24 March 2007

Les immigrés

Before I left for France, my mother expressed concerns over the fact I was going to live in a country where some very dramatic and highly-publicised racial uprisings have taken place over the past few years. Thankfully, I have not experienced any racism first-hand, though to be honest, I never expected to either. Perhaps its the naive Canadian in me, who was brought up in a country where the rhetoric of race was on the whole, very positive. Discourse on racism in Canada centres around 'celebrating diversity' as opposed to our neighbour to the south, where assimilation seems to be the prefered approach. However, I am not arguing that Canada is nation free from racial prejudice - in fact, those close to me know that I find it to be profoundly racist in certain aspects. It's just that in Canada, racism takes a clandestine form.

Perhaps this is why I find what happened last week in the 19ieme arrondissement of Paris so shocking. On March 20, 2007, a grandfather performing the loving routine of collecting his grandchild from a local école primaire was brutually assaulted by the genderarmerie. Apparently, a promise made by the French ministère de l’intérieur, one Mr. Sarkozy (sound familiar?) that he would ensure arrests would not occur within 20 metres of 'sensitive settings' such as primary schools was empty. So, what was the crime worthy of physically assaulting a man of Chinese origin in front of shocked parents and children? Not holding a valid titre de sèjour, a permit required by the goverment to legally reside in France. This incident, while deplorable in its own right, is a symptom of a larger problem I'm witnessing with alarming frequency here in France. Xenophobia masquerarding under the guise of 'concerns for national security'. Thanks to a new law passed by Sarkozy himself, violent acts (read: police violence) are no longer permitted to be videotapped and broadcast over the internet. Contravention of this law can lead to a 5-year jail sentence. With Sarkozy as one of the top canadidates in the impending French election, I worry about that this may become the future of France...

09 March 2007

I'm a Greek citizen! (And how fitting that this is my 100th post!)

Well, the title of this post essentially sums up my time in Greece, but allow me to expand somewhat. With only a few glitches along the way (which were resolved by some hearty handshaking at City Hall of Athens - thanks Dad!), my right to citizenship is now officially recognised by the Greek state. I'm giving off the impression that the process was a speedy one. Au contraire! It's taken over three years (incidentally, since Edward and I started dating) to have what the Greek government claim to be an inherent birthright officialised. Nevertheless, the end goal has been achieved and I am now officially a citizen of an EU country. Take that, French government with your xenophobic laws designed to make it as hard as possible for non-Europeans to live here. I can stay here as long as I want, and there's nothing you can do about it... (Ok, maybe there is something they can do...)

I did manage to sneak in some visiting with family during my week as well, which unfortunately, is a rare treat. Many people may not know this, but I'm actually an aunt to a charismatic and loving niece named Mary, and a intellectual ladykiller named Haris. As the passage of time between visits is always most evident with children, I was amazed to see how much they've both grown. Haris is now 20 and is doing exceptionally well. He has just started his studies at a private university in Athens, while Mary , 7-going-on-30 is the most mature and thoughtful girl I've met. She told me she had been worrying about how to communicate with me, as my Greek is rather pathetic these days, and then offered to give me private lessons! I also saw my dad after far too long, which was also wonderful. The trip was an all-around success (photos here) and I look forward to returning as soon as possible!