A Slice of Paris by liuqingyan


									                                        A Slice of Paris

     Ladies and Gentlemen, it is the captain speaking. My name is Csaba Kiss and I welcome
     you on board of our joint flight of MALÉV-Air France. The time is exactly 4 PM, our
     trip is going to take approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes. After take off we will turn
     around the airport and fly through Austria, Prague, Germany, Switzerland and
     Luxembourg on our way towards Paris. I wish you a pleasant flight on board of MALÉV
     – AIR FRANCE 554.

This is how I started on my first flight ever. Of course it wouldn’t be me if it all worked out as
simply as that. I am a bit on the overweight side, and the security belt wasn’t long enough, I
needed to ask for an extention to be able to buckle myself in. Although as I have mentioned
before, this was the fist time in my life to fly (before I have flown briefly when being thrown
out of jobs and apartments only…), I wasn’t scared for a minute, I enjoyed this new
        At the passport control upon our arrival in the Paris Airport the guard looked at me
with such a facial expression as if I had exterminated his whole family. It was raining hard,
the RER was not working, and nobody could tell us when it was going to start again. Boróka
Fehér moved every stone to find a way to reach the hotel. There was a bus that took us in
town for as “little” as €12 (per person!) – while the RER would only have cost €3! The bus
arrived about 4-5 kilometers from the hotel, so we had to walk for half the night. As I was the
shortest and fattest in the group, I got a good view of the back of everyone else. The plane
landed around 6 PM, but it was 10 PM when we got to the Hotel Agate, where more struggle
awaited us. Even though we had booked our rooms ahead of time, Anna Lovász and Géza
Gosztonyi had to use all their English and French to persuade to receptionist to let us in.
When I stepped out of the elevator to go to my room, the corridor was completely dark and I
couldn’t find the llightswitch – as the others were put in rooms on different floors. If I didn’t
have my pen-knife with me, also equipped with a small flash-light, I could still be standing
there in the dark. My room was good, by the way, but the shower cabin in the bathroom was
only big enough for pigmies, I didn’t fit.
        One day I was watching TV dressed in my underwear only (every room is equipped
with a home video system!) when the door opened and a huge but beautiful cleaning lady
came in. When she saw me in my shorts, she ran out. Later she came back to ask if I needed
something, but I told her I was fine (in Hungarian).
        One evening I was already in bed when Gábor Körmendi, one of the Hungarian group,
knocked on my door to say that the Spanish group had invited us to go out and have dinner
together – he also told me I should wash ma hair. It took us some time to find the restaurant,
but then we had to wait outside for at least an hour before we were let in by the maitre d’hotel.
You cannot just enter a place without somebody looking at you and deciding whether you can
be trusted or not! They also ask you how many of you there are and they march you to the
table. You cannot just wonder around by yourself. We were 12 and were seated at a table for
8 – we felt like the Chinese!
        The menu was in French only, so when they brought the food we had ordered, there
were some surprises. Gábor got a few pieces of small cheese for a lot of euros, Szabolcs
Sebestyén wanted fried chicken and got a piece of meat that was both cold and full of
feathers! I was lucky to receive a decent pish of lemony fish with three (!) bits of potatoes.
Pista Nagy spent the whole evening with two glasses of water, even though he had ordered
orange juice, which they didn’t have, he wasn’t offered anything else instead. He doesn’t
drink any alcohol. The highlight of the evening for me was Maica, a Spanish girl, who is truly
adorable. She was talking and laughing non-stop. When she introduced herself, all the
Hungarians started to laugh, which she didn’t understand of course, so Szabolcs had to
explain it to her [there is a Hungarian Big Brother “hero” with that nickname – the transl.].
        In the dining room of the hotel we could get breakfast for €6, but I didn’t like their
coffee. So I decided to take my coffee and morning drink in the café on the corner. When I
paid, I wasn’t really paying attention, and as I was walking away, I heard somebody running
after me shouting. It was the bartender, a young man. He didn’t give me the right amount of
change, and was running after me to give me my money. People are not this honest
everywhere. We have gone to look at a food distribution, which happens to take place in front
of a big cemetery (this is where Jim Morrison is buried). We stopped on the way in a nearby
café, and the owner charged us a three-fold price for our mineral water!
        I found it strange that the sun rises late, at 8 in the morning it was almost completely
dark. Sunday morning, when I woke up I went for a walk, I found the streets of Paris
completely deserted. I met a few maids on their way to work, and a few people walking their
dogs. I don’t know what French dogs do, but I didn’t see poop anywhere on the streets.

                                    The seminar and visits

I tried to put my time to the best use possible as I was sent to write a report about my
experiences. When the others were busy with other things, I went for walks by myself to
observe everything. As I don’t speak French it was a bit difficult, especially as most French
people don’t speak other languages. I got into an argument with one of my French fellow
journalists about this: he said that this is Paris where the official language is French so people
should speak that (or Spanish). I don’t know how he will find it when he comes to Budapest.
Géza told him I spoke languages he didn’t, for example Roma. Géza seemed amused at this.
Szabolcs, who is fluent in English also commented on the language difficulties faced by non-
French speakers when in Paris.
        We have seen many interesting things in the services we visited. First we went to a
service called “ANPE”, which was in a courtyard – there was a narrow gate leading to it from
the street. From the outside, it reminded me of a garage for planes, from the inside, a bit like a
prison. It was very clean and tidy. Before we entered I asked our guide if I was allowed to
take photos, and he said yes, but he would tell me later where it was not allowed.
        I took many photos until I was asked to stop. I don’t know what was such a big secret
that I wasn’t allowed take photos anymore.
        Mr. Xavier Vandromme gave an introductory speech of welcome, in which he
introduced the program and the services. He is the representative of the leader partner in the
French partnership. After his talk we visited the building and were shown what were the
different procedures in the various offices. We were divided into smaller groups. In “APNE”
they do many different services, but the main one is helping people to find jobs. They have
up-to-date technology and a huge database. They don’t hurry anybody into finding any job,
they make sure people find out what is best suited for their abilities and requirements. People
only have one chance, though, unless they stop their work due to health reasons. It is quite
nice to be homeless in Paris. There are services where users receive lodging and food three
times a day as well as a support called RMI which is €400 a month. Somebody even asked:
what is the motivation of homeless people to find employment?
        From this service we went to one called Agora, that was established more than 50
years ago. Here, as well as in other places, there are volunteers helping the work of
professionals. There are even some volunteers who had been homeless before themselves. I
was wondering how they were accepted by current users as well as the staff, but didn’t get a
direct answer to my question.
                                                                       Lajos Szappanos

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