sunday ramble

it is 1.37am, not yet an ungodly hour by my standards, but the apartment is still and blanketed in darkness. my roommates are relatively disciplined early sleepers and are probably in bed by now, though our male neighbours downstairs are still emitting the occasional yelp of appreciative laughter. or swearword. or drunken ranting. outside, i can hear skateboards rolling on wet tarmac. it must have rained while i slept away the evening.

today was a perfectly lazy and asocial sunday. i got up around half past one in the afternoon, had a nice, long video chat with Grace on Skype about books, potential first novels and boys, went out to Goody’s around three to grab a couple of boxes of frozen meals then came back home to hole up again in my room and continue gorging on the internet before succumbing to a long nap. i had my first meal (TGIF’s microwavable honey BBQ chicken) around four in the afternoon and then dinner (crackers with cheese, turkey and ham, also from a box) just 10 minutes ago. i spent absolutely no time on schoolwork or with anybody IRL (that’s in-real-life for everyone else who has enough of a real-life to not know what that meant).

i doubt most people would approve of my lifestyle. off the top of my head, i can see A and the family members shaking their heads in disapproval. you’re eating shit, A would say in his pained but amiable voice. (i did have your prescribed amount of orange juice though.) and mum’s chiding coaxes: 凯俐啊… 早一点睡觉,不然明天早上爬不起来!sadly, both are physically absent to prevent my festering laziness.

it is strange. in France i was constantly on the get-go, no matter how many ungodly nights i pulled. there was always something to draw me out of bed: beers at night with friends in Labédoyère, long dinner conversations with the breakfast boys, boulangeries, grocery shopping at Carrefour, watching a downloaded movie from somebody’s laptop, some random weekend getaway to some nearby European capital. here, i feel as though i am placing my life in recess. no matter if i don’t meet anybody, whatever if there is a party three nights a week. i can live off the demanding classes, my friendly comrades in spanish class and the internet alone.

so much time i spent in France pining for the American education and now that i am actually here, i seem to be enjoying little else besides binging on nostalgia and the occasional rides in Hjalmar’s cosy Nissan. i want the Paris métro, the smell of French bread, booking tickets on voyages-sncf.com, 5-euro poulet rôti, the invisible EU borders and hearty steaks (à point, s’il vous plaît) with wine.

i missed France so much tonight that i pulled up an old blog i had read religiously before deciding on going to Sciences Po. the homesickness i got from reading about Christmas in Paris made me feel slightly ill. at times like this i actually do wonder what possessed me to leave europe. i know the U.S. is the new world, historically, culturally and that it is the epicenter of world politics, but somehow something about the place rubs me the wrong way. it is too professional, too friendly, too casual, too new, too raw with energy and too full of itself. there is a strong sense of pride amongst the people here about being American which i am still not used to. i’m at odds with how well people who have had centuries of family history rooted in China, India, Germany, Sweden, etc. have adopted so whole-heartedly the American identity. i cannot help but see everyone as ex-European, ex-African or ex-Asian.

to be sure, this is not very far from my removed Chinese ancestry and my feelings for France so perhaps i am being hypocritical. i don’t think i would resist the idea of moving permanently to Europe and taking up an European passport if i ever get the chance, yet… i don’t know. i would always feel like the Malaysian abroad, perpetually fascinated by everything in the most adamantly touristy way. i could never feel French the way the French do. the culture and history of the country is just too deeply rooted in its people for any stranger to just come and adopt it as though it now belongs to them. how could i ever see myself supporting the strikes and overenthusiastic labour unions? would i ever really prefer using cheques to a card? when would i ever pick up making foie gras for Christmas? at what point would French politicians start talking about immigrants the way they talk about French nationals (as though it is a rare and endangered species that must be preserved in the face of the modern anglicised world)? no doubt, the story would be similar for Germany, which right now looks more likely than ever to be some kind of home some day…

it doesn’t help that Americans are pretty infatuated with Europe too. each time i hear a hint of Europe i perk up and immediately start pining, which is quite frequently. Serena and Blair spent their latest summer escapade in Paris, Chuck’s latest love was a sweet French blonde, Carrie fell back into the arms of Mr. Big in (where else) Paris, Tyra Banks and her comrade of judges mouth the occasional French on Amercia’s Next Top Model and frequently invites cute, heavily accented and très connus French photographers onto the show. In an effort to be true to Euro-chic poise, Heidi Klum sedately wishes parting contestants “auf wiedersehen” in every episode of Project Runway (no doubt, thanks to some direction). Tony Soprano dreams of a distant past in the Italian countryside, takes a short but beautiful business trip to his homeland mafia partners. to top it off, American main dishes are incomprehensibly called “entrées” and a whole assortment of products and retail shops adopt French names to stay à la mode.

so many things invoke Europe (and France particularly) in a way that romanticises its culture and it drives me wild with homesickness. i miss it horribly. and by extension, i miss my green-eyed German and his exotic mal-connaisance of nearly everything to do with American pop culture and consumerism. at the end of a day, it is incredibly refreshing to have A puzzle uninterestedly over the brands and icons that are so prevalent in the scope of knowledge the average American (and other American culture aficionados) possess, before switching to talk about his Chinese homework, Germany in the news, and so on. in some way, he is my Narnian cupboard, a talisman from the greater non-material world. to whom else would i ever need to explain the premise of “Where is Waldo?”  so that he can understand a comic strip? who else would ask me things about China which i would have never thought of on my own? when would anybody else vent his agitations over poor American foreign policy and overemployment in German ministries?

i usually know upon instinct if i can love a place and if there is any sense of destiny (or 缘份, as chinese more adequately puts it) between us. if home is where the heart is, then the U.S. is not home. this third year is my holiday destination. my voluntourism experience. my backstage pass to American TV and culture.

and after a year of all this… i think i will be ready to settle the wanderlust and rentrer chez moi. and hopefully with a certain green-eyed boy.

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1 comment
  1. Kimberly said:

    re: “but somehow something about the place rubs me the wrong way. it is too professional, too friendly, too casual, too new, too raw with energy and too full of itself. there is a strong sense of pride amongst the people here about being American which i am still not used to. i’m at odds with how well people who have had centuries of family history rooted in China, India, Germany, Sweden, etc. have adopted so whole-heartedly the American identity. i cannot help but see everyone as ex-European, ex-African or ex-Asian”

    this is an interesting interpretation of american identification and pride. i think you will find a lot of discourse and discomfort about sub or hyphenated identities in this country than this blog post describes.

    i do think you capture an interesting american paradox – being proud (and “full of” of our uniqueness, and simultaneously craving european-ness.

    great blog, i hope i can keep up with it!

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