Monday, December 8, 2008
I am back in the place where I spent six months of my life living and learning in the French way. Yesterday evening I saw my French family and I feel so connected to them in a spiritual way. I feel connected in the sense that the familiarity of my everyday routine of being a student in Paris did not really come back to me when I saw them, but there was such a strong bond of familiarity, it was like I knew them from another life. Another life that happened so long ago, that sometimes feels like it never happened, but that I could not deny was what brought us together. *Carmen, my French sister, was 13 the last time I saw her and now is 19. I can’t believe it…I feel like when I left her house yesterday I was ripped away from her too soon before we got to catch up on how her life has been for the past six years since the last time I saw her. I cannot believe it’s been six years. It feels like ten or twenty. Because the sense of familiarity that I have, while there, still feels very distant.
Why don’t I feel like I’m back at home? Why don’t I feel the same as I did when I was here for the first time? Maybe it’s because I’m older now. Maybe it’s because my life has changed so much. Maybe it’s because my responsibilities aren’t the same, because I know so much more now, because so much has happened to me since, because I’ve changed so much since. Maybe it’s because the people who shared the experience of studying abroad in Paris with me are no longer here; maybe it’s because so much in Paris has changed that it no longer feels like a familiar city. Maybe it’s because of a lot of things.
But I know right now that I miss my French family. I wish I could have spent more weeks with them so that I could remember how it felt like to be a new American student living with a French family who welcomed me with open arms and treated me with so much love, adoration, and respect. I love my French family and for making me feel loved despite our cultural differences, for treating me like family despite that we began as complete strangers. I love my French family for making me feel like a part of Paris and for making this place home for me for six months of my life when I was only twenty years old. I love them and miss them and want to love them forever.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I left Paris today. Just as it was all starting to come back to me. The feeling that my footsteps have trodded this city. The feeling of taking the metro everyday, the familiar smell blowing from the vents in the street, finally finding la Rue de Fossés Saint Jacques and walking into the old EDUCO building (#26) as if I were a student there again, pausing in the square in front of the old EDUCO building and remembering how it used to feel to be there, passing by the patisserie with the red awning on the left, right next to the EDUCO building, and remembering how I used to buy sandwiches there with *Kris and all my EDUCO friends before or after class, walking down the street and remembering how to get to la Rue Soufflot, feeling the feeling of walking down la Rue Soufflot and seeing the restaurant Crêpes à go-go where I think we had crêpes for the first time, spotting The Phone House and remembering that *Christina and I met two African guys there who introduced us to the nightlife of Paris, walking down le Boulevard Saint Michel all the way to le Boulevard Saint Germain and remembering the time I walked for an hour from my house to EDUCO because of the strikes that affected the subway (that lasted quite a while), spotting the store Troifoisrien (3 Times Nothing = a dollar store) on Boulevard Saint Michel and remembering how I passed by it one, two, multiple times, passing by Gibert Joseph and remembering how I came to buy my school supplies there…
So much, so much came back to me today, it was really amazing. I woke up in Paris but tonight I sleep elsewhere. I know I used to live there. I know I have a connection to that place. I know that I was a student there who worked hard and took advantage of everything the French education system had to offer me as well as the wonderful city life that Paris had to offer. I know that there was a time that I hung out with a bunch of Cornell, Duke, and Emory friends and we walked, traveled, and pioneered across all the different neighborhoods of Paris. I know that there are memories that I revisited on this trip and more that remain to be re-awakened, such as the times when I would visit *Hien in his apartment right across from La Sorbonne and he would cook for me and we would eat and have passionate discussions on his balcony under the summer sun, his balcony which was so close that it felt like it was almost touching the roof of the Sorbonne. I know that it was all real. And I hope that I can go back to it again and feel like I did when I first came to Paris, with my heart open and ready to discover the world that was all around and inside me.
Things You Probably Wouldn’t Have Known About Denver (or Colorado) If You’ve Never Visited (pics below):
Driving up Lookout Mountain (elevation 7,379 feet) in Golden, Colorado! I have to say that I've been truly blessed in all of my travel experiences. My close friend from college told her friend from law school that I was in the area and within a moment's notice (ok, more like a few days' notice) her friend was at my hotel to pick me up and took me out on the town for a full day of activities in Golden & Downtown Denver - hours before I was scheduled to leave town. Thank you friend of my friend!!!!
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Life is a circle. A circle of events, and beginnings, and endings that turn into new beginnings.
A few hundred years ago – about 4 – a lot of Africans were taken from this land, this very land that I’m in, and brought to the “New World.” They became the African diaspora. We of the diaspora call this the Motherland. The image of Africa we revere is the Africa that stood 400 years ago. That is the Africa we know, or knew. Strangely however, strangely, things have changed.
I’ve never before felt of something and not of something at the same time. I know I have roots here. I know that someone in my bloodline walked on these lands and was of here, just like these people today are of here. I know this is so.
And yet, at the same time, I am not of here like these people are of here. They speak the language; they practice the customs – that I never knew. I never knew.
I am in Africa, nearly 400 years after the time that Europeans altered my history and made me a product of the “New World,” instead of being a young African girl who would grow and become part of a tribe.
This continent does not know me anymore.
Or maybe it just doesn’t recognize me.
I’ve come home, Mom. It’s me, Abena. Do you remember? Do you remember when I used to walk on your earth at dusk, eating my dinner peacefully outside with my clan? Do you remember how I used to play before they came and took me away? Mom, do you remember? And I know how much you yearned when they took me away. Your body ached; your soul cried, and you were barren for many, many years. As a matter of fact, you still have not fully recovered from the hundreds of years that they deprived you of your offspring. Your hard-working, productive offspring. They took the strongest, the toughest, the most able to endure hundreds of thousands of miles of Atlantic ocean and misery and disease and drudgery and pain and suffering and blood and tears and blood and tears and blood and sweat and beatings and rape and brutality and discrimination and racism and prejudice, and they took us all and tried to beat us into nothing, into slaves, into death – but they could not keep us from surviving. Mom, they took us away, but they could not kill us! They kidnapped us, but could not bury us. Mom, we’ve been gone for so long. I understand why you don’t recognize me. But it’s true; I am here! The last time you saw me 400 years ago, they took me through the Door of No Return, and they had you believe that I would not return. But Mom, they were wrong. Here I am, returned! After 400 years I proved them wrong. Mom, when I left, I did not die. I know you thought I was dead, but I did not die.
Ancestors, I don’t know how you did it. But one thing’s for sure – for anyone to go through what you went through, for anyone to endure the hundreds of years of what you went through without end…kidnapped, shackled, tortured, shipped, enslaved; kidnapped, shackled, tortured, shipped, enslaved; kidnapped, shackled, tortured, shipped enslaved…and the fact that you’re still here, in me, in my melanin, in my hair, in my face, and my eyes…Ancestors, for anyone to go through what you went through, and for you to still be present in me: I ask that you please lend me your spirit. Because with your spirit, I will never die; our life will never end; our culture will never cease; and our memory will never fade. Because to live will be the beginning of the end of a new life, that will be born and will survive the circle of events that occur in our history, that are yet to become the future of our present offspring, whom we have yet to know but will have always known when they enter this life, whether or not it be one thousand miles from where you gave birth to them, because they will travel and journey and wander until they make it back to the source of your stream. They will return in different form but will always be the remnants of your soul.