My time in France is winding down quickly now and as my time winds down, another group of scholars and students is preparing to embark on their cultural exchange adventure. As the scholars and students from France get ready to leave for the United States, Fulbright provides them with a one day orientation before they leave for the States. I was invited to this meeting to sit on a panel with other scholars to talk about what research is like in the US and how it differs from that of France. Just as with my orientation in February, there are people from the US State Department and members of the Fulbright commission there to help orient the new fellows.
I was invited to a meeting that was from 2-3 the afternoon of the orientation. Paris is just a 2 hour ride from Bordeaux when using the high speed trains or TGV that race throughout France. I had planned to go by myself and let my son and husband enjoy one last Bordeaux summer day but my husband had to unexpectedly go back to the US. So my poor 10 year old son had to accompany me on work trip. To make it a little easier for him, I upgraded our are train tickets to first class tickets. It doesn’t get you much other than a bit more leg and hip room and a wide tray table but I knew it would make the poison pill of coming to work with me a bit easier to swallow.
The closest family members we have in Birmingham are about an hour away and when we were in Atlanta, they were about 3 hours away. We have never been in a place where we could just drop our son off at a relatives house in order to get to work and at the same time we have both had jobs that require us to be there in person from time to time. As a researcher, many of the times I have to be at work involve meetings, presentations, or conferences. So my adventurous now fifth grader has been to many a scientific talk. Luckily, there are many digital devices that make this experience a little more a palatable for him. I often catch him with his headphones off listening to me instead of his device. As a public health scientist (epidemiologist), this means he knew the words stroke, mortality, and nutritionally replete before he knew the worlds brain, death, and diet. He would dazzle other scientists with his knowledge of strokes types. Hemi-magic (actually the word is hemorrhagic) were strokes in which the brain got too much blood and ischemic were strokes in which the brain did not get enough blood.
We left our apartment at 9:30 in the morning after a stop at the boulangerie for breakfast breads and then hopped the tram for our quick 4 stops to the train station that would connect us with Paris Gare Montparnasse. We decided to get off the Metro early so we could walk across the Seine through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Rue Rivioli where my meetings were located in the Marshall Center. As a statue of Thomas Jefferson welcomed us to Paris on the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor pedestrian bridge, we were delighted to find the Seine was not flooded. My son has been to Paris 4 times in the past two years and has never seen the famous walkways down by the river because they have been underwater.
As we made our way across the Tuileries, we found a little carnival called the Fête de Tuileries. They had rides, games, and trampolines, everything perfect for a 10 year old boy. He was not thrilled to have to go sit in meetings with me but did it without complaining. He sat outside of the room with a security guard playing on his iPad throughout my meetings. When I came out the security guard told me how well behaved he was. I was proud and embarrassed at how well he is trained to sit and be quiet with an iPad so I can work. Oh the dilemma!
We went back to the carnival and passed the next 3 hours there. It was exactly like a carnival that had been in Bordeaux in February so he knew exactly what games he wanted to play and what rides he wanted to ride. The trampoline park was conveniently position in front of the Louvre and next to an outdoor cafe. While he jumped, I sipped on champagne and watched France come to a 0-0 stalemate with Denmark in the World Cup match. After his little legs were worn out, we had ice cream cones from Amorino down by the Place de la Concorde and watched people strolling through the park. The whole day was the perfect way for us to spend our last full day in France. It was exhausting and familiar to us based on earlier experiences. As we rode home that evening we were both contemplative and quiet while the train chugged quietly along the French countryside at sunset.