Emerging

Hi folks, for those of you who don’t know, Momo and I just arrived at home in Kaïra Kunda. Apologies for not letting most of you know that we planned to travel. In all honesty, we didn’t think we’d be allowed to leave. I came here to post an update and found this draft that I’d begun right after the first “deconfinement”, the end of the first lock down in France. Now I’m continuing it during the second lockdown, only we escaped before the doors officially opened…

Just before the lockdown I remember I watched the news with Momo on TV from Italy and we thought that can’t happen here. And yet here we are, after almost two months of a very strict lockdown, Parisiens are finally let out of doors. As a Villejuifois, my one kilometer radius prevented me from going into central Paris until last week. I had missed it, but on the other hand I got to know my neighborhood much better. Furthermore it’s interesting to be in France as an American, but not as a tourist. That is, I feel more like a resident here now since there are no tourists. Now that I have the opportunity to go back into the city, I see it differently. Here are some of my reflections:

* Despite Orly airport remaining closed, I feel like I hear a lot more airplanes this week.

* There are still long lines outside of major grocery stores and bakeries. Both of these being deemed essential in France never closed.

* Close cafes but open florists. Difficult to smell the flowers with the mask on.

* New bike lanes, but they’re more like an obstacle course with trash trucks parked in them and motorcycles weaving in and out.

* Lots of people sitting on the steps of a church on a Monday morning.

* Two men doing Tai Chi outside of a park with blocked gates. I don’t know if they meant it as a protest, but it came across that way.

* Too much urine stains on the street with all those cafes and toilets closed.

And that was as far as I got. It seemed like life took off again at such a fast pace that I didn’t have time anymore for reflections, nor for talking with people at a distance. But the second lockdown – “lite” as it was – was already too stressful so when Momo’s restaurant closed without any plans to reopen until January at the earliest, we decided to get out.

Getting here was tough to say the least but so well worth it. For once (or at least once since a long time), Africa wins and seems to have largely avoided the virus. Other than the lack of tourists, life seems very normal here. And being here also feels totally normal. But that in and of itself feels somehow weird, like after all that’s changed this year since I’ve been here it should feel different right? But it just feels like home.

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