Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Life of an Eritrean in Paris



Whenever beautiful cities are mentioned, without a doubt Paris will be one of them. The beauty of Paris is unimaginable especially when you see the museums, the art galleries, medieval architecture cathedrals and antique buildings with your own eyes; it is beyond one’s imagination.
As once the French have said, “God opens the windows of heaven to see the beauty of Paris!”, I find this expression well put considering the beauty of Paris. But despite the heavenly view of this love city and the extremely seductive colorful river sides of Siene “ La Sience” (as the French would call it), Parisians are always tired of their busy life style. They either just want to be at home or they don’t have enough money to be spent on the fancy places that the city offers. Sometimes I think they just are saving to go on vacation beaches over Mediterranean or to the villages in France; “a la champagne”.
Life is very expensive in Paris, it reach to the point where sometimes it feels like almost everything is for tourists. One time I was telling an acquaintance of mine who is French about Eritrean life style back home in the City of Asmara, he was very surprised and said “ C’est vraiment bizarre d’entendre ça!”, which basically translated to “I can’t imagine going out every evening for a glass of beer.”
I remember the first time I set foot in Paris; it seems everything was so big. The train stations, the airports and the gardens were so beautiful and so big. Put in mind I am thinking in comparison to the small city that I grew up and came from. On the contrary I found apartments to be very small. Middle class People who live in Paris usually book cheap hotel rooms if friends or families come to visit them. However the rich and the bourgeois have an extreme life style and everything fancy starting from top models cars, fancy fashion shows, movie premiers, classy clothing brands, dinner at the Eiffel tower, you name it, is available in Paris as long as you can afford it. 
Considering life of a refugee, I assume everyone understands how hard it is to be a refugee in any part of the world. It was challenging for me especially in the beginning since I had to adapt to new society, different rules, new languages, new place and new mentality, even new gait and pace of walking since in Paris people walk fast and talk fast but not loud. It’s exactly opposite to the things I grew up too.
The first thing that got me was loneliness, being a new alien in big city like Paris will make any sane person experience extreme loneliness.  Even though I couldn’t make friends quickly, day and night I was forcing myself to get used to it and since I decided that I will not associate myself with any form of negativity and negative people I had to master to be on my own. It is not an exaggeration when talking about those things and I have seen its impact on people, I have seen a perfectly normal person turn to alcoholism because of extreme depression as a result of loneliness. 
Paris is perfect example of being lonely while surrounded by people, everything around you moves fast, and everyone seems like they have their life already figured out. Nobody has time to even say hi, just busy with their job and keeping up with the lifestyle of the glamorous Paris. This made me anxious at first, since back home, in Eritrea, life is sweet and slow. As compared to Paris everybody lives with balanced work hours, study time and hanging out with friends every evening, No one can’t do that in Paris, no one can afford hanging out over a sip of bear or coffee every evening. It is mostly seen people walking around with their hot coffee, foods, snacks, waters and other necessities in their bag which they bring from their home.
One thing I learned over here is the meaning of friendship. I can say with confidence that the meaning of friendship has remained in Eritrea when I came here. You can meet people here but they can’t be like the friends I had back home. Friendship, to Eritreans means supporting each other no matter the situation. But I find it a bit shallow here in Paris. Because every friend you make in Paris have an expiration date once the situation you met them change, for example if you make friend at school, then that specific person is you friend until you finish your semester or school, once the school is done you will never hear from them again.
Don’t want to seem like a skeptic person, but with everyone being busy and also the expensive living situation, people in Paris simply don’t care about friendship or lost its meaning over the course of the years.
But maybe since I am from a third world country, networking with people is the key to success, since resource are a bit meager  and the accessibility of internet is a bit minimal, everyone relays on old-school making connections and endless friends just to gather information about jobs or making business.
One thing I have noticed, people in France are very mindful on how they spend their money. Everyone have the habit of keeping all the receipts and do a financial auditing monthly.  It got me thinking how Eritrean are in the other extreme, by this I don’t mean Eritreans are careless about money, I am just saying that Eritrean would not hesitate to give money or buy anything for anyone who is in need.
Finally I would like to state that France is a land of opportunity, and based up on my experience I can’t find the right words to express my appreciation to the people and government for their solidarity and patience with ambitious refugees like me, leaving the part of over-taxation of working class who as result are living just to pay bills.
One intriguing fact I find funny has been why the French are smart and hardworking but lack sense of humor or don’t smile often, you are blessed with the most beautiful city in the world and have access to everything you need you have all the reasons to smile. It is exactly the opposite of where I came from, nothing is accessible or available but people are always smiling.
Despite the whole world’s criticism towards the French, I am in love with their culture and most of all I am so in love with their Gastronomy and wines.....


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