The lasting heat in Paris has rendered the city slightly unfamiliar to me, as well as most local Parisians. As we unanimously complain about the sweltering weather in class, our teacher further confirmed that “…we Parisians are not built for such weather.” Sunlight feels almost tangible. Street noises sound more irritating than ever. Even the once pleasant leaves turn glaring with an oversaturated green shade. Loud that is, the late coming summer in Paris.
As the sunlight grows increasingly intense, however, summer does not consist of endless carnivals or parties. A subject that I had always tried to avoid in my blog posts appeared ever so close to my daily life – the terrorist attacks. In fact, my rector once asked me before parting for summer, “You are going to Paris! Are you afraid, considering the November attack and everything?” Half thoughtless half self-encouraging, I gave her a No. Terrorist attacks however horrible seemed distant enough from me that I held but way-too-superficial sorrow and indignation for the victims. Not until the Nice attack took place did I come to full awareness that France has been in a state of emergency for months, and it would continue henceforth perhaps for a long time.
I was amid a large number of people celebrating the Bastille Day near Eiffel Tower. In retrospective, a slight and hazy fear bubbled indeed at the bottom of my heart. The powerful undercurrent of a huge crowd is always intimidating. Yet tracing back to the “No” I said to my rector, I went along anyway. The scene was doubtlessly wonderful. Shooting out from the Eiffel Tower itself, fireworks of various shapes made a grand feast of stars. People were exclaiming all around. In that extraordinarily joyous atmosphere, was absolutely hard to imagine that at the same time a truck was driving into the crowd in Nice.
A few days later, as I walked by a news stall near my school, a poster caught my attention with a caption “Comment vivre avec peur (How to Live with Fear).” Other than this, however, I sensed no great changes in everyday life because of the latest Nice attack. Our teacher mentioned but a little in class about the attacks. So did my classmates. If the whole Atlantic ocean seemed to be too great a distance, Paris is not close enough to make certain degree of “insulation” impossible. I find this state of calmness simultaneously baffling and soothing. I could still recall that after the Paris attack, a victim husband said, “Vous n’aurez pas ma haine (You will not have my hate).” People live on as usual and after all one could only comment, C’est la vie.
As for my French, it is hard to consciously detect much progress myself, but I begin to feel more confident going around and casually talking with someone. For the past week I have been to post office inquiring about a lost delivery, talked with customer service personnel and chatted with locals at cafés. Rather than an application that needs to be activated and takes time to warm up, French has become more casual and prompt to arrive for me.