Halley Knigge (Griffin)

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Anecdotes from Paris, partie deux: The generosity of the homeless

The other night I was strolling back from a movie at Les Halles, enjoying the warm evening and snacking on a half-full carton of movie popcorn. R and I are constantly overestimating the amount of popcorn the two of us will be able to consume, but are also unable to admit defeat. The last time we failed to finish our extra-large popcorn, R was charged with toting home the remains and finishing them on their own – this time, it was my turn.

Being that it was 1 am and Paris, it wasn’t long before I was approached by two homeless men with a dog. All they wanted were a few coins, but once you’ve lived in Paris for any significant amount of time you just don’t give money to people on the street. I shook my head, but held out the carton of popcorn with one hand (the other hand was clutching the handful I was about to eat).

The guys were smelly and chemically altered and I could see that they were hungry by the way they stared down into the popcorn I was offering, but they shook their heads and refused. T’auras faim, mademoiselle, il faut que t’as assez à manger (You’ll be hungry, mademoiselle, you need to make sure you get enough to eat). This struck me because I was clean and lucid, wearing a green dress and costume jewelry, iPod headphones dangling around my neck, and clearly not in danger of going hungry. But before they’d accept my leftover movie popcorn they had to be sure that I’d already gotten my fill.

I shook my head and assured them that I’d already had too much – I finished my handful of popcorn and shook the box at them again. Finally the one who’d originally approached me took the carton with a grin and a thank you. They sent me off with a Bonne soirée, petite mademoiselle! and a wave. When I glanced back a block later they were wobbling back down rue du Louvre, tossing popcorn kernels to their scruffy dog in between their own bites.

I was kind of touched that I had guys looking out for me who don’t even have kitchens to cook their own dinner in – I don’t care what anyone says, Paris is a friendly city.

Why I love Sciences Po

The first thing I always do when I get home for the night is check my email, so tonight I was delighted to receive one from Sciences Po. Usually I have an 8h-10h class every Friday morning, which is pretty much torture for a girl who loves to sleep as much as I do. Every Thursday I plan to go to bed earlier, and every Thursday I fail miserably.

I’d come home from nannying expecting to eat a quick dinner, maybe watch a little France2 and go to bed early – until I found out that my Friday 8h is cancelled for this week. Now a class cancellation is no big deal – it happens all the time when professors are sick or want an extra long weekend – unless your maître de conférence works for the Sénat and the Parlement européen and had to cancel class because of a last-minute trip to Brussels.

When else in my life am I going to be taking classes from teachers who have to jet off at a moment’s notice to rendez-vous for various institutions of the European Union?

Al Gore told us so
<a href=" http://iht.com/articles/2007/04/26/america/environ.php?page=2 High temperatures, and even higher anxiety, in Europe

It’s still only April and at 9:30 in the morning we’re already sweating in our second-floor Sciences Po classrooms. With temperatures that have been hovering in the 80s for weeks and front-page newspaper articles about global warming and climate change it’s becoming clear that this summer is going to be a hot one.

For the moment though, everybody’s too busy enjoying the sunny days to worry about the impending “Sahara summer,” as it’s been dubbed in European newspapers. As soon as the temperatures started picking up at the beginning of April the sunbathers began flocking to the banks of the Seine, the Canal St. Martin and public parks all over the city.

The largest demographic of sunbathers is the slim and ûber-tanned Euro men in Speedos who sprawl themselves in prominent locations right on the edges of the riverbank. They usually station themselves alone near bridges, but whether or not they intend to be checked out by the hundreds of pedestrians is debatable.

The next group is made up of the older but also ûber-tanned Parisienne ladies in bikinis. They usually set up camp in groups on a secluded bank of the Canal St. Martin directly below place de la Bastille and spend the afternoon chatting and reading on their towels, readjusting their bikini tops for minimal tan lines and occasionally pausing to lotion up again.

Finally you have the plain-old people, yours truly included, who spend their days off sweating on the riverbank, listening to music and sunbathing in anxious anticipation of the heat of the actual summer. Whatever happened to April showers? I feel like I should not be able to get away with a bikini in the middle of springtime in Paris, but the heat’s been such that you can’t wear much else.

Author: Halley (Griffin) Knigge

Storyteller and adventurer with a focus on new and social media. Ten years of award-winning writing and editing experience, eight years working professionally to share compelling stories through brand journalism, three years as an airline spokesperson, two years as a Tacoma Arts Commissioner and 30+ years of learning something new every day.

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