Thursday, April 26, 2007

French feel the sisterhood

I've run into so many French since I've been back down here - that is, French people from France who have made New Orleans their home.

I find that so interesante because when I studied in France, the French still believed their country was the perfect hexagon -- perfect in every way - and few wanted to leave.

New Orleans is French in architecture, but not so much in food or language except the bastardized Cajun dialect, which is outside the city. But French people seem to feel a real kinship with the New Orleans. I like that idea.

I work at a nonprofit and see donations coming from France in small increments to help in our rebuilding effort. I have no idea how donors have learned about our organization, but for the past couple of months, we've received more individual donations for general support from France than from the United States (not total dollar amount, but total number).

Two weeks ago, the office door swung open and a young man with a backpack walked in.
"Allo, I am Sebastian and I am from Paris," he said. "I've come to help!"
I found Sebastian quite amazing, even though two other young men from France had come to volunteer the month before. They just arrive. All this despite, or perhaps partially because of so-called "freedom fries" and the rest of recent France-bashing.

Earlier this month, I ran the Crescent City Classic 10K from the French Quarter to City Park. I knew there was an exhibit of French paintings called "Femmes, femmes, femmes" (you guessed it: women) at the New Orleans Museum of Art, but didn't realize France had scoured its museums to loan our city wonderful artwork to draw tourists here again.

As I approached the gate to the park, the banner advertising the exhibit came into view. It had an image of one of Renoir's red-haired women and the words, "To New Orleans with Love." That made my eyes well up with tears. The thought of it still does.

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