I came prepared. The night before going on the field trip to Belleville, I sat on my bed, thinking, “What should I bring to the 19th arrondissement?”.
I had heard from many people, who are from my hometown in Taichung, Taiwan, and who have been to Paris, that the 19th arrondissement is not a safe place to go. However, Professor Attali told us during class that this area has a bad reputation but is actually not dangerous. And she should know, as she had grown up there.
Although Professor Attali had given me a different perspective on the 19th, I was still concerned for my safety. After all, everything I had heard about the area had been mostly negative. I would have to overcome my fears, even though I knew it would not be easy.
Before we departed from Parsons Paris, I left my bag in the security room on the ground floor. When I stepped out into the street, I was wearing a jacket with zip pockets that kept my Navigo card safe and concealed my personal safety alarm. Holding my pencil and A5 sketchbook, I left for Belleville with the class.
We took the metro on line 1 towards Ch. de Vincennes, transferred at Hôtel de Ville, took line 11 towards Mairie de Lilas and got off at Belleville. Line 1 was fine as usual, but the trains on line 11 seemed older. The dim, yellow light lit the interior of its cars, shining on the seats. The train was not sparkling clean, but the warm light created a cozy atmosphere. It reminded me of those old-fashioned trains that I have seen in Western movies.
It was moving really, really fast, so fast I felt the whole metro shaking. As we sped through the underground tunnels, hearing the screeching noises caused by the friction of the wheels of the metro against the tracks, I noticed that you had to push the metal handles on the door in order to exit. I had seen those on other metro lines.
A few of my classmates and I held onto the four-sided handrail that stood in the center of the car. There were four rows of seats beside it. A man joined us, sharing a handrail with one of the students from our group. Before the metro pulled into the next station, just as the doors were about to close, the man attempted to exit.
Some friends of my parents had told me that they had seen people hop onto a metro, steal what they wanted and then jump off the metro as the doors were closing. But I had not been worried about being pickpocketed. The guy standing next to us did not make any suspicious moves, and none of my valuables were visible.
Walking through the underground passageways that spread in several directions, I almost lost sight of the teacher and classmates who had gone far ahead towards the exit. Worried that those behind wouldn’t catch up, I walked slow enough for them to see me, but fast enough to know which direction the group ahead had gone in.
The teacher led us through the streets. We all stayed in a large group and occasionally stopped when the teacher noticed special sites. She briefly discussed them and then we continued our tour of the unfamiliar streets.
My classmates took out their phones to take photos. I hesitated for a minute or two, afraid that my light phone would be snatched away. But then I took mine out too. I am glad that I took photos, even though I took them all in a rush. There was one thing in particular that everyone who had been to the 19th warned me about: Never take your phone out, whether in the metro or on the streets. One of my French teachers in Taiwan, who had grown up in France, put her phone in her back pocket. It was stolen just as she was passing through one of the turnstiles. Considering our current surrounding, as soon as I finished taking photos, I put my phone back into my jacket pocket and zipped it tightly.
As we continued on our tour, we turned left and then right, and strolled for a few blocks until we reached Parc de Belleville. There was an observation deck with poles that contained sketches of humans in fantasy-like situations. Some of their heads were stuck into the clouds. Mosaics carved colorful trees and faces on the poles alining the edge of the balcony. The top view of the city was beautiful.
I walked with two other classmates until we arrived at the entrance to the garden. When I got to the grass, I couldn’t believe the view in front of me. It was spectacular. There was a bundle of flowers and leaves that looked extravagant. I took a photo of my classmate. For the first time, I saw many bees flying around plants, just as in Disney storybooks. I lived in a city that contained mosquitos. This was an unusual sight for me.
I wandered further into the shady green inner parts of the garden. I enjoyed being able to relax and worry about nothing but appreciating nature. I loved being detached from manmade society, immersing myself in a realm of nature and wonderment. The sunlight enhanced the cheerful atmosphere. People were picnicking and enjoying the sun. The green grass outlined the flowers. The sound of trickling water from a waterfall echoed in the garden. Winding steps led us down into a forest-like area with cool shade.
Then, it was time for us to go back to class. I did not want to leave. I wanted to stay here forever. I found in this places that I had been so worried about, a place of peace that attracted me to its natural beauty, where people were not thinking about stealing but more about living in harmony with nature, free from worries and doubts.
I want to try retracing the map from Home to Paris through the exploration of different media.
The gray water-based dual brush pen gave a smoother touch to the line. I worked fast with it, having to move forward without letting too much ink to smudge the paper. I was struggling to find my way to replicate the original drawing within a rush. This is how I felt that time passed by so fast while I was in the midst of figuring out the cultural aspects, feeling out of control, and so much more.
The paintbrush dipped into black gouache gave a rougher finish to the line. I worked slow with it, as I kept running out of paint. I felt frustrated while regathering paint on to the brush repeatedly after I drew for a few centimeters each time. There were obstacles that I had to pass through, challenges that I had to face. I grew to be patient as I encountered countless situations.
I like to keep my shoes clean because I tend to wear them for a long time, at least a few years. In order to keep it new, I do the cleaning, about every 1-2 weeks.
I clean my Keds shoes with a bottle of Keds Sneaker Refreshener and Biolane wet wipes. Spray the Keds Sneaker Refreshener on my Keds shoes, I use Biolane wet wipes I wipe the surface of the white welt and rub as much stain off as possible, creating bubbles. At last, I wipe off the bubbles. And now, it’s clean once again!
The photos displayed in straight line directions towards the left are photos of graffiti that I took in the streets of Belleville.
The photos displayed in a spherical shape towards the right-hand corner are photos of the nature that I took in Parc de Belleville.
The different formations of photos aim to contrast the 2-dimensioned man-made artworks on the line-oriented streets and the 3-dimensioned spectacular natural creation in Parc de Belleville.
This is quite unlike the days that I hoped the first visit to be: enjoying the slow-paced Parisian lifestyle.
I stayed up for the entire night before I took the flight to Paris, frantically packing my luggage. The days before school started, I had busy schedules visiting tourist places. During the orientation week, I was meeting new people, adapting to a different lifestyle. As courses are being introduced, I tried to manage my time while being heavily sleep-deprived.
I drew this line in one take on behalf of my memory of the occurrences in Paris. The wiggled lines represent the lack of sleep, stress, and some unpleasant encounters. The straight lines represent calmness compared to the times I felt overwhelmed. Texts are written beside the lines for detailed descriptions of the events.
The time accelerated.
I noticed the flowing of natural air and the transparent glass ceilings that allow the sunlight to reflect upon the warm spectrums of mosaic tiles on the floor and give light to Passage Vivienne. The lighting shop grasped my greatest attention with its realm of artificial flowers that created a delightful scene of a dream garden. For the first time, I saw butterfly fabric installations in a construction site. Every doorway reaches so high towards the ceiling that creates an illusion of everlasting corridors.
These photos are a selection of all the photos that I took in Passage Vivienne. I hope it will add as a guide to let people notice the places that grabbed my attention the most.