I felt very at home in Lyon all because I was able to stay with a good friend I met in University in San Diego. She was an exchange student for one year in 2011-2012. Five years ago we became very close, we traveled to Harvard together while we were on a Model United Nations team, she taught me French and since those first lessons I'm proud to say my pronunciation has greatly improved. Through staying with her in her cozy studio apartment above Café 203 a two minute walk from Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), I met her friends and shared her life for a little over a week. We talked about everything from technology to the refugee crisis.
One thing I was contemplating a lot in the week after a transition of power in the United States: What role does technology play in the governments of the future? There are some massive bureaucracies in the world. Could a greater efficiency be achieved through using peer-to-peer network systems? Blockchain, the same technology behind Bitcoin, is being reworked and applied in other ways. There could be a database for health records, transparent and easily accessible anywhere in the world. Not advocating for anything here, merely pointing out the possibility. Topics like this were usually discussed while the locals of Lyon roll their own cigarettes and drink tea or Bordeaux wine.
Talking, and sharing with others over a week, observing how often I heard another language besides French spoken along the streets, slowly I learned about a feeling towards immigrants and refugees. This topic came up at a Saturday night gathering of friends when I chatted with a person born in France, to foreign born parents. They grew up in Algeria for over a decade before being their family was forced to flee from war as refugees themselves. This person now works in various NGO's and non-profits around the world to help refugees transition into their new host countries. The point was made that refugees have a huge value to add to society if only for the fact that they value freedoms that many in Europe or the United States may take for granted. I've always existing in a society with freedom of the press and can't imagine what's its like to not have that. Refugees have lived through terrible things forcing them to leave their home. Losing the freedom to worship whatever religion you choose or the freedom of media not being controlled by the state, free speech, it is all possibly in democracies. The loss of freedoms happens because freedoms are not won forever and can always be at risk. It was argued that immigrants can emphasize how essential it is to fight for these freedoms and I agree. I've noticed a recent trend of various western countries not welcoming immigrants or refugees from non-western countries despite crisis. In the face of a rising frequency of terrorist attacks and an increase in fear of "the other" I can see many want to turn inward. This issue is of course complicated and controversial. I present no answers, only that complex problems do not have easy solutions.
Lyon, a city devoted to the consumption, production and enjoyment of food at its best. Home to generous and thoughtful people. Here is where the metro runs on the left side of the tracks, entire neighborhoods are overrun with fancy art galleries on streets covered with graffiti. And don't miss the tea shop with a fifty page book for a menu. For now, Lyon is my French experience and I hope to return someday. Thank you Myriam and Charlelie!
Below is a gallery of more images from Lyon: