Monday, June 11, 2012

A Weekend's Storys and Musings

I had such a lovely weekend! I didn't do much of note, but Saturday and Sunday were full of wonderful moments. I wandered around Paris until I got lost and then stumbled upon a branch of my favorite macaron store - Pierre Hermé - so of course I bought a few (this is my first time back since 2010!). Then I ended up in a café, drinking a café crème, slowly enjoying every nibble of macaron (is it possible to get closer to heaven than a rose or jasmine flavored macaron in Paris??), and reading my Paul Farmer book. I was at a table on the sidewalk, but just protected enough that I could just sit and continue enjoying as it started to rain a bit. Can you say idyllic, much?? I finished Saturday with dinner at a pub with a new Australian friend - yay!

Sunday stared late and slowly, but I ended up back in Paris (of course), wandering past the many art galeries and cafés in Place des Vosges. I had a cup of Mariages Frères tea at one such cafe, and sat and read for a while. A few wanderings later, I was on Rue des Rosiers, so I went to my favorite crèperie and got my favorite crèpe: beurre/sucre/citron (butter/sugar/lemon). It was raining again, so I sat inside - this is one of the rare crèperies with indoor space, rather than just being an outdoor stand, and even then they only have a tiny area with a few stools to perch on. I alternated between reading and watching the EuroCup football game, until the man who works there (I've only ever seen this same guy at this place) came over and poured me a little cup of the most delicious mint tea you'll ever drink! This place serves 2 things: crèpes and mint tea, and they're both amazing. He was pretty busy serving people, but we chatted a few times, and he actually remembers me coming in before! I told him that I took Fourgie there, and told him how much she loved it. :) It was a pretty lively place, too, because his family lives upstairs and his 3 kids would run up and down the staircase as they came and went. So I kept sitting/reading/watching/chatting, and a few hours later (and a few cups of tea later), I finally decided to extricate myself and head home. When I left, I said "à bientôt" and he said it back! YAY! I think I'm now a regular!

A few random tidbits...

about the lab: I would be remiss in my multicultural adventures this summer if I didn't so much as mention the lab members here! The two PIs (principal investigators) of the lab, are American (the Haverford grad) and French (his wife). Then there's me (American) and three PhD students (Greek, Chinese, and Cambodian), plus a few other students that aren't here this summer, none of whom are French, as I understand it. Pretty interesting! Since the Greek and Chinese students don't speak French, everyone just speaks English here in the lab, except occasional exchanges (like when the French PI speaks with the Cambodian). I'll admit that it was a little bit of a relief to discover that I wouldn't have to do all my science in French, since that's a whole vocabulary set I've never delved into. Someday, perhaps...

about Paris: As I was wandering the streets of Paris, I was thinking about how this is my third time in this city, and my second time living here... until I realized - I've never actually lived IN Paris before! My homestay last time was certainly a lot closer to actual Paris, but Neuilly-sur-Seine is just outside actual city limits! And now, I'm way out in Bures-sur-Yvette, not even pretending to technically live in Paris. My conclusion: clearly, I need to come back and live here for real some time, and do it right. (Annie - you still up for that chambre de bonne??)

about Haiti: I haven't gotten through much of Paul Farmer's book yet, because the beginning is full of lots of material like forwards and introductions and other new things that were added to the second addition, etc. But I am already thoroughly impressed, and excited to be reading it! As I started, I kept coming across things I wanted to share on this blog, but it turns out I would just have to copy the whole thing word for word because everything he's saying is so interesting, important, and interrelated. I've never read a book that makes me pause and think this much, or that puts such a weight in my stomach. I get the feeling that if everyone in the world could read this book (or at least just the leaders of the world's superpowers), the world would be a much better place and suffering/poverty could be reduced. But maybe I'm just more easily convinced than others, who knows? Anyway, Pathologies of Power centers on the issues of poverty and human rights and public health (all very closely intertwined), examined through a number of examples from around the world. Paul Farmer has spent many years living and working in Haiti, so he can provide a perspective shaped much more by the experience of individuals and "real" Haitians (rather than the statistics and historical fact upon which the Haiti history book was based). Remember the conflicting feelings I mentioned a couple posts back? About the tendancy of Haitians to blame other world superpowers for their current situation, rather than taking the initiative to try to improve their conditions? Well, Paul Farmer is (indirectly) helping me make sense of that. He hasn't spoken to that exact phenomenon at all, but I am quickly realizing that that is probably something of an exaggerated generalization that mostly applies to (or at least is the fault of) the corrupt governments that have ruled Haiti over the years. At the same time, while I don't think the superpowers necessarily owe a specific debt to Haiti, I am being very quickly convinced that different actions/legislation/attitudes/knowledge surrounding international issues of poverty could have a huge positive impact. ...just read the book, already. :)

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