Exhibit your joy at the risk of gaining hatred

It’s summer. Every social media is flooded by pictures showing magnificent landscapes, stunning discoveries and huge smiles. Judging only by this array of beauty, we might believe that the whole world is on vacation. What’s more? The whole world is happy.

The nature is generous, but we seldom are.

“It’s enough! Don’t post pictures any more. Didn’t you notice that less and less friends had voted ‘like’? You are making them miserable.”

That’s a reasonable comment.

Who would remain calm seeing others enjoy their vacation without a bit of envy? Who would share others’ joy without dreaming that one day he could experience the same? For diverse reasons, many people cannot afford nature’s grandeur in summer. The daily routine appears extremely unbearable when others’ happiness confirms that the world is unfair.

However, I still love posting beautiful pictures in social media.  They have recorded ephemeral moments of our life but magnify good feelings: the bouquet of flowers that I bought from the supermarket, a free ballon offered to my daughter,  a funny drawing that the safeguard made on our receipt, the puddle that reflects my smiling face…

I love appreciating others’ pictures and their joyful discoveries: the green plants on their office desk, their resolution of daily workout, the first steps of their babies, delicious home-made dishes, some interesting graffiti that they passed by…Even we are not on vacation, we still have so many amazing things to admire and to cherish.

When we are happy, we naturally eager to shout out our joy to the world. When we share the beauty of life, we seldom care wether it would gain a consensus of “like” or accumulate “dislike” even “hatred”.

Everyday, we spend too much time on line. Unfortunately most of the news makes us pessimist and uneasy. So why refuse to diverse our eyes and mindset?  In stead of spreading heart-braking news, let’s embrace beauty and happiness in social media.

Exhibit our joy and appreciate others’.

Should I tip?

When it comes to tip, my husband and I are easily in disagreement. In China, we only thought of bargain and never have been bothered with this idea. When traveling in Europe, we were asked to pay a certain sum to the local guide. Since it’s an obligation due to the local manners, we accepted without any complaint. In restaurant, the bill would come with a notice on it, informing us that the tip was already counted into the total price. When we went to the theater, we followed others to give the seat-guide one coin.

In U.S, many situations confused and even embarrassed us. We spent our first days in a well-known global hotel. To our big surprise, after three days, the room was not cleaned up in time. “How could it be?” My husband insisted that it was our own problems, such as too many toys on floor…It was later that one of my friend reminded me of the tipping question. “Maybe we didn’t tip the room service!” concluded my husband, “that was a lesson.”

Since then, we became more aware of such subtle question and learned how to tip in restaurant. Yet, the question affects our meals. If the waiter is especially solicitous, we tend to wonder how much should we pay as tip,15% or 20%. “Hard working always deserves more,”we all agree. Even we prefer not to be interrupted by the waiter, we should show a friendly smile back from time to time. When the food is not good and the service is banal, we still tip the “called minimum 15%”. As my husband says, “Avoid mistakes!” Until now, I was a little nervous when picking up a take-away pizza without writing the tip sum.

The question became inevitable and controversial when we were traveling this summer. In our fist hotel’s shuttle bus, I noticed a band saying that “Gratuity is not necessary but appreciated”. My French tricked me, because in French, “gratuit” means “free”. We understood quickly that it refers to tip. For our 4 rides on the shuttle bus, we paid the first go and back. After noticing that others didn’t pay, we followed naturally but still felt embarrassed when passing by the driver.

The first day, we left one dollar in the room for the cleaning service. The next day morning, when I was busy preparing to check out, my husband was seeking all pockets and purses for a coin. “No need! we are leaving!” I was direct. “Be polite! We stayed two nights and only paid one time!” he refuted.”What? but it’s a new day and the cleaning is beneficial for the next guest!” I continued my reasoning, which got an other unfriendly comment,”You are so mean!”

The same kind of quarrel occurred when we checked in a hotel which has a valet-parking. It was in a crowded tourist area, near the beach and the commercial center. The hotel was expensive and we never expected to pay an even unacceptable fee for the parking-30 dollars per day. It was our first time to encounter the valet-parking, which made us bewildered. We quickly searched the internet for a proper decision, and only got vagus answers: “Tips are very personal,””It’s nice but not necessary,””There is no rule”… For me, the parking fee was already huge, while for my husband, tip or not tip doesn’t need other arguments than the custom. “Why did you pick such a hotel!” finally, we threw our anger to some other further issues.”You know what is called racism? Don’t give up your deserved respect,” my husband went serious.

We were ravenous after the check-in and quickly found a restaurant near the beach. It turned out that the bill nearly passed 100 dollars. “What? that means another 15 dollars for tip?”I grumbled, especially because I was not satisfied with my fish, ” besides,we waited too long!” My husband didn’t want to talk any more and wrote down his signature. To save our holiday, I kept the silence.

I’m not mean and it’s not a question of thrifty. But is it a question of culture?

“Take care”

I was shopping at the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica, alone and happy. I hadn’t been wandering in fashion stores for 6 months, although I had nothing to buy. “Be careful and keep safe,” my husband warned me when I left the hotel, while he was taking care of Claire. I rushed out to enjoy one hour’s free time, just because it was free time.

The promenade was not as crowded as the beach. I even appreciated a while the street singers. After trying several items in Zara, I lined up for check. “Take care!” the cashier handed me a paper bag which contained my new dress. I suddenly looked into his eyes, trying to figure out what this expression meant. Did I look like a teen because of my little body? Did he want to remind me of the insecurity in this tourist area? Was it relevant to my identity as a Chinese, who is usually believed to take cash and easily targeted by thieves?

I got no answer but walked out of the shop with my backpack near my chest. I hurried up and became more vigilant. Although suspicious, I still had time to go on my shopping. At the counter of Gap, I received another “take care”,  which smoothed my nerves. I realized that “Take care” might mean nothing but a simple greeting in California. However, I still held my backpack tightly the way back to hotel, because for the fourth time of the day, I saw the fire-engine pass by with a frightening alarm.

Later, we became more relaxed with the local greeting “take care”. Nevertheless, I prefer to say “Have a good day” in stead, which delivers a more positive message.Why should I take care? Am I so careless? Is there anything I should pay more attention to? What will happen if I don’t take enough care?

As a foreigner, I always pay too much attention to small words and take all messages seriously. One day, when I was running at a park, I noticed a panel which reads” Watch out for venomous creatures”. I never took the same path again. That was silly, I know. But language has its own power.

Did you like Disneyland?

Six months ago, Claire had no idea of Disneyland. Mickey Mouse, Snow white, Elsa and Anna, all these names became now her daily conversation topics. Having heard a lot about Disneyland from TV, YouTube videos, toy commercials and especially from her classmates, Claire kept asking us to take her to this fairy kingdom, where she dreamed to encounter all beloved princesses. Even before our journey, she was proud to talk about it at school and came back home with excitement.

She didn’t know where came from such excitement but believed it. Then we hit the road. “Are we there yet?” the 8 hours’ drive burned her impatience but doubled her expectation for the special discovery. We got up at 7 and hurried to the main gate. Waiting the doors to be opened, I heard so many parents repeat their children’s Disneyland symptoms : “they refused to sleep last night!”

The day was hot, the park was crowded and long long lines made visitors more impatient. “Take a picture with Mickey”, parents began to cheer up, “there are also princesses waiting for you!” But in fact, for a 4 year-old girl, taking picture is just a followed pleasure. Was the picture good or not? Many children didn’t care. “Look, the sleeping beauty castle!”, we shouted, while Claire was busy with her cookie breakfast.

“Can I buy 3 toys? You promised me!” She couldn’t move her steps in front of all the charming toy stores. We bought her a princess dress, a magic wand and a Frozen doll. “That’s it, we can go back to hotel,” she seemed so satisfied and wore a big smile on her face.

It was later that she realized Disneyland was an adventure park. But for her age, she was unable to enjoy most of the games. Frightened by the simulated monsters and the darkness in several trips, she refused to try more. She even quickly run off the sleeping beauty, believing that there was a  bad witch who might make her asleep too. The Mickey Mouse town didn’t impressed her.”I saw it in TV,” repeated her, “It should be like this.” The carousel cheered her up but the line was too long.

“Do you like Disneyland?” we kept asking her all the day. But sometimes, she just nodded without a comment. I and her daddy seemed more excited.”Did you like Disneyland?” we already had the answer. It was just a way to emphasize our own positive feelings. Having lost her magic wand, Claire turned upset. We refused to buy her new toys, since everything is expensive. So much temptation but so mean parents. “I don’t like Disneyland any more,” sobbed she. There were so many children who were crying. We could easily imagine the situation.

After a little rest at the hotel, we entered the park again, Claire showed no more interest, because she was exhausted and only wanted to go to bed. “But we will have the firework,” we insisted, imaging that the beautiful scenes would make her day, “And the night parade, you should wait.” She had no energy.

“Did you like Disneyland?” We unconsciously repeated the same question the way back home. Sometimes, Claire just waited and waited before trying to say a shy “Yes”. Maybe she guessed that the negative answer would let us down. The same question bothered her when our friends and neighbors mentioned our trip.  Sometimes, she just let her silence in to mark her shyness in front of them. “Yes and No”, she smiled and quickly jumped over the topic.

I am not sure if Claire really had a good journey and enjoyed the Disneyland park. Sometimes, we just told ourselves that we tried everything to make our children happy and the Disneyland ought to be one of these things. We cheated ourselves because we didn’t want to hear the negative answer, after a very tiring and expensive trip.

Voyage

When I came to U.S this January, I had little room in my baggage for books. Besides the five volumes of Gustave Flaubert’s Correspondance, I only took Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil). I picked up this edition from an ambulatory book vendor in Paris, but since then, I took it everywhere I went.

The last poem, titled Le Voyage, is one of my favorites. Baudelaire is pessimist, for whom travel is appealing but disappointing.

The world, monotonous and small, today,
Yesterday, tomorrow, always, shows us our image:
An oasis of horror in a desert of ennui!

But still, we keep childish curiosity and yearn for elsewhere. When I was young, I dreamed Paris and Roma. The impossibility to realize these travels made them more charming. But What I looked for in these places? I had never questioned myself until I went there later. I still had no answer when I was sitting in the beautiful Luxembourg Garden. Suddenly, all that I had dreamed seemed so far away and the overwhelming joy was not the beautiful scenes but only the fulfillment of this long-distance and long-dreamed voyage.

I love the word “voyage”. In French, it now means all kinds of travels, despite the means. Even the destination demands just one hour’s drive, I still prefer to say Bon Voyage to myself or to others, because the word associates with new things to discover, a surprising journey and a fulfilled appetite, which break our routine and make ourselves excited even before being on road. “Life is short, Voyage more !” Has this commercial sentence touched other travelers than me?

When I had no time and no money, I read travel memories, novels and all kinds of stories. As Baudelaire wrote in this poem, we are more eager to learn that life is elsewhere.

We wish to voyage without steam and without sails!
To brighten the ennui of our prisons,
Make your memories, framed in their horizons,
Pass across our minds stretched like canvasses.

But what the others say is always not important to me. It feeds my imagination and makes my own voyage more desirable. Travel in words may be more comforting than the real journey.

When I am old and have enough money and time, do I still have the insuppressible desire to go out and see the world? Maybe at that time, I only need to revive and write down all those voyage memories which are not really mine.

To a child who is fond of maps and engravings
The universe is the size of his immense hunger.

Hope that we remain this child, even the question “Are we there yet?” bothers the whole journey.

Try always a different way

    One weekend, with a Chinese colleague of my husband, our family went visiting the Grand Canyon. Since my husband had visited it 5 years ago, he was proud of being our guide.

Nowadays, we don’t need to take a road map with us, due to our smart phone which tells us the ideal route and can direct the driver to the destination synchronically. It can even tell us the road condition immediately, as accidents, hazards, strange objects…

We were astonished when we first saw the huge “hole”. As my husband had told us, it was stunning. Especially you couldn’t feel its grandness through photos. Utile we walked along the rim, we didn’t realize how big and impressive it was. My husband tried to follow the same path and was eager to show us the magnificent scenic points, from which he took pictures years ago. But after walking ten minutes along the rim, I noticed a trail, which was recommended with a big panel. Since we didn’t do any guide work before this visit and that my husband just followed his colleagues last time, we had no idea of the difference between different trails. However, this trail, with its beautiful name Bright Angel Trail and marked as an icy one,  interested me so much that I insisted to go downhill.

We had no sufficient time but controversial opinions. Both became a little angry and accused the other stubborn. In my husband’s view, it was impossible to go to the bottom of the canyon within so little time and that the clime-up journey was just a waste of time. Besides, Claire could not afford the uphill climbing. His colleague did not dare express his opinion, having no interest in offense me. Perhaps my struggle to discover another way was considered as a lack of confidence in my husband and it made him embarrassed, especially in presence of his colleague.

Women always have the last word in family. Finally everybody followed me and we began to go down the trail. Although we did not reach the bottom, which may take more than 6 hours, we encountered great views and perspectives along the trail. My husband could not deny the truth that the recommendation on the panel was worthy.

In our life, we easily follow the routine or our former experiences. That’s the way to be safe and less risky. But sometimes, discovery demands more curiosity and bigger pleasure compensate our efforts.

On the way back home, we did not follow the route recommended by GoogleMap, because we had taken it. We tried an other route in spite of an extra hour that should be spent. We were finally thrilled to admire the beautiful mountain of Flagstaff whose top was still covered with snow.

Life is a journey. To make it a worthy one, do not be lazy. Be brave, Drive safe and Try different ways.

An imaginary friend

I was skimming the suggested blog posts and caught by this title #for all the lonely children with imaginary friends, from Kiprop Kimutai’s blog.  I remembered writing a post about the same subject, but in French, several months ago.

http://miettesidees.canalblog.com/archives/2016/03/30/33588338.html. (My blog in French)

I read again my article and was always moved. So I translate myself and rewrite it.

To our surprise, Claire didn’t cry the first day she went to school. With little knowledge of English, she was the only one Chinese girl in her preschool. “Children learn fast!”teachers there seemed confident in her. But we still worried a lot, not only about language difficulties, but also about the different culture she would encounter. In Claire’s former Chinese preschool, children were well disciplined. There was even a fixed time for bathroom. If the teacher was speaking, no one dared to talk. At lunch time, all kids ate the same things prepared by school.

In the first weeks, Claire remained silent, which was normal. Feeling so lonely,  she just stayed still in her chair, when other kids were listening to the story. She even refused to drink water since she didn’t know what was the time to go bathroom or didn’t dare to go there by herself when the others played outside. Sometimes, she took others’ kindness for defiance. “I didn’t cry today.” It was the first sentence we heard when picking her up in the afternoon. She knew what made us happy and proud. But in the meantime, she asked us to pick her earlier.

One day, her dad was delighted to see a Chinese woman at the parking of Claire’s preschool, who was talking with a little child in our language. We thought that a new student might be enrolled recently and Claire might make friends with this guy. Later, our conversation was all about this discovery.

Claire was excited to learn the new coming. Being asked for several times, she confirmed the news and told us that Yiha happened to be in her class.

“What a strange name! Is she Chinese?” we turned also excited.

“Her mom is Chinese and her dad speaks Spanish. She can speak English too.” It could be true, as we live near the border and I saw already several mixed couples.

Every day, we knew a little more about this Yiha. Sometimes, we asked questions about her. Sometimes, Claire spontaneously told us her story. This girl was born in America and never knew China. But she spokes so well English and help Claire to explain teachers’ instructions.

“What does she eat for lunch?” I was especially curious about this point, which was also my daily concern.

“Like me, cooked rice with shrimp.” cheered Claire, what made me relaxed. There was finally another child who was familiar with warm lunch.

One month later, all parents were invited to attend a festival at school. We discovered with astonishment the beautiful art works made by children. They were all hung up on several murals. “Claire was an artiste and she drew amazing pictures,” told us her main teacher. Indeed, our daughter spent a lot of time in drawing. She even draw pictures for each classmate as a present of valentine’s day. She drew a lot at school and took several pictures to home.

We were eager to meet Yiha and her family. But she was not there and there was no art work signed with this name. “Maybe she was sick,” Claire explained.

One week later, it was a parade day at school and I went there to help. I stayed even at lunch time. “What a pity, Yiha wasn’t here today.” I signed. At theses words, Claire’s teachers were surprised. I turned to them to ask information about this Chinese girl. “Really? But we don’t have her in our class.” One of her teacher tried to figure out if she was in another class, because the school was small and that all kids played together in the afternoon.

Claire’s face turned rad and she left the table with the lunch unfinished. She asked the other teacher to play with her. Watching her leaving the table, I suddenly realize that there was no Yiha anywhere. One teacher had gone to the next room to look for this Yiha and came back confused. I walked to her and explained that it might be just imaginary. “Oh!”, she opened her eyes and then pet my shoulder, “let it go.”

My eyes were wet. What my daughter had gone through all the last month? Why did she need to lie to us? Staring at her back, I felt so sorry and guilty. Did we put so much pressure on her? Did she make all theses stories just to reduce our anxious? How could I talk to her with this discovery.

The lie was always considered as a sin in our family. When her dad got the point, he was extremely angry,”it was impossible. Do you mean that she has some psychological problem?” Even we knew that it was hurting to her, we talked about the issue at diner.

“That’s awful, I lied. ” Claire cried,”that’s awful.” I thought that she might be chocked by herself and could not believe that she was a liar. Perfect liar.

Then, I remembered what said her teacher, “let it go”. So we stopped mentioning it.

One night, Claire suddenly recalled this story and with tears, she asked me to forgive her.

“But why?”

“Because I just want to have a friend, my friend.” she whispered.

It was my turn to wipe my tears.

“You will, very soon.” I hugged her.

It is true that children can get used to a new life quickly. But still not so quickly.  We can hardly imagine in what a solitary and scary world they fight and move on. How brave should thy make themselves to face the new life, which means attractive discoveries and intermittent fears.