A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
After my very long hiatus from this blog, I have decided to make it a definite goal to write a post at least twice a week this summer. I haven’t been writing very much and I need to get back into the practice. I have also recently returned from a month long vacation in France where I was visiting so many friends and host families, looking back on it today it seems like it all went by in a blur. While I was there, I realized a few things about myself that I hadn’t been expecting. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a francophile and will be until the end of my days. I love France and I have missed France every day since I got back from my year-long Rotary exchange in 2010, but I have also idealized France. I feel a bit like I have put France on this pedestal and I have wanted to go back to my perfect second home and second culture and when I finally did, I realized that I also really love my own country. I am not the nationalist that my younger sister is, but I like my home. I like my grocery stores. I like my cat. I like the big wide open spaces. My home is not in France, though no doubt if I wanted to, I could make it my home. The United States is still my home and I am happy to be back.
When I met my host families, they were all surprised that I had not gone to cooking school. I was surprised by their surprise. I feel like a teacher. I feel like becoming a teacher is one of the very best decisions I have ever made. I can’t wait to teach students English, whether they are here or abroad. I know that I have talked a lot about teaching English abroad, but I am also very inspired to teach it here. My mom and I had a conversation about what our life goals were in one sentence. Right away, I knew that I wanted to do meaningful work and I think teaching is some of the most meaningful work around. I want to make a difference. My mom mentioned that while maybe teaching in a girls school in the Middle East or in Africa or teaching English to students abroad is something I may do, I can also make a tremendous difference here. You don’t have to go away to make a difference.
I was also surprised by my sister and myself. My sister, Liz, and I are two incredibly different people. Liz wants to join the military and go into politics. We often get into fights about whether education is more important that war. We often get into fights about everything, yet we are incredibly close. I have known my sister for the eighteen years of her wonderful life and had kind of reached that point where I felt like I knew her pretty well. I could even tell you her eye color and her recent thoughts on Grey’s Anatomy and her political views that don’t match her military views. I felt like I knew my sister inside and out, which is silly when you think about it. I realized this as we were coming back from Bruges, Belgium. We were having a conversation about war again, especially since we were in one of the few countries that seems to have more dedications to World War I and it being that war’s one hundredth birthday, but we managed to look past our own hang ups and really see where the other person was coming from. I feel like I know my sister a little bit better now and that while I don’t agree with her viewpoints, I can understand where she’s coming from. Of course, all of this fell apart when we brought in the Taliban and the United States media, but for a little while, I had a productive, meaningful conversation with my sister about one of her deepest passions and I had forgotten we could do that.
I’ll tell you more about my European adventures next time and always remember to be prepared to be surprised.
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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Stefan Falke photographs artists who live and work along the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region on both sides. All photos © Stefan Falke (use with written permission by the author only)