I arrived to Paris early. I’m not quite sure how to feel yet since this is a complete change from the last place we were at. The first few things I noticed were the polluted air. It honestly seems like everyone smokes here in Paris. Though it wouldn’t be right for me to assume that because then it would be no different if the French were to assume that all Americans carry guns. Since I am now on that subject, I will start my journal entry about perceptions and prejudices. Back in the States, countless times I have been told that the French (or Europeans in general) hated Americans. Not only did I hear that they hated Americans, but I was told that the French carried themselves above everyone else. However, the French are actually the opposite. Our hosts David and Becky are one of many proofs that these perceptions of the French are false. They have been educating us a lot about the French culture and the people. I have learned that the French have the same insecurities about the Americans that we do with them. I’m thinking it is probably because of what is on the media. The bad things that we hear about one another or even lack of education makes us perceive each other a certain way. There was an encounter I had with a local that could have easily gone wrong, but I put myself in their shoes and I did not get upset. What happened was I stepped inside a bakery and I was the first one in line. However, the woman ignored me and assisted everyone else. It is easy to get offended about things like this, but we have to understand that it could be other reasons as to why she did that. I thought to myself how obvious it must have been that I was not a local. She probably didn’t know how to speak English well enough to assist me and that is perfectly okay. I understand because I come from a cultural background where my grandparents or relatives don’t know how to speak English. It can be frightening, uncomfortable, or even embarrassing. Aside from that encounter, I have come across many unfriendly people, but I’m not going to blame it on the fact that they are French. I believe that there are good and bad people everywhere no matter where you are. My conclusions of the French is that they are graceful and proud, and they are more than willing to educate others about their culture. I do find that it is helpful though if you know little phrases such as “hello”, “thank you”, and “goodbye”. This shows that you are respectful and appreciative of their culture, and it shows that you are making an effort to communicate with them. We are so fortunate to have David and Becky as our hosts. Not only are both of them passionate artists, David a photographer and Becky a singer, but they are extremely welcoming.
I have been finding myself sharing commonalities with Faust. While Faustus exchanged his soul for power, I have exchanged my soul for material gains. Fashion and beauty is another form of power. It changes the way people look at you and treat you. It demands respect from others and lets the world know that you are somebody important. While I try my best to analyze this looking through the Jungian lens, I find that perhaps this allows me to enter a world in which I consciously create to protect myself unconsciously. I am often told that it isn’t important to have all of those things, but to me it is necessary to survive. This world is filled with so much judgment, that if you aren’t the most beautiful, the most successful, or the most educated person, people will be quick to tear you apart. I know that I should be saving my money for other things, but is it so bad to want a little more? What if it is my passion and I am willing to make sacrifices for it? Maybe there is a deeper meaning for this. Maybe I am trying to substitute something that is missing. After buying a new pair of shoes and a whole new outfit, does this make me feel whole? I have to ask myself if this makes me happy. Do I feel complete? But, in a way it does… and I’m not willing to give it up.
In a few days we will be leaving London. My heart grew extremely attached to the city, but in no time it’ll be time to say goodbye. I admit that I am not the best at saying goodbye to people or things that I have built an attachment with. However, there was an encounter I had with a stranger that let me know that everything was going to be alright. After a long day of exploring the city, I came across a middle aged man at the underground station. He was playing a familiar tune on his electric guitar that stopped me dead on my tracks. I walked towards him and observed him more closely. He had dirt on his hands and face and wore a ripped up shirt with stained jeans. Yet, the soft smile and twinkle in his eyes let me know he didn’t care for how he looked. He continued to passionately strum his guitar and sing the song. As I leaned in closer, I recognized the tune. It was “Stand By Me” by The Temptations. It was that moment of realization that I felt a warm feeling wash over me. I smiled at him and dropped 4 pounds in his cup. He nodded at me as if he understand how I felt. After listening for a few more minutes, I nodded my head goodbye and I walked away from him forever. I didn’t know this man, but he gave me light during a dark moment.
I used to hate being alone, but being over here has made me appreciate it so much more. I realize that it is when you’re alone that you tend to learn so much more about yourself. Rather than beating myself up like I usually do, I have learned to love myself more by valuing my personal space. This brings me closer to achieving “wholeness.” In our arts and ideas class, we analyzed key concepts by Carl Jung. I have to admit that these concepts are extremely hard for me to understand (I had to go out of my way to do more research online and I still am confused on a lot of the concepts). Nonetheless, the concepts that grabbed my utmost attention were “individuation” and “wholeness.” I feel that those two have the most relevance at this point in my life. I am trying to find harmony so that I can achieve both. I am still in the process of developing my individuality as a person, as well as finding a wholeness within my inner self. I used to search for myself through others, but this is the first time that I haven’t done that. Instead, I am learning to embrace the fact that not all persons are the same, but that doesn’t mean that one is less than the other. There is so much more of me that I haven’t discovered yet. As long as I continue moving forward, I’ll trust that life will take me where I need to go. Everything will fall into place, eventually.
Today we visited the Scottish National Gallery. It was truly a beautiful sight to see. Before this, I was never a museum person. In a way, I’m still not but I am willing to be open minded. As I looked at all of the artwork with great fascination, I couldn’t seem to find a connection to anything. Possibly because I don’t have a religion myself, so I couldn’t relate to all of the religious meanings. The most common religion that these artworks displayed was Christianity. One concept that I found to be extremely common in the arts was the opposites of good and evil. The whole concept between the two have always intrigued me, but the religious artwork forces me to analyze deeper. The angels are always seen as a sign of hope, of a greater escape. Or perhaps is it a way of asking for forgiveness and starting over new? Now that I think about it, perhaps I do share a connection with it unconsciously. Throughout my life, I battled endlessly with evil. Unfortunately, I have let evil consume me many times and in many ways. It has made me yearn for love and acceptance in all of the wrong places. This has made me do things that I wasn’t proud of. I may have prayed a few times hoping someone or something will save me, but no such thing happened. However, the people in the paintings always had a peaceful aura around them. Even if there was death or pain, there was always someone somewhere that represented a guardian angel of some kind. It is almost as if it is speaking to me and letting me know not to give up my faith. Even if I can’t physically see a guardian angel, maybe it is watching over me.
Studying abroad is a significant moment for me because all of my life I was taught that women, especially Asian women, had no purpose other than being a mother and a wife. I am here to prove that stereotype wrong. So far, I have learned that it’s okay to speak our minds as long as our privilege of free speech isn’t abused or disruptive. I had a traumatic moment in class tonight because of the discussion we had. Our professor read us a story in which we had to ask him yes or no questions to figure out what it is that this boy did in his high school that had him sent home by the principal. We eventually found out that what the boy did was wear a shirt that said “straight pride” to school because he felt that if the school allowed gay, lesbian, and transgender people to have a special room and to be able to wear “gay pride” t shirts, he should be able to also. Hearing what others had to say in class stirred up something in me that I have never felt before in a class setting. Majority of the class were in favor of the boy for wearing the shirt because they felt that it was his right to wear what he wanted and that all students should be given the same rights. If you know where I come from, I am part of the minority. Where I grew up, women, especially Asian women, had less rights than others. We were taught to be silent. We only spoke when we were spoken to and even then we had to choose our words carefully. However, I broke that barrier tonight. For the first time, I spoke up in class and expressed how I felt without holding anything back. Many don’t understand how privileged it is to be white, especially a white male. To wear a shirt that says “straight pride” is no different than saying “male pride” or “white pride.” These special clubs in school are only designed as a support group for students who felt that they have no voice, or no existence in society. It is a safe room for those that are different. If any other student (straight or not) wanted to go in and give their support, they are welcome to do so. Therefore, no students are unwelcomed in these special clubs. They are simply there to educate others on social discrimination and sexual orientation. However, wearing a shirt that says “straight pride” is demeaning to others and it is a way of showing superior motives. I feel that the principal did the right thing by sending him home because it would stir up controversy and become a problem in the school. Anything that disrupts learning or potentially harm other students should be terminated. There was a student in class who debated with me over the shirt. Immediately, I felt ganged up on and humiliated. After class, I broke down. I wasn’t sure if it was my insecurities of being the minority, the feeling of being misunderstood, the guilt for speaking up, or all of it at once, but I was proud of myself for finally speaking my mind.
As one of my favorite fashion icon said:
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel