Friday, January 07, 2005

Paris (I)

I'm in the metro thinking about my long trip that finishes soon and looking around for directions.
I feel out of place in my home town. An outsider in a familiar place. I need to change trains from the RER C back to the subway system and I can't find the connecting corridor. I find myself at the top of the escalator, with doors to the outside in front of me. No indication for a subway connection. I'm not the only one in this case: a blond woman is looking at me as she too is coming from the escalator. She asks "Are you looking for the subway line?" She speaks French with a strong but unfamiliar accent. I nod and we're soon heading back downstairs, speaking while looking for the invisible metro line.
She is Polish, in France for more years than I would have guessed listening to her speaking. She agrees with my remark and blames her slow and hesitant speech on the number of Polish people she hangs out with. "I thought I would be by myself, here, alone in a foreign city and all I hear all day long is Polish!" We laughed. I tell her about my experience of living in the US. A friend of hers is also there, near San Francisco. Sending her news and descriptions of an El-Dorado, a promised land. She sounds almost envious of her friend. "I've tried to get there", she says, "but the border is closed, really. It's almost impossible to get a working visa and I didn't really want to go there to work illegally." What a choice indeed. In France, as a EU resident, she has the right to work and study as she pleases. She has access to the national health care system. She can get in a train or a car for a couple of hours and be home. But she still cannot shake the feeling that she is missing out on America. That the real opportunities are passing by her. Nothing that I can say will change her mind. There is only one America.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another nice story. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area but moved away after college. I still long for it and have always wondered if it's just me longing for the past or if there is truly something special that draws my there.

5:49 PM  

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