This weekend I yet again learnt why sometimes it is best to say ‘yes’ to opportunities offered to you, even if at the time you want to do nothing more than curl up in bed and watch Gilmore Girls (or whichever awful television show is your comforter of choice).
Strasbourg had been sporting the grey and cold look. The mid-term holidays were over and university work was threatening to become overwhelming. My boyfriend had just returned to the UK after a lovely visit. Christmas seemed very far away. In short; I was starting to get a bit down. So when I had the opportunity to go to Paris for the Amnesty Young Persons’ Conference my rather lame response was to dither over whether to go. Thankfully I wasn’t being a complete idiot and ended up going and having a great weekend.
A highlight was finding myself outside the Pompidou Centre about to protest against the death penalty in Belarus (the last country in Europe to still have it). Although, if I’m honest, I’d have to say Amnesty UK is generally bigger and better (as the founder country), Amnesty France really outshone us here! The action took place in full view of many and seemed to really have an impact. I was also really impressed by how dramatic the action was. To depict the horror of the executions we staged a mock execution where people were marched to a firing squad and fell to the ground when they were ‘shot’. Another group of people were then dragged in front of the squad, but this time they were saved by people carrying Amnesty placards. It was incredible to be part of such a large action in such an amazing place. As I stood there, I really pondered over how I almost wasn’t part of this essentially because of a bad mood!
Here’s a link for anyone interested in stopping the death penalty in all of Europe:
The conference itself was really interesting throughout with talks about the main campaigns in Amnesty France, a look at the work of the International Migrations Tribunal and a talk from someone involved in the Tunisian Revolution. I sometimes found it really frustrating not being able to participate as much as I’d like to, because of the language barrier. I had a particularly fun heart-attack moment when someone seized on the fact I was British and asked me to talk about Amnesty UK. This was at the first workshop in the morning. I smiled, apologised for my French (this bought me time to think about what to say) and gave it a whorl. Unfortunately I didn’t know the word for ‘jumpsuit’ in French and I’m not sure my explanation of the flash mob protesting Guantanamo Bay gave it the credit it deserved. However, it was certainly a useful exercise in public speaking, French language and mornings!
One thing Erasmus has really taught me is that, no matter how you’re feeling, it’s best to say yes to things as often as you can. Sometimes you might feel tired, a bit ill or just grumpy; but it’s rare to really regret doing something. Most of the time, you end up doing something amazing that might even involved seeing the Eiffel Tower (yes, I did squeal when I saw it)! I’m conscious of this turning into a bad motivational blog, so will leave you to puzzle over whose lyrics I have paraphrased in the title…