September 21-27, 2020. This is the first week that I didn’t have to rush every morning to get to Alliance Française for my daily four-hour language classes. I had intentionally not enrolled in the last week of the B1-level program because I wanted at least a week for some rest before my LL.M. (Master of Laws) international arbitration program commenced.
To make most of the free time, I had previously decided to take a leisure trip. The original destination I had in mind was Hamburg, to visit a good friend. But a month or so ago, Germany introduced stricter measures for all persons entering from France, which meant it was too cumbersome to make a visit. I would have had to isolate myself for two weeks upon arriving and that would have been too much trouble. Also, of course, if I only had a week to spare, there wouldn’t have been enough time to complete the two-week quarantine.
July 28, 2020. In less than an hour from Compiègne by train, we arrive in Amiens, an affluent mid-size city north of Paris. Upon arriving at the train station, we wasted no time and immediately walked to Musée de Picardie, which was quite a distance from the terminal. We passed through the pedestrian promenades in the center of the city along the way. At that hour, which was around 4 in the afternoon, the sun was still scorching hot so there were few people walking the streets. Many were under the shades of trees in the parks or in the shaded terraces of cafes.
July 28, 2020. Two of my LL.M. classmates who had remained in Paris over the coronavirus confinement invited me to a day trip to Compiègne and Amiens, just short train rides away north of Paris. It served as our first reunion, months after our abrupt separation as a class last March when most of the class (including myself) hurriedly flew out of Paris to seek refuge in our respective countries of origin.
So I met my Japanese and Russian classmates at the Gare du Nord in the morning and we all took an almost-empty summer weekday train, first, to the town of Compiègne, which only took less than an hour.
I had looked forward to the start of July to restart writing on this blog–the beginning of the second half of the year seemed like a convenient and appropriate marker to start, I guess, any habit that one wishes to keep for the rest of the year or even longer, sort of like New Year’s resolution at midyear.
I’ll go ahead by stating the obvious–for everyone else I am quite certain–the first half of the year has been defined by the coronavirus pandemic and our collective response and experiences around it. Besides that, I am sure so many other things have happened in our respective communities, societies, and our personal lives. As to my own, I don’t know where to start. It isn’t even just the first half of the year that I’m making up for lost recollection–it’s the entire year since my last blog entry in June of 2019. This includes the entire time I was in Paris as a graduate student, the defining experience of the last twelve months.
Perhaps that’s where I should start with this brief recap. A few weeks ago I had just officially completed my Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in European law at the Université Paris II – Panthéon Assas. (The last three months of which I spent at home in Manila, through online classes with our professors. I chose to fly home for refuge last March after everything went coronavirus haywire in Europe and Asia). My year in Paris was a remarkable experience I sincerely wish I had kept in better posterity in an online journal, with photos and well-written prose, rather than through bits and pieces of tweets and Instagram posts and private snapshots on my phone. More than the masters program, it is the experiences with new friends in Europe, and the many travails of trying to adapt in a seemingly impenetrable society in Paris, that truly made a lasting impression on me. I will try to write more about these experiences through bits and pieces of recollection in future blog entries perhaps.