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The French Airport Passport Challenge (Pt 2)

The first part of my harrowing passport tale took readers through the odd and at times utterly scary moments I experienced while trying to travel from France to England on my Barbadian passport.

That airport experience – and others – led me to realise that passports are not created equal, especially as things are drastically different when I’ve used my British one in the past.

When I left off, I’d just managed to cross the final barrier before being spit out into the busy Charles de Gaulle airport. My next task seemed simple: Ignore the men with machine guns and find my way to the check-in area. Though I had hours to spare and Parisian exploration was suggested, my paranoia heightened. My interest was in the destination . . . end.

After making it to the terminal I rid myself of the “suspicious” makeup brushes. I wasn’t about to go through a strip search in the next wave for some perfect contours.

My pseudo-zen was short-lived. Sniffer dogs and their beefy, no-nonsense looking handlers entered the terminal. I paid little attention, until a dog took way too much interest in my bag. My stomach catapulted from my body and landed on the floor.

Stepford smile!

The dog was called away, but during their up and down trek, both dogs stopped at my bag multiple times. This made one security guard stop for a closer look once, but luckily all was well. Until . . .

Time to check-in.

I would show my passport, then my ticket, and voila, onward to the departure lounge.

Wrong again.

Instead of heading straight to the counters, there was a pre-check of passports. The male and female security personnel were friendly enough. The woman took my passport, peered at me, then my passport again and asked, “What is your business in England?”

With a bright smile, I informed her I was going to live as I was a citizen. For a reason I couldn’t get yet, she didn’t like this answer and asked me for proof. I showed her my expired British one, and as she started to shake her head, I wondered briefly if I was going to be stuck in France till ‘Wheneverary’.

She questioned me about why I didn’t use my British passport to travel. In this moment I tried to keep my head as the answer seemed obvious enough, “Because it’s expired and I’ll renew when there.” She didn’t like this answer either and explained that they preferred if British citizens travelled on British passports. Who are they?

In this moment the Caribbean woman in me tried to take hold, but I managed to keep most of the edge out of my voice as I explained how expiration works . . . again. None of this mattered. I was told to wait on the side while her colleague made a call.

“We have to make sure it is okay to let you through.” she said to me.

Stepford smile baby. Stepford smile.

Final part: Visas, weird questions, and how many checkpoints are there?

Paris street harassment just one case of many

A woman named Marie Laguerre was walking down the streets of Paris last week when some idiot thought it would be appropriate to harass her on the street. After she shut told him to shut up, he walked up to her and struck her in the face before taking off like a coward.

The only thing more rage-inducing than these animals who can’t take a hint is that there are still people who believe this is an isolated incident.

It obviously isn’t just me who undergoes harassment on the street or on the bus. But, I’ve gone through my fair share of cat-calling, wolf whistling, and being stared down on the subway. One incident that particularly comes to mind is when I was on the way home with my mother on the subway. This older man sat across from me and my mom and kept staring at me, looking down at my chest, then back at me, smiling the whole time. I glared right back at him, but he only turned away when he sensed that my mother would punch a hole in his chest if he didn’t stop looking at me. It didn’t end there, though. He whipped out his phone and then went to some porn site in the middle of a crowded car. He refrained from touching himself, but he drew the disgusted glances of women entering the car as they saw a pair of large, wet breasts bouncing up and down on his screen. I was mortified.

Sure, you can rip into these guys. But at what cost? You have no idea how they’re going to react and this Paris incident is only one of thousands. I don’t want to deal with someone following me down the street. I don’t want to deal with someone trying to harass me or attack me just because he’s too weak to handle being told off. It’s blood-boiling to know that these street harassers can’t take no for an answer and the only way they can assert their feigned sense of dominance is to attack someone for shutting them down. Yeah, you’re real tough.

Plenty of women I know were called crude names after telling off catcallers. What was “Hey, mama” a second ago soon becomes “Whatever, you ugly bitch.” Sometimes you have them exit their cars and walk up to you and start an altercation because nothing screams “Look at me, I deserve the attention of women” like harassing whoever doesn’t respond to piggish advances.

There are also the typical “Why didn’t you tell him off?” comments. This video is why. The countless other incidents just like it is why. Look at the woman who bumped into that guy on the Westminster SkyTrain station and then was pushed on the ground, close to the tracks. He also threw his coffee all over her before knocking her down. She didn’t even say anything to the guy. How can you honestly ask why women don’t confront street harassers or cat callers when unprovoked attacks are just as likely to happen?

The good news is that with the Paris case, the majority of people are rallying behind her in support of not only catching this guy but also in understanding that this type of behaviour has no place in society.

However, it would be incorrect to say that there aren’t people placing blame on the woman. Without naming names, Facebook comments on various news posts have ranged from “we must get both sides of the story before we judge,” “Question…..Why did the woman not go directly into the restaurant and call the police but only came back to argue with this idiot….Then she walks away…Not stay around, call the police, and get witnesses…..something fishy!!!!,” “KARMA……..” and one man who simply commented “Nice.”

The comments on the woman being pushed on the ground weren’t much better. Dozens of people were commenting on how she got what she deserved, how him pushing her wasn’t unprovoked, and how the woman was no victim.

These types of incidents are everywhere. Ask just about any woman you know and you’ll be introduced to just how many times this has happened and in what capacity. More awareness needs to be raised about these issues without welcoming comments from trolls or conspiracy theorists. This type of behaviour needs to end and the more awareness people raise and the more everyone talks about it, the more educated people become.

The only good thing that came out of all this was that people everywhere are talking about ways to end street harassment. People are seeing first-hand what kind of things women go through on a daily basis.

It’s not right for a woman to fear standing up for herself, just like it isn’t right to have women harassed on a daily basis. But, a woman’s hands are tied because the majority of the time she either endures harassment and goes on her way or tells the guy off and risks being physically assaulted.

What kind of world is that to live in?

Why is no one #PrayingForEgypt?

Over 300 people were killed Friday during a militant attack on a mosque in northern Sinai. At least 27 were children. The last number of wounded was recorded at 128.

During the imam’s sermon, the attackers opened fire. They were positioned at the doors and windows, which meant no one could escape. Explosions erupted. Officials say at least two dozen people carrying a black Daesh banner were shooting into the crowd of innocent worshippers.

It is being called one of the deadliest assault by Islamic extremists in modern history.

And yet — no one is praying for Egypt on social media.

In November 2016, 128 people died in a suicide bombing and shooting in Paris. Six worshipers were killed and 19 injured when a lone gunman fired into a Quebec mosque in January. In June, a bomb went off at an Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester. Twenty two people died. The Las Vegas shooting left 58 people dead and 546 injured.

In each of these occasions, people #prayed. They filtered their social media pictures and marked themselves “safe” on Facebook. You couldn’t open Twitter without seeing a heart emoji or a trending hashtag. Families sat in their living rooms watching CNN or CBC, glued to the television screen in horrified silence.

And yet, an attack that left over 300 people dead received little public attention. There was no Facebook check-in that I’m aware of. No image filter. There was a trending hashtag – #PrayForEgypt – but most of the people using it were from the region or had a connection to the region.

On my own social media feed, there was practically nothing. I pride myself on following a diverse set of people, but still my westernized twitter lists had very little information on the tragedy, and even less personal messages. The same people who prayed for Manchester were not praying for Egypt.

Why the discrepancy? Is it because Egypt is a predominately Muslim country or that the atrocity took place in a mosque? Is it because the country is not a typical Western ally? Is it because people just don’t care about things that don’t happen in their home or neighbouring countries?

The news has reported the incident, but it has been largely overshadowed by the political shakeup in Zimbabwe or the engagement of Prince Harry. That’s not an excuse, but a reality of the news cycle. It’s up to everyone to individually pay attention to what is happening around the world and not pass judgement on who to care about.

Three hundred people are dead. Twenty-seven children are dead. Their only sin is that they were praying in a mosque frequented by Sufis, one of the muslim sects in Egypt.

Whether it’s a shooting at a popular tourist attraction, a bombing in a war-torn country like Iraq, or a shooting in a place of worship in Egypt, a human life is a human life. If you are going to pray for one, you should pray for all.

#PrayFor Egypt.

Featured image provided by Andini Prian . 

Don’t let fear stop you from seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris

While at a recent dinner party, I was asked an interesting question: what’s your favourite city to visit and why do you have a connection with that place? I thought about it for a while and decided on London, which has always felt like home to me. It’s probably my obsession with British fashion and even the depressing weather. I heard other guests reply with places like Manhattan, New York, Tokyo, Japan, and other destinations. I got to thinking to what my answer might have been a few years ago—Paris, France.

France is one of the most popular European countries, with the City of Paris attracting a lot of attention. However, in 2016, the French Tourism Board reported a dip in tourists in the city, with the industry losing almost £644M. This sharp decline was mainly caused by terrorism fears and concerns. France is a country that relies heavily on tourism, with seven per cent of the country’s GDP  generated from those sales. Even the Eiffel Tower had about 1 million less visitors last year.

 

Paris is known as the city of love and, before terrorism became an active concern, it was seen as a peaceful and romantic destination with odd crimes and pick-pockets. French tourism does not look so positive, as a few weeks ago, in the City of Nice, nine people were arrested after a thwarted terror attack.

However, one of the worst things you can do is let fear restrict you from travelling to the places you dream of. We are living in an unpredictable world, but that shouldn’t prevent someone from experiencing other cultures or relaxing with friends and family. Here are four small tips to travel without fear.

  • Consider your anxiety and don’t let proposed fear outweigh actual concerns. As a tip, maybe stay away from overly populated tourists spots or make sure your valuables are kept safe. Try getting a small lock for your backpack to deter pickpockets.
  • Know where you’re going. Research the neighbourhoods and know roughly how to get to your destination. Don’t wander down dark streets on your own.
  • Don’t let regret plague you from missing out on a good trip. At the end of the day, you don’t want to think “Oh, I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower, but I was too worried about pickpockets”. You will always regret not going to see this iconic and historic marvel. Just do it!
  • Stop worrying about something that is out of your control. Sometimes, shit happens. Just take every minute as it comes and remember that as long as you are safe, everything else is small potatoes.

Try to venture off the beaten track a bit and explore less popular neighbourhoods in Paris, including Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), Bastille, Canal Saint Martin or Saint-Germain-des-Pres. This way you can soak up all the food, culture, fashion and romance the city has to offer without having to line up for hours with hundreds and thousands of other tourists like you.

Will you be planning you next trip to Paris? Comment below.

The Gilmore Girls Revival I wanted to love

Warning: slight spoilers ahead. But no, I would never reveal the last four words. That would just be mean.

There are very few television shows that make me more emotional than Gilmore Girls. It’s one of those feel-good comedy dramas that makes everything better, even if the episode leaves you sobbing into your pillow while eating a bucket of ice cream.

Gilmore therapy — that’s what I call it.

To give you an idea of how much I love the show, back in October, I stood in a line for nearly two hours to get some free coffee at a pop-up Luke’s Diner. Despite the fact that I knew I would get nothing more than a coffee sleeve, I stuck it out anyways. So, when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, came out on Netflix on Friday, I knew I needed to make it quite the affair.

I invited my girlfriends and fellow Gilmore girls to my place on Saturday morning to binge the revival. The table was covered in snacks Gilmore-style. We had the staples — poptarts with an apple centerpiece, tater tots, marshmallows, smartfood popcorn, and pizza — as well as a few “healthy” options we barely touched. Dressed in sweat pants, sweaters, and some plaid, we all settled in for what we knew would be an incredibly long emotional rollercoaster. After watching the last two episodes of the original season, we dived in to the revival; ready for whatever the writers were going to throw at us.

Note: we started watching television around 11:30 a.m. and we finished around 9 p.m. I think I can say I’ve officially mastered the binge.

It’s taken a few days to digest my feelings about the show, but after much consideration, I would give the revival a solid b-minus. The theme was very much about transitions — what you do when life throws you a curveball. Emily, Lorelai, and Rory Gilmore are each struggling to get their lives back on track, and each challenge brings the family closer together. Emily must deal with the loss of her husband, Richard, who was played by the late Edward Herrmann. Lorelai is in a rut, both in her relationship with Luke and in her professional life at the Dragonfly Inn, unable to move forward. And Rory is jumping from guy to guy with no set clear path career wise.

There was a lot to love about the revival. Kirk’s film and his oooooo-ber business, Paris taking the heads off of Chilton’s next generation, and of course the extensive cameo list. There were moments that made me snort in my coffee and cry into tissues. The draft of the book entitled “The Gilmore Girls” was a cute add-in that I really enjoyed. And, of course, the set of Stars Hallow was still as beautiful and quirky as ever.

But —and while it it pains me to say it — there was a lot lost in the new four episodes.

What appealed to me about the original series was the strength of the characters. These ambitious women tackled problems independently, without aide or dependence from their partners. They were comfortable with who they were. It’s also one of the few shows that didn’t have unnecessary relationship drama (the emergence of April notwithstanding). The boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands were always there, but they were never the focus. The only relationship that mattered was that between mother and daughter.

But those strong characters completely deteriorated in the revival. Rory, the bookworm that stole my heart and soul so many years ago, lost all her journalistic fire. Where was the woman that sent out hundreds of resumes by hand or harassed an editor in his office with a book full of writing samples and a handful of pitches? It seemed like she was just waiting for opportunities that were presented to her instead of going out and finding a story, something the old Rory Gilmore would have done in an instant. Professional life aside, where was the girl that fled the country after realizing she was “the other woman” in an accidental affair? Now, the character seems to have completely devolved, actively engaging in an affair with an engaged former beau. And what about poor Paul!!

And then there were the fillers. The Stars Hallow musical, for example, was strange and way to long. Yes, it gave Carol King an opportunity to make a cameo, but it was 15 minutes of weird unnecessary song and dance from two Broadway stars that worked with the writers on other projects. Also, the 30-something gang was kind of offensive. It perpetuates the false stereotype that millennials are lost and apathetic, mooching off their parents and spending their time watching YouTube and doing weird Internet challenges. Kudos to Rory for not getting caught into it all, but I was hoping she would get them involved in the Stars Hallow Gazette to prove they had actual purpose.

All in all, Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life fulfilled my withdrawal. It had enough good moments to counter some of the bad, and it presented a great opportunity to get together with friends and eat a ton of junk food. The last four words were worth waiting for, and it does bring the story full circle, ending the revival in an intriguing and suspenseful way, but also leaving room for a possible continuation.

I hope that if Netflix does decide to keep Gilmore Girls running, they do a bit of a better job at returning the characters to their former glory. I really wanted to love the revival, and I really want to love whatever Netflix decides to do with the show next. Until then, I’ll just say this:

I smell snow. 

 


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196 countries pledge to try and save planet Earth

It was a momentous historical occasion in Le Bourget, Paris, earlier this week. On Dec. 11, 196 countries signed an agreement at the 21st Annual UN Climate Change Conference pledging to help slow down carbon emissions.

The central clause of the agreement vows to lower “the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.  The necessity of a pledge such as this is blatant — if the temperature rises over 2 °C, it will cause more wildfires, flooding, crop failures, food shortages and diseases worldwide.

The agreement will determine which technologies, capacity building techniques, and finances will help mitigate climate change the most effectively. There is also is a pledge by developed countries to help developing countries gain access to appropriate resources to help in the lowering of emissions. The exact resources have yet to be determined.

Participating countries will determine their own personal emission targets by 2018, and by 2020 each participant should have created a concrete plan to carry out those targets. Countries will meet again in 2023 to determine if their plans have been effective. They will then meet every five years to report and review their progress.

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There is an emphasis on transparency in the agreement. Each country is required to submit a bi-annual inventory report of relevant emissions and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases. The reports will be further assessed by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which oversaw the Kyoto Protocol.

Developed countries will also work towards raising and providing $100 billion U.S. per year to help developing countries tackle carbon emissions.

The agreement to contribute $100 billion annually to help developing countries is a new strategy for climate change.  It unites the countries in a collaborative effort to make a difference and allows developing countries to progress with the rest of the world in an eco-friendly manner. Many criticisms have arisen because the $100 billion term was only mentioned in the preamble to the agreement and the actual amount of global aid remains to be determined.

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The focus on reducing climate emissions is a central focus in the accord, as is this new found emphasis on helping developing countries reach their target climate goals. Global citizenship has finally been put on the table and the sheer number of countries that signed the agreement reflects a growing change in international attitudes and growing diplomacy towards climate change.

The inclusion of 196 countries in the world highlights the fact that climate change is an issue that nullifies economic bias and world hierarchies. Instead, it unites every person on the planet and redefines the importance of global citizenship.

Canada has thrown its support behind the agreement. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change said after the conference that she was encouraged to see so many Canadians in Paris. “This is the spirit we now need to bring back home so that we can tackle climate change together,” she said. “I cannot stress enough how important it is that every Canadian take part in this effort. Climate change is the challenge of our generation. Together we can do this.”

Understanding and acknowledging the connection between climate change and several globalized social issues is a step in the right direction, and recognizing these relations could lead to great change. And we can only hope that it isn’t too late to save the beautiful planet earth.

Featured image: Betrayal By Mario Sanchez Nevado