Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Alright, so seeing that the experience is "over" I suppose I should write about what I have thought about the whole thing , or perhaps how I believe ehow the experience in general has affected me: the truth is, though; that I have no idea how this experience will have affected me in the long run. There is always the possibility that it has xhanged me for good, that I will carry this new_found desire to travel and experience the rest of the world and its cultures forever; and then there is the possibility that I will go home an dsoon aftere fall back into my previously comfortable life, where from day to day the limits of my comfort zone are left un-touched, and my own ideas left untested by others. I think that is one of the main changes I have undergone; that in order to understand and live in another culture you have to be willing to sacrifice the stronghold you have on your ideas of how the world is meant to work, because perhaps your way is not the only or certainly not the best way, for everyone. I think I must also say that I don't mean to claim a complete understanding of french culture, and certainly not European culture as a whole. I think that knowing I would be returning home, and that the comfortable commodities that I have grown used to in life would be awaiting me in a not-so-distant future perhaps changed my point of view; it became, perhaps, necessary to tolerate and try the new things that Paris brings with it, but not to necessarily become completely accustomed to them, since I knew it was not a permanent change. I don't know if that is a negative or positive thing. ON the one hand it may have weakened my resistence to try and experience new things; but on the other hand it may have meant that I was consistently tryin to hold on to a sense of my "american-self" and maybe that limited my cultural experience to some extent.
On another not, I think that I have learned a lot in general in Paris. I have a new appreciation for art and for architecture as well, and I think that from now on I will look at cities from a different point of view''especially those that have such a rich history. I have a new curiosity about cultures that I do not understand, because I came to Paris thinking that I already had a general understanding of French culture', some of which was true, but also much of which was incorrectly assumed. I have also learned a lot about myself. Even though I was living with a family and had the support of professors and students, I also think that this was the most independent time o my life thus far, when I could do anything and go anywhere and feel as if the world truly did hold endless oppoprtunites for experience.
Another thing I wanted to mention was the concept of beauty and how it exists in every city, but I think that it would be easy to overlook it sometimes in view of the bad things''Paris is a beautifuil city, but sometimes there arre things that can taint your view, but I think it is like that anywhere, which made me stazrt thinking about my hometown and the things that are there. It might be difficult to see the beauty of it on the surface, but having not been home in 4 months I have realized all the things about it that I truly do find beautiful--the little things that I miss about it --I think that I have developpoed a greater appreciation for things in gereneral, and perhaps I will not take things for grqnted, or be able to so easily neglect the beauty that is in life that can so easily be overlooked, simply because of the regularity of it. LIke the Eiffel Tower for example, I lived very near it in Paris and saw it about every single day, and it was true that I soon became desensitized to it, I no longer wondered at it as I had the day I arrived, and in fact (and I hate to admit) I sometimes didn't even notice it. Realizing how easy it can become to simply just not see the things that are so wonderful and right in front of your eyes has made me try to see and observe as much as I can, the good and the bad, for it is all part of it, and I hope to be able to carry with me the change and appreciation that Paris has given me. I love Paris, and I will miss iot dearly, but it has also made me appreciate my home town(s) of Michigan and the people and places and culture I have left to come her, and so I think, all things considered, I am ready to go home, but with the certain hope of coming back. After all, I may venture to say that Paris is a part of who I am now.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Howard asked me an interesting question this week, which made me start thinking. Okay, it wasn't exactly a question but more of a discombobulated jumble of sentences that apparently were attempting to describe my "story." Following a description I gave relating to a bees nest and attacking hornets, Howard said that he was attempting to picture the tractor (yes, my family has a big, blue, New Holland tractor, and yes, I drive it) and the bees and the "whole...thing...I'm just trying to understand." Well, I suppose I would have difficulty explaining it to him exactly, but those are simply are part of who I am. I have recently been feeling as if I am ready to "go home," and as myself and some of the other students have discussed, as wonderful as Paris is, there are things from home that we miss and are ready to be back in the comfort of once more. For some it may be simply their morning cup of coffee--in a big mug, with no small cubes of sugar, and vanilla soy milk, for example--or maybe it is a hammock, or spicy food, or the simple fact of walking outside and just being outside instead of having to walk a mile or hop on the metro to get to the nearest splotch of grass. There are things about myself that people may not necessarily relate to, or understand, but they are things that make me who I am, and for that simple fact I am proud of those things--I like them about myself and that they are a part of my "story." I like that I know how to drive a tractor and use a front loader, and that I own work boots, and have deer that run through the back yard, and that half of my town is dirt roads, or that I know video games and like getting into mud fights and driving the four-wheeler too fast so that it rolls over into a ditch (I have a brother, come on, of course I like those things). So, addmittedly, I am a bit of a tom-boy and I come from a town where maybe people from the outside look in and don't see much of anything but to me it's my story, it's home. But that is a rather loose concept in itself, isn't it? "Home." Is that even definable? I was trying to decide why exactly I (and others here) are beginning to miss home, and what exactly it is that we miss. I don't think that it is necessarily a place or that I think an open field with a tractor is particularly better than Paris, but rather that it is a feeling of being myself, of belonging in a certain kind of surrounding. I suppose home is more of a feeling than anything else. So I suppose that it is just as likely that someone finds that somewhere outside of what is considered their "home" --where they come from--and can feel at home elsewhere in the world. I think that perhaps being removed from those things for such a length of time may have made me realize how much a part of me they really are. I love Paris, and everything it has to offer, and I love it even more for bringing me to the realization that I am who I am: I like open-air dirt roads alongside rolling hills and fields, and I don't care that the closest starbucks is a half an hour drive away. However, it has also made me realize how much of the world there is to see; there are so many people in this city from all over the world, and it has made me want to travel even more, see other parts of the world that have entirely different cultures than where I am from. Especially because I know that my home will always be waiting there for me upon return: a comforting reminder that no matter how far away you travel, you can always go back. Maybe that isn't the outlook I'm supposed to have on things, maybe I should be trying to see how well I could fit in here, which to a certain extent I have realized. I could live in Paris. But not forever. I also think that part of it is the people--who you are depends a lot upon the people you are surrounded by (in my opinion, anyway) and while I like the "me" that is here with this group of people, I think it would be harder to be that side of me with people that I met from here. But then again that is part of it isn't it? The difficulty of changing things about yourself to adjust to a new place, to new people, and to try and fit in the new picture you have thrown yourself into. I think that is part of the beauty of travel--being able to adjust, maybe change in certain ways, and yet still know who you are and where you came from. There is a definite chance that this is all jibberish and not making any sense, but I think it has helped me to understand my own thoughts...as well as perhaps be able to answer Howard's questions of "what is my story..." I may be beginning to find an answer...