Funny how good it feels to relearn the idealistic truths one was forced-fed as a second grader.
I finally broke down the barrier that was separating me, the temporary American student, from the French inhabitants of my foyer last night.
Virgile can often be found working on his graphic design in the common computer room of my foyer and we talk about his work on graphic design, politics and music. Although Virgile is currently unemployed, he works really hard on his drawings and animations, often late into the night. But tonight, I ran into Virgile outside the foyer. I was ordering a crepe from the friendly Egyptian man who runs a stand near my foyer and Virgille walked by. He suggested we go out to his favorite local bar. Allons prendre un verre!
My French teacher at the Middlebury program here in Paris told us that it was important to (almost) always take up opportunities with French people, so why the hell not. I went out to get a drink with Virgile.
We both got French beers. He told me about the woman he had dated who was in her forties. He told me about the French girl he met playing an online game through facebook. About how he had real feelings for this girl, about how she had told him she loved him. We agreed that there can be something really powerful about online media; that they can have the capacity to communicate a certain honesty. Son vrai état d’esprit.
Although he had been in the foyer for six years, he told me about how it was hard for him at first there. About how people in the foyer had the individualism of cowboys (pronounced “cah-boiz”). About how it was generally hard to meet people. For anyone anywhere.
In the bar people did their own thing. They mostly stuck with the groups they came with. Virgile and I talked about how our cities were beautiful and cosmopolitan and yet their inhabitants failed to really mix.
With my supportive, multicultural upbringing, I had always been taught about how people were universally similar. About how people want the same things. About how people are scared. About how people want to love.
My high school theater teacher, Martha liked to talk about how “everyone just wants to be heard.”
The two girls sitting next to Virgile and me in the bar seemed similar to me and Virigle. One was trendier than the other, both were pretty and they walked the line between being reserved and looking around the room. I knew nothing about them, and yet something about going to a bar on a Wednesday night and acting like Virgile, me, or these two young women is universal.
Paris really isn’t that foreign.
Sounds like something you can teach in second grade, but sometimes it takes a few beers with Virgile to really learn.