France! How I miss our long conversations along the Champ Elysees. Oh! How I miss our long strides along your beautiful Paris streets. Oh! How I miss your savoring French bread that always leaves me breathless. And oh! How I simply miss our endless connection that only you and I can understand.
France is a country rich in history, rich in national pride, and remarkably rich in art. The seventeenth century marked a golden age for French art in all fields. Paris is filled with breathtaking monuments, including one of the world’s most beloved landmarks-- the Eiffel tower. Presented in 1889 during a world’s exposition, it was thought to be an eyesore. While many demanded its removal, who would have thought that its faith would eventually change and is here to stay.
There was a time when European leaders were often building immense structures to compete with one another. Another beautiful piece of work is Notre Dame. Its intense towers are alongside the banks of the Seine River. Absolutely breathtaking, with distinct Gothic Architectural details, which reportedly took over a century to build. Its scary, but also humorous gargoyles and grotesques, along with its gorgeous rose window inside are sites that leave most speechless.
See, there’s a whole world that speaks French, and there’s a whole world that speaks English. One thing that brings those two worlds together is appreciation from one another. America and the rest of the world appreciates France’s love for their own leisure time. See in France, almost everything is closed on Sundays. Sundays are made to relax and enjoy life; it is simply part of their culture. The taste and quality of its food is top notch. From the elegance of its streets and architecture, to its exquisite taste in fashion, France is simply a city to fall in love with.
French is my first language, and there is certain things I admire about its culture. The outside world tend to view French people as standoffish. It may take them a little longer to warm up to people. One thing I appreciate about that behavior is that they take the time to know others, and those types of relationships can last a lifetime. In France we see more individuals working for the same company for a lifetime more often than in America. In today’s fast paced world, our generation is about finding the next best step, which isn’t necessarily bad; however, the mentality over in France is still mostly about loyalty, which I commend them for.
There’s a number of French speaking countries in the world, including: Quebec in Canada, certain countries in Africa and the Caribbean Islands. The first time I went to Canada, I definitely felt a French influence there, along with a mixture of the American way of life. I must say it was refreshing for me to be in Montreal. I had the best of both worlds I knew. From the endless shops on Rue St. Catherine to the endless variety of restaurants; I was in cultural paradise. I left Montreal with my mouth still watering. Excuse me if I like good food, especially a variety of good food. Montreal will always be in my heart. Well, until we meet again.
Despite the negative undertone of colonization, one aspect that has helped our generation in countries that have been colonized is the cultural melting pot that exists. Most of us grow up knowing about a world outside of our culture. Embracing our own holidays, wearing our beautiful African print comes a along with a modern world where most kids also identify with those in the West. From the latest smart phone to the latest pair of sneaker, somehow we are alike.
Poem: Young Boy
Young boy wants be like Lebron and Kobe, but he only seen that world on TV
Young boy wants to reach for the stars, but they seem to belong to someone else
Young boy loves that new rap album, loves that new game, oh yes, he loves that new game
But mommy just got him the other latest one the other day
Young boy, wants to one day travel to the West, he wants to be able to get his Mommy a new car too, like the one Amine got his Mom
There seems to be a new world out there. A world full of endless..
A world where money seems to grow on trees, and if it doesn’t grow on trees, well there must be an abundant flow somehow
Yep! That’s the land of the free! The land of whatever you touch turns to gold! And also the land of the American dream!
During my childhood in Morocco and Guinea, I must say that I was blessed to be in the midst of a cultural blend. I was able to watch the French Prince of Bel Air, which was called “Un Prince a Bel Air”, sing along the theme song of Rolie Polie Olie, and love Steve Urkel’s classic act. Even though Nutella only came to America in recent years, it was popular in Europe and in my country since I was a child; I remember it being my #1 choice of breakfast. When I came to America I wasn’t so out of the loop, especially when it came to pop culture. When I came for the first time in the summer of July 2000, you could have asked me about Destiny’s Child, and I would have tell you exactly you who they were and probably sing my own broken down version of their hit song “Say My Name”. I remember my aunt’s husband giving me a tape of the best videos of Janet Jackson from 1986-1996 right before we left Morocco. When I tell you that I used to wait for a guest to come to our house and play the tape for them, and then, bust a move. Boy, I was a trip, and my Mom can surely attest to that.
She only knew a world with a glass half full
A world full of roses, and humm a world full of ice cream
Until they showed her another world, one simply foreign to her
One that broke that glass, crushed those roses, and ate her ice cream
But that didn't faze her. Her vision was still clear
They once again came on her path, and asked her: girl, why you so different?
Once again brightened her vision, cleared the fog and said, because I’m me
She simply knew the world only she knew
Girl, I mean why that accent though?
Another barrier, another wall to break
But one that helped her embrace her uniqueness
20/20 vision now
She grew into a beautiful black queen that knows her worth
At that point nothing else mattered, but her love for self
I appreciate the fact that I grew up multi-culturally, with different genres of music, food, and all around good vibes. I more than anything appreciate the knowledge that I have on other’s culture. If you grew up in Guinea, France, Morocco or even Haiti (which are all French speaking countries), then most likely you grew up on music like Mariah Carey as much as French music and of course your native country’s music. Many countries in the world are raised with that diversity. As they say, if you make it here you can make it anywhere, and that goes with the United States music and film market.
This life may sound strange to some, but it is one that many of us live or have lived. This is an example that despite the many world problems, there is also a part of the world that greatly connects. I believe that love and equal understanding is the key to unifying this world. More global unification will continue to blur lines, and hopefully create a better world for us all.
Poem: I Thought
I thought society was supposed to be one big happy family, until I saw war on TV
I thought we were all humans; that we all bled, until one’s color and religion mattered more
I thought each one of us had a mother that carried us in her beautiful round belly for months
I thought we were supposed to feel for our women, love our women, and protect our women like an iconic lyricist once said
I thought knowledge was supposed to set us free
I thought peace would be more important than ownership, power and greed
I thought love was like an envelope that surrounds the world
I thought future generations mattered
I thought cancer would eventually be enough
And I thought we were all one!
Please watch bellow:
Here is a video made by SUNY Plattsburgh’s French Club, constituting of board members ranging from different countries in West Africa, Haiti and Puerto Rico/ Dominican Republic. It includes the French Club showcasing the different sides of French culture through a questionnaire challenging students on their knowledge on French culture, a trip to France by one of our own, and a mini-film by the club it self.