April 24, 2007
A six minute walk along the tree lined canal gets me to Place de la Republique. It’s my favorite park in Strasbourg, full of gravel walkways, flower beds, and tall shade trees.
Here’s something different about being in France— I have leisure time. So, I head to the park most afternoons. The pace of life is different enough here that even Americans slow down a bit and accept this wild notion of free time. (I recently read in Harper’s that North Americans have, on average, no more leisure time than they did in 1900).
People here are serious about leisure, as it seems to be a significant piece of their cultural identity. Sure, they like to work and be productive— just not at the expense of café time.
Since I’m here, I have gone ahead and latched on to this ideal, and I take up residence at the park when I can. So do some of the others. We study there, throw Frisbee (to the confused interest of the French), lounge in the sun or shade, write postcards or in journals, and people watch.
As I walk, a couple of blocks toward the park, I pass a kiosk where someone has hung large posters of presidential
candidate, Segolene Royal. Her warm, toothy smile seems to say, “Have a nice afternoon, there. Enjoy your time at that park. And don’t forget to vote socialist” (all in French, of course). I tell her that I’m sorry, but I don’t want to get too entangled in politics, I’m only in France for a short time, I want people to like me, and— I stop talking to the kiosk because the guy half sleeping on that bench, with a bottle of wine, looks at me like he thinks he’s found a new friend.
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