Numbers Tuesday, Jun 15 2010 

While I sat in my bare little dorm room in Caen, I came to realize that almost my entire existence while overseas was dominated by numbers. Now that the experience is over, I thought I would share them with you so you can enjoy them too.

7,000- Number of grams of Nutella Hazelnut Spread purchased and consumed
5- Number of countries visited
240- Number of hours spent in a classroom
4- Number of times my financial skin was saved by a dispersion of money by the University
1- Number of scholarships received
18- Number of masses attended in Eglise St. Pierre
21- Number of days I thought I’d die of pneumonia
1- Number of beer types deemed remotely ingestible
5- Number of loads of laundry done over a span of 4 1/2 months
6,000- Number of  times I deeply desired a Swiffer
4- Number of care packages from Mom and Daddy
17- Number of cards from the USA
11- Number of awkward shirtless, gown-less chest x-rays taken (a group total)
10- Number of scarves added to wardrobe
2- Number of visible melt-downs in a classroom
100- Number of baguettes purchased
5- Number of blush-causing faux-pas
2- Number of visitors from the USA
4- Number of 8 € phone cards purchased to call home
16,000- Number of grams of pasta purchased from Carrefour
Infinity- When I’ll be hungry for pasta again
7- Number of minutes between trams
4- Number of teachers
1- Number of times caught pass-less on tram
2- Number of times the “stupid American” card was voluntarily put into play
70- Number of trips to a patisserie expressly for gluttonous purposes
55- Number of practice DELF tests
36- Number of seeds planted in hopes of flowers
0- Number of survivors
1- Number of WWII 550 KG bombs found on campus
40- Number of trains taken
5- Number of minutes it takes to get to class in a dead sprint
7- Number of pretend boyfriends accumulated
200- Number of tram rides
50- Number of times voltage converter was dropped and did not break
250- Number of handouts in class
1- Number of 50 € stamps purchased for taxation purposes
1,200- Number of pictures taken
40.5- Number of pairs of seins in Nice at the topless beaches
2- Number of trains taken in the wrong direction
22- Number of flavors of gelato tasted within a 24 hour window of opportunity
10- Number of times I was the recipient of random acts of a French stranger’s kindness
83- Number of blog posts
0- Number of regrets
Innumerable- Number of individual people to whom I owe thanks

[Please stick around for the finale post and link to my new blog coming very soon!]

Kamakazi Culture Shock Thursday, May 6 2010 

I have an apology to make to my faithful followers: I have given you a warped sense of living in France. You may have thought that living in France has been nothing but sunshine and flowers, pain au chocolat and fantastic churches. I have been careful to conceal all meltdowns I have experienced and have realized that by doing so have given you a warped sense of the emotional rollercoaster ride that is studying abroad. However, the truth has been hidden long enough and therefore, I give you the post where I admit to going a bit grey over French and Culture Shock.

If Culture Shock had a human form, it’d be a ninja. Stealthy, plotting, sneaky–it attacks when you least expect it. It comes out of thin air and kamakazi attacks you from behind without giving you time to arm yourself with the weapons needed for hand-to-hand Culture Shock Combat. The Culture Shock Ninja doesn’t leave very many survivors, either. Victims can be identified by the blank, mindless stare most commonly found among beginning French students mid-worksheet at about 4 PM on any given day of the week. Sometimes victims burst into random tirades in English or fervent “Franglais” protesting whatever injustice they feel has been dealt them and in extreme cases, the victim may burst into tears and threaten (if only to herself!) to leave the classroom.

The Culture Shock Ninja is very cunning, too. He doesn’t only use the culture in question as a means for emotional, physical or psychological distress. He uses every single instance around you to slowly grate away at your nerves until–all at once–you flip out! “WHY IS THERE NO HEAT IN MY ROOM?!”  she may or may not yell to nobody. “DON’T THEY KNOW IT’S COLD IN THIS BUILDING?! ARE THEY INSANE?! I’M GOING TO FREEZE TO DEATH IN FRANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!” Also very common is the distinct lack of chocolate resources when the Culture Shock Ninja strikes. It is widely suggested throughout the Culture Shock World that the Culture Shock Ninja waits until chocolate resources are at their most minimal and then makes its attack. The victim, upon realizing she has no chocolate resources and may suffer frostbite at the hands of the person who turned off her heat may be observed to yell, “WHY DO I HAVE NO CHOCOLATE???! THIS IS MADNESS! I AM GOING TO MARCHE PLUS THIS INSTANT FOR AT LEAST 10 EUROS WORTH OF FATTENING SUBSTANCES!!!!!!!!!” and then stalks off in a full-on chocolate hunt.

Another weapon that the Culture Shock Ninja uses is environmental annoyances. For example, the victim, while sitting in a classroom of depressing bareness can become so worked-up over the slamming of  the doors, scraping of chairs from upstairs, clicking pens, snapping joints, incessantly sniffing noses, tippy desks and scratching chalk that she may or may not have just enough self control not to 1) lock the doors by whatever means necessary, 2) tip over every chair in the building in angst, 3) snatch pens away from classmates, 4) hand out tissues and insist that they “blow” and 5) break every piece of chalk that the teacher has in her possession into the tiniest shards possible.

So what, you may be asking, is the remedy for such awful symptoms of the Culture Shock Ninja? There are weapons to combat the Culture Shock Ninja if you feel its presence or its impending attack. Go for a walk to Marche Plus to buy boatloads of nice things to eat (i.e. substances with a lot of endorphines also known as Dark French Chocolate (DFC)). Go for a walk to the castle while listening to show tunes, singing along to them on your iPod while skipping. Make some tea and write a blog post about your grey hair. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you only have a few days left in the country. Seek out the wonderful hugs you know your friends are ready to give. Boo-hoo on their shoulders, taking care to soak them throughly (it’s okay to cry). Realize that you really do love France, you wouldn’t change the experience for the world, and everything will be better in the morning.