Friday, April 23, 2010
Facebook Finds Friends
After five days of waiting, two rescheduled transatlantic flights, three additional flights purchased, four flights that I cancelled without the assistance of the volcano, a few days back home in St. Louis, ten hours spent sitting on the floor in Charlotte, North Carolina's airport, and a flight to France that was delayed by close to three hours, I have finally arrived back to my apartment in Paris. I felt that writing today could stave off my exhaustion. Furthermore, I have a pretty easy topic today, so hopefully my lack of cognitive ability which I possess today does not show through.
In April of 2008, I was sitting in front of my laptop at my desk in my first apartment in Paris, enjoying a glass of red wine following dinner (what made it so enjoyable was that it was only a little above 3 euros a bottle and actually pretty good). As I often did when I first arrived here, I started thinking about home, about my friends that I'm missing and some activities which I could not easily do in Paris. When away from one's country for a long period of time, it is actually quite amazing the things that one misses. I missed Mexican food a lot, even though I don't eat it that regularly, I missed certain streets which I would drive down to visit a friend, and on this particular night, I even started thinking about my kindergarten class. Suddenly, I was startled out of my reverie when I remembered that my best friend in kindergarten, François, was French! Being the case, it seemed that there was a good chance that he would be in France as well. One issue that seemed to stand out was that I had not seen him since I was five years old, when he moved back to France with his family. Would he remember me if I contacted him and even then, how could I find him?
Fortunately for me, I love messing around on facebook. No matter where I've lived, I've been able to keep tabs on my good friends (and even on people who claim to be friends who I cannot for the life of me remember who they are), so that when we finally meet up, we already know a little about what is going on in each other lives. In François' case, I started by searching for his name on facebook, though I immediately realized that there are far too many people with the same first name in France to actually find him without searching through 10,000 other profiles as well. I called my parents and asked for his last name and my Mom happened to recall it, albeit with a slight spelling error. I looked him up and sure enough, found a guy whose birthday was just a few days apart from my own, French, and looked like the François that I knew as a kid, though much older obviously. I sent out an introductory email, hoping he would remember me, and seeing if we could meet up at some point.
This plan worked well. By August, I was on a train out to Brest, which is the westernmost city on the French mainland, to meet up with some guy I hadn't seen since we had mandatory nap time at school everyday. I exited the train station, and was able to find him with little trouble. What amazed me after a couple of days is that we talked and got along as if it had been only a few days since our last encounter, and not 19 years. Since then, I have also visited him in Provence, where he and his lovely fiancée live today, and Julie and I will be attending their wedding in Bretagne (Brittany) in July.
I know some people happen to think that facebook is a colossal waste of time. To some extent, that is true. There are tons of applications, games, and other distractions that don't really contribute to my personal enjoyment of the site. I personally do not care how many sheep you have raised on your virtual farm, or what drink you have virtually sent me.
However, facebook, when used for its original purpose (that is connecting people), is nothing short of phenomenal. Thanks to it, I have been able to reconnect with my best friend from kindergarten, meet up with an old friend from high school in Brussels, and get travel advice from people I barely know. For example, if you put on your status "Anyone know something to do in Barcelona?," chances are that you will get several responses from friends who want to help, some that you know well and others that you don't. You might even have a cousin of a friend who lives there that would be happy to put you up in his guest room or on his couch for a few nights. From this point of view, I have nothing to say but good things about facebook. It has made traveling easier, and as long as you aren't too shy, it can make a positive difference in your traveling experiences as well.
If you are traveling to Paris and looking to see (and eat) what French people really eat and take a walk around some cool neighborhoods of Paris, look into my tours at culinarytoursofparis.com