Despite what everyone told me before leaving, R and I have experienced nothing that could be considered anti-American sentiment. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Most people we meet are at first excited to practice their English on two girls from the U.S. and next excited that we are willing to practice our French on them.
With the exception of our chilly rejection from the community of people who actually have places to live, I feel like we’ve been welcomed into the country with open arms.
Thursday night R and I and another friend from UW (Christina) returned to the student-heavy Mouffetard area in the 5ème for dinner. We couldn’t resist the delicious smells wafting from Colbeh, an Iranian/Armenian food restaurant. Midway through some delicious Armenian wine and what was so far the best meal we’ve had in Paris, one of the cooks was dragged from the kitchen to play a keyboard and sing Armenian songs.
It soon became clear that our seranader was the father of someone in the restaurant, and we began to realize that, apart from our table of three and a British couple in the other corner, all of the patrons in the restaurant were part of a boisterous Armenian family. It only took a few minutes for them to start dancing.
Now, the restaurant was tiny. It was one narrow room, completely filled with tables exept for a small passage down the middle of the dining room. Within minutes, the passage was filled with semi-tipsy people doing authentic Armenian dances. The three of us were pulled from our chairs by a gray-haired man with hips to rival Michael Jackson or Mick Jagger and dragged into a shimmying conga line. Like a scene from a movie, R, C, the British couple and I were immediately part of the family, and we shimmied and danced through the restaurant for a good half hour.
Sadly, the three of us were pressed to catch the last metro train of the night, and as we left the restaurant, we were bid “bonsoir” with a collective wave à la Sound of Music. After a week of R and I desperate, homeless and lonely in Paris, this was like a bandage for our battered minds.
R and I plan to become regulars. On our next visit to Colbeh, we might even be brave enough to take a turn at the mic – though that depends on how much Armenian wine we’re first plied with.