Paris ich liebe dich

I’ve never felt more French; yet I’m just starting to settle in my Austrian mountains. Paris, my beloved city, my darling capital, Paris is constantly on my mind; but Salzburg is taking over my daily routine. I watch French TV while learning German; I think of those defending the Parisian terraces while drinking a Gluwein under the snow.

I’ve been away too long to believe in geographical belonging, in a strong sense of place. But the memories, the moments, the years spent there… I will always be attached to Paris.

Is it legitimate? After all I’m 1,000km away, sheltered in my winter wonderland. I know nothing of the pain of the Parisians now, of their fear; I don’t share their reality. It’s easy for me to be French, to stand for France, to claim my love for my country and my city in this moment. I’ve never taken more pride in my origins – but I’ve also never felt farther.

Maybe that’s what symbols are for. These abstract, intangible things that bring you back to people you love, to places you care for. It’s a smell, a song, a flavour. A book, a movie, a chat in French.

It’s knowing that despite the distance, despite the absence, I’m still a little bit there. It’s seeing my Austrian life in bleu blanc rouge.

Paris ich liebe dich

In the making

We don’t get to change life everyday. Changing life – that is, changing place, changing job, changing habits. Leaving the people we love behind, closing the door on the place we’ve called home, knowing we won’t be back anytime soon.

This summer, I have packed my Spanish life, my sailing life, and driven away.

And then, a couple of weeks later, I have arrived in Austria. Far from the sea, far from the city. In a town out of a fairy tale, caught between the mountains. For a job made of flying bikes, mad jumpers, baseball hats and funky adventures.

The moment I reached my new home, I knew it. I knew the change was bigger than expected. It’s strange, because I am still in Europe, I am still writing about sports and I still drink red wine.

Nothing has changed.

Everything has changed.

The language – das ist nicht easy, ya ya ya. The people, the company, the projects. The culture, the schnitzels, the beer, the check shirts and the leather trousers. The rules, the paperwork, the residency permits, this new frame I need to fit in.

This new life I want to love – I already love.

Practicalities are not what define us, facts don’t guide our lives. Despite seriously needing a washing machine, a flat of my own and a French cheese platter, despite ignoring what lies ahead, I am where and who I want to be. In the making.

In the making


Obrigada Brasil.

Your cachaça destroyed my liver, your sun burnt my skin, your coconut sweets attacked my teeth and your mosquitos devoured what was left of me.

I can’t speak Spanish properly anymore… but I’ve mastered the art of Portengliñol.

I want a surfboard and my bikini seems strangely oversized. I’m carrying an excessive amount of cheap flip-flops with me; I could open a shop back in Europe. Not looking forward to go through customs in São Paulo.

I don’t think we’ve left any caipirinhas for the locals, and we probably didn’t impress them much with our samba skills.

My new favourite animal is this giant guinea pig that walks around the city like it’s normal to have A GIANT GUINEA PIG walking around the city.

I’ve replaced sleep with work, chats, parties, dances, ocean swims, and bowls of frozen acai. I’ve lost all sense of road safety – in fact, I’ve stopped thinking about speed limits, speed bumps, traffic lights, traffic jams.

I’ve stopped thinking.

I’ve been on a cool cat, a giant boat and a helicopter.

© Agathe Armand
© Agathe Armand
© Agathe Armand
© Agathe Armand

I’ve smiled and been smiled at, hugged and been hugged.

I’ve felt a knock in my stomach looking at the favelas – even though Chris kept saying they have nothing in common down here with the massive ones in Rio de Janeiro.

But 1,000km to the south, we found our own version of paradise between a marina, two beaches and three jungles.

I’ve locked the door of the pousada today. It was pouring down outside, the sky was low and the clouds were wrapping the hills in cotton threads. Maybe it was your way to see me off.

Brazil, you’ve been random, destabilising, intriguing.

You’ve been tropical, festive and generous, too.

You’ve been addictive. Até breve.

© Agathe Armand

© Agathe Armand
© Agathe Armand

Keep it

She grabs a bottle of (cheap) wine, pours us a glass or two and giggles hysterically. She’s probably browsing Buzzfeed or something. Suddenly, a hysterical scream. Gaaaa – can’t she keep quiet?

Later she would tell me that she only shouted that day because the summer job she dreamt of just got confirmed. She looked so young, so powerfully young as she told me about it; the world was hers. I smiled and hugged her, finally shouting with her, alongside her.

That’s what time travelling with my sister has been like this past week. She’s 20 something, lives in a tiny student room in northern England and has a lot of energy.

We went to this big campus with a library I wished I could live in, classes I dreamt of taking, and a gym filled with youngsters running off their hangovers. Ads for the upcoming Student Union elections, cool kids with ripped jeans, tattoos, piercings, pink hair, blue hair, loud accents and open emotions.

I walked around, guided by that crazy sister of mine, and I remembered what it felt like to be 20 and careless.

It’s not that I felt old – I felt like I came from a very different place. A place where I constantly thrive to think and work.

While all they do out there is experiencing. It caught me by surprise, because I had forgotten what that lightness was made of.

It’s not that I want that life again either. I’m glad I moved forward. But I loved their spontaneity, her spontaneity. I recognised a younger version of me, though slightly different of course – this annoying exuberance, this endless excitement for anyone and anything.

My sister doesn’t get bored; my sister wants to feel it all, to do it all. Studying, travelling, partying, discovering. She wants to discuss international politics, family matters and the balance between what’s good and bad, all at once and right now. Wine or beer, USA or England, heels or flats, bangs or long hair, a part-time job or a trip to France, The 100 or True Blood?

That is, until she gets annoyed, or grumpy. She would crash on the sofa for hours on end, crawled under a blanket, watching some crap shit, eating some crap food. The light would slowly fade outside and she would just stay there, chuckling, dancing, chilling.

It took me a few days to adjust, but I dived back. I, too, ran away in the freezing cold only to hang out in dirty PJs the rest of the day, eating out of the cereals box, drinking wine and putting the world to rights again. I, too, asked for long, theoretical discussions shortly followed by vast empty moments of nail painting.

Youth. Your heart is as light as your mind is full. Higher highs, lower lows.

And that loud, beautiful laugh of yours. Keep it. Keep it.

Keep it

A l’est

Le ciel est brouillé, la brume ne se lève pas. Personne ne parle anglais, et je ne sais rien dire en chinois. Ça fait des jours que j’essaye de retenir ‘eau’, ‘ici’, ‘stop’, ‘tu te fous de ma gueule ça vaut pas 200 yuans’, mais ça veut pas.

L’alcool local me décolle le cerveau, je ne sens plus mes poumons, c’est la pollution. Je n’irai plus jamais au marché en sandales. Je ne monterai plus jamais dans un taxi, ou dans un tuc-tuc, ou sur un scooter. D’ailleurs je vais simplement éviter d’aller dans la rue.

Les gens me dévisagent, nous dévisagent. Ils rigolent, ils nous prennent en photo, nous crient dessus. On ne comprend rien et ça les fait rigoler. Puis crier encore.

Tout commence en retard, tout est incompréhensible, crade, salé, épicé. Il y a des rats, de la poussière, des crachats, du bruit, tellement de bruit. Il faut se contenter de sourire pour tout dialogue, et chanter en public sans connaître les paroles.

Mais maintenant que l’on va partir, je ne me rappelle que des rires, que des couleurs. Ces semaines paumées au sud de la Chine ont eu une saveur unique, bordélique et joyeuse.

© Agathe Armand
© Agathe Armand

Les bateaux partent demain et je décolle lundi. Où que j’aille, je veux me rappeler de Sanya.

Je veux me rappeler de cette aube où, en courant, j’ai traversé un groupement de préfabriqués où habitent les ouvriers. C’était le petit matin, des mecs faisaient cuire des nouilles dans la rue et des rats couraient parmi les ordures.

Un type s’arrête et me salue. Comme ça, en anglais, à 3000 kilomètres de Pékin, au milieu d’un tas de gravas – ‘Morning !’ Avec l’accent.

Je veux me rappeler de ce soir où j’ai croisé le regard de la femme qui nettoyait le centre de presse et qui s’est arrêtée derrière l’ordinateur d’Ainhoa la photographe.

La face burinée, les yeux éberlués, elle regardait les images défiler sur l’écran. Elle m’a vue la regarder, et a fait un grand, un immense sourire. Elle n’arrivait pas à détacher ses yeux des photos. On a commencé à rigoler toutes les deux, j’en avais les larmes aux yeux.

Je ne sais pas si je reviendrai jamais à Sanya. Mais je m’en rappellerai longtemps, parce que la vie y est très dégeu, et très heureuse.

A l’est