My trip to Paris

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Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program class at People for Community Recovery, a not-for-profit organization based in the Altgeld Gardens public housing development. In April 2011, youths from People for Community Recovery traveled to France as part of a photography exchange program with youths from La Courneuve, a community near Paris.

When we first left out, we went to the office for People for Community Recovery (PCR), an environmental study group. I was really sleepy, and we sat for about 15 minutes. Then a truck pulled up; It was good and clean, big and shiny. Then everyone started taking pictures. I took pictures of the front of the truck, then on the side of the truck to show the details and the wheels. I asked my friend Hollis, a fellow resident of Altgeld Gardens, how does he feel about going to Paris? He said, “I’ve been on lots of planes taking trips to see my auntie in Georgia, but I am very excited.”

The Eiffel Tower. Photo by Manquaze Allen.

A limo pulled up. I wasn’t that excited but Hollis, Lanesha, Lakesha and Nakia – also residents of Altgeld Gardens – were yelling, jumping and moving their bags out of the PCR office into the limo. Every one got in the limo and I was the last person to get in. As I said before, I wasn’t that excited. We started singing in the limo on the way to the airport; we were singing an R Kelly song. When we got out at the airport, everyone got their bags and went to the counter. The airport attendants weighed our bags then we went through security, which took forever. After security, I went to sit down. We boarded and I felt so relieved that we were on the plane. I got a massive headache once we were in the air so I fell asleep. I slept the whole way there.

We arrived in Paris and went to the hotel to drop off our bags. When I saw the bathroom, I was amazed. “Where is the shower?” I asked. I then opened the door next to the bathroom and there was the shower. My jaw dropped! It was so small, barely enough space for one person. After putting my bags up, I met back in the lobby with everyone in the group and we went to eat dinner. I had a hamburger made the American way with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. The fries were out of this world. I tasted all of the seasoning the restaurant put on them. They used salt and pepper. It was great. We walked back to the hotel to go to sleep.

While on a boat ride in Paris we saw houses slanted towards the water and the Eiffel Tower along the river canal. The Eiffel Tower looked about 100 stories tall. What interested me the most was how dirty the water was. The water’s color was green and there was garbage dumped on top of the river. We also went to Parc Asterix, an amusement park in Paris. It was amazing; the park had a ride called Zeuse. I thought I was going to die on the drops, turns and spins. It me made pass out. I woke up and got off the ride; my heart skipped a beat and then it was over. I had the time of my life.

Paris by boat. Photo by Manquaze Allen.

We went to a celebration to give recognition for pictures we took. I felt so honored; my photo of Altgeld Gardens at the time the sun was setting was chosen. Also the picture of my nephew was chosen. Tears fell from my eyes; my picture of my nephew was the best picture I have ever taken. He was standing in the grass at Altgeld Gardens in front of my house; he was smiling. He has a one in a million smile that everyone loves.

I woke up at 6:35 a.m. and felt bad. It was time to go home and everyone cried, except for me. I felt heartbroken because I had to leave new friends behind. I walked off and we went our separate ways. As we went to the train and all my memories of Paris flash in my mind; the time we spent at Parc Asterix, the first day at the hotel, and the boat ride.

Transportation in Paris is not safe and it is not up to date. They like to use the old ways to transport and have very dangerous buses. They squeeze as many people on a bus a possible until you can barely move. That causes easy pick pocketing. I had my brush pick pocketed. In Chicago there is a room limit and a lift for people with disabilities but the buses in Paris don’t. The buses only ride through the middle of the city. The buses are so bad people would rather ride bikes. To get back to the airport, we had to take the train, the second transportation source in Paris. It is the fastest way to travel but also the most dangerous. It has a time limit, so when you get on, do it in a rush, because if you don’t, the door will close. My friend Lanesha got caught in a door. We had to push her through the door so the train wouldn’t drag her. Just like the bus, it had no lifts and there wasn’t an attendant to make sure nothing would happen. My disabled friend Andrew had to be lifted up and down the stairs by me, my friend Hollis, our American guide David, and the guide from Paris. They didn’t have an elevator to lift him, but we managed to make it. We made it to the airport and got aboard the plane, saying ‘bye as our flight left Paris.

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