Excerpts from Olivia’s Paris Journal: Chapter VII

Last week I shared what was basically a love letter to stationary, and reflection about why I hold Valentine’s Day (and Galentine’s Day!) so close to my heart.

This week I feel obligated to admit that during 8 short weeks in Paris I have accumulated enough craft supplies to start a small store of my own! Ha! OK, that may be an exaggeration, but I flew here with just a pink canvas journal with “Creme de la creme” embossed in gold on the front, and have now dedicated basically an entire corner of my bedroom to all my beloved paper products.

Paris may be the city of fashion, but I have definitely acquired more stationary than apparel. And squeezing my life here back into the two suitcases I arrived with is definitely going to be a challenge come the end of March.

Time is flying by and I can’t believe that in just 33 days I will be at home holding my sweet Franny!

Even sooner, though, home is coming to me. My sister flies in just next week! She is cheating her spring break and will be hanging out in Paris with me for 11 whole days. I could not be more thrilled to share this amazing city with my best friend. The list of things I want to show her and do with her is basically endless, since most things I have done, I have done wishing my sister was by my side.

At work I have been busy helping prepare for International Women’s Day. This big celebration has given me the opportunity to vary my routine here at UNESCO a bit, which I have very much enjoyed. Under the direction of UNESCO’s Chief of Media Services George Papagiannis (George also happens to be a former colleague and close friend of Dr. Laufer) I got to collaborate with Ida on a writing project that has reminded me of what I really love to do. (My work at UNESCO has me constantly learning new things and growing in ways I could have never anticipated, but I have not gotten to report or write much.)

We have been reporting and writing mini profiles on outstanding women in science from all over the globe. Upon initially receiving the assignment I was excited to be writing a bit more, but I have ended up enjoying it so much more than I expected!

The women I have been writing about are incredible and inspiring.

Dr. Angelica Lim is building socially intelligent robots that are capable of empathy.

Dr. Shohini Ghose wanted to be a superhero when she was a little girl growing up in India, and now she is manipulating the laws of quantum physics to make teleportation possible.

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is the first African American to be awarded a National Medal of Science, has been the president of a private research university for 20 years, and focuses her research on science that influences public policy.

Five Kenyan teen girls created an app to support girls and women who are victims of female genital mutilation (FGM). They call themselves ‘The Restorers’ because they are working to restore hope in hopeless girls who have undergone this invasive and violent act.

I am inspired by the strength and vibrance of the women in my life every day, but it has been a joy to learn and write about these science superstars for UNESCO.

The mini profiles that Ida and I are preparing will be printed on giant banners, and hung on the fences surrounding the UNESCO campus for the duration of International Women’s Month (March) and will potentially be circulated around the world to UNESCO field offices.

Also very exciting: several of these amazing women will be visiting UNESCO in March for the L’Oreal UNESCO Women in Science event. I just want to be best friends with all of them. (#UniversalGirlGang)

Working on this assignment has been thrilling for me not just because it has given me an opportunity to learn about these women, but because it has given me an opportunity to work with George who is a seasoned journalist and fantastic editor. I am so grateful for his thoughtful edits, and I have learned so much from just watching him read my work and chat about my strengths and weaknesses. He is also hilarious.

Aside from the actual editing, I am so inspired by the work he has done. I could sit and listen to him tell stories about his career for hours. Yesterday after a thorough line edit and brainstorming session, he told me and Ida that he first applied to work at UNESCO while working on to develop a local radio network on the Sudan – Chad border.

I recently read a quote that said “We don’t need to be a voice for the voiceless, we just need to pass the mic.” And I have been thinking about this a lot, especially after the conversation we had with George.

The networks they were setting up were produced mostly in Arabic or French, because most people in Sudan and Chad speak Arabic or French, but they were also meant to preserve the mother tongues in the region. Many of these languages do not have written alphabets, so in preparing to broadcast, George and his colleagues would work with the local people to develop a symbol script for the show. He said that once after recording, a man who had been on the show teared up and told him that he thought it was the first time his mother tongue had ever been on the radio.

By the way George tells these stories, it is easy to tell that the work was fulfilling for him. It was one of those special moments where the universe nods at you to remind you that you are on the right track. I am sure that I want to be doing this difficult but important work.

It was also a needed reminder that good journalism doesn’t just happen via legacy media and big daily papers in the U.S. It was also a good reminder that there are a million ways to do work that matters.

Some more highlights from this week in Paris:

I continue to surprise myself with my bravery. I went to see one of my favorite artists, Hayley Kiyoko, perform live on Monday evening all by myself! It was awesome and I also made another friend.

My friend from work Meissa joined me at my dance class this week and she loved it! It warmed my heart to share something I love so much with a friend.

I have been going to the same farmers market and buying falafel every Thursday at lunch since I arrived, and yesterday the falafel guy recognized me and joked around with me!

The cherry blossom trees in the Japanese Garden at UNESCO are really blooming now. I take the long way in every morning and lunch to check on them and the little blossoms make me so happy.

Spring has totally sprung in Paris. We have had big blue skies with magical colors at sunrise and sunset everyday for more than a week now. Today I didn’t even wear a coat!


Olivia R. Sanchez is a journalist and M.S. candidate at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. She can be reached by email at oliviarsanchez18@gmail.com or on Twitter at @OliviaRSanchez.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *