Monday, November 18, 2013
Saturday, September 14, 2013
with your smell of piss
It's not that I don't love Paris. It's just that it's been a while since I've "unromanticized" the city for myself. With experience and the help of somewhat depressing French movies, I didn't expect Paris to be the most romantic city. The first time I set foot on Paris it was a cold, rainy, and gray city. The fountains were frozen and turned off, the gardens were brown or bare, the air was so thick you could not see the Eiffel tower. I stared at the immense line of people under the most famous tower in the world, and I thought "There's no way standing in line for hours is worth it!" (it was -12C that day). So I didn't go up the tower... I didn't go up to be at an even more freezing top... Not even for the unviewable view that the city had that day.
That was what I got for going to see a city in January and think it would be fun to be walking around. I was there with a friend for New Years, and right around midnight on December 31st, somebody had pulled the emergency break in the subway, where I happened to be at the moment (on my way to the Seine river to celebrate!).
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about being in Paris. I like Paris. I love Paris! But Paris is a city, a big city with lots of people, lots of smells, lots of good and bad things, lots of problems. As I walk down the metro I think "How wonderful it is to have an underground transportation system!". But at the same time I am reminded of other things as I see people asking for money in these tunnels, or as I get a good big whiff of the smell of urine mixed with who-knows-what. The tunnels reek of it, the streets do too. I also read Paris was the city with the record of most metro tunnel suicides. As I was walking today, I saw a man walking in front of me "pull over" to the side to pee by the corner! It wasn't the busiest of streets, but there were many cars and people around, businesses, and apartments.
One of the first French movies that I watched was "400 Blows". This movie does a pretty good job at de-romanticizing the city. Later, I watched "35 Shots of Rum". Both movies have a greyish scheme, one about parent negligence and abuse, the other about the monotony of the life of a family in Paris. They show the plainness of living in a city like Paris, the problems, the human faces that live and work there. It's not the typical touristic Paris, with the beautiful gardens and romantic candle-light dinners by the Seine. Paris isn't shown as a magical, extraordinary place, but instead a rather somber one. The beautiful thing of these movies and is that they show the human faces that live in Paris. And more than the streets, the beauty, and the astounding art of Paris, I will take with me the stories of people, and the history of those who walked before me on these same streets.
Dear Paris, I'll think of your people and not of your piss.
Friday, September 13, 2013
She lived in Paris in the 1950s, where she discovered her passion for cooking. Author of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", she basically taught Americans how to do French cuisine. The picture below is one of the restaurants he used to frequent. It's close to the metro station Chatelet, and it's only about 15 minutes walking from where I live in Paris (Beaubourg). I also met somebody from the prayer group that works there, kind of a fun fact for me.
A fashion revolutionary, Coco Chanel had a pretty tough life from the beginning. At twelve, she lived in a convent and learned how to sew. One of my favorite feats of Chanel was her simplifying fashion. She managed to turn a trend of wearing elaborate hats that limited movement and required hours, numerous pins, and assistance to put on, into wearing simple and elegant straw hats.
The picture below is where her personal apartment was, on the third floor of 31 rue Cambon. It's still there, but it's not open to the public. Some of her first hat shops are all along that street, covering several buildings on that block.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906, Baker arrived in Paris in 1925. A performer, Baker was a dancer, a singer, and even a comic star. As black performers were popular in Paris during the 1920s, Baker went from being in a "comedic side act in a country ruled by segregation" to being "the highest-paid entertainer in Europe". She loved Paris and she loved France, and even helped in the French Resistance during World War II.
The picture below is where she used to live in her early career, an apartment on av. des Champs-Elysees #77. The second picture is the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, where Baker performed her "Dance Sauvage" when she first arrived to Paris.
*All the pictures above are pictures I took during my walks.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Elisha was called by Elijah, Elijah perhaps foreshadowing Jesus' call.
It isn't that we shouldn't bury our dead, or that we shouldn't take the time to say goodbye to people. It's that it is so dangerous and so tempting to look back. Then we are also tempted to say "Tomorrow, tomorrow I will follow you". Tomorrow comes, and it becomes today, and the present is always so full of things to do, things to bury, things to say goodbye to. It's like saying "Lord, I want to follow you, but before I decide to quit my bad drinking habits, I need to get drunk just one last time".
We shouldn't look back when we say yes to Christ, but it's never that easy.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Thank you Lord for drawing me here. You called me, and I finally made myself available, thinking I would see your face through others. Instead, you, yourself, pure and present, came. No one else was here but you, when I was expecting a group of people. Only You showed up. You were there, standing as I entered the church, waiting patiently. Waiting for me to see you face to face.
Here I am. I know it's not wrong to see you and expect to see you through events, people, and nature, but I forget sometimes what a blessing it is to see you face to face. And talk to you. And adore you. Thank you for calling out to me, like a good friend, for listening, for being with me. For waiting until I finally came to see you.
Friday, July 19, 2013
I see the people of the city, having breakfast, lunch, and supper at their little brasseries. I see them on their squares and by the Seine and the canals, drinking wine and beer, eating bread and cheese. Smiling, talking away, making out. Sometimes I just want to be an observer. Sometimes a feeling of discomfort and unpleasantness takes over me, and I don't want to participate. "I don't want to live this life, I don't want to live this way" - I tell myself, even though no one is pushing me to do it, to go participate. I want to meet people, I want to socialize, I want to learn how people live here. But at the same time I'm overcome by this somber feeling of fatigue. It's tiring investing in people, especially when you're the outsider and you're trying to break into a group. People have no interest in you, and they don't want to bother. There have been times in my life when I've had to fight this very same feeling, and as I grow older and experience it over and over again, it becomes harder rather than easier to open my heart and open my mouth to start a new conversation. So I just walk, quietly, to discover a new corner in Paris I haven't seen.
I read there was this romantic canal in Paris called St. Martin. Maybe if I was with my loved one I would think or feel it was romantic. But all I see is this filthy concrete canal with metal, exaggeratedly arched bridges. The buildings on either side look common and unimpressive. I've tried not to expect too much of Paris in fear I would be disappointed. But this time I decided to take the adjective "romantic" at face value and it hasn't been true to its respective noun.
Other days I've walked through "common" streets and been surprised. I gaze at 150 year-old "hidden" buildings, and I'm awed by the amazing architecture. I wish I knew more about the styles - I'm learning some... I've learned a little about Baltard, Hausmann, the Belle Epoque... and I want to learn more... I imagine Paris, France in its more glorious days, or in the so-called Belle Epoque and I sincerely believe that Parisians have a treasure of a city. There is so much art, so much beauty, so many vestiges of history that you can still see and touch all around the city. But then, in a more global comparative perspective, I think about Mexico in the 1800s. Why do we not have 200 year-old beautiful buildings? Why do we not have feudal castles and centuries-old churches? Why are there no palaces?
I feel proud after realizing that we would have centuries, millenniums-old temples if the Spaniards hadn't destroyed many of them. And who would occupy themselves in building beautiful monuments and buildings when they were busy fighting for their independence? Then, independence wasn't sufficient for peace, and Mexicans had to fight invasions from the north (the U.S.) and the east (France) in the middle of the 19th century. Architecturally, the most "sophisticated" construction pieces in my hometown of Tampico are some New Orleans-inspired balconies brought from Europe at the turn of the 20th century that adorn the buildings surrounding the main plaza downtown (Plaza de Armas). Not many people know about these, and they are certainly not one of the most impressive features of Tampico.
Then I return to the canal St. Martin. In my eyes, it's neither beautiful nor impressive, and I realize that maybe that's why it's so full of Parisians instead of tourists.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
When death comes to you
She asks for a friend
But you don't accept
The request you deny
Not yours to reject
But it was yours the hand
Which closed devil's deal
You just didn't know
You thought it would heal
But. it. did. not.
You said I will kill
The enemy now
So you closed your eyes
Swung the weapon around
You didn't see who
Was standing behind
The blade didn't miss
What you wanted to protect
As if mad, as if blind
The one you called friend.
Monday, June 24, 2013
3. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no walking stick, no sack, nor food, no money, no second tunic"
A few months ago, I reflected upon this passage because it really spoke to me. I've been wanting to share it since I wrote it down on a piece of scrap paper, so finally I took the time to type it out.
Being on a mission means taking nothing with you.
"no walking stick"
In my life, the walking stick or staff is something, someone to lean on. Thus, to me, leaving the walking stick behind means having nothing to lean on. In other words, it's leaving behind emotional stability. For me this is the hardest one of all, because when you are home, you don't realize how much support and stability you have. People hold you up (emotionally) and it's really easy not to notice until you leave your "crutch" home and then you realize how much emotional support was given to you. Going out into mission means that you might leave your family far away, that you might go to a place where you don't know anyone, or where you don't know many. It's humbling and it's hard to take that step because being "on our own" is challenging. Sometimes we want to put our full support on people, when really we should be able to let God entirely support us and lift us up, or at least help us walk without the need of an extra "walking stick". I'm not saying it's wrong to lean on people, but that God is calling us not to lean our entire bodies and entire selves only on people.
Our sacks might be filled with little treasures, material things, and comfort. We leave the comfort of our homes to serve... We leave the familiarity we so much love... like coffee in the afternoons, our nap time, maybe our social media life, or texting...
This is our backup plan, things that sustain us other than God. Trusting on ourselves for our own providence and sustain.
In regards to money, I think money represents trusting on our own strength, our ability to receive an income. In mission, sometimes we might need to give up our income to be able to serve the Lord.
"no second tunic"
To me this represents our future plans, the things we will cover our lives with. Not bringing it with us is trusting God will provide. God will clothe us, God will protect us, spirit and body.
4, Living like Pilgrims
"whatever house you enter"
It is trusting your life in community. We don't enter into the homes of those who do not welcome us or who do not welcome Christ, for example in circles that reject Him. We want to lead a community of believers, we want to "shake the dust", the bad influences, but we still "testify" with our lives. We just chose not to enter in that life style of living as if God doesn't exist. We chose to "shake off" our bad habits, and live in the life and community God is calling us to live.
Mary and Joseph foreshadowed the life of mission at Jesus' birth, knocking on people's doors, asking them to let the Messiah in. We still proclaim the good news. We still knock on people's doors, not for us, but for Christ.
Later in the passage, Jesus tells his apostles to take up their cross daily (Lk 9, 23), but that first they must leave it all. So we have to trust in the Lord, in his providence, before we even start our way to Calvary. We cannot take up the cross if our hands are full.
So I've come to this conclusion, which comes back to verse 3: being on mission means taking nothing with you.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
It was a night like this a few years ago when I first learned what a woman wants. It bore similarities with my current situation: I was with another friend and we were in Paris. Smiling and walking around, sometimes randomly talking to a stranger, or a stranger talking to us. We would demand what they had said, as many guys would sometimes blurt out something in French, something that with my little French I wouldn't always catch.
Finally, my friend got tired of laughing and playing around. At the end of the night, that's when she said: "these guys are just boys. I don't want any boys. I want a man." I was nineteen, not super experienced, so I asked what she meant. She told me you could tell when it was a boy or a man. That a boy would take a walk with you, sit on a bench (like we had just sat with a couple French guys earlier in the night, talking, flirting). "Boys don't want compromise, they just want to have a fun time. Men will invite you to sit down and talk, have a drink. They'll take the time to get to know you." I knew what she was saying was something more than that, but I learned from her to set my expectations high, because boys sometimes never grow up. From that time on I also asked this question in my head when I met a guy: is this a boy or is this a man? And secretly, though I was young, I wanted a man and not a boy.
Here I am in Paris again, knowing that I'm not looking for a man anymore because I already have one. I'm grateful because I know I'm so blessed to have found him, so lucky that he noticed me. I think about this as I remember what I learned in Paris a few years ago, how to distinguish a man from a boy. I think about this as I miss my man.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
It’s not a pessimistic attitude, but a surrendering. It’s surrendering the fact that something might go wrong, something out of my control, something I cannot change out of the blue. I make a recollection of previous “adventures” like missing a flight, losing my luggage, airlines not letting me board… And I’m afraid because I already know by experience many of the possibilities of what could go wrong when you travel. Even then, I know that I’ve been truly blessed, because the luggage that didn’t make it with my flight was shipped to my door; I’ve made it back when I missed a (short-distance) flight (though I got home broke, of course); and I’ve managed to board transatlantic airplanes even when Lufthansa has just about refused to letting me board their planes (somehow I’ve been good at receiving the worst customer service from Lufthansa the two times I’ve flown from Europe to America). In the end, things worked out. I went through some tears, sweat, and stress, but it turned out alright.
I feel a bit guilty because I know I should have more faith, I know I should have more hope. I trust that God will give me some because those I cannot get on my own. Even as my heart and my “security gland” stretch and pull from all sides for discomfort, I cannot do more than my best and put the rest in God’s hands. I want to trust, I want to think “all will go well”, but looking at my past experiences that would seem too naïve. Instead, I repeat in my head “something might go wrong, but I just don’t know what”. And it’s ok. You cannot prepare for everything (in life), but it is important to know you need to gather the strength to face challenges when they do come. Because you know they are going to come. Thus, I ask for your prayers and the grace of God, so that I can trust and live this experience fully. So that I can be strong when the challenges come. So that I can love, and give back from whatever I receive out of this far-stretched but necessary step in my journey.