The Erotic Tomato

By Mariachiara Ficarelli

The Musée du Luxembourg halves the student ticket price at 4 p.m.. Arriving at 3:35pm, waiting less than half an hour to save € 4.25 is an easy decision. Museum gift stores are a good place to kill time.

In theme with the on-going Pissaro exhibit “La Nature Retrouvée” (Nature Rediscovered), the majority of books exhibited in the store are on agriculture, rural life and fruits and vegetables.

Lodged between two large books on traditional French recipes is a tiny, white Dictionnaire Littéraire et Érotique des Fruits et Legumes (Literary and Erotic Dictionary of Fruits and Vegetables) by Jean-Luc Hennig. The dictionary is a serendipitous discovery.

The pomme d’amour makes its first appearance of the day in the form of a chapter titled Tomates Farcies (stuffed tomatoes).

The tomato has a sensual history. With its bright red color, it became a symbol of female menstrual blood. The tomato was assigned bewitching and hypnotic powers. Hennig claims that in the Middle Ages there was no aphrodisiac more powerful than this blood. The tomato was associated with the sinful female blood. It was considered a red fever.

These days, the tomato has lost its associations of being a poisonous power. Yet, its pervasiveness around the city of Paris is like a tantalizing belladonna. There seems to be a tomato fever all year round. Fresh, preserved, dried, chopped or frozen, the tomato lures its lovers regardless of whether or not it is in season.

At Saint-Denis market, Emmo Itani, a fruit and vegetable vendor says, “My customers always buy my tomatoes even when they know they do not taste as good.”

It is an overcast first day of spring. But in a couple of months the tomato will be in full season, growing in all its juicy, red glory under the sun. Tasting better, the price of the tomato will increase. And so will the tomato frenzy.

Launching into the history of tomatoes. Photo by Mariachiara Ficarelli.

The French put on an American Show

By Iris Samuels

Rules of Jardin du Luxembourg. (Iris Samuels)

The French are all about rules. Many, if not most, are unspoken, leaving foreigners and tourists mystified and sometimes alienated by the particulars of French society.

In the Luxembourg Gardens, a green haven on the Left Bank of Paris, dozens of gardeners maintain the grounds, but visitors are not allowed on the grass, except on specific strips during the short summer months. Hundreds of varieties of apples grow in meticulous orchards, but park patrons cannot eat their fruit. Get used to it.

But when describing the differences between French and American culture, Florent Masse said that Americans are the performers among the two. Masse, a senior lecturer in the French department at Princeton University, said that American culture is “bigger than life,” unlike his native French culture, which is more devoted to its particular habits.

“It’s a show,” he said on American society. “A spectacle.”

The French proved they could pull off quite the spectacle during the March 20th presidential debate, to rival all of the American glitter and glam.

The five presidential candidates in the upcoming French elections took on primetime television in order to share their platforms for the future of France. Intense music and bright lights accompanied the debate, as scripted moderators delivered lines in a fashion we have come to associate with reality television. This was politics, but it was also drama, intrigue and mystery, calling to mind the matches between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that flooded the U.S. national newsfeed just a few months ago.

The difference between the two cultures is difficult to pinpoint. Bérangère Sim, a 26-year-old journalist living in Paris, described French identity as extremely exclusive. “It’s a very specific system,” she said about the country’s education system, which serves as the foundation of French society. “It’s rooted in tradition.”

Sim, who is half French but grew up outside the country, said she has felt excluded because she didn’t attend French schools. “I don’t really know if I’ll ever be French enough for France,” she said.

Unlike in the U.S., where difference is often celebrated, in France “difference is punished or looked down upon,” Sim added. The French school system, for example, requires all high school graduates to take a single standardized exam, the baccalauréat, to measure competency and provide entry to universities. The bac, as it is commonly known, is offered only once a year to all students in the country, no matter if they grew up amid the busting Parisian streets or in a sleepy town in Normandy. There is no wiggle room.

During the debate, Marine Le Pen, the right-wing leading candidate, affirmed this idea of uniformity, saying that France must curb its immigrant population. Her platform is built on keeping out foreigners, similarly to the platform that won Donald Trump the American Presidency.

“It seems Europe is making a right turn,” explained Alissa Rubin, The New York Times Paris Bureau Chief. But she refused to make any prediction about the results of France’s April elections.

France’s future is up in the air, but in a country where old habits die hard, the grass in the Luxembourg Gardens will remain untouched, and the apples uneaten.

The Good Market


Courtesy of

For three years now, Valentine He has lived and loved Paris as her own. However, if her visa doesn’t go through by the end of April, she could be deported back to her native residence in Hangzhou, China. The young attendant at Le Bon Marché, the world’s first department store, has her fingers crossed that things will work out for her to stay in France.

Le Bon Marché is not an American Macy’s. It is filled to the brim with the finest fashion goods that Paris offers, from Givenchy to Hermès. A large art installation claims the center of the store. The department store is startlingly white and sterile. Everyone speaks in low voices in Le Bon Marché.

In MIU MIU, where He works, the cheapest pair of sunglasses is 270 euros. Sunglasses themselves fill up half a wall of the store, and range from simple gold wire frames to large, plastic frames encrusted with gems in the shapes of feathers.

He is petite and large-eyed, and today, dressed in all black except for a tiny gold nametag pinned to her shirt. Several other attendants were milling around the MIU MIU section of Le Bon Marché, but He was the only obviously Chinese one. She was helping a Chinese customer, a man not much older than she. The man was crouching on the floor. The man proceeded to scoop patent leather clutches into a garden tote bag, stand up, and then text on his phone for a few minutes.

After the man left, He explained that he was a shopper, one based on the Paris side. Some Chinese immigrants in Paris, many of them students, buy name-brand goods to sell to customers in China for a profit. The shoppers directly sell these items, mostly handbags, to individuals through social media channels such as the app WeChat. The shoppers buy enough in one spree to render their purchases tax-free and discounted as according to the high-end stores’ incentive rates.

Everyone at Le Bon Marché knows this, He said. But the luxury goods stores are unable to do anything about it, since the Chinese shoppers are careful and follow all rules while conducting business. They also like to go through Chinese store attendants, like He, when doing this business—“because of language,” He explained.

A glasses-clad young man sitting on a bench near the building exit was wearing a gray hoodie and surrounded by duffel bags, as though on vacation and mid-transit. But when asked, he quietly explained that he was a shopper. His bags were filled with more bags, ready for sale. He moved to Paris five years ago. His unassuming demeanor was different from that of the first man in MIU MIU; the man in MIU MIU was much louder and more aggressive in his way of speech. A shopper could be anyone.

An art installation in Le Bon Marche that evokes a forest. (C) Lavinia Liang, 2017.

All of He’s family is still back in China. She longs to travel and see places farther than Paris someday, too. “I really want to visit America,” she said. “I want to see if New York is as yong ji as Paris is.” She paused for a moment to take out her phone, looking up the English translation of yong ji—which means “crowded” or “packed.”

“But I also just feel nervous now because of Trump,” she added. “I feel like I would get bullied there. Plus, American Chinese food has become its own thing…And it is so bad!”

Public and Private, U.S. and France

It was mid-morning in the Luxembourg Gardens, and our class stood among leafless grey trees gaping at a couple kissing on a park bench. Our whispers and shouts announced to each other when the couple contorted themselves into a new, more intimate position. The group distanced itself, but Kat Trout and Bérengère Sim bravely approached the entangled duo. Bérengère explained in French that Kat was investigating the French kiss. “Would it bother you if we asked you a few questions?” she asked. The couple laughed slightly. “Un petit peu,” they replied. “A little bit.”

The delegation of which things are public and which private tends to vary culturally. Though even the French among us seemed surprised at the couple’s daring public intimacy, our collective amazement and horror gave us away as a group of Americans. The country’s puritanical roots have left Americans exceptionally prudish.

Today, French people took advantage of public space in the Luxembourg Gardens. Students sat at chess tables eating and chatting, a man practiced martial arts against a tree, children played with their grandparents and babysitters. Joggers made their way slowly down the straight-line pathways, and one man even filled a sandbag for his gym with grains from a public sandbox.

Later in the day, I left an interview at the Argentinian embassy deeply embarrassed by my outfit. I had entered the office wearing linen pants and a maroon blouse, and I felt shabby immediately when I saw the Argentinian diplomat’s smart suit and spacious office. I realized that I often assume informality—it makes me feel more comfortable in any given situation, both physically and socially.

This is not the norm in France. Bérengère, a young half-French, half-Scottish Parisian, told us she would never go out in sweatpants. Florent Masse, a French theater professor, told us, “You would never put on your sneakers and teach a class. Jamais. Jamais.” (“Never, never.”) He explained that there is a code in France. If you want to wear jeans, you have to balance it with a nice blouse on top. “We’re kind of conservative in this way,” he said, “and Americans tend to be more, much more relaxed.”

Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu, Associate Dean of the College at Princeton and Director of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, explained that in France, “There’s a much greater distinction between private space and public space.” She continued, “When you’re going out into public that affects how you present yourself; it’s not just this kind of continuation of your private space in the same way.”

Dean Graves explained that American informality is linked to a false egalitarian narrative that tries to erase the reality of race and class difference. We all must look alike because we all are equal. Yet in France, who you are is deeply related to where you come from. “There is much more definition of your path from the path of your family,” she said.

Professor Masse agreed. People are very connected to the town they grew up in. This is exacerbated by the fact that children live with their parents through college. There is no assumption that one will move out after age 18, like there is in America. The importance of background in measuring someone’s “French-ness” also contributes to racism and xenophobia against non-white, non-Catholic, immigrant French people.

The distinct ways Americans and French navigate public space comes from different cultural values. Formal public presentation emphasizes heritage and background, whereas informality reinforces egalitarian norms. The French couple’s mad kiss in the park affronted both sensibilities. It was a radical act opposing to the public-private divide.

Going, Coming, and In-Between: Perspectives on French Culture

By: Katie Petersen

Princeton Dean Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu’s journey to France was a long time coming. Her grandparents had moved from the Quebec area to Maine long before she was born to work in paper mills, and had brought their French with them. They would speak their difficult-to-understand dialect of French whenever they wanted to have a conversation their granddaughter wasn’t privy to, Graves says. Additionally, an uncle who was an important mentor for her was a French professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcestor, Massachusetts.

By the time she had the opportunity to fly to France for schooling, she was so excited that she could not be deterred by a friend’s concern over the possibility of the plane crashing. “At least I’ll die going where I want to be,” she exclaimed, and took off.

From his home city of Lille, France, Princeton Professor Florent Masse had fallen in love with America and New York City through cinema and other cultural snapshots from across the Atlantic. He still remembers his first English class when he got to the French equivalent of middle school. “I had been waiting for this,” he says, relating how learning English opened a new world to him. Because of his knowledge of the language, he was able to spend several summers in America with host families, learning English and practicing theatre. He now heads a program of his founding combining French linguistic and theatrical skills at Princeton.

Berengere Sim, a research assistant for journalist and author Elaine Sciolino, is Franco-Scottish but grew up all over the world. She attended school outside of the traditional schooling system and as a result, knows both French and English perfectly and can speak multiple other languages as well. Because of her unique education and background, however, she is the “black sheep” of her friends in France.

The three shared their perspectives on French culture, especially as compared to American, with a group of students visiting Paris.

Everyone defines themselves by their work in the U.S., and my experience in Paris was while that was really important, it wasn’t the case,” Graves said. Instead, it’s “important to cultivate a passion.”

On divisions in social circles, Masse shared that “there’s class in the U.S. as well, but it’s diluted.”

There’s a difference in social expectations of dress as well. “You’d never put your sneakers on and teach a class; we’re more conservative in that way,” Masse explained, but in the U.S., its all about comfort: you can go to class in your slippers.

Ultimately, “difference is sort of punished and looked down upon instead of celebrated,” Sim said. “I don’t really know if I’ll ever be French enough for France.”

Eyes Wide Open: Spotting Anomalies in the Luxembourg Gardens

By: Miriam Friedman

Pétanque at the Luxembourg Gardens. Photograph by Miriam Friedman

Coat hangers, beehives, and people punching trees, are strange fixtures to find in a garden; but the Luxembourg Gardens are in no way ordinary. These three spectacles are just some of the few interesting things within the park. But walking quickly or jogging on the gravel paths, one can easily miss these sights. To see beyond the rocks and trees, one must become an idle French stroller, a flâneur: calm, and lax, but attentive to even the finest details.

To an American, seeing two long coat racks and tens of hangers in a park, is an anomaly; but for the French, this is commonplace. These amenities are a resource to the tens of men who come to play the game pétanque in the center of the park. This game is a twist on American bowling, and it is one of the top ten most popular sports in France.

Most of the competitors in the gardens are men in their seventies, who spend their afternoons participating in tournaments for mild fame and a few euros. “It’s my favorite thing about retirement,” says retired doctor Yves Vichey, 73. Vichey says that the players warm up quickly. Coats usually come off within the first few tosses, and the coat racks provide the easiest fix. “The existence of the racks is almost as important as the balls in the game. Without them it would be hard to play,” he says.

Of course, pétanque is just the beginning of the magic of the gardens. Just past these courts, one young man punches a tree with thick gloves, while another fills garbage bags with sand. From afar, it is difficult to notice that on the tree there is a punching bag, and that the man in the sandpit is filling the bags to anchor his gym equipment. From afar, these people seem odd, but approaching them brings their actions into perspective.

On the far-right corner of the gardens lies another strange sight: a pile of little brown boxes on a patch of gravel. These are beehives which once housed and raised hundreds of bees. But stacked on top of each other, these wooden squares no longer contain bees, and the sign in front of them does not explain why. Asking the gardeners will reveal that the decreasing number of bees in Paris has temporarily exiled them from this home to find refuge in a safer place, sending them elsewhere to seek refuge.

So, what is the secret to finding surprises in the Luxembourg gardens? Discovering answers takes more than attention to detail: it requires initiative, asking the right questions, and pressing further when the answer does not suffice. By keeping both eyes open then, it is suddenly not only the coat hangers that begin to make sense.

Ghosts of America

When American author George Saunders gave a reading at famed Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company on March 20th, he could have been reading at any large American city. Most of the people who came to listen to Saunders read from his new historical novel Lincoln in the Bardo were young and English-speaking. They drank Kombucha and wore clothes that defied the unofficial French uniform; instead of monochrome layers, Oxfords, and a chic scarf, guests wore mom jeans and bleached out hair, sported bright lipstick and blunt bangs and colorful sneakers.

As soon as Saunders opened the floor to audience questions, however, the atmosphere shifted. Audience members began to ask Saunders about his thoughts on politics, democracy, and Donald Trump, and there is the sense that sense that many of the guests came to be calmed.

Elizabeth Howard, from Rochester NY and living in Paris for the year, brought her friend Rita O’Connell to Shakespeare and Company because she loves the store and wants O’Connell to see it, but also because of the “political issues of late,” Howard explained.

To Rita O’Connell, part of the draw was hearing Saunders’ savvy about United States politics, something that felt comforting to her. O’Connell made the pilgrimage for reassurance, and for community.

Shakespeare and Company has been a place of community for Anglophone literary expats since 1919, when Sylvia Beach moved from Princeton to Paris and opened a bookstore on the Rue de l’Odéon. The shop served as a meeting space for many of the literary greats of the Lost Generation, until it closed during the Nazi occupation of Paris when Sylvia Beach was arrested and interned.

The shop never re-opened, but in 1952 American bookseller (and New Jersey native) George Whitman changed the name of his bookstore–Le Mistral–to Shakespeare and Company. George Whitman ran the shop like a socialist paradise, offering a free room to anyone who tumbled into his shop in exchange for a one-page autobiography and some hours of work in the store.

After George Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, took over the store in 2003, the store became further involved with the contemporary Anglophone literary scene, launching the Paris Literary Prize, hosting famous authors for readings, and opening a bake shop and café next to the store in 2015.

George Saunders, the author of the story collections “Tenth of December” and “In Persuasion Nation,” is perhaps the best example of this evolution of Anglophone literary culture at Shakespeare and Company, a culture that has grown increasingly politically aware in recent months. The store’s first event in 2017 was called “Literature Under Trump.”

Many of the guests at George Saunders’ reading made the pilgrimage to Shakespeare and Company either to hear more of Saunders’ sardonic wit, or hear about his stance on American politics. While Lincoln in the Bardo is a novel about a metaphysical journey through purgatory and history, it is especially relevant at the beginning of the Trump era.

“Those of us who got blasé about democracy got a wake-up call,” he said, in response to a question from an audience member about how to situate novel-writing in the Trump Era. Saunders voiced his frustration with the progressives who got lulled into complacency, but also suggests an alternative to despair.

One woman from the audience asked Saunders how he felt writing can make a difference, and if he ever felt like writing a giant “I-told-you-so” to all those who doubted his opinions on Trump. Saunders resisted the easy answer.

“I think about what writing has done for us,” he said. One shouldn’t fault the novel for failing to change the world, because “that isn’t really how the machinery works.” Instead, Saunders urged the audience to think about individual reading experiences.

While he knew his books wouldn’t save the world, he said that he believes in the awe and wonder they provide. These feelings, to Saunders, are the point. “The most powerful feeling in the world,” he said, “is to have totally unbounded love.”

At this, George Saunders seemed to remember where he was, and why it was special.

“Generations of people have come to this beautiful place, this beautiful city, and this building,” he said. “Generations have come because they kept wanting to learn more.”

In situating literature as an antidote for close-mindedness, Saunders connected nationalism and prejudice to the inability to empathize with others unlike us, and our inability to move beyond our projections. To Saunders, reading is central to this process of resisting projection. The worlds within books are important, only insofar as they can help illuminate our own.




Selfies at the Louvre

Katherine Trout ’19 admires the Mona Lisa
Photo by Anhar Karim

A mob of people surrounds the Mona Lisa portrait, snapping away at its modest frame. Some people push their way through to get as close to the image as possible. But once they get there, they only look at the painting for seconds. Because almost immediately after getting to the front of the mob, these people turn their backs to the portrait and stand in place.

Excitement before entering the famed museum
Photo by Anhar Karim

For fifteen euros, any visitor can walk into the majestic halls of The Louvre and step through its millennia of art. You can begin at the ground floor and dig through the ancient tablets of the Near Eastern Antiquities section. Then, you can venture to the first floor to look up in awe at the ceiling wide frescoes floating above the Roman Antiquities section. Then, journey down 2 levels underground to see the new Islamic Art exhibit flanked by large windows and natural light. And after all of this make sure to take a breath, because you have only seen less than 20% of the museum.

People are here from all over the world
Photo by Anhar Karim

However, today many visitors come here to not only look at ancient art, but to make new art, art which features none other than themselves.

The Mona Lisa stands in the center of a wide room on the 1st floor’s painting section. The glass casing ten times its size, the large empty back wall, and the guardrail separating onlookers by six feet, all dwarf the tiny portrait. The extra security, signs, and promotional material outside the museum make it clear: this is what you came to see. You will tell your friends and family and everyone about seeing this.

Outside The Louvre
Photo by Anhar Karim

However, many visitors only spend a fleeting moment actually seeing the image. Because many push themselves to the front only to pull out their phones, turn around, and smile for their camera. Here we witness the creation of the “second order portrait.” This new genre of photography art, taken in the form of selfies or group pictures by a volunteer, feature not only an ancient portrait, but a new one, all within the same outer frame. It is tempting to criticize this phenomenon, to chastise these people: Why spend all this money only to turn your back to one of our world’s greatest artworks? Why go through all that effort just for a selfie? But the counter is almost too easy: Why did great artists of the past spend so much money on supplies and tools for their paintings? Why did they spend so many years practicing to become perfect? The answer for both situations is likely the same: for the sake of expression. Therefore, are the portraits of yesterday and the second order ones of today so different after all? Well, the crowds of people passing through the Louvre don’t seem to fret about mixing the two.

Time will decide in the end. Though one cannot help but wonder how it would look if the Louvre eventually displayed a second order portrait on its own doubly secured wall.

On your right, notice the gates: seeing (and fearing) historic Paris, like the locals do

On a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens, the crunch of gravel beneath your feet fills your ears; the swirl of runners weaving in and around you fills your vision; and the rich stories of the royal inhabitants of the mansions fill your mind. You will probably not feel fear.

How can you be afraid when you stand among stretches of carefully tailored grass and towering mansions? When you enter the Gardens, you enter the past, and nobody mentions that day’s bleeding headlines about terrors and crimes around a globalized world. Historical sights—especially the beautiful ones—feel separated from the real world, especially to tourists who cannot perceive a city like Paris as a home, but rather as a temporary destination. So when a guide pointed to some gates on a tour this past Monday and explained that they were added in response to the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, the group let out a little gasp.

Terrorist attacks? Causing a ripple in the Luxembourg Gardens? The historical sites of Paris are supposed to live outside of current events. No matter how unsafe or unstable a major city might get, its monuments seem timeless and reliable to tourists who travel to see what Google Images promises them. Of course, tourist destinations inevitably tack on increased security measures in response to danger. (Think of pre-9/11 days before security involved shoes-off, full-body pat-downs.) Precautions instituted after moments of crisis are jarring at first, then dissolve into the background, and the illusion of historical sites’ timelessness settles back into place.

When the guide asked tourists if they had seen the Gardens before, three hands raised into the air.  Had they seen these Gardens, though, or some place else? To the infrequent visitor, the Luxembourg Gardens do not age between visits. Paris does not age; when it does, tour guides do not tack on current events to their scripts, and tourists take care not to notice.

Even the most tourist-filled destinations are part of locals’ landscapes. Fear is part of Parisians’ worlds, and so are gates; granted, when a tour guide’s mention of terror attacks is sandwiched between talks of kings and architects of years past, stories of the past and present blur into a narrative that tourists can forget at the end of the day. But to understand Paris as both a city of history and of the present, you must pay attention to both the mansions and their new gates.

Baby Swag!


In line for the Restaurant Chartier. (C) Lavinia Liang, 2017.

Sofie Skitt was born in China’s Hubei province and moved to Paris in her twenties. Her husband, Cyriel Skitt, was born in Cameroon, and moved to Paris as a teenager with his family. This makes their 16-month-old Aoki (yes, “like the DJ”) Cameroonian-Chinese-French. More importantly, Aoki is also a rising Instagram star. The toddler has over 600 followers on the social media platform, and even now, waiting in line for dinner at the Bouillon Chartier, his mother is taking photos of him on her phone, trying to get the perfect shot for their next post.

One look at the Skitt family shows that they know fashion. (Cyriel’s Twitter bio reads: Stylist, Fashion buy and Jewelry designer in Paris. The link to his website does not work, unfortunately.) Sofie wears her straight, black hair parted in the middle, and sports large black statement glasses frames. She has on a white knit turtleneck that is mostly covered by a loose-fitting black bomber jacket. Her cross-body purse is a bright grass green. The handle of it is wrapped in a colorful fabric that is reminiscent of La Sape patterns. Cyriel has his hair tied back in long braids (which he ponies up further to get his picture taken.) He wears an olive-green tee under an unbuttoned chambray shirt, under a long black coat. Several gold Hands of Hamsa amulets dangle from his neck.

Sofie and Cyriel are big fans of the Restaurant Chartier (Sofie recommends the duck confit.) (C) Lavinia Liang, 2017.

Chinese aesthetics or sensibilities do not really influence Sofie’s fashion sense or her shopping habits. “But you should ask my husband if you want to talk cultural influences,” she says excitedly in Mandarin. “They have this…this cultural thing…it’s spelled with s-a-p-p…it’s like, when you care so much, you can have a refrigerator that doesn’t have any food in it, just shoes.” She taps Cyriel on the arm and asks him a flurry of questions in French.

What Sofie was trying to convey was the concept of La Sape, an African subculture movement that “embodies the elegance in style and manners of colonial predecessor dandies,” and is centered around the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo. Practicers of La Sape (which is an acronym for the French translation of “Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People”) are known as sapeurs. Sophie was trying to spell sapeur.

Aoki Skitt sporting his latest outfit! (C) Lavinia Liang, 2017.

Today, young Aoki is sporting a navy snapback, a speckled white knit sweater, a sheepskin coat, and tiger-print gray sneakers. (His Instagram account’s first post is of his orange leather Hermes booties. His Instagram account’s bio reads: My name is Aoki Skitt, AKA baby swag in Paris.)

But Baby Swag is not only a term used by the Skitts. Earlier that morning, in the Sunday market of Seine-Saint-Denis in the 93rd, a young black man handed out flyers for a newly opened, high-end baby accessories store called “Baby Swag.”

The Baby Swag store was sandwiched between several women’s clothing stores. These stores sold burkas and hijabs, but were owned by Chinese immigrants. “Happy Miss” was the name of one such store. Happy Miss was situated across the street from Baby Swag, and was staffed by Chinese attendants who did not speak English and spoke shaky French. They directed all questions to their manager at the front desk.

The manager of Happy Miss dressed simply, wearing a gray polo shirt and thin glasses frames. “I don’t answer journalist’s questions,” he said. “But you can stand in front of that store across the street and take a picture of my storefront, if you really want to.”