A Farewell to Paris

by Terry Oliver on November 30, 2011

In a few hours I’ll be on the Eurostar to London and 5 days later I’ll be back in Vancouver. Will this really be  a farewell to Paris or only an ‘au revoir’?

Three months is not a long time to fulfill a lifetime’s dream but it may have to do.  It has been long enough to get over the feeling of just being a tourist and start to be recognised by some of the locals who now smile and greet me in the neighbourhood. It’s been long enough also to realise that at 75, my ability to become a  fluent speaker  in French will not happen.  So, unless I’m happy to be a wistful expat, forever on the outside of any meaningful discussion, it’s time to acknowledge, graciously I hope, that my dream of living in France is over.

For better or worse, I’ve chucked in my lot with the Anglo Saxon world and that’s where I belong. I’ve met many older expats in different countries and they live a strange half-life, neither fish nor fowl, not fitting in either in the host country nor back at home. That is not for me. I’ve loved my time here in Paris and although I haven’t seen everything there is to see, I’ve seen enough. I can go home to Canada content.

Three months in another country is long enough to distance yourself from habitual ways and attitudes and examine where you’re going with what time remains as a seventy-something. Another bonus of being in France, where philosophy is debated in the daily newspapers not just in the universities.

There has been time too, for involvement, if only in a support role, with the mostly young people in the Occupy Paris movement. My last trip up to La Defense, the heart of the financial and banking district, was to take coats, sweaters and art supplies instead of food.  Perhaps back in Vancouver, I can find a more active role and join the debate which has surprised our world by its plucky refusal to go away quietly. For someone who lived through the sixties dreams of revolution, it is heartening to see the stirrings of a new society, whatever form it may take.

Time to go home and get involved.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sheila Turnbull Reid December 6, 2011 at 12:24 am

I, on the contrary, loved the ex-pats. I envy them. Their stories fascinate me. Granted, most of them married into their situation but still, they’ve had to become French in their ways to make it. What I enjoyed most about them was their enthusiasm for Paris. They all seem to feel a little victory in succeeding to stay. Most of the ones we met had been in Paris for 20 or 30 years but some had just arrived, in retirement. They too were loving it. Struggling with their French….yes…but still ridiculously happy to just be there!

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