For the Love of Paris

Robert McKeon Aloe
5 min readJan 15, 2019

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I fell in love with Paris when I lived there for two years, and it is almost a mystery why I still cherish those memories so much. Recently, I met with a classmate from back then, and we both want to go back. We’d like to go back to Paris, but more specifically that time period when we were there. There seemed to be things we both wished we had done, almost like we regretted not living up to the full potential of the situation. It was definitely a situation full of potential squandered on youth with time to kill. So I must explore why Paris at the turn of the millennium captivated my heart and soul and has not let go quite yet.

Quick aside: this isn’t to say I don’t love my life, my wife, or my kids. I certainly do, but every time I look back on those years and that city, I’m filled with such nostalgia and love. It felt like we were stuck in time there, and when we left, I thought I might have dreamed the whole thing.

The International School of Paris (ISP) sits in the 16th arrondissement of Paris across the Siene from the Eiffel Tower. My graduating class had just under 50 students, and most of us came from a background where we had moved often in life. Typically, the school had a 30% turnover in students every year due to people moving away as many parents were working for the state departments of different countries.

The mix of students was very different than a school in America. It was roughly 25% Japanese, 25% Korean, 30% European, 10% American, and 10% from elsewhere. English was the primary language at school, and it was not uncommon for people to know English, French, and another language. The Koreans and the Japanese had their own clicks, but they also hung out with everyone else as well. There were certainly cliques, but none were exclusive. It was just natural grouping of people who had a lot of commonality and language to bond together. Remember, Paris is a big city and can be scary when you didn’t speak French (i.e. me).

The time period was unique in that the internet existed but social media did not. Digital cameras were just becoming affordable. Cell phones were around but only used for quick calls and infrequent text messages. We had email, AIM, and MSN messenger, and my email inbox had a limit of 6 MB.

6 MB! Come on! What is that, like 2 emails?

There were no apps like there are today. Most software had to be bought and installed on a computer. Internet cafes were a thing as were phone booths. Usually, the people who had a cell phone, didn’t have any minutes on them because to receive a cell phone was free. Instead, you would use a pay phone to call the cell phone. Genius!

Another aspect of school, at least in our grade, was the lack of bullying. At my previous school in Texas, there were many social pressures and bullying in different ways. I’m not sure if we were more sensitive due to moving so much, but everyone was very friendly with each other. Nobody was particularly religious or zealous about their beliefs, unlike Texas. There was not racism or homophobia. It was an environment where I felt I could be me, whoever that was, and so could everyone else.

The city itself didn’t have major protests or violent ones. France wasn’t involved greatly in any war at the time. The city seemed pretty peaceful even though the police would occasionally bother us as we sat in the park in-between classes. We had large swaths of time, and we would often congregate in the park right by school and waste time away under the shadow of the symbol of Paris.

I’m not sure the magic is still there, but I do know things have changed greatly. I don’t know if other class years got along so well, and I’m still surprised at how many classmates reflect back on those times as fondly as I do. Many hold those years close to their heart, and it is a point of personal pride. I’m known so tell anyone who mentions Paris, that I used to live there, and I went to school across the river from the Eiffel Tower.

If you like, follow me on Twitter and YouTube where I post videos espresso shots on different machines and espresso related stuff. You can also find me on LinkedIn.

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Robert McKeon Aloe

I’m in love with my Wife, my Kids, Espresso, Data Science, tomatoes, cooking, engineering, talking, family, Paris, and Italy, not necessarily in that order.