Monday, December 12, 2011

Peace and Love in Paris

I’ve been tip-toeing around this since my post about settling down, but today I have decided to come forward with the brutal truth: I am ready to go home.

Don’t get me wrong, I know what an amazing opportunity I have been afforded by being able to live in Germany. I have had dozens of beautiful experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life and my language skills have improved exponentially since arriving in August. I have met some amazing people and learned a lot about myself.

That being said, for the first time in my adult life I actually know what I want. Instead of aimlessly bouncing from one thing to the next I am starting to form a legitimate life plan, complete with career goals and a 401K (see, Dad, I’m not going to starve!). And I’m excited about it. Truly, genuinely excited.

And, because patience is not one of my many virtues, now that I know what I want, I am ready to come out swinging. I want to go after my dreams 110%. Only I can’t, because I am in Germany. And while I know that I should be living in the moment and enjoying my time abroad (and I do enjoy it), it’s difficult not to feel trapped. It’s a strange conundrum, to say the least.

Last week was particularly difficult. Perhaps it’s because the holidays are rapidly approaching and I am not too happy about being away from home, or maybe it’s because I worked several long days and never quite felt like I was able to catch up on my sleep, but either way, I was not in a good mood on Friday when I set out for the train station to catch a night train to Paris.

Even as I type this, I can’t help but think it makes me sound selfish. I was going to Paris to spend a weekend celebrating an early Christmas with Claire and Bre and I was in a bad mood about the whole thing. I didn’t want to deal with the night train, I didn’t want to haul my overstuffed backpack across two countries and I most certainly didn’t want to think about going back to work the next week. So, selfish or not, there it is.

My mood was not improved when I got on the train and discovered that I was to be sharing a sleeping car (6 beds in a sardine-sized room) with 4 strange men who smelled funny. Not only was I unsure about sleeping alone in a locked room with a group of men, but the smell was really overwhelming.

However, there are moments in life when God knows that we’ve reached our breaking point and He throws us a bone. So, when the conductor came by and explained, in German, that there was a free bed in the next car over, I was more than happy to move my things. I ended up sharing a sleeping berth with two girls who were about my age, and when the conductor explained that since I was a woman traveling alone he would rather have me sleep somewhere “safer,” I was genuinely touched. I have been on my own since arriving in Germany and so I sometimes forget how wonderful it can be to have someone else look out for you, even if that someone is a stranger.

Claire and I enjoying the lights of Paris
Shockingly, I had a wonderful night of sleep on the train and when I met Claire and Bre in Paris I was ready to go. We spent the next two days exploring the city, eating good food and drinking good wine—and of course, staying up way too late talking! Even though I had been to Paris before, it was fun to see the city decorated for Christmas and to explore it with two French speakers who actually know what they are doing (and how to navigate the Paris public transportation system!).

The most interesting sight we saw was the Paris Catacombs. In the 1700’s Paris’ cemeteries were overflowing and many churches had taken to burying the poor in mass graves. However, by the 1780’s the thousands of decomposing bodies had oversaturated the earth and were contaminated the ground water, leading to rampant disease. So, the graves were exhumed and the bones of some 6 million Parisians were moved underground, to the catacombs. The priests would move the bodies in the night, carting wagon loads of bones across the city while chanting prayers for the dead. Today you can tour the catacombs and see the bones. It is very eerie, but a wonderful piece of history.

Sacre-Couer-- "For 125 years, here day and
night, somebody has been praying to the Lord."
On Sunday afternoon before I caught another night train back to Germany, Claire and I went to tour Sacre-Couer, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which sits on the highest spot in Paris and overlooks the city. I have toured many famous churches during my European travels and, to be honest, most of them are so commercialized that they don’t feel very much like churches anymore. I was expecting the Sacre-Couer to have a very secular feel as well since, after Notre Dame, it is the second most famous cathedral in Paris.

However, the atmosphere inside the church was very reverent and I immediately felt as though I had stepped into the house of God. Voices hushed. Cameras turned off. Footsteps became lighter. Claire, who has also been dealing with her own major life decisions, and I spent a long time in the church, just taking it all in.

In the end, we each lit a candle and said a prayer and as I placed my little tea light in amongst the thousands of other already lit candles, I was struck by just how many prayers were said in that space each day. How many pleas, confessions and thanksgivings were humbly offered every hour. I thought about my own homesick, exhausted prayer for peace and, with tears in my eyes and a very dear friend at my side, I returned to the streets of Paris. 


  1. I hope time goes by fast for you and your home before you know it. Holidays are hard to be away from home especially when you are so close to your family. You're in my thoughts and prayers, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas in Germany, make sure you take lots of pictures. :)

    PS - you really should think about writing about book on your adventures - I would definitely buy one.

  2. I miss you!!!
    Love you forever and always!!

  3. I can feel the peace of God right through your writing. You are a blessing no matter what country (or state of mind) you are in. God's blessings on you my precious friend.
    Love you lots,

  4. Hey Christina! Stacy and I are debating what angle you took the Eiffel Tour pic from? What corner of the tower is this?

  5. So Ben and I worked on making a teleportation machine this past weekend, seeing all the intelligent science people in this world have yet to create one and we should be finishing it up next weekend. I will have to come visit first and there is only room for one person so I will send you back and be murdered by the German language but still experience the culture for a week so you can come home. :)LOVE YOU!

  6. Thanks for all the comments, everyone!

    Danielle, when you are facing the Eiffel Tower with your back to the bridge it is the right hand corner.