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Sharing savoir faire

July 2, 2009

Back at St. Michel and the party in St. Séverin was running strong, though the wine had run dry, and some of the girls were fetching water from the sink to give to guests. The heat had lifted a bit, though it still smacked of sweat and stale air in the streets.

As we were coming home from the party at St. Michel, I heard a man asking another if he spoke English. When he replied ‘no,’ I stepped in and said that I knew both English and French. It turned out that the man was from Belarus and didn’t understand the train system. He needed to get to Charles de Gaulle Airport for an early morning flight. He saw that the other (who was from Vietnam) had a suitcase and wanted to get a taxi with him in case a train to the airport never came.

Hadrien and I wound up staying with them until their train come (as it turned out, only a few minutes after what would have been our train). I have to admit, I relish little moments like this, in part because when I first came to Paris there were moments I desperately wished for a bilingual city savant, so to speak. I might not yet be at this particular status, but Hadrien sure is, and between the two of us, we were able to lead them in the right direction. It is in these little moments that I like to think I’m in some way contributing to future foreigners who love Paris or just French language or culture, but who know little about the city workings. If everyone jumped in to help the people staring perplexedly at the departure boards, no one would ever be lost in Paris.

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