Whirlwind: Shanghai to Paris

Posted by Bao on Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

To relieve some of the emotional suckiness involved with leaving Shanghai, we lucked out and had defective televisions on the flight over to Paris, so we were moved into first class. Damn, have any of you ever flown first class on British Airways? They are like the ultimate lounge chair, with so much space and room that you can adjust the seat so low and so flat that it is basically a bed. I honestly don’t know how rich people can ever get bored.

The last person I heard speak Chinese was our waitress at the café in the airport, she spoke in such a cheerful and blazingly rapid-fire flow, like a happy auction barker cheerfully machine-gun-spitting our order back to us, that I was instantly charmed. I miss hearing Chinese, I miss being around Asian people and the unexplainable comfort of Shanghai, so much that when we walked about today in Paris, I wanted to introduce myself to every Asian person that I saw and beg them to take me in as their friend, their wayward yellowbrown cousin, fellow brother traveler, anything.

Our apartment is located on one of those narrow winding streets filled with cafes, boutiques, and hip people smoking cigarettes. The building is over 3 centuries old, and the room itself is a gorgeous loft filled with jagged and rough wood beams covered in a fresh coat of white paint, looking more like an exposed skeleton than architecture. The hardwood floors are pristine and gleaming, the walls painted a bright boisterous yellow, so these elements combined with the ragged wood beams makes the place feel storied and modern, clean and comfortable, cutting edge and cozy.

We spent all day filming and have already gotten an earful from various French citizens about the U.S. and Americans, though folks have not yet been as negative or unfriendly as we were warned they would be. We only arrived late last night and we’ve already spent a very, very long day filming, but it’s exciting that the opinions are already flowing so rapidly, that we’ve already gotten so much good material to pick through. It seems my role as ‘interviewer’ is a little easier here in France, as it has not been difficult to get long and honest critical opinions about the US from the various people we’ve spoken to, but a lot of that has to do with, I believe, Eurocentrism and ‘1st world’ conceits, not to mention the privilege of information.

On my solo walk this evening, it was hard to overcome the romantic feelings I got walking alone down the winding rainy roads of Paris, stopping into the cafes and boutiques, buying tabouli from the Lebanese guys who benevolently chastise me for speaking English in France. This city is legendary, I’ve been taught that it is the great city of art and culture, society and fashion. Then there’s the Viet part of me, that reminds me, these are the people that colonized mine, and then there’s the matter of the riots that happened here very recently. It’s all very complicated, I’m trying to stay open, and I’m more than a little bit anxious to see how this all plays out.

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