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!

Ready? Break!

And so it begins: this morning at breakfast was the last time all four of us will be together until December.

Our older daughter graduated last night and in a few days she’ll be off to spend the summer working at a camp she loves near Mt. Rainier. And that’s only the beginning for her. She’ll be attending Hawaii Pacific University—but not until January. Before that, she’ll spend the fall semester at sea, sailing from Nice, France, across the Atlantic Ocean, and finally to the British Virgin Islands. Her ship will be the Argo, a 112-ft two-masted staystail schooner. She and about twenty other students will learn to sail and scuba dive and participate in various aspects of running the ship as well as take courses in marine biology. What an adventure!

Our younger daughter will also be departing on her own adventure this coming year when she goes to spend her sophomore year at the Black Forest Academy in Germany.

And I’ll be leaving in a week to spend the next six months in Paris—the city that changed everything for us. This time I’ll be preaching week in and week out at Trinity International Church as their interim pastor. Be sure to visit if you’re passing through Paris! (And no, I don’t speak well enough to preach in French. It’s all English all the way for me. I’m happy when I manage to order lunch correctly in French!)

Merideth will have her hands full getting the girls to where they need to be as well spending some of her time with me in Paris. And she has some adventures of her own planned… like an upcoming Spartan race in Iceland!

 

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It’s only a 400-pound tire.

 

How did this happen? I can honestly say I never imagined our family would end up being spread across France, Germany, the Atlantic, and the U.S. I blame it on that year in Paris! No doubt about it, travel changes you, and it changes what you imagine to be possible. Undoubtedly, spending a year in France has made all of us want to spend more time overseas.

So, here we go, ready for new things in new places. It’ll be exciting. It’ll be a stretch. But before we know it, we’ll all be back together for Christmas… until the adventures continue.

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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Time to go back

It’s been a while since I posted here, but it’s about time to start up again. That’s right, I’m heading back to Paris for an extended stint.

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Sometimes a place gets into your soul, whether you want it to or not. True story: the first time I visited Paris in 1993, after all was said and done, I reflected on my visit and said, “Paris was nice, but I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.”

That was my first trip overseas, and other than brief trips to Canada, it was my first time out of the country. There’s a bumper sticker that says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” No kidding. I’d love to go back in time and laugh at my younger self. Little did I know—how could I have?—that I’d end up spending a year of my life in Paris.

Most recently I was there for a few days in February, and now I’ll be heading back for six months, starting at the end of June. The year there from 2015-2016 was pure cultural experience: learn some French… experience life in Paris… travel around France and Europe… eat a lot of pastries… This time will be different. I’ll be serving as the transition pastor of the church we attended while we lived there. The current pastor is retiring, the new pastor won’t be coming until next January, so I’ll be serving in the interim.

It’s been seven years since I’ve been in full-time ministry; since then I’ve spent much of my time writing fiction, and I’m finally close to publishing a collection of stories.

So: time to get everything ready for living overseas again. Time to jump through all the hoops to get another visa. Time to finish up this round of publishing efforts before getting back into ministry. And time to make another list of bakeries to try out. I can’t wait!

Movie time again

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Paris is a fantastic city if you like cinema. You can catch all the big new American movies here (in English with French subtitles) along with plenty of classics you’d be hard pressed to find playing in the theater anywhere in the States. Last night I took in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon from 1975.

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Lots of Kubrick offerings at La Filmothèque in the Latin Quarter right now.

I’m by no means a Kubrick junkie, but the best thing about his films is seeing them on the big screen. And for nine euros, why not? His movies are all epics, so at three hours, I was getting some good entertainment bang-for-the-euro (hmm, that doesn’t have quite the ring I was going for…). Especially compared to the mediocre cappuccino I had the other day that set me back 6€70–ugh!

La Filmothèque turned out to be a shoebox of a theater; perhaps 80 seats or so and a screen smaller than what you get at the multiplex. But it didn’t matter. It was a classic film, in English, on the screen, playing for a room full of cinephiles.

On Friday, Ridley Scott’s Alien will be screened at multiple theaters. Seriously: eight different theaters will be showing it! A tempting opportunity. Especially since I somehow missed it on the big screen when it originally came out. (Oh, that’s right, I was seven at the time.)

Cat sitting in Paris

When we spent a year in Paris, we missed our cat so much that we had to go to one of the cat cafés to get our feline fix. Now I’m cat-sitting for someone who’s traveling and I get plenty of time with a cat who absolutely is queen of the apartment.

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This lovely lady needed someone to look after her, I needed a place to stay: it’s a win-win. And it’s close to this nice view:

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And not far from l’Eclair, a place I enjoyed writing at a few times last year, and visited again this morning for my petit déjeuner and another pass through the hardcopy of one of my chapters. It’s one I proofed recently, but I still managed to discover a continuity error with the previous chapter. It’s amazing (and frustrating) how those crop up!

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Now: back to it.

Paris in spring

Last year, spring in Paris was a dreary affair: rain, rain, and more rain, clouds, rain, flooding, more rain… you get the idea.

(I wrote about last year here.) But this year we’re seeing the sun and blue sky… and cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms like we’ve never seen anywhere else in our lives.

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Strolling by the white cherry blossoms… but cherry blossom nirvana was still yet to come.

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On our way to the epicenter of pink cherry blossoms.

We met up with some friends who suggested a trip to Parc de Sceaux south of Paris, a park I’d never even heard of. (Paris has dozens of parks, so that’s not like a huge shock or anything.) When we were first making plans to get together, I figured we’d just meet for dinner and hang out; I’m so glad we took advantage of the beautiful weather and the chance to see the trees dripping with blossoms.

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Parc de Sceaux isn’t just cherry blossoms; there are big lawns–lawns that you can even walk on (not something to take for granted in Paris), as well as a fountain and huge reflecting pools.

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Once again, we could’ve never planned this on our own or likely ever found out about this park from a typical guidebook. It definitely pays to have friends in the know!

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Carolyn, cherry blossom princess

 

This city is… old

Nothing like buying tea from an establishment that’s been in business longer than your country has been a country.

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Since 1692? Yeah, they’ve been at this for a while.

We also had to wait for a military processional while trying to cross the street this morning.

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And took another stroll by Notre Dame…

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All in all, another great day.