April 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


We ran.

One week after the horrific events at the Boston Marathon, Parisians and expats united to run a 5k called #BostonStrongParis in solidarity with runners around the world. An initiative launched by the Pavement Runner, also named Brian, the idea quickly spread. The idea was to do something beyond donating money or posting on Facebook, but to embrace the community in a real and human way, according to the Pavement Runner. Being helpless so far from home, I felt the same way, so I went ahead and registered an event for Paris. I figured a few people would be interested in Paris. Maybe 10?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


When I watched the Twin Towers fall on CNN in 2001, I didn't really get it.  I mean, yes, I understood that it was a terrorist attack and that people were dying, but I had only been to New York once before and my frame of reference was off.  Even though I only lived a bit over 2 hours from Manhattan, it felt like a foreign country.  Those images couldn't possibly be from my country.

The subsequent train bombing in Madrid didn't resonate with me at all.

And London, well, I just couldn't fathom. 

I didn't know these places.  I’d never been there.  Beyond the human tragedy, I couldn't really situate myself in those people’s shoes.  All I knew was that it was a horrible situation and that I would never feel entirely safe in a plane, train, or subway again.

Fast-forward to Boston.  It’s a city that I barely know, but just one week after the Paris marathon, it’s a situation I could see myself in, that I lived myself.  The clock, timed at 4 hours and 7 minutes as the first bomb went off during the marathon, hit too close to home.  I would have been at the finish line drinking my water and having a banana just as the chaos struck. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Marathon de Paris: Complete!

Cheer squad : Photo Heather

It’s time for the obligatory marathon recap.  After 42.195 kilometers and a bit (well, a lot) of pain, I got my tee shirt, rain poncho, and ever-coveted medal.  But more importantly, I made it all in a time that exceeded my expectations.

Considering that my last marathon consisted of drinking wine and eating oysters, I wasn’t sure what the Paris marathon would be like.  The wine was replaced with water (only water…) and one cup of Powerade.  The oysters were gone, replaced with raisins and bananas – no complaints here despite slipping cartoonishly on the peels.  And the group of jovial costumed fun runners was replaced with 40,000 hardcore racers ready to invade the streets of Paris.

And invade we did.  After briefly considering joining my fellow runners with a pre-run urination on the Champs Elysées – because how often can one do that? – I hopped in the corral with the other 13,000+ runners that hoped to complete the marathon in 4 hours.  In Medoc, we finished the marathon in just under 6 hours, so I may have been shooting a bit high. 

As we departed, the masses swarming along the Champs with the Arc de Triomphe behind us, the crowds began to cheer us on.  All down rue de Rivoli, past the Louvre, the Hotel de Ville, and through the Marais spectators hooted and hollered, waving signs and flags from England to Japan and everywhere in between.  

This really is the marathon in the most beautiful city in the world...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

First-World Problems: Getting Away

Getaway weekend...
Paris is wonderful, I know.  It’s a nice city.  It’s a dynamic city.  It’s a beautiful city.  But in the end, it’s a city.  For every fantastic baguette and art gallery there are panhandlers and pollution (among other things) that remind you that, yes, Paris – like any city – isn’t perfect.

The armchair travelers around the world read books and blogs with the bewilderment of a child at Christmas.  But they don’t get to see this side of Paris, the side that’s not blogged about normally.  They don’t feel the stress that’s lived or the guilt that’s felt telling a mother with two children “no” when they ask for food on the street.  They don’t always know the loneliness that comes from time to time realizing that, as an expat, you’re a constant outsider as an immigrant.

But some of us do, and we need to leave it.  “Why would you ever want to leave Paris?” tourists ask me while visiting Saint-Germain or the Marais.  Their observation is only part of the story – though I’d be a pretty unique tour guide if I took them to a Roma camp or to see the prostitutes at Belleville.  Because Paris is more than pastries and cafés, many of us need a break.  Call it a first-world problem, but even if Paris is an amazing place to live, like London, Berlin, or New York, locals and expats alike are allowed to be unhappy from time to time.