Kari and Will coming at you live from Satinder’s apartment! We are all together working on our final project! It is hard to believe that we are more than half way through the trip, and that we will be returning to CSW in 13 days!
Right now we are all split up into groups and doing research for our projects. Each group is given a cultural landmark of Montpellier that we will give a verbal presentation on March 8th and 9th. I am in a group with Satinder and Will and we are presenting on the Aquaduct in Montpellier.
Kari: Personally, the sexism here is the biggest surprise. Catcalling and harassment is more frequent and direct than it is in the US and that puts me in a very defensive place. This is a definite reminder that other cultures are less advanced in breaking down gender barriers. In class we find that our worksheets occasionally mimic gender stereotypes. There are ups and downs to experiencing a new culture, and I am enjoying embracing many aspects of French culture, such as the food and the social conventions, but I find myself challenged by the sexist attitude that is woven into the culture.
Will: For me, my host family’s international consciousness has been one of the most pleasantly surprising parts of this trip thus far. Last night for instance, I had dinner alone with my host mom. Somehow the topic of travel cropped up, and she quickly dove into telling stories of her travels all over the world. After a few minutes, she suddenly got up from her seat and left the room without a word. She returned with a box overflowing with photographs. Sifting through the images, she showed me images of her voyages in Asia (particularly India and Myanmar), Africa, and South America. She talked for minutes on end, showing no shortage of stories to tell and observations to share about her numerous voyages. From the genuine passion with which she spoke, I could tell that this topic was close to heart for her and her family.
When I asked her why she stopped traveling, she responded by telling me that it’s much more difficult nowadays to travel the world like she did. She said that in her youth, crossing the world was challenging, but possible. By bus, car, boat, and train, she was able to get nearly all the way across the world. But today, she said, it’s not the same– people have “built too many walls”, making world travel virtually impossible.
Last night, I got the opportunity to hear more of my family’s adventures from my father as well. I learned that he is a prolific street photographer, and used this skill to closely document his international experiences. I was able to see several of his photographs, many of which decorate the walls of the house. The majority of the photographs that I saw had been taken in India, exploring the daily life of the locals. Being a photographer myself, this was an amazing opportunity to bond with him over our love for the craft and exchange stories of our experiences.
I’m not sure if it is France in general that has a much more profound sense of global citizenship, or if it is just my host family. But either way, it’s refreshing to live in a family with such a genuine care in the world beyond their own.
I have to go to dinner now– I’m excited for what’s to come in the conversation tonight!
À tout a l’heure!
–Will and Kari