When in Rome…

…do what the Romans do, right? So when the burger joint gives you black latex gloves to wear while you’re eating, I guess you put them on and get to work on your burger.

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The place was busy, the prices reasonable (for Paris). The burger was good, although the bun was a bit dry (my friend said the same about his). And the gloves worked just fine.

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Hospitality

It’s good to be back. It’s good to come back to a place I’ve lived before, where I’m known and welcomed. Never before have I been met at the airport upon arriving in Paris, or been driven into town. Traffic was as thick as could be, but it didn’t matter; I was with friends. I’m all for seeing new places, but there’s something special about going back to old places and being welcomed like family.

I got settled in to my apartment (that is, I set my bags down; getting fully unpacked would have to wait) and soon headed over to dinner with some dear friends, and the most hospitable people I know. Some other Americans were staying with them, so I got to meet some new people. (I’ve had had dinner there a number of times, and I think they’ve always had some visitors staying with them.) So much good food and conversation—ribs and potatoes, and then six kinds of cheese along with salad, and then dessert with the world cup… it’s a good thing I’ll get a whole lot of walking in while I’m here! I managed to stay up till eleven in my effort to kick the jet lag, but then slept for eleven hours. Can’t remember the last time I did that.

Today was spent getting unpacked, walking my new neighborhood, exploring a new park, visiting old friends, getting confused and missing my first train (probably won’t be the last time), and meeting a bunch of people at an American style BBQ at some friends’ place. Burgers, pork belly, two kinds of sausages—it was a ridiculous spread. But we all got through most of it! (Hmm, they might be the most hospitable people I know as well…)

Hospitality is one of those quiet, underrated and overlooked virtues. And yet it means so much and can make such a difference. The last two days I’ve experienced the tremendous hospitality of people who make so many other people feel welcomed and valued and loved. On both occasions, people were gathered who come from or have lived all kinds of different places–Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, Guadalupe, France (of course), and all over the U.S. It’s true: come to Paris so you can meet the world.

Tomorrow: another dinner invitation. Once again it’s with the first family; this time they’re hosting another soirée for twenty!

Visa Fun

It’s that time again—time to get a French visa! 

And so last week, I made the trip to San Francisco for my appointment at the French consulate. I needed to turn in all the document for my visa application so I can be in Paris for six months starting at the very end of June.

 

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Saying hello to the sea lions in San Francisco.

 

There’s a consular agency in Seattle, but they don’t issue visas (and if you call them, the recording makes that clear in no uncertain terms). In fact, the consulate in San Francisco serves not only northern California, but nine other states and the Pacific Islands as well. Since I’d spent a year in France from 2015-2016, I knew the drill, but that doesn’t mean the paperwork has gotten any easier.

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Here we go: let the goodbyes begin

The best part of living in Paris? Without a doubt, it’s the people we’ve met and the friends we’ve made. The hardest thing about leaving Paris? Leaving those friends behind.

Our year in Paris has been a wonderful time of making new  friends: classmates and parents from the girls’ school, people I’ve met playing in a band, and especially those we’ve met through our church, Trinity International.

Yesterday was our last Sunday worshiping there.

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After our last service at Trinity, with our friends, Paco and Leslie.

And not only was it our last Sunday, I also got to preach the message. I hadn’t preached since we moved to Paris (other than giving a brief devotional at a missionary retreat in the south of France last fall), but it went well and I even got a few laughs from my jokes—and if I can get my teenagers to laugh, they couldn’t have been too corny.

(Just a brief aside on preaching in an international context: this was my first time having to prepare for a congregation that had a considerable number of people who don’t speak English as their first language. It meant getting my message ready further in advance than normal so that the French translator could prepare. It meant thinking through the language and idioms I use that might be a bit tricky to translate or that could be confusing to some people—because some might be listening who don’t speak English as their first language but don’t speak French either! All in all, it was a great experience.)

From the first, we were warmly welcomed when we found Trinity last fall. Right away we met other expats as well as French people in addition to people from every continent (well, except for Antarctica).

Obviously, simply being in Paris is a wonderful thing, but it’s even better when it means making new friends to meet for dinner, or coffee, or a picnic. It’s meant getting together for game nights, going for a hike, or having a friend to go to a museum with. The girls have enjoyed the youth activities, we’ve done a treasure hunt that took us all over Paris, and even got to go see the Pentatonix with another family. We were welcomed into friends’ homes for Easter dinner and barbecues and pizza night.

Who knew we’d meet such a great group of avid gamers? Terra Mystica, Blood Rage, Code Names, Dead Men Tell No Tales… We had no shortage of good times gaming.

Creative Nights at the church’s Genesis Center were a hit with the girls. I save my creative energies for writing and music, but I always had fun talking it up with other people.

Food–one of my favorite things…

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…and something that definitely brings people together.

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The fall retreat.

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Carolyn and me singing at Music Night.

Finding Trinity turned out to be another great opportunity for music. With only a year here, there was no time to waste waiting around; after feeling so welcomed, I quickly asked about getting involved in the music. Soon enough I was getting chances to play bass and even serve as one of the worship leaders.

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Most of our songs were in English, but I’m going to miss worshiping in French!

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Thank you for such a wonderful year, Trinity. We’re going to miss you.

 

A visit to a few French Châteaux

Just two weeks left of our year in France. Two weeks! The goodbyes are hitting hard and we’re notching plenty of “this is the the last time we’ll do this…” moments.

But before we go, we’re packing in a few more places to see. On Saturday we rented a car and strung together visits to three châteaux in the Loire Valley. Along with a leisurely multi-course French lunch, a visit to a medieval fair and plenty of driving through lovely countryside, it all made for a wonderful day trip.

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Château de Cheverny

We did have some adventures tracking down a gas station that would accept my credit card and got stuck for a bit at a toll booth that refused accept my card–sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t; it’s a mystery–but let’s get right to the good stuff.

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Bastille Day

More tragedy in France. This time in Nice.

Though we visited that beautiful city a few months ago, we were in Paris for the celebration of la fête nationale–or le quatorze juillet, as I heard most people here call it–or Bastille Day as we call it in English.

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Just before the show.

Security was tight. As we crossed the Bir-Hakeim bridge from our neighborhood to get to the Eiffel Tower side, we stopped with many others and considered watching from there. That is, until a solid line of police started sweeping everyone off the bridge. So we proceeded on to one of the entrances to the Champ de Mars, the huge park below the tower. For the past month it’s been the site of a huge fan zone for the Euro 2016 football championship and it’s been outfitted with no shortage of security: fences and checkpoints and streets blocked off and lots and lots of guards with guns.

We got to the first security checkpoint and we even managed to find a reasonably short line. Merideth and the girls got through without incident, but I had the bag with a bottle of wine. Sorry, the guard said, no alcohol. I couldn’t believe it. This is France–everyone brings their bottle of wine to the park! I’d even read an article that very day that recommended a bottle per person when picnicking in the park on Bastille Day–three bottles per person if you were going to be there all day! And we just had one between the two of us. Oh well. So we all trooped out of the security zone and regrouped.

The short version is I stopped fuming about the dumb security rules, we talked to another guard, learned the problem wasn’t the alcohol but the glass bottle, Merideth bought a bottle of water, we guzzled the water, transferred the wine, got back in line, and got through. But this time a different guard confiscated a couple of dinner forks from our bag and made me throw them away (sorry, landlord). We also had to unscrew and throw away the bottle caps from our water and soda. At last, we were in.

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Carolyn thought the antics with getting wine into the park were pretty hilarious. I felt like some college kid trying to sneak booze into a football game.

Not quite. After this came another round of security. The first was just bag check; now we had to go through pat down. We got through fine, even though the guy who patted me down felt the corkscrew in my pocket. I was sure it would be another casualty, but he motioned me on and I didn’t argue.

Inside the perimeter, the place was already swarming. We got there around 7pm and the orchestra wasn’t on until after 9 and the fireworks wouldn’t be till 11. We found a spot off to one side where it wasn’t as crowded and even managed to find some friends from our church already set up nearby.

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This was before it got really crowded.

Our picnic was great: we played cards, enjoyed our Mediterranean take-out, talked with our friends, and the fireworks turned out to be perhaps the most spectacular feu d’artifice I’ve ever witnessed.

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If pictures are worth a thousand words, well, then I’d need a few hundred thousand to describe the many and varied fireworks that exploded all around the Eiffel Tower and were even shot from it throughout the night–and all coordinated to music.

All in all, we had a wonderful night in Paris. That said, it’s truly heartbreaking and disturbing and flat out terrible that the celebrations in Nice were marred by yet another act of terrorism. But the sad truth is that even with all of our security, we can’t prevent every awful thing from happening. No amount of confiscating forks and bottle caps and making sure no glass bottles are in sight will prevent a determined terrorist from driving a truck through a crowd of people celebrating.

Some ask: how long will we have to keep living like this? When will it stop? Well, have you looked at history? Has there ever been an era free from violence? I don’t believe we can enact enough security measures to prevent any bad thing from ever happening again–and I wouldn’t want to live in the world that tries such a thing. Nor do I think arming citizens to the teeth will make things better.

Personally, I don’t know how people have hope in this world for violence and terrorism and war to actually, truly, permanently end. It’s all been a part of our world as long as people have been a part of the world. Does that mean we’re without hope? I don’t think so.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

That’s the only hope I have.

A glimpse of beauty

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In the midst of this dark world with so much pain and so much that is wrong, it is good to watch a young woman take an old man by the arm and help him make his way down the sidewalk. Halfway across a small square in front of a small church, they pause and he points with his cane toward an empty bench. She leads him to it and they sit down. They talk for a few minutes while the pigeons peck at the ground. Then they are on their way again. They walk slowly. She is ever at his side, matching his pace, holding his arm, watching his every step. And soon they are gone.

Three days in Provence

One of my college roommates is visiting us, and one of his priorities was to see Provence. A  very good priority, don’t you think? And as I’d never been down there, we were happy to take in a new part of France.

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Lavender! It’s all over Provence.

So last Friday we took the morning TGV (the fast train) to Avignon, rented a car and toured around, taking in a number of the towns: St. Remy, Les Baux, Gordes, Sur la Sourge, and Roussillon. We stopped in at the twelfth century Sénanque Abbey and visited a Roman bridge, that at 2,002 years old, made the abbey seem like a recent establishment.

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Highlights from the Doodads

It’s official. The Doodads have wrapped up their season of making music in Paris for this go-round. We had one more gig after Fête de la Musique last Tuesday–playing for the end of the year party at my girls’ school. That was a fun time, but really just a little coda to the great night that Fête was.

Here’s a compilation of moments from the evening. Enjoy!

A little night music

Forty days, including today, till we say goodbye to Paris; and the goodbyes are already piling up. I’ll probably be mentioning that a bit from here on out as we see people and places and experience things for the last time in this season of our lives…

What will I miss most about Paris? I get that question a lot, and there are a lot of things on the list. But right up at the top is playing in a cover band, easily the most unexpected part of living here. (You can read all about how it came about here.)

No doubt about it, a highlight of playing in the band has been all the different venues we’ve played: The Australian Embassy and the Paris Polo Club. The American Cathedral and the American Church. A few different cafés and restaurants. Indoors, outdoors, on a boat–and last night, at La Javelle along the banks of the Seine, a fun venue with food trucks, wood-fired pizza, foosball… and us. It was underwater not that long ago, but you’d never know it now.

Yesterday was the longest day of the year, which means Fête de la Musique, which means the Doodads‘ biggest gig of the year. And yeah, it pushed us to #6 on the Paris rock band chart on Reverbnation! (I’m sure Bruno Mars will be calling any minute now to ask us to back him up.)

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Getting ready to rock under grey skies. Only a few drops fell as the rainiest spring in 100 years gave way to summer.

We played a bunch of our standards, including Brown Eyed Girl and Psycho Killer, a few by the Beatles and Tom Petty, and even some songs my kids know, like Price Tag and Uptown Funk.

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