From French fries to freedom fries:

Chrissy Gibson

It would be nearly impossible for two people to be more unprepared for international travel. These two unqualified adventurers happen to be my sister and myself. A couple of weeks ago we found some ridiculously discounted round-trip airfare to Paris, so we decided to make a weekend of it. After all, we do not speak French, we do not like French food and we are certainly not the most responsible people around. What could have gone wrong? At the time, it seemed like our biggest problem would have been wandering the streets of Paris after a little too much French wine.

However, all of this was before the war in Iraq broke out. As war loomed over us, wediscussed the possibility of any real threats to our safety if we went ahead with the trip. We knew that the French did not support the war efforts, but we were not apprehensive; that is until I began to tell people that I would be traveling out of the country and suddenly everyone I knew on campus took time to issue their personal travel safety advisory to me. The more I talked to people, the more I suspected that upon arrival in Paris we would face, at least a little bit, of harassment for being Americans.

On our first day after arriving safely in Paris, I was a little overly conscious of any strange looks that we were getting, automatically assuming that everyone who even glanced at us knew that we were Americans and hated us. Yet as the weekend progressed, we were shocked by the warm welcome the Parisians extended to us, political differences aside. It would have been all too easy for the French people we encountered to take their opportunity to express their anti-war views to two typical American tourists, but no one did. We were shocked by everyone’s hospitality, and it was surprising how little civilians’ daily lives across the globe were being affected by the war. No one that we spoke with on the Champs Élysées seemed to be thinking about George W. Bush, Iraq or coalition forces as they pointed us in the direction to our next tourist destination. Even as large peace protests went on throughout the city, most Parisians knew that neither my sister nor myself had any influence over any military operations that the U.S. was undertaking. I was fortunate enough to have learned more from my random Parisian weekend than the proper etiquette when breaking the crust of a crème brulée, and I believe that a lot of Americans could learn a lesson from this ability to set our political differences aside and remember that we are all united in the quest for peace.