After waves of COVID-19 and the impending effects of war in Ukraine for the upcoming winter, France has been facing a pénurie d’essence—a gas shortage—for much of October.
Strikes that began in late September continued across the country last week. France’s second largest trade union, CGT, had called for employees in all public sectors to defend “wage increases and the defense of the right to strike.”
The French government reacted with sweeping measures in mid-October as the gas crisis worsened, forcing employees of the two ExxonMobil refineries to return to work or risk fines or jail time.
Some of the Ukrainians fighting Vladimir Putin’s Russian army are also French.
When Putin’s threats toward Ukraine increased in seriousness in mid-February, France encouraged its citizens there to leave. As war damage increased after Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24, there was a second wave of emigrants, said Sen. Hélène Conway-Mouret, the senator for French citizens living in other countries. But some French, she said, usually with dual Ukrainian citizenship, “made the choice to stay … and fight.”
This happens when I have been alone too long—the words start to leak out of everything and they will not stop. I cannot look around, I cannot take a single step, without it becoming prose, and it is not welcome. It thrusts me into a place where language imposes this acute separation between me and everything else—leaks its ink out of the bark, the pavement, the sky, flowing directly from itself to me in the form of a stream of words, and it will not let me rest.
Take up residence in France and you’ll find that everyday life is infused with history. If you’re a curious person, you can’t help but absorb facts it would take years of history classes and careful concentration to learn back in the United States. Here you see and touch history, observing how its effects are felt even long after its scenes’ original actors have departed.
The Brotherhood of the Blood (la Confrérie de la Sanch) is a religious and charitable organization that has existed in Perpignan since 1416. Its founding mission was to commemorate the Passion of Christ, which is the short, final period of the life of Jesus Christ; to assist prisoners who had been condemned to death; and to preach penance and help sinners prepare for their final judgement and salvation. As part of this mission, members of the brotherhood, known as penitents, would accompany prisoners condemned to death on their final walk through the city to the scaffold.
Today, I saw some storks. Three, to be exact, flying over the Western Mediterranean marshlands where I live, heading to their breeding grounds further north. Late January and a presage of spring already, accompanying the mimosa trees that have suddenly burst into flower as though a child has taken a pot of the brightest yellow paint she could find and splashed drops all over a wintery canvas. It was just as the spring migration was beginning last year that France entered its first lockdown.
The roots of my Dinovember experience probably date back to a conversation a few years ago with a friend about dinosaurs. This turned into a running joke about anything T. rex related. A couple weeks ago she said to me, “You should do Dinovember this year with Paul.”
In 2013, I attended an intense, all-day, week-long training in Paris. The upper-floor classrooms hovered over the train tracks of the Gare de l’Est, and while we were too distant to hear the hustle and bustle of the train station traffic, one sound rang through the open windows in regular intervals: SNCF’s four-tone jingle that introduces train announcements to passengers. This audio sound serves as a friendly alarm, always followed by “Mesdames, Messieurs …” (“Ladies and Gentlemen …”) and useful train-travel information, such as on which track a train is arriving or an alert to a dreaded delay.
PHOTOS AND TEXT BY TUNDE ALABI-HUNDEYIN II, CÉSAR ARREDONDO, AND SYLVIA ASARE
In this “year of the pandemic,” every big news story of 2020 takes place against the backdrop of the pandemic, a reality that affects these events in ways sometimes obvious and sometimes not yet clear. Protests in the United States over police violence dominated world news cycles this summer. But like the pandemic, the protests didn’t stop at national borders. In this article, we bring you observations in word and image from correspondents of differing nationalities who witnessed protests in Brighton, England, and in Los Angeles and Paris. Their reports remind us that protests over police violence have been a worldwide story taking place in the midst of a pandemic, an event that—as our View From a Pandemic series shows—has tied humanity together in a common struggle. Together we are humans combatting a microscopic virus as well as jointly fighting the universal disease of prejudice against people who are different from us.