Wondrously Mundane

So it’s been a few years…literally, and life has changed. Over this past weekend, I got to be a part of a 2-day retreat with a program called Act One up in Hollywood. It is a Christian film program that lasts throughout the summer. I’m not going to lie, I was not super thrilled to be going. I just recently graduated from college (finally) and the idea of sitting around in a classroom like structure, right after 5 years of that, did not sound incredibly interesting to me. I think part of the reason is simply because I don’t want to enter the real world and am in slight denial that I actually have to decide what my future is going to look like, which is honestly terrifying to me. But the fact remains that I really wasn’t looking forward to this weekend.

Well, I have to say that it was an absolutely incredible weekend. In case you didn’t catch it above, I’m going in to the film industry because I have a strong passion and strong connection to the arts. But over the past year or so, I feel that I have lost that connection to my creative passions. However, over the weekend, I was brought to a place, mentally and spiritually, to rediscover where my heart truly is. One of the things that really stuck with me this weekend was that if I am truly an artist at heart, then I should always be striving to create, whether that be in film, in art, in photography, in writing, even just growing through reading. I lost that part of myself and this weekend helped me rediscover it. The reason that I am naming this specific blog post the name of my blog is because throughout the weekend, not just one of the speakers, but many of the speaks spoke about finding our imagination and creativity in the mundane and the ordinary. There is so much to appreciate if we just take the time to slow down and look around us. I want to get back to looking. Will you join in me?

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Global Citizenship

Global citizenship is kind of a big and scary word. It comes up a lot at my school, though. In fact, it is stated in TCU’s mission statement: To educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community. This has never really truly meant anything to me. I mean, yes I love traveling abroad and experiencing and immersing myself in to different cultures. Yes I traveled to India and the Dominican Republic and Mexico on missions trips, but those were for a maximum of two weeks. It takes more time than just two weeks to fully immerse oneself in a new culture, and I understand that now. After living in a completely different and new country for the past three months, I have a better grip on what my school’s mission statement is talking about. Being a global citizen isn’t about being involved in “global” organizations or clubs. It is about experiencing and contributing to different cultures and countries than just your own. It is about being aware of more than what is in the tiny bubble that is the United States of America. Yes, our bubble seems great, but there are so few people who actually dare to pop it. Only once that bubble is popped can someone truly become a global citizen, and that is what we have done by studying abroad this past semester. There is so much more than what we know. There is more than one way to live than just how we live in the United States. Yes, other places don’t have perfect living but neither do we. Living in France has showed me that. For example, I have experienced the convenience of a metro system while I have been in Paris. Can I just say, I think all big cities in the US should have this because it makes life so much easier. It makes everything way more accessible and it is nice because then not everyone would have to own a car. Little things, like that, other countries understand. Yes the US is great, but there comes a time when we need to look critically at our own country and ask ourselves what we can learn from other countries. Studying abroad this semester has opened my eyes to so much. I have learned the importance of being involved and keeping up with local and global events. There is more to life than just what is happening in the US and it is our duty to be aware of that and to form well rounded opinions on what is going on in the outside world. It is our prerogative to be aware. That is my call to action. Be aware of what is outside of your own little bubble in hopes that, you too, might become a global citizen.

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Migration and Global Interdependence

France is a very unique country for any different reasons. The most prominent reason when dealing with this topic is this idea of something called laïcite. What is laïcite you may ask? Well allow me to enlighten you on this subject matter. Laïcite is this idea of separation of church and state and a strong bond of French citizens to France. This concept has showed up in many ways but the most recently drastic way is when France banned headscarves. This targeted one specific portion of the population, mainly Muslim, immigrant women. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this law that was made, let me, once again, enlighten you. In 2004, France passed a law that “banned ‘conspicuous’ religious symbols in the schools” (Henley). This included not only Muslim headscarves and veils, but also included Jewish skullcaps, and large Christian crosses, yet for some reason, those religions were in less of an uproar. This law was even upheld by the European Union. The purpose that France was trying to reach by doing this was to promote the secular state. “The law, which has wide public support in France, is meant to protect the country’s strictly secular state from the perceived threat of Islamic fundamentalism,” (Henley). French citizens also put a big emphasis on being first and foremost, French, and then you can be whatever else you want to be, but you are and will always be French and that is where your alligience should lie. France is a very unique country because of its strong national pride. I think this comes mainly from France’s long history and everything that France has been through as a country. It has seen both prosperous times as well as incredibly difficult times. But through all those good and bad times, the French have always remained French, and that is why, I believe, they take such a strong stance on just being France. The French are not influenced by many outside forces, and when they are, there is some resentment and controversy there, as seen with the law against religious symbols like the headscarf.

Citation-

Henley, Jon. “French MPs Vote for Veil Ban in State Schools.” Theguardian. N.p., 11 Feb. 2004. Web. 1 Apr. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fworld%2F2004%2Ffeb%2F11%2Fschools.schoolsworldwide>.

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Sustainability

If you were in Paris looking out of the city from Sacre Coer, then you would have seen nothing but smog. The city of paris was covered in a thick layer of fog last week that even the Eiffel Tower couldn’t be seen rising from the Parisian landscape. If you have been keeping up with news in Paris then you would know why this subject of sustainability falls at such a perfect time in context to Paris. Last week on Wednesday, Paris became the highest air polluted city in the world, topping even Shanghai, which is pretty hard to do, if you ask me, but it is true. The crazy thing is, I wasn’t even aware that there was that much pollution. So, what was Paris’s solution to so drastic a problem? According to my host mom, what they did was they declared that only certain people could drive on the road’s this past Monday. Only people with odd numbered license plates could drive, which was distinguished according to the last digit of the person’s license plate. So how did people get to where they needed to go if they couldn’t drive anywhere. Paris decided to confront that problem by making the metro’s open to everyone, meaning they were free and people didn’t need to have tickets to get from place to place. According to Gaffey, cars that cared three or four people and “Commercial, electric, and hybrid vehicles were also exempt” from the law that went out. This would help to prevent traffic on the metro and limit the amount of air pollution that was going out. Also, hybrid and electric vehicles pollute the air significantly less than regular cars. Because of these measures taken, Paris was able to reduce the amount of air pollution to a safer level, but this is not the first time it was happened. Apparently, Gaffey stated that it also happened last year. Because of this emerging pattern, Paris and France will have to start thinking of a permanent solution to a reoccurring problem like this.

Citation-

Gaffey, Conor. “Paris Cuts Traffic by Half in Bid to Tackle Air Pollution.” Newsweek. N.p., 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Mar. 2015. <http://www.newsweek.com/paris-cuts-traffic-half-bid-tackle-air-pollution-316142&gt;.

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Cultural Encounters

Did you ever feel like you are not being heard or you are not being understood? Being abroad can make you feel this way. I know I have had a few encounters that I walked away from that have been less than pleasant. But growing up in American has taught us that people always act a certain way or that we should be treated a certain way. Because of these ideas, I felt that I had a rather “rude” experience with one of the sales women at the local patisserie/boulangerie.

Imagine this. It was finally a nice and somewhat sunny day in Paris, which was a welcomed sight compared to the cloudy and cold days we had been having. I had just had a long day of class (because I only had one class that day but it felt like an eternity). I’m walking home, planning on sitting and relaxing with some Netflix and possibly even taking a short nap. But I want a little treat to go with my Netflix so I stop to get a pain au chocolat. (chocolate croissant for those of you who do not know French…like me). I walk in to the store with a “Bon jour” and a smile on my face. I get a rather unpleasant “Bon jour” back from the lady behind the counter but I brush that off because the sun was somewhat shining. She asks me what I want but I wanted to look at all the options first to see if I wanted to be adventurous that day. But I couldn’t help but feel like she was rushing me as she stared and waited for me to answer. So, in a fluster, I attempt to ask for a pain au chocolat but her impatience was pressuring me so I stumbled on my French and she looked at me like I was a huge waste of time. Finally I just pointed and asked for it in English. Then she grabbed it and threw it in a bag and rings it up. I have no clue how much it cost so I just threw down two euros and left with an “Au revoir” but I got nothing in response. Leaving that place, I felt like the sun was shinning a little less bright and the wind had got a little more chilly.

Now, if we got that kind of service back home, the café would definitely be getting a bad review, but in France, that is more than common. Yes, people have bad days, and yes, in America you don’t show it if you are working with customers, but in France, life is very different. People are constantly on the move and always seem to have something better to do than stop and wait for a foreigner to try and ask for a chocolate croissant. Now, let me try and write this from the lady behind the counter’s point of view.

It’s 3:15 in the afternoon. It has been a long day at the patisserie/ boulangerie and I just want to go home. This morning was incredibly busy, lunchtime was incredibly busy, and now we are getting the kids and parents who are just getting out of school. Plus, we have to pick up the slack since the other patisserie/ boulangerie down the street is closed. I mentally prepare for the next long hour when a American walks in to the store yelling “Bon jour”. I respond “Bon jour” back as I am trying to help another customer that had been waiting. Once I finish with her I ask the American student what she wants. She doesn’t seem to know or even understand me, and another group of people just walked in who probably know what they want. But she was here first and it looks like she is ready to order. It takes her what seems like an unnecessary amount of time to order a simple pain au chocolat so I quickly grab it and ring it up for her. She didn’t have her wallet out so now I need to make the other customers wait a little longer because this American girl has no clue what she is doing. Finally, she pays and I move on to the next customer. I don’t even hear her say “Au revoir”.

Two completely different stories but both completely understandable and completely valid. Sometimes, we just need to stop and look at things from other perspectives in order to try and realize why a person is acting a certain way. An encounter like this is not always uncommon in a French patisserie/ boulangerie but in America, it is definitely uncommon because we are taught that the customer is always right. In France, though, it is completely different. They grew up without being patted on the back for everything, good or bad, that they did. The grew up in reality, not in a world of rainbows and butterflies, so if someone is wrong or don’t know, it is not uncommon for the French to let them know. This is what happened to me in the patisserie/ boulangerie and it is just part of the culture and is not meant as an offense. I don’t know French and I wasn’t sure on what I was going to order, not to mention the crowd that had just walked in, so I definitely could have had more pleasant experience, but it was reality. All in all, make sure you not only know your surroundings, but also know and understand the culture you are immersing yourself in to. By doing that, you can avoid experiences or at least better understand bad experiences you might have with locals, like I did.

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Justice and Injustice

Have you ever stopped to think about the different ways governments interact with their citizens. Well, neither have I, but this week in class, we started talking about the differences between the American school system and the French school system, and what I learned blew my mind. I am seriously considering raising my kid in France now. Do you want to know what I learned? Ok, I’ll tell you because I think everyone needs to see different perspectives on how to run things, including me.

So I will start off by letting you know the similarities. Here is the first similarity, both America and France have a public and private school system. The second similarity is that the public system is virtually free. That is about where the similarities stop though.

Now time for the differences. First difference, the government pays for almost all of a student’s education. According to the Ministère Des Affaires Étrangères, “the Preamble of the French Constitution of 1946 sets out that ‘the Nation guarantees equal access for children and adults to education, vocational training and culture’ ”. Because of this, it is very easy for children to gain access to an education, whether it be through private school or public school. But it is true that private school cost more than public school, but the difference is that it costs hardly fifty euros more than public school. Because of this government funding, private schools have to give up some of their rights according to the government (Ministère Des Affaires Étrangères). So why doesn’t everyone go to private school if it costs hardly anything. It is because the French curriculum is the exact same in private school than it is in public school, so the only real reason anyone would pay for private school is for better facilities and a slightly smaller classroom size. Other than that, it is the exact same as public school. This is definitely not the same in the States. I went to a private school until high school, and it definitely cost my parents a lot more than if they had just sent me to public school. However, even in public school, the school board always finds some way to make you pay more than what you were expecting. The government pays for the bare minimum but when it comes to things like sports (which everyone is “encouraged” to join a sport), then they ask you for a crap load of money. Or at least that is what they did for the dance team. It is ridiculous. Another difference is that the government not only pays for a student’s education through preschool to high school graduation, but the government also pays for almost all of a person’s education up till their PhD. A college student could be expected to pay around 100 euros per year for their undergraduate. And the education is the same no matter where you go. How crazy is that! However, the only way they can do this through high taxes, but most people are ok paying the higher taxes because they know that it is going towards the future generations that will be running the country.

Now that you know all of this are you starting to rethink our education system back in America, because I know I am. But then again, that is just my opinion. It is incredibly interesting to see how different governments run their countries and how it affects people. I will definitely be looking closer at our own education system, for sure.

Citations

Ministère Des Affaires Étrangères. “La France à La Loupe: The Education System in France.” (n.d.): n. pag. Système Éducatif En France- Education System. Ministère Des Affaires Étrangères, June 2007. Web. 4 Mar. 2015. <http://ambafrance-us.org/IMG/pdf/education_system.pdf&gt;.

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Engagement Skills

Happy Chinese New Year! It is now 2015 for the Chinese. Do you want to know how I know this (because lets be real, how often do American’s look forward to celebrating the Chinese New Year…not that often…unless you are Asian). Anyways, I digress. Tonight, I went to a Chinese New Year celebration in Paris. Why would I do that in Paris, you may wonder. Well I will tell you, it wasn’t for the food. It was for the experience.

I have never been to a Chinese New Year celebration before, and being Paris for my first celebration was a rather interesting experience. A couple friends from my program and I all decided to go to a Chinese restaurant tonight to celebrate the Chinese New Year. We went to a restaurant in Paris’s version of Chinatown and it was called Chinatown Olympiades. We didn’t know what to order so we had them serve us a traditional Chinese New Year dinner. Apparently, their New Years dinner is more like a New Years feast! I am not joking, I think I ate twice my weight in food tonight.

Going in to the experience, I didn’t know what to expect. I am kind of a picky eater and so going to a Parisian Chinese restaurant seemed very daunting to me. But before I went, I promised myself that I would at least try everything once. And what do I get for promising that? I get a bowl full of duck fat. Thick, caramel colored duck fat. Don’t let the color fool you, even though it is colored like caramel and is thick like honey, it is not sweet and delicious like either of those. I also found out that I don’t like duck. Or duck skin. All the main course meals that they served (yes there was more than one main course) were based around duck, which is apparently a traditional meal for Chinese New Year. Here, let me recount for you all that I tried tonight in order: thin crispy white puffy crackers with who knows what kind of sauce, crab salad, chicken spring rolls with lettuce and some type of shrimp sauce (this was my favorite), shrimp covered in some sort of wasabee sauce (which was my second favorite surprisingly), duck skin wrapped with some type of radish in a rice tortilla, duck fat soup with chunks of mushroom and duck, duck meat with asparagus and carrots, vegetarian lou main (I know I am not spelling that right, but I tried), and then we were supposed to have fruit for dessert but they never served it to us (the service wasn’t the best but it was a shmoregoushpor of food).

One of the most confusing and uncomfortable things about this experience was a language confusion. Chinese people in Paris. Chinese or French. I know neither language. It was really confusing because I didn’t know if I should thank them in French or if I can thank them in English or what language I was supposed to speak in. It was so confusing! And our waitress did not look nice at all. It was just, all in all, a confusing and awkward encounter whenever she would come over. Another weird thing was that they only gave us one bottle of water, and if we wanted more water, we had to pay for another bottle, which is technically illegal in Paris to make customers do that. It was just a very interesting night, celebrating the Chinese New Year, and after doing it once, I don’t think I would do it again. But I tried many different things that I would not have tried if I was in the States. So, with that I say to you Happy New Years!!!

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