January 29, 2010

Just try and make me leave

Posted in Application, la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , at 7:12 am by Fat Girl Dancing

You can’t!  I got my official long-stay visa today!  I can officially stay here until October 1st, although I’m really leaving sometime in July.

All the Bordeaux assistants are being scheduled in groups, so when I arrived at the OFII office for my 10am appointment, there were still some assistants waiting from the 8:30 group.  I got to see some assistants that I hadn’t seen in several months, and it was nice to catch up with them!

The immigration/visa process included a medical visit, which is good because I’ve been sick for going on three weeks now.  I was called in to one room where I was weighed and measured and then given an eye exam.  Hooray, my eyes are still fine!  Reading the letters in French was fun ^_^   I was sent back to the waiting room for several minutes, and then called into the radiology room for my chest x-ray.  The x-ray is apparently mine to keep — yipee?  Quite a souvenir.

The wait for the third and final room was a bit longer — this was to see the actual doctor.  I told her how I’d been sick for three weeks, and she said I had a sinus infection.  She looked at my x-ray, took my blood pressure, listened to my heart and my lungs, and pronounced me well enough to stay in the country.  Phew!

I waited a little longer in a different waiting room with my tiny picture of my face (a common requirement in France) and my proof of residency for my new lodgings until I was called back to the final room.  She deemed my paperwork acceptable and gave me my official long-stay visa in my passport!  Hooray!  Now I can go anywhere and do anything (including get a second job!)

It’s cold and raining miserabley here, and I feel so terrible from being sick for so long, so I’m just eating lunch, taking antibiotics and going back to bed for the rest of the day.  I’ve made homemade mac and cheese so often here, I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to EZ Mac once I return home!

Tuesday I went to see Amanda Palmer in concert here in Bordeaux.  I was so excited that someone I really liked was going to be playing in my new hometown!  I found out about the concert from her Twitter.  The show was fantastic — a really intimate performance, with her interacting with the audience, taking questions and requests.  I had a great night.

And I got my picture with her and her autograph!

Me and AFP!

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January 21, 2010

Loving life

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , at 6:42 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

The most beautiful spiderweb

Within the last few weeks, I have really begun to love my life here in France.  Not so much the job, though there are still the occasional rewarding moments, generally I just try and get through it and get out.  But I love living in Bordeaux and being in France and meeting new people and the friends I’ve made.

For several months now I’ve been going to a language exchange group on Wednesday nights.  French people will come to sit at the English table with native English speakers and non-native French speakers will sit at the French table with native French speakers and have casual conversations to practice in a fun environment.  There is also a Spanish table and sometimes an Italian table.  Generally I sit at the English table, talking with French people who want to practice their English.  I have made some really great connections through this group, and it’s something I’ve come to look forward to on Wednesday nights.  Last night I sat at the French table for the first time to practice my French, and I was pleased that I could follow most of the spoken conversation and I was able to express myself fairly well (though still making some grammatical faults).  My French is definitely better than it was when I left the US.  It’s not where I’d like it to be (fluent), but the fact that I can see marked improvement is heartening.

I’m also enjoying spending time with the other English assistants (although that doesn’t really help me practice my French!)  Last weekend my friend Wes came from La Rochelle and brought one of his friends from Niort.  We had a good weekend of sight-seeing, and I think his friend from Niort will be coming back to visit again!

One of the British assistants had an impromptu tea yesterday afternoon that was absolutely lovely.

Tea time in Bordeaux

We had a mint tea made with freshly brewed mint leaves.  I really regretted that I could only stay an hour because I had to go down to a southern suburb for my tutoring job.

Tonight my roommate and I had some other assistants over for a small potluck to watch the week’s episodes of American Idol.  I made a baked macaroni and cheese, another assistant made chocolate chip banana bread, someone else made bruschetta, and my roommate bought Kinder Pingui.  There is too much good food in my life right now!

A lot of things in France are hard.  It hasn’t been an easy road to get to where I am now.  But I can honestly say: I’m in a good place, I’m happy, and I feel very blessed to have been given this opportunity!

January 14, 2010

Homeless no longer!

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , at 1:08 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Today I signed a contract and handed over a very large sum of money to a Foyer where I will be moving on February 1st!  I’m very pleased.  After a month and a half of searching, I’ve finally found a place to live for the rest of my stay in France!  This Foyer is very nice.

While the most ideal situation would have been to find a place similar to where I’m living now, where I could have complete freedom, the Foyer will offer me free breakfast every morning, cable, a coin-laundry on-site (cheaper than the street laundries), 24-hour staff at the welcome desk, a small fitness center, three separate kitchens, and a sense of community.  The residents get together for cooking demos and weekend trips and game nights.

The only downsides are that I won’t have internet in my room (I’ll have to go down to the first floor), I have to share a bathroom, and the Foyer is women-only, which means I can’t have male visitors.  Not that I generally have a parade of male visitors, but my two friends from Ohio have been nice enough to house me when I’ve visted them in Vitré, La Rochelle, and Angers, and now I won’t be able to provide that.

Still, the pluses outweigh the minuses — the biggest plus of all being I HAVE SOMEWHERE TO LIVE!  I’ll actually be able to UNPACK!  I’ve been living out of my suitcases since December 1st!  I’m so relieved.

Today I heard an interesting point of view from a French person on the French social system.  She said too many people take advantage of the perks offered here by the French government, and a young person who doesn’t work can live just as well as someone who works.  I was very interested in what she had to say, because of course people make the same arguments about social programs in the United States, but although the French complain about them, they also accept them as the way of life, because they know it is helping the few who really need it.  While in the United States we’ll keep it away from the many who really need it to spite the few who might take advantage of it.

January 11, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , at 5:51 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Snowing in Bordeaux

This was the scene last Wednesday in Bordeaux.  I had just woken up as my roommate was returning from seeing her guest from the US off to the train station.  “Have you looked outside?” she exlaimed. “It’s snowing!!”  Bleary-eyed, I grabbed my camera and stumbled to the windows to capture a few pictures of the soft, fat snowflakes.  It snowed heavily for almost an hour and left nearly two inches of snow on top of ice.

Snow day in Bordeaux

It brought the city to a standstill for the entire morning.  The trams stopped running — I could see one at a dead stop about two stations down from our station, and the buses were called back to their stations.  I called my tutorees mother to tell her I wouldn’t be able to make it that afternoon.  She was disappointed, but without the buses, there was no way I could make it down there!

Later that day, everything melted away except the ice.  By Thursday every trace of snow was gone, but the playground at my secondary school was a big ice skating rink.  I tried to teach the kids the phrase “It’s icy” as a part of our standard “How is the weather today?” questions.  One student made a great connection.  One Monday I had taught them “I see a pen.  The pen is green.”  I emphasized the new verb “to see” by pointing to my eyes and then pointing to the pen.  So when I asked them what they thought “It’s icy” meant, this girl raised her hand and pointed to her eyes and said “I see?”

I had to write the two phrases on the board to point out how they might sound alike but were different, and they had to listen to hear the differences between “icy” and “I see.”  But I was really impressed that she made that connection!  They’re learning something!

January 5, 2010

La rentrée

Posted in travailler tagged , , at 4:20 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

After two delightful weeks off, it’s back to work week.  I had three classes yesterday and a full five classes today.  I was surprised at how agitated the kids are!  You’d think, after such a long vacation, they’d have it all out of their system.  One teacher told me “They got used to talking during the vacation and now they can’t stop.”

It’s our normal classroom routine to sing one song at the very beginning of class, one active song after we go through our daily questions (how are you, how’s the weather, what day is it), and one closing song.  I decided to change the beginning song and active song, because I assumed the kids were getting sick of the old ones.  I know I was.  After six or seven weeks of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” I was no longer happy, and I knew it.

My classes yesterday were so disappointed not to be doing “If You’re Happy and You Know It!”  They told me it was very ‘not cool’ that I’d switched the songs out.  I’m going to make them do the new song for a few more weeks until they know it, but then I might bring IYHaYKI back, or at least pull it out if we’re running long on time.

They’re all begging me to do the Reindeer Hokey Pokey again, even though I explained that we only played that as a Christmas game.

I began reading my classes “Where the Wild Things Are,” which they all call Max et les maximonstres, since that’s how it was translated here.  They will not be quiet, even when I’m reading to them!  Some of them are aw-ing about how cool the pictures are, some of them are trying to figure out what’s going on, some of them are complaining they don’t understand, and some of them are giving a running translation because they’ve memorized the book.

It’s a never-ending challenge, but it’s still worth it to hear them say “Coucou, Penny!” and come running up to me to give me a hug and a picture they’ve drawn for me.

January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!!

Posted in travel tagged , , , , , , at 5:41 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Happy 2010!  I’ve now completed three and a half months of living abroad.  It’s been very trying sometimes, but I’ve really enjoyed it.

I spent the New Year’s weekend with my good friends from Ohio who are also assistants.  We met in Angers (where none of us live) because David had studied there last year and knew of some parties and a place to stay.

I left  Bordeaux on the morning of the 31st, and as the train was crossing over the Garonne, I saw a beautiful rainbow hanging over the city. It has to be a sign of better things to come.

David’s friend picked us up in downtown Angers and drove us out to his house for the party.  We spent the evening with his friends and his (American) girlfriend, talking, drinking and eating.  Apparently it’s a tradition for the reveillon to eat and drink as much as possible.  We had raclette for dinner, and they kept trying to force more and more cheese on me!  “Eat, eat!” I was told.  “It’s the New Year!”  (I was only able to eat potatoes and cheese for the raclette, as everything else offered was pork.  But I did try cavier earlier at the party, and it was pretty good!)

Much merriment and festivating was had, and at midnight we all went outside to watch neighbors shoot of fireworks.  The French sang the Marseilles and David and Wes sang the Star-Spangled Banner.

David wanted to stay up and watch the ball drop in New York at 6am, even though he’d been traveling since the 30th and awake for nearly 40 hours.  We tried, but we just couldn’t last.  I fell asleep around 5-ish and woke up briefly to hear Ryan Seacrest say it was now 2010 in the US.

Friday and Saturday we explored the city of Angers.  David loved living here and was happy to show us all his old haunts (even though it was hard to find many of them open on the national holiday of New Year’s Day).    We went bowling, and I played miserably, not even breaking 50!  I think the lane was at a slant…

Cointreau is the official liquer of Angers, since it’s produced there, and it was offered in lots of drinks.  I had a great (decaf) coffee drink with Cointreau and whipped creme!

Cafe Angevin

All the partying and tourism is just too much for poor David!

Oh, David!

Friday night David’s former host family had left us more raclette, but since I would just be having potatoes and cheese again, we ate a little of it and then picked up a few pizzas and spent the evening watching a movie.

We had nutella crepes for breakfast on Saturday.  Wes had to leave, but David and I got changed and ready to go out clubbing with another friend of his.  We had some good conversations and I had a GREAT tuna and shrimp panini at his favorite panini shop.

We went to a few clubs and did a lot of dancing, before I started to get a terrible headache around 2am and had to cut the evening short.  Despite that, I had a great time in Angers, and I’m glad I got to ring in the New Year in France with my friends!!

Angers

Back to teaching tomorrow…I hope I can remember how!