Violence In Los Angeles Made Me Ask Myself If I Should Stay

When one travels to the United States, one visualizes the motto “land of the free” and what it means to the people who reside there. The international community does this often, especially in regard to the U.S. more so than any other country. It might surprise some of my readers to know that we’ve long suspected the tensions in the U.S. could culminate in a race war. These events that you thought you would never live to see in your own country? They were predicted long ago — by almost everyone else.

And it’s these events that keep me questioning whether or not I should extend my visa and continue to live and work here. Los Angeles is a fun city. The people here are forward thinking. That even in such a liberal bastion the police force could be inspired to become violent with protesters — the majority of whom have been entirely peaceful — is awe-inspiring in the most horrific way imaginable. 

What were they thinking?

Brutality — or “domination” as the American president calls it — is only certain to escalate tensions further and further. The superiors of the four police officers (you know who) know this for a fact. Otherwise they would not have arrested and charged four of their own.

Truth be told, it isn’t just this escalation in racial tensions that has me thinking of leaving this country that has been my home for years now. It’s the near-certainty that the next 12 months will prove even more chaotic. Can you imagine what Trump will do if he loses the election? I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a concession speech or a peaceful transition of power, both standards in American government. Can you imagine what will happen if he wins? His blindly loyal followers will once again jump on their high horses to assert their “rightness.”

I’m not sure I want to be around to see either of these two paths play out.

What It’s Like In Los Angeles During The Coronavirus Outbreak

My family in France is hurting. My home country has closed its borders — which are always open because of its place in the European Union — but that isn’t all. My mother requires a form to leave home! She isn’t allowed to go outside to visit family or friends. Over 100,000 police officers have been deployed to keep order as tens of thousands have been diagnosed with covid-19. The country is basically closed down for business.

But it’s not what’s happening over there that has me worried!

It’s what’s happening over here in my home away from home — and how little we’re doing to prevent the spread of this virus compared to other countries where it’s already blown up. Sure, it might sound like the United States is taking drastic action. Local governments have advised against large gatherings. They’ve asked people to hunker down. Bars and clubs have closed. Restaurants, too. Schools are cancelling class. Colleges are kicking kids out of their dorms.

But this isn’t enough! The very possibility of a national shutdown terrifies people here. Maybe it’s the cultural differences between us, but the possibility of not shutting down is what terrifies me. The mayor of New York City has said he has no interest in quarantining the city.

The disparity between people who take this crisis too seriously and those who don’t take it seriously enough is widening. But those who take it too seriously will soon be transformed into those who were taking it just seriously enough the whole time.

What do I mean, you ask?

Take the Spanish flu of 1918 for example. It had a fatality rate of around 2.5 percent. Seasonal flu falls at .1 percent. Covid-19 falls closer to the Spanish flu at around 2.0 percent. The reproduction rate of these illnesses help us determine how contagious they are. Seasonal flu falls at 1.3, which means an infected person might be expected to infect slightly more than one person on average. Spanish flu was 1.8. Covid-19 is a whopping 2.3.

Don’t forget: Spanish flu killed up to 50 million people when the world’s population was only 1.9 billion. Because covid-19 has so much more in common with the Spanish flu than the seasonal flu, you might imagine how many people would die in a world of 7.8 billion souls if we didn’t take drastic actions.

Spanish flu hit in the midst of WWI — a war in which my great grandfather fought and died, not in combat, but from respiratory sickness! We couldn’t do anything then. But we can do something now. And we’re failing to do it. 

Here’s What I Think About Jeff Bezos’s Announcement

Did you hear the big news? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he will invest $10 billion toward fighting climate change. We don’t know a whole lot about how that will work, but he says he wants to fund anyone who can help. That means the money will probably go to building new technologies that can pull carbon from our atmosphere or get humans off their coal and oil addiction faster.

He wrote on Instagram: “Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet. I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share. This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world. We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”

I think this is great.

And I’ve been paying more attention to Bezos. He’s been in hot water because human rights activists hold him responsible for the working conditions in Amazon warehouses. They don’t believe workers are paid enough, and I agree. There are also ongoing concerns about the company’s use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence employees who want to shed light on sexual harassment complaints.

But Bezos is also a champion of new technologies that could bring humans closer together and make life better for all of us. Do I believe he should be held accountable for the problems within the companies he built? Definitely! But I also believe in giving credit where credit is due. $10 billion can do a lot of good, and hopefully other super-wealthy individuals and organizations will follow his lead to step forward and contribute.

Bezos owns the company Blue Origin. He wants to get humans out into space. He wants us to move our commercial endeavors off-planet, which should in turn move our polluting factories off-planet as well. That’s a great goal! I can only hope to see it made into a reality in my lifetime.  I miss France sometimes, but a big part of me is proud to live in a company where such big things happen everyday.

Still, Amazon still collaborates with coal and oil companies for business purposes. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said, “As history has taught us, true visionaries stand up against entrenched systems, often at great cost to themselves. We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away.”

Here’s What I Think You Should Know About Moving To France

Many of my friends have told me how wonderful they think it would be to move to France with me if I ever go back. But they second-guess when I explain how difficult it was for me moving here. America is a lot different than France in ways nobody imagines before they come here. I certainly didn’t. But culture shock affects us subtly more than anything else, and anyone considering a move to beautiful France should know a few things first.

First of all, Paris is not France, and most French citizens wish you would stop seeing it that way. They don’t represent us. They’re different. They’re different in the same way that Americans would hate to think that a tourist sees New Yorkers or Los Angeleans representative of the rest of them. Obviously, they don’t. You shouldn’t make the same mistake. Where you decide to settle down in France will determine the kind of people you’re around — just like in America.

Just like immigrants coming to America need a green card or visa, you need one to move to France. Don’t just show up there because you’ll get sent back in a hurry.

Finding work in France will be difficult unless you have a needed skill. Many of those who travel to France will find work teaching English. 

Unless there are other circumstances, it will take you five years before you can apply for citizenship.

Your credit card won’t always work, especially if it hasn’t been chipped. You’ll probably still be able to eat out.

On the plus side, Americans apparently don’t have to pay double taxes when living in France. That’s because of treaties written long ago.

French law dictates that foreign-born residents must apply for a French driver’s license within one year. Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t have a specific agreement with France to make it easier to obtain a French license. It comes down to what state you’re from. Californians, for example, can’t just bounce over to France and obtain a French permit. No, no, no.

Most United States drivers hate roundabouts, but they’re common in Europe. You might want to learn before you go. More importantly, you’d better have cash on hand if you’re on a toll road, because foreign credit cards will not always work. 

France is similar to the United States in that it’s difficult to rent without sufficient proof of equally sufficient income. In general, you’ll need a job that guarantees at least three times the amount of rent. Can’t make that much? Find someone who’s willing to take responsibility and sign as a “guarantor.” That might work, but not always. Lessors are always hesitant to rent out to foreigners.

These Wildfires Are Getting Crazy!

This year there were wildfires raging across the state of California. Some of them I could see from my backyard! We can probably all agree that the fires are terrible. But it’s hard not to think they have a sort of mystical, other-wordly quality when they put everything else into perspective. Even when you live in such a large city with lots of sprawl, you’re in danger from one of Mother Nature’s outbursts. 

I started reading about why they occur so often, what the consequences are if they aren’t stopped, and how we might go about preventing more of them from breaking out in the first place. What surprised me is that all the answers go way beyond global man-made climate change — although that is largely believed to be a major component as well.

Power lines are one of the contributing factors. Many of the fires have ignited because downed power lines hit a patch of dry brush. That’s why power companies were shutting down power to many households across the northern portion of the state. But that can’t be the best option, can it?

California Governor Gavin Newsom is putting together a team of energy experts to find a better way. They started at the very beginning: infrastructure needs to be updated to make power lines safer. They would order inspections in high-risk areas to find out where the lines could use repairing.

And then there were the mandatory power outages. They weren’t controversial because they occurred at all. They were controversial because the implementation was so horrible, even though some companies have been successfully doing the same thing for years and years. San Diego Gas & Electric only cut power to about 400 customers because it had already invested in more modern technologies decades ago.

Another reason wildfires are so common is because we’re so “good” at “fighting fire.” The concept of fighting fire didn’t exist at all until a forest fire enveloped a town and killed a bunch of people over a century ago. When officials implemented new fire prevention methods, they began to fine people who were using prescribed burns to control and reduce dry brush. Turns out, prescribed burns worked pretty well. Because they were made illegal, wildfires where they had been used became much more common.

In the many decades since those laws were first implemented, fires have become worse and worse. And yeah, of course part of the problem is climate change. But the bigger part of the problem is how we try to prevent them in the first place. Sometimes you need a fire to reset an area of growth and prevent a larger fire sometime later. That’s the way the Native Americans had been doing it for hundreds of years!

Porto’s Is My Favorite Place To Eat (Obviously)

Never been? You should go as soon as possible. This family owned chain of bakeries/restaurants has some of the best food I’ve ever tasted (outside of France, of course). They have locations in Burbank, Glendale, Buena Park, Downey and West Covina — but as I just learned, they will send you their products so you can bake from home. And it’s that service that has changed what (and how) I eat every single night.

The service is simple enough, and it’s too bad more restaurants and eateries don’t offer the same.

Basically, the staff will put together some of your favorite pastries into a small, medium, or large box depending on how many of each item you order, and then send the pastries to your doorstep still frozen. You remove them from the box, put them in the oven, and then feast. I’ve become particularly accustomed to using Porto’s baked goods whenever friends or family come to visit. They’re perfect for a game night.

You can order potato balls, meat pies, chicken empanadas, cheese rolls, or something sweeter like chocolate chip cookies, sprinkledoodle cookies, guava and cheese strudel, dulce de leche besito cookies, and more. All of these goods are so so so delicious.

I was so enamored with the food that I wanted to know more about how Porto’s got started. It turns out it was all because of one woman’s love for baking for family and friends — Rosa Porto, a Cuban native who eventually found her way to the United States. She learned to bake from her mother’s recipes, who had arrived in Cuba from Spain. Rosa learned to love cooking early on, especially because of the smells that normally went in and out of their kitchen.

Then the Porto family decided they wanted to flee Cuban communism. When the authorities caught on to what they were trying to do, Rosa’s father was sent to a labor camp while the women were fired from their jobs. Rosa began baking for neighbors, unwittingly gaining a reputation for great food in the process. It was that reputation, perhaps, that allowed the Porto family to finally emigrate to the United States.

After a long hard struggle that started with nothing but the shirts on their backs, Rosa opened her first bakery in Echo Park, which quickly become an unlikely success story. Today, Rosa’s children and grandchildren oversee a group of chefs, all of whom help make the bakeries one of the best places to eat in the Los Angeles area. Good for Rosa, who is currently enjoying retirement!

I Want You To Take Part In A Climate Change Protest If You Can

It’s both exciting and scary to be living on this world at this point in time! We have hundreds of obstacles ahead of us, but we also know how to avoid or overcome those obstacles if we spend our resources wisely. Since being in Los Angeles I’ve learned how to spend my own resources as wisely as I can. I’ve also learned a great deal about man-made climate change — not necessarily because I live here now, but because protests have increased in number all over the globe.

In particular, the Extinction Rebellion has conducted a number of non-violent acts of civil disobedience this year. They will continue to do so as long as politicians continue to turn a blind eye to man’s contributions to catastrophic climate change. Many British and French activists are preparing for a new round of protests.

In Los Angeles, activists shut down Sunset Boulevard in September. Similar acts of disobedience occurred all over the world. 

In Britain, the authorities are trying to gain greater power in trying to “quell” the rebellion. They have said they will arrest anyone and everyone who participates in these acts of civil disobedience, no matter the cost. The Home Office is reviewing new laws that would effectively ban those who break the law repeatedly from continuing to protest.

A man named Mr. Ephgrave said, “If we have people who are habitually protesting unlawfully, it would be helpful to have the ability of preventing them. The legislation around public order was drafted in a different era and it’s not particularly helpful because it wasn’t designed for what we’re dealing with now.”

Even though members of Parliament responded to one round of protests by finally defining climate change as a crisis that requires urgent and groundbreaking change, others are trying to shut down activists’ ability to foment that change.

That’s why I want you to get out on the streets during the next round of protests on October 7, 2019. Starting at 10 am, protesters will be taking to the streets for another round of non-violent civil disobedience across the globe. Find out where the fight is happening closest to you and get out there to make your voices heard!

If you’re one of those people who “just don’t know” about climate change, then please take some time to do some actual research instead of watching the news (which can be flooded with misinformation at times). Regardless of whether or not you’ve heard otherwise, this is a fight that we need to win immediately — we’re running out of time to save our planet.

What I’ve Noticed About Divorce In The United States

It’s hard to come to a new country without recognizing the differences in family life after you’ve been there for a while. I’m an adult who moved here from France, and most of my friends are adults who moved here from other parts of the country. But sooner or later I started to get a glimpse of home life from those few friends who were born and raised in Los Angeles, and I’ve noticed a number of differences in perceptions of divorce between the two countries.

Americans seem to have this frame of mind wherein divorce is the end of the world, regardless of the fact that researchers have long since proved otherwise. Attraction between two people might start out very romantic and affectionate, but as the years roll by the pair’s relationship will often sour. That shouldn’t be a surprise — there are fewer new experiences, and both partners know everything there is to know about one another. There’s less excitement.

Partners have two obvious options when the relationship becomes stale: they can seek to find new experiences to share to keep the romance alive (as counselors will sometimes advise partners to do), or they can divorce. The choice is ultimately up to those who were once in love, but is either option worse than the other?

Not in my mind.

Either way, you’re seeking a new experience. It’s just about whether or not you want to have it with the person you’ve been with for a while, or with someone new. What’s the big deal?

But to Americans it’s a big deal. A lot of people will call marriage “broken” in the United States because the divorce rate is so high. But in my mind it isn’t that high. Here in the U.S., the divorce rate is about 46 percent and seems to be on the decline. In France, where divorce is just a part of life, the divorce rate stands at 55 percent — and the divorce process is France is a lot more annoying than it is here.

It’s easy in America: you hire an uncontested divorce attorney if you haven’t been together long, or you hire a family law attorney if you have. There are only two types of divorce: fault or no-fault. 

In France, it’s different. There are five types of divorce: divorce by mutual consent (no judge required), divorce by mutual legal consent (i.e. with a judge), divorce on the basis of a “broken” marriage, divorce based on irrevocable damage to the conjugal bond, or fault divorce. Most divorce proceedings requiring a judicial ruling in France also require both parties to at least attempt to reconcile. It’s far more complicated for us, and we still do it more often!

France And America Aren’t So Different From One Another

I’ll be the first to admit how much culture shock I experienced when first setting foot in the United States. Flying in was a test of endurance, but I broke it up with a bit of travel — so I’ve seen more than just Los Angeles. My experiences traveling across the United States, coupled with my experiences traveling back at home, have left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Both countries have an equality problem.

I was sad to learn that there have already been over a hundred women murdered by lovers or family members — men, mostly — in France this year, and the number is quickly climbing. In a country with 67 million people, that might not seem like much, but to me it’s everything. And the numbers are even higher in the United States, especially proportionate to the 330 million people who reside here, but I’m not going to get into it.

The real issue is that the numbers are increasing slowly year by year.

I can’t help but wonder why that’s the case. Is it declining mental health? Is it the ease of finding or using a gun? Is it anger over the #MeToo movement? I don’t know.

Protesters are raging in Paris over this trend, and government officials have promised to launch a national “consultation” to address concerns, but the truth is this: not enough is being done to find out why it happens or prevent it from happening in the future. Those campaigning for office say they want to increase spending on domestic violence issues and do more to make sure abused women are sheltered from danger. But will they?

“The question is to allocate the resources to do it and we’re asking for a billion euros. A few days ago, Marlene Schiappa announced the allocation of one million euros. One million euros for a country like France is a paltry sum.”

And that’s the way it is here too. No matter how many promises politicians make, it’s never enough. They promise a particular dollar amount that will sound like a lot of money to the average citizen, but in reality it’s pennies compared to what’s available.

The United States House of Representatives reauthorized a 1994 law that helps provide aid to domestic violence victims: the Violence Against Women Act. But isn’t it true that reauthorizing a 25-year-old law isn’t nearly as good as building a new one? …A better one?

Not surprisingly, the NRA is opposed to the reauthorization legislation (and basically anything else that might help people, but that’s another matter entirely). It seems like even in 2019, we’re having a hard time learning how to be better.

A French Girl’s View Of American Sexuality (Or Lack Thereof)

For all the attention older generations give to the so-called exploding teenage sexuality in America, they still manage to get it wrong. There’s this weird perception of younger generations here in the U.S. having a “hookup culture” but most of the studies done on this supposed outburst of sexual energy have thoroughly debunked the practice. In reality kids these days are doing exactly as much (or as little) hooking up as their parents did — but they might be a lot more open about it. Which is a good thing.

This is still a huge shock to those who visit from overseas (including yours truly).

Americans are a lot colder and less open about their sexual desires than the French. It’s almost as if they think all those unrealized fantasies — you know, the ones they lie about not having — are weird or abnormal, or that they shouldn’t be having them.

A lot of you probably own dogs. Some of you probably own more than one. A few might even own two male dogs. And you know what those dogs definitely do? They cuddle. To them it’s a creature comfort, something they do because two physical beings with a strong emotional bond are supposed to express that emotional bond in a physical way. I’ve got sad news for a lot of you: humans are no different. We’re animals. And we have that need for those same creature comforts too, whether we choose to engage in them or not. 

Societal norms in any culture should not stop us from same-sex physical encounters, no matter how far they go (cuddling, making out, sex, or whatever else two people choose to do). In France, and pretty much all of Europe, it’s not weird to see two close friends with their arms around one another on the couch. No one assumes it means they aren’t attracted to the opposite sex. No one accuses them of being gay (as if there is anything wrong with that in the first place) and our citizens are emotionally healthier because of this openness. Then again, if a guy and girl have their arms around one another, we don’t necessarily assume they’re anything more than good friends. And therein lies the difference between our cultures.

In America, practically everyone thinks they’re abnormal in some way. It’s not true. The only abnormal thing is being so closed off from everyone else. 

That said, the French are known as “romantic” for a reason. We tend to keep our sex lives behind closed doors even when those sex lives are wilder, but we don’t have the same moral hangups that American have. No one will think less of anyone else for going to bed with someone after a drink or two at the bar. Sex is about fun and affection and engaging with someone on a different level. It doesn’t mean a lifelong commitment, nor should it.