So, this blog is to document my year living and working in France as a language assistant. I'll be at Lycée George Sand, in the town of La Chatre, near Chateauroux, and teaching English to 15-18 year olds.
The Shower. It is the single best shower I have ever encountered. You can control the temperature and power with a little turn of the handle, and stand there getting lost in wonderfulness for hours.
Free Internet. I kid you not. I just plug a little wire into the back of my laptop and voila.
It is the perfect size; small enough to be cosy, and for everything to be nicely accessible, but not so small that I feel claustro.
The posters and collages I have put up on the walls. They are Lovely.
The Bed. It is comfy and toasty warm, and at a perfect angle with regard to the TV.
The long skinny window on one wall. It is Charming.
The Prayer Calendar that the assistant before last left stuck on the door. It has a little heart drawn on it, and when I wake up at a horrible hour in semi-darkness, a stream of light from aforementioned skinny window shines on this heart, making me smile.
It takes literally two minutes to hoover.
Things I Do Not Like About My Studio
The Scarily Regurgitating kitchen sink. Seriously, it scares the crap out of me.
The builders in the appartment above that have been here since November doing God-Knows-What, but always unnecessarily loudly, and at 8.30 every morning without fail.
The nights when I have a next door neighbour, and I hear him sneezing/coughing/shifting in his bed. It is super uncomfortable, and I feel the need to be quiet and ninja-like, because if I can hear his bedsprings, he is bound to be able to hear me singing embarrassing songs quite loudly, watching Glee at 2am and Skyping the fam.
It can be face-meltingly hot one minute, and absolutely bloody Baltic the next. I'm surprised I haven't caught a cold from the random temperature change :S
There is NO OVEN. Microwaved pizza is not good. However, my pasta repertoire has expanded greatly. I feel this is a success. Also, I have perfected mashed potato. Be proud, Dad!
Well, today has been a bit of a gem for Teaching Moments. First the girl who didn't know Joan of Arc was French (see below), and then, after a nice peaceful lunch, I had a Moment that will forever live in my memory.
I had my last ever class with the Terminale STG - awww - and I continued my very successful lesson plan of putting a load of random words on the board and letting them write a story using them. It worked to great effect with the STG last week; they came up with some brilliant stuff and I was dead proud of them, so I was planning to milk this plan for all it's worth!
So, this half of the STG group consists of five girls (two of which never speak) and one boy, who is a bit cheeky, and likes to show off in front of all the girlies. He spent about ten minutes once trying to convince me that blunts didn't contain weed, and are perfectly legal (aye right!), and, when asked for vocab associated with Valentine's Day, shouted "SEX," while grinning proudly. But I digress. I set the class to work on their stories, giving them 45 minutes to write and saving 15 minutes to have them read them out at the end.
When the time was up, the two girls who never speak mumbled something, for which I praised them enthusiastically (as it was the first time I had been given any evidence they even understood what I have been saying to them for seven months), and the three other girls read their stories, all of which were rather good. Then it was our boy's turn. He began his tale with a wife encountering her husband in bed with "two weeman nekkid." Well, I knew what we were in store for from that moment. He continued with the wife going to a sex counsellor/doctor, to find out if the reason her husband cheated was because she wasn't good enough in bed. The doctor assured her she was "veerry beyootiful," and took her for a drink. (Cue suppressed giggling from the girls, and a cheeky grin from our proud story teller). Cut to the next day, back in the doctor's office, he says he is convinced there is nothing wrong with her, as she proved last night. The wife goes back to the husband and says, "You cheat, I cheat, let's have kids." Fin.
Now, maybe it's because I went to an all girls school, and nobody thought to write about sex in class. Or maybe it was because our French teacher was the sweetest prude in the world, and none of us would dare to shatter her beautiful little mind with dirty teenage humour. But I have never heard such boldness in a classroom in my life (including yesterday, when a seconde announced, "I can't write a f**king thing!"). But I couldn't hold in a giggle of my own. He finished with such a delighted expression on his face, I couldn't help but tell him it was my favourite story of the week.
I'm gonna miss that boy, and his lewd genius. Le sigh.
Deciding thatgetting my seconde carrières girls to write a whole story in English was far too taxing, I set up a game of "Who Am I?", during which a volunteer is given a famous person, and the rest of the class has to ask who the person is, but only with questions that can be answered "Yes" or "No." It goes surprisingly well, until one girl is given Joan of Arc. Bear in mind that we are two hours away from Orléans, where Joan of Arc, or "Jeanne d'Arc," as she's called in French, fought in the 1400's. She is known as the maid of Orléans...
Class : Is it a man?
C: Is she old?
G: Bahhhh.... Je sais pas.
C: Is she alive?
C: Is she American?
G: Je sais, uh, I don' know....
This goes on for a while longer, until the class have run out of questions and I have lost the will to live. I decide to sum up the information they already have, while adding in a few details to help them.
Me: Okay, so we know she's a girl, she's dead, she's French -
1. I will go for a lovely, sunny picnic in Stormont part with Caroline, Rachel and Mea. She will share the sandwiches.
2. I will re-enact the Epic Muck Up Day trip to Crawfordsburn with Hayleigh Morrison, Laura Morrow, Shona Jemphrey, Fiona Graham and Sarah Rountree. This time, there will be music AND West Coast Cooler. And we will not almost crash in the car park while attempting a three-point turn.
3. I will embark upon a Road Trip with the above persons, most likely to the North Coast. We will have a blast.
4. I will partake in a Daytime Pub Crawl, possibly involving the above persons, should they wish to come (!).
5. I will go to Banbridge, and show Caroline how to get there :)
6. I will go to China China with Chris. We will sit downstairs, and eat our dessert in a leisurely fashion.
7. I will also go to Horatio Todd's with Sarah Menice and Holly Coles. The waiter will bring the right cocktails this time.
8. Chris and I will walk to the very end of Bangor promenade and back. On the sand. With no shoes on.
9. I will take Rachel 17th Birthday present shopping, and inevitably spend an indecent amount of money.
10. Chris and I will go to the zoo. We will make it in time to feed the lemurs. Oh yes, we will.
So, I have less than three weeks left in La Chatre, and, as I've read on other people's blogs, the happy/sad feeling is kicking in. For the past few weeks, I've just been happy that I'm leaving soon, but since last weekend, a pinch of sadness has crept in too. The warmer weather makes the town so beautiful, my students have improved beyond my expectations, and strawberries have started to appear in the supermarket. And I only have three weeks left. Happy/sad, indeed.
It's funny to think about all the things I'm looking forward to about going home , and all the things I'll miss about France. I can't wait to get back to my family and Chris, but I'll really miss the teachers here, who have become friends. I'll even miss the students! They are funny and clever, and they do try their best, even though they make me want to rip my hair out sometimes!
I can't wait to have the freedom of being able to drive or get the bus whenever I want, to go somewhere different whenever I feel like it. And to have Chris or a friend to call on to go on a road trip with me. But I'll miss walking into town in the glorious sunshine, past the huge fountain at the roundabout, and saying "bonjour" to people as we pass each other in the street. I can't wait to be able to go shopping. But I'll miss the market on Saturday mornings.
I can't wait to have the easy task of speaking English when I'm out and about. But I'll miss speaking and hearing French everywhere I go. I can't wait to get back to a noisy, hectic, animal-filled home. But I'm sure I'll miss coming back from a busy day to my nice, quiet studio.
I can't wait to go to McDonalds and Chinese takeaways, and restaurants that don't serve tête de veau. But I'll miss fresh baguettes and delicious pastries every day, not to mention the potato-filled pastry that is a delicacy here! I can't wait to go to the pub with my friends, and drink terrible drinks and laugh loudly about our schooldays. But I'll miss the way the French drink a glass of wine with everything, without over-indulging and making idiots of themselves in public.
It's strange to think that I have such a short time left in France, after spending two years preparing and planning! I can't fully get my head around the fact that it's nearly over; I've nearly done it! It's definitely a happy/sad feeling.
So, another week has gone, and for some reason, the impatience to get home and back to normality has kicked in good and proper. It usually doesn't kick in until a week before I travel home, but it's back with a vengeance now! I guess it's because I have my flights booked home already, and I have so much to look forward to when I get home; namely, Spain!
I've been feeling really jealous while reading the blogs of other assistants who've been able to take advantage of cheap holidays and trips while here. I've read about people going to Amsterdam, Prague, Barcelona etc, and I wish that it could have been practical for me to put my long weekends to good use, and make it to Paris or the south coast at least! But with limited transport, even a trip to Chateauroux or Orleans is a challenge for me :( So I'm really looking forward to my month in Ronda with the uni pals in June. I think I just need a change from La Chatre; I've seen it all and done it all, and I want some different scenery. I'm also thinking ahead to next summer, where travel might also be possible; I definitely want a holiday of some sort. If Egypt werent't so turbulent at the minute, I'd be dying to go there, because I've always wanted to, but it seems my dream must be put on hold, and I'll have to content myself with a beach on the Canaries or an exceptionally touristy Greek resort. But I shouldn't complain, because I'm nearly done with the assistantship (31 sleeps now, according to Rachel's countdown), and I have a month in sunny Andalucia and a whole summer of catching up with friends and family to look forward to.
So, I spent two and a half lovely weeks at home with my family and boyfriend. This was definitely the best vacances yet; Toussaint was so short, and Christmas was hectic and stressful with snow and trying to see everyone before going back to rainy dreariness. But this time, we were nice and relaxed, getting stuff done but not rushing about, and taking plenty of time to chill at home too. For Valentine's day, I booked for me and Chris to stay in a thatched cottage in Bushmills for the weekend. Well, "cottage" was a bit of an understatement! It was a MANSION. With heated floor tiles, four bathrooms, a wet room, a giant flat-screen TV and a four-poster bed. And a thatched roof. Wow.
I arrived back in La Chatre last night, after a teary goodbye, a long journey, and a humourous final car trip from Chateauroux station with one of the English teachers. I had my first class of the morning at the lovely hour of 8:30, with three Terminale L's, and it went fine, except for a boy threatening to jump out the window if I didn't stop asking him complicated questions (like, "What films have you seen that have robots in them", the horror!).
Now, with a two hour break, I'm catching up on my interneting, and marvelling that there are only five and a half weeks left of my assistantship. I can hardly believe how quickly time has gone, and I'm both happy and sad about it. Happy, because I hate being apart from my family, Chris, my friends and the animals, and I miss the normal, hectic things that go on at home. But I've begun to feel attached to France; even though the bureaucracy can be a pain in the ass, nothing is EVER open and the builders are still hammering away in the appartment above mine, I'll be sad to leave the friends I've made and the little life I've made for myself here. I spent two years preparing for this experience to be the most gruelling and challenging in my life, but I've found myself really enjoying the independence and responsibility of living alone and having a "proper" job in another country. It makes me sad to hear about people that I know from uni who have had such bad experiences that they've left France and dropped out of their degree course. I couldn't imagine having to stay here if I hated it; it was hard enough to leave everyone yesterday knowing that I was coming back to somewhere nice!
I'm going to try to make the most of the last few weeks I have here, because I know I'll never have this kind of opportunity again. Despite my impatience to go home again and get back to normal life, I know I should appreciate my time here, and really enjoy it, because it's nearly over; in a year, when I'm graduating from university, I'm sure I'll look back on this year and miss it!