Why I Choose to Write.

I began writing for my own personal comfort by journaling, starting my Freshman year of college. I have always been someone who perceives the world more so through her emotions rather than through anything else. I also found that my head is always swimming with thoughts. I even have intense dreams most of the time, remembering from time to time very complex and intricate details when I wake up. My brain is always running, and when I’m feeling very emotional, I find it difficult to sort out my thoughts all on my own just by thinking through them. That’s why I chose to start keeping a journal.

Throughout most of my life I thought keeping a journal or a diary was strange, that it was only for angst-ridden teenagers. However, writing, even just to sort out one’s own thoughts is actually really good for your mind. It helps gather your thoughts, sort out your emotions, document memories and knowledge learned, and to even help you retain information that you have learned.

Once I began journaling, I saw the positive impact it had on my life. I was able to sort out my thoughts and emotions more clearly. I write when I’m feeling extremely emotional, and I found that it helps to calm me. For me, it’s almost like a form of meditation.

Once I saw the positive impact that it had on me and once I realized how much I enjoyed it, I began keeping a prayer journal. Since my mind is always swimming with thoughts, writing out my prayers helps me to keep from getting distracted by other thoughts or ideas floating around in my mind. Writing helps me to keep my focus on my time spent with God.

I also started journaling after I had read something that I either found extremely important, highly interesting, or grossly challenging. I started journaling about the reactions I had to literature. I started doing this after I’d read parts of the Bible, and I later started doing it with other books, too, because I saw how it helped me to gather my thoughts about what I had learned or maybe information that I didn’t understand.

At this point, I was keeping three separate journals, all for the three separate reasons that I had listed thus far. Keeping these three journals made me realize how much I enjoy writing and telling stories. Even though when I just began writing I was basically just telling stories to myself, I saw how much I enjoyed documenting my life and telling my story.

A year ago, I was severely depressed, lost, and confused about who I was and where I wanted to go in my life, that’s when I began writing poetry. Now, poetry has always been extremely difficult for me to understand, but I have always found immense pleasure in reading it. I also find poetry to be a wonderful mode of expressing oneself. Feelings and thoughts are not always clear, and with poetry, they don’t have to be. I found emotional relief through writing about my pain in the form of poetry. With poetry, I could write out my thoughts as they came. Poetry doesn’t always necessarily have to be clear to make sense, and poetry can come to have different meanings for whomever is reading it. I’ve always been someone who understands life better through symbols and analogies. Through poetry, I was able to use those things to talk about my pain without having to be direct about how I was feeling. I’m not a poetry expert, and I never plan to publish any of my poetry (at least not any time soon). However, I do enjoy it now, because it helps me to put my negative and positive emotions into an art form.

The last time I was in France, I kept a blog, mainly to keep my friends and family updated on what I was up to while I was studying abroad. However, I found that I loved sharing my little stories with the people I love. So, I decided to do it again the second time around and started this blog here. However, I wanted to do it differently.

I love travel blogs, because, well, I love traveling. I love learning about new travel tips and doing research on the places that I want to see and experience. However, there is an aspect about traveling that the majority of travel blogs don’t cover: the impact of cultural exchange on personal growth and on one’s shifted world perspective. This is the main part of traveling that I enjoy the most. I love learning about new cultures and meeting new people. I love learning about how people live differently than me, and I love how this helps me to grow as an individual and understand the world a little more. This is something that I want to capture when I write about my travel experiences, in addition to telling people about what I saw and did and about the new travel hacks that I learn along the way.

So, to summarize, I choose to write for many reasons. I choose to write because I have a story to tell, and I enjoy telling it. I will be honest. Traveling blogging is not a new thing. Writing poetry is not a new thing. Journaling is not a new thing. Blogging in general is not a new thing. I am not unique in any of these, however, I enjoy writing in all of these forms because I enjoy continuing to sort out my thoughts and ideas. I enjoy putting art out there, both for my enjoyment and for the potential enjoyment of others. I enjoy writing because of the possibility of helping someone else to realize their own story. I enjoy writing because of the possibility of inspiring someone else to tell their own story or of inspiring them to pursue their dreams and their goals.

I choose to write because it makes me understand the world and myself a little bit better. 

 

A spiritual gourmande

It’s hard to believe that’s it’s been over a year since I applied to be an English teaching assistant through TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France). Around this time last year, I had applied to the program very unsure of the direction in which my life was heading.

Full disclosure: I was depressed, lost, and almost completely hopeless. Most of my dreams had seemed too far out of reach, and I felt as though I didn’t know myself at all. I couldn’t see the positive life-changing adventures and opportunities lying ahead me. I could barely even look forward to the next morning. Never would I have imagined that I would be here, right now, in FRANCE fulfilling my dream of living in the second culture that I’ve come to call home doing something that I absolutely LOVE and am PASSIONATE about having the time of my life and experiencing things that most people would only dream about doing.

Never would I have ever imagined that I would be starting graduate school this upcoming Fall so that I could become more skilled, qualified, and experienced to continue doing the things that I am passionate about.

Never would I have ever imagined that I would meet all of the amazing people that I have so far, either because they are other assistants, because of my life here in Laval, or during my travels, and being inspired by their own personal stories.

Never would I have ever imagined myself teaching French students about my native language and culture and feeling like I’m making a difference in their lives, even if it is very small and doesn’t feel like it most days.

Never would I have ever imagined that I would finally learn to love myself, to pursue my dreams with full force despite my fears, and to learn to find joy even in the simplest things in life again.

Never would I have ever imagined that the Lord would bless me so.

I am joyful as I write these confessions. My heart is full.

However, as we all know too well, that is not always the case.

I felt myself feeling down in the expat dumps and forgetting to appreciate the many blessings that I’ve acquired in my life over the past year. I’m still human. I still tend to be selfish and to focus on the negative aspects in my life. However, upon reflecting, I realized that I don’t like the way this energy makes me feel. I had an emotionally and spiritually trying week, but I can say with confidence that I’m still living an incredibly blessed life.

I believe that we are allowed to feel upset about the things going wrong in our lives, but we have to choose to not focus on them. It only makes us feel more upset, stressed out, and, let’s just be honest, plain icky about our lives. I felt very spiritually icky and stressed this past week, and I don’t think I want to allow it to continue for another minute to the best of my abilities.

So, I’ve decided something. I want to try to enjoy my life like the French enjoy food. On average, when eating lunch and dinner, the French take between and hour to two hours to eat. Why? Because they enjoy their food and because they enjoy the time spent conversing with one another. They don’t rush through the meal just to get by. They don’t rush through the meal to get just enough to survive. No, they take their time to taste every morsel, every flavor. They take their time to allow their bodies to fully feel the weight and the nourishment of the food that they are eating. They take the time to appreciate what is in front of them.

I would claim myself to be a hardcore foodie. I don’t necessarily eat a lot, but I love food. I love trying new food. I love meal times. I love eating amazing meals, especially when I cooked them myself. However, the French do one better. The French language has a word that would be considered to be an equivalent to the word foodie, gourmand(e). However, the word foodie just doesn’t cover it. A gourmand(e) is someone that not only appreciates the food that they are eating, but they take it to the next level, a level of such deep appreciation, it’s almost palpable and life changing. Okay, so maybe that’s dramatic, but that’s really how I feel about it. Sometimes, my friends call me a gourmande. Let’s just be honest. It’s totally true, but this appreciation is not just something that I want in my life at meal times. This sort of appreciation is something that I want in every aspect of my life.

I want to be a spiritual gourmande. I want to take the time in my life to taste every morsel that the Lord has blessed me with. I want to take the time to allow my spiritual body to feel the full weight and nourishment of the spiritual food that the Lord has given me. I want to appreciate the experiences, the hard lessons, and the opportunities placed in front of me, no matter how I’m feeling that particular day. I want to try my best to seize every moment that I possibly can, because life is tough enough as it is without allowing ourselves to sulk.

I want to look back on my life and feel like I grasped hard onto joy in every way that I could.

So, here’s to being a spiritual gourmande. (And also, here’s to foodie analogies, because I still really love food).

Still living that expat life as always….

A plus mes amis….

 

The struggle.

I have to give myself credit, absolute credit in underestimating my full adjustment period. Though I’ve lived in the French culture before, I must say that living as a student is completely different than living and working in another culture.

Since day one, I’ve known that living and, more specifically, working in France were both going to be quite the challenge. However, as I’ve been here for 4 months, I figured that I would be well adjusted at this point. Boy, was I wrong.

Though I’ve been quite frustrated recently on the mode of communication that most French choose to use (I’ll expand on that in a little bit), I must say that it does allow me to understand my own culture and my own preferences when it comes to communication styles.

My senior year of university I took a foreign language senior seminar course in which I studied the differences in cultures, including most definitely the differences in communication. Here is what I know. Here are the facts, based on what I learned from textbook. In the United States, we tend to have an extremely explicit culture, meaning that when we communicate, we say everything (well almost everything) that we intend to communicate, and most of the time we use gestures to emphasize that which we say. That is not to say that we don’t use body language to communicate, because we most certainly do, but compared to the culture that I am currently living in, I would say that we are most definitely the far more direct culture.

I had always believed this to be true, however, it was not until I came to work in France that I came to experience it as true.

I can honestly say that I am frustrated. While living here, I’ve learned that France is more of an implicit culture, well at least compared to the United States. I think they are much less implicit than many other cultures but just in comparing the two cultures that I’ve come to call home.

In the States, if you don’t know the information or understand what is expected of you, I’ve come to realize that we tend to believe that we will be informed by those whom expect said things from us. That is how we tend to operate, in almost every aspect of our lives. In school, teachers hand out a syllabus, which notes what books they expect you to read, what rules and regulations they expect you to abide by, and what you should expect to learn or to do in the course of the semester. When applying for a job, the job post lists the duties expected to be performed along with a set of listed expected skills, and a major part of the interview is the interviewer telling the interviewee what exact duties will be expected to be performed. In fact, it’s one of the first things covered.

In my experience, France tends to operate slightly in the opposite way, not completely but almost so. There is a sense of assumption here. There is a sense that if you don’t ask for information then you already know it or you don’t need it. As an American assuming that I be or expecting to be told everything without having to ask, you can probably see that I’ve had quite a few situations filled with frustration or miscommunication.

In the beginning, I just assumed that I would be given all the information that I need for my job because as I come from an explicit culture, it would only seem normal that people would give me information that I need without me having to ask. However, because the sense of assumption in France operates in the opposite way, I’ve struggled to adjust these past few months.

I’m not saying that the way the French communicate is wrong, because it’s not. Each country operates differently, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s just that I’ve been struggling with it, and I can’t help but to feel that extreme frustration and slight depression that comes with the culture shock that this particular struggle forces upon me. Culture shock is a roller coaster, and I’m hanging out in a valley right now, hoping that it starts climbing again soon.

I must admit though that this is a part of the experience that I was looking forward to. It definitely angers me from time to time, but it is this challenge that is making me grow. Learning to live and work in another culture is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done (and I’ve done many difficult things). I have to believe that come May it will all be worth the struggle. I have to believe that I will have changed in ways extremely beneficial to my future.

Other than my communication struggles, life in France is going quite well. The sun is currently out and shining bright. I’ve been attending and participating in a church here regularly. I continue to make new friends, spend time with the friends I have had, and to try to improve my French. I’m also planning a trip to Spain and Portugal with two of my other assistant friends for our February vacation. So, life in general is not too shabby.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been here for 4 months and that I only have three and a half left to go! Looking forward to seeing home, family, and friends again but also dreading leaving this place that I’ve come to call my home.

I suppose that too is a struggle. So, basically sometimes, all of the struggle is happening.

Believing the struggle will be worth it….A plus mes amis….

 

New Year’s Eve in the City of Lights: the magic of equality amongst diversity

Oh Paris….

The most romantic city, this city of lights. The most enchanting city, for some.

For some, Paris is a magical land where dreams come true. For some, Paris is only just a dream that they will never achieve.

This is not what Paris is for me anymore. I’ve had my fill. Paris seems just like any other city for me now. I’ve gazed in wonderment at the Notre Dame, le Sacré Coeur, the Arc de Triomphe, at le Louvre, but little did I know that there was still a little bit of magic left in this grandiose city to behold.

I got a little taste of this magic by spending my New Year’s Eve in Paris. Unfortunately, the fireworks for the evening had been canceled, due to the still occurring state of emergency under which France has been put, but that did not ruin the evening for Joshua and myself.

For dinner, we stumbled upon this up class of sorts restaurant just a few minutes walk off of the Champs-Elysées, and we decided to treat ourselves. After all, we were in Paris, near the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe, and it was New Year’s Eve. We are also young with nothing but opportunity to experience life to the fullest. So, why not? Though this was the most fancy dinner I’ve ever had the chance to eat, I would never eat like this any given day. Thus, it was made even more special by this fact in addition to devouring it with my favorite travel companion.

Appetizer, or what the French call entrée: fresh salmon with butter and fresh lemon on toasted bread

Main dish, or plat principal: a truffle pizza. One of the most delicious pizzas that I’ve ever had in my life. Being as this had been the first time that I’d ever tried truffles, being able to have such an experience in France, where they are of high esteem, made it more delicious, if that were even possible.

Dessert: the most delicious tiramisu that I’ve ever tasted in my entire life, topped with crême anglaise, a light, custard cream poured over desserts, usually flavored with vanilla.

To drink, du vin bien sûr: A 2010 red Bordeaux: Saint-Estephe from Château Beau-Site Haute Vignoble. I don’t usually like red wines very much, but I would have a bottle of this red at my dinner table always.

If this magical dinner wasn’t enough for one night, being within a block of the Arc de Triomphe on New Year’s Eve surrounded by thousands of people from various countries and France alike definitely made the evening more magical.

I’ve seen the Arc de Triomphe multiple times. It is an amazing piece of architecture and an important monument in French history and culture. However, it has become old news for me, but this night, this particular New Year’s Eve, brought back some of its wonderment for me.

A video was projected on the screen near midnight, displaying the French flag across the Arc de Triomphe, allowing all of us, us thousands of people, of different nationalities and ethnical backgrounds, to come together and appreciate the beauty that this one night held. Though most of these thousands of people were most likely probably not French, here we all were in France, celebrating yet another year together and appreciating the beautiful country of France together.

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New Year’s Eve not only brings magic because we celebrate yet another year and look forward to another one, but it brings a different sort of magic. For this one night, not race, nor ethnicity, nor nationality, nor sexual orientation, nor gender orientation, nor religious orientation can separate us. We are all celebrating the same thing on this night. We are all screaming for joy at the opportunity to live for yet another year. This, for me, is where the true magic on New Year’s Eve lies. It was truly this that I was celebrating with Joshua as the clocks turned to midnight and pushed us into the New Year, along with the thousands of others squeezed in around us.

For this night, I am truly thankful. I was able to experience something that was one of a kind and that many people dream of. Sometimes, I feel that my life is a fairy tale. I constantly ask myself, is this really my life?

Why, yes, yes it is, and I have to remind myself daily to be thankful for such amazing opportunities.

Where do you find magic?

Something to ponder about.

A plus mes amis…