Paris in autumn's still great

20:31, Nov 16 2012
nadia van der sanden
SMALL WORLD: Geraldine High School student Nadia van der Sanden met Labour Party MP Phil Goff, centre, in Belgium. With them is fellow AFS student Cameron.

During the past two weeks I have really come to understand the definition of "it's a small world".

You realise exactly how small the world is when you run into Phil Goff in Belgium. It is not every day that you run into another New Zealander, let alone a well-known and important politician.

Goff was in Belgium for the November 11 Day of Commemoration for the victims of the World War I.

The ceremonies were at Ypres, a town that was nearly completely destroyed during the war, but was rebuilt in its pre-1914 style.

The town is somewhat a touristic war memorial and contains the Flander's Fields Museum and the Menen Poort (Menins Gate), where the names of millions of soldiers who died in Flanders fields are engraved.

AFS Belgium planned a day for us to go and visit the town and watch the ceremony, as well as visit the museum.


It was also here where I met Goff. Cameron, a fellow New Zealand AFS student, jumped at the chance to get a photo and, fortunately, Cameron always has his New Zealand flags handy.

It is my fault that the flag is backwards in the photo. He did politely mention it to me after the photo was taken, and I told him it was fine, as long as it wasn't accidentally the Australian flag.

Both Cameron and I were slightly overwhelmed by the absurdity of running into him in Belgium. As I said before, it is a small, small world.

In other news, these last two weeks have also included one week of holiday, which was fantastic, because I went to Paris for several days with my wonderful host family.

To put it simply, I love Paris. There is just something so beautiful about it, even in the pouring rain and occasional hail storms. It just doesn't disappoint. Naturally, we went sightseeing, Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the opera, an endurance testing climb up the spiralling staircase of the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and much more.

We also went to the theatre in Paris. it was a Parisian dream come true going to one of thousands of tiny theatres, watching a play and understanding it was "magnifique".

Using the metro in Paris really is an experience in itself. The number of faces, bodies, of languages, smells, sights and sounds was awe-inspiring as well as disgusting at times (the number of germs).

I could not help but observe how tired everyone looked. Parisians and tourists alike, the exhaustion on all their faces was unbelievable.

Perhaps it sounds like a strange observation to make, but I realised while riding the metro that I didn't know what tired was.

All my life I have complained about how tired I am, but after riding on the Parisian underground and seeing what sheer exhaustion really looks like, I have resolved to drink more coffee and stop complaining.

At school this week we have had the soiree cabaret - a talent show without prizes. It was great fun with lots of hilarious performances and interesting dances. To summarise, I have only this to say - nothing beats Geraldine High School lip sync.

These last two weeks have been freezing cold in Europe, from hail in Paris to ice-cold wind in Louvain-la-Neuve.

I believe it has been about two weeks since I last saw the sun.

To put it briefly, I would love to return home for a few weeks just to catch a few rays of sunshine.

I must say, however, that I am really looking forward to a white Christmas.

The Timaru Herald