That Day I Got Attacked

So much for feeling relatively safe in my neighbourhood despite its “charms”…

I was walking home from the metro station, and was very close to my house. I felt someone behind me, but he crossed the street to his friend. They talked for a moment, and then split off. I remember thinking it was very suspicious, but I was so close to home, and they were on the other side of the street, so I let it go.

I was looking at my phone when I felt that someone was following me very close. I turned to see what they wanted, and I discovered it was the taller one of the kids, and by kid I mean older teenager. As I was turning, he sprayed something into my left eye. I distinctly remember seeing the white stream of it hitting my eye. The dispenser was only inches from my face as he was standing directly next to me. At first I thought it was spray paint, and I clutched my eye in pain. The look on his face was a bit of shock, or maybe that was me projecting my emotions onto him. I wondered if he would go for my phone, but he didn’t. He turned and walked calmly away. Then I noticed there was no colour, and all of my exposed skin and lungs started to burn. I was confused, but then I got angry. I wanted to confront him. He was about 15 feet away when I started screaming at him. He turned to look and then started to run. There were people around, but they just watched. I started running after him, but I could barely see. I was worried about going blind, and that my house keys would fall out of my pocket and I wouldn’t be able to find them. He booked it down the street, and I decided my health was more important than revenge. I crossed the street, clutching my eye in pain. I didn’t know if I should go to a doctor. I didn’t know how I would even find one, or how I could explain what happened since my French is still very low level. I was in complete distress. I somehow made it into the apartment and no one was there. I ran into the bathroom and washed my face, but the water didn’t help. I tried to wash out my eyes, especially the left one that got directly hit, but the water increased the burning. It was horrendous timing. I had to pack and then head to the airport for my trip to London within the hour. I changed my clothes to get the stench off, and everywhere my skin had been exposed to the substance was bright red. And it burned. I don’t know exactly what he sprayed on me.

I warned my housemates via text what had happened and to be extra careful in the neighbourhood. They went to the police in the arrondisment that they were currently in but the police refused to help. Over the phone she told me to take some eyewash stuff that she had and use that to wash out my eyes. Whatever it was helped quite a bit. She ordered me a taxi to go to the airport because I was at this point terrified to take the metro. They eventually filled out a form online for the police, and on Wednesday I will go in and make a statement. The worst thing about the whole thing, is that I don’t remember exactly what they look like, so if I see them again, I will be completely oblivious. Apparently the son of someone else in our building was attacked by, we are supposing, the same guys but in a larger group. It is really distressing to know about the cruelty in the world, and even more so to experience it first hand.

But I must count my blessings. I am not permanently injured. I am not dead. I was not robbed.

 

Protest or Art?

I’m living in the 18th arrondisment in Paris. It’s definitely not the best neighbourhood, but not the worst either. The streets generally smell like piss despite there being FREE public toilets set up for use. There are at least two tent cities within 5 blocks of my house that I’ve noticed. There is garbage everywhere, stations of contraband laid out on blankets, and the hum of young men selling Marlboro cigarettes outside the metro station and by the park. Men greatly outnumber the women, at least in public. I’ve passed by many restaurants that are full, and not one woman inside. I pass 20-30 men on the street before I pass a woman. It doesn’t bother me so much as concerns me. I don’t feel unsafe, but I wonder why the other women aren’t dining in those places or walking along the streets. Perhaps they know something I don’t.

Since I’ve decided to drop school, and to be quite frank, now that I have a SIM card for my phone, I’ve been going on lots of long walks with three intentions: to get exercise, to see more of Paris, and admittedly, to hatch eggs in Pokemon Go. The latter actually helps me see things I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, as stops and gyms are at “landmarks” more or less. On these walks I’ve begun to notice a startling trend: vehicles being tagged.

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This was the first one I noticed just outside of Paris on my walk along the canal. Not long after, I discovered a car with the back half burned out. I was going to take a picture, but there was a group of tough-looking men standing by, and I didn’t want to risk anything. Now that I have seen them, I’ve been noticing them more often.

On my way back from a walk, just 2 blocks from my house I discovered this one:

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And on another night, I saw two vehicles tagged, just down the street from me, less than 1 minute away:

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I have never seen anything like this anywhere else I’ve been in the world.

I remember a few years ago, that during some protests, the French were burning vehicles, so I showed my housemate the pictures and asked her if it was part of an on-going protest. She said she’d never heard of it or seen anything like it before. Then again, she is new to this side of Paris.

The pictures I have posted are just a few examples. I’ve seen many more these past few days. I will have to do more research. But again I ask the question: are these examples of protest? Art? Or just the result of inconsiderate people having “fun” destroying others’ property?

Failing at Living Abroad

This is my second time living abroad this year. I spent 4 months earlier this year in London while studying. I loved the course I was taking, but it took a long time for London to grow on me.

Now I’m in Paris, taking yet another course, but unfortunately it’s not going as planned. I was supposed to be here for almost 9 months, which quickly got shortened to 4 months, which got shortened to 3 months, which now has me coming home in just over a month. (I dropped out of the program.) As much as I love Paris and where I’m staying, there are too many things not working out that it makes more sense for me to go home. That being said, my aim is to make the most out of being in Paris for the short time that I’m still here. This new focus I hope will have me blogging again.

 

France Day 14 – WEG Dressage Freestyle (Caen) & Arromanches Evening

This was the day that all of the dressage fanatics were waiting for. The stadium was absolutely packed when I arrived. I had decided that I wanted to take the shuttle. It gave me an opportunity to talk to one of the employees of the travel company to see if I could secure a ride to England. I also thought it would be a good idea to keep saving money on gas. My traveling companion decided she did not want to take the shuttle because it makes her carsick. I still had to pay for half of the gas, and use of the vehicle, even though I did not use it at all that day (or the last day, in fact. Some people’s definitions of fair do not line up with mine.)

Happy to be on my own, I went to explore the WEG village a little more. I also didn’t feel like waiting in the line to get into the stadium with all those people.

The whole day was filled with different events going on in a few different areas. I almost didn’t want to go see the dressage. It was a nicer atmosphere, the washrooms were relatively nicer (they were portapotties, but at least they weren’t urine and poo-covered squat toilets), and there were many more options of food.

In one arena, when I arrived, they were doing an American, cowboy-themed show. It was pretty fun, and I was feeling really emotional at this point, so a few tears dripped from my eyes. Not because I’m American (I’m not), but because it made me miss my cowboy friends from years ago.

They also tried roping a barrel. One was successful, the other was not.

At a different arena, they had a more educational demonstration going on while I was there. This one was about the horses of France. Or at least, that’s what I gathered from it. All of you French speakers can correct me. 🙂 I was enthralled by this mare and her foal. I almost miss when Kaden was a foal. But then again, he had a lot of attitude, so maybe I don’t.

I got some pad thai and an apple pie at a restaurant. I think after my experience with the chinese food the previous night, I should have known better than to try more asian food. It was terrible. I’m just used to abundant, delicious, asian foods in Vancouver. After lunch, I figured it was time for me to go see the event I actually paid to see. Maybe dressage would suddenly become exciting. I walked back, and noticed another “full” parking lot. I chuckled to myself.

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“Full” parking lot in France.

There were no lines when I got to the stadium, on account of my being very late, but I couldn’t find a spot to sit. Despite having a seat in that section, I was told to go to a different section since there was no room. I then went to the section the lady told me to go to, and the man was very upset at me. In my very, very, limited French I told him that the lady told me there was no room in my section, and that she told me to go to this section. He told me it was impossible because different sections are different prices, and they weren’t allowed to mix people. He then instructed me to sit in a section in the corner, since it was in the same price range as mine. I didn’t mind this spot. I had two seats to myself, and a decent view. If it ever started to rain, I would be covered.

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A lot busier than the other two days!

I tried searching from my traveling companion, but with no luck. Later she told me that there were plenty of empty seats in that section. It sure didn’t look like it to me. Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro were the favourites of the day, and they ended up winning by a lot. Valegro is a horse that certainly stood out. He could be an equine Greek god.

It was a fairly interesting afternoon. I was enjoying being by myself. There were also quite a few medal ceremonies.

Some of the horses, besides Valegro, were simply lovely to watch. Another one of my favourite pairs was Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill. Damon Hill is absolutely gorgeous. He floats.

Next time, if there ever is a next time, I’d like to bring some more awesome lenses in order to get some really spectacular photos.

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Jealous of the lenses.

It was quite a pleasant day. I couldn’t find my traveling companion after the show, so I took the coach back with the rest of the group. While I was waiting, I became enamoured with some police horses.

When I got back, my traveling companion had not yet arrived. I did not have a key to the room, and there was no point hanging around the building. I treated myself to a delicious dinner at a nice restaurant that had a spectacular view of the ocean. Then I went and explored the area in the twilight. I was thrilled by it all.

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France Day 13 part 2 – Mont Saint-Michel

After we left the endurance competition, we headed over to Mont Saint-Michel since it wasn’t too far away. My traveling companion had already been there before, and she warned me about how crowded and busy it was going to be. It was her idea to go visit it, and I’m sure glad we went. It is beautiful! I had actually never heard of it before going to France, despite it being the top tourist destination in France after the Eiffel Tower.

I was quite offended that they charged for parking.

When we got to the visitor centre, from where we were to take a shuttle, I noticed a sign for a horse-drawn carriage. I knew immediately that it was something I had to do. It only cost 6 euros, and my traveling companion decided to come along. It was essentially my second favourite thing that I did in France. I had such a wonderful time.

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To my great relief, there was no line to get onto the island, and it wasn’t nearly as crowded as my traveling companion had said it would be. She was actually quite surprised that there were so few people. I was delighted. It is such a cool place, and I despise crowds.

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The main street

My traveling companion told me that you can only access the island at certain times of the day because otherwise the tides come in and block the way. They are building a new bridge that will allow access for 99% of the time, but it isn’t complete yet. She also told me of some sad stories of people riding their horses across the sands, but because of the water under the sand, the horses would fall right through, like quicksand. Scary!

It’s such a cute little place. Although it is still somewhat of a novelty, I think it would have been much more interesting back in the day, when you had to risk your life going across the sands and beat the tides.

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Awesome roofs.

The modifications that humans have made to the area have had a seriously negative environmental impact. That is a big reason as to why they are putting in a new bridge; one that should be more environmentally sound. There is also a dam, as you can see in the picture below. I can’t remember what effect this has on the region, and I’m too lazy to look it up.

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Dam!

I loved seeing the birds. I love birds. I would like to have a bird one day. Either a parrot or a falcon. At the moment I have way too much going on to get a bird. One of the birds sounds like it’s laughing in the following clip. The other one sounds like it’s one of those noisy straws that used to come with Slurpees.

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Cute little thing!

My traveling companion hadn’t entered the abbey on Mont Saint-Michel the last time she was there. After all, the place was so incredibly crowded that it wouldn’t have been worth the time. I figured since we were already there, we might as well do as much as we could do. She decided she would join me, despite not wanting to make the trek up the stairs. Unfortunately we were 5 minutes too late. They had just stopped letting people in so they could prepare for the evening light show. I was a bit disappointed, and I think my traveling companion was relieved. Then the wind started to blow, and I looked to the horizon. It looked like a storm was coming.

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Mont Saint-Michel in a nutshell.

We continued to go to the other side of the island to see what could be seen. I saw the barred window thing and thought it would make a cool picture.

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I could smell the storm coming, and I really thought it would be a good time to leave. My traveling companion agreed, so we started to make our way back down. While going down, I saw lovely garden spaces. People can be so creative when they need to be.

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Lovely garden on our way down the hill.

I looked back to the horizon. The storm was coming quickly.

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Storm’s acoming.

We got down to the level for shops, and despite the wind blowing really hard, my traveling companion decided that she wanted to shop. I told her it wasn’t a good idea, but she said she would be really quick. Of course she wasn’t really quick. She had to know all about the products that she was interested in, where they came from, etc. By the time all was said and done, it had started to sprinkle. We rushed outside, and pretty much as we set foot outside of the gates, the rain started hard. We ran all the way to where the shuttles were and got soaked. Our swiftness made us lucky, and we were able to catch one of the first shuttles leaving. Others were not quite so lucky.

When we got back to the parking lot, it was barely even raining. We jumped in the car and turned the heat on full blast in order to try and dry our clothes. It was a long way back to Arromanches. We decided to try some asian food on the way back, and it ended up being terrible and expensive. My traveling companion’s bowels started to act up, so we had to leave in a hurry. By the time we got back to Arromanches, we were mostly dry and fairly tired. Overall, it was a very satisfying day.

France Day 13 part 1 – WEG Endurance (Sartilly)

Neither of us wanted to get up early enough to see the start of the race. It would have required us to get up at around 4 or so, and that just wasn’t going to happen. After all, how would we eat breakfast? 😉

We were worried we wouldn’t find parking, but surprisingly there ended up being plenty. When we arrived, we weren’t sure where we could or couldn’t go. The place was abuzz with action. Because the horses clearly don’t all go at the same speed, and we were a couple of hours into the race already, all stations had action happening at them. There were horses waiting to get the signal to start off again. There were horses coming in for their cool down. There were horses getting cooled off, horses at the vet check, horses getting their soundness tested, and horses enjoying a hearty snack. They also had vendors, but only 3 food vendors. The line for the fry truck was over an hour long.

When I filmed the clip below, I had no idea who I was filming. I just thought it would be cool to film a rider walking his horse to the resting area. It ended up being of the winner of the endurance competition! What luck!

The following are some clips of how the event went. After finishing a lap, they would come back to the main area. Here are some horses coming back.

The next step was to cool off the horses. This was achieved with ice water. It was imperative to get the temperature and heart rate down in order to pass the vet check.

If the vet check was passed, then they would head across the grassy area where the big screen that showed the rest of the competition was situated.

Then they would cross over to the rest area. That is where I saw the Sheikh and his horse. Then they would go to the resting area for a set amount of time. Here, the horses would receive food, massages, farrier work, or whatever else was needed to make them comfortable.

After the set time is finished, the horses would get tacked up again, and they would head over to the holding pen.

Once in the holding pen, they would walk around until given the signal. Then they would take off and complete the next lap.

It was a sad day, this day. A Costa Rican gelding died during the first lap. It sure made things a bit sombre. Rest in peace Dorado…

France Day 12 – WEG (Caen)

I’m usually interested in saving money. My traveling companion had booked the trip to France through Equestrian Escapes. Apparently it was about half the cost to book through this UK company than to book a trip from a Canadian company. The great thing about booking through a travel company is that they provide all the transportation for you. Up to this point we hadn’t used their transportation services. I decided it was time we did! Why spend all that extra money on gas needlessly? I was itching to be around other people. You can’t meet new people if you’re never with them. The week prior, my traveling companion had said how much she was looking forward to being with the group and having “wild times with the Brits”. So she agreed that we could take the shuttle this time. Ironically, neither of us talked to anyone. She said they were all too old (even though there were definitely people there that were younger than us). I told her that was no excuse, that older people are great. Since she held me in such little esteem (she’s a lawyer, and I make minimum wage, after all), she did what she had become accustomed to doing, and just didn’t respond.

Anyway, I was stoked to be on a bus filled with lots of people. I love buses. I forget what the Brits were calling it (coach maybe?), but it’s a bus to me.

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I’m on a bussssssssss

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After taking this picture, I then proceeded to take up those two seats.

It’s a totally different experience arriving at the venue when everyone else is arriving. It’s a lot more crowded, and there actually are lineups to get anywhere. Not having our own transportation meant that we were there for the whole day. My traveling companion didn’t mind this because this was no longer the preliminary rounds, and only the people who made the cut were doing the test. This still wasn’t freestyle, however, and the music was still terrible. I wasn’t the only one complaining about it. Often I just put on my headphones and watched while listening to different music.

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The French went wild for this guy. The sign is for the previous person. I think this one is Marc Boblet. Can you see the sign was broken this day? Something wrong with the connection.

During the lunch intermission, we went to the “village” where they had food, vendors, exhibits, and the like. Unfortunately it was something like a 15-minute walk away. I don’t mind the walking at all, of course, but my traveling companion made sure to complain. When there, we saw these horse vans! I decided I need one. My husband always has the truck so I can never trailer my horse anywhere. If I had a van, however, my husband would have no use for it, and I could take them wherever! Plus, it would be a million times easier to back up down our winding driveway.

Anyone out there want to buy me a horse van? I won’t complain 😀 ;).

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My first time seeing a horse van!

Soon we went back to see the GB favourites like Carl Hester and Charlotte Du Jardin. Since we were traveling with a bunch of Brits, and the UK is so close to to France, probably half of the stadium was filled with Brits. When the GB teammates came out, the whole stadium erupted with cheers. Here is a shot of Carl Hester before he did his test.