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Paris, France

"This shirt makes me look like I am with child," she said.

"What?" I replied.

"No, seriously, what do you think? Does this shirt make me look pregnant?"

I said nothing. I am a guy and this is a friend of mine who is not only the main reason I am standing in Paris, France, but she's not a guy....therefore, she's a woman....therefore, I don't answer questions related to pregnancy from women.

"Oh, you're afraid to answer...."

I nod.

"Chicken. Froussard?"

"Ok, it kind of makes you look bloated."

"What! Are you serious? What do you mean by bloated?"

"This is why I don't answer these types of questions."

"Bloated is different than pregnant. I said 'with child' like it's a good thing, NOT bloated which is never a good thing. When we get down from here you owe me a drink?"

"Pregnant women shouldn't drink."

Then, she hit me....rather hard, somewhere in my ribs and I winced and we proceeded to finish looking at the view. This entire conversation happened in Paris, France, part way up the Eiffel Tower and is a reminder that amid striking tourist sites and post card views, real people still live real lives. I think sometimes we reserve certain spots in our mind where real life is not supposed to creep in and dwell. We want church to be a place where everyone smiles a lot, but what happens if you're having a crap day? We want elegant, sit-down restaurants to have a certain ambience, but what if the chef burns your dinner? We want pictueresque cities and vacation spots to have an airbrushed feel and a charm that distances itself from work, children, diapers, laundry, and the daily grind....but, what happens when your college friend asks you if she looks fat while you're both enjoying the view from part way up the Eiffel Tower. She's beautiful, but that doesn't matter. She's intelligent, but that's not the question being posed. She's taken real life and put it in a spot where most people think it cannot be found.

For the record, I did buy the drink,  yes it cost me more than most drinks, and the city does have real people living in it. I think we got a few looks as we bantered back and forth, but as we all journey along, part of what often gets overlooked is that real life crashes in to post cards all the time. And the dirty little secret is this: real life is almost always better than the airbrushed version people settle for. 

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As a University director of study abroad in Central Texas, ideas and stories matter. These reflections are for pilgrims making progress.