White stone buildings of exquisite architecture, streets full of people from all over the world. These are the bones and life blood of Paris. The noises of cars honking, people talking and laughing. The street vendors selling all manner of food and trinkets. The familiar signs of American company’s next to French and European shops. Restaurants with exotic cuisines. This is what makes up the daily life of a Parisian. The pride in language and immense appreciation of art and heritage are the French people. It was not only my first trip over the Atlantic, but my first time in a different country. It was breath taking; it was mind blowing; it was beyond words.
I was with a small group of kids from the French classes at my high school and our teacher. Our melange of travelers included kids from all walks of life in our large student body. This made conversations awkward and forced at first, along with causing some heated drama by the last day. Though once we could ignore the fact that we rarely talked to each other at home, we were able to experience the wonder and thrills of the city of lights together. Over the first couple of days we traveled the city by foot and metro, seeing all of the tourist hot spots. These included the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs d’Elysee, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and many more. We also stayed with host families in Lyon. It was truly an enriching and engaging weekend. Even though many of us stayed with families we could not associate with on the surface, the endless games of charades broke those boundaries as we talked and laughed into the long hours of the night. It was a tiring trip, but thoroughly satisfying, as I was able to participate in a unique and unfamiliar culture and discover a new way of thinking.
My new outlook started to form when, even though I knew I was no where near the first person to stand in awe as the Eiffel Tower dwarfed me and sent shivers of fear into my heart when the top of the structure swayed in the wind, nor the first to look at the ancient paintings and sculptures in the Louvre and tune out the tour guide for focusing all my strength into comprehending how the artists made such perfect strokes to capture intangible light, or how such hard stone could be molded into so soft of an expression- I still felt as if I was the first, because few of my family members dream as big as I do. They think of home, a high school education, and a job no more then a hundred miles from where they grew up- yet, I see myself boarding plane after plane, visiting countries from every continent and experiencing their unique cultures in our ever globalized world.
There was a spark of this dream, vision and view before Paris, but as I drove to the Alps with my host family, I knew that beyond those snow capped mountains and sparkling valley lakes lay Switzerland, and if we drove a bit further, we would see Italy, then the Mediterranean Sea, then Northern Africa…. The world and all it’s wonders were before me. It was an experience so enthralling I can barely comprehend it even now.
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