Sunday, April 3, 2016

Paris-Pittsburgh People: Christine Arriola

This past week, I decided to expand my horizons and meet new people. And learned, yet again, that it's a small world.

I accepted an invitation from Christine Arriola to give a talk on mentoring at her Toastmaster's club where she works, at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). I wasn't sure if she was French or from some other foreign country. Over lunch we talked business, but afterward, I asked her where she was from:

“Pittsburgh,” she said. “No way,” I said, “what part?” “South Hills,” she said. “Me too!”

Proof that “six degrees of separation” is off by about five.

But Christine's journey from Pittsburgh to Paris wasn't a direct flight. Here, Christine shares her story, and her fondness for her native city and her adoptive one. Sounds familiar!
Tell me about your journey from Pittsburgh to Paris:
“My journey from Pittsburgh to Paris has been somewhat circuitous with many stops along the way.  After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in Jefferson Hills, I headed east to Oberlin, Ohio,  to attend college. It was just far enough away that I felt like I finally launched into independent adulthood.

''After university, I made my way east to Washington, D.C. where I worked in policy research organizations. Overtime I didn’t feel like the nation’s capital was east enough, so I up and joined the Peace Corps which took me to Burkina Faso in West Africa--my first foray living in a
French-speaking country.

''After a few more stops in the U.S., which included time in both Pittsburgh and D.C. again, I picked-up a husband and a second degree, and finally settled here in the Paris area.''

What do you like about Pittsburgh, and what do you like about Paris?
''Someone once suggested to me that Pittsburgh was a big city with a small town feel. I think that is a great way to describe the ‘burgh. Everyone is kind and friendly. No matter where you go in town, everyone seems to know each other.

''The stunning architecture in Paris, to me, is second to none. I am consistently mesmerized by the Haussmann buildings which line the streets of my bus ride into the center of Paris. The Grand Palais and Opera Garnier are works of art."

What would bring you back to Pittsburgh?
"My family and most of my childhood friends are still in Pittsburgh. It would be nice to see them more often. I just need to show my California native husband the charms of four seasons--especially the Pittsburgh winters."

What would have you stay in Paris?
"Paris and France have a lot of nooks and crannies to explore. There are lots of regions and areas in and out of the city to discover. The French people we’ve met so far have been more than happy to share with us information about the wine they are producing or the history of area we are visiting. I love it! I love to learn and discover new things. Since moving to Paris, I feel like I discover something new every time when I walk out the door.''

It was great meeting you Christine! Perhaps we'll bump into each other again—maybe on that direct Delta flight back to Pittsburgh?
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Email me at rose.burke89 "at" Or follow me on Google+.

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