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Sunday, August 2, 2009

The party's over

Well, the project, anyway. And I have gone from being surrounded by a multitude of people, mostly over 30 years my junior, to being alone in a hotel room. It's okay, in fact I am ready for some time alone, but it certainly is a change. Yesterday, Saturday, we said repeated goodbyes to one or two people at a time, tears flowing increasingly with each departure. I was ok until Marina left, and I realized just how much being part of the group had meant to her. Then I started sniffling and wiping my eyes, too. Silja cried the most, uncontrollably, and everyone else was trying to console her. Now she is already back in Finland and has posted photos on Facebook.

Today I went first to the Louvre, then later to the Marche aux Puces. Please excuse my not using the French accents, I have so much trouble just remembering where the periods and other English punctuation is on the French keyboard; why on earth would the period be uppercase? and the a and the m are in different places. Then I have gone back and forth from Gorka's Spanish keyboard, which is closer to but not quite the same as the English. And who knows what I will find in Germany, where I head to tomorrow.

I spent four hours at the Louvre and still didn't see everything I'd wanted to, but I'd reached my limit. On the first Sunday of each month the museums are free. I'd planned to go to the Louvre for a couple of hours, then a second museum. Ha! At the museum I ran into Ji Hey, one of the volunteers from my group. Crazy! We were both looking for the same wing, on the second floor, but got totally lost and I finally gave up. What I enjoy as much at the museum as seeing the art is watching the people seeing the art, and seeing what they take photos of. I can't chastize anyone too much for the quantity of pictures they take, since I take a lot myself; mine are usually of incongruities or reflections or views though windows. One of my favorite things this visit was a large gallery of items being restored, the statues draped with covers, tools lying around, etc.

One of the temporary exhbits was of photographs of how they had protected the works before and during the second World War. There were pix of the Winged Victory of Samothrace being wrapped up, then slid down the staircase on a ramp of wooden planks. Nearly 4000 paintings were removed from their frames and taken away from Paris. There was a photo of a gallery of empty frames with the names of the paintings chalked on the wall were the painting would have been. There was a great picture of three men mopping the floor while two others carried in a huge empty frame, which framed the moppers.

The Nazis used several galleries to display the works stolen from Jewish collectors, and Nazi officials could come view and shop.

The museum was only closed from mid 1939 to mid 1940, but after that was open on a limited basis for several years during and after the war, with mostly sculptures, many too large and heavy to move, on display.

After the Louvre, I headed on to the flea market, or, as I commented on Facebook today, from the sublime to the sublime. I probably took as many photos there as at the Louvre, again , mostly of interesting, to me anyway, juxtapositions and incongruities. Went further into the meandering paths of the market than I had on my many other visits; even though last visit, four years ago, my project was only a few blocks from the market. It is such a combination of high end antiques, flea market items, new and vintage clothing, and shoes, shoes, shoes. Many African stalls with leather goods and Moroccan slippers, African pride t shirts, hookahs, incense burning, exotic music playing, etc. In places you could almost believe you were in a market in Africa or the Middle East rather than Paris. I bought two vintage tins from French apothecary products, surprisingly reasonable in price since so much else in the vintage realm is not.

A couple of visits ago, I was surprised by the numerous shirts with a Bronx logo; apparently rip offs of a French brand. This time I saw none.

Just before settling down here at an internet cafe, I had a quick supper at a pizza place which also served a variety of salads. My salad was avocados and shrimp on lettuce with American sauce: (read mayonnaise.) Other than the fact that I could have done with a quarter of the American sauce, it was pretty good. He asked me if I would lke some bread, and then brought out some very hot, almost toasted, pita type bread. It was for me an unusual but interesting combination. The decor in the small, largely take-out place, consisted mostly of photos of James Dean.

Now, back to the last few days of the project. Several days ago Sophie, who is French and who I met on the Ukraine project last summer, finally coordinated and got together. She is from Brittany, but has been working as an intern at the American embassy this summer, which has been a wonderful exprerience: It was so great to see her. She has been in touch with Shannon and Katya, both of whom will be working at the cemetery again a bit later this month. She has also been communicating with Marina from Cernowitz, who is now learning English. Marina is the Ukrainian student who joined us last summer and will again join the group this summer. She is the one who offered at the end of the project last year to maintain my great grandparents' graves. I don't know for sure if she has actually done so, but of course hope so. And now it sounds like she and I might be able to communicate a bit in English. There are also a couple of other CZernowitzers who would be interested in having Marina take care of their family graves. I don't know much of a possibility that would be, but since I will be visiting Christian in Germany tomorrow, and he will be going to Cz next week, it is a possibility.

Well, back to Paris, Sophie, and this year's project. I had hoped to have Sophie see the mosaic. Not only did that happen, but she wound up participating for a bit. Towards the end, we were hustling to get the panels done, and some of us were working into the evening the last few days. So Sophie and I joined Giselle, Laurent, Ji Hoo,and Ji Hey in plastering and scrubbing the panels.

We did finish in time, although it was down to the wire. We did the last of the plastering Thursday night, needing the time to let the grout dry. On Friday morning we completed the scraping of the extra grout from between the tiles, scrubbing the remaining grout from the surface, and washing with a vinegar/water mixture. We set them all against the wall and stood back to admire our work all lined up together. Then we cleaned the altelier, washing brushes, organizing the glass back by color as much as possible, sweeping tiny shards of glass from the floor. Some us chose a few pieces of glass to bring home with us/

A barbeque was planned in the garden of our other group. Paul had set up a grill and was cooking merguez sausages, which we ate in baguette sandwiches. There were chips, celery and carrot salads, and sparkling wine. Giselle, our mosaic specialist, several folks from the sponsoring organizations, the two teenage boys who have hung out with us a lot ( one of whom Gorka kissed on the metro escalator by mistake, thinking it was Mirjam behind him) and a few others joined us.

After the barbeque, we had a little time to rest before our presentation to the community, at 6pm, of the mosaic. This was an absolutely wonderful culmination of our work, and I will describe it next time, because I am very tired and wouldn't do it justice now.

I hope I will also find the time to describe a few more incidents from the group. And, note to myself, I must make sure to relate my encounter with the Lubovitch Jews who live downstairs from our apartment, and who invited me to their house and would liked me to have joined them for Shabbas the following evening. For now, I'll just say that they were friendly and inviting, but also more different from me than any of the 20 something volunteers from nearly as many countries. It also seemed qute odd to me that their native language was French, although irrationally so. I am sure it would have been an interesting experience to spend more time with them, had I had the time.

The next time I write will no doubt be from Germany, as I am heading there tomorrow at noon.

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