Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Greater Journey--Americans in Paris

For my French 345 class we have to read one of three books about France, it's history, and it's people and then comment on our favorite (and/or least favorite) parts of each chapter. I chose to read David McCullough's, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.

Chapitre 1
Je pense que je sentirai the même de ces gens quand ils voivent les belles cathèdrales. J'aime histoire, surtout le histoire d'art et de les églises magnifique en France. Ces églises sont très belles, grandes, and incroyable. Je n'ai pas vu une autre chose comme eux. En Amérique, il y n'a pas de vieux ou grand immeubles, surtout qui ont cents ans. Je pense qu'il est très interessant et les pense des histoires. Toutes les histoires m'sont interesse. Beaucoup de choses y a passé. Quand je lis ce livre, je suis impatient pour mon voyager. Je verrai les même immeubles que ces gens ont vu. Even just to think about and perhaps imagine all the people who have stood, marveling in front of these same buildings. People from centuries and centuries ago all the way up until now. Though the times and surroundings have changed exponentially, I can imagine that each of these people experienced roughly the same emotions of

Chapitre 2
These people had the same initial ideas about Paris that I do now. It is some majestic land, full of romantic views, people strolling, and quite. Upon their arrival in Paris, they encountered quite the opposite experience. However some of the refinery and magic they expected was still there. I love when it says “a country comprised of 'dirt and gilding....bedbugs and lace.'” As horrific as the conditions are described here, I admit I would love to the see a Parisian world cluttered with shouting vendors and the pushcarts that storm the streets. I also think it's interesting how often the paths of our two cultures (the French and the Americans) paths have crossed—mostly on our part. Through reading this book, a political science class, and 202 I have learned how much the french society has influenced the American one our founders were trying to establish. This author talks about how all of the major founders of our country each lived in France for a time, experiencing their culture and learning greatly from them in an attempt to form a stable and well established country/government for America. I absolutely love this quote from the book “At present, applause is won only by physical exertion and nice touches of genius and nature pass undetected and unfelt.” So far, I feel that this statement has been the most relatable thing in this book. I feel that this is one of the truest things I have ever heard about our country. Here the author is quoting a man who recently saw a ballet and he is admiring not just her grace and beauty, but the smaller things that made her performance so enjoyable to the audience. Often times I feel that as Americans we want something to be “grand and showy” in order to please us and I find that sad and disappointing. There can be as much beauty in the small gestures as in the grand moments. I can really relate to this because I have experienced both sides of this with my family members; my father and two sisters feel that often times something “isn't/wasn't worth is” unless something major happens, but my mother and I can both find pleasure in the little things. We don't need a giant “shop stopper” in order to make our experience memorable.

Chapitre 3
I get really excited reading this book when the author talks about pieces of art/architecture that I actually know/recognize. It makes me even more excited to see the pieces in person...especially since many of the works discussed/mentioned are ones I have studied several times and have been dying to see. I've been interested in studying art for so long, but actually seeing many of the pieces in person always seemed like an impossibility. I never thought I'd have this opportunity but as time goes by and our departure gets closer I am getting more and more excited. Studying a work is one thing but being able to “experience” it is something completely different. I feel that the feeling of the painting, it's environment, being able to see what/the places that inspired the artists will really affect the way I see/feel about the works. I think being so close of these works, I will be able to see things in them that I've never noticed before and that is really exciting for me.

Chapitre 4
The part of this chapter that stood out most to me was when they talk about anesthetics...or the lack there of actually and just the whole hospital experience in general. Sounds AWFUL! Fortunately I've only needed to go to the hospital a few times and never for anything serious. But it seems that everything was serious when people had to go to the hospital during the time of this book. I can't imagine a time when the minor things of today were huge problems back then. The part that horrified me most in this chapter was hearing about surgeons who didn't really know what they were doing, performed surgery on patients without any form of pain relief at all. None. Crazy. And no understanding of germs, sanitization..eek! It said that most often the people who came in for surgery, regardless of the intensity or the problem, died shortly after. I am ridiculously happy that we have the knowledge that we do now. Also super stoked that doctors have now taken patient feelings and reactions into account. Also thank you France for allowing young medical students to practice on women. In the United States there were way less than half the number of medical schools and no one was allowed to examine or even really touch women. Crazy! How can you cure a lady issue if you're not allowed to examine the lady? Nuts! This chapter was full of disgusting things. I read a part about feeding dismembered and dissected bodies to dogs kept in cages and all I kept thinking about was Snatch—where, in order to keep from getting caught when they killed someone, they'd feed them to pigs. Gross! I can't say this enough—I am soooooo glad the world has changed so much. We are a lucky people living here, now. Thank you technology and knowledge and improvement.
Story of my time being here in Paris – “I have never felt myself os much an American, have never loved my country so ardently” – Charles Sumner

Chapitre 5
As I read this book, I am just taken by how often I turn the page and read about a new improvement in the world. What it must have been like to be someone living at this time—when around every corner something truly revolutionary was happening. I know that happens here, now, but I guess I just don't think about it or even realize it. The first thing really mentioned in this chapter was travel by stream sailer—“no more waiting for wind”. It talked about how with the steam engine, departures could now be scheduled. No more waiting, no wondering, no putting off plans. Incredible. Can you imagine having to wait for wind in order to travel. When I came to France I had to drive to the airport and wait at the gate. The pilot revved the engines and we were off. It took less than 10 hours and I arrived in a new country, thousands of miles away. These people had to wait sometimes days for the right wind, board a ship, and travel for months. I would absolutely hate it. Another innovation talked about in this chapter was Morse code. I've ALWAYS wanted to learn how to communicate through Morse code and I thought it was really cool to actually learn how, why, and by whom it was created. Nowadays, it's such an ancient way of communication, but back then, it was incredible. Now we can send messages as close or as far as we want, but sending signals and messages even just across the room was impossible. Finally being able to communicate with people across the country in a matter of minutes? At this time when travel between country still took weeks, being able to send a message to someone in a few minutes would be monumental. I think sometimes we're so wrapped up in our text messages, our facebook profiles, and our emails that we forget to appreciate all the crazily inventive people who really started the ball rolling. One of these days, I am DEFINITELY going to learn how to communicate via Morse code. Consider that goal made!

Chapitre 6
This chapter was not particularly interesting, but I do think it's cool to learn a little more about Louis-Phillippe and Louis Napoleon . We have studied a little about them and both of their reigns in our French Religion class and it's pretty cool when our classes kind of overlap. Can't beat double coverage right? Another part that I thought was really interesting was reading about the first female doctor. Just like men weren't allowed to examine female patients, women weren't allowed to go to medical school or become doctors. She was refused entrance by many schools across America and finally got in to a tiny school in upstate New York. She really had to struggle to get where she wanted to be. Reading this actually made me think about a conversation I just had earlier. We were talking about how competitive many of the majors are at BYU. Students work so hard, they take loads of classes, fill out ridiculously complicated applications and then often they don't get in. What do you do then? Work harder or change your complete life plan? I think it's cool that this lady, Elizabeth Blackwell didn't allow the fact that medicine was a male-only field deter what she really wanted to do. Pretty cool.

Chapitre 7
The beginning of this chapter is particularly interesting because it talks a little bit about how Louis Napoleon became the Emperor of France and created the Second Republic. In Religion, French, and very recently Art History we have been talking about Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III for those of you who, like me, get them all confused) and his coup d'état. In my many years of school I've never really learned anything about it and now I've loosely studied it in three different classes plus this book. I think it's crazy that the book says except for his name he wasn't very well known and yet he managed to get elected and then nearly over night, basically overthrow the entire government of France and create an whole new one. I know pretty much nothing about politics and government, but I know enough to understand how horrible that would be. He created a system that pretty just favored him. He did what he wanted, when he wanted and had little to no regard for anyone else. I know you can't please everyone 100% of the time, but you can't really run a country with a “me me me!” mindset either. I do think he did a good thing hiring Haussmann to “re-vamp” the city. I can't imagine visiting this place without the dramatic changes. I don't think I'd even want to. If think Paris is small now, I can't imagine what the streets would have been like back then. Everything was about a million times more closely packed together. It's difficult enough to walk two-by-two today. Even single file would have been dang near impossible! : )

Chapitre 8
Bateaux Mouches are super awesome and I thought it was really cool that they talk about the very first ones in this chapter. This was one of the first FHE activities that we had when we arrived in Paris and I think it's safe to say that we all loved it very much. It was fantastic to get to see views of the city that many people can't. I don't know how the french feel about them—if the name is any hint I can probably make a pretty good guess—but it's definitely a treat for the tourists that visit. Also interesting about this chapter was learning about the world exhibitions that took place in the city under the reign of Napoleon III and all the modern day things that came out of it—namely the saxophone and my favorite, soda machines. Where would my life be without soda fountains? Lost. That's for sure. And probably a bit thinner as well. I've never really thought about where/how a soda machine came about, but it's cool to know about it now.

Chapitre 9
"Has the world ever witnessed such change in so short a time. It to me seems like a dream." -- Elihu Washburne. I love this quote because as I have read I thought it perfectly describes everything I assumed these people were feeling during this time of incredible invention and innovation, but at this time, Paris was also in the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war. The citizens were being driven out of their homes and land to be replaced by armed soldiers. They were being forced to give up everything they had and many suffered greatly. Many lost everything they owned and/or cared about. "Streets and avenues were filled with tents, baggage wagons, horses, and forage. The Tuileries Garden had become an artillery park, the Bois de Boulogne, a vast stockyard for 100,000 sheep, and 80,000 head of cattle." I have been to the Tuileries Garden many times so far and I can't even image what it would have been like for these people to see the destruction of such a calm and beautiful refuge. I think that would be the hardest thing of all--seeing the places you used to go to relax and have fun now being used (and abused in a way) for something not so relaxing. I know all of that was necessary and actually helped to preserve the lives of those that stayed in the city, but it still would have been difficult to see the drastic changes that occurred so quickly. Another great quote towards the end of this chapter also said by Washburne, "One moment revolution, and the next the most profound calm!" I think these two quotes really do help to show exactly the situations and the feelings involved amongst these Parisians during this horrible war. 

Chapitre 10

How much can I really say/read about the war? This chapter was mostly interesting because it gave slightly more information on the Commune that what we just learned about a few years ago in Art History. I'm still really confused as to what happened, how, and why but I just love it when what I'm learning overlaps between classes. Like many political changes in the beginning it seemed that the Commune was going to be a good thing for the government. "The Paris Commune was now in charge of Paris, and ideally, devoted to politics more representative of the will of the people of Paris." Unfortunately it turned out that this wasn't such a good way to go about things and many people suffered and were killed during this time of reign. Of this Washburne wrote, "The Commune is looming up and means business. Everything has a more sinister look....There never was such a hell upon this earth as this very Paris." The chapter goes on to say how everyone suffered, to the point where there was no heat, light, or food. Innocent people were deported, arrested, and tortured. I read this chapter on the train to Auschwitz and I couldn't help but think about all the people who suffered during World War II. I know the situations are incredibly different and we can't really compare anything that happened during WWII, but there were a few similarities and reading this while visiting Auschwitz helped to make everything seem so much more real. Triste. 

Chapitre 11

So there are two Liberty Lighting the World statues (only much smaller) in France and luckily for me I have seen both of them. One of the first things this chapter talks about is a gift given from the French to the Americans for help during their time of war. They were very thankful for both for the money they received and for the ideal form of government the Americans had. The Statue of Liberty is obviously one of the most well known symbols for the state of New York, but it's also one for the United States as a whole. Everyone knows of it, but not many know why it was created and why we have it. I thought it was cool to find out that information through this book. This book seems to be doing that a lot for me. I have said a million times so far that I think it's cool to learn about things that everyone knows but not many know they why or how. The Statue of Liberty is one of those things where knowing the how and why make it even more cool when you see it in person.

Chapitre 12

"I am not dead in love as they say, but perhaps would be if I thought I ought." --Augusta Homer Saint-Gaudens. I just thought this quote was hilarious. Doesn't really have much to do with the chapter or my feelings toward any boy or the french culture, just thought it was funny. The part of this chapter that I found most appealing to me again has nothing to do with french culture or my time here in Paris and everything to do with love and personal relationships. Augusta and her husband are both artists and extremely supportive of each other. There's just a small part of the chapter that talks about her supporting her husband in his desires to try out for a huge commission. He gets rejected, but when another opportunity for a commission, bigger than the first, comes along she again encourages him to go after it. I just love how supportive they are of each other and how amazing their relationship was. "Her unshaken belief in her husband was plain. She wanted those at home to know how hard he was working..." I just love it. So cute, and fun/easy to read. 

Chapitre 13
I love paintings and learning about the artists who have created all of these works that I know so well, but much can you say about the same people? This book is interesting because it gives so much detail, but it can also be really boring...because it gives so much detail! This chapter talked quite a bit about Mary Cassatt, whose work I am very familiar with. What is really cool is studying all of these works so much between my many humanities and art history classes, and now reading about them here. I can also picture in my mind the artists creating the works as I read about them. I know exactly what they look like, and now I know why and under what circumstances they were created. I think I like this book particularly because it talks so much about all of the america artists. In art/humanities classes, we general focus on the big name European artists: Monet, Michelangelo, De Vinci, but here we get to know the american artists like Ms. Cassatt. It's fun to learn about them and all the works that inspired their creations. These are also often works that I have studied in depth. Pretty cool. There really is WAY too much detail about little mundane daily activities though. I don't care about a sister visiting or who too who to the World Exposition. Maybe this information is particularly important to the history of these people, but to me, it just seems like the writer need a space filler. Along with Cassatt this chapter also talked about the creation of the Eiffel Tower. I have heard MANY times that non-american people think horrible things about American and this quote regarding the Eiffel Tower made me laugh...quite a bit. The book says “The tower was denounced as much too large, too dangerous, unacceptably ugly – “a project” it was said, “more in character with America (where taste is not very developed).”” So great. Maybe a bit true, but probably not. I feel like we're not any less developed, we've just developed some things very differently.

The coolest part of this chapter was where, for one very brief part, they talk about the “aspiring young Mormon painters who called themselves 'art missionaries'” from Utah. WHAT? I thought I had heard something about this type of work, before coming here to France. People who were sent on missions to come back with ideas and styles to help create murals for temples and church buildings. Pretty awesome.

Statement of my life... “I do not have time to do half what I want to do. Perhaps it is because I want to do so much.”

Chapitre 14 (le dernier chapitre)
Best quote from this book so far, “But coming here has been a wonderful experience, surprising in many respects, one of them being to find who much of an American I am” – Augustus Saint-Gaudens. No truer words have ever been said regarding my trip here. I like France, but I'm not in love with it. I have no appreciated America as much as I have since coming here. I miss being able to hop in my car and go wherever I want. I miss being able to communicate with people and not worrying that something is going to happen and I won't be able to do anything about it. I have felt so helpless in a few situations and that is something that I HATE. I miss daily life. Real life. This certainly isn't real life. I always thought it would be ridiculously fun to go to another country (particularly France) and work as an au pair, but since being here, I have decided that I would absolutely hate it. I'm glad I have been able to have this experience because I feel that had I not been given this opportunity I would wonder and possible regret everything that I could have missed out on. Now I know that I wouldn't have missed anything at all and actually I did myself a favor by not decided to go that route. Saint-Gaudens was obviously thinking about me and my future experience when he said what he said. He is obviously super awesome! : ) He also said “I belong in America, that is my home...”

I am very sad that we don't really have World Expositions anymore. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to attend one of those...and for 11 cents no less. Now you have to roam the world in order to see/find all the great art pieces and revolutionary inventions, but in the 19th and 20th centuries, these things were all in one place. Being a lover of all that stuff, I think it would be incredible to go to one. On the other hand though, I tend to dislike walking in circles and seeing booth after booth after booth at fairs and the maybe I wouldn't like it so much after all. Who knows.

Last quote I love, “ Live all you can. It's a mistake not to. It doesn't matter what you do—but live. This place makes it all come over me. I see it now. I haven't done so—and now I'm old. It's too late. It has gone past me—I've lost it. You have time. You are young. Live!” – William Dean Howells.  

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