Tag Archives: Europe

18 years ago…


President George W. Bush had recently been inaugurated. My friends and I found ourselves interrogated by many French people, “How could we elect someone like that?” I think maybe they are now too stunned by our current President to even ask, or maybe they also see similar politicians rising in their own neighbors.

Amazon was a website for books.

Google hadn’t IPO’d yet.

Neither had Marvel.

It’s almost half the age I am now and I was still in university, doing a semester abroad in Paris. I met people I am still friends with today and through whom I met other great friends.

Service here is still slow, snotty, possibly a little racist.

Now there are “tacos”:

Why O’Tacos??
An abomination in all cases
1. Not a taco 2. Fries with tacos or burritos 3. What is the difference between nuggets and tenders??

And “bagels”:

At least a little racist
Also possibly racist

I met someone who visited me once a few months after I returned home, in September 2001 and was forced to extend his visits when all planes are grounded. We kept in touch with for close to 8 years after that and then gradually dropped since we were both seeing other people in our respective countries. And yet, Facebook Messenger enabled me to contact him despite not knowing his current phone number or e-mail address (though conversation quickly switched to WhatsApp, also owned by Facebook).

Facebook, let alone Instagram, was unheard of.

Ditto Netflix.

Mobile phones like were common but people barely had T9 texting capability. Nokia was huge.

Though I am not working now, I am more financially comfortable than I was then so I can actually eat and drink good food, wine and cider (cider to me back then was freshman baby alcohol, not the craft brew I recognize today). When buying a couple bottles of cider at the grocery store, I was asked my age. My comprehension has suffered over the years, so the checkout boy repeated himself in English, “How old are you?” My response, also in English: “Very old.”


On secularism

First, I read this interview with a female Yemeni photographer.  Then I just happened to listen to this podcast a few days later from American Public Media’s On Being series that was recommended to me by a good friend. Fairly early on in both interviews, the subjects challenge the French or European model of secularism, the Yemeni photographer specifically with the view that the veil is not always a symbol of oppression and that the French should not ban it. Continue reading On secularism