed through the door.
Parc de Versailles, located by the two sides of Château de Versailles, is claimed to be the most beautiful classic French garden and a world model in the art of gardening. Unfortunately it was a Sunday when we visited, that we had to queue for two hours under the high noon and then being pushed by the crowds for the rest of the afternoon, which left us no mood and energy to walk around the garden after. It was so crowded inside the palace I didn't even have the ability to make one single step, but fortunately I was still able to move around my eyeballs to see most of the magnificent interiors, extraordinary murals and meticulous sculptures, to kind of consider myself to had seen the largest and most luxurious palace in Europe. Everything inside the palace were just superb art pieces, no wonder it was one of the most important place of origin for art, culture and fashion. Look, for generations the French has been doing so good and taking it so seriously at craft, gardening and culinary art, guess it answers why many of them are still being arrogant and opinionated all the time.
However Château de Versailles was too glamorous for me not my cup of tea, what really attracted me in this visit was a worn out stall located just outside the palace on the avenue. The photographer of this stall came from the past, he took instant pictures in the oldest form to make everyone appearing in the most beautiful era of France. He also did a unique photo for my friend, which made her extremely happy and excited for so long.
To be frank with you, I used to think like most people do, that Paris is same romantic as most of the pictures in the Hollywood movies. But then I realized that all these fantasy are in fact just the beautiful depictions of the mainstream media after I carefully observed the city. Undeniably Paris is amazingly pretty when you first look at it, with infinite imagination hidden behind every avenue, every building, every person and every single little thing. However to me Paris is as same as all the other luxurious high end design brands which are located here, always having the most perfect stunning image in attracting millions and millions of admirers, but flooding with sheer emptiness behind the glitter and glam.
Again I had to face a journey I didn't want to face after saying goodbyes to my friends. By then I was handicapped in computing and disabled in the local language, completely lost my working ability but living in a super expensive city which made me pretty worried. I did try looking for English speaking jobs but there were are many British, American, Australian and other native speakers in town which wouldn't be easy for me neither. On the other hand, we often encountered frustrating servicing from rude Parisian staffs when me and my friends were visiting around Paris, which made me finally admitted to the fact that knowing French is a must if I wanted to survive here. So, for the only and very important reason of surviving, I decided to have proper language class.
Only I never ever imagined that the teacher could be same impatience and same rude in the school. On the first day of class I had something I didn't understand so I of course asked my teacher about it, but he made a long face after I proposed my questions for two times and passed me to another student for the explanations. Omg! Again it's another egocentric Parisian!!Luckily he thought I was too stupid and put me into another class to continue my lesson, if not I had to keep listening to his weather forecast style of speeches.
Back in the house my days weren't too good neither, my housemates were getting more and more weird and bringing in more and more guests which made it impossible to have any tranquil moment at home. But there was nothing I could do, except to wait until I got a better health with my improved French, so that I could get a job and move again.
Paris is a city full of negative energy where people complain all the time, but very surprisingly the artists here seem not to be affected by the depressive atmosphere, that they are still able to create all kinds of wonderful art pieces with positive energy. Benjamin and Charles are the two friendly and talented video artists coming from the central and the south of France whom I met in Paris, there was a time they needed lots of extras for their music video and therefore I was found. The shoot was really inspiring regardless of props or sets or stylings, that had helped created countless mysterious stories within each picture. The styling I had was really interesting too, I was having tons of pink wool covering me up from head to toe. Even though I only appeared for like half a second at the end after the very long hours of shoot from early morning until late, still I felt very happy to had participated because it had given me an opportunity to spy the French way of creativity, which is definitely more important to me.
I wanted it so badly to hold my camera again and shoot a music video of mine, just the same as what I always did before, after seeing other people passionately doing their work, freely expressing their creativity. Unfortunately I didn't even have the energy to pull my luggage, I knew I wouldn't be able to express myself through videomaking in the sooner future. However I had so much desire in doing creativity I couldn't stop asking myself again and again, am I not a creative no more if I couldn't use computers or cameras again? No, the answer was of course no. All I needed was my courage to forget everything I used to be good at, to start learning using my fingers from fresh, and to create every imagination directly from my hands. So, I bought a bunch of drawing tools to begin drawing some images I thought I would finish. But then through the creation I fell in love with cut and paste, unexpectedly I created a piece of mixed media artwork at the end, a direction I never thought of but really interested at. Also I realized that working without Undo and Redo button wasn't actually that frightening, I just had to cut it agian and paste it again when I made a mistake. Yes, simply just do it again when anything goes wrong.
Enlarged size - http://flic.kr/p/fELrPZ
I really believed I could continue moving forward as long as I tried my best to live my life with a positive spirit. But very unfortunately and unexpectedly, I just hadn't yet reached the lowest point of my life, nor I hadn't yet experienced the most horrible behaviors of the world's most barbaric nation. Honestly it wasn't any problem for me when having only one bed for the price of one room, but it was really a problem when so many people walking in and out of my room having drug party with loud music, strangers sleeping on my bed at anytime of the day and taking away my blanket when I was sleeping in the middle of the night. And what I really really really hated, was that they moved my belongings and art pieces all the time. But what made me even more pitiful was that they never ever listened to my complaints, I just got no say. Might overcame right in this freaking house, these crazy people were like dictators oppressing anyone any voice any chance to change their stupid way of living their lives.
During that time I found that my body and my injury were getting worse and worse. I felt so tired every day and night, I wanted to sleep in every moment. I got no energy to eat, to go to class, to discover whoever was sleeping on my bed, or to make a complain when I found the bedbugs were actually living inside my landlords' bed at the end. I realized that I hadn't have a good sleep for more than four hours since I moved there. I was really tired, I really needed to sleep.
Until a day I felt seriously sick and depressed I started questioning myself, why it took me so long to recover? Shouldn't I just go back Macau to see my doctor? But I cried, three times, once I made the decision to go back home. Very obviously I didn't want to go back so I really shouldn't go back. Then I started analyzing the whole thing rationally, with a conclusion that my continued sickness must be caused by the horrible living condition. I should definitely be able to recover if I could sleep well again.
But yes, I was just not willing to accept the fact. I was not willing to leave Europe because I should have started my new life here as I planned, I was not willing to go through a recuperation process again and again because I should have recovered as what the doctors said, I was not willing to go back to the beginning because I should have travelled further on this land. And most importantly, I was not willing to see myself having even more complains than the days before I left, proving that I still hadn't really learnt enough from the journey to have my life reborn as I wished. So, I decided to give myself one more chance to learn about life, to transform myself into a better person.
So I used all my barely remained power to escape onto the train, head back to the small town in the south, and began my tranquil life of recuperation. There was no doctor but I knew it so well my first treatment had to be an immediate isolation from all monitors, that I had to stop my neck heading down and my fingers tapping on any screen. As a result, I no longer touch my phone once I woke up in the morning, but opened my window to look at the beautiful blue sky with a big smile and enjoyed it again the relaxing feeling that I had lost for so long.
My second treatment was swimming. But actually I didn't know how to swim so I had to spy other swimmers under water, studying how they breath in and out, how they kick and paddle, and then trying to repeat it again and again. In the beginning I couldn't even properly breath, I got choked all the time. However with patience and practice I could swim 500m in one go at the end, and I didn't even feel tired at all. By then I finally realized the secret of swimming, that I have to stay calm and not to be afraid, and I have to stay relaxed in order to be long lasting. Also I realized our lives is actually like swimming, that we need not to be frightened and lost control when obstacles unexpectedly arise, just let us float with ease and wait, until we have a good moment we embark our journey again. Just because most of the time we are just inside the pool or the office, there is no wind nor wave nor real dangers at all in most cases.
After I went back to the south I slept well and ate well, plus my treatments seemed like working well, not too soon later I felt having strength again. Because I didn't want to waste my time in France and because it is my childhood dream to speak several languages, I promised to myself that I must learn to speak French during the period of recuperation.
So, I designed a series of intensive modules for myself based on my experiences in self-study Spanish, and started learning French everyday from day to night. The first thing in the morning I watched Euro News French edition with provided transcripts, and then read a lesson of grammar and a lesson of Babbel vocabulary. In the afternoon I either went to the library to borrow books or movies, or went for a coffee chat with my language exchange student whom I found from the university, and when I was walking around town I listened to Coffee Break French Podcast. My student friends usually studied Applied Languages, which is bachelor major comprised with courses taught in English and another language other than French. It was pretty easy to find someone who wanted to practice English with me because most French students never really have any practical conversational classes in English. Every coffee chat it lasted for one or two hours, sometimes we talked 15 minutes in English then 15 minutes in French, or I spoke entirely in French and she spoke entirely in English. In the evening I watched Yabla French or Arte.tv , the two video websites with French subtitles. Yabla is a learning site which requires a monthly subscription, it is good for beginner because it has a huge numbers of video in different levels. Arte is a television channel, it is free but only some of its video are subtitled, so I think it is more suitable to intermediate or advanced learners. And finally after dinner I usually watched a French movie or read several pages of French history.
On the other hand, because I also didn't want to waste the self-study time I had in Argentina, I started using iPhone app HelloTalk to practice Spanish what a Latino. HelloTalk is a very useful app that you can find natives from everywhere in the world to do language exchange with you, the interface is like Whatsapp, Line or Wechat, you listen or record messages only when you are free.
During my study I learned about the social security system of France, a perfect system to to all employers in other countries. First of all, the minimum wage in France is €9.5 per hour, the usual working hours is 35 hrs per week, plus 5 weeks of paid holiday per annual and other social benefits. On the other hand, it is not an easy task to dismiss an employee once he is hired, employees are totally protected by the laws and if any problems arise it is considered as the problems of the employers, the government does not allow massive layoffs when no sufficient explanations is given. And even if an employee were unemployed, he would be given an unemployment subsidy which is up to 80% of his salary for a maximum period of 3 years. Look, this is such a perfect system that any employee from any country envies. But look, the system is also the reason why some French staff is always providing bad services. Not even to mention the middle and upper classes of the country is paying up to 50% tax from their salary to support the lives of many lazybones who deliberately stay unemployed for their entire lives.
But the perfect social security system of France wasn't just a fallen gift from heaven, her people did fight hard for so long before they finally got it well developed. History books told me, beginning from 1789 during the French Revolution, poor people sacrificed their lives to overthrow the thousand years' sovereign dictatorship. During the revolution, proposed concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity were published in the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen", it not only laid as the foundation of democracy in Europe, it also became the universal value pursued by other civilized countries, influencing the whole world until the present day. But even though the French Revolution was a huge success, that people finally became the masters of their own country, still France had to to go through the suffering of Napoleon Empire, Franco-Prussian War, World War I and II, many uprisings and revolutions, a total of five republics, lots of constitutional reforms, and the continuous lost of tears, blood and lives, before having an universally praised democracy system of their own. French are pioneers of revolution, since long they learnt to speak out through march, protest, strike and riot, they know they have to be persisted and determined in exchange for equality and justice. So I guess you wouldn't be surprised by now, when I tell you French workers had already won their 40 hrs working time per week during a general strike in 1935. And I guess you shouldn't be surprised from now when you see a stubborn French who enjoy so much in arguing.
Each time when I told my student friends my horrible experiences in Paris, they always had the same respond comforting me and saying that it is just the way how Paris is, it is just cold and ruthless as it always is. No matter they were coming from the east or west or north or south, they hated Paris the same and wished not to work there but go to other country after they graduate. Life was so different after I went back to the south, people were friendly and easy and most importantly, I saw them carrying their smiles when they were out. I was having so much laugh each time I had my coffee chat with my student friends, enough to prove that French outside Paris are in face very easy to get along with.
Many of my student friends were coming from Marseille, the second biggest city of France, because it is only 30 minutes bus away from where I lived. Marseille is a harbor city with thousand years of history, since ancient time it had attracted immigrants from the Southern Europe and Africa. Unfortunately for long it is notorious for its gang and drug activities, noisy and dirty places. Marseillais talk like singing and move like dancing, and it is considered as rude in the eyes of other French coming from other provinces. Many French are scared to go to Marseille but this is the place I love the most in France, simply because I rather willing to stay in a ugly real nature but wish not to live in a glamorously fake place.
But I really have to speak for Marseille because this place really is not that horrible as what people says. Yes it is dirty and messy in the areas where new immigrants gather, and it is doggy and dangerous specially in the slums at the north, but in recent years the government of Marseille has already spent a whole lot of money in renovating many district, that many streets and buildings are now looking pretty and bright. In fact Marseille had already changed her image and was awarded as "European Capital of Culture" in 2013.
Marseille has a lot of interesting places but I always enjoyed wandering around Vieux Port each time I visited. Vieux Port is a very vivid but also very relaxing area, it is a parking for more than a thousand of yachts, with open aired cafés and restaurants on two sides of the bank, and in walking distance you could reach the most famous gardens, plazas, buildings, museums, churches, castles and tourist attractions of the city. Especially I enjoyed overseeing yachts embarking their journey when feeling the freedom of the Mediterranean wind at Jardin du Pharo, a palace garden on a hill located at the left end of the bank.
Time flied in a flash and all of a sudden Christmas was going to arrive. My student friends went home one by one and I started having nothing to do in the festive month. Since winter arrived there was no more blue sky and no more sunshine, everyday I had to had my dark thick coat on to resist the strong cold wind, when I repeatedly walking back and forth in the Christmas market drinking hot sweet red, listening accordion performances and seeing children laugh.
May be because I hadn't had a winter the previous year, I felt like frozen all the time even that Southern France wasn't really such a freezing place. I had been recovering since I went back to the south but I started losing energy and feeling weak again when winter came. Except for the short walk each afternoon I just hide myself under my thick blanket for warmth and rest for the rest of the day. The colder it was the more tiring I was, no matter how long I slept I still wanted to sleep more. And the most frustrating thing was, my close to recover injury problem came back once again. I knew I couldn't continue this trip no more. I knew I it was final call to return home.
Before my return I went to a ski resort in the Alps locating on the French-Italian borders to see my friends who I hadn't seen for a long time. But the trip to the mountains was really tiring and I was exhausted. First, I had to stand inside a fully packed train for hours to reach Briançon, not to mention it was delayed again and again on its way, once I got off it started snowing so heavily and I wasn't just freezing but starving, then I hopped onto a bus and it was turning around and around for a hundred rounds before it reach Montegenevre the small village on the mountain, I was sick and dizzy and shaking by then but I still had to wait for the shuttle bus to take me to the resort. Honestly I felt like dying when I finally got there, but when I saw the vast expense of whiteness in front of my own eyes I knew this trip was definitely worth going.
Montegenevre is linked to Via Lattea, a top winter sports area of France which had held Winter Olympic, and is famed for lots of sun and good snow record. The Montegenevre ski area has 100 km of pistes and 60 slopes, it is the favorite of skiers from around the world because it is suitable for skiers in all levels. I wanted so badly to jump from the peak at more than 2000 m height, but with my wounded neck and arm I of course didn't have chance to enjoy such great fun. But the complete whiteness around me was such a dreamy beauty, that even I was just slowly walking around or quietly sitting alone I already felt so content and peaceful inside me.
On the return trip the bus again was turning around and around for a hundred rounds on the snow caped mountains, somehow the whole world was like all melted into pure whiteness and I was like fallen into a fairy tale story. At this surrealistic moment I suddenly saw the Grand Canyon, Amazon, Sahara, Himalaya and many more magnificent sceneries flashing in front of my own eyes. Not until that moment I finally realized I was in fact so so so lucky to have been to the most beautiful sceneries of the world. As well from that moment I finally realized I was in fact asking for too much previously in my journey.
When I was in Paris I didn't understand why destiny sent me to France, why I had to suffer physically and psychologically. Now I finally understood that I was sent here in purpose so that I could completely remove everything and start my life over. During the recuperation I was not only healing my injury but also my soul. It allowed me to face the ugly side of me and transformed myself into a more lovable person. It taught me to let go of everything in order to have more than everything. And also it took away my fear.
I no longer afraid of being behind on the latest tech or having months of emptiness on my resume or even completely losing my computing ability. Simply because the world is enormously big outside the monitor screen, where I could see the most beautiful sceneries and meet the most lovely people. And only outside the monitor screen I could have the most valuable life lessons to learn to love myself and the others.
I had always been searching for a place for rebirth, but never I knew it would be France even after I moved here. In France not only I learnt to love but also I found my love. Thank you France, thank you for giving me the most precious lesson of my life.
And now, I am going to move to the Mediterranean Sea, to be in love with a Latino I long searching for.
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