After breakfast this morning at the chateau, all of the student groups had a guest lecture from a French volunteer at Amnesty International. Before the lecture, I only knew of Amnesty International for the work they do in relation to human rights and their part in the fight against human trafficking, but from what I gathered from the lecture, Amnesty basically deals with the fight for freedom, justice, and equality for all...that's the overarching mission, but they fight against more specific issues like torture, physical abuse, and unlawful arrests and trials of others. While I think their overall mission is a noble one, there doesn't seem to be room for individual opinion. For instance, the volunteer said that anyone can volunteer for Amnesty International, but they have to agree with all of the views that Amnesty possesses. I understand that you want people with a common goal to have similar beliefs about the mission, but I don't believe you can get nearly 3 million volunteers worldwide to share the exact same views on multiple issues with zero percent difference in beliefs.
After the lecture, I went up and packed all of my luggage to prepare for the train ride to Paris. Since that really didn't take very long, I decided to partake in the activities of my group, which involved watching Talladega Nights. Now, anyone who knows anything about my movie interests knows that I am not a Will Ferrell fan, but since everyone was watching it, I decided to give it a try. Well, needless to say, my opinion hasn't changed. I sat through about 10 minutes and that was about all I could stand. It's not that I don't understand the humor, I just don't find it humorous. If I could have picked, I would have preferred a Jim Carrey or Steve Martin movie, but we really didn't have the time to finish a movie anyway before the taxis came to take us to the train station.
The train ride to Paris wasn't too bad, but getting on the train was a challenge in and of itself. People on the train were trying to get to the correct train car and people not on the train were trying to get on. Needless to say there were some collisions involving luggage, skinny aisles, and people who mistakenly thought that they were tiny enough to push past large pieces of luggage.
Getting off the train and on the metro was relatively painless, and to our great relief, our hotel was less than a block from the metro stop. So once we got our room keys and dropped off our luggage, we took the metro again to go to the Arc de Triomphe and get some dinner. What was interesting was the fact that once we arrived, there was a break dancing battle in progress on the sidewalk. We stayed and watched a bit, but those guys have nothing on the dance crews that are on America's Best Dance Crew. As we sat at a nearby restaurant overlooking the Arc de Triomphe, Dr. Herbel asked if we could imagine Hitler and his Nazi army marching through the Arc and through Paris during WWII times, and honestly, just imagining that scene and imagining what it must have been like for a French citizen to see, it just gave me chills. We go and see all of these historic places, these places of beauty and meaning to French culture, but it's moments like this one when you start to ponder what it must have been like when these historic events were taking place; the fear that must have been felt and the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not your future would come or if the world would survive another world war.
Throughout our dinner at the Arc de Triomphe and on the metro back to our hotel, I don't think we encountered a single rude French person. Unlike the stereotypical image that many believe to be true about the French, they were all quite nice and friendly to us. I even received a discount at a souvenir shop because I carried on a conversation with the girl that was folding t-shirts. Since I worked at Belk during Christmas season, I could relate to her pain of having to fold and refold when customers rifle through a neatly folded stack of shirts. So all in all, a pretty nice first day in Paris.
Tomorrow we have a full day ahead of us so I'm off to sleep!
Until tomorrow's update,