Notre-Dame – N – A to Z Challenge 2019

In August 2003, my family returned to Europe after having lived for 3 years in the US. We didn’t return to Germany but continued our expat adventure in France. Never before had I been in Paris or in France. We were living in the suburbs and Paris quickly became our weekend destination. I think it was during our first weeks that we first visited Notre-Dame.

In my family, there is a running joke that my dad and his siblings always had to visit churches. Something my parents did with us too. So visiting one of Europe’s finest Gothic cathedrals was a must, a long time before the Eifel Tower.

My memory is hazy, at times this memory was not at all present, but with what happened on Monday, it did come more to the surface. It was a nice sunny day when we climbed the steps up into one of those towers. Somewhere I have photos of some gargoyles. I had arrived in Europe, in France, in Paris!

Since that day, I don’t think that I went back inside Notre-Dame. But I have orbited around it many times. The little parc just behind it is a green oasis within the city, not overrun by tourists. The ice-cream on Ile de la Cité is mythical (especially in its price). My French teacher, Monsieur E. took us to roam the Island and told us stories of his time as a student living there, or was it about Ile-Saint-Louis? It is an anecdote for sure!

How often have I looked at Notre-Dame? How often have I said to myself, that’s a great building? How often have I been next to it? How often have I shaken my head at the long lines of people waiting? How many pictures have I taken with Notre-Dame in sight?

Notre-Dame is the centre of Paris. Just look at some old painting when there was nothing in Paris, there was always Notre-Dame. The whole city was built around Our Lady of Paris.

It is the centre of France, most French roads have their point 0 there.

When on Monday, the cathedral went up in flames. The world was shaken. Notre-Dame is a symbol of Paris, of France, of Europe, of Catholicism, of modern civilisation. A church turned into something resembling our collective imagination of hell in the holy week was just unbelievable.

On Monday, on my way home, I had to let two gigantic fire trucks pass. One was the type where many firefighters can find a place the other was for equipment. I thought to myself that there was a big fire or that something important was going up in flames, well it was both.

I haven’t been down to see the extent of the destruction.

Have you had the chance to visit Notre-Dame? What are your memories of it?


Michelle Obama – M – A to Z Challenge

When Barack Obama was President of the USA, I didn’t pay much attention to American politics. Okay, I was studying politics, but I danced around US politics and electoral matters in general. I thrived on topics such as political thought, international relations, the EU, but I wasn’t interested in how people voted. Because back then I took these things for granted.

People mostly voted for the right people. Everyone was in shock when Bush won a second term, but what was there to be shocked about? He hadn’t been a lucky president. Today, with Donald Trump being the 45th president of the USA, Brexit in limbo, the yellow vests in France and the shocking rise of populism, I realise how lucky the world was to have the Obama family in the Whitehouse for 8 years.

On Tuesday, I went to see Michelle Obama in Paris. She was here for her Becoming book tour. It was the first book that I read this year, and it was so inspiring. If you are stuck, pick up that book, read it, be inspired, move. Who are you becoming?

So I was lucky that my dad feels like spoiling me at the moment, he not only gave me an amazing book for Christmas, he also bought me a ticket for Michelle Obama’s Parisian tour-stop. My book in my mom’s handbag (just in case I could get an autograph, one never knows), I could observe other women on the metro holding on to theirs, we were going to see the woman that will inspire generations of girls, women, boys, men, humans in the years to come.

The venue was almost full, there were a few empty seats, that should have been filled. I was excited, it felt just like going to a concert when you are 20.

When the lights went out and Michelle Obama’s guest got onto the stage, to present themselves and to tell us who they were, I almost fell off my chair.

On stage, was a friend of my dad’s. A person he wants me to meet, a person he is continuously praising. We were meant to meet briefly, but the Yellow Vests made that impossible on Thanksgiving. It was Apollonia Poilane, a baker, a very inspiring one that is.

And what can I say about the interview? It was amazing! I had read the book, so many of the anecdotes were known to me. So many important topics were touched upon, family, parenting, nurturing a girl’s flame, infertility. Of course, they started with a mention of Notre-Dame, who had burnt the night before. Michelle Obama was also questioned about Paris, the first place she ever travelled to outside of the USA. She still has her rituals from back then, having cheese-crêpe.

The arena was left with a message. Be proud of who you are, tell your own story and be proud of it, speak the truth, and become a better version of yourself.

So who am I becoming?

3 years ago, I tried answering the question “who am I?” Now, I will try to answer the question “who am I becoming? “

#iambecoming …