“Pardon, Pardon” uttered the determined sea of commuters on the streets of Paris. Other than that, they kept to themselves, and we kept to ours. It became clear that rushing businessmen weren't afraid to knock a few tourists from Georgia over. As we powered on through the mid-day crowded streets, our group kept a close hold on our valuables because we were taught to be aware of pick-pocketers. Some of us insisted on guarding both back pockets with both hands as if their butt had been set on fire. It certainly gave the rest of us a laugh.
â–º FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
“No lollygagging now!” shouted our English tour guide, in an accent that we all tried with little success to imitate. He was a tall bald man of about age 45 with hardly any facial hair and a cleanly shaven head. His English phrases never ceased to lighten the mood, no matter how serious he was. Nonetheless, we continued on towards our destination, hoping that nobody would speak to us because we were not familiar enough with the language to carry a conversation.
We arrived at a restaurant with a name I could hardly pronounce. It was astounding how quickly the buzz of the street turned into a mesmerizing calmness inside the restaurant. The lights inside were dimmed so that a warm color cloaked everything in a way that reminded me of the sunset. Meanwhile, a live, two-man band played an upbeat French song that resonated with noone. We sat, mesmerized by the atmosphere while the waiters brought our food. Not long after our appetizers were finished, two men cleared a few tables from the center of the restaurant. They began dancing in a type of ‘one, two step’ that caught all of our attention. As delicious as the entrées smelled as they came out, the majority of us were stuck in a trance-like state as the dance continued.
It was not long before one of the men held a striking glance toward us, motioning with his hand for us to come, knowing that we would not understand if he spoke it. In fact, they did not exchange any words with us throughout the process. They showed that we had to interlock our arms, making us more like a giggling chain of teenagers than anything else. They demonstrated that we had to raise one foot first, then the other, then shuffle to the right. At first attempt, we found ourselves stumbling over each other like we had spent the night tasting wine instead of dancing. Once we got it right the first time, the band increased the speed of the rhythm, forcing our legs into more of a tangle with each succession. We finished with laughter heavy in our stomachs as we thanked the men for teaching us the dance. Although they did not know the words, they understood what we meant. We were no longer strangers to the men, we were close friends. Laughing back to our seats, we finished our meal in a lighthearted manner.
“Jolly good time, eh?” joked our tour guide. We laughed in reply to this, but it wasn’t just a good time, it was a life changing experience. Those two men showed us that the sea of grim-faced, unsympathetic business people in the streets is not all that there is to France. In the heart, there is a soft, warm interior that welcomes all. If you are willing enough to explore the unknown with an open mind, there will always be someone to accept you with open arms.
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