The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also known as the "Quai d'Orsay", is one of the most beautiful Ministries in Paris. This Second Empire building boasts stunning interior decoration as it is designed to host foreign sovereigns and diplomats with all the splendour of a French welcome to live up to their standing. Everything about it exudes grandeur and prestige.
As a Laureate of the prize for talented French nationals abroad, Art of Living category, I walk up the steps of the monumental staircase towards the hall where the trophy presentation ceremony is to be held. I have an incredible feeling of pride and happiness, but I am also anxious. The prize was established by "Le Petit Journal" French language publication which is read by most French expats around the world.
The 300 guests slowly take their seats. Finally, Mrs Conway-Mouret, Minister Delegate for French Nationals Abroad, takes her place, followed by her delegation. A tingling feeling travels through my body. I feel I'll be forever paralysed. The bun on my head seems to reach an unlikely height... If only it could divert attention... Pierre, the French judoka who lives in Japan, the jury's favourite, is very calm. He whispers in my ear that you have to know how to manage stress. I breathe through my belly, just like my drama teacher had taught me to do. I stand up like a robot about to embrace his friends, former Olympic medallists in judo.
And the admirable paths of the laureates are revealed on the big screen (thanks to a short film by France 24). The laureates file along, one after the other, and answer questions from the sponsors.My name is announced. As if by magic, because to this day I still wonder how my legs carried me, I'm on the stage.
I'm surprised, is it me who made the audience laugh? A glowing speech by the representative of Le Monde newspaper, a crystalline trophy, bravos, applause, congratulations, photos... That's when I realise that I've done it, I've won... I think of my parents, my family, the French expats in Hong Kong and in China (I'm the only one here to represent them tonight), all the sacrifices and beautiful creations of thousands of expats, and then of my country, France, which has just honoured my work beyond my greatest dreams.
by Catherine Soulas Baron