Unrealistic Expectations


When I went to France, Americans told me that the French were mean, they smelled bad, and that they hated Americans. When I went to Saipan, Americans told me that it was too hot, it was too isolated, and I’d be rejected as a non-islander. When I went to China, Americans told me that it was too polluted, the government would control my every move, and that they hated Americans.

In every one of these statements, there is some truth. Someone had a [bad] experience and they’ve just passed the story down like a game of telephone. The truth gets twisted and exaggerated the farther it goes. If all we see is the bad in a place, then we will never be happy anywhere we are or anywhere we go.

If all I remembered of France was the grumpy expressions on the metro and how it smelled like pee, I would never want to return. If all I remembered of Saipan was the typhoons and the heat, then I would never want to return. If all I remember of China is the pollution and the firewall, I will never come back here again.

If you go to a place and expect it to be bad, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. If you go to a place with unrealistic expectations of greatness, then I guarantee that you will be disappointed. No place–no matter how it seems–is perfect. Similarly, no place–no matter how it seems–is completely horrible either.

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Just because Changsha doesn’t always look like the photo above, it doesn’t always look like this either…just more often than the one above!

Also, there’s a common theme among all the things that Americans tell me is that everyone hates Americans. I’m not really sure where this started, but it’s not necessarily true. People only hate Americans when you act like you’re the most important person in the world (a self righteous jerk) and then tell them you’re an American. They don’t hate you because you’re American, they just don’t like you because you’re being rude and disrespectful.

There are bad days and good days in China. Sometimes I look out and I see China as district 12 from the Hunger Games. Other days I feel as happy as I would working in New York City.  It’s like that no matter where you go; you just have to remember the good days along with the bad ones.

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Dear Texas


image I’ve been here for about 48 hours and, I’ve got to admit, this state is like no other place I’ve ever been. Even in the airport, I was innocently running to the bathroom while I waited for the airport to unload my luggage. Another woman walked in at the same time and just started talking to me. I replied politely, but distanced. She continued to talk to me through the walls of the stalls. Who does that?? Welcome to Texas. Anyway, so I’m just going to make a list of some of my observations…with my own commentary.

– Power. Running water. Tv and internet. ‘Nuf said.

– Not everyone has a southern accent. I have been pleasantly surprised that I can understand what people are saying.

– There are nearly no crosswalks. So in angered revenge, I just wander leisurely across the street whenever and where ever I want. Like come on Texas, catch up with the rest of the world.

– The weather is beautiful. My friend told me it was hot, but compared to Saipan, this is glorious. I can actually go for a run or a walk without coming back drowning in my own sweat. It feels like freedom for my lungs and my pores.

– So many white people. More than in MA. Definitely more than Saipan.

– Not every radio station is country or Christian. I actually kind of expected there to be at least four different genre-based Christian music radio stations. The rest of them would be country. And maybe one pop station.

– Texas has a higher sales tax than Massachusetts. I did not expect that from the most conservative state in the country.

-The alcohol here is dirt cheap.

– In Massachusetts, there are Dunkin’s on nearly every corner. Sometimes there’s even two. In Texas, I expected to see a church on every corner…maybe even two. This is not the case.
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– Texas is less vibrant than Saipan, even after it got hit by the typhoon. The sky isn’t as blue, the grass isn’t as green, and the trees feel more brown than the trees stripped of their leaves on Saipan.

Texas is an interesting place y’all.

The Loire Valley


The Loire Valley….the home of either my inner princess or my inner child.  Seriously, this area of France is filled with castles and ‘hunting lodges’ of the kings and queens of the past. For those who aren’t aware, a royal hunting lodge is actually a code word for a gorgeous castle. When I heard the term, I always thought of a cabin in the woods. But no, that is not what I’m referring to when I use the term ‘hunting lodge’ in this post.

So last weekend, I went to the region of the Loire with my study abroad program–ISA.  Early on Saturday morning, a group of 70 students climbed into two large buses and headed off to visit three castles.  The Loire Valley is about two to four hours away from Paris–depending on traffic and which city you’re visiting. As we drove through it, I noticed what a beautiful region it was–filled with fields of flowers and plenty of purple wisteria climbing over the houses. It’s no wonder that the kings and queens of France chose this spot to build their vacation homes.

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Saturday. It was a beautiful day–probably around 75 degrees. I had brought my winter coat on this excursion because I thought that the castles would be too cold for just my leather jacket. But on Saturday, I was fine with just a short sleeved tee-shirt. We visited two castles on this gorgeous day.

The first castle we visited was the Château d’Amboise. Compared to the other castles I’ve visited in Paris, this castle was a bit of a letdown. However, Leonardo daVinci was buried in the chapel of this castle. I actually forget the entire story–I think he was moved for some reason, but there’s still a plaque there. The Château d’Amboise used to be far more impressive (I assume), but the majority of it was destroyed at some point in history so only a small portion remains there today.

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The next castle we visited definitely made up for the slight disappointment at Amboise.  Le château de Chenonceau.  This was my favorite castle I’ve ever seen in Europe so far!  The castle looked like it was the set for a Disney fairy tale movie. It had several beautiful gardens with perfectly arranged flowers. The interior was spectacularly decorated. This castle was the place where the queens and other ladies of the king would go to have a nice little vacation; it was the ‘hunting lodge’ for the ladies. One last fun fact: this castle is currently owned by Nestle.

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In addition to these castle visits, we also went to a winery to see the wine making process and visit a small museum of wine making equipment. After that, there was also a wine tasting provided, which was accompanied by bread, cheese, and a type of pâté. After that, we headed to our hotel in the city of Tours.

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Sunday, the sun wasn’t shining, and it wasn’t as warm, but it wasn’t raining most of the time (just a light sprinkle as we were headed back to Paris). This day we went to the château de Chambord. This castle was actually the inspiration for the castle in Beauty and the Beast. It was built by Francis I for political reasons (apparently when you’re crowned king, you’re supposed to build something), but was never actually finished. Francis I was credited with the design of the double staircases found in this castle. They were created so that two people (cough cough, his mistress and his wife) could go up and down the same staircase without crossing one another.

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Normandy, Venice, and oh yeah, Paris too!


I suppose I kind of forgot to blog about Italy last weekend.  And even about Normandy from the weekend before that!  I have definitely been surprisingly lacking about all the fun thing that I’ve been up to in March. Well…what can I say? I’m in Paris!

So…to start at the very beginning (just to overview my March life), I went to Normandy to visit some French WWII sites and a museum. I was able to go to Omaha beach and Pointe du Hoc and see the bunkers. I wish we’d gotten to spend some more time at those two spots. I could have sat on the beach for the entire day!  It was absolutely beautiful, despite all the horrible things that happened. Still, when you see this picture, it’s almost hard to imagine it as a war zone!

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The day after, we went to a monastery from …. a very long time ago. The 8th century?  It was at Mont Saint Michel. Definitely the most incredible monastery I’ve ever seen! Though, I have to admit, it was the first monastery I’d ever seen. 😉  However, as it stood watch over the sea, perched on a mountain with all of it’s fortifications, it was definitely a moment to remember. And since I had forgotten my SD card for my camera in Paris, there aren’t any pictures to try and describe it.

The weekend afterwards, I went to Venice, Italy with a friend of mine. We didn’t actually visit anything together, we went along our separate ways, but it was nice to have a travel buddy.  There, I visited the Island of Burano–which, if you ever find yourself in Venice, it’s definitely worth the commute out to the island to visit!  So much color!

What I noticed most about Venice is that it’s really been transformed into a tourist attraction. There seemed to be very little actual Italian culture there. It was like Disneyworld–a city of stereotypes. Every shop was selling either Venetian masks, Murano glass, or typical tourist stuff. While the city was beautiful, I couldn’t help but wonder when it transformed from an actual city to a tourist’s city. Was it ever home to real Italians?

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Now, for my Paris events.

So I went to the Centre Pompidou. Now, if you’re not familiar with Parisian museums, I”ll help you out–this is the one dedicated to Modern Art. I know that a couple posts ago, I commented that modern art seemed rather silly and infantile and completely ridiculous in light of all the art out there….

But after wandering through a museum of modern art, I realized that there’s a vast variety to it all. It’s kind of hard to classify all modern art as something. I went to a black and white photography exhibit–which was fascinating. The things that the photographer decided to take pictures of, I never would have thought to do. The color in all the paintings was refreshing compared to the Louvre which I’d visited a couple weeks back.

Basically, what I discovered is that I actually enjoy modern art quite a lot. Because to me, there’s a lot of difference between these two pieces:

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A Weekend in Amsterdam


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I easily could have spent the whole weekend exploring Paris, but when my new fellow study abroad friends asked if I wanted to join them to visit Amsterdam, I couldn’t help but accept! It’s not like I had any set plans to do anything yet, and I am in Europe–where everything is pretty close together.

So Saturday at noon, we set off on our six hour bus ride to get to Amsterdam! I’m used to long trips, so the duration was no issue for me. As  we made our way north, I was in awe of the beauty

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of the French countryside. The petite villes, in a world of their own, each containing a local cathedral. It was like something out of a fairy tale. If I ever get rich, I’d choose one of those little towns as my retirement place.

IMG_0888The next day, we went to the Rijks Museum. That was pretty wonderful. It was really interesting to see an assorted collection of art from so many different eras and places. Though, I have to admit that when I arrived at the modern art section, I couldn’t help but think to myself incredulously, “Really?? This is the best my era has to offer? THIS…is what we’re known for?”

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However, my personal favorite section was the basement–which was filled with assorted collections. They had some Christian relics and icons and sculptures, as well as china sets, clothing designs from throughout the ages, model ships, and interesting illuminated art (pictured below–try and guess the Bible story for the first two!)

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Sunday night, we stopped by the Sex Museum. It was most certainly interesting, though highly inappropriate. Sadly, I had left my camera in my room, so I have no pictures of this museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finally, the last thing we ended up doing was visiting the Anne Frank house. We had suspected that there would be a long line and had tried to book tickets beforehand, but had not been successful. Fortunately, it was necessary since the line only took about five or ten minutes to get through. We spent about an hour or so there, going through it all. There were so many awesome artifacts included. They had the actual diary of Anne Frank and videos from her dad and other survivors. They had arranged the house in the way that it would have appeared back then. They had the original bookshelf that covered the door to the small rooms where they lived. They even had the pictures that Anne had pasted to her wall.  They wouldn’t allow pictures, but rest assured it was incredible. If you ever go to the Netherlands, make the Anne Frank house a MUST-SEE item on your list. Now I just need to read the book!

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Spiritually I’ve already learned a lot and I have a feeling that this is going to be an interesting semester. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Messiah College, it’s great. But I think I’d kind of fallen asleep under a nice cozy blanket of complacency. I knew that France wasn’t going to coddle me or my faith. I knew I’d have to search for authentic Christianity if I wanted it. But surprisingly,  I didn’t think I’d crave it this soon.

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Alas, I am craving spiritual refreshment. Less than a week and  I was already spiritually exhausted. This past semester at Messiah, I really let my faith take a bit of a back burner while I dug myself into a hole of busyness. So this Christmas break I was really trying to work on rebuilding strong spiritual habits again–journaling, reading my Bible, and really striving for a better prayer life (it was such a blessing to have my pastor preach about prayer for the month that I was home for college). I’ve been up with my Bible and journal, pulling in a bit of strength but I still feel like I’m running on fumes and I really need Christian fellowship. That’s my goal for this week.  Get serious about plugging in here in Paris.