Thus far, Paris has been delightful. Predictable. Some Parisians are nice, some are less so. Many are happy to speak French, to help, to take their time with us. Others...*shrug*
An ATM swallowed Isabella's card today, and the woman at the bank branch refused to give her any information. Ten minutes later, we had a wonderful conversation with an older man at Les Deux Magots. He told us all about the history of the quarter, showed us where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre lived, explained the expression "gauche caviar," then gave us directions to the square where Hemingway lived. He kind and patient. He even smiled a bit.
But it is the "gentillesse" of the teenagers here that has really struck me. Mind you, my sampling is not impressive; I have talked to only 3. They are my home-stay sister and Isabella's home-stay sister and brother, who live in an apartment two floors directly over my head. Their ages are 14, 15, and 13 respectively. Over the past three days, they have been sweeter and friendlier than I thought possible for adolescents. They are polite to their neighbors and their own parents on a regular basis! They interact happily with us linguistically clumsy American girls—they ask questions about our day, they join in conversation at the dinner table, they tell us about their schools and their pets. They willingly spend time with their families on walks through the park, at the dinner table, watching movies. I can only hope all the teenagers in France are this nice.
It's good to know that teenagerism (symptoms include: slumping, frowning, mumbling, whining, resistance to interaction with other human beings and a lack of sense of humor) is an American affectation rather than a genetic component of growing up.