In an hour or two Mr. Clement (our trusted taxi driver) will pick us up and take us back to the Worst Airport in the World (CDG).
Our time in the Hexagone was short - less than two weeks - and it was stressful. The purpose of the trip was my 6-month checkup at the cancer clinic complete with my annual PET scan and a consultation with my oncologist. The tests were ghastly. Nothing like taking the train into St. Cloud with jet-lag and on an empty stomach in order to be poked with needles, shot through with radioactive liquid sugar, and then placed into a slim tube and told not to move a muscle for 20+ minutes. To my horror they stopped the test right smack in the middle and two techs came in, flipped back the blankets and carefully examined my right side (the area where the tumors and my lymph nodes were removed back in 2012). And then without a word to me they left and started the machine up again. A few minutes later we were done, they fed me breakfast and let me go.
The experience was unsettling and I spent the next week swinging between anxiety attacks and depression. Was this due to the stress of waiting for my test results or did I have a touch of Paris Syndrome?
Paris Syndrome (Pari shōkōgun) is a term coined by the Japanese to describe "a transient psychological disorder exhibited by some individuals visiting or vacationing in Paris or elsewhere in Western Europe. It is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, or hostility from others), derealization, depersonalization, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, and others Similar syndromes include Jerusalem syndrome and Stendhal syndrome. The condition is commonly viewed as a severe form of culture shock."
Going from Osaka to Versailles is a shock to the system, no doubt about that. The first impression I had as the taxi drove me from CDG to my home was how dull and grey and dirty France was. The sun doesn't shine as bright as it does in the Kansai. As the taxi darted through Versailles' small streets, the people I saw who were walking briskly going about their business never seemed to smile and on the surface they looked to be deeply unhappy.
Those impressions remained with me even after the jet-lag was gone and my tests were behind me. Even the unusualy warm weather didn't help - I was cold much of my time here in spite of the 35+ degree weather. One antidote to all this was to work on my house and garden. The best therapy, I say, is getting one's hands dirty digging weeds and pruning roses. The other was to knock out the last of our house projects: the rotting front porch. The workmen removed it just before we arrived and they stopped by and installed the new wooden bannisters a few days after my tests.
A week after the tests we trekked over to the clinic for the consultation with my oncologist. As tired and disheartened as I was about France, I was definitely not yet tired of life because when my oncologist announced that my tests were fine and they found no recurrence of the cancer I was filled with relief which transformed itself into quiet joy as we headed back home. And the rest of our time here was spent seeing friends and walking around the city of Versailles which now glittered so brightly and felt familiar once again. Vacation at last.
Paris syndrome or stress and depression? Hard to say. Probably a little of both which was lethal for my morale. A few posts ago I talked about the benefits of Third and Fourth Places. This trip made me aware a that while I split my life these days between France and Japan I am also a permanent resident of a country called Cancerland. And the last has one hell of an exit tax.
Another 6-month reprieve and now it's back to Osaka and our apartment on the 14th floor in the middle of the city with a view of the mountains.