Thursday, February 5, 2009

France and Onward

I have been in France for a week now. It is as I pictured it. Everything is smaller here, less intrusive. The streets are narrow, so having an oversized SUV is out of the question. The hallways are narrow, too, which makes obesity out of the question as well. The French use less water, because they have to subsidize for the poor. Waste seems less likely. Before even getting to Africa, I feel more aware of what I use, and what I do not. This could be a product of the progressive French family I am living with, or it could be part of an un-American culture. I like it. Everything is winter here right now, an off white, grayish tint encapsulates the country. This is as I expected France in January to be.

I will be off to the antithesis of this tomorrow: a place where the sun is relentless and people adorn themselves in color. I picture red dirt between my toes, underneath my nails. I imagine being enshrouded in an inescapable heat, even when I am bathing. I have heard people litter plastic bags like dust. There is sewage flowing through the streets. I picture the videos of Kampala I saw not long ago, only poorer. I think I will stand out, at least my skin color will. I will glow and anonymity will be tough. I will be thought of as rich, American, advantaged; I am not sure I will acclimate to my status. We will have a guard watching over our house at night. How absurd. I will also make friends, or I hope I will. They will invite me to their homes and cook for me, as Africans I met in the past always did. They will be generous, despite their hardship. I will walk outside after filling myself with breads and cereals and see little, dirty children with protruding bellies, sickness. I am not sure I will be alright. But maybe I will. I have been wanting to go "back to Africa" for so long that the whole journey now seems like a mirage.


  1. What a beautifully written account of your experience thus far. I can't wait to hear more about your experiences in Niger, Laurel. I'll be checking back often.

  2. By the way, comment 1 was posted by Jenni :)

  3. Have a safe journey to Africa! Looking forward to reading your other posts.

  4. Good read, Laurel. Well put. I am thinking of you and I hope you are safe.
    P.S. Sarah McLachlan's "World on Fire" is playing on the radio. Makes me think of you...