Sunday, November 25, 2012

France Revisited...

Almost two years to the date, I returned to the U.S.A. after spending close to one year in France (I left two weeks shy of one year). I'm still in disbelief that time has gone by so quickly, but I tend to think about France just about every single day.
Quite simply, France changed my life, and I would say it was a change for the better.  During my time there, I experienced a real transformation from young adult to older, responsible adult and this change was no easy feat.  There were many times (especially during the culture shock phase) when all I wanted to do was curse someone out, pack up my bags, and get on the first plane home, but I remained strong and somewhat positive during those trying times.
 I can say without a doubt, that my year in France gave me loads of preparation for my current life in China.  A lot of people are shocked and even appalled when I mention this, but it is the truth plain and simple.  Besides the massive amount of things I packed, I also brought with me some of my coping mechanisms from living in France such as a lot of patience (whether it's at  the store, my commute, or at a restaurant), my love and fascination about learning a language (I try to learn three to five new words each day), and the most important attitude (I will not allow someone to cut me in line, push me, or stare at me without a bit of resistance on my end).  

Eiffel Tower in the daytime...

Eiffel Tower in the Nightime...

Along with the aforementioned  above, I’ve also brought over the following ideas from my ex-French life, to my new Chinese one…

Get on a train, and get out of the city:
Giverny, France-About 80 minutes away from Paris
A few times during my time in France, I would get on a train (or a very long metro ride) to other towns and villages outside of Paris. I loved the feeling of being away from the city and breathing fresher air, dealing with less crowds, and having a bit of peace and quiet in the middle of the day. Granted, I still ended up in crowded tourist attraction-type places, but I always managed to go someplace off the beaten path (without getting lost) and taking in several moments of tranquility. I’m hoping to continue this trend while here in China…

I still love the night life:
The Eiffel Tower during one of my late nights

The world famous Moulin Rouge!
During my time in France, I definitely made it out at least one night a week (or two if I was feeling frisky!). I had many a nuit-blanche (French for all-nighter) which entailed me being out and dancing until the crack of dawn. I had some great nights out with friends, whether it was going out to a fancy night club or heading out to a trashy dive bar.  Unfortunately, I’m not as young as I used to be; thus, I only do the all-night party thing on rare occasions. Luckily, cabs in Shanghai are quite cheap so I have the luxury of calling it a night and jumping into a cab when I’m ready to go home (something that was unfathomable when I was living in Paris since a cab home could have been one week’s salary).

Even in a big city, you can still find a bit of beauty anywhere:
Even a gargoyle can be romantic...only in Paris...
 In terms of big city beauty, I’ll be the first to admit that none of them have anything on Paris. I hated to admit it while I was there, but Paris has some truly stunning architecture that really adds a bit of romance to the city. Who knew that a city hall can be quite so beautiful, or a simple metro sign can make your heart melt.  Even though I’ve been in Shanghai for almost three months, I’m still finding and uncovering the beauty of this city each mall and skyscraper at a time…

Hotel de Ville-The City Hall of the 1st Arrondisement

Speaking of beauty, Whiter is still better apparently:
This is not a joke
  I was warned before I arrived in China about the ubiquity of skin-lightening beauty products and people were not lying!  In almost any beauty aisle, I see tons of products promoting the idea that light and white skin is the pinnacle of beauty. I came across this product advertisement in an area of Paris that’s full of African and Caribbean expats and I witnessed many women of African descent wearing very light/crazy looking makeup (since it was about five shades off). I understand that this idea was promoted by colonizers many years ago and every colored group on the planet deals with this; but guess what, by continuing this idea, we have become our own oppressors. Now before I get a bunch of angry emails crowding up my inbox, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with white beauty, my concern is over the fact that white beauty becomes the only standard of beauty.  It’s high time we stopped perpetuating this idea and it’s time to recognize that there’s beauty in every skin shade on the planet.
(Stepping off my soapbox…)

Keeping the Faith: 
'The Last Supper' made of Sand in Giverny, France
I honestly believe everything happens for a reason in life and there is a lesson to be learned each time I’m abroad.  I know the man upstairs has bestowed upon me some great opportunities that were beyond my wildest dreams and whenever I’m feeling down, I think about how I’m living my childhood dream of traveling the world (living in France was my ultimate teenage dream). I also remain positive and gracious by thinking of something each day that I’m thankful for (which was a practice I started while in France) on my best and worst days.

Well that's all for now. Thanks for reading!

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