Graffiti. Public transportation. Outdoor seating. Stick shifts. Poor parking. Wine. History. Diversity. Scooters. Coffee. Small flats. Public parks. Instruments. Tourists. Different road signs. People reading. Entertainment. Beggars. Crying children. Laughing friends. Early-closing stores. Exercise. Fewer McDonalds. Expensive cuisine. The same annoying iPhone default ringtone. Toilets and showers have separate rooms; light switches are outside of shower rooms, but inside the toilet rooms. Doors are hinged on two sides and function as a door or a vent/draft window. You can pay for a meal with change.
These are just a few of my initial observations.
04/23/16 of 04/20/16-04/23/16 random short stories
When I got off the bus from Brussels, I was trying to meet someone. People don’t make much eye contact. As I walk past, they think I am crushing on them because I can’t help looking at their faces; I was raised in the south. Finally, someone looked back. David had a Boston cap on. The hat had been a gift. We talked about it for a second, then talked about backpacking and Paris and Seattle. David is going to do a trip from Seattle to San Francisco; that’s a sweet trip! I need to get him some recommendations. David thought it was cool that I had no plans when I got off the bus and he gave me a huge handshake when he heard this detail. He was likely the coolest first person I could have met; he gave me directions to the subway, and his contact information in case I needed anything while in Paris! It was awesome to see how much he loves his city. He wanted me to enjoy my stay.
I’ve had about 10 people talk to me, help me out with their phones/GPS (Wi-Fi only for me), and point me in the right direction when I was trying to meet up with someone or the first day when I didn’t have a map. The kindness of others has been a huge blessing. This is one of the reasons I decided not to get a phone for use over here. I have had so many more opportunities to meet new people.
I met Ben while we were both out being tourists. I saw he had a camouflage backpack, so I asked him where he was from. When he responded, “Merica,” I knew we would have a good talk. He’s traveled Europe once before, and now he’s on his second tour. He stays in hostels, and he hits all the hotspots. With his degree in history, many of these sites have more familiarity and meaning for Ben. He runs his own company so he has some scheduling flexibility. We shared travel stories and ideas. Both of us had pickpockets target us. His was a guy on a train, mine was a trained teenage girl; both failed. Ben has a friend who’s parents are missionaries in Tanzania. It was awesome to speak with someone from back home (Indiana). Best to you Ben, keep in touch! (Below is the look I gave the pickpocket.)
After getting off one subway, I was walking through the underground tunnel system to find my connection. I saw a woman digging in the trash for food. (Note: there are more people begging in Paris than I have seen anywhere else I have traveled-If you’re looking to start a food ministry…) I didn’t have any food with me, but I could tell she was really hungry (urgent). You get a sense for that kind of thing as you spend more time around people in need. Or, maybe it’s not intuition, and it’s the Holy Spirit; I suspect it’s both. Obviously someone digging in the trash has needs, but you pick up on details that let you know the severity of their circumstance. Some people dig through the trash every day and it is habit, normal activity. Others have recently fallen on hard times. Some are trying to hide that they dig in the trash. Some need to find something to eat so they can continue functioning. This lady found part of a sub sandwich that someone had tossed while getting off the train. She looked like she was in a hurry to get somewhere, likely work. She didn’t peel off the part where someone else had bitten or look to see what was on the sub; she needed food and devoured the sandwich quickly as we walked. She was moving fast, and selected a tunnel that wasn’t headed towards my connection. I decided to follow, as I was moved to help her in some way. I had to walk all the way to where the train loads to catch up. When I did, I reached into my pocket and grabbed a bill, tapped her on the shoulder, and handed it to her. Her face became full of emotion. She felt loved. She hadn’t wanted anyone to see her digging but I had seen her. She was wearing the joy on her face of knowing that someone cared, and that she had another meal lined up. She knew that I had walked that way to help her, because no one that had recently passed knew where her sub had come from. Her smile said I had done far more for her than I actually had. She only spoke French so we couldn’t communicate with words. I just gave her a big awkward hug and walked away. When I first saw her face and how happy she was, I was a bit nervous I had handed her a 50 (I wasn’t so good with Euros at this point); as I was walking away, I wished it had been a 50 instead of the 5 that had made her day.
After this encounter (which was one of the highlights of my time in Paris), I wished I had had a way to point her to Jesus. I know that God moves and seeds are planted, but I want any good that is done to be associated with Him. I looked down at my bracelet and saw a cross. I decided that for others I couldn’t communicate with while helping, I would point to the cross.
I’ve really enjoyed buying bread each day and just walking around with it stowed under my arm; walking with bread is a “typically French” thing to do. I will pick up bread at a cheaper spot in an outlier area, then walk around in a heavy traffic area where more people go to beg. Today, I was running low on Euros (because I need to find a good place to convert from USD…I don’t think one exists), but I bought three pieces of bread. I had passed 2 people that I knew could use it and I figured I would eat the third. I gave a piece to the guy I had seen closest to the store. He was leaned against a parallel parked car, in the road. He basically looked like he wanted to get run over. I shook his hand and handed the bread to him while he kept saying thank you over and over. Then I pointed to the cross on my bracelet. He flipped me off. I didn’t have a response for that, so I just told him to enjoy his bread (in English). The next lady was very appreciative. On my walk home, I saw another guy; he was super thin. I started walking towards him with the third piece of bread and he was already thanking me. I pointed to the cross on my bracelet, and he put his hands together like he was praying. He put one hand on his heart, and started telling me something, like a long story. I still don’t speak French, but this guy was genuinely appreciative. We tried Spanish. No luck. Anyways, it was cool. He had something to eat.
One day, I had a piece of bread that I was going to eat for dinner. I was walking to my train and saw an older woman begging. As I walked, I dropped the bread in her bag which was behind her. She didn’t know it, but it was cool that some people walking near me saw it and were encouraged—at the same time, I’m not trying to start a “pay it forward” movement; I want people to know the love of Jesus. I know that in these moments of love, seeds are planted, though I prefer to speak.
I thought I was getting jumped. That would not have been fun. A large drunk man grabbed me by the shoulders (aggressively) as I was walking home. Now that I think about it, he took my orange soda out of my hand too. There were several teenagers all around. I was 2 seconds from placing my knee in the man’s crotch (not gently), when he let go of my shoulders and started to pull his shirt up over his head. Now I was beyond ready to be anywhere else. Turns out, he wanted me to see a picture of Jesus tattooed on his heart, because I have long hair. Thanks for that man. He got in an Audi with some guy and drove off. I wound up getting to talk with the teenagers. I shared some of my story with them, and talked to them about high school and asked what they want to do in college. The kid with the best English shared that he would like to work with technology. He knew French, English, and Spanish. It was fun to speak with them. I left them with my blog address and a quick note about Jesus. He said he would be glad to check it out. Bad turned to good.
I met two college students from the United States. They’ve been in Paris since January, and they will be headed home soon. We sat in a public park and watched boats go by on La Seine for hours while talking. It was a good time. They gave me some travel recommendations which was great. After they headed home, I met two more guys in the same park. We talked for about an hour. I got to share about how I’m traveling, where I’m headed, and how I’ve enjoyed Paris. They had a lot of questions and cool things to share too.
I saw a lady reading a Benny Hinn book in French. I don’t speak French, but I wrote some better book titles on a piece of paper for her to check out. She was grateful I took the time to write something down and give to her.
I was able to meet up with my former coworker, and good friend, on two different occasions. We shared memories, stories, talked about life and what has been going on more recently, ate together, and walked around. Damien treated me like family and said he wanted me to enjoy Paris so this would not be my last visit. I don’t think it will be. He took me on a boat. Seeing an old friend in his hometown was really a treat.
I fasted the first two days I was here (Paris). Between fasting and the generosity of both friends and strangers-turned-friends, I’ve had an amazing first week of my trip…for cheap. It’s hard to believe I’ve spent under $200 for lodging, food, and transportation, as well as food for many others. Ain’t that something?
I visited the Eiffel Tower, a big arch, a museum with some of Dali’s artwork, the palace in Versailles, some old churches (if people would line up to hear the Gospel the way they will to see some architecture, the world would be a better place), went on a boat and saw Paris by night, and everything else. What an amazing start.