Scar Tissue

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Scar Tissue

Scar Tissue

We all have scars.

The ones we got when we were kids: learning to walk, realizing we can’t fly, learning to bike, realizing the slope was a bit steeper than planned, learning to play and realizing that balls are heavy objects that can collide with one’s head quite easily. Cries. a bit of blood and a few scratches, a few scrapes. Smell of alcohol and the eosin that wouldn’t wash out, even after ten showers. Bandages and cotton pads. And a piece of chocolate, making the small injury worthwhile.

The extra scars, learning to live with. No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to see out of my left eye. Nothing but a useless blurry picture, with a few black spots on the way. The world looks distorted in a pretty fun way but it took me years to appreciate my difference. Kids all want to look the same.

The identity scars. After being lost teenagers, we turn into responsible grown-ups… yet, the “lost feeling” is never that far. A part of the life we work hard to build falls apart and we don’t know where to go or what to think.

I – quite romantically – thought that choosing a new country to live in was the ultimate freedom. After all, I didn’t choose where I was born, so why not ask for a refund and start from zero, wherever I felt like it? That’s partially what brought me to Canada. I didn’t give much thought to identity — who needs identity when you believe in Socialism and think that the Great Leap Forward could have worked?

And today, I find myself stuck in the middle. Canadian with a hint of French, of French with a hint of Canada? Canadian in France or French in Canada? Or forever a foreigner in both? Immigrating means losing a little piece of self, leaving a little chuck of heart left somewhere, having a little side of the brain that is quite never in sync with the new system. Am I doing things right? Am I adapting well enough? Am I doing everything I can?

I now speak English fluently enough, but I dream in many languages.My body probably adapted to the cold and to the North America fashion sense (no irony here), but people occasionally stop me in the street to ask me for directions in Lebanese, Russian or Spanish. My students wonder about best places to visit in France and Napoleon’s role in modern France, but I never got to visit my old country that much and I only know Chinese dynasties.

Even worse, I’m starting to believe in negotiations rather than in revolutions, in people’s right to have services rather than in the ultimate strike that would paralyze a country and I think citizens should take their responsibilities rather than relying on the state to solve their problems. Oh, and I put maple syrup rather than salted butter on my toast. I don’t understand the current reforms in France and to be honest, I didn’t try to: I know that people protest for the sake of it but that eventually, the President will back up and nothing will change, like always. Talking about the President, I didn’t vote for him, nor for his opponent. Don’t get me wrong: I hate his guts. But I didn’t feel like voting: I haven’t been in France for a while, why would I influence my former country where I’m not even living there?

I though I could just take off my French skin and wear my Canadian one whenever I’d feel like it. I was wrong. I’m an onion now. I have two, three or four even, layers of skins on me, each with it’s own scars, each letting the other ones see through, each with its own memories and experiences. I can act French but think Canadian, I can make fun of both culture and call myself a citizen of the world. That’s the best part. The worse one is never knowing exactly where I belong, and the constant fear of not being good enough.

I will always be somewhat French, somewhat foreign, somewhat different. I shouldn’t care about it, should it?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. “Even worse, I’m starting to believe in negotiations rather than in revolutions, in people’s right to have services rather than in the ultimate strike that would paralyze a country and I think citizens should take their responsibilities rather than relying on the state to solve their problems.”

    Are you single? 😉

    Seriously, though, I’ve been considering immigrating out of the US for some time now, and those very thoughts are the ones I see coming. I think what you’re experiencing must be very normal. I can’t imagine feeling too much different when I get to doing it.

    Ghosty’s last blog post..Enough Touchy Subjects – It’s Time For Scatterbrains!

  2. I share your sentiments, though I’ve never lived anywhere outside Malaysia. I was born in one state, grew up in another state, went to high school in another, and now in university in yet another state. And I feel like I don’t belong anywhere 🙁

    pelf’s last blog post..Blast vs. Thunder

  3. what a post! so beautifully written… 😉

    i hope i dun get ur meanings wrong, is there anything wrong with your left eye? or isit a poetic way of describing smth? *noob*

    ah, if conditions allow me in the future, i’ll be joining u in the expats community. 🙂 Though I’m Malaysian by nationality, deep inside me, I flow the blood of the sons of Chinese. I’m glad you’re interested in Chinese culture and history. I bet you know more than us Chinese since not many of us understand our ethnic history.

    kyh’s last blog post..Infinite eights

  4. Dear Zhu,

    This is your richness: your experience of the world, your travels and your cleverness. Your open mind makes you wonder all these things and question about yourself. So much better than possessing a comfortable but yet so limited narrow mind!

    FroggyWoogie’s last blog post..VERY important question

  5. Hey Zhu,

    No, there isn’t any problem about being a bit of this and a bit of that; and no you shouldn’t care about it (unless you miss France). I am Portuguese but I don’t feel Portuguese (I was born in another country, so I have no energetic connection to this one; but at the same time I am not Mozambican either cause I don’t have that s-l-o-w way of doing things, after all I was raised in Europe). So, I call myself a citizen of the world! :).

    At the same time I understand where you are coming from: humans have the need to belong to something (either a group or a country); so the sense of belonging is important…psychologically speaking.
    All you have to do is trying to balance you Franco-Canadian features and be happy :)!

    About your Chinese relationship (since you like everything that is Chinese): I can only conclude that you were one in your past life (I don’t know if you believe in reincarnation or not, but that’s what I think…)!

    Scars…we all have them! And what’s really important is what we do with them: do we move forward? Or do we let them run us over?
    About your left eye: as long as you know that you are an amazing person; that is a small detail (it makes you special) :)!


    Max Coutinho’s last blog post..Qual cor tradisti?

  6. I understand you perfectly! I was born to a Dutch family and I grew up in the U.S., and I always felt different. Now I live in Spain, do things in a mostly Spanish way, but I will always be different. First of all, I look foreign, and while my accent is mostly gone, some still catch it. I also had a different upbringing than all the Spanish women my age, so some things that are important to them aren’t to me. I used to care and want to be just like everybody else, but I don’t anymore and I’m just happy being me. And physical scars, I have those too (from several operations) and they make me different when I go to the beach, but I don’t care about that either. You shouldn’t worry about being different either because you are an amazing person, and from what I’ve seen so far you are better than just good enough. 🙂

    Theresa’s last blog post..Don’t Forget to Flush

  7. 😉 Hi Zhu,
    Hmmm for me you can stay a bit French Ha! Its not alwys easy togo to nother part of the world right? How is it there with the snow, we have here too wrm weather for the time of the year, I do NOT complain Neh not me… it was 14 degrees (celsius) today, so good enough. Just take care in Canada, I like to follow/read you blog very much:) Its very well written and I understand what you mean, how you feel…

    I posted again some Paris Pics in case you are interested, just visit my blog and look:)I wish you a good weekend

    Greetings JoAnn:)

    Though JoAnn’s digital eyes’s last blog post..Paris-streets! Signs and more,

  8. Ghosty: I’m afraid I’m very married! 😆 That said, we can be intellectual soul mates, no problem! 😉

    Where would you like to go if you had the choice?

    Spyder: Ça marche… tant que j’y pense pas trop ! 😉

    Beaverboosh: thanks! I like this citizen of the world thing… makes us more humble as well. 😉

    Pelf: ultimately, do you want to stay in Malaysia or move abroad?

    Jay Cam: nah, I don’t have a visa… 😆

    Kyh: nope, not a metaphor, I’m actually blind in my left eye. I was born like that and my eye looks fairly normal so not a big deal to me 😉 I don’t mind talking about it!

    Are you a 汉? I love Chinese language… keeps my mind sharp. And the culture is so fascinating! I don’t get why Westerners are scared of it.

    Froggiewoogie: I know… I mean, thank you 😉 Still, sometimes, I wish I was born and raised in one small village, didn’t know the world etc. You don’t miss what you don’t have, right?

    Jessica: I love Moore, but I didn’t like Sicko that much because he exaggerate so much… it’s not even funny. It’s another topic but I can tell you first hand that French and Canadian health systems, although both great, aren’t that great…not as depicted in the movie anyway 😉 Otherwise, welcome to Canada! 😆

    Max: I think Europeans (especially our generation) feel “Europeans” rather than first Dutch, Spanish etc. But nationalism is still a strong feeling in a lot of places…

    Eh, maybe I was Chinese in another life… oh this is getting complicated! 😆

    Were you born in Mozambique? I don’t know much about the country…

    Theresa: wow yeah, given your background I’m sure you understand. How does it work with your kids? Are they 100% Spanish or do they feel like they belong to the world?

    Art: not sure whether I was brave or just naive and innocent… I take brave anyway 😉

  9. Very inspiring post!

    The greatest world citizen of them all, Einstein, once said, “If relativity is proved right the Germans will claim me as a German, the Swiss will claim me as a Swiss citizen, and the French will declare that I’m a world citizen. If relativity is proved wrong the French will call me a Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German and the Germans will call me a Jew.”

    I personally dream of that world where there are no borders, no citizenships, no countries. Just everyone calling each other fellow human beings.

  10. I’m not sure … I’ve considered Canada for a long time, but either Japan or the Netherlands are strong pulls too. I just can’t make up my damn mind. 😉

    Married? I don’t remember reading that! Now I’m embarrassed! 😳

  11. oh my, u’re a strong girl! 🙂

    Yes, I’m a Han Chinese. An overwhelming majority of Overseas Chinese (the descendants of Chinese settlers who adopted another nation as his/her country) are Hans. You can safely presume that any Chinese you meet when you’re outside the Chinese territories or Taiwan is a Han. But we don’t use the word Han 汉人 here. We just say we’re Chinese 华人/华侨/华裔, due to the fact that Han is normally used within China to distinguish themselves from other Chinese minority groups like Manchu, Hui, Mongol and such. Here in Malaysia and Singapore, we classify ourselves in clans according to our ancestral dialects, like Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Fuzhou etc. But all Chinese mix and mingle well, and we’re pretty united since Chinese is a minority in Malaysia. 🙂

    I thought America is paranoid of China because the rising Chinese economy is threatening the American monopoly nowadays? LOL! Chinese language is a beautiful language. It’s a culmination of 5000 years of great literary culture and traditions. How can it not be beautiful? 😉

    kyh’s last blog post..Infinite eights

  12. JoAnn: I’ll stay a bit French, I’ll promise. Don’t think I can erase it anyway! 😆

    14C? That’s like summer!! 😆

    MogLI: great quote! And so true… Einstein was a really smart guy 😉

    Ghosty: no need to be embarrassed! Remember, I’m French, lovers, ménage à trois etc. are soo commonplace! Just kidding 😆

    Japan must be hard to live in for a foreigner… cause it’s like China, no matter how hard you try and how welcoming people can be, you’ll always be the white guy, the outsider.

    Kyh: right! Most of Chinese people in France are from Wenzhou or surrounding and speak 温州话 or Teochew.


    Westerners have always been scared of China… even before the economical “threat”. China has always been seen as a mysterious country, strong enough culturally and demographically, but yet “weird”. There’s this stereotyp of “beware of China”, even though Chinese people are really curious about the West and even historically speaking, most emperor didn’t really mind it!

    I guess Westerners were frustrated because they couldn’t invade China or influence it too much, yet the country was doing fine without them 😆

    Wapentake: oh, onion soup… now you got me dreaming!

  13. I think you don’t have to go a country away to feel that alienation. I live 2 hours by car from NYC where I grew up, but have that same incompleteness in either place. My friend who grew up in Manhattan but now lives in Brooklyn feels the same. Perhaps any place much beyond the street you first sank roots is… well… uprooted. Perhaps home is a foreign place right after the first dog dies.

    Beautifully written and thoughtful.

    Ted’s last blog post..Through the Fog, a Barn

  14. “Even worse, I’m starting to believe in negotiations rather than in revolutions”

    Another 20 years and you’ll be a conservative. Mwuhahahahahaha!!!

  15. Well, my paternal side is Teochew, while my maternal side is Hakka. I speak neither (a lil bit of Teochew ~ I can understand more than I can speak; as for Hakka, I only know how to count from 1-10 and some very simple terms :mrgreen: ). Due to the prevalence of Hokkien (Minnan/Fujian) dialect in Northern Malaysia where I live in, I can converse in that dialect more than my ancestral ones. In case you’re curious, the vast region around our national capital, Kuala Lumpur tend to be Cantonese-speaking. While I might not be able to speak Cantonese fluently, a lot of Malaysian Chinese can understand it due to the popularity of Hong Kong serial dramas among the Malaysian Chinese community. This make us Malaysian Chinese unique from those Mainlanders because we are known to be multi-lingual due to this unique cultural blends and interaction. In addition, those who’ve received standard education will be able to converse in the national language (Malay) and English in varying degrees. 🙂 For most of the time, I speak Mandarin (华语/普通话) with my family and my Chinese friends.

    Malaysia is different from other Southeast Asian countries where Chinese form a significant minority in that we have primary schools that use Chinese language as its medium of instruction (our so-called vernacular schools). Chinese who study in national schools/missionary schools tend to be English speaking and have no or little knowledge in the Chinese language. Besides English and Malay, they tend to be dialect-speaking instead of standard Mandarin. These Chinese are known as ‘bananas’ due to the fact that they are yellow/Oriental outside as in the banana’s skin, and white/Western inside as in the banana flesh. In the Americas and Australia, these non-Chinese speaking Chinese are known as ABCs ~ American/Australian Born Chinese, and are predominantly English-speaking.

    kyh’s last blog post..Infinite eights

  16. What a beautiful post… so full of feeling. You write with such wonderful emotion. Zhu, one thing that you should always remember is that “You are you”. You may have many layers, but each and every one of them have your name written throughout and for that you should be truly proud. We all carry scars and it is these scars that shape us into the people we are and make us all individuals.

    Kindest regards ~ Graham 🙂

    Graham’s last blog post..“Christmas Time, Mistletoe & Wine…”

  17. Well, in India you really can have the same experience by just moving from North India to the South or from East to the West. While we are one country now, there is so much difference in language, culture, etc.

    And it’s not a bad thing, having a little bit of your heart in different places. 🙂 Didn’t you point out somewhere that as a French you are expected to know how to handle multiple lovers? Sort of similar, isn’t it? 😉

  18. Ted: thank you for visiting! I guess you’re right, it’s not even a matter of country or culture – we’re all somewhat uprooted… Nicely put. Thanks for your comment!

    Diesel: that’s it, I’m not speaking to you anymore 😆

    Kyh: wow, thanks a lot for the explanation – I’m really learning something new every time I speak with you! So you’re a true international/ cross culture person too!

    Graham: thanks my dear Englisman! I love writing, and I see a bit clearer after each post…

    Shantanu: I guess so, India is so big! I don’t mind, but sometimes you miss what you don’t have… no matter how much greener the grass is on the other side 😉

    Theresa: so the real “citizens of the world” family 😉

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