Lost in Translation – Part I

I saw it straight away. My name “Julie Do” on a piece of paper at the arrivals of the international airport in Fuzhou, China.

“Ni Hao” I said to the driver and “Xie xie ” when he carried my two huge suitcases to the car. That’s about all I can say in Chinese.

“Do you speak English?” I ask the driver who laughs and shakes his head to say no.

On the way, with my eyes wide open, I look at my new surroundings. A misty chain of mountains, a few Chinese temples, then as we get closer to the city, a blooming industrial life.

I see huge towers spitting clouds of smoke, enormous boats transporting merchandise, monster trucks filled with construction material. Soon we get stuck in the most insane traffic.

The driver sighs and whispers something in Chinese. He is probably swearing. An hour later, we finally reach the city.

The landscape changes and I can spot big buildings and skyscrapers. The streets are busy and loud. The driver slaloms between motorbikes, pedestrians, cars, bikes and buses. It’s complete madness.

The car finally stops in front of a big modern building. It’s the library where I’ve planned to meet up with my dearest Chinese friend, Yance.

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I met Yance two years ago when I was living in Sydney. We soon became very close and I recall so many happy memories. His flamboyant personality got me the instant I met him. I can’t believe that just a couple of month ago, he contacted me to offer me an English teacher position at the school where he works.

And now here I am, after quitting my job and saying goodbye to my boyfriend in no time, I am standing in a giant Chinese city, my life packed into two suitcases.

To be continued.

Why I’ve decided to self-publish my book…and make my own illustrations

My publishing venture has been punctuated with ups and downs so far. More downs to be honest but somehow I expected it. That is what the reality of the publishing industry is about.

After a 7 month experience, the result is far from my initial hope. 3 publishing contracts from vanity publishers (aka scams), 3 rejection letters from trade publishers and I am still waiting for many other responses that might never come. I am checking my mailbox with less and less enthusiasm and the hope to receive any positive letters has seriously diminished.

It could be better, it could be worse. It is just what it is and that’s okay. Rejection is part of the publishing process. It does not mean I have to stop, it means I have to keep going and pushing, as long as I believe in what I do.

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately and my attention went to another publishing method which is called self-publishing. After thinking things over and weighing the pros and cons, I have decided to give it a go. It’s a long and difficult journey but I am not scared of the challenge. It’s exciting and most importantly, it will give me the freedom of creating the book of my dreams.

Gaining entire control of the creation of my book is, in the end, the most fulfilling part. Who knows better than me how I want my book to look like?

I’ve also made the decision to make my own illustrations. I’ve always felt like I wasn’t skilled enough to do it, but then I realised it was just a question of confidence and will (and lots of practice!). No one but me knows exactly what to draw and how to interpret my childhood memories. 

So I’ve started my drawings, picturing in my mind all the details that have made my memories so vivid and memorable. It’s hard and it’s taking me ages. I often have to start over again and do some research. But when it’s done and I contemplate the result with a big smile on my face, the feeling of happiness and accomplishment is worth the pain.

It’s a little piece of art that is taking shape. And it’s mine 🙂

More information about self-publishing: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/how-to-self-publish-a-print-book/

 

I did something that I am proud of today

I did something that I am proud of today.

I wrote my resignation letter and I sent it to my boss. My hands were shaking and it took me ages to finally press the “SEND” button. Two hours to be precise.

I was so scared to resign from a job I did not even enjoy. But then I told myself: what do I have to lose?

Nothing. And that’s the point.

The big dive into the great unknown. That’s what got me scared. But only for a minute. I’ve already experienced the leap of faith when I left everything behind me in France to move to Australia. The only things that I had were a free mind and a big backpack.

4 years later, here I am, living a comfortable life in Auckland NZ, doing some marketing for an international company. Comfortable but boring. I’ve started to remember the reason why I left my home country 4 years ago. I wanted to chase my dreams and experience as many things as I could. I wanted to explore the world and embrace the great opportunities that would fall on my path. After all, what is the point of your life when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait to lurk to surprise you?

So I seized it. The great opportunity. Like a wish that has found its shooting star.

I am going to be a teacher in a primary school in Fuzhou, China. I will be teaching English and art to little Chinese children. I will adapt myself to a new culture and environment. I will learn Mandarin and will live my life like a proper local, getting a fresh pair of eyes in a part of the world I have never explored yet.

I intend to do what makes me feel alive and happy. Challenging myself. Again and again. I need to fulfil my passion and aspirations. I need to make my dreams come true. Dreaming is lovely but taking action towards your dreams is the key!

Following my heart and trusting my instincts have paid off so far. We only live once, so why bother with details and futility? Why live a life we are not fully happy with? I feel lucky to have set my mind free. I am scared just enough to push myself and feel the excitement more than the fear.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Henry David Thoreau

#Day 15: Douce France: Home Sweet Home

Douce France is a series of little stories about my trip to France after 4 years of absence. Coming back after such a long time has brought back to life some amazing feelings and childhood memories, the greatest source of inspiration to me.

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I have been away from home for 4 years but when I set foot on the French territory after my 30-hour flight, it felt like I left yesterday.

My parents picked me up at the airport. They haven’t changed much. Time has been treating them well. Dad has grown silver hair and his dark summery skin makes it look shinier. Mum is still the same, cheerful and pretty in her flowery dress. She looks even younger than my last memories of her.

On the drive home, in the outskirts of Paris, I catch a glimpse of a sad reality: a multitude of dirty tents and mountains of rubbish sheltering hundreds of refugees. I feel a pinch in my heart. But I don’t want to feel sad or angry. I am back home, in my beautiful country and nothing will take that away from me.

The house of my childhood used to be a huge farm. It’s an old two-story house, built of stone, a brown tile roof, some terra cotta floor tiles, and some beautiful long beams. Mum and Dad painted the blinds with a lovely pastel green like those typical houses from the South of France. There is a big shed, a huge attic, a cellar where I use to throw teenage parties and another smaller shed where Mum stocks all the mess. No wonder this house was the best place to play hide and seek! I remember being scared of the attic, full of dirt, spider webs and little night creatures that I could hear running around on the roof.

 

There’s also a fire place. I love that fire place. It reminds me of the letters I left there for Santa. It also brings back when Dad used to grill the chestnuts we picked in the woods. I can still hear the crackling sound and feel the sensation tickling my nostrils.

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The floor upstairs was the best place to run and hide in the dark nooks of the winding corridor. My friends and I would run like lunatics and scare off my sister and my brother. I can hear Dad yelling at us threatening the house is going to collapse.

The first thing I did when I got home was to check out my bedroom. It looked so small and not quite like the little realm I used to rule when I was a kid! My “subjects” (aka teddy bears) are still there, sitting on my pink velvet couch and looking at me with their dusty eyes. I remember when Mum asked me to tidy up my bedroom in the promise of a reward, I would cram all my toys underneath that couch in 50 seconds.

In the drawer of my wooden desk, I found all the love letters I used to write to boys who never noticed me at school. I started to read them, laying down in my tiny bed, as I slowly fell asleep, with a smile on my face.

Dodo diary edit

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Day 14: Dear Australia

 Monday 25th September 2015,

“My name is Julie Do. I am 30 years old and I come from Paris. After years of a quiet and comfortable life, I have exploded, literally, like a volcano that has been asleep and has suddenly woken up. I have decided to leave everything behind me; my home country, a good job, a caring family, trustful friends, a loving fiancé, my small world and safe path…

This life may sound alluring and kind of what you are expected to do but it was not. A routine largely made of insane working hours, unhealthy rhythms and loads of stress. A routine in which you lose yourself, without any purpose, a routine that makes you unhappy and embittered, where quality time has become too rare. And sadly this is what is happening in France. People have lost hope in their own country, people are scared. Unemployment has reached its highest rate, insecurity is rising, politics are useless, the economy is going down, our ‘Douce France’ as Charles Trenet, a famous old-fashioned singer used to sing, is not sweet anymore but bitter and sad…

However, I have not decided to leave my country because of its decline, France will always remain my home. I have done it for myself, I have done it to see how far I can go into the great unknown, to be challenged and put myself at risk to achieve the best outcomes. I have done it to feel alive and breathe in all that life has to offer. I am trying to follow the great words of a very inspiring man who decided to be the master of his fate and the captain of his destiny. Someone special once told me that life is a birth, a death, and for the time in between it is our duty to make it count as we only live once. I do not want to get older frustrated, with my heart and mind eaten by regrets and remorse, with my adventure dream left unpursued.

I have been working since I was 22. Big international companies had trained me to be a very good asset, a hard-working, driven, team player, capable of performing to a high level under pressure and entirely dedicated to my job. Working 8 years in international firms like Deloitte or LVMH makes you tougher, ready to handle a huge amount of stress and committed to excellent customer service. It is a wild world where time is money and your position an ejector seat. But I held on and managed to adapt myself to a hostile environment, building my own happy world in a rough place. I found out it is the people that make it count. My job was not easy but the people I was surrounded by were great in helping me to like it.

But then came a day I realised that the safe path and safe choices were not a goal to fulfil anymore. What is the point of your life when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait to lurk to surprise you? Something else much more exciting is waiting for me and the time has come to pursue the crazy adventures I dreamed up while I was a young whippersnapper.

On the 14th of July 2013, I landed in Australia, ready to live those incredible things that I wanted to come true. Australia is an old teenage dream that I’ve always kept in a corner of my head. A mythic land of adventure symbolised by epic road trips, gorgeous landscapes, amazing quality of life, a land where wilderness and nature prevail on civilisation and human marks. A land where I could be far and lost enough to find myself.

It’s been a year now since I came to Australia and all I can say is this country is so easy to fall in love with. I have found my golden land. Somehow, Australia saved me. She pushed me to change my world, to question my past glories, to get out of my comfort zone, to try things I have never done before. I have adventured and explored so much and I am still following the path I choose to embrace. I have travelled, I have filled my epic road trip dream and I have discovered and learnt so many things being surrounded by the extraordinary people I have met during my journey. I have never felt so alive, so happy, but above all, I have rediscovered myself.

It is a true accomplishment to realise you are able to adapt yourself to a completely new environment, to give your utmost for the most honourable purposes, not for money or glory but for the true values we tend to forget; the happiness of helping people, the happiness of making people happy. We are living in such an individualist society, it just feels so good to get out of this world and escape a mediocrity of life I have always feared.

I have spent my year between travelling and volunteering. It’s as if all those years working in the bowels of a money maker pushed me to run away from it. I was desperately in search of authenticity, nature, wildlife, wilderness, breathtaking landscapes, new lifestyles and cultures but I wanted to associate something useful to it. Volunteering has appeared the best compromise to me.

And now here I am, 10 months later, living in a gorgeous organic farm, looking after kids in an Aussie family as an au pair. Who would have thought? Not me. This challenge popped up in my life out of the blue. From a project manager in France, I turned into a nanny chasing 4 hyperactive kids in a 20-acres farm nestled on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, on the outskirts of Sydney.

It may look like a big nonsense but it means everything to me. I needed to experiment with a new lifestyle, very far from my previous world, I needed a return to basics and true values. A simple life but beautiful and healthy, enjoying things I forgot to enjoy, my mind too busy with the turpitudes of my old life. Cooking, gardening, cleaning, doing sport, reading a good book down by the river, enjoying a 20-acre property of a self-sustaining farm chock-full of handmade treasures, animals, veggies, plants. Swimming in the river, playing with kids, riding motorbikes, chasing absconder pigs, fighting with turkeys, collecting eggs, climbing trees, making bonfires…I feel like Tom Sawyer living crazy adventures along the Hawkesbury River.

I am learning so much living with this family. What is interesting in looking after kids is the fact you have to act as an adult but be a kid as well. You have to be a big responsible kid taking care of young little whippersnappers. And I found out it is one of the most enriching experiences I have had so far and a full-time job. It is like being a mother. I am learning to cope with kids and I can tell that they are the most difficult clients to satisfy! They are merciless and push you to your very last limits, but they are at the same time filled with love to give. They have brought me so much just by being bright, smart, naughty sometimes and very, very funny.

Today I would like to get the chance to be a part of Australia, to be a member of its nation. In lots of ways, Australia inspires me, it’s a land of opportunity for people who know how to seize it and are eager to give their utmost. I am one of them. I have decided Australia will be my new home but it is not enough. I know that somehow I have to deserve Australia because lessons from history have taught me there is no conquered land, you must adapt yourself to fit with the country.

My parents are the best inspiration, in 1970 they fled Vietnam to run away from the war and start a new life in France. They struggled a lot but they have succeeded in building a respectable and honourable life, giving a good education to their children. I will always be grateful for that. I am a daughter of migrants and I am becoming a migrant myself.

I am proud of my family background and do believe that migration and diversity are a strength, as long as you respect the country, its values and its people. Australia is giving me so much and I have so much to give to her. I see the next chapter of my life in this country and I am so excited and look forward to writing it.

Who can show more motivation and eagerness than someone who had the courage of leaving a whole world to build a new one?”