With my friends at my farewell party. I'm the one in white looking into the distance. Courtesy of my uncle.

With my friends at my farewell party. I’m the one in white looking into the distance. Photo courtesy of my uncle.

*In less than a week, I am leaving for Evreux, France to begin my stint in the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF).

“Are you excited?” my co-worker asks me.

I cannot answer, confused. “About what?” It’s nine in the morning and I only have eight hours of work to look forward to.

“…Leaving the country…”she inflects as her voice trails off, bewilderment buried in her question.

It occurs to me that it is something worth noting, my leaving.

Every time I think about going, I find myself back on a thin twin mattress looking at the calendar I brought from home. Under the Niçoissun, everything is in shades of orange and pink. Mediterranean air infuses the wooden floors, the plastered walls. Even with the floor-to-almost-ceiling windows shuttered, it is inescapable.

To fill in the time after X-ing out the previous day, I count how many weeks, then how many days, until I board a plane back to the U.S. Even after all the math, it is still Thursday. I count how many weekends are left. A minute has passed. Three minutes go by as I work over the two weeks until I my perilous personal vacation to the British Isles, the five days before final exams after that, the 72 hours between my last exam and my last 23 Saint-Laurent-du-Var Gare bus to the airport. The tightness I feel staring at the Xs is, I hope, the closest I will ever know to being buried alive. There is no way out but time.

There are many English words I am uncomfortable using—envy, regret, nostalgia—they tie together too simply labyrinths of emotions and events. “Culture shock” in my experience is not so much a sudden sensation as it is the steady discovery of detached realities at the macro level (as opposed to the micro, individual realities that one encounters every day). Wanderlust, though, I think the Germans got right. Continue reading