I know, I know... you're feeling a bit ignored because I haven't been posting much lately here. I understand and I feel suitably guilty about that. So here's a nice juicy "let's catch up" post, which will hopefully make things more clear about why I've been rather absent from my own blog lately.
Well, as you know, I've been doing the job hunt thing and also have been working on this initiative to ban "love locks" from the Parisian landscape -- or at the very least, to get them banned from the bridges or any other historical structures where they do damage and kill the views.
The job search has been going unexpectedly well. As last reported, I have received a job offer, although I did not start the training this week as anticipated because the employer is working out some details on their end with regard to some new office space. This could actually take weeks or even a month to work out, so until then, I am still not actually working. Also, some other interesting possibilities have come to my attention in the past week as well. I don't want to say too much about any of it at the moment, other than it seems the Universe is sort of throwing things in my lap even when I don't go looking for them, and THAT is always a very cool thing when it happens. I am inclined to just explore all avenues and be open to simply rolling with things as they come; being "in flow" with life is so much more peaceful than trying to force something to happen (which usually never works out well, anyway).
And it turned out to be a very good thing that I didn't have to start a new job this week. The No Love Locks (NLL for short) project sort of took off like a rocket in the past 7 or 8 days. One of Georges' friends (he knows who he is, waving at him with a big MERCI!) had a fabulous idea about us sending an open letter to the candidates in the upcoming municipal elections, which are the 23rd and 30th of this month, telling them about our initiative and asking for their position on it; Georges wrote the letter because of course it had to be in proper French. Then, another friend helped us track down addresses and web sites of the local politicians so we'd know where to send it (waving at him, too, if he's reading). A third friend, whose profession for the past many years has actually been political PR in Paris, jumped in to craft a press release and provide us with the media contacts. To prepare for more French people coming to our site, we had to beef up the French content as well. Suffice to say, I had my hands full this week, as did my co-founder Lisa and of course Georges, doing all of this, but now the open letter has been sent to the candidates (we are waiting to see if we get any responses, and will publish them on the site if we do) and press releases to all the journalists on our list. It was 3 or 4 days of total insanity where I didn't leave the house except to run local errands, because there was so much that needed to be done, and monitored.
And separate from that, we ended up getting, through no credit of our own, 3 different media outlets noticing us and what we're up to! It began on March 3rd with an article on French-News-Online (a site delivering French news in English). Next, we got a request to write a short opinion piece for TheLocal.fr, another site that delivers French news in English. And finally, a French news site, ArretSurImages.net, was working on a story about the love locks in Paris, and contacted us for a quote. All three provided links to our site and to the petition, and the next thing you know, all hell broke loose, in the best possible sense.
In less than 6 days (most of this in the first 3 days following the 2nd and 3rd articles, especially) our Facebook followers more than tripled and the petition signatures, especially from the signers in France, outpaced the non-France signers by 3 to 1. And of course, we need more signatures from within France to prove to the Mairie that Parisians (i.e. voters and taxpayers) care about this issue and want action! We hit 1,000 signatures yesterday afternoon at around 5pm Paris time and we couldn't be happier.
Although we are still awaiting replies from the candidates and from some of the journalists we contacted, the word is clearly spreading thanks to social media. Tomorrow, I will have an interview (that will take place ON the Pont des Arts) from the in-house TV channel at the American University in Paris who is doing an episode on romance and relationships; they heard about us and want me to talk about why we see love locks as a problem and about our thoughts on other ways people can express themselves romantically if the locks are banned. If they have footage of the interview online following its release on their station, I'll be sure and link to it.
So, all things being what they are, I think you get a more clear picture of why I've been a bit worn out and haven't had the spare time or energy this week for much personal blogging. This NLL project has proven more time consuming than any of us expected. Next time I start thinking about taking a leadership role in any sort of activism efforts, I will remember this, because wow, the commitment that is needed to try and change ANYTHING in this world is always going to be much more than anticipated - and we are just talking protecting some historic sites in one city; imagine the commitment needed by those who get involved in larger world issues such as poverty, hunger and human rights. Maybe the reason THIS project is working for me as a new activist is that it IS something specific, something that feels concrete and manageble, something where we have at least an above-average chance of winning in the end; but ending hunger or achieving world peace? If those were simple, the world would have done it by now.
One week from today, I will be casting my first-ever vote in a French election. If we're allowed, Georges will take a few photos of me stuffing the putting my ONE, and ONLY one, official vote into the ballot box in our polling place. The voting process here is both similar to and different than the same process in the States, so I'll write more about that in another post, as it's rather interesting, especially as elections in Paris have a special "twist" that is a lot less straightforward than in other cities across France.
Just writing this post makes me feel like a need a serious nap... and it's only 12:20pm. Could be the Benadryl I took this morning - maybe you've heard about the horrible air pollution problem in Paris in the past week? It's been SO bad that the city even made the rented Vélib bikes, Autolib cars and public transportion FREE for much of the week, trying to get people to leave their own cars at home and reduce vehicle emissions. Today they announced (temporarily) alternate driving days for people with cars, trying to reduce emissions even further. Air quality is normally not so great here -- my one regret about living in Paris is that respiratory issues could actually cut my life expectancy, due to the general air pollution here -- and although I don't have asthma or the usual spring allergies, the pollution has been making my eyes itch and my sinuses seem a bit blocked. Apparently, this happening across much of France as well, due to some weather conditions such as unseasonably warm weather for the time of year, including a lot of sunshine (yay) and no wind or rain; plus, Paris is geographically in sort of a "bowl" surrounded by hills, so the ickiness in the air (that's the official term for it, right?) just SITS here in the bowl. And Paris suffers. We had almost no "winter" this winter, so I suppose this is the payback.
And thanks to all of you who have signed our petition. If you haven't signed, it's not too late - you don't have to be French OR live in France in order to sign and have your voice heard! Sign the petion in English or French here.