An American in a Parisian Starbucks

Have you ever met the person who is always the subject of a random security check? Without fail, upon entering an airport, hoards of security agents swarm around her as if she were the cheese in a New York-style cheese danish. Well, avid readers, I am the aforementioned cheese. And while I navigate my way through Heathrow’s finest terminal, JWu shares a tale of the American Dream within a Parisian context:

Bonjour à tous, this is JWu blogging from Paris. Yes, I have been known to frequent McDonalds in order to take advantage of cheap macaroons (c’mon, a box of 6 for €4.50!). But today, I decided to visit another iconic American institution, Starbucks, in order to write this entry.

They aren’t exactly on every corner, but I’ve already wandered past a dozen or so in the last two months. Also, the Starbucks coffeehouses in Paris don’t really differ from those in the States, aside from a menu written in French and [high] prices denominated in Euros.

Anyways, before this frapaccino induced high wears off, I thought I’d share an anecdote here. Earlier today, I experienced the most interesting class discussion involving twenty French students and one Chinese American (me). It was unnerving to listen to these students articulate the foundations of what it means to be American and debate the “American-ness” of affirmative action policies. They knew everything from the “melting pot” to the Tea Party movement; I can’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem without Google.

The professor even asked me, since I am technically the American ambassador for this class, what the American Dream means in contemporary society. I managed to eek out a couple quasi-sentences about how, from the standpoint of a first-generation American who grew up in a community of immigrants, the American Dream is the belief that hard work leads to economic gain and class mobility. This was first time I had ever articulated the aspirations and mindset at the core of my being …and it wasn’t even in English.

Though currently abroad, I am living the American Dream in terms of exploring new places and rejoicing in new accomplishments (i.e. speaking French coherently enough to order a meal, riding the Métro without falling on somebody, etc.). I’ll conclude with this quote of St. Augustine: “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

So whatever your dreams may be, set time aside to enjoy the freedoms of travel. And take comfort knowing that wherever you go, a friendly neighborhood Starbucks awaits you.


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