Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 2 or Day 1 (or Day 1 in Paris)

Today was a long day. A really long day.

I got up at 9am Friday morning (Pacific Time) and will be going to bed at around 11:30pm Saturday, Paris time.
I had breakfast in Los Angeles, "Dinner" (on the plane) over Cody Wyoming, a snack over Belfast Ireland and Dinner in Paris.
I traveled for an entire night and yet, because the plane flew by the North pole, the sun never set. (and still hasn't here in Paris)

It was my first time flying the Airbus A-380. Smooth plane ride, but some turbulence near Hudson Bay. The Air France Economy seats however are too narrow to permit me to sleep. Plus, I had to wear an uncomfortable eyecap to keep the light out. (ugh)

So, in my spare time, on the plane, I got to looking at the maps.

The "route maps" consist of several alternating pictures of the airlines route: large-scale, close-up, speed and distance stats, and one page depicting the airline's direction , relative to that of the destination (Paris) and some nearby reference city.

While, during the "night", while crossing the Greenland Strait, my eyes became particularly fixated on the locality of Pangnirtung, Baffin Bay. It was indicated as being "nearby," even where we were only three hundred miles away, I assume due to our being over water and the generally sparse population of the region.

How many flights-carrying middle-class American and Canadian kids (as well as European and American honey-mooners, French businessmen, some Africans and Middle Easterners)  on their way to Europe-pass over this city everyday I thought. Do the inhabitants of this city have the privilege to take pride in their location or do they have to deal with the alcoholism, poverty and the like endemic to Canada's first nations communities.

I continued with my observation after landing in Paris.

I had been expecting that romantic city of tree-lined boulevards, grand monuments and well-kept public spaces.

But the autoroute to the city, from CDG, passes through Seine St.-Denis, the working-class suburban district made famous by the October 2005 riots.

For 10 miles, on E15 from Roissy to the City Limits, the highway barriers were covered by graffiti. Dilapidated, modernist apartment blocks-assumedly public housing- dominated the skyline and the streetscapes, though somewhat less so than in comparably-sized American cities were filled with aging, vacant buildings.

The additional array of "big-box" strip malls (though with IKEA-style Bauhaus instead of Kitschy mission-themed designs), snaking lines of cars and the very "freeway-like" autoroute itself affirmed my belief that France, as a first-world and Western European country, is not so different from America as often perceived (in the context of the world  at large).

Oh, one big difference though. Unlike in other Western European countries, they expect you to speak French here. (I started learning on the plane, so I'm proud of having been able to survive even that 50-second "Bien, merci" type parley at the Pizza restaurant).

These thoughts are especially valued for my record because they deal with the sorts of questions and concerns that I will be grappling over the next month here as part of my study-abroad course. "Global Challenges in Post-colonial France."

Anyway, as a inter-"northern" (in a global context) traveler, I think I'm going to go to rest right now. The "fragmegration" of the world into two "globalized spheres," the politics of immigration in a "unitary" political entity or the snaking complexity that is Charles DeGaulle airport Terminal 2 are additional thoughts that have grazed my mind, but I think I will save that for class...
or when I've had a little too much wine.

Good-bye for now.

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