Power-Walking through the Backcountry Won’t Get You Home

I’m sitting on my bunk bed as I write this, the weight of my ever-expanding brain (I am sure that is what is to blame for my additional heaviness) is causing not just one mattress, but two, to sink down and touch the boards. If I were a princess, I would be able to feel that single pea (in the form of a bunch of springs) under there, especially if it was frozen and did not get squished. 

My dad was just here to visit me for five days and despite his slightly more comfortable sleeping arrangement in the guest room, he could not sleep so well either. He has jet lag, our excessively late French-eating habits, and my late night yodeling practice to blame though. Despite his sleep deprivation, he had no problem keeping up with me on our day long hiking excursions, whistling through the trees, and down all the black diamond trails, on our skis (and sometimes water skiing through the slush),  and ascension to the heavens of high altitude via telegraphique.

My dad never has to stop to eat, to drink, to pick his nose, he never gets low blood pressure and nearly passes out, or a sudden wave of needing a nap NOW, and he never gets bored. His breakfast could be pork liver and fried amoeba brains without his getting sick, he can somehow eat fondue without his cheeks puffing up like a sumo wrestler’s face, and he will gladly get knocked over by hurried Farmer’s Market goers rather than push his way through the crowd. He never has to sit down in the middle of the ski hill and fix his hair, and he can haul the six suitcases I need for a day excursion to town strapped to himself while we jog there. I don’t really understand it! It’s nearly impossible for me to keep up with the Incredible Hulk, but I gave it my best effort and put on my tour guide cap while showing my dad the best, and worst parts of France. The worst parts namely being, his unrecognizable daughter. 


I have decided culture shock comes in three stages. One may not have to go through them all depending on the length of stay:

Stage One. Terror mixed with Elation. Total and utter lack of what to do, where you are, who you are, and from where you came. Petrified running from people, gloriously speaking Spanish in the grocery store to the cashier, and locking yourself in the basement of your igloo to catch up on sleep after endless days of exploration and new adventures.

Stage Two. Immersion. This is a long phase but involves learning your way, finally uttering some phrases in another language confidently, and avoiding the “Scarlet F” stares (F is for foreigner). Figuring out the faux-pas that help you fit right in with all the rest of the foreigners here.

Stage Three. Homesickness. As the understanding and knowledge grows, life becomes slightly more mundane and normal, although your bed is still not YOUR BED, you still don’t get organic kale chips fed to you by the pool boy everyday, there is still no washing machine, and your coffee is still not living up to your standards each morning. I’ve been able to avoid the acceptance of this phase for awhile, until the arrival of my dad. With him in tow, I drew much more attention to myself, thereby summoning more stares, and a handful of Scarlet “T”‘s (T is for tourist) to attach to my jacket.

As we were race-walking to catch a train (on a route I had never taken before), just as I was about to have a breakdown of weariness, and my bladder was knocking because I am a girl and it had been hours, and IMMEDIATELY following my lunch it’s usually time for my two hour siesta…and I had no idea why the ticket office was closed for LUNCH when WE were in dire need of a train….as I was about to throw my hands up be ultra annoyed with how no one could understand me even though I know what I want to do and say!!!!

My dad made me realize how very energy-consuming and exhausting it is to live in another country, where you are still learning and struggling through every conversation and new situations are more difficult than when you are in control, wishing someone would just take you under their wing and keep you safe and warm for the last 23 days, and most of all how difficult it gets to be away from everyone you know and trust. It was sort of reassuring that what I was going through was a normal process and I am not just some crazed chick with unruly emotions and mood swings (even though that is entirely the case, my dad makes me feel a little less psycho).

So, because I am a sucker for punishment…I am now about to visit three other countries who I am sure will just LOVE ME. The same way France welcomed me with such open arms. I wonder what the moral of the story will be.

Coming home really soon,

— Emily —


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