21 Days, 21 Years, and Visa Delays

It’s Thursday afternoon in Paris, the magnolias and all the beautiful bulbs are in bloom — from the jardin des plantes (botanical gardens, where I ran yesterday morning) to jardins de Luxembourg (where the senate meets and I sat and read on Monday) to Pere Lachaise cemetery (not far from where I’m staying, and yes, where I paid homage to Oscar Wilde’s tomb yesterday). But first, some updates:

–I won’t leave for China until next week: my passport is currently back in NYC, since the Chinese won’t issue expedited visas for American citizens here.

–This means I’m all ready to go, finished with my briefings, finished with the last rabies and encephalitis shots, and furnished with an ice pack and a meningitis vaccination to take with me on the plane (can’t get that one at the same time as the others)…and now I get to spend easter week in Paris. šŸ™‚

Yes, there are worse fates. True MSF’s idea of a per diem (23 euros a day) does not cover the real costs of food and basic life here in Paris..but let’s face it, with them footing the hotel bill and kicking in that much, this is a great opportunity to improve my French and get to know this gorgeous city very well, much more cheaply than I’d otherwise get to!

Let me also admit the problem with the whole photo thing: I lost the darn USB cable for my camera. Somewhere between packing and repacking and traveling, it’s been lost or seriously misplaced, and despite long walks and visits to several computer super centers today, I’ve not found the right USB connection for my camera. So, sorry — even though I’ve now go some real nice photos of myself in Bordeaux, Amsterdam, etc., along with just some decent scenic shots…it’ll have to wait until I can find the right cable or get to China and order it from there. I truly apologize!

21 days: when I returned to Paris on Sunday, it was exactly 21 days after I’d first arrived here for the training course, and it was a great chance to observe what a difference 21 days can make! Paris itself had gone from snowy and wet to vibrant, sunny and full of flowers and people: kids kicking soccer balls in every free space they could find, families and couples and singles promenading along the Seine and through the parks…it was gorgeous! Then on the personal front, so much had changed in a way to let me enjoy it all the much more. From knowing no one in this city earlier, coming back now felt almost like coming home. I had plans for dinner with one of the friends from the course (Xavier, the guy from Paris, who should be off to Democratic Congo in a week); I knew I had work to do at the MSF office the following morning…and so on. It’s a cool feeling to come back to a city this special and new to me, and to have a job to do here.

21 years: the only time I was ever in China proper – or the mainland, as we referred to it when I was in Taiwan – was just about exactly 21 years ago this month. Without access to my journals (in storage in LA) I can’t verify the exact dates, but it was the spring of 1984. I spent time in Hong Kong, Canton/Guangzhou, and Macao…at the time only one of those cities was governed from Beijing, and now all three are. I look forward to returning soon, and seeing what’s changed and what’s new and how my Chinese has held up in the intervening 21 years. Interestingly, I will enter China at Guangzhou this time as well: the flight is Paris to Guangzhou with an internal connection to Nanning from there.

OK, I think that’ll be it for now. I have reading to do about the China projects, and more to digest from my briefings this week, but mostly I’m trying to relax, sleep, go to movies and plays to improve my French (saw one new release last night, and have another in 40 minutes next to Centre Pompidou), and do all the reading in French I can manage. So great to be using my languages again!

Love to you all…thanks for your messages on the blog (Mike Wong – I’ll try to write you personally soon, but hope you love that book as much as I do; and if you do, consider checking ou Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy…which I’m also trying to locate in translation here)…hope I’ll get pictures and word about the visa soon. šŸ™‚ Happy Spring!!!

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