Loving and Leaving: One Week Left in Paris

I have one week left.

I knew the time would fly, and fly it did. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two months already. This city is beautiful, historic, and full of surprises. And yet, I’m quite ready to go home.

My urge to leave is partially due to what I miss from home. I miss the rolling green hills of Pennsylvania. I miss Pittsburgh parks and stumbling across a street barbecue when you least expect it. And, oh man, I miss pizza. Delicious, 2 AM pizza. I know that the fourth of July is coming up, and I’m sad to be missing out on my beloved American pastimes: watermelon, hot dogs, and two handfuls of sparklers all on fire at the same time.

However, there are plenty of reasons why I want to go home that are completely specific to Paris itself. Paris is expensive! Food and personal care basics can cost an arm and a leg. Being a tourist adds a whole truckload of costs, and, god forbid, shopping and souvenirs are a veritable mountain of costs to scale. Paris is also, simply put, a city. I love being one block from a pharmacy, grocery store, and transit stop at all times, but I also love grass that I can sit on, plants, trees, dirt… My first plan, when I get back to the states, is to lie down in some grass. In a strange way, I am a little proud of these complaints. They never direct the energy of my day, but to me, they say that I have been here for long enough to extract myself from being a tourist and a foreigner and to assess the city from the point of view of someone who lives here. I’ve been really, truly living in Paris. And I want to leave!

A very interesting part of extracting myself from the role of the foreigner is that I have had more open and direct interactions with Paris inhabitants. My perception of the French has changed and taken a fuller form as I have spent more time here. In one of my first blog posts, I considered the differences in how Americans and Parisians outwardly express patriotism, and how that may or may not relate to a culture that is individual or group-oriented. Now, at the other end of my stay here, I feel very different about the French. I think that, as a culture, they may be group-oriented, but what constitutes a group can be shaky. Many people have told me that, for the French, your ethnicity is all about where you were born. And yet, I hear a very casual stereotyping on a daily basis. I hear it said as “hating everyone equally,” but when the rules of that hate are dictated by race, what is that but racism? Moreover, the “where you were born” argument negates those who have immigrated to France, and who deserve to be included in the county’s decisions and future as well. This is an issue with which the country is struggling, especially as France’s tensions mount with North Africa and the Middle East.

Of course, the good is there, too. I don’t mean to say that I never want to come to Paris again. This city is a cultural treasure trove–the history of the city and everyone who has lived here is impossible to avoid. It’s in every building, on every street, and of course in every museum. I eat, drink, and breathe art here. Everything carries so much of the city’s history with it while still looking forward artistically. It’s astounding. I also haven’t even touched a complete tour of the city’s museums, and I know I will always be thinking about the ones I’ve missed. And at the end of the day, as much as I’m aching for grassy forests, I still love to get myself lost down an alleyway, or to find that hole-in-the-wall bookstore. I think I will always love to visit Paris–but to live here? I don’t think it’s in my future plans.

I’m looking at my last week. I need to pack, to buy gifts, and to start saying goodbye. And while I feel ready to leave now, I know that it’ll be much different one it’s time to actually go.