Sunday, December 05, 2004

Give the World a Coke

A few weeks ago I worked at a used book sale for the American Church in Paris. A college boy helped me that day and I really couldn't have survived the day-long sale without him. He was helpful and fun. So I told him I'd make him and a group of his friends dinner. Yesterday he and seven of his friends came over for some lasagna and blueberry crisp among other things.
Over a shared meal with the kids, who ranged from 18 - 23, we listened to them introduce themselves -- where they are from, what they are doing. Most were from the US.. California, Michigan, South Carolina, Maryland, Indiana, New York... one was from Canada and the last one from Germany. Some were here to goof off for a few months before going to college, some to study for a year, two came for a Le Cordon Bleu diploma and one to study at Sciences Po. It was a really interesting mix of people. What was clear is that they all expected their time in France to be life changing and I think it will be for all of them.
I never really understood what it was like to be different. I grew up an Italian Catholic in an Italian Catholic community. I went to college in NY with people from New York. I graduated with Political Science degrees and moved to Washington DC with all the other people who majored in public policy and political science.
It wasn't until I moved to France that I appreciated what if felt like to be different. Really different. I often think back to some of my experiences in the US....Now I have a better understanding of what if feels like to be the Mexican immigrant in the US who has their child translate for them (my son hates when I ask him to translate what an adult has said to me). I appreciate how frustrating it must have been for that Chinese waiter to say things to me over and over in English until I understood what food he was describing. It's difficult to empathize until you are in someone else's shoes.
Now I'm wearing those shoes and these college kids are too. There's a lot of misunderstanding in the world and I hope that these kids, with their year abroad experience, will make it a nicer, more understanding place to live. I was thinking of that song "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" while I wrote this. Sadly, the reason we probably all know this song is because it was a coke commercial in 1971. Oh well, I grew up an American consumer after all...

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:41 PM



While living in India for 6 months for my job, I learned really quickly what it was like to be a minority. Being tall and white, I stuck out like a sore thumb. It was quite a surreal experience.

When he was little, my partner used to have to translate for his French mother in California. I think it is pretty cool that one day your son will remember translating for you when you guys lived in France.


# posted by Anonymous : 5:08 PM  

when i was 13 my father moved us back to france (my parents are french nationals)where i attended the American School of Paris for 3 and a half years (1 1/2 years was spent at Tehran American School in Iran -- that's a whole other experience, let me tell you). anyway, i still keep in touch with a lot of my old high school pals and it's amazing how still after all of these years (i graduated in 1981) our time in france still has an affect on us and changed us profoundly. i can guarantee that those kids you met will never forget their time in france. (i remember going to the american church to participate in weekend activities with some of my friends. i lived in le chesney next to versailles and it would take me 2 hours to get there by bus, train, rer, and metro.)

by the way, when i was a kid living in the US, my mother used to speak to us in french IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE. talk about embarrassing. ;)

maryse http://morici.typepad.com/bag_n_trash

# posted by Anonymous : 6:04 PM  

Auntie M you so right. I grew up in Texas---where a large percentage of Mexicans lived. It's embarrassing to remember the many times I would think to myself...why can't they just frickin' learn English---they're in this country for goodness sakes!!! Well, after living in Paris for 2.5 years and STRUGGLING with the language daily, I feel confident to say I will never be so judgemental again!! I thought I would just "pick up French." Boy was I wrong!

The funny thing about doing an international tour is now I seem to flock to the foreigners. There are quite a few at my son's preschool. I think before I would have thought---ehhh, crazy foreigners. Now I think it's really cool if they are from outside the US, especially from Europe.

By the way, love the whole sacking groceries bit from a few days ago. I always thought Monoprix on Belles Feuilles was particularly bad. When I moved back here and I went to Whole Foods---they not only bagged my groceries, but double bagged the heavy items. Then the cashier thanked me by my last name. I almost fell over!


# posted by Anonymous : 7:28 PM  

One more comment about the bagging situation over there...... There is something to be said about the heavenly convenience of your groceries being delivered. I think you tend to buy more stuff over here (typically way more junk food b/c the grocery stores are 5x the size). So you pack it in your car and then you have to actually haul your 25 bags into your kitchen. I truly miss the days when Casino delivered my groceries into my kitchen, I tipped the guy a few Euros, said Merci and was on my happy way!!


# posted by Anonymous : 7:35 PM  

I lovced reading your post, 1. because I think it's great that you invited all those kids, I bet they really appreciated it!! 2. because I totally identified with it.

My parents often ask us to translate things, and we always get annoyed with it, but they always say: "remember a couple years ago, when you guys didn't speak English, we had to translate everything"-- Oh, how the tables have been turned!!


# posted by Magabe : 7:58 PM  

Jason, I was in India earlier this year. My daughter, who is a red head and me really stood out. But the people were really nice and friendly and welcomed us. I really liked India. I'd like to hear about your experience there someday.
CMAC, I will never be judgemental about foreigners again! I'm sure I will befriend non-Americans, like you have, when I return to the US.
Maryse and Magabe: Bienvenue to my blog!
Maryse, Sounds like you've had an interesting life. It's good to hear that you are still in touch with your French friends. I understand that once you become friends in France you are often friends for life. My son has some great friends and I hope they keep in touch with each other when we leave France.
Magabe, Thank you for your comment. I wish I understood more of your blog because I find the perspective of French people living in the US fascinating. I'll try reading your blog.. maybe my French will improve!

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 10:42 PM  

"Sadly, the reason we probably all know this song is because it was a coke commercial in 1971. Oh well, I grew up an American consumer after all..."

How is that sad? The writer, who wrote the song was stuck in an airport because his plane was delayed, noticed that a lot of people were gathering around a food stand and were drinking cokes, laughing and having a good time. And at that point in time there was so much fighting and division between people he thought it was really nice that these people were able to come together and have something in common, their love for coke. He wrote the song, gave it to the company they made a commercial, and then they sold it to other people who in turn re-wrote the song and made it into 'I'd like to teach the world to sing'... Sorry, I was just watching a little history documentary about the coke cola company.

# posted by Anonymous : 12:33 AM  

Thank you for passing on the information. I had no idea!

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 7:57 AM  

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