Look on the Bright Side

Written by admin on March 13, 2009 – 12:26 pm -

If anyone isn’t experiencing the impact of the economic downturn, bless him and her. They must be living in a bubble of wine and roses.

There are very few people who are so isolated or rich that they don’t know people in Europe and the States who aren’t feeling the crunch. Acquaintances are losing jobs and homes, closing their businesses or at least tightening their belts, and it’s simply not a happy time. And unfortunately, this crisis is not going to be ephemeral—here today and gone tomorrow. 

The tourist industry is suffering and business travel is down. People who traditionally take vacations are going to find that vacations will be among the first things they’ll have to sacrifice. For the French, vacation time is sacred. During this past month’s winter break, many people sent their children packing to their grandparents. If they took a vacation en famille, they went to substantially less expensive places. Or they were able to negotiate a better package deal. 

So what can people do to lessen the pain? Adopt the mantra to go without and decide to take advantage of things that come with a zero to minimal price tag. It’s a question everyone is asking and that includes many Bonjour Paris readers.

For example, walking in Paris’s Luxembourg Garden is a respite. Any well-maintained city park is free for the looking. If you’re so inclined and don’t have a child of your own (and there are times when it’s easier not to because of the responsibility), emotionally adopt a perfectly behaved one and share in that child’s innocent joy of exploration. 

Watch his or her excitement when finding a flower or a piece of ribbon that’s more than simply a piece of cut fabric. Share the child’s exuberance when he sees a new bird or notices a tree that merits climbing.

When taking a walk last Sunday, the person I was with suggested we buy some roses. The florist is by no means the fanciest in Paris. But for ten euros, I received nearly a week’s worth of pleasure. The bouquet was better than any meal and certainly more affordable. Were the flowers an extravagance? Some people might say yes if it were a toss up between them and eating. But the joy the arrangement gave me (and the florist arranged the bouquet as if it cost ten times more, complete with ribbons and wrapped in clear plastic) was worth the three subsequent days of eating exclusively pasta. 

Adopt a neighborhood and really get to know it. Gaze up (and down) in Paris. There’s invariably something new and different to discover. Map out walking tours wherever you live or pinpoint a town near you. Play tourist. How many times do people run from here to there without taking the time to look around? I know I’m guilty.

In France, people escape by going to the movies when times are tough. They’re more affordable than dining out. As a result, theater attendance in Paris has risen. Netflix rentals have yet to become a way of life as they are in the U.S., where an inexpensive way to pass a family evening at home is to schedule a movie time and cook up a couple of huge bowls of popcorn. There’s something decidedly exotic even about seeing an American movie (labeled V.O. for Version Originale)in Paris. 

Paris is full of churches where free or nearly free concerts take place. But people don’t need to attend services, only. Find out what time practice recitals take place and join the audience. In Washington, D.C., the Kennedy Center has Millennium Stage performances at six p.m. every evening, open to all for free. Let’s hope funding for the arts doesn’t disappear from the Federal budget and there will be people with enough money and foundations to underwrite artistic presentations. 

This is the time to return to reading. Many of us are guilty of buying books because Amazon.com makes it so easy and so fast. Visit your local library and become a borrower. Read books to purely escape from the reality of everyday life. 

Another thought—now’s the time to pare down your possessions. If you haven’t worn something in more than five years, chances are you’re not going to. Take those clothes, dishes and items you’ve been collecting in your attic or closets and try to sell them or give them to charity so others who are in need can make use of things you can hardly remember.

France is filled with stores where you can sell second-hand goods, and your cast-off may very well be someone else’s treasure. Why not generate a few euros or dollars, clean out your storage areas and make someone else happy? There are yard sales and flea markets springing up everywhere and many people frequent them as a form of recreation. And big hint: May is a big flea market time!

This is the time when people need to band together and treat one another with increased kindness.

Please feel free to add any and all of your ideas as to how to get through these more than difficult times. People are scared and with good reason. Let’s help assuage some of those fears.

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