So this will be a super long posting as I have three days to cover in the time that I have left before “supper” here at the Taize community. The likelihood of this getting posted today is slim to none.
SO. Rewind to Saturday. On Saturday I was still in Paris and seeing as how my plan was to hang out with Zach and Erin Ward (friends from SPU) in the afternoon I decided to have a time just to sit in the park near the hostel and read my book and watch people walk along the Champs-Elysees. I did that, ate a baguette and generally enjoyed the sunshine in a nice park as I watched French people walk their tiny French dogs around. I chuckled a few times at the tiny dogs.
I eventually realized that a baguette would not suffice in terms of enough food for me. So I then went about looking for a grocery store. It was a long, drawn-out ordeal in which I walked through an open air market, looked at a fancy frozen food store called Picard’s (I mean FANCY), and then ended up eating sardines for lunch with some other things. Note for future reference: Eating sardines isn’t terrible, but it does require a fork. Otherwise you eat them with your hands…which then smell like fish. That is a bit terrible.
Either way I ate food and then proceeded to walk along the Siene river in the sunshine and wonder why I of all people get to be in Paris walking along the side of the river in sight of the Eiffel tower. It made me feel particularly blessed.
Then I met up with Zach and Erin. They’re super great. We went to this church on top of a hill overlooking Paris that’s in a somewhat more lively/sketchy neighborhood than where I was staying the whole time. It was absurdly hot, and it was the wine festival day for the only vineyard left in Paris. I got a free cup of wine, and bought a coconut macaroon…because they are delicious. Ice cream also got involved later on down the road as the three of us wandered through immense crowds and watched a parade of wine celebrants until an ambulance needed to go through the parade. The neighborhood we were in was great, the church (called the Sacre Couer—sacred heart) was super fancy, but again…I’m tired of seeing cathedrals and whatnot. Just gets old without worshipping in them.
Then Zach and Erin dropped me off (they live outside Paris while Zach gets his Master’s) and I headed back to the hostel. I also went to evening prayer with the Assumptionist (not Jesuit) brothers that run the hostel. It was great. Then I just messed around on couchsurfing.org really. Might have a place to stay in Marseille. That should be great. Suddenly I realized it was my last night in Paris. I was sitting in the hostel. How terribly boring! So, I asked Gavin Marshall via facebook chat what he thought I should do. He suggested go see live music. I was down. I found a place on the internet and went walking. However, when I finally got there, it was nowhere to be found. I was at the right address, but the place that claimed to play jazz music had disappeared. Deep sigh. I ended up walking around Paris stubbornly not wanting to just go to bed early for awhile, but in the end that’s what I did. Early=midnight, but nonetheless…it didn’t feel awesome. I would have tried to make new friends, but not speaking French made that a near impossibility. SIGH.
The next morning (the 10th) I woke up and went to morning prayer with the brothers again. That hostel is legit. You should go there. After morning prayer I was on my way out the door to go to church at the American Church in Paris where my new friend Laurie Wheeler is the assistant pastor and whom should I meet again, but Sophie the wonderful girl from South Africa. She was on her way to go shopping and walk about but asked if I would like to get coffee before I left Paris. That sounded great.
Church at ACP was really wonderful. The music was amazing, instead of clapping they said “amen.” So as to avoid the implication that the music was a performance. I was pleased. The sermon was about the reality of the world we live in, in terms of what Sin means and things of that nature. It reminded me of CS Lewis talking about the world as occupied territory and that being in church was a way of receiving broadcasts from allies. Super great.
After church Laurie allowed me to use her museum membership to see the Claude Monet exhibit next to the hostel. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. There were moments in which I was looking at a painting and decided I didn’t like it, but then l looked at it in context of the sky and realized that he painted it the way it should be…it was just that I didn’t like the feel of the weather that day. He has such a talent with water and reflections. I was extremely pleased and felt super blessed to see that exhibit. Seeing really great art is a gift. Hands down. Not that great of art is a chore.
I needed lunch then. There was nothing open…except for the less than 3 euro offer of Subway. So yes, sadly enough I ate fresh in France because I didn’t want to pay 14 dollars for small food and also because all the bakeries were shut on Sunday. Shout out to Tim Haley. Hey look Tim, there’s subway. The French woman at the counter gave me a bottle of water for free though, I think she appreciated my attempt to communicate in French.
Afterwards, I looked at the Eiffel tower in the sun on the river for the last time and then met Sophie for coffee. I really enjoyed that. She’s a very good question asker. I asked her about architecture school and whatnot as we chatted in one of those many cafes that Paris has EVERYWHERE. But it was a great conversation and it felt like the right way to say goodbye to Paris.
Then I got on the metro to Gare de Lyon (the train station) and got hit on by French teenagers. Which was flattering I suppose, though I wasn’t sure of how to communicate in my limited French that as a Christian I’m not interested in puttin’ the move on rando-calrissian young girls because that doesn’t honor the Lord or them. Plus it’s creepy. Instead I told them I didn’t want to be late for the train…which made me feel creepy still. Damn.
Then I got to the station, ate some bread with Nutella on it and then eventually got to my train only to realize that to board a TGV highspeed train, one needs a full reservation. There was just 20 minutes to when the train left and I wasn’t going to make it, but I asked a train guy a question about it and he took pity on me. Then his boss took pity on me and after looking at my Eurail pass gave me the “oh, go on.” Sort of wave. I got on the train! It was a huge blessing. Otherwise it would have taken me AGES to get here to Taize. As it was it took about 3 hours, but that was made better by a small French boy who sat across from me with his mother or grandmother. He was very entertaining. The sunset from the window of the train was gorgeous and I wanted a picture of it, but then I’ve been realizing that there are somethings that can’t be captured by camera…those things are just for me.
Eventually I arrived. Bells were clanging, it was dark, and a man in an orange shirt told me to go to evening prayer and then afterwards I would be welcomed. I walked into a church about the size of 4 gymnasiums filled with people. FILLED. I’m talking’ loads of people. It was incredible to participate in prayer that way. In taize one chants the same prayer set to 4 part harmony over and over again, it may sound tedious to you, but I tell you now that it is not. After prayer I went and checked in. Once that happened two german girls explained how everything worked to me and encouraged me to be a “contact person” for a small group. I thought about not doing it, but then realized that I am equipped to do that sort of thing…At first I went to the wrong building for welcome and the people asked me why I was there and I said “I was sent here.” I later clarified that it was by a man in an orange shirt, and then received the information that one isn’t an adult at Taize until one is thirty. Hmmm. But either way I think that saying I was sent here was the correct way of seeing it. I’m getting the idea that this trip may have been less my idea and more of God’s idea.
In any case, I then looked for a blanket…there were none. So I thought I’d tough it out in my jacket and some other clothes. Bad call. I was inside, so I didn’t die, but nor did I sleep much if at all. Eventually I woke up, took a shower, and then went to morning prayer. It was great as usual, then I ate breakfast and went to go see what contact people do.
AS IT TURNS OUT…there are rumored to be 2000 germans here. At least 2000 people right now, most likely around 1800 germans. So when I went to the contact person meeting it was in german and it was interpreted to me through someone who spoke English well enough. I began to think that I should have not gone for the contact person role, but brother George (who I saw on the bus btw) told me that I should still do it. After meeting there was bible introduction in which the brother had us read a passage and sent us out to think about it. In the passage, the Lord asks the disciples “What do you want?” that’s what I thought about as I walked along a still pond with a bridge through the middle.
After that it was prayer, followed by lunch, followed by song practice. I met a kid from Texas (on a german exchange program), sang songs as a bass among many other German basses, and then met with my small group as we discussed the questions given to us. As the contact person I’m sort of a discussion facilitator. There’s a girl from Holland in my group…and about 6-7 Germans. All these people are nice enough to speak English so we can communicate together. The discussion went great and I was really glad that I decided to be a contact person. I guess the Lord knew I could do it. After small group time ended, some of my new German friends were going running and asked me to go. Did I want to go? Yes.
We ran through the French countryside for a good while and had very pleasant discussion. One of the German girls reminded me of the song “Galway girl” that I heard in Ireland. That was fun. In general, they seemed to want me to come along on the run and made a good effort to include me.
I had thought that Germans were most likely a stoic sort of people. It turns out that they’re quite lively. It’ll be a fun evening!
Having a blast here thus far. Good suggestion idea from Jason Santos.
PS: Ben Troop, you’re never around in Europe when I need you.