Adventures in Yonderland

A log of my adventures, both real and imagined.

Archive for the tag “United States”

Freedom

Never in my life would I have said that freedom wasn’t a good thing. I was born an American, it’s in my blood to value freedom as one of the greatest things in the world. And yet in that same country, we are not free. We pressure each other to submit to this or this worldview and discount the other side entirely when their idea doesn”t entirely work out, as if this is proof that they are wrong. Wrong as a person, as someone who believes something. Wrong because they, as a person, are not right. Because in our society we have this strange idea that one thing is wrong and one thing is right and that’s just how it is.

Freedom is the ability to be yourself without pressure from others. You cannot force me to believe as you do. Christians cannot make a world of Christians by decrying the actions of others, fundamentalists cannot make heaven on earth by creating hell, Republicans and Democrats cannot make their side dominant by decrying the other side as totally wrong about everything.

The most beautiful thing about every person is their experience and perspective. Each person brings an entirely new perspective to every situation and, my God, how glorious is that? As someone too often trapped by their own perspective, how amazing it is that each person has some knowledge to impart on a situation that is possibly completely different than your own?

Freedom is the ability to express that wonderful thing that is You, Yourself. That wonderful creation. I’ve heard many a Christian tout the wonder that is your individuality. The fact that God cared enough to make you, and to make you just as you are. And more than that, God calls you to be your own fullest self. To “die” for Christ is to receive your own life because when you let go of your own desires and start listening, you find what God really made you to be.

So who wouldn’t fight for the ability to be yourself? Can you really live when you are someone else? No wonder people revolt and fight for freedom, because honestly why wouldn’t you if someone took away You?

The sanctity of You as a person is the reason so many things are important. Equality of the sexes, for one. Objectify someone into something you want them to be, all because it is more convenient for you? Come, come. People are not objects. They are living souls with so many things to offer, so much knowledge to share, so much love to give. We are all people. Full of pain, struggle and love. And we should be free to be ourselves.

I will leave this quote with you from Leonardo Da Vinci. “If this outer body of Man seems to you to be so marvelously worked, consider that it is nothing; next to the soul that formed it. In truth, regardless of what they are, it is always something divine that they embody.*”

*translated by myself. Original quote found in the Clos Lucé. “Si cette dépouille extérieur de l’homme te paraît marveilleusement ouvragée, considère qu’elle n’est rien; auprès de l’âme qui l’a formée. En vérité, quel que soit l’homme, c’est toujours quelque chose de divine que l’homme incorpore.”

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Things I No Longer Understand Since France

1) Pancake mixes. (They don’t exist in France, so I’ve just been making them by scratch and it’s so easy!)

2) Gallons of milk. I mean, liters were working just fine and now I feel cowed by my own milk.

3) American alcohol culture. I just literally don’t understand anymore.

4) The lack of bakeries. Seriously though. Where the hell am I supposed to get pastries and bread?

5) Where’d all the cobblestone go?

6) How am I supposed to go places if I can’t walk there?

7) So…where did the espresso go?

8) You mean I can actually SEE my friends again? Wait. What? They live in the same time-zone? Woah man. One thing at a time please.

In the End There’s Only Love

Well my time in France is done for now and I am back home. As we all know, I will never forget my time there and it is so bitter-sweet to be home. I made some pretty fantastic friends. Friends from different countries, different states and all with the most wonderful views and experiences. I think that might be the hardest part about leaving. Leaving all those wonderful, fantastic people.

What isn’t hard is leaving French University. And that’s the last time I complain about it here! Because I will also miss just how jank the Fac des Lettres was. I doubt I’ll go into a building like it again!

I’m also going to miss this. My home street. The place I walked up everyday for a year. Cobblestones, a sketchy shisha place and the strangest lingerie shop I’ve ever come across.

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France, I’ll miss you. My friends, I will miss you more.

p.s. culture shock is really gonna suck.

It’s The End of the World as We Know It

Exams are done and I don’t have to deal with the French education system anymore! Woohoo! However, as good as it feels to be finally done with school for the year, it also means I’m done here.

So many goodbyes to be said. So many said already.

But in the meantime I’m running like a crazed chicken trying to do EVERYTHING before it’s all over. Including shutting down my bank account, which will be interesting. Oh the glories of French bureaucracy. You might be the one thing in this country I most definitely will NOT miss.

What We Were

June 6, 1944 was D-Day. It was the moment when America hit the ground in France and began the invasion that would lead to the fall of Nazis Germany.

And that moment marked France.

Listening to my French dinner family talk about it, I realized for the first time what that really meant. It was America’s glorious world moment. Not just because we won. Not just because we saved France from the Nazis. But because Americans, thousands of Americans, gave their lives to the beaches. To free France. All despite the fact that they probably didn’t have anything to do with France before that day.

We saved them, and paid with our blood.

And I think America remembers that glory and sacrifice. We remember how much thanks we received for coming to the aid of the Allies against the fascists. And I think that’s why we get involved in conflicts around the world now. We want that old glory back. We want to live it again.

But the reason we had it in the first place is because it was selfless. I mean, obviously we had a definite interest in doing it, but that glory of war wasn’t why we went in. And ever since, I think, it has.

We keep “bringing democracy” to people like we’re fighting the same old fight against first the fascists and then the communists. The only difference is we didn’t invade Germany or Russia in 1933 or 1917. We waited until someone else said, “We need help.”

A Quiver of the Ending

Two weeks of classes left before two weeks of break and then two weeks of finals. And then home.

But it’s interesting. “Home,” evasive as it has been for me the past four years of my life, seems never to stop shifting for me.

When my parents came to visit, I noticed that this place has become my home. I’m not a tourist here. I do touristy things sometimes, but even then I return home to Aix. And that’s the thing about study abroad I most definitely didn’t think about or anticipate.

I’m not just a student. Or a bystander. Or “an American.”

I am a resident.

The Results Are In

Yep. About a month later I’ve got my grades back. Somehow I managed to pull a 14/20 in History and, rather magically, pulled a 12.5/20 in my sociology class. You know. The one where I went to Marseille and did interviews with residents, then typed up the transcripts for said interviews, then sorted and analyzed them. And then complied it all into a document that was 51 pages long. Did we do well? Well considering the fact that the two Americans in that class got in the top three grades for that “dossier,” I’d say we did pretty well!

I also got a 6/20 in cognitive psychology. That is not good. However, this is going to give me a perfect opportunity to explain what the French grading system is like.

14=A at my home university. Granted I think they give us a bit of lee-way with the fact that we’re, you know, learning in French. BUT, you should also realize that the French grade more or less on an actual bell-curve.

12.5 shifts up to 13, A- and finally. The 6. 6/20 is a 30%. And it’s also a C. Yep. Welcome to my academic life.

In other news, the rest of trip planning begins. Calander to come soon. I will show you the insanity. haha

University and France: Part 2

I know it’s been about a week, but I’m ready to start back up into this little mini-series! Please forgive me, I’ve got 18 1/2 hours of class in three days. Whew.

Okay! So. Once you finish Lycée, you theoretically take the BAC or which there are three. Math, Literature and Economics. Each BAC contains other sections (science, math, lit, etc.) with one major focus. I think the idea is to make sure everyone has the basic tools they’ll need in their areas of study.

Anyway, once you pass the BAC, you “apply” to a university. My understanding is that, with the exception of a few “Grands Écoles,” any university is required to accept you as long as you’ve passed the BAC. And this is where things take a turn for the jank. You see, almost all the universities in France are public. Which means for France that tuition is unimaginably low (at least for an American). I don’t have a statistic to cite, but I’ve heard Aix-Marseille is something to the order of 300 euros, Sécurité Social included (sécurité social is their health insurance. It has nothing to do with US “social security”).

So that means that the grand ol’ Fac de Lettres (the college within the University that I happen to attend) looks like this:

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Yes. I did just represent the entire school with a kind-of “worst-case scenario,” but I know my IU Bloomington friends probably don’t have any idea what it’s like to be in a university where the walls are regularly covered in graffiti that isn’t corrected for months, if it ever gets corrected. They are doing some wall repair and repainting, but good god. Look at where I’m coming from.

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The long and short of it is, largely free education can have some pretty interesting draw-backs, the state of the Fac being one of them. The others are coming up later. Don’t worry. I love reminiscing over the Fac.

Cross-Cultural Dating – The Distant American

This past Tuesday I went to “La Cave” (a foreign dinner exchange thing) and got into a conversation with a French friend about his shambled love life. He, a Frenchman, had been dating an American girl, but they ran into a major problem: distance.

Now, I mean distance in multiple senses, even if he didn’t. I’m going to touch on a few differences.

1) To say “I love you” in French you say, “Je t’aime.” To say that you like someone would be “Je t’aime.*” Now, you don’t have to speak French to see the interesting similarity here. In fact, the French, famed as the people of romance. Don’t have a different word for “like” and “love.”

2) Americans come from two traditions that combine to make Americans generally more physically distant than the French.

A) The first culturally American people (basically the people who were not Natives) were Puritans. This has instilled several basic aspects of American culture still in place today: temperance (aka not drinking alcohol), abstinence (leave room for the Holy Spirit please), individualism and a hard work ethic. For the moment, the most important of these for me is the “abstinence” bit. Because (at least on some cultural level. Argue about the ’60’s sexual freedom thing all you want, America is still pretty “abstinent”). this means that Americans are much more tentative to interact intimately with other people**.

B) America is freaking huge. In fact, America is about 14.5 times the size of France. Look at the difference in space between Aix and Indianapolis, Indiana.

Aix:

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Indy:

Indiana State Capitol Police criuser in Indian...

All this combines into an interesting dilemma for my French friend: his girlfriend is distant in a very physical and American kind of way. She feels close to him mentally, so she is fine. But he, being French, feels that physical proximity is necessary. That’s how you show affection and you learn that from being in close contact with your family.

It’s an interesting dilemma to hear, although unfortunate for my poor friend.

*So really you would say “Je t’aime bien” which means “I like you well” and gives the French some means of differentiating, but the central point is still accurate. To make their meaning clear the French have to use the modifier “bien” to make the difference clear.

**Obviously I just way overgeneralized, but I think you could still say the culture in America is very abstinence-oriented, even if sex has become a lot more accepted. This part of our culture is developing and changing, but it’s not nearly on the French level and I don’t think they’ll be comparable for a while yet.

While at home…

I splurged on things I usually haven’t had a taste for. And boy could I not at all resist this lovely meal, courtesy of Bob Evans (who is always graciously serving breakfast. Thank the lord).

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And I found over break that I have all the sudden developed an insatiable taste for another of nature’s (or perhaps I should say America’s) wonders.

BACON!

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And eggs and potatoes. All wonders.

There America. I do love you.

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