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

By Alexa
After some delish sandwiches on the go we visited the French Sénat, where we met with one of the Vice Presidents of the Senate, Bariza Khiari. Mme. Khiari is the only female Vice President of the 6 who preside over Senate debates, and she told us about her tough journey to her current position. Born in Algeria in a village with three mud huts, Bariza and her family came to France when she was a baby. She has spent her entire schooling and life in France, but she still struggles against racism for not being French-born. She got involved in politics because she decided that she was someone who just loved to help people, and government seemed like the best way to help those around her. Starting off as head of the Socialist Party branch in her neighborhood, Bariza worked hard through multiple positions and elections to get to where she is today. She won the Vice President’s seat in 2011 and has since been advocating for causes she is passionate about aiding, such as racial justice and equality between the sexes.

After leaving her office, we climbed three flights of stairs (so many stairs) to the Sénat viewing booths in order to watch French Senators in action. One Senator would have two minutes to ask a question, and another Senator or one of the department ministers would have two minutes to answer. Other Senators often shared their opinion by clapping or yelling things while a Senator was speaking – très français, n’est-ce pas? Tara was happy to translate most of the debates for us – one Senator was really sassy when he responded. Not sure I know exactly what he was talking about, but the members of his party started laughing and clapping, so he must’ve said something good.

After the question session, we met with Senator Esther Benbassa, a fierce advocate for gay marriage, gender equality and racial equality. Coming from a civilian background, Esther spoke to us about how she can openly advocate for her causes, since she can always return to her regular job – she was a teacher before becoming nominated to be a Senator. Unlike career politicians, who must stay neutral in order to stay popular, Esther fights hard for what she believes in and often proposes legislation advancing her causes. Born in Turkey to a Spanish family, being part of the French Sénat isn’t easy – she told us that 99% of the other Senators are French-born citizens. We were inspired by her determination and her passion for her causes – you go, Esther. Like you advised us, “Fight, fight, fight…for the right things.” Also, she had cool hair.

Our busy day was finished off by a visit to a Parisian chocolate shop, where we got some super delicious macaroons even though they were ridiculously expensive. 1 euro for 1 macaroon? Really? Macaroons are teeny! Still, they were pretty much the best raspberry macaroons I’ve ever eaten, so who’s complaining? We went to a creperie for dinner, a very good one close to our hotel. Yasmeen, Christina and Sarah giggled a lot, Jolena drank soda out of a cider bowl, Danielle and Margarita laughed a lot, and overall, Thursday has been good to us.

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