Republique, Paris, France— As I got off my flight, I said my last Swedish word, tack. Thank you. Thank you for your kindness and your patience. The flight wasn’t so bad, although the drink cart kept waking me up. I was sitting in the aisle beside an older Swedish lady. We didn’t say a single word to each other, but at least we didn’t bother each other either. Not that I would’ve been able to sustain any sort of intelligent conversation in Swedish.
My first impression of France isn’t so good at the moment. As soon as I got off my flight at Terminal 1, I headed with my luggage to Terminal 3, where the train was supposed to leave. But it was literally just the train station. No money exchange, so I had to go all the way back to Terminal 1 to get Euros for Kronas. Got a solid amount and I stood in line to buy my train ticket. I tried to speak as much French as possible, although people responded really rapidly. The information desk was pretty nice, but the ticket vender wasn’t. As soon as I tried to get into the train station, the ticket didn’t work. I tried it on another machine. Didn’t work either. Tried again and again, flipping the card over. After asking a man at the information center, he told me to stand in line again tell the vender lady. Took 20 minutes to get to the front of the line. She said to me annoyingly that the ticket should work and that I should go try again. What a bitch. I usually never say that, but she was really the meanest person that I’ve ever met at an airport. As a person working at an airport, she represents this country and she being mean to me, especially considering that I was alone in a foreign country, not being able to speak the language, was not acceptable. In my home country, that would’ve been dishonorable and downright disrespectful. So I tried again and again. Didn’t work, so I went back to the man at information. « Pouvez-vous m’aider, s’il vous plait?» I pleaded. He asked me why the lady didn’t help me. «Je ne sais pas» I replied. Then I started to ramble in English, “I went back in line blah blah blah” and then he let me through. If I had only met him first.
On the train, I sat down in front of a nice American guy. He struck up a conversation with me. He was from Chicago, University of Illionois, to be more exact. He was backpacking through Europe because he had until August to do nothing. He had just spent some days in Iceland. He was headed to the same station as me, Gare du Nord, where we would split up to take different subways. He was going to Bobigny. I never got the chance to say goodbye to him because my ticket didn’t work again, but he was such a nice soul. Wish I had at least gotten a picture with him. He was officially my welcome to Paris.
The French people aren’t as receptive to foreigners as Swedish people so far. I hope this changes soon. I’m hoping that my impression of France isn’t like this the whole time. I guess it’s also partly because I’m trying to use my French around here and it’s frustrating to listen to someone like me.
Now I’m waiting at the hotel lobby for my mom and brother. They were supposed to be here about 30 minutes ago at the latest. I hope they’re all right. But on a lighter note, Pope Francis got elected! I’m watching it on TV right now— BBC news. And ordered a burger with salad and fries at the hotel bar. I got coke along with that. So expensive, though. But tasty.
Victor T. Paulsen