(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
Paris cradles universes of sights, history, culture, art, music, stories and souls between her fingertips. There always seems to be something happening in her streets, canals and skies, and she plays host to them all with a grace and charm that never fails to bring her guests back for more. From Les Journées du Patrimoine (an annual weekend where hundreds of significant monuments and locations are open to the public for free) to Paris Fashion Week (there have literally been crowds of people running after celebrities in Jardin du Luxembourg) and La Nuit Blanche (the first Saturday of each October where after sunset, the city takes to the streets to celebrate contemporary art), the last couple of weeks have seen this city be saturated by a certain class of liveliness and festivities that would be hard to find anywhere else.
As for where I’ve found myself in this wonderland of things to do, see, hear and taste, here are some of the little adventures that have filled the last week (with photos below).
Last Sunday night, Jessie and Crystal (two friends from UNSW) took it upon themselves to introduce some of our European, American and fellow Australian friends to the wonders of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival and the cuisine that accompanies it. From homemade pork dumplings to funky-flavoured mooncakes, Jessie and Crystal put together a feast for us and we enjoyed quite the spread (and the Aussies also took a moment to appreciate the fact that it was actually mid-autumn here, rather than mid-spring as it would have been in Sydney, haha). My family isn’t really one to make a big deal out of this festival at home, so it was fun being taken along for the ride!
Despite my own innate skepticism regarding the superlatives thrown around by past exchange students, I’ll admit that what they say about exchange broadening your horizons is true. Conversations that night were filled with curiosity, humour and admiration as we found ourselves scrambling for the right words to describe the festivals, holidays and special occasions that are cherished in each of our respective countries and cities. Appreciation for the traditions and rituals that make “home” feel so familiar and special really does increase exponentially when you find yourself on the other side of the world without the friends, family and routines that have subtly formed pillars of your life over so many years. The night ended rather fittingly, as I exited my metro station to be greeted by an incredibly round, full moon casting her soft glow over Eglise de Saint Paul while I continued walking home with the crisp, autumn night breeze waltzing around me.
On my way to GBU Bible study on Tuesday night, I decided to bring my camera out with me and wandered along the Seine, where Notre Dame, Shakespeare & Company and Saint Michel meet. I’m convinced that dusk is simply a universally magical time and there was something unassumingly beautiful about watching people come to the end of a long day of work, sight-seeing or studying, while the city was herself drifting into a world of autumnal colours and crisp air.
Wednesday also marked the completion of my first assessment for the semester, which felt like quite the milestone! Friday then saw me finishing off the uni week at full speed, thanks to my six straight hours of class involving a 8am start for a make-up Israeli-Palestinian Conflict class (at least Line 4 of the metro wasn’t nearly as crammed as it usually is! #smallmercies) and an additional couple of hours meeting up with my partner for an assignment, after which I traipsed back home with a numbing sense of tiredness crawling into my periphery. The semester only really gets busier from here, so I feel like I’m looking ahead at what’s to come with a growing sense of preemptive dread and apprehension that my perfectionist self can’t ever seem to fully shake off.
After getting a good night’s sleep on Friday night, this weekend has been a busy one, with friends to be met, coffee to be sipped, errands to be run, readings to be read and events to be attended. Miri and I met up yesterday morning and had a lovely catch up over coffee and banana bread and also decided that we’d like to start meeting up to read the Bible and pray in French sometime in the next few weeks, so that’s something I’m really looking forward to. I also had the opportunity to have dinner with all of the UNSW exchange girls last night and we wandered down towards Hotel de Ville, Jardin des Tuileries and Musee de l’Orangerie to visit some of the different events and installations on for La Nuit Blanche. The air was definitely buzzing last night, as Parisians, tourists and everyone in between took to the streets and the Seine to enjoy the art, lights and nightlife!
All in all, the last few days have been a lovely start to October (*insert monthly comment about how quickly time flies*). I hope that October has been off to an equally lovely start for you all too and that those are home have been acclimatising quickly to the thirty-degree weather you’ve been getting (#ridiculous)! À bientôt x
“To think that before the hills were formed, or the channels of the sea were scooped out, God loved me; that from everlasting to everlasting His mercy is upon His people. Is not that a consolation?” (Charles Spurgeon)
Thank God for His kindness in blessing me with moments – big and small – of joy, thankfulness and encouragement to persevere. My church’s Bible study/small group was a particular source of encouragement and refreshment this week. In the process of thinking through how to apply Ephesians 1:7-10 (the passage that had just been preached on), we jumped over to 1 Peter 1:1-2:12 and spent the evening working through the nuances of Peter’s wisdom, rebukes and commands. It was rather novel, sitting there and discussing what it means for Jesus to be “la pierre angulaire” (the cornerstone), experiencing a warped sense of déjà vu as I saw ideas and questions I’d frequently experienced thrown around in English, happening in French. I often find myself in a strange place when doing Bible study in French – a strange middle ground where I feel like I have a good grasp of the passage and its nuances because of my capacity to recall the majority of what the passage says in English, while still struggling to approach it exegetically, because it can become easy to simply draw from my own knowledge rather than the French words right in front of me. As such, it sometimes means that my thought processes happen in a different order here (read the passage -> reconcile it with my memory of the English translation to fill in any gaps left by unknown words -> hear a question in French -> answer the question in English in my head -> translate it into French -> not actually answer from a direct reading of the passage in front of me). As such, my ability to wrestle with the trickier parts of the passage will often be drawn from my own knowledge, rather than from directly finding the answer within the French passage itself. Apologies if that made no sense whatsoever, but in short, I’d really appreciate prayer for the Holy Spirit’s help with understanding God’s word in French at a deeper level, humility to be okay with feeling incompetent at times and perseverance to grow in my love for and desire to study and discuss these passages, though it may feel foreign and hard.
On Friday evening, I hit an unexpected wave of homesickness and emotional weariness and ended up curling up with a cup of tea and reading through the whole book of Hosea in one sitting. Hosea never fails to stir mixed emotions in me. On the one hand, it causes me to feel deep frustration, hurt and confusion. The call to continually love someone so frustratingly unfaithful and rebellious makes me uncomfortable. And yet I love this book, because it reassures me that God will relentlessly love me no matter what. That He will come near in my mess, allure me to Himself, and speak tender words of forgiveness and love to me. I would have told Hosea to leave her. But I’m glad he wouldn’t have listened. Because how many times have I deserved to be forsaken? For how long have I rejected the call to be loved unconditionally? Since my first breath, born with clenched fists, I’ve lived in the shadows, in my idols and in the worth I find by giving myself away to temporary sources of satisfaction. How many times have I been an imperfect bride? I was a Gomer, and I would have left me a long time ago. But instead of moving on, God never did, for His grace covers me more than my mistakes ever could. Please pray that I (and you) might find my rest, joy and worth in Him.
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1-3)
Lastly, I feel the need to apologise for bring quite inarticulate this week! So sorry if this week’s post has been harder to follow – I’m effectively just forcing myself to click “publish” before the perfectionist in me wins out and lets this post sit in my drafts folder for an indeterminate period of time, haha. As always, thank you for your patience, love and care, friends. You show me Christ’s love in more ways than you know.