Almost French - A New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

'Almost Australian' reflection on the book:'The Happiest Refugee' by Anh Khan

The feeling of being torn between two places. For an expatriate, the whole matter of 'home' is an emotional crossroad.
The feeling of being torn between two places. For an expatriate, the whole matter of 'home' is an emotional crossroad.
Australia is my actual home, where I am happy, it's where I live. But my birthplace is the home of homesickness and my history.
Australia is my actual home, where I am happy, it's where I live. But my birthplace is the home of homesickness and my history.
The road I left behind, a powerful whirlpool of family and friends, memories and daily trivia that I used to take for granted but now seem somehow remarkable...
The road I left behind, a powerful whirlpool of family and friends, memories and daily trivia that I used to take for granted but now seem somehow remarkable...
The insider-outsider dichotomy, making sense of your my home has been incredibly enriching experience, even if it didn't always seem so at the time.
The insider-outsider dichotomy, making sense of your my home has been incredibly enriching experience, even if it didn't always seem so at the time.
The expatriate experience makes you stronger, more adaptable, makes you more self-sufiecient and more humbling...especially those cultural misunderstanding...
The expatriate experience makes you stronger, more adaptable, makes you more self-sufiecient and more humbling...especially those cultural misunderstanding...
It's an experience that has left me fundamentally the same and profoundly changed.
It's an experience that has left me fundamentally the same and profoundly changed.
His dilemma about feeling Vietnamese in Australia and Australian in Vietnam resonates with me.
His dilemma about feeling Vietnamese in Australia and Australian in Vietnam resonates with me.
I might only ever be (almost) Australian but Australia is my home. After a long sea voyage without any sight of land, we finally reached our happy shore.
I might only ever be (almost) Australian but Australia is my home. After a long sea voyage without any sight of land, we finally reached our happy shore.
"Always question your fear, Anh. There is almost never a good reason to be scared." That is the legacy Anh has received from his dad.
"Always question your fear, Anh. There is almost never a good reason to be scared." That is the legacy Anh has received from his dad.
With the 'You can do anything' of his enthusiastic dad coupled with mum's caring, 'Look after those less fortunate' approach, Anh explored the shores of his new home.
With the 'You can do anything' of his enthusiastic dad coupled with mum's caring, 'Look after those less fortunate' approach, Anh explored the shores of his new home.
If the worst happened, if he lost and failed and someone else got the first prize, he still celebrated coming second even if he was left empty handed....
If the worst happened, if he lost and failed and someone else got the first prize, he still celebrated coming second even if he was left empty handed....
because he has given it 'a red hot go'. There was no need to fear failure in Australia. He was still better off that the most of Vietnamese back home.
because he has given it 'a red hot go'. There was no need to fear failure in Australia. He was still better off that the most of Vietnamese back home.
Anh inherited this incredible combination of self-belief mixed with an addiction to risk taking. He always followed the famous Vietnamese saying: 'There is now and there is too late.'
Anh inherited this incredible combination of self-belief mixed with an addiction to risk taking. He always followed the famous Vietnamese saying: 'There is now and there is too late.'
Sometimes it seemed like the universe was conspiring to break him because it hit him with wave after wave of misfortune....he absorbed all liquid and light and spaciousness of his new home and kept sailing on...
Sometimes it seemed like the universe was conspiring to break him because it hit him with wave after wave of misfortune....he absorbed all liquid and light and spaciousness of his new home and kept sailing on...
"Great, son! At least you know you are sailing near the edge of your capacity." His dad used to say and he knew that once he will have a home of his own in his adopted land.
"Great, son! At least you know you are sailing near the edge of your capacity." His dad used to say and he knew that once he will have a home of his own in his adopted land.
'The Cronula riots' in 2005 with a group of young men who got drunk, draped the Australian flag on their shoulders and began bashing anyone of Middle Eastern appearance. When the rest of Australia saw this, the wave of  disgust was enormous...
'The Cronula riots' in 2005 with a group of young men who got drunk, draped the Australian flag on their shoulders and began bashing anyone of Middle Eastern appearance. When the rest of Australia saw this, the wave of disgust was enormous...
He found the same thing to be true on a much smaller scale...every time someone made him feel like an outsider, his mates very quickly let him know...
He found the same thing to be true on a much smaller scale...every time someone made him feel like an outsider, his mates very quickly let him know...
He was very much on the inside...THE INSIDER-OUTSIDER DICHOTOMY is solved for him and me as well...
He was very much on the inside...THE INSIDER-OUTSIDER DICHOTOMY is solved for him and me as well...
' If you can dream - and not make dreams your master, if you can think - and not make thoughts your aim, if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same..."
' If you can dream - and not make dreams your master, if you can think - and not make thoughts your aim, if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same..."
" If you can loose, and start again at your beginnings and never breathe a word about your loss, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but none too much..."
" If you can loose, and start again at your beginnings and never breathe a word about your loss, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but none too much..."
" if you can fell the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, YOURS is the Earth and everything that's in it..." by Rudyard Kipling And - which is more, your life is worth living so peace be with you all...my fellow Australians
" if you can fell the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, YOURS is the Earth and everything that's in it..." by Rudyard Kipling And - which is more, your life is worth living so peace be with you all...my fellow Australians

Paris, through the eyes of an outsider ..


She is a newcomer,

a foreign one at that,

the regulars regard her with polite indifference,

thinking for themselves:

'No, non, non, does she really think she can become a real Parisienne?'

That Parisienne,

the sexy classicism of her look

in her smartly cut suit

using powers of seduction and sophistication

towards men in her life.


That French habit of collecting things

simply for their beauty,

Is that why,

French women's appearances

are subject to intense scrutiny.

Is there a possibility for them

to break out of this beauty-seduction-obsessed mould.


Paris at night

golden, pink skies

an intimate garden in violet shadows

the evening air smells of champagne,

couples fall into each other's arms.

Every skidding stop on his motorbike

and his schoolboy jokes

takes her by surprise


It is the scene,

the city and the man

she is succumbing to...

She is here to stay.


Moving into Paris becomes her dream

indulging in everything

from wine to chocolate,

to all the pleasures unseen...

unable to fathom her lack of control,

her French friend beseeches her:

“Where is the pleasure in having it all, at once?”


The essence of French elegance

is in a perfect balance

of romance and restraint


In this country,

history is everything.

Its people,

clinging to centuries old rules

and formalities

they know how to set a table

and when to smile.

The old ideas of power and class never dies.

Their place of birth,

the mythic rural countryside.

Growing up in a four-hundred-year old farmhouse,

strewn with family heirlooms....

At weekends Parisians are united

in wanting

to recapture their idyllic childhoods

by visiting their idolised places of past.


In France

education

is about filling heads with facts,

not having fun.

No-one is admired for simply 'having a go',

You don't have the right to make mistakes,

the friends you make at school,

who strived with you to succeed,

having experienced the humiliation of failure,

with you many times,

they remain your mates for life.

And yet the French are undeniably proud

of their French flaws:

'We are all whiners,

too individualistic, hopeless with foreign languages,

hypochondriacs,'

they laugh.


She looks up from the Proust's

legendary page long sentences

confused with the French language

with its multitude of possibilities and doubts.

Her gaze wonders out of the window,

where

nature is preparing

for its long confinement,

chestnuts will soon fill the city's gutters,

petals fall with a slow grace,

leaves are curling, dying.

She feels spent too,

but not the French.

After their long summer holidays

Rested and revived, they are ready,

not for work

but for a nation-wide movement,

uniting the variously disgruntled-students,

teachers and other employers..

They march down the streets

in happy singing parades

which radiate camaraderie.

Other Parisians,

passing by,

usually maniacal with rage,

are calm, sympathetic.

Resigned to wait and wait,

for buses and trains to run again.


Everything worthwhile

takes time in France.


Her Frenchman gestures

towards the rats and rubbish,

' You wanted the real Paris?'

The darkness makes the staircase

looks even more grubby and grim.

It is a spiral of dark doorways and dramatic shadows.

She counts every torturous step,

then,

opening the door to a beautiful landing.

She realised,

The French like their salons spotless, ever ready to receive guests.


The city is a testament to civilisation.

Breathtaking beauty of these old streets is moving.

Such like

the perfectly preserved

architectural masterpieces around her

she is expected

to try to look perfect all the time.

In France vanity is not a vice.

it's mark of self pride.

Everyone lives in fear of humiliation,

it is about being brilliant,

everyone wants to shine.

One moment, living here,

her spirit soar,

adoring those cultivated people

with their culinary and aesthetic perfections.

The next moment,

she is thinking terrible thoughts,

'About how Paris would be perfect

if it weren't for Parisians.'


History and traditions,

passion and beauty,

art and inspiration,

everything that makes Paris

a measure of civilised life

is there,

and yet,

the French cling stubbornly to the idea

that their nation

is everything but multicultural.


Finally, she swapped the Proust

with another book,

'Sarah's Key' by Tatiana de Rosnay

about the notorious Vel d'Hiv round up,

which took place in Paris in 1942,

with its thousands of Jewish occupants

being dispossessed and deported to concentration camps,

not by Germans but by their fellow neighbours Parisians.

Wondering through the infamous streets,

she stopped in front of the 'Ministry of Justice'

built there instead

and seeing irony in it,

she asked herself:

'How this could happened in this old city,

the city of the French revolution,

the first defender of the human rights?'

She looked for the answer

and turning around

she caught sad eyes

of a little Frenchman,

the child of an East African immigrants,

who was selling daily paper with a big headline:

'Parisians are now sounding the alarm:

the centre of Paris risks loosing its authenticity,

its charm.

It must be preserved and protected from the foreign influences...'

She smiled at him: 'I am foreigner too, you know and I think that's rude...”

“I was born here,” he replied,

“Non, non, non, they are not being rude, they are simply being Parisians.”

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

The Sarah's Key byTatiana De Rosnay

More by this Author


Comments 14 comments

Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

I got a real meaning from the quote,there's rarely ever any reason to have fear,and a beautiful descriptive verse on the Soul of Paris and her Parisians.;)


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Another lovely hub asking important questions. What is it in the human race that makes us turn on those different from us? Having moved about the world quite a bit, and even now living as an 'alien' in this country, I can truly relate to this hub. As always, great job. Lynda


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia Author

Thanks my fellow hubbers, it is great feeling to talk about something other people relate so closely too...thank you for your connection and wonderful replies:)


zampano 5 years ago

Now that spring is here and people start dressing colourfully again, nothing seems dramatic.

Paris is a cosmopolitan city and diversity under the sun, shines radiant beams of pleasure...

And yes, you have the right to make mistakes.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia Author

Happy to hear from someone who actually knows, my experience of Paris is just the image created from literature, art and a short holiday in there...I know it is imperfect so grateful for your insight:)


zampano 5 years ago

It was a matter of choice.

Probably because the sun today shines royal above all, I decided to see only the positive aspects reflected by it's light.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia Author

We always see the more light in places that are dear to us, admire you for defending that magical place full of history and cultivated beauty, but it doesn't need to be defended, it is the capital of good taste and elegance after all:)


Website Examiner 5 years ago

This is beautifully written, educational, and it made perfect good sense to me. Seeing the layout, I thought initially that you had written a poem, which is something I don't usually comment on.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you dear Website Examiner, I find out that it is easier for me to write about themes that are not too close to my heart, I have to learn to take 'the bird view' in every theme I write so I don't wrap myself with my readers into a complicated spider web with no way out...thank you again for taking your valuable time to help me to improve my skills..I will try:)


jjackson786 profile image

jjackson786 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

Wonderful!


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia Author

Happy you liked it, my fellow hubber and hopefully we will meet in Paris one day:)


Delia 21 months ago

That's an apt answer to an inienesttrg question


GetitScene profile image

GetitScene 21 months ago from The High Seas

Great pics, enjoyed the hub.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 21 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you for you nice comments fellow hubbers:) La Viva France:0

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