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O Fim duma Viagem

Life Moves On

FRANCE | Wednesday, 25 November 2015 | Views [365]

Life moves on, but never back. There were two or three weeks that I meant to write about, but have now lost. Much of the same (classes, tests, how does French education function?) But also an entry of more touristy things. I finally made it into the Louvre (after the Intégration partiel) and the Centre Pompidou (guided visit with the programme) and saw the Eiffel Tower up close.

Actually, the latter is worth a mention, because it demonstrates why I can't go back and naively describe my life in the pretence that I don't know what’s coming.

Thursday evening, I was feeling restless. Rather than just go for a walk around the neighbourhood, I decided to get on the metro and, on a whim, got off at Chatelet and started heading towards the Eiffel Tower. It was probably about seven o’clock at this point. And I felt safe. The passing concerns that “something might happen” were all related to my phone or wallet being stolen.

The next day, I was walking back to the History of Math class. I had a Starbucks, which I was justifying as a weekly treat to stop me from falling asleep during the next six hours of consecutive classes. And there was a November chill in the air, but still some colours on the tree leaves, and I was walking by the Seine and feeling utterly at peace. I was here,I was comfortable, and I was happy. I could do this.

Under twelve hours later, I was at my computer, trying to figure out what was going on and reassuring friends and family. The next time I saw the Eiffel Tower, it took nearly an hour for me to determine that the fear I was feeling wasn't productive, and I was jumpy the entire metro ride. (The metro continues to be a bit emptier in the day, but at least normal levels of crowded at night. Like people can't decide which scares them more- riding the metro or walking at night.)

So I can't go back. But I can, and must, go on.

Intégration, the professor picked up literally where we'd left off the week before. I believe he even said those words. Which just highlighted the absurdity. Staying focused or interested in what he was saying was tough. (We were talking about multiple Lebesgue integrals, which are pretty cool, but also even worse than normal Lebesgue integrals.) The professor seems to think we only have one more class. He's wrong, and has been corrected, so I wonder what he'll do in the extra week.

The events of Friday came up briefly in harp in our conversation before we started the lesson. But all things considered, we probably spent more time talking about the diet her cat is on. (He's lost one kilo, though it doesn't show. He's also pretty unhappy about this, and keeps expecting someone to feed him more. He seems to think that's something I can do.) I played through both parts Greensleeves, then played through them with Madame Luce, which was tricky. Then, respectively more practice and first read through of two other songs (Magyar Lament and Sakura) and, that was the lesson.

Wednesday was the Topology TD. Again, the tests we'd taken two weeks ago had been curved, and curved well. (The partiel for Intégration had been curved, but not well.) We finished up connectivity and moved on to Normed Vector Spaces. (Laurent, the person I sit next to, and have had several conversations with, was not there.)

During Russian, I found it easier than ever to default to French. Which wasn't entirely a good thing, since it meant making more mistakes in Russian. You win some you lose some. But at least this week I remembered how to say “no.” (That had been an issue the week before.)

The Topology CM… is not really a Topology CM anymore. See, the full name of the class is “Topologie et calcul différentiel.” Last week, we moved on to the “calcul différentiel” part. So we got a non-limit definition of the derivative, and moved on to more properties and examples. Including multivariable ones. I knew there was a reason I took calc 3…

Intégration TD we're still working on single-variable integrals. Which is hard enough, believe me. He also seems to expect us to know way more integrals by heart than I do (quick! What's the integral from negative infinity to infinity of )

History of math was the first time one of my professors mentioned the events of last Friday. And, shortly after, we moved on. Back to the 19th century and the revolutions of that time. And then during the TD we had… more calculus! Just what I always wanted. (Laurent was in class.)

During French we discussed a bit of what had happened, and what would happen, including some more information about what the state of emergency entails. It hadn't quite been extended for another three months (that came an hour into the class) but it was obvious it would pass.

So, for those of us still living, life goes on. And I can almost believe things are normal. I go to classes, and afterwards phrases like “espace vecteur normé “ and “tribu produit” echo in my head. I still have normal conversations, like when I horrify an Austrian and a Pakistani by telling them how much US college tuition costs. And, at times, it's easy to believe there's nothing more going on than this normalcy.

But there is. I've tried to walk to the sites of all the shootings (not counting Saint Denis.) I spent nearly an hour Wednesday night trying to figure out if Laurent was OK (he had not appeared in any of the lists and short descriptions of the dead I’d seen, but there were a lot more people who were injured) which was really, really hard without knowing a last name. I'm still checking the news before I leave a building, and I haven't left my apartment after 9:00 at night. Eating in a restaurant or going to a concert feels like an act of bravery, and I hate that. France did vote to extend the state of emergency.

Things aren't normal yet, and they won't be for quite some time. But we're trying.

Tags: math, november 13, paris

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