FRANCE, Day 6: Thursday, 2014-01-09

By Christina
Thursday morning was a rough one. After getting to the Citadines in the wee hours of the morning, we received extremely pleasant wake-up calls at 7:45 AM which, in our defense, were much quieter than the ones at the FIAP (oh, FIAP, how we miss you and your gourmet meat selections). We had agreed to meet in the lobby at 8:30, so that means we actually met at like 9:00. The metro was très full of people, resulting in Tammy, Danielle, and myself (I am Christina) being left at the station, waiting for the next metro. We waved to the others as they pulled away. They didn’t see. We took a photo to commemorate the moment.

That was probably the mist hilarious thing that happened to me, besides the time Yasmeen said “Oui, please.”

As we made our way to the US Embassy, we were able to see the Eiffel Tower from a distance, and this giant Ferris wheel that never actually moved.

The architecture in Paris is beautiful, but the marble figures that are carved alongside every other building are getting a bit excessive. I feel like if someone carved a statue of me posing in a toga and put it in The Louvre, it would mean literally nothing to me.

Getting into the US Embassy was a hassle, understandably. At first we could only enter in groups of five, so Mr. Lowell, being the lone male of the group, was left to fend for himself amongst semi-hostile French police in bodysuits. I felt a little bad about that but I quickly got over it when we entered the Embassy.

Inside the Embassy is amazing. There are marble busts of old white men, oil paintings of old white men, and a framed photo of Obama near a set of stairs. We were lead into a room that looked like an old fashioned library – there were so many books on Jefferson and US Foreign Policy lining the walls. As Sarah pointed out, the APUSH teachers could do some serious partying in this room. After an awkward breakfast in which none of us could figure out how to hold both a beverage and a croissant and eat at the same time (resulting in everyone congregating in a back corner around the only table in the room), we had the absolute pleasure of hearing the life story of Jennifer Rasamimanana (try saying that five times fast. Actually just try saying it once). She spoke English, which was music to our overwhelmed ears, and we learned a lot of interesting things about her. For one thing, she grew up in the Bay Area after fleeing from Madagascar with her family at age four. She was a very empowering woman. She told us an amazing story about her time as the State Department advance trip lead in Saudi Arabia, coordinating trip logistics for the US Secretary of State. Everyone doubted she could make a difference, everyone doubted she would be able to accomplish anything as a woman. Nobody believed in her. When she sat down to meet with a group of Saudi Arabian representatives, they looked to her male colleague, and sacked him, “Are you ready to begin?” To which he turned to Ms. Rasamimanana and asked, “I don’t know, Boss, are we?” Ms. Rasamimanana began the meeting by being very frank. She acknowledged the fact that people in Washington expected her to fail, she acknowledged the fact that she knew she wasn’t the diplomat they had been expecting. She acknowledged the fact that she was a woman in a position of power who was facing discrimination, and she did not apologize. She owned up to her situation, and she used it to win the Saudi Arabian representatives over. More importantly, she asked nicely. And everything went perfectly.

After Ms. Rasamimanana left we were extremely lucky to meet Aïssa Maiga, an esteemed actress who has been in many movies such as Paris, Je T’Aime. She was also a powerful speaker and wonderfully inspiring figure. She spoke to us about being one of the few black actresses in France and the struggles she faced trying to find roles that weren’t either feeble weaklings or prostitutes, the stereotypical roles for black females. She told us how she struggled to find empowering roles in the brutal world of cinema, saying that often times when directors are looking for actors, they already subconsciously have an image in their head, and that image is rarely a person of color. Ms. Maiga’s stories were extremely inspiring. She ended the discussion on a hopeful note by opening her arms wide and saying that she now feels as if her wings are able to spread.

All in all, we started off the day in a phenomenal way.

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