The evening sun is beating down on the sidewalk and blinding me from seeing street signs. With 30 students walking behind me I pray that I'm going in the right direction. We pass a group of young men on their motorbikes and they whistle and call out.
I smile at a nervous young woman behind me "Just ignore them, it's fine."
Soon I realize we're walking in the wrong direction. I don't normally take this route to my Turkish family's restaurant. I realize that I can either panic, apologize profusely, or laugh it off. I yell out to the hungry students "Just giving you guys a tour of the neighborhood, you still love me right?"
Eventually we make it to the restaurant. I'm answering a phone call as we approach and almost walk right past until Gohkan, my Turkish brother, yells out to me. I smile in relief and shuffle the large group into the small restaurant, my other home in Paris.
I've known this family for eight years now. Over the years they have fed me, housed me, and loved me so much it never ceases to amaze me.
It warms my heart to see their restaurant full. Muhittin, the father, is calm and smiling as always. He asks me to help him with the orders and we have the kids come up in groups of five. The students giggle over the picture of food with "Ass mixte" written underneath and I try to help them make up their minds (I later find out Muhittin is aware of the translation error but loves the laughs it gets from English speakers so much he refuses to change it.)
Sweat is trickling down my leg and I can tell everyone is starving. Muhittin father passes me a cold Perrier and I take a breather outside with Gohkan. I am exhausted after so many long days and sleepless night but so grateful to be surrounded by people I love.
Soon Muhittin calls out to me and I join him at the counter and carry out dishes to the students. It is an effort to feed all of them and we hustle to make sure everyone gets their order. I run out vegetarian plates, mixed meat plates and chicken skewers with piles of bulgur, French fries, and salads.
When everyone has their meals I take a moment to order mine. The usual vegetarian plate piled high with all of my favourites; eggplant, hummus, dalmades, salad and a huge pool of harissa. I sit outside with Gohkan and Leyla, mother hen, comes outside to share a plate of French fries.
When the students get antsy and want dessert Gohkan leads them up the street to a tea house for Baklava and drinks with colourful mint syrup.
I take a moment to enjoy my food and the summer air. I love nothing more than these hot Parisian nights.
When it's time to go the other supervisors offer to take the kids home so that I can finish my meal and spend a moment with my family.
They leave and Emin, the older brother who I haven't seen in years arrives. He says "Gill, tu embelli". And I laugh. "Quoi?" He explains that it means to get more beautiful and I fall in love with the word immediately. "Toi aussi Emin, toi aussi."
I leave them with big hugs and promises to come back soon, taking comfort in the fact that they are there. Out of all the sights we've seen in Paris this remains my favourite.