24th of December, 2016

How was your day?

What did you do?

Did you have a warm and cozy time with your family, relatives and perhaps, friends too? Did you excitedly prepare the Christmas dinner, retouch the Christmas tree and then cuddle up with your family on the couch after the meal?

Okay, maybe what I just listed are not even closed to what your family does every year during holidays. I think I got those images from the movies, and it has stuck in my head ever since.

Before you read further, I want you to continue with this post (if you have already stumbled here on a random chilling moment on Christmas Eve) with a very moderately happy tone in mind. Don’t take it as a sad and lonely post, because I should not allow you to.

Ever since I dreamed of seeing snow from the other side of my hypothetical house’s window, while wondering what Christmas gift I might get, while waiting for my mom to prepare dinner and my dad to finish up setting up the Christmas tree; I have never had a single Christmas as such in reality.

Quite understandingly, it majorly is due to where I come from. Our culture don’t traditionally celebrate Christmas, at least not the same as how my American, European, or if you allow me to generalise a little, as my Western friends. However, as any other kids, I enjoyed dreaming of the things I could not have. It questioned me when I saw the kids in the movie, living in the Western world, celebrating their Christmas holiday. I saw how the holiday were perceived very important to those people in the movies. And that magic can happen in this holiday. The best kind of magic will happen under the falling snow.
Where I come from is a tropical place. We don’t have snow. Instead, we have hot sunny days. We also don’t cuddle up inside the warmth to watch movies after eating big meals. Instead we usually dress nice and go outside. Some of us, whose religion is Roman Catholic, will go to church and have a bit different celebration, although I cannot tell you the exact details differing. Not every house have a Christmas tree and Christmas lights, but the centre area of my home city always has tons of Christmas decorations people are lining up to take good pictures with. There are also specific districts of the city, where each house put great effort in putting up Christmas looks, for passing visitors to observe in awe.
My annual Christmas years over there were mostly the same. I usually demanded my parents to take me to the centre for pictures; or I would figure out other ways to be there. It was always crowded, but I never minded. I wanted to feel the magic vibes of Christmas. And if I cannot see the true magic, I want to imagine them, by being dazzled by Christmas lights.

I remembered one Christmas, my dad took me to that special district to see one house by another house with amazing decorations. Another time, I was already a teenager and went to the centre with my friends. We all dressed in red, but I was jealous of how nice the other girls looked like in their clothes, even though I probably had already asked my mom to buy me new ones before. In some ways, I always felt inferior to the other same age kids, especially in the appearance during junior high years. Anyhow, that Christmas year turned to be a little wild, in my own sense back then. It was my very first time to stay out later than midnight. It was not intentional. I and my friends got stuck within the parade going on, since on that same day, the national soccer team won. We could not find the taxi to come home on time, so each of us had to call up our parents. I waited for my parents as well. I did not remember if I was even punished for that; the only part I recalled more strongly was when my family stopped at a restaurant on the way home, for night snacks. Suddenly, even though the streets were filled with crazy people racing motorbikes (as a way of showing happiness with the game victory, and maybe also patriotism; but I would never know how it ever got started), no snow or whatsoever, I felt so cozy within. Certainly, it was also partly thanks to the warm noodles I ordered.

Many years before, when my little brother did not join our family yet, I recalled my obsession with Christmas trees. There was this one time, my aunt brought home – a big house where three families on my dad side lived together – a small Christmas tree. She wanted to decorate that with her kids. But she only put it inside her family’s room. My cousins did not want me to join in, and if I recall right, I was being kept away from the tree at distance. You can imagine how disappointed I was.

And, those were the only two Christmas from the early years of my life I can remember. After the wild one I had during junior high, the next one staying with me the most was the Christmas I spent with my high school boyfriend, of course.

Among all kinds of things have shifted after I moved to Finland, my Christmas changed too. The scenes became closer to my childhood dream. The first year I was in Finland, I saw snow, beautiful and magical snow I only witnessed from the TV screen. In 2012, I finally could stand under the snow, let them touch my face coldly and tried to identify every snowflake falling on my gloves, which I still do them whenever snow comes. It was a very good Christmas. I spent the first holiday abroad with my two closed friends, whom still remain in my life in a certain degree and have been through ups and downs with me. We watched three movies: The Holiday, Love Actually and Rare Export. I bet you might know the other two, but not the third one. It is a Finnish movie with very dark humour sense, which took me at least 2 years later to finally get it.

Okay, so dream did come true, but that is the thing about life. When your dreams actually come true, it stops being as perfect as in dreams.

Continue reading “24th of December, 2016”

Finding your stable feet

There have been quite a few posts on my blog, in which I shared about my feelings towards different places I have lived in or have been to. Jyväskylä is probably the most mentioned city. You see, I came there before I even turned 18 officially, and the place was very much a representation of my big life milestone. I also lived in London – UK, in Breda – the Netherlands, Mandelieu La Napoule – France, and now, I find myself in a coast city: Vaasa – Finland. In addition to these cities, I have been to other few places for short to medium length travelling.

If you have read some of those posts, it may not come as a surprise that I usually develop connections with the places I stepped my feet in.

London was where I found a fresh young girl falling in love madly. London taught me the very first real but crooked definition of “love”.

Breda kept within it my Erasmus exchange memories, the laughter, the drunk parties, the friendship, the companies, the partners in crime and the one that got away. The Netherlands was how I brought myself back to excitement of being in a new place, making new friends and having a new purpose to dip myself in experiences.

Then, in Mandelieu La Napoule, I hid. I got defeated in these last 1,5 years. I was blinded with my own failures, I came back to my oldest passion – travelling/ moving to a new city, or perhaps, come back to also my most common excuse for escapism. Southern France gave me the peace behind every single wave rolling on the beach surfaces, behind the winds floating through trees while I pushed myself to hike towards higher and further point; but of course, to trade for such peace, I lived with lonesomeness.

Finland. Well, Finland became my second home town years ago, and has always been. In a way, I feel I am re-born here. Certainly, my relationship with this country has began to face obstacles and plenty of wonders. Even so, I doubt I would ever change my way of looking at it the way I am looking at it now – after every each time I return here after being in a different place – as if I am looking at the most familiar place to me ever.

I take pride in telling others the places I have been to, and lived in. Even though I take joy in dazzling others’ eyes when I tell them those places as my life achievements, they are also more than that. They have become parts of my identity. To tell people about my different types of crushes for these places, I am reminding myself of how I am living closely to my ‘coreness‘. Sure, it sounds romanticized, but sometimes, the things which sound most cliché, are unfortunately deniably true.

It is easy to forget the dream you had when you were kids. And I am not even talking about all the silly dreams we had, like being a superman or cat-woman, or a princess/prince/ king/ queen (despite the fact that the idea of having a castle is still very tempting now and then), etc.

But I mean, THE DREAM. The one and only one dream, speaks to you the most, and stay with you the longest.

For me, it is travelling, even before I am aware of what the term “travelling” would mean. This very special kind of dream seems the most challenging to keep. Because it is not unrealistic, you know you might be able to make the dream come true one way or another. But it is also unrealistic, years of growing up and attempting to be an adult at least has taught you much.

I have not lived enough to out-say other more experienced people about how to achieve your dream eventually. This post is not about that.

This post is for me to share the other side of my dream: the breaking-up phase with my places. As I know how lucky I still am, I don’t normally say out loud to myself the holes made inside me sometimes, after I leave a place.

Being on the move is great. Being on the move also equals not settling down, either physically, geographically or mentally, sometimes all. The excitement for exploration I depend on is short-lived. After certain time living in a place, you may fall back into a life with usual pattern plus repetitive daily activities. I myself find me in boredom. I see myself being curious about what may be different in some other places. I see me starting to look at tickets, jobs, paper work process and day-dream about being able to just pack and go.

So, people usually say, being on the move sounds exciting but one cannot always be on the move, and do that forever. And I usually laugh away their sayings. I laugh away even more if people add the ideas of starting a family and living permanently in one place. But there is nothing wrong with those ideas. In fact, I secretly agree with those people in parts. Being on the move requires you to be emotionally adjusted. Being on the move makes you realise you have never had a particular place where you call home, and you can just buy tons of housing decorations without wondering what to do with them when you move again, at least for the next many years. Being on the move requires financial support, if you are to hold a limited passport. Being on the move means you cannot promise to make a work contract for years. Let’s not talk much about what being on the move might affect to your relationships, I guess, we are all somehow aware of that price.

I laugh away, because still, being on the move is my very important dream. To imagine me forgetting it, is scary. To think about the things I cannot have in exchange for what I am passionate about, is challenging, (hell, many times, really challenging); but yet satisfying. It reminds me of my ‘coreness‘. All the places construct the very present me. I know that my future me will be even more evolving with new places I will be in.

I guess, my very main message is that even if I am seen as living my dream, I may not have every ingredients to make a perfect life; the same for everyone else and every other situations. Food for thought (?): nothing in life can be in total perfection.

I don’t know if I will ever have stable feet. But I know I have no desire to find out anytime soon.

Extended post from “You and me, are we different?”

I admitted earlier in one of my old posts that I sometimes was a little ignorant. I did not watch many news, and was almost “blinded” when my friends mentioned some events happening that had not yet arrived on social media (there is no such thing nowadays).

I made effort paying more attention in recent years. It was paid off, I knew much more than the inside of my own protected bubble world.

But, some day I wish maybe I could have just stayed in that bubble. Like today.

Because, the world is moving towards a place or a dead-end (?)  which I don’t understand why, and would never do.

I am sure you have heard about the mass murderer in a night club in Florida today. It is deeply upsetting, isn’t it? 50 people were killed, whose lives were ended in their most unexpected ways. You got to wonder how many of them could already say “they have lived their life”, maybe none, and that is scary. Then, there are 53 people were injured, who are most likely going through PTSD for a very long time.

I shared my feelings with the person I am currently living with. Then he said something got me by surprise and wonder even more :”Yes, and the sadder thing is they immediately link it to terrorism“. I was surprised because he was completely right, I mean to me. Maybe he will be wrong, when the police investigate for more information and reveal it is an act of terrorism. Maybe not. However, with the news today, part of our mindset are already set with a bias. This moment of surprise took me back to my recent discussion with a mentor, about the movie Hector and the search for happiness I recommended him to watch. Whether he finishes the movie, I still don’t know, but he did tell me these things:

  • Why does the Asian girl in the movie have to be a prostitute? She could just be any normal girl Hector thought he fell in love with. 

  • Why does he have to be kidnapped in Africa? 

There was another moment of surprise to me. Because again, he was right, I mean to me. I was even more surprised at myself for not seeing such. And that is the reason why I am writing here.

This post is not to defend any particular parties, or offend any particular other parties. Even if this post might be related to political topics, it is not my purpose to declare any political support or building any high relevance/ connection. I am about to write to you what I have learned recently: the sad thing we do when connecting a negative cultural trait to a whole culture.

Given the movie’s case, what my mentor pointed out are indeed what still happen in those parts of the world. But what about other good traits from those parts of the world? What about the successful Asian women, the brave and independent ones, the smart and talented ones? And not all Asians are poor. And not all Asian countries share the same culture or history. In each Asian country, there is even a difference between regions. Then, how about the countries in Africa where economy is developed or developing? And maybe there are even more that I don’t even know of (surely), I am learning but it cannot all be about kidnapping or killing.

I think we forget sometimes. Because the highlight news on top of the page is always something “wrong and big” with the world, not something “good and small” with the world. I think anything we are not familiar with, we tend to hold onto our prejudices or stereotypes or any traits we pick up in our life to reassure ourselves we do know something and know how to handle. I think any strange things scare us because we are not sure what we know are true, and if they are, we should definitely be scared too.

I also think it is a complete normal reaction. I do that too, I am heading towards cultural studying, and saying all what I am saying here, but I do that too sometimes.

Here, is why I think we all need to be aware about differences in our world, and if even better, we should have cultural awareness and understanding. We should know about the other good traits of that culture—the part that are different from what we were told. You don’t have to be a specialist, you don’t even have to “like” other cultures, but you should know there are differences. As you know thing are different sometimes, you at least take a few minutes thinking, before making any conclusions.

You and me, are we different?Young generator travel more and more these days, as a result of globalization that has been happening over recent decades and is still happening within our community. I refuse to think we have come this far here, so that we can retreat to the starting point. We are given easier chances to see the world. We are not forced to lose our root in this mixed pot (you might say), we can choose just to see and know. I personally have never met anyone loving to travel, want to stop their passion. The moment they see and experience, they crave for more. It is tempting—the feeling you have when you discover something you would never know if you have not tried to see it.

As on some days, whenever the person I am living with turn on the news and I might comment “this is going to depress us a little” but he will reply, “Yes, but it is still good to know what’s going on anyway“. I have kept myself not ignorant because of that.

As I am sadly feeling sorry for all the families and friends to people who passed away because of the mass murder, I am in no means of trying to say the attacker is not guilty, or the news are saying anything wrong. I share with you simply what I assume the best motivation for me (and hopefully for you) to learn about differences and the necessity for cultural awareness.

 

“What is home?”

I have recently taken part in a project with the aim of creating an empathy from Finnish people towards refugees and migration matters. I have always thought of this as my lucky opportunity, to be a part of a meaningful project, to at least feel like I am making a change. I would keep the details of this project under low profile for now; but I mentioned this since owing to this project, I got to read two papers produced by Joanna Sell and George Simons about the state of being a foreigner in a strange land. Joanna Sell’s work involves directly with life of Frederic Chopin – a famous Polish composer and pianist. Her work reveals the mysterious life of Chopin, through his own words stating in the journal, reflecting about himself being a refugee.

The paper triggered me, providing me background knowledge about acculturation and bilingual people, from a specific single case of Chopin leading to generalisation to a wider population. Her work even inspired George Simon (as my supervisor) to produce a paper of himself, or more as a storytelling and reflection of himself. After reading that, I feel like writing my own story too. It is as if a chain has established, hopefully some of you would do the same, for any chances you might read this post.

I moved to Finland less than four years ago, voluntarily. As I might have mentioned many times throughout my old blog Tumblr, it has always been my dream to go abroad. I do not recall how it started, but I dreamed of being in a foreign plan and the though about exploring new possibilities gave me excited adrenaline ever since I was a kid. I am not a refugee or immigrant (as George described, “someone has decided or at least intended to become a permanent resident of the specific country one has entered“). I am, for the time being, only an abroad student in Northern Europe. But I found many familiar things reading George’s story.

All of this leads to an exploration of the topic of “what is home?” Those of us who go abroad voluntarily to explore new possibilities, whether as an exchange student. To learn in a new context, or as a laborer or professional to explore new working environment or opportunities.”

I face a phenomenon addressed as acculturation—”the process of cultural change and psychological change that results following meeting between cultures.” I was born and raised in a big city, and the city I am currently living in Finland has way much lower population. In fact, the whole nation Finland does.

When I first arrived in Jyvaskyla, I found myself being scared of the space I was given, the space that nowadays I am actually in need of. Finnish people prioritise their space, and their privacy. Owing to this fact, they normally come off quite cold to people around. This is not to apply to everyone; but only the majority of people I have in contact with. I recalled the challenges I found making an effort to break into a new land, a new group of friends, a new environment with my best; so that I would not belong to the group of foreigners who only stick among the familiar people from the same background. I left my country for a purpose to explore. The effort was not successful. I recognised me doing many new things, quicker before I myself can access whether such an activity is for me. I did the actions because I wanted to fit in. I got exhausted after a while; felt confused by the overload of new changes. I crawled back slowly to a comfort zone with one close friend arriving in Finland, at the same time as me. I still tried now and then though, but not as much forceful as the beginning. I ended up building some connections with a few friends, who could join me in the common interesting activities for both sides. I started to develop my new self abroad ever since. I made decisions more on my own, rater than following a pre-decided path from society or parents like when I was in Vietnam. This was the way pushing me to form who I thought I was. I picked up many new life philosophies or beliefs or advices along the years, and kept the ones closet to my instinct, and my identity. The thing with living abroad is sometimes remembering about your core values. It is easy to be lost among variable selfs I obtain every time I move to a new place.

However so, in some of my writing, I claimed that Saigon—my home city—is still where my heart is. Despite how romantic it sounds, I occasionally question on which scale the statement is true. I came back to my city last year, shortly for a month. One might say the time is rather short, leading the time be filled more with fun and happiness, than irritation and annoyance. You might wonder why one will feel irritated and annoyed being back home? It does actually happen quite often; and academically, it is addressed as “reverse culture shock”. I also suffered from it briefly in the first week in Saigon, being overwhelmed with the crowdedness, the air, the traffic and the noise. They were distracted later by busy schedule I had to meet my friends and my relative fast. Reverse culture shock was not so strong; but the connection with the place was clearly weakened. Most of my friends who used to be so important to me, now got their own lives that are far different from mine. I saw myself not comfortable sharing any European experiences since I was shy away from the possible judgment they might form in their heads. I am not ashamed, but I am more aware of the fact how one may cope with the differences. If you ask me now the reason to return, I might just say it is for the food and for the family. I left four years ago with my own life back there; and up to this point, such lifestyle has been away from me long enough to be considered as “non-existent”.

George even mentioned: “Self esteem and identity. I’m fascinated by the fact that the immigrants often do much better than the locals in performing in school and in tasks, perhaps by but the motivation to survive and succeed in a new environment whereas the local students are comfortable and less challenged”.

I also belong to the hard-working group, which I am mostly proud to say it was due to my culture. In a way, I think my supervisor is right to point this out. Life abroad is harder than one might think, and it is sometimes not the physical sides to notice by eyes. It appears within the values and psychological mindset of an outsider. I always have this whisper in my head that I have to achieve better than my friends who stay in Vietnam, I have to be more hard-working, more patient and more talented to have a job comparing to Finnish students. All of that equals to me in a sense that I have to cope better with situations to survive. I like my freedom abroad. I like my way of living and how I have encouraged to grow and change, through each contact I have with different person I meet. In exchange for these, there always exists a sense in the back of my head “I have to…”. Again, self esteem and identity.

At the end of this post, I am left with two questions from George, the two questions I am suddenly on my way of searching answers again, in the fourth year my abroad journey.

  • Cut from roots, how does one regenerate?
  • Must this mean learning self generation?