There are tons of things I should not be complaining about. I live in France, I’m contractually obligated to only 12 hours of work per week, I can leave my landlord to scrub the bathtub if I damn well please— life is pretty easy. But some of the things that give me pause in this first year of life as a “Big Girl” spiral toward the same point: a lot of the things we are taught to believe about the way the world works are off.
Quite off, if we’re talking about Marseille.
As the third biggest city in metropolitan France, there’s a lot to cover. The glorious sunshine (300 days of the year, Hallelujah!), the sea, the history, the views… But when I told a lady sitting next to me on a cross-Atlantic flight that this is where I would call home for the next 8 months, she looked me straight on and said, stone-faced, “Honey, are you sure? You know it’s like *whispering* the Middle East?!”
Right. I’m not saying there are no problems. This city has issues of unemployment, child poverty, drug abuse, violence. The kids I teach are going through some of these problems. I don’t pretend to understand what it’s like to live with that reality every day; I have the choice to commute to their neighborhood for work, whereas they were quite literally born into their circumstances. This is where I find myself getting the most angry at people who make comments like the lady on the plane.
These kids are brilliant. They are bright-eyed, excited, good learners, kind. It gives France a bad name, a prejudiced, bigoted name that can only whisper of the diversity that exists in this city to dismiss it, or parts of it (the famous “Quartiers Nords”) as part of the chaff to be swept from the table in favor of homogeneity of culture.
Maybe you believe that as an outsider I cannot understand. Maybe you’re right. But I am here to assert that A) not everyone is like that whispering woman in the window seat, and B) these kids deserve so much more than outright dismissal, just like this city.
Rant over. If you’re ready to hear more about this city of surprises, read on.