Monday, June 8, 2009

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

For the full effect of this blog entry, listen to the audio clip here.

This American Life produced a show last January that featured The Most Unwanted Song on its show "Numbers." This song was created from a poll evaluating everyone's least favorite elements in music including, but not limited to, bagpipes, holidays and cowboys.

The song was amusing and cute at the time, but when a far too similar melody kept me up in the mornings this past weekend in Marseille, that charm was lost. At one point, for no clear reason, opera music played at the same time as unrecognizable hip hop right outside our hostel room window. The previous morning the most obnoxious children in the EU were released next door where they engaged in a screaming contest.

I mean, what is the deal? I expected the sounds of crashing waves along the Mediterranean coast to be the most invasive sounds I heard, not the chanting of devil children.

Regardless, the unfavorable window orchestra was only the grain of salt to a pretty spectacular weekend in the south of France.

For an inexplicable reason, port cities always seem to win my heart. And when you fill those port cities with French and Arab infused culture, you've got a pretty happy Jenna Bean. It was disorienting, in the best way possible, to be in a city that was so close, yet so far, from Paris. Street signs looked the same and the French language dominated, but the people and atmosphere hardly felt like Europe at all. Everywhere we went people were excited to hear the story of our semester. They spoke in French to us, slowly and patiently, and seemed genuinely eager to help us in our touristy quests.

You can only imagine the warm hospitality I received when I played the Palestinian card to the Algerian and Egyptian citizens of Marseille. I spoke more Arabic this weekend than I do at a typical wedding in Syria, and I loved it.

Every time I have gone on a weekend travel, I always return to Paris completely content with my study abroad decision. This trip wasn't any different, but it did open my eyes to certain elements Paris lacks. We walked through a non-touristy neighborhood that was completely covered in narrow streets, crowded buildings and colorful shutters. Kids played soccer and skateboarded in the streets and women hung laundry outside the windows. Imagining living with a family on one of these streets broke my heart, only a little bit, because I am more than positive that it would have been the extra warm, extra inviting host family I don't completely have here in Paris.

But after a money-saving walk to the apartment across the Bastille, Louvre, Concorde, Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, I won't even pretend to complain to be back "home".

PS - Courtesy of Miss Pastor, here is a glimpse of street life in Aix en Provence we were lucky enough to catch.

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