Marie-France Desir is currently a junior at Florida International University’s Honors college. She is currently pursuing a bachelor in businessess administration with a major in Marketing and a minor in Social Media Marketing. She is currently participating in the France Study Abroad 2019 to expand her knowledge of the culture, the history, and the art.
The following are her reflections during the France Study Abroad trip 2019.
PARIS AS TEXT
The Global Tower by Marie-France Desir of FIU in Parc Du Champs De Mars on July 3rd, 2019
Once upon a time, The Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world. Built in 1887, it was never expected to last over 100 years. It defied all expectations that were created for it, it defied all words that categorized it as ugly and not artistic, and it defied the religious notion that was the foundation of France during that time. Born in the age of the Enlightenment period, it was a sore for eyes for those who classified beauty in a different manner. It also created a controversial conversation that helped shatter the constricting religious boundaries that were faced during that time. It started a conversation that brought people from around the world just to see exactly what France and what Paris was doing to make a change.
That is exactly what I felt at the moment, sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower at 23:00, watching it glow and sparkle. It was also the first night that let me see exactly what kind of people came just see this magnificent tower that once upon a time, was just a scrap of metal to some. Around me where the people of Paris, the people of France, and overall just people around the world. Some people came with family, friends, or their lovers, sitting on the lawn as if it was just a normal Parisian night. While others came from across the world just to see this magical event that only last five minutes at the start of the hour. However, it is clear that those five minutes will last forever to them. Sitting on the lawn waiting for this tower that has brought hundreds and thousands of people every day from almost every part of the world to light up, I took a moment to appreciate the world shattering and defying change and statement the Eiffel Tower consisted of, on that one night in Paris.
Versailles as Text
Inside a Woman’s Room by Marie-France Desir of FIU in Versailles on July 7th, 2019
The most memorizing parts of Versailles were the parts that were especially influenced by some woman, such as the Petit Train and the Queen’s chambers. One woman who had taste and style, yet it destroyed her reputation with her people who would eventually hold such a grudge that eventually would cost her life. Marie Antionette was a decadent women who loved money and style. Some would say her taste was a little too extravagant, especially on the budget she was spending. However, as a Queen, Marie-Antionette did not care about such little matters such as money, and felt that it was her duty to live her lavish life to be able to be the best Queen she could be. Her taste and style is seen in her bedroom at Versailles and created a little getaway for herself with the Petit Trianon.
As soon as you walk into the bedroom you can clearly see that there is no wall that is left bare. The Queen’s quarters was created to highlight the style and taste of the queen. It was designed to make sure that each wall was covered with a design that was as out-going as her. There are two large chandeliers that loom over the room while the walls and ceilings are covered in a floral decoration and glistening gold crowns on the edges. The creation of Versailles was built by a man, but there happened to be small little getaways that highlight the artistic taste of the Queen’s who reside in them, such as a woman’s room.
IZIEU AS TEXT
The Children by Marie-France Desir of FIU at Maison d’Izieu
Throughout history, wars tend to consist of lots of death and in other terms simply just genocide. In classrooms, there are always mentions of the murders of women and children, yet their stories are never really told. Rarely are the names, photos, or stories of what occurred to the children brought to light. This could be due to the fact of the sensitivity of the subject because no one wants to imagine their children being murdered or tortured. But in most countries, where genocide has occurred, there are children whose lives were taken away before they have ever lived.
Growing up, I always knew the story of the Holocaust and understood the number of lives that were taken away, but never did I really encounter the story of the children. The Maison d’Izieu housed a little over 100 children during the time of the anti-semantic laws. Families all over Europe would send their children in hope that they were safe and would survive. This is similar to how my family came to the United States. When violence and corruption were engulfing Haiti, my dad sent our family to the United States to be safe while he stayed back until he could come and rejoin his family. Luckily for us, our dad did not have to find out that his children were arrested and murdered like the children in Izieu. Forty-four young and innocent kids were arrested and eventually murdered on April 6th, 1944. Their names and most of their faces are memorialized in Izieu, yet their stories are not as known as they should be.
Looking at their drawings and sketches inside the room, it’s clear that these kids were expressive, creative, and had a good heart. They clearly understood what kind of situation they were living in, but everyone still tried to make the most of a horrible situation. Everyone should remember the faces and the names of the children who were taken away. Not only to simply be more educated of time in the war but for their families and their memory.
LYON AS TEXT
Home By Marie-France Desir of FIU at the city of Lyon
The peaceful city in between the two rivers, its buildings made of gold rock, and arguably the city that host the best views of sunsets, led me to fall in love in just the matter of four days. However, it wasn’t the ice cream, the food, or the beautiful scenery that made me fall in love. It was its rich history and the people that fought for their lives that impressed me.
Meeting people such as Claude Bloch and Laurent and hearing their story and their family’s stories made me appreciate what the city of Lyon had overcome and how they have built something beautiful over their tragedy.
Both Claude Bloch and Laurent’s family stayed in Lyon despite the painful hardships they faced there. Claude Bloch lost his mother and grandfather at such a young age, while also managing to survive concentration camps on his own. However, he did not let them take his humanity and he held on to the idea that he was not the animal the Nazi’s claimed him to be. Now, he stays in Lyon, his home, where he created a large and beautiful family, and where he has been able to tell his story to people from all across the world.
Laurent stayed in Lyon, the place in which his mother ended up in Montluc after being an agent of the French resistance. His mother risked her life being a part of the French resistance due to her being a Jew, and the very active role she played in the resistance. The role she played as a woman in the French resistance is an amazing story that is being recognized in history and her story should be told over and over again. It is empowering to see how people of different ages and genders had come together for one common goal.
As I think about their stories and the situations they were in, I wonder if I could have stayed in a country in which I felt so much tragedy and pain. If I could still, consider that place my home. This is what amazes me about Lyon, the people there are so proud and are so a part of Lyon that no matter what, it will always be there home, and they will always fight to save it.
NORMANDY AS TEXT
No Mail No Morale! By Marie-France Desir of FIU in the Normandy American Cemetery on July 23, 2019
During World War II, there wasn’t enough of postal service workers to help bring mail to the soldiers. Mail was delayed for up to 2 years. Imagine, two years of no contact from your family while living in horrible conditions and the psychological warfare you’re going through. There were also name duplicates that seemed near to impossible to fix. This is why the 6888th unit was created. Mary Mcleod Bethune, and also with the help of black newspapers, helped initiate the creation of this unit so there was a role for black women in the war overseas and meaningful jobs in the army. The unit was in charge of sorting and delivering the mail to the correct soldiers.
Mary J. Barlow was a PFC (Private First Class) and was a part of the 6888th unit. She was a part of the first all-female, African-American unit that was deployed overseas of the Women’s Army Corps, which was at first an auxiliary group but then created to active status as of July 1, 1943. She was deployed from Connecticut and arrived during World War II in Birmingham England in 1945. She was born in the year 1923. She and the other women of the 6888th unit created a number system to be able to correctly deliver the mail to the appropriate soldier. This job was incredibly important to help boost the overall psychological status of the soldiers who were facing incredible struggles. Mary died in a jeep accident in Rouen France on July 8, 1945, around the age of 22.
The 6888th unit lived in horrible working conditions and they worked long hours each day. Yet, they were still discriminated by being segregated for not only being women but also for being black. Mary and the other women left their homes, family, and friends to cross the world to be a part of the war effort in their own way. Her sacrifice is a historical and important effort that should be recognized. As an African-American female, I look up to women such as Mary who led the way for me to become the person I am today. I can attend a University alongside people of different genders and ethnicities. I have the option to join the Army and fight for my country such as Mary as a female and as an African-American. And I can learn and recognize that I live the life that I live today because of the efforts of Mary, her battalion, and the soldiers in World War II.
Thank you, Mary, for your sacrifice. I could not imagine what courage and love your heart was filled with to die during a time in which you weren’t recognized as a citizen. You died before both of the Civil Rights Acts were passed, before Brown V. Board of Education, before segregation even ended. However, you were still recognized for your service, the first step of a major movement for women just like me. In my family, I have a cousin, Mireille Durocher Bertin, who was murdered for advocating for human rights and protesting the injustice faced in Haiti. Just like you Mary, she wasn’t on the war front, but she sacrificed her life for her country.
Your sacrifice and your service influenced a wave of growth and progressive actions for all minorities and women across the world. I promise you, Mary, that I will continue to live every day proud of my heritage and proud of my gender. I hope I can live up to your memory and become a person that future generations can look up to, something that you did for me. Therefore, in the presence of your memory, from everyone women and every African-American around the world “Que son âme repose en paix”.
I would also like to thank Karen from the Normandy American Cemetery for providing me with a photo of Mary that was just recently discovered. It gives me such great happiness that Mary still has a family that is proud of her accomplishments and were able to provide a photo of her. Words cannot describe how much it means to me to be able to have a memento of this incredible experience.
PERE LACHAISE AS TEXT
I Want to Do What I Want by Marie-France Desir of FIU in Pere Lachaise Cemetery on July 26,2019
Born on January 28, 1873, named Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, she was an author, nominated for a Nobel Prize, an actress, a mime, and most importantly a symbol of feminism and sexual liberty in the early 1900s. Her life follows the theme of “I want to do what I want”, a quote directly from Colette. Raised in Yonnem (in a north-central village in France), she lived in a picture-perfect family until she was married to Henry Gauthier-Villars. It was through this marriage in which her perfect modern views became to erupt. Despite the emotional abuse faced in their marriage, he exposed her to many things that allowed her to explore her freedom, sexuality, and creative artistic writings.
Her husband, in which he was also called Willy, was a writer and published many books. However, he used many ghostwriters for his novels, some being from Colette. The ghostwriters never gained any recognition but were at least compensated for their work. Colette’s’ first book series was published under his name titled, Claudine. These series were a scandal when first published, the vulgar content was extreme but if published today, our society would probably just note it as a coming of age story. Her first book series highlights the boundaries Colette was pushing during her time. Therefore, she started a wave and movement in which books could be written. The book series also explores homosexual relationships that expand this idea of sexual freedom for people. It also highlights the progressiveness of France during that time since France did birth and cultivate Colette and invoke the popularity of her novels. People craved to read more; it was like a dirty pleasure that they could not get enough of. Later in years when Willy died, Colette sued to have solely her name on the title of the books, and then after her death, his son sued to get his name back on it so now the Claudine books states both of their names. This is due to the ongoing conversation about the amount of influence Willy took part in the creation of the books.
During their marriage is the peak time in which Colette explored her sexual freedom, which ties a lot to her notary literary works, and the beginning of her journey of “I want to do what I want”. Although he had many affairs, he encouraged her to explore her sexuality and to sleep with other women. Although it seems mildly strange and twisted, to Colette it exposed her to the idea of being able to love whoever she wants and however she wants. Their relationship was not monogamous but the complexity of her feelings and the tenacious attitude to explore those feelings shows what a modern-day woman Colette was. So ahead of her time, after her divorce with Willy, she was in a relationship to Mathilde de Morny, also known as Missy, who was known to dress more masculine causing a lot of scandals surrounding their relationship. A very known case was January 3, 1907, where they were performing a skit on stage and they shared a kiss in which the audience was furious and almost started a riot. This shows how although France was open to lesbian relationships during that time, showing such an open act of affection was still a controversial topic. She also pursued a relationship with her stepson in her second marriage. The standards of normal do not limit Colette; when she sets her mind to something, she pursues it. Colette died on August 3, 1954 and was refused a Catholic burial by the Catholic church because of all her divorces. She then became the first French woman writer to be buried at the Pere Lachaise.
Another groundbreaking aspect of Colette is her ability to have a career and also her choice to jump from career to career. She went from author to actress, to a mime. Today, American highlights the idea of being able to chase after your dreams which embodies the spirit Colette had back then. After speaking to the cultural attaché during the Spring 2019 semester, she explained to us how in Paris, you study one thing and that would be your career for the rest of your life. Colette challenges and defies this ideology. She does what she wants whenever she wants to. It is also amazing how she can pursue multiple careers in her lifetime. She is among the few to say that she was able to pursue multiple passions while most people do not even get to pursue one. Her writing continued, and she continued creating many notable works that are still talked about and mentioned in media today. Her works became a foundation of the progressive thinking of sexuality, marriage and affairs, and overall changes of contemporary ideas. She became an elected member of the Académie Goncourt. Edmond de Goncourt created this new literary society to counter the Académie Française. This society focused on encouraging people to read more literature.
Colette’s legacy is seen in movies, TV shows, music, and in books following her death. Her life and work were intertwined with each other so that you can see how her notary fictions resembled her life in some cases. Yet this allowed her to relate to her audience even more so. She is known for her ability to give women a voice that they can relate too. Her topics on love, desire, men, passion, and marriage stir up discussions about contemporary life and societal norms that needed to be changed. Although I do not face the same sexual complexity that Colette experiences through her lifetime, I am a woman who has felt the suffocating pressure living in a man’s world. Her boldness and personality shook her generation makes me aspire to be a woman like her. To be able to not care about the societal norms that constrict me and to be able to do what I want without a care in the world. Like her, I want to be a voice for a woman around the world. I want my work and passion to be beneficial for the generations to come. Although what I’m studying does not relate to literature, I aim to use her ideals of creativity and her boldness to flow through my work.