Thursday, November 19, 2015

13 November 2015: Paris Attacks

My dad, along with my best friend from Berkeley, Aram, have constantly been telling me to "keep a journal" and write about all the wonderful experiences I'm having in Paris. I am, in fact, documenting my trip and writing about as much as I can. But it's difficult to make time to sit down and do nothing but write about what I've done and seen all day when I just want to soak it all in—just relax and take in the fact that I'm in PARIS! 

But what's more difficult to do is to write about the bad things that happen.

For those of you who are close to me, you know that my journey in Paris hasn't been an easy one and that it's been quite bumpy from the start. I hated Paris. I couldn't understand the culture or relate to the people. At the same time I was curious. As soon as I’d befriend an expat, I would ask him or her, What do you like about Paris? I hate it here but I really want to love it...

Thankfully, things changed after a full month and I, like many others, fell in love with Paris. But it definitely hasn't been easy. Nonetheless, all the bad experiences and bumps along the way haven't been too difficult to write about because I lived through them and I knew that in the end, there would be some sort of solution. I had hope. I also knew how valuable it would be to write about my struggles here in Paris so that I can look back and smile at how far I'd come. 

I’m guessing that most of you reading this will know that I was in Paris this past Friday November 13, during the attacks. Thankfully, I was home safe with my homestay family. 

I was just about to hop in the shower when I’d received an email from my school warning us that there’d been a shooting in Paris. At this time I didn’t expect anything more than the one shooting. But I made sure to send texts to friends to be careful and avoid the 11th arrondisement that night. 

Later I was drinking hot chocolate and watching the France vs. Germany soccer match with Marine, my homestay family’s daughter. France had a beautiful header goal and we were so excited about it. 

Then all of a sudden: Breaking News…and every fifteen minutes or so, the number of people killed kept increasing. Caroline, her sister, walked into the living room and told us that her friend’s aunt, a mother of two, had been killed. 

We stayed up until about 3 A.M. I went to sleep with the sound of crying sirens in Paris all through the night. I was safe. I was so lucky. 

Before I decided to blog about my experience on Friday, I thought to myself, What is there to say? No words can describe what happened and the amount of fear that I’ve been feeling. But I believe that at times like this, it is especially important to share with one another how we feel, in addition to showing kindness and love to one another. 

It’s bizarre that a few days before the attacks, I was talking to my homestay Madam about how safe I feel in Paris. I told her about the gun violence in America, especially in colleges, and how that isn’t the case here in Paris. I shortly realized that that’s not true, that bad people are everywhere and anything can happen to anyone if you’re in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” 

The next few days following the attacks were strange. I thought everyone would stay in but that wasn't the case. People were out as usual. However, there was (and I think there still is) this feeling in most of us that they’re not done, that there will be another attack soon. We don’t know what’ll happen next.

My school is in the 11th arrondisement, where all the attacks were carried out, and I was so nervous not only to be in that area, but also to take the metro on Monday. But I did it. Needless to say, I was paranoid. I was extra aware of my surroundings and any time I felt insecure, I would trust my instincts. But most of it was paranoia. Every loud noise made me flinch. People speaking too loudly or too much in the metro scared me. People speaking at all in the metro scared me. I also noticed people staring and making eye contact more than usual. Anything can happen anywhere, I kept thinking to myself. 

But when I got to the 11th I saw people walking to work, sitting at the cafes, going shopping. I noticed that Paris is still Paris and I quickly learned how incredibly resilient the French are. I felt so touched and encouraged to carry on.

Despite what's happened here, I now love Paris even more. Paris has become my home and being here during such a tragic time has actually brought me closer to fellow Parisians. I now understand the people. I now understand the culture. And I have a deeper sense of appreciation for it all.

And so I’m making sure to be kinder to Parisians. I’m giving more hugs to my colleagues and teachers. I’m not ashamed to smile at strangers, especially the elderly, in the metro when we make eye contact. I’m more careful with saying “bonjour” and “au revoir, merci.” They’re all little things. But I’m really trying. And if you’re Parisian and you’re reading this, I hope you are too. We need each other. 

I will admit that I’m still terrified. I’m only human. But, as my dad and, again, Aram, said to me a few days ago—I musn’t let fear rule my life. 

Tonight, I’ll be traveling to London by train. Yes, I’m nervous. Yes, I’m scared. But I won’t let that stop me from living. I’m so grateful to be 22 years old—alive and healthy. I will carry on. I will keep living.  

Below are some pictures I took at Place de Republique and La Belle Equipe.


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