Thursday, January 3, 2013

Black Paris & Beyond - My French Life #3

 Serendipity and a Smelly Christmas

Let's kick off the New Year with a glance back at the year end adventures of our France-based contributors. Welcome to their world! This week: magical meetings, and Christmas with a smelly, French twist. 

You'll find each full bio at the end of this post.

Luna Vincent White  - Student

     I am seeing doubles.  One thing about living in Paris that is markedly different than living in Los Angeles is the incredible public transportation system that nearly everyone uses.   This system where traveling alone in cars is replaced by pushing through crowds of tons of people, many of whom have daily travel routines, begets a novel (for me) pattern of seeing strangers repeatedly. It is such a bizarre phenomenon to me.   

     I see the same girl with braids glare straight ahead of her with unfocussed mean eyes ignore people asking her for things.  The transportation system also creates familiar faces in the homeless people who make homes in the metro.  I feel so much more connected to the city here than I do in LA because of this.
Lots of unexpected moments in the metro - is that a Rodin?

       Nothing shocks me about seeing the same people in the same spots and the same times; it seems logical.  The magic of Paris and what makes me feel like I am “seeing doubles” is that I have had multiple occasions where I have seen the same people in different places throughout the city: café’s, streets, bus stops, etc..  

      Once, for instance, I met someone in a small clothing store near Forum Des Halles.  We had a brief conversation about cities, because they were traveling to LA soon.  One week later, I saw him in the metro pretty far from that store around ten at night.  I had an encounter even more serendipitous when I went out with a friend and met a guy who taught me how to partner dance like the French do.  It was really fun and he was very nice, but it was the kind of thing that is a good story, I didn’t talk to him that much or have any other interactions with him aside from the brief conversation and dance and I didn’t even know his last name.   

     About a week later I was waiting for the metro to open, having a hot chocolate with a friend in a café/bar at 4:30 in the morning, nowhere near the bar I met this guy.  I look up from my hot chocolate and he has unknowingly sat directly across from me on the patio with a completely different set of friends.  After my hot chocolate I say hello and then leave, but it seemed so crazy to me. 

In Los Angeles I feel like you meet a person once, you never see them again unless you have mutual friends.  Los Angeles is like a gaping ocean and people disappear into the darkness.  Even though Paris is so populated, it makes these magical moments.  I don’t want to sound cheesy so I won’t, but Paris really does feel magical after a while.



 Epee Hervé Dingong – Journalist  

will be back....


Anna-Karina Caudevilla, Associate of The Shackles of Memory                   

     The Christmas season has always been a rather conflictive celebration for me.  The birth of a prophet that has been turned into a social hysteria of consumption and decadence that only defines even clearer those who have and those who have not.  An awfully contradictory time, shamelessly void of all spirituality.  

     Hoards of people racing here and there, pushing, shoving, anxious for the base obligation to purchase, all the while passing by those who are destitute, living on the street and in more need of material comforts than the Christmas dinner guests that we do not even know and yet on whom we waste our time and money because it is not “proper” to show up with gifts only for some and not for others.  

Christmas market in Nantes

     These are some of the vast array of thoughts and sentiments that I have regarding the Christmas season, all of which are always enhanced as I am in the midst of Christmas shopping and everyone around me is pushing me, grabbing for articles in front of me, throwing all simple social courtesies out the window.

      This year’s spree, however, had what I like to call “a French twist” to it.  As I was walking through one of the outdoor Christmas markets that are set up every year in the center of Nantes, a sudden and horrible smell filled the air.  I noticed people quickly moving away from the direction of the smell, covering their faces.  Although the smell was ghastly, I continued through the market.  However, within seconds my eyes and nose started burning.  I stopped in front of a vendor and asked what was going on.  

The proposed airport near Nantes has provoked many protests

     They explained to me that there was a protest going on, not too far away, and that the cops must have thrown tear gas which was going to burn my eyes and nose for a bit but was nothing to worry about.  The non-chalant attitude of the vendors was fascinating to me.  

     Only a few days left until Christmas and the people are protesting, the police are throwing tear gas and “c’est la vie”.  As I walked back home that evening amongst the incessant flow of protestors, pedestrians, and shoppers (the tram line was down due to the protest and nobody knew when it would be up and running again), gifts in hand, I couldn’t help smiling to myself.  The French.  What a culture.


Luna Vincent White was born in Chicago and when she was eight she moved to Los Angeles so that her mom could pursue her dreams of writing for television.
 Luna goes to the University of Southern California, studying a combination of history and sociology to look at racism (hopefully) with a minor in cinematic arts as well as French. She is also studying film because eventually she wants to become a director, whose films encourage empathy and cultural understanding.

    Luna has always loved traveling, and because she moved so much through out her life, she has grown used to the feeling of changing locations a lot. She was so excited to travel to Paris and has taken French since high school. Her hope is to become fluent and perhaps understand a bit of how racial prejudice and xenophobia play a part in Parisian life.

Epée Hervé Dingong is a freelance writer from Paris, of Cameroonian origin. He graduated from the prestigious C.F.P.J.journalism school in Paris.     During his time as a staff writer and freelancer he interviewed a lot of Hip Hop and R&B artists from US, France, Holland, UK and Germany.

     His work appeared in different print publications such as Radikal magazine, Tracklist, The Source France, Musique Info Hebdo, Lady Caprice magazine, Juice Magazine,  to name a few. He has collaborated with American print magazines and online publications such as The Source magazine, The Ave Magazine, Mugshot Magazine,, and He writes about music, politics and social issues.

Anna-Karina Caudevilla is a native from Washington DC currently living in Nantes, France (north-west coast).  A long time traveler, insatiable  learner, Jane-of-all-trades and militant believer in living life creatively, she has set up roots in the United States, Spain and France.  

     Anna-Karina is currently finishing a Masters in Art and Cultural Management in Nantes which led her to discover The Shackles of Memory Association – Resource & Study Centre for the Study of the Slave Trade, for whom she is now an active member.


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