Friday, November 26, 2010

Interview on the Inside

Me: Now that our time is coming to an end, how have you seen yourself grow from that kid at CSC?

Been-Jammin': I've grown an amazing beard, my hair is way too long and I am in a major need of some grooming.  On the inside I've grown in the social aspect of my life a lot.  I've never lived this close to so many people for this length of time before.  Coming in to this experience I didn't really know what would be the most difficult aspect, but for me the hardest part was actually living so close to all these people.  All my life prior to this I've had time and space to myself, that is just something that is not possible living here.  I've grown to actually enjoy being with people almost every waking hour of the day.

Me: What has been the most eye opening experiance in france? One that made you self realize the most?

Been-Jammin': My most eye opening experience was the people here at the chateau.  The chateau is full of great people from all over the place.  People from Canada, Georgia, New Hampshire, China, Nepal, Romania, and I'm sure other places have all came together and for the most part have created a great atmosphere for fun and learning.

Me: How have you learned from these people from around the world? Not only about their cultures, but about yourself and what you have / dont have compared?

Been Jammin': I have learned a lot from spending so much time with all of these diverse people.  There are some basic things that we all have in common, like wanting to have a good time, and there are other things that are much different from culture to culture.  Some of the things that we take for granted, like the tram rushing by means little to me, but our Nepali friend thinks it's amazing.  He said it was like living in a future world.  It was fun to learn about some of the other cultures, especially when the topic was food.  Nepali feasts were some of the best times of the trip for me.  Spending time with everyone reminded me that the entire world doesn't revolve around America, even though we might sometimes think that.


St. Avold, France

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to St. Avold, France to visit the Lorraine American WWII Cemetery where my great uncle, Buddy, is buried. It was an absolutely incredible experience. When I got there, the superintendant had me stand on the central staircase to take what I was seeing in. Before me lay a sea of white crosses. Over 10,000 are in this cemetery. The biggest international cemetery.

He then walks me down to Buddy's grave and has a small ceremony as we lay down flowers and a flag. He then takes sand from Omaha Beach in his hand and rubs it into the stones engravings to make them stand out. He also sprinkled some on top. After a few pictures, we both stood there looking. Remembering everything that these people have done for us.

He then retires himself and walks to the central chapel and starts Taps for me and for Buddy. The staff stood in pride saluting me and Buddy's memory as three gunshots occurred and taps bellowed through the hollowed grounds.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Internal Interview

Me: What has been your biggest challenge in France and how have you overcome it? What has been your biggest challenge in France and how have you overcome it?

Ange: Language...but later. I found smile is enough

Me: so you have been able to get along with people through body language? Can you tell me about one moment that stands out?

Ange: yep!! always with body language.....but actually nothing is too special because they are always fine..

Ange : the society here is nice!!

Me: you went to Milan, how did you communicate with others?

Ange : English

Ange : Italians are more open-minded

Me: What do you mean by that?

Ange : I mean many Italian people can speak English

Ange : but you see, not many French can speak English

Me: do you find yourself feeling 'left out' because it is harder for you to communicate?

Ange : not really

Me: and why?

Ange : because everyone treats me well

Ange : just use your smile and your heart

Ange : you will find people are always nice

Me: Like the boy in Milan?

Ange : (Laughter) everyone is nice

Ange : if you trust them...

Ange : none is born to hurt someone else

Me: Thank you Ange! That was very deep.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Interview with GSU

Me: What has been your biggest eye opening experience here in France?

J-Wow: My biggest eye opening experience here in France has been attending French University. Although there are some similarities between the French and American school systems, there are vast differences as well. For example, today my professor gave back our mid term grades. Instead of giving each individual their grade with a respect to their privacy, she called out each person's grade in front of the entire class. I'm not sure if this is a French custom. Discipline in a French class is far stricter as well, for example we are not allowed to come and go as we please or use the restroom during class.

Me: Has French schooling changed your views on schooling back home?

J-Wow: French schooling has definitely impacted my views on the traditional American school system. Although the discipline is far stricter within the classroom in the French system, I do prefer the social aspect of the French schooling much more. Although Universities in America are known for their social organizations such as fraternities and sororities (of which I am a member of), I think the French university makes more of an effort to reach out socially to all demographics of the student population including the Erasmus students. From my point of view, there does not seem to be such a division between students in regard to race and ethnicity especially in comparison to my university in Inner-city Atlanta.

Me: And lastly, how have you adapted to these French schools and how have the students adapted to you?

J-Wow: Overall, I don't think it took too much trouble to adapt to the French school system. I knew some students who had actually studied at my home University before I came to Strasbourg so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into. The French school system requires a lot more self-discipline than the American school system. I don't have a lot of coursework like I am used to having in America, but I will have a large project or test at the end of the semester. So even though it may not seem like I have schoolwork, I really have to be preparing ahead of time for final exams or projects.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

French Culture / Being a Minority

Although this didn't happen this week, I did have a lot of time to think about things and this moment came into my head. When I was treated as a minority. And learning about French culture and how at first, they are not very friendly if you do not speak their language etc. My thoughts on this moment came from last night, but the action happened a couple weeks ago. I still count that as "this week" though, because this is when it all dawned on me.

Gym Class Hero
As I leave the Chateau de Pourtales, I do not what to expect at all. This will be my first time out without anyone. Something that can be hard for anyone, inclusive of myself. I start the long walk from my home away from home, sweatshirt on, hood up, and my iPod blaring music to get me excited for my first moments in ESpace Gym in the center of Strasbourg city.
I have been there before, but never to lift. I just went with a couple of my friends to get my I.D. badge and register with their only employee that spoke a little English. That day took about half an hour. With my broken French and her broken English, we created some very humorous moments for those trying to get a workout in before work or before dinner.

I reach the bus station and look at the sign to see when the next bus would come. A 20-minute wait and I was on my way. It was weird sitting on the bus alone with people speaking only French around me. I felt powerless. I felt that I couldn’t do anything. A woman has already yelled me at in French because my French is nowhere near perfect. I pride my self in my ability to speak Spanish, but French is not a strong point.

As I reach ArĂȘte Observatoire, I get off my lonely and long bus ride to catch a tram to my gym. The tram was absolutely packed. I am wearing a backpack and am one of the only people doing so. I felt even more out of place. I was also wearing clear American style- Abercrombie and Fitch, Oakley sunglasses… I was not feeling like I belonged. The whole ride to Homme d’Fer was awkward. Many of the people were staring at me as I jostle from side to side, not knowing when the tram was turning or making stops. It was embarrassing and made me feel like I should just turn back. I was more than halfway there, so I had to continue on.

I make it to the gym, and have yet to speak a word of any language. I was completely immersed into my iPod. I walk up the stainless steel stairs and was greeted very friendly at the desk by the ESpace staff. I hand them my card and go to the locker rooms, which were also very different compared to back home and the gyms there. Europeans have a completely different view of the human body and aren’t ashamed of changing, basically, in the wide open. This was a shock to me. In the United States, many of the views are that of your body should be kept covered and “safe”.
I walk out to the gym and look into the mirror. I’m wearing clothes that no one else at the gym was. Almost all of the people at the gym were wearing long training pants made by brands such as Puma or Adidas. No one, on my first day, was wearing shorts and a light t-shirt like I was. They paid attention to their appearance, unlike what I was. As you can imagine, I was not feeling very good about myself. I felt completely isolated from everyone. I could not speak their language, dressed differently, did different exercises, and was not social like all of the French who were there. The only really good part of all of this was that I got a decent lift in. Everyone once in a while, someone would walk up to me and ask if I was done with whatever I was using at that point in time. I would look at them, fake a smile, and give them thumbs up and point to whatever. I would put my fake French accent on and say, “Go for it,” like my friend, Jagat, does.

Some of the guys there thought me as a comedic topic for their conversations. I could easily tell they were making fun of something I was doing. It wasn’t hard to notice the subtle looks, points, and laughing coming from the different corners of the gym. From my first experience, I really didn’t know if I wanted to continue my training at ESpace. I persisted and came back a couple more times before I was complete accepted by the French bodybuilders. It wasn’t the smaller people that befriended me; it was the bigger, more socially “picky”. That really made me feel good and want to continue to come. Every time I go in, smiles, hugs, and high-fives that I taught them back home greet me. And when I leave? Laughter engulfs the gym as the bodybuilders shout, “Expendables! Stallone! You get them Mr. New Hampshire-Chase!” That always makes me feel

All in all, I would do it again. The experience of being completely isolated from everyone and that feeling of being a minority was hard, but very good from a learning perspective. I can now relate better to people who are treated badly just because of their skin color or accent, because I was too. It is hard.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Zoo-Who? No.... ZULU!

Last week JJ, Situation, and I went out to see a Zulu dance. What is Zulu? Well, when we got there, we had absolutely no idea either! The place was packed, mostly with females and a couple college boys... Us... That struck us as a little odd. The next thing that completly caught us off guard was the man in knee-high pink socks, short suit-shorts, a suit coat with a multicolored tail, and a pink, glowing feather duster.

"He has got to be a part of the act..." I whispered to my friends, who nodded slightly, hoping it was correct. We went in and sat down...

Now, to give you an idea of Zulu, this the definition- a member of a South African people living mainly in KwaZulu-Natal province.
• the Nguni language of this people.

That's all you will find, in words, on what 'Zulu' is.


We jump up at this half dressed African man walking down the auditorium steps singing in perfect pitch what we have never heard before. Yells... But in tune. It was amazing.

Stomp, stomp, stomp, sto sto sto stomp... Shhhh, shuffle, clap, clap....

The wave of musically driven sounds of feet and shoes hit our tender ears as the man continues to sing in part African, part English, and part French as a video is played in the back of the auditorium. A rather large women walks out, holding a pair of shoes on her head as she points a video camera to her mouth... Singing loudly towards the audience.

This night was powerful. There were many hidden symbols and it is all very hard to put into writing. You would have just had to have been there... Hidden symbols for aids, for the poorness of certain individuals that can't even afford shoes, for just... Trying to find happiness in dark times with the help of each other. A family so to speak.

I could be writing this blog for hours about the things we saw that night. It was very interesting...

Men climbing through the audience chairs (with people in them) all the way to the top... Climbing and struggling as the bring this long paper roll up with them. The struggles of mankind for equality... The visual symbols were astounding in this night of Zulu dance.

If you are interested in more deeper meaning... Let me know. I could try and explain what I saw, but it will be very hard. Try to find a Zulu dance of your own! I challenge that to you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Poem That Speaks to Me...

I wrote this poem and right now it really means a lot to me.

I hope you enjoy it.


I decided to write a poem
About a man that died
Although I didn’t know him
I still teared up and cried

For he was a hero
A man of his time
Yet some thought of him as a zero
But he never committed a crime

He helped everyone he could
Yet to him that wasn’t enough
Inside him was nothing but good
But his outside was so rough

He, as a child, was poked at
Made fun of all year
Alone at lunch he sat
His eyes beading down tears

I decided to write a poem
About a man that is dying
Although I didn’t know him
I still sat here crying

School idols thought it was fun
To poke at this kid
Yet to him he was just done
His life, so he hid

But he hid on the inside
Closing his walls
His happiness had died
As he ignored their calls

He is older now
Being been through so much
Going against his vow
He believes he’s been touched

I decided to write a poem
About a man that could die
Although I started to know him
That man is I

I have been blessed by true friends
Friends who really care
They are with me till the end
Letting me breath fresh air

They rescued me
From the walls I created
Allowing me to see
All the emotions I’ve so hated

As I see in a different light
I now know why I’m here
To advise people in the right
And to help them not to fear

I decided to write a poem
About myself as you see
I’m still getting to know him
Yet now,

I am free.