I can already tell it is going to be a challenge to stay up on these blogs. Anyways, the last I left off was in Paris I believe. What a beautiful and romantic place. Their culture seemed so much different from the chaos and fear in the Middle East. I observed the Israelis to be quite hospitable though upon introduction. We stayed with some distant relatives on a Kibbutz and were constantly bombarded with food and drinks. I never want to be disrespectful so I could never stop eating. France is so amazing. There is so much history on every street and building that I encountered. We saw all the typical spots like the Eiffel Tour and the Avenue des Champs Elysees. I loved running/walking on the river that runs through Paris. I had a lot of fun and for a good portion of the time; I was able to do my own thing and not be confined to soley tourist stuff. For a couple nights my good buddy Romaine showed up to party down and give me the authentic Parisienne experience. I think I can learn so much more when I have friends who are native. I don’t have to say much about this because it was a lot of drinking and exploring but I got a better idea about how French people are in general from him. As it turns out, many French people are very rude, and not only because I am an American. Romaine was able to point out many examples when people would do things that I would consider to be very impolite. I cannot judge because I do understand that there are different ways to live life that can all seem normal depending upon the context of the location and culture. I think back to a lot of the lessons I learned in social psychology. There is this theory called the urban overload effect. What this tries to explain is the phenomenon that takes place when there is too much external stimuli and humans choose to focus on the most prominent aspects of their lives (the information most readily available to them) So in cities there are simply too many people to look in the eye and acknowledge their presence. This kind of bums me out because I really like meeting people; moreover I like to see people smiling, interacting, and enjoying themselves. I know when we are overloaded and too uncomfortable/comfortable we miss out on some potentially awesome experiences. This could just be my imagination but anyways I had a great time with my family cruising around and eating the best food ever. I could spend a whole blog on the food. The tartars were amazing. Tartar is the word for raw in French and you are served either salmon or beef at most places. To die for… Ahhh. The crepes, fresh baguettes, onion soups, escargots, Panini of all sorts(mozzerella, tomatoe, basil/ham, cheese and bell pepper) espresso, and crazy salads(some with a fried eggs and hamburger beef) are worth mentioning as well. But time carries on and before I knew it was time for my family to leave; everyone was headed back to the states and I would soon be destined for the much anticipated newest and mysterious chapter of my life, China.
I cannot lie, I was SCARED! My family left in the morning and I was to spend the rest of the day in Paris. I had been waiting for this moment for quite some time. Back in the US I knew there would come a point where I was on my own again and forced to begin a new life with more responsibility. I was all alone in country across the world from where I knew I was safe. The anticipation was daunting. I had so many questions for myself. Would I be able to succeed? Would I be able to be the best at teaching? Would I be able to successfully immerse myself in a culture I knew so little about? Would I be lonely? I knew this point would come and it was slowly eating at me. For so long I have been comfortable knowing all I had to do was finish school and take care of myself. It is so easy when you have a solid social support network to forget about what the future may behold or demand. I truly believe that much of life is about sharing experience with others and when you have people in your life who care about you it is so thoughtless. I missed all my friends and old life so bad. I decided to go explore some art museums to get my mind out of my head and I am so glad I did…
I had previously given my mom a call to ask her advice on a modern art museum. As I said earlier there are countless old and historic monuments and art forms that one can see while in Paris. However, I have always loved the Museum of Modern Art(MOMA) in San Francisco so I decided something of this nature may be interesting for me to see. My mother suggested the Centre Pompidou located very close to Notre Dame. What a fantastic place. The theme of the first exhibit I visited was art from communistic countries in the past 70 years. These countries have made an effort to suppress expression in any form that strays too far from the considered norm. There was a project in an Albanian city in which the entire city was previously painted white. The before photos depict a run down, dreary town full of trash and abandoned equipment/housing. The artist who was previously a mayor had a dream of adding color to the entire city. The after photos showed a city completely opposite of the grey and dullness it had once represented. There was life! All that was needed was a little color that could be visually shared by everyone to boost the condition of living there. It is now a thriving place. Immediately an opiphany came to me; I understand there are many aspects to being human. We are students, teachers, family, friends, athletes, lovers, individuals and members of the world, the list goes on… Everyone has every aspect that the other shares but it is where we lie on a continuum in each separate one that makes us unique. I felt like I fully understood this as I saw the town’s transformation. There were aspects in my life that had always had much color while other parts were seemingly grey. The art was beginning to help solve and guide me through my then current dilemmas. I was then realizing the importance of imagination. This transformation may have never taken place had it not been for the mayor who had a vision he wanted to share with his world. There is a two-way inter-convertability between life and art that may be important for us to be aware of. There is a “necessity of inhabiting space differently, of reinventing our mental furniture.” – Virginia Wolfe
After this I moved upstairs to a floor filled with art done by women. This quote may sum up some of what I would like to convey and explains so much of what perplexes me on an everyday basis:
“…the hallucinations as a point of departure, starting at an age when we begin to be aware of the self, the natural world, the cosmos, human beings, blood, flowers and so many other things, were as violently branded onto the walls of my sight, my hearing, my heart, in the form of events filled with mystery…Often strange, unidentifiable things, that would appear and disappear in the depths of my soul, would follow me obsessively, with a persistence that resembled that of vengeance and for many years this plunged me into a state of semi-insanity. The only way to escape these things while continuing to explore what they could possibly be, was to represent them visually.” – Yayul Kusama
I love when I can read something written from so long ago and fully attune with the person who wrote it. There are so many instances in life when we cannot express a feeling because the cognition behind it is so complicated seeming. Words can do so much for us and so can art. There was a section of the women’s art section focusing on kinetic art. Here the goal is to avoid subjectivity and make the viewer utilize their own senses. There were all sorts of art pieces where I would have to shimmy around to see a whole new way of perceiving the piece. It is just like the old saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; to be less cliché, life is about perspective and how we choose to view it at any given time. “Our life is a creation of our mind.” –Buddha. Someone had written, to “reinvent the vocabulary of configuration.” I thought that was quite nice. I needed to take a break so I walked up to the roof where I cold get a view of the entire city. Its kind of funny, I felt a lot like Amelie (from the movie) when she would gaze over all the roofs of paris and imagine how many people were making love =) Sorry, maybe a little graphic for our PG-13 readers, hehe.
The last and not least of the exhibits I visited was “Dreamlands.” This was an exhibit dedicated to breakthroughs in architecture and plans for a more colorful future in the world of architecture as an art and as well as a means for work. I saw some proposals for development that would shake the world. Places like Shanghai or Hong Kong who already has an interactive light showed choreographed throughout its skyline can only compare. Apparently Walt Disney had a totally extravagant (most would say far-fetched) plan to build a metropolis of the future. He called it the Experimental Prototype Community of Tommorow(EPCOT). There were some splendid ideas and quotes. One architect had written, “Art is a superior form of knowledge, a means of individual renewal that contributes to a better future for all. To put my imagination at the service of the community to bring about lasting peace, justice and universal freedom.”- Bodys Isek Kingelez from Ville Fantome
I sometimes think, I would love to do something that will change the world. It sounds silly and perhaps naïve but they say if you’re dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough. How wonderful it is that other people feel the same way and have found a way to express it whether it be through art, teaching/learning, research, hospitalities, health care, the list goes on… To say the least, I really learned a lot during my visit to Centre Pompidou. It had been over three hours and was time enough for me to get back to a pub to watch some futball.
At the pub I was alone writing post cards. I wanted to let the people I love know I was thinking of them. I was sitting near some frenchies who could have been but a few years older than me and I could actually pick up on their conversation. I thought it was kind of funny because I could understand so much more than I could relay verbally. Travelling has already taught me a lot about being on the other side, about being a foreignor. I understand there is a lot of tourism in San Francisco but now I am the foreignor. I don’t know if it is because I am in a new place and like a dear in the headlights but people seem to look at you differently. I would come to find out even more about this when I arrived in China.
China to be continued very soon….