Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Hello all,

So, it's ten days until I go home for Christmas, and I am SO EXCITED it's unreal. Seven weeks is a looong time to be away when I've never been apart from my family for more than a week before. I am insanely impatient and unsettled at the minute; I can't get to sleep at night, I'm constantly thinking about the journey home and if I'll have enough time to check in and get through security once I get to the airport, if the bus and trains will run if the snow comes back, etc etc. But I literally can't wait to get home and see everyone; I'm missing them all insanely and I'm so happy that I'll be seeing them soon.

It snowed pretty heavily this week; it must have been a foot deep. While it was pretty to look at, it took me twice as long as usual to trudge through it with my big shopping bags. I guess I'm becoming a proper grown-up, seeing snow as a nuisance rather than something fun to play in.

Another reason I'm looking forward to getting home is the continental market. It's a TRADITION to  go and have bratwurst and German beer and paella, and talk to the Native American man, so I can't wait to go; I think we're going straight from the airport, which I'm really looking forward to.

So, Joyeux Noel and here's hoping the snow goes away!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Dear Builders

Dear Builders,

I would like to thank you for the very effective wake-up call you provided this morning; it was extremely thoughtful and considerate. However, I am curious as to the reasons behind it. Surely building work at 8.30am is against the builders' code of conduct? Surely ferocious hammering above my head is both fruitless and irritating to all parties? I am curious; just what were you hammering that required such vigour?

In future, please rest assured that I can set my own alarm, and be up and ready for work at an hour of my choosing.

Thank you. >: (

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Becoming Accustomed

Hello all,

So, another week has passed, and I think the fact that I have nothing to report is a good sign. I'm "getting used to" being here, and that I'm happy in my own company is something to be pleased about, particularly given the fact that the only people around my age are my students, thus severely limiting the chance of finding "friends" here! I'm getting on really well with the teachers, I'm pleased to say; Olivier took me to a shooting range on Wednesday. I have to admit, I was apprehensive (to say the least!), but ended up really enjoying it. I think it's much more beneficial to me to be spending time with the teachers, because, after all, they are doing what I want to be doing in a few years time, and I can learn lots from them. Also, they are interesting people, and I can talk to them about stuff I'm interested in too; they want to know about me, and ask questions and show an interest, something I think would be lacking if I were to hang out with different other people. That they are language teachers helps too, because they're willing to help me if I make language mistakes, and they're perfectly happy to speak Franglais if necessary, when I get really stuck!

I'm sure the other language assistants from Queen's are all out at bars having great craic and meeting randomers every other night, but that's not what I do at home, so I'm not planning on doing it here.. I'm pretty much spending my time the way I normally do, only in a different language, and I think that's the best way I can possibly spend my time here. *shrug*

Monday, 8 November 2010

All Better Now.


Well, I promised last time that I'd be happier next time I posted, and I'm glad to say I am! I've had a nice relaxing weekend, watching Cold Feet and Spooks, I have a fridge full of nice food, (nearly) all the dishes are done, and all three classes today went without a hitch. Also, and perhaps most excitingly, the Erasmus grant made an appearence today, which means the family might get a Christmas present: I think we have a success on our hands!

Unfortunately, I have been a hermit these past few days, and have nothing else of interest by way of news. So I will say adieu for now, and post again when I've actually left the house and done something!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Feeling Blue

*sigh* So, Caroline left this morning to go home, and I couldn't help but wish that I was going with her. I had such a nice week with her; it was awesome to just be sisters together, not doing anything, but just being. We haven't spent so much time together in I don't know how long, and I'm really grateful for the past week. But now I'm going to have to get used to being on my own again. At this point, I'm missing everyone lots, and just hope that the next six weeks go as fast as the past five, so that I see my family and friends again really soon.

I'm just feeling a bit sorry for myself, I suppose. I've had two weeks of constant company, and it's really strange to be just me again. I've ordered lots of DVDs off Amazon to console myself, and I've got some new books to read as well. Right now, I'm just concerned about making myself feel better, read and watch things in English, and never mind how my French is coming on... I guess the "Year Abroad Mood Cycle" that Queen's told us about is kicking in - "The normal pattern of the year abroad is that after the initial excitement of being in France, there is a period of adjusting to new surroundings that can lead to a low around the end of October or the beginning of November." I guess I just have to go with the flow, get on with it and look forward to Christmas.

It helps that the English teachers were really nice today; they understand what I'm feeling, especially because they know how close I am to Caroline. Olivier and Sandrine both asked if I was alright, if Caroline got away okay this morning, and gave me a bit of sympathy, and Olivier has invited me out for some target practice next week, which is nice; maybe shooting things will be theraputic!

I'll be more cheerful next time I post; I promise!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Back Again!

So, I've had a lovely week at home, seeing everyone and being generally very busy! And now, I'm back in La Chatre, and Caroline's here with me! It's been really good being able to show her where I've been spending the last month, and being able to spend time with her is just awesome.

Rachel is counting down the days until I come home for Christmas; 47 sleeps tonight! It really doesn't seem such a long time when you put it like that! I just sent off a report to Queen's about how my first month is going; it's funny to think that, when they were telling us about writing these reports, I was sitting in Peter Froggett Centre thinking, "that seems so far away, I can't imagine spending a whole month in a foreign country all by myself!" And now, here I am, a whole month behind me! It seems so surreal.

Caroline and I managed to miss the circus AND the cinema today, because I thought (mistakenly) that the clocks went back last night. So we arrived at the circus in the Place du Champ de Foire, ready to see some awesome show, and we'd missed it! So we spent 2 Euro and 15 minutes looking at some animals (and were able to stroke a zebra, which was, admittedly, pretty cool), then headed to the cinema in the hope that something would be on later tonight, only to find that we'd missed the start of Despicable Me! So we're back in the flat, watching Glee and getting fat munching tons of snacks and drinking gallons of tea. Awesome.

Tomorrow, we're planning on hiring a car and going traveling. I'm just hoping the bus to Chateauroux is running, as it's All Saint's Day and the transport system might be up the left. So we'll see how that goes!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Not Loving the Greve.

Alas, the greve has finally affected me. The train I'm supposed to be getting tomorrow, the lovely, direct-to-the-airport train, has been CANCELLED. So I've to hang around for an extra hour in the train station, get a different train to Austerlitz station, and get TWO MORE TRAINS to Charles de Gaulle :( Grr.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Having a Lovely Time.

So, the title says it all, really. I was out for dinner with the English teachers last night, and I can honestly say that I love them all :) They're all so kind and nice and funny, and they paid for my dinner, which I did not expect! And on the way home, Olivier told me that all the English teachers feel so lucky to have me as an assistant, and that they're all so glad I'm here. >.< There are no words! I just feel so incredibly lucky to have been placed here, with such lovely people!

Things have all been going really well; I've been reading posts on the Assistants in France website, and they all seem to be having an awful time of it, which makes me sad. I almost want to post sharing my experience, to give hope to all the poor people applying for next year! But then it might make the ones having a bad time even more depressed, which I don't want to do! Maybe the best thing is to be quietly grateful and send good thoughts to those less lucky in their placement.

I'm off today, and have so far done some washing and hung it all around the studio in the hope that it'll dry in the next two days, as the tumble dryer was occupied! I REALLY need to tidy this place too, for wee Caroline coming!! I have found a bluebottle hanging around the kitchen bin, which will soon meet its doom. Mwaha. Then, some shopping! I have the ambition of finding some NICE wine to bring home; so far I've picked three pretty horrible-tasting bottles from the supermarket, so I'm going to venture into some of the "Specialities of Berry" shops and ask for some wine advice!

It's only two days till I go home!! Though at the minute I'm PRAYING that the trains will be running normally on Friday. I'm getting the only train that goes from Chateauroux to Charles de Gaulle, so I reeeeaallly hope it isn't cancelled; I don't fancy trying to negotiate a suitcase through the Paris metro trying to get from some other randon station to CDG...

This might be the last time I post an entry for a while, so I'll say goodbye for now!

Friday, 15 October 2010

French Loveliness

I know I only posted yesterday, but I feel it's important to share a miracle. In Carrefour, I found caffeine-free fat Coke!

I have rarely felt such an overwhelming wave of delight. I was just wandering down the aisles, shopping basket clutched in my little hand, intending on picking up a measley bottle of 55c lemonade, when I spotted it, in all its glory, practically begging me to buy it. Well, I could hardly ignore the thing that has been missing from my life for several years; I seized the nearest bottle, euphoria clouding my vision and making my hands shake, and continued on with my shopping, hardly believing my luck. My joy in finding such a gem, in a little French supermarché, led to perhaps a little reckless spending; I went on to purchase more red wine, a tartlette fraises and macaroons. But I don't care! I am SO HAPPY to have found caffeine free Coke, all other food and drink pales into insignificance! Oh, the joy!

I leave you with images of my other purchases. I hope you enjoy them as much as I plan to!!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

O the Laziness.

Well, my first week as an English Assistant is finished. Working 11 hours a week (or 7 this week, thanks to the strike!) seems to suit me pretty well! I haven't been bored or fed up, even though I slept in yesterday, thus missing the only bus to Chateauroux that leaves at a reasonable hour and landing myself in a day full of flat-tidying and idleness. But, c'est la vie! I got aaaall the dishes and the hoovering done, so the place looks pretty good at the minute. I'm becoming awfully house proud; who'd've thought it?!

The teaching side of things has been going pretty smoothly so far. It's a bit disheartening to hear that the kids know NOTHING about Northern Ireland, but at least I can teach them the truth, and not have to battle against misconceptions and prejudices, like the American assistants. Every cloud, I suppose! They all liked learning about Finn MacCool, and especially loved doing a wordsearch, even the 17 and 18 year olds! So I guess I've started off pretty well.

Next week being the last before Toussaint, I'm planning on doing lessons based around Halloween. I found a pretty good lesson plan on Thriller, which I'm considering using, and I might get the younger ones doing apple bobbing; I imagine that would appeal to them!

I WILL go to the market this week! After missing it last week, I'm determined to get up and be there for 9am, no excuses (!), so I can see everything before it's all snapped up! I'm hoping to get a few nice things; I've seen nice cardigans and stuff, which will come in handy during the winter months, I'm sure! So, here's hoping the alarm does its job and gets me out of bed at a time deemed "morning" by society!


Monday, 11 October 2010


Well, a full fortnight and a day has passed, and I've had SO MANY experiences already I can hardly believe it! Saturday night was awesome; I went to a tiny bar run by a Mancunian couple with Sophie and her American friend Jon, and we had an amazing time, not to mention many free drinks! I also experienced my first crepe in France, got a demonstration of how to play a hurdy-gurdy, and chatted with some Spaniards. What larks!

I've been so welcomed by everyone, which is awesome, and the fact that my first official day as an assistant has begun with countless people saying "You look amazing today!" has just made me grin like a Cheshire cat! My first class (of ten 17 year old boys) went really well; they seemed to love doing a wordsearch, and I received a chorus of "see you sooooooon!" as they left the class. Which was nice.

I was informed that there is a strike tomorrow, and that I don't have to get up for class at 8:30am. Which I have to say, I'm pretty happy about! So more free time to go exploring is at hand. Though I'll probably end up staying in and reading one of the many awesome books I brought with me. Again. It seems the bookworm in me is incapable of being eclipsed by the brave adventurer. Alas, Indiana Jones I'm not.

It seems that my family and I are doomed to never have a decent Skype conversation. I got my new awesome webcam this morning, only for it to transpire that Mea has gnawed through the phone line at home, thus severing broadband and shattering my dream of my family being able to see me properly!! Oh well, good things come to those who wait. And to those who don't have destructive terrier terrors.


Friday, 8 October 2010

Getting Organised.


Well, I've been here one week and six days, and it's starting to feel like home. Or, home away from home, at least. This revelation hit me this morning, when I woke up to find my flat an absolute mess; dirty dishes everywhere, shopping bag unpacked, desk in disarray, documents and papers strewn all over the place, clothes and blankets discarded carelessly.

It made me realise that, the last nearly-two-weeks of obsessive cleaning and immaculate living was the holiday period. And this morning's mess was the beginning of feeling at home here.

Now, the only thing that remains is to tidy this bombsite!


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Home, Home on the Range...

So! I've barely been here a week, and I've booked to come home again! But, don't be alarmed, it's for the Hallowe'en holidays; I'm not running home scarred for life by this experience quite yet!

I've been thinking about coming home for Hallowe'en for the last few days, but I figured I'd wait a while and see if I decided against it. Then, today I was in Chateauroux with the rest of the English assistants in the region, and they were ALL talking about going home for the holidays. So I figured, why shouldn't I? All I'd be doing here is sitting in the flat watching English DVDs, reading English books and generally being a loner. Why would I do that, when I can visit the people I love for a whole week, and come back with wee Caroline at the end of the month? Silly me, thinking that I'd be really homesick and staying here would be the best! The best possible thing, surely, is taking advantage of the opportunity and seeing my loved ones!!!

So, to sum up; I'm having a great time in France, but I'm SO EXCITED about seeing my family and my Chris :D


Saturday, 2 October 2010

One Week Down, Twenty-Seven to Go!

My first week in La Chatre is done! The time has really flown in; I can't believe it's been a whole week.

I was in Orleans for an assistants' conference yesterday, but it was a bit pointless, not least because we had to sit through half an hour of complicated jargon about visas when it only applied to non -EU students ¬.¬ It was also a bit disheartening to see that all the assistants in Chateauroux are already friends. It wasn't too bad - after all, I'm not here to make friends with other English-speakers - but it was still a little... eh.

I've just been to the market in the main square. It was really good; there were so many interesting wee stalls, with all the special food and delicacies of the region. I also heard some English being spoken (!), and saw lots of lovely dogs, which made me miss our wee pack at home! I got a really nice quilt, which I accidentally ended up haggling for! I asked how much it was, she said 80E, I said, aw, I only have 50E, and she was like, OH! I can give it to you for 60E! I said, no, seriously, I only have a 50E note... And she was like, okay fine, 50E, but DON'T TELL ANYONE. So I was pretty happy about that!

I've been able to Skype with Mum, Dad, the girls, Chris and Ayn and Mark, which has been brilliant. It's made this whole situation a lot easier, and it's been so nice to see their wee faces. I miss them all loads, and I can't wait to see Caroline and Chris when they come over.

I'm starting work officially on Monday, which I'm looking forward to. I'm just observing the teachers for the first week, and then the week after, I'll be taking my own classes - scary! But I am really looking forward to that. It'll be really interesting to teach and learn from the students, and I think it'll make time go faster, too!

I think that's all for now.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Lost in Translation?

So, I've been in France five whole days, and I've only just got the internet! It's so nice to be connected to the world again, even though Facebook is blocked by the school's server :( It's been a journey of ups and downs so far; I've been, confused, overwhelmed, nervous, and, above all, awed by the welcome I've received. Everyone's been so kind and friendly, saying hello in the corridors, asking if I'm warm enough in my flat (!), and Jean-Pierre, the man taking care of me at the minute, has been so nice and helpful. Sophie, another English teacher, has been brilliant as well, and everyone else is just so welcoming.

I'm slowly adapting to the rapidity with which everyone speaks, although comprehension in large groups is still beyond me! I haven't made any big mistakes so far, although Jean-Pierre did laugh when I asked to go to the "magasin d'Orange" - he kept saying, "pas le fruit, les telephones!!!"...

What I've seen of La Chatre is very quaint and pretty - a proper French town! Their two hour lunch breaks (!) and the fact that everywhere's closed on Mondays mean that I've yet to have a proper explore, but today's the day that the most difficult challenge to date must be tackled; opening a bank account! So I'll have a chance to look around once that mission is accomplished.

I've to go to Orleans on Friday for an induction conference. I'm excited to meet other assistants, so we can share war stories about our time here so far. I'm looking forward to seeing more of France, although getting the bus home alone is a daunting prospect, at the very least!! Hopefully I'll transform into an all-knowing francophone in the next two days, and this won't pose a problem... Now there's wishful thinking!

I'm missing everyone a lot. Although now I've got the internet sorted I'll be able to Skype with people. I think seeing their wee faces will make this whole thing much easier.

That's all for now!!


Saturday, 18 September 2010

A New Beginning?

So, it's one week until I leave for seven whole months and go to La Chatre. I figuered I would start a blog to allow everyone a chance to see how I'm getting on, and maybe to vent on/share/make memorable the time I spend in France. At the minute, excited, nervous, apprehensive and very, very small describe how I'm feeling at the thought of going out into the wide world alone, but mostly I'm dying to have a chance at experiencing independence and culture, and the thought of making new friends and seeing how different people live is so exciting! I only hope the actual time lives up to my (slightly vague and perhaps too optimistic) expectations!