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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday, week two

Yesterday the mosaic group was supposed to meet with people from Freres des Hommes (brothers of man) an international aid association which is one of the organizations sponsoring our project. They are planning both a photographic exposition and a space on their blog featuring our project, and had hoped to have participation from some of the volunteers. Beside Laurent and Lucille, though, the two leaders of our mosaic group, and me, none of the volunteers was interested. Folks were quite forthright about saying either that they wanted more time to visit places in Paris, or to sleep. And I can certainly understand. So did L and L, I think, although they were a little disappointed that not more people wanted to come along. So the three of us went by Metro to the Latin Quarter, where the organization's offices are.

There, we brainstormed about what we should feature on their blog, and came up with several ideas, including interviewing the volunteers. I'm very proud that my French is getting good enough that I can understand much of the conversations and even contribute sometimes. So a bit earlier today, after our mosaic work, I started interviewing people in our group about why they chose this project, and what they think about how things are going. I've done four so far, and will add some of the info here once I have interviewed everyone. It's been interesting; even though I have talked to everyone to some extent, I am having some different conversations with people.

This morning we continued our work on the mosaic. Things seem to be progressing well. I really didn't want to stop when it was time to clean up, and I wasn't the only one. We are working on small panels of the large mural, which will eventually be rejoined on the wall. One concern I have is how well the design will meld at the junctures, especially since some design elements are split by the separations. Not only do we have to pay attention to the colors so that they match, but different people have different styles in regard to how closely they lay the tiles, what size pieces they use, etc. Giselle keeps telling us we have to see the big picture, not just the part we are working on. She tells up to get up on the chairs periodically to get a better overview. On the other hand, she also keeps telling us how beautiful things look. She gives us suggestions, but also encourages us to use our own ideas and judgement. First thing this morning she told us each to work on a different panel than the one we did yesterday. I was at first dismayed. I had been working on an element that featured two faces in profile with pursed lips, as if ready to kiss. The original plan had been to use a neutral color for the backround that was kind of a blend of the two skin colors in the faces. Giselle suggested mirrored tiles instead for the background ( she had found a broken mirror that morning, so we cut up some squarish tiles, and it looked great. But someone else picked it up this morning while I worked on a mottled green background on another panel. I do think that Giselle is right, despite my initial disappointment; it makes much better sense for the whole thing to be a collective effort.

In the middle of the morning Laurent's phone rang with a call for me. It was my old friend Marie, with whom I went to school here many years ago. We've kept in touch very sporadically through the years. She lives a couple of hours south of Paris as she has for most of the time since I've known her. It's been probably 15 years since we've seen or even talked to each other personally. I located her on Facebook a month or two ago, and hopefully we'll be able to visit with each other next weekend. There's some community event that all of us are supposed to partici
pate in this Sat and I feel a bit guilty about skipping out on it. But I feel like I've been a pretty good camper so far, and hopefully no one will be too annoyed with me if I'm not here.

Today I am writing from our apt. rather than the Internet Cafe, which is a real treat. The cafe is only a few blocks away, and it's not terrible. But it is computers elbow to elbow, and some people talking quite loudly on them, as well as other people also talking loudly from the telephone booths surrounding the computers. Last night the woman next to me was talking long and loud to who I am guessing was her daughter, from the conversation and from my snooping over her shoulder. They must have said goodbye and blown kisses to each other for 10 minutes, no kidding. Then, just after they hung up they were back on the phone again. I tried looking over at her a few times just to indicate how loud she was being. But I also felt bad and wondered about her situation. Whatever it is, I am sure being separated isn't easy on them. At least computers might make things a bit easier. Or might it make being separated harder?

I didn't mention why I am able to write from home today. Freres des Hommes actually lent us a computer to use for working on the blog. And Laurent decided that my blog counted as valid use, I guess since I may use parts of it for the other blog, or at least provide a link. There is one computer at the house brought by one of the Spanish volunteers. Gorka is remarkably generous about sharing it, and it is constant demand. Half the time we can't get an internet connection, and people are always lined up waiting to use it. Even though many people use it for long lengths of time once they get to it, and most of the Europeans also have cell phones (mobiles, as they are known here) I still don't feel comfortable using it for long enough to write.

Ten minutes ago it was quiet here, in the late afternoon. Now suddenly the cooking/cleaning team has emerged to begin preparing dinner and are busy chopping onions and I don't know what else. I am not sure what the meal is, but I know it will be a Senegalese specialty. Omar, a friend of Paul's, has come over to cook for us. I must say that we have been eating very well. Our budget, which is 6.1 per person per day, covers plenty of good food, cheeses, etc. with money left over to cover some trips and admissions. This is truly Paris on $10 per day, including room and board! The cost to volunteers is $300 for the three weeks.

Well, in addition to the Senegalese dinner, I just heard there's a klezmer concert someplace tonight!

I think it's time to leave this blog and transcibe my interviews. I should at least do something truly related to the Freres des Hommes blog:

Til later.

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