June 24, 2016 (5:52 p.m.)
It was my last full day in Paris, so what did I do? Aside from eating moules frites one last time and writing in the cafe (this server actually understood my French!), I met a friend at the Museum of Decorative Arts for a Barbie exhibition (pictured). It’s the first time Barbie has come to Paris, so why not? Since my friend and I are basically the same age, we spent the better part of an hour squealing over the dolls we both used to own and marveling at some the doll clothes created by major European designers. The entire time, the Beach Boys’ long-forgotten Barbie tribute, Living Doll, played in the background along with the should-be-forgotten song by Aqua, Barbie Girl. A bored-looking security officer sat in one corner, surveying the madness. (I’m nominating his position for the award of Worst Job in Paris.) It was in the museum that my French friend astutely pointed out that Barbie has transcended continents and cultures to become a common experience for millions of girls. This afternoon, my friend and I weren’t two almost-middle-aged women who grew up thousands of miles apart but instead two absolutely spoiled children of the ’80s, discussing the amount of pink in Barbie’s wardrobe. In light of yesterday’s Brexit vote, it felt good to focus on shared experiences.
Last night it was giddy tourist mayhem as I met up with a friend from San Francisco and made a new friend from Chicago. The three of us strolled down the Champs-Elysées at sunset, taking silly photos under the Arc de Triomphe and reveling in the bizarre coincidence of being in Paris at the same time. It was one of many moments I’ve had over the last three weeks that left me completely breathless by how fortunate I’ve been to take this trip, how lucky I am to have my life (it’s the end of a journey – I’m feeling reflective AND sentimental). Here in Europe, the refugee crisis is part of daily life. In America, we hear about it on CNN, in Paris, there are Syrian families begging for money in the metro stations and sleeping on old blankets along Boulevard Saint-Michel. To be a privileged American having the time of her life in the midst of so much suffering is a dichotomy that I’m only beginning to process. In fact, I’m only beginning to process this entire trip. I fly home tomorrow, but I think it will be several days before I fully return to reality. –Erika Ayn Finch