I would love to preface this blog post by telling everyone that I am usually pretty good (and safe) around fire, but after some reflection I have realized that I cannot say that. Most of my scars are from burns while cooking, and once I singed a jacket while standing too close to a fire…
But I digress. The title of this blog post stems from the fact that some of my friends have started calling me the “girl on fire” (cue the Alicia Keys lyrics) for reasons of which you will soon be aware.
The first: over our fall break (which was actually about a month ago now) I accidentally stuck some of my hair in a candle in a restaurant in Copenhagen. And just like that, fire! (And after, a panicked “oh my god, did my hair just catch on fire? Can you tell a difference? Oh my god”). Luckily, most (enough that you can’t tell a difference) of my hair is still with me and now it makes for a funny story. A great example of clumsy Anna.
The second: last weekend, when I was with some of my visiting Whitman friends in Paris, the “gilet jaune” movement was alive and well (8,000 people were protesting in Paris alone, to give you some context).
Quick explanation: The “gilet jaunes” are a group of French people wearing yellow traffic vests (yellow vest=”gilet jaune” in French) who are protesting the rise of fuel prices and now the French government in general. They wear yellow vests because you’re required to have one in your car in France, and so the vests symbolize the importance of cars and fuel to the protestors. But back to the story: the gilet jaunes were protesting in Paris, specifically along the Champs-Elysées street. For some reason that’s still unknown, my friends and I thought later in the day that the protests were starting to die down, so we decided to make our way over to the street to see if we could do a little shopping. Spoiler alert: this was a mistake. While on our way over to the street, in the middle of an intersection, we heard a bang. I turned, and came face to face with exactly what I did not want to see: the protest, very much alive and well, taking place in the street just adjacent to us. And here’s where fire comes in: the protestors were all throwing things into a huge fire that they’d made in the center of the street, right near us. “Um,” I started, grabbing my friend’s coat, “so I think we might want to start jogging in the opposite direction.”
And jog we did. The protestors actually started walking down the street that we were on, and as we were moving away we saw lots of people sitting at restaurants outside who got up, left everything and started running away too. Definitely an adrenaline rush! Luckily, this time I made it out unscathed by the fire.
Although it was a little too close for my liking, it was still interesting to be able to see (very) firsthand a protest in France, because I think that protesting is a lot more involved in French culture than ours. This semester, I’ve seen more strikes and protests than I have probably in my whole life combined–some on a national level, like the gilet jaunes, and others more local, like when the workers for TAN (Nantes’s public transit system) go on strike. There’s even been a few strikes at the local university, and I haven’t had class. And while strikes can impede daily progress, I think they’ve made me more aware of how many moving parts it takes to make a functional society, or even just one aspect of that society (and that I should try to be grateful for each little thing!). Strikes also remind me of how important it is to make sure your voice is heard (which, for us American study abroad students, can sometimes be hard to do in a foreign language!).
But enough with the philosophical stuff. In short: be careful of candles. But, if you do get a little too close, just remember that life’s too short to care about a little bit of hair. Also, if people are protesting, it might be a good idea to stay clear of the area for the day (unless you, too want to start being called the girl on fire!).
À (j’espère pas trop) plus tard,