Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Today was (like most our days will be) very busy. We started the day at Marches aux Puces de Saint-Ouen - thats St. Owen's flea market. Its been there since 1885 and has some 2000 vendors. Mondays must be slow, because it wasn't that crowded. It wasn't a lot different from our swap meets, I was a little disappointed that I didn't see alot of antiques and French cast-offs. Mostly knockoffs and African prints and incense along with France souvineers at half the price they are being sold by at the monuments. This is a good opportunity to comment on an observation I have made. Paris is a very multi-cultural city. It is filled with African, Asian (India, Pakistan- not so much Chinese - I guess that's West Asia?) and Mediterranean immigrants - not to mention the gypsy scam artists. It is interesting how much the African immigrants still retain their native (or native style) dress. Not a lot of assimilation. Everywhere you go, you see hordes of immigrant street hawkers selling Eiffel Tower keyrings, scarves, wine at the parks, etc. Usually you hear a whistle and they scoop up their merchandise and take off being chased by the gendarmerie. The gypsy scam artists are also pervasive. Usually young girls in long skirts who "find" a ring at your feet and try to give it to you or show you a postcard from their brother in Bosnia who is coming to get them, but they need food till he arrives. There is also a contingent of Africans who stop you and try to tie a string around your wrist and sell it to you as a bracelet. They really don't like taking "no" for an answer. For all those though, I can see while riding around the city on the subway, there are many more who are going and coming from their jobs, taking care of families and trying to adapt to this new land. I applaud their hopes and dreams - it is, after all, an American dream (of course, not uniquely so) to strive for a better life. As I look at the history of this country and recall the ties to our revlution and their revolution, I am struck, not by the differences, but the similarities. When I saw the statue of Thomas Jefferson (who was also an ambassador to Paris for my history challenged friends) or John F Kennedy Place, when I hear American music played everywhere I realize how much we have in common. Its actually pretty cool.