When you are living in a culture that is not your own, you adopt little coping mechanisms to ward off culture shock and make seemingly dreadful activities enjoyable. Here are a few normally mundane activities recreated to make little adventures.

I can’t speak French very well. I am a beginner, so when I speak, the look on peoples’ faces is a combined mixture of shock, amazement, complete confusion, bemusement and several indecipherable expressions I have yet to label. But because I am a beginner, an American, a woman and have little to no scruples when it comes to language, I take the language barriers in stride and make a game of how many words I have to use to get my point across. The other fun game I have created is “How Long Does It Take a French Person to Launch Into English” in order to expedite my current issue. The average hovers somewhere around 3 sentences back and forth, but I’m hopeful for skewing that average in my favor by the end of my stay here.

Riding the tram has been a sacrifice. When I am home, I rely heavily on my own vehicle to get me from Point A to Point B, and when I don’t have said convenience, I have real control issues. Planning my evening over when a tram will be at a certain place drives me NUTS. So therefore, when I have to ride the tram, I make a game out of the people who also ride the tram. I watch them out of the corner of my eye and take notes about how they’re dressed, who they’re talking to and what their general life attitude seems to be. I wind up romanticizing the tram riders. The man with the very chiseled chin, the scruffy cheeks and the long eyelashes who looks very pensive and sad has had a long day. He’s got a million things running through his head, a troubled girlfriend and errands to run before he thinks about the travails of tomorrow. He does, however, look unwittingly handsome sitting there with his furrowed brow. I have to fight the urge to stare. The girl who is sitting in the seat near him has her iPod plugged into her ears and her toe is tapping. She’s young, beautiful and sweetly dressed. She looks like she stepped out of a postcard from Paris. She’s got big plans for the future. The stories go on and on, and that’s how I spend my tram rides while I listen to my own iPod and lug my shopping bags from Carrefour.

There is a wonderful place in France called Carrefour where they sell all sorts of  familiar products to a displaced American with picky life staples. For example, I absolutely cannot sleep on the pillow that was provided for me by the university. It looked like a giant, lumpy misshapen bratwurst. I decided to make a trip to CarrefourLand and buy myself a fluffy new pillow. These kinds of trips happen frequently, and when I go to Carrefour, I enjoy watching the people talk to the man weighing fish and the woman pricing fruit. I try to distract myself from the giant, heavy basket of food for the week with the adorable children whose language skills, at 2 or 3 years old, vastly outrank mine.

There are runners outside my window who I take great delight in distracting from their running by waving at them. There are American Football players who snap on the football field lights at about 7 PM and proceed to stretch, drill and do hilarious exercise in order to be the best European American Football Players the University of Caen has ever had. I take great delight in watching them play leap frog, suited up with helmets and shoulder pads: full-grown men grunting and counting in French jumping over each others’ backs flooded in the artificial lights of a soccer field.

I like buying beautiful fruit at market, running it under ice-cold water and then photographing it in the sunlight. I love the way it sparkles.

I am amused every single day with organized activity, but sometimes it takes the little things to make you really smile and enjoy life. I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.

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