April 20, 2010

Classroom update

Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , at 8:52 am by Fat Girl Dancing

For the last six weeks, my 6th grade honors class has been working on a group presentation on the United States. Each group chose a state to present on (in the midwest) and they’ve been studying different aspects of the state each week.

We spent the last two class periods working on tying everything together and making posters, and on Friday they’ll present their projects for their classmates (it’s a combined 5th/6th grade class, but I only have the 6th graders; they’ll present for the 5th graders).

They act like little monsters (this is a class that’s had their game privileges permanently revoked because they get too out of control), but I’m really proud of how well they’ve done with this project. They were really nervous to present in front of their peers, and a lot of them reverted back to French, but most of them were able to recite what they’d learned in English and did fine.¬† I was especially impressed that they could say the population of each state, since we’d only spent two class periods learning large numbers!







The Tennessee group didn’t get finished in time the day I took pictures, so I never got a picture of them with their poster ūüė¶


February 4, 2010

Forever a nomad

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , at 9:00 am by Fat Girl Dancing

*this entry is made most difficult by the fact that my “h” key has stopped working and every “h” must be copied and pasted :-\

I’m coming to you live from my third (and what had better be my last!) residence here in Bordeaux!¬† It took me three days to move, and I still have a few small things at the old place — including my bike!

I seem to have grown into the larger living space while I was living with my roommate and acquired a ton more junk, because what took me just two trips to move last time (one by tram and one by taxi) took me nine trips and three days!¬† Did I mention I’m living on the fourth floor?¬† My everything hurts, from my shoulders and arms from carrying all the bags to my hips and legs from climbing all the stairs!¬† Such a good workout!

I’m still getting settled in my room — it’s impossible not to think of it as a dorm room, because essentially that’s what it’s like.¬† I got my bed set up on Tuesday, and I’m still unpacking and finding a place for everything, so right now I still have suitcases and bags covering most of the floor.¬† I’ll show pictures once everything is put away and it looks nicer.

The walls here are super-thin, so you can pretty much hear everything anyone does in their room, but fortunately my neighbors seem to be pretty good about sticking to the quiet hours *knock on wood*  Last night I got home at 11pm and my neighbor had her TV up, but turned it down when I asked.  The biggest problem is the girl across the hall gets up at 5:30am every day.  I need to learn to filter out the sounds of her getting up and leaving so I can sleep through that and not get up at 5:30am every day myself :-\

This morning I had breakfast for the first time here in the new place.¬† Breakfast is included in the rent and is offered Monday-Friday.¬† It’s a typical French-style breakfast, and it was very yummy!¬† I had granola with fromage blanc (sweet and creamy like yogurt, but it’s a cheese), baguette with butter and jelly, and grabbed a banana for later.¬† I’ll probably eat breakfast Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, because I know I won’t be able to wake up early enough on Mondays and Wednesdays!¬† Still, it’s nice to not have to buy so much breakfast food anymore.

Things are moving along at school…my little kids are getting sick of learning about numbers, and I’m sick of counting with them.¬† But they still don’t know all the numbers, even 1-10, and so we drill!¬† They can count from 1-10 just fine, but when I ask them “How old are you?” they can’t just respond with the correct number in English, but instead must count up to the right number.

I’ve tried playing Bingo with my classes a few times, and I tell you, after this last round I just will not do it again.¬† They simply do not understand the rules!¬† I explained, several times, in French even, that in order to have Bingo they needed to mark off four numbers in a line across, down, or diagonal.¬† I then said the first number, and four or five kids shouted, “Bingo!”¬† After three or four classes of this, I was exasperated.¬† “No, you do not have Bingo!” I shouted by the last class.¬† “You cannot have Bingo after just one number!¬† I said, you need four in a line!”

“Mais, je ne comprends pas du tout!” they whined.

At least they like story time, which I’ve started implementing at the last 5-10 minutes of each period.¬† We read half a book per class in English, and even though they can’t understand the words, they like the pictures and they can generally keep up.¬† So far we’ve read “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” “Hop on Pop,” “The Shy Little Kitten,” and “Barry, the Fish with Fingers.”

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.

December 13, 2009

Visiting a French urgent care (how else will I know what they look like?)

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:22 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Friday was starting out to be a good day.¬† I finished school three hours early because two of my classes were on a ski trip.¬† I was practically skipping as I left at 11:30am.¬† “Happy Hannukah to me!” I said to myself.¬† “What a great present.¬† I get to start the weekend early!”

I walked home from the Place de la Victoire instead of taking the tramway because it was a nice day and the tram was crowded.  I stopped for a salmon panini for lunch at a panini/crepe cart.  It was absolutely delicious, and I munched it happily as I walked through the busy, bustling streets of Bordeaux.

Panini cart

When I got home, I found a notice that the postman had tried to deliver a package from my parents.¬† It had some things I really wanted, including special granola and my birthday present from two years ago, so I really wanted to pick it up the same day, and not wait for him to try and redeliver it.¬† I looked up directions for La Poste package depot and found that it wasn’t terribly far from my new apartment — just at the end of the tram line and down a few streets.¬† I wrote out directions and set off on my bike.

The only time I have fallen off my bike is when trying to cross over the tram tracks.¬† They’re too deep, and my bike just kind of skids and then falls over.¬† Unfortunately, on this ride I reached a point where there was no sidewalk and the rode and the tram tracks merged — I was on the road, but also on the tramline for awhile.¬† When they split, I tried to move off the tram track and back on to the road, but again, my bike would not cross the tracks.¬† I went down hard, right into the road, and slammed my head on the pavement.¬† I was very lucky the oncoming car stopped in time.

People came from everywhere.  The driver got out of his car, a woman passing by helped me get out of the road, a man from the patisserie across the street came running out.  He went and got my napkins to put on my face, for I was bleeding quite badly from my brow.  Once everyone was sure I was all right, nothing was broken, and not going to pass out, they went on their way.

I continued on to the package depot.¬† I wasn’t going through all that and not getting my stupid package!¬† I walked my bike to the next tram stop, holding the napkin to my profusely bleeding brow, and rode the tram to the end of the line.¬† I rode my bike carefully and cautiously — my knees protesting the whole way, they were pretty scraped up too — to the package depot.

When I got there, the man at the reception said “You didn’t call ahead?”¬† But then he seemed to take a look at me, bleeding, limping, shook up, and said he would go look for my package.¬† I thanked him.

The very important package!

I rode my bike back to the tram stop and rode the tram home.¬† I cleaned out my wounds as best I could with just soap and water, and then went down to the supermarch√© to try and find something like neosporin.¬† There was nothing like that there, so I tried the pharmacy.¬† The pharmacist took one look at me and said I needed stitches.¬† A nice older lady offered to lead me to the urgent care.¬† She took great care in making sure I didn’t injure myself further under her watch, not letting me step off into oncoming traffic or in front of a tram.

I waited at the Urgent Care for about an hour.¬† I still don’t have my medical card, so they made it clear to me that I’d have to pay and then be reimbursed later.¬† When I was called back, a student nurse had my lie on a bed and she disinfected the wound.¬† Then I waited another 20 minutes or so for the doctor to come and sew 4 stitches into my brow.

All stitched up

I went back to the pharmacy to fill the orders the doctor had given me.  The pharmacist was very nice, and asked if I was feeling better and commiserated with me about how terrible the tram rails were for biking.

Once I was home, I had no time to sit around feeling sorry for myself! I was hosting a Hannukah party that night!  I immediately began peeling potatoes.  It was my first time making latkes.  The first two rounds were a success, but after that there were oil problems, and someone else had to step in and finish the batch.

Shredding potatoes - notice the Hello Kitty bandaid!


I had a great evening sharing my holiday with my friends, and they were even good sports and played a round of dreidel for m&m’s.

It wasn’t exactly how I planned for my day to go, but I find that in France, nothing is ever as simple as you plan it to be, and you have to learn to relax and just go with whatever comes up.¬† Or with whatever comes crashing down!

December 2, 2009

Let me explain…

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler, travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:26 am by Fat Girl Dancing

No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.

I’ve not abandoned this blog!¬† I just got behind and then stressed about catching up and then life went CRAZYGONUTS.

Here’s your November update in a nutshell, and then we can move on to December ^_^

  • Things started getting awkward with my host family when I returned from the Toussaint vacation
  • I came right back to my first bus strike!¬† I was late and missed my first class, then it took me two hours to get home.
  • I went on my first outing with OnVaSortir, a socializing website for meeting French people.¬† We went out for caf√©s.¬† It was good to get out and meet real French people, but very exhausting to try and keep up with the conversation for several hours!
  • I BOUGHT A BIKE!!¬† I love my bike.
  • Riding on the streets of Bordeaux is terrifying.
  • I started hanging out more with the other English assistants, which I’ve really enjoyed.
  • I got my hair redyed and trimmed, and it wasn’t a disaster!
  • I spent a beautiful Saturday biking all over Bordeaux and along the river, and then came upon a Pro-choice rally and joined it.
  • I saw “New Moon” in French, and it was still hysterically funny.
  • I picked up a tutoring gig (starts today, actually!)
  • I went out to a bar with some French people, and a French guy bought me a drink!
  • I went to a potluck dinner with other assistants.
  • Things went from awkward to REALLY BAD with my host family really fast ūüė¶
  • I Skyped with my parents on Thanksgiving and watched the Macy’s parade from their kitchen via the internets.¬† Then I called back around midnight my time to “sit” at the dinner table with everyone.
  • I went to La Rochelle for Thanksgiving weekend with my friends Wes and David.¬† We made a great feast and had a lot of laughs.
  • I moved out of my host family’s house and into a temporary situation with another assistant.¬† I’m currently looking for a permanent place to live.
  • And we end November with another transportation strike!¬† Ahhh, France.

French bike!

Banana creme pie

Banana creme pie

Thanksgiving - French style

Banana creme pie - YUM!Thanksgiving - French style

November 10, 2009

The rain in Spain falls mainly on France

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , at 1:10 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

If I could sum up Bordeaux in one word, that word would be: RAIN.  Rain rain rain rain rain.  Rain.

Bordeaux lured me in when I first arrived with 20 or so days of warmth and sunshine and not a drop from the sky.

“This isn’t bad at all!” I thought, as I walked around in tank tops and admired the bright blue skies.

And then….everything changed.


It has been raining nearly every day for over a week.¬† Rain is forecasted for every day into the foreseeable future.¬† Sometimes I’ll refresh the forecast and they’ll tease me and take the rain out for one day, but then I refresh again five minutes later and it’s back in.¬† Rain.¬† Every day.¬† For the rest. of. my. life.


In school news, my students are already eager to talk about Christmas.¬† I told them there’s another American holiday in between Halloween and Christmas that we’re going to start talking about beginning on Thursday.

I have sung “Where is Thumbkin” 16 times this week, and I’ll sing it 16 more before the end of the week.¬† They love it.

Yesterday I asked one of my students, in English, “Have you glued it in your notebook already?” and he nodded and showed me, and I smiled and said to him in French “You understood a sentence in English!” and he looked so proud of himself.

November 6, 2009

They can’t all be good days

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , at 1:18 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

+ There was cold milk this morning

– Because I bought it myself — we’ve gone to I-buy-everything-I-use-except-dinners here

– The 8:27 bus never showed up

– I missed my first class

+ One of my students gave me a hug and a kiss

– Now I probably have the grippe

+ One of the teachers said she wanted to get together and practice French and English with me and visit museums and stuff, and we exchanged contact info

– It won’t start till she’s back from having surgery

– Another teacher had to come in and yell at one of my classes twice for being too disturbing because I couldn’t control them.

+ Bonding over A Fine Frenzy with one of my teachers at lunch

+ Hey, I like cauliflower! (with enough cream and cheese, sure)

– The sad looks from the class I missed as I walked out for the day without teaching their class


– Surprise strikes

+ Didn’t have to walk ALL the way home, just some of it.

+ Family left for the lake house!!

+ Solace!

More – than +, so I get to say it was a BAD DAY.


(posts and pictures about my WONDERFUL vacation are coming!)

October 22, 2009

Impractical boots

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travailler tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:32 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Woot, Bordeaux won the football match last night!¬† It’s nice to be in a town that actually wins sporting events.¬† Yeah, I’m totally looking at you, Cincinnati Reds and Bengals.¬† And Dayton Dragons, while we’re at it.

Yesterday I went into Bordeaux and spent a good chunk of my savings (that I hadn’t already spent on tickets to London or Wicked tickets).¬† First I bought some ridiculously impractical and expensive new boots.¬† But I wanted them.¬† I wanted them more than any of the other practical or cheap boots.¬† Plus they were warm (the only impractical aspect is that they have 2-inch heels! Well, it doesn’t snow here…)

Impractical (but warm!) boots

Impractical (but warm!) boots

I also bought a set of hand weights, so I can continue my workouts here.¬† I’m getting in a lot of good walking, but my arm muscles are turning to jelly from lack of use!

I continued walking up rue Ste. Catherine, the major shopping street in Bordeaux, and entered the SNCF office.  It was still an hour before they closed and the place was packed.  Moments after I took a number, the manager locked the door and removed the number tickets so no one else could come in and get in line.  I just made it!  I waited nearly 45 minutes to buy train tickets from a very nice woman.

I needed lots of different tickets because I’m city-hopping instead of going directly from Bordeaux to Vitr√©.¬† I needed a ticket from Bordeaux to Nantes and then from Nantes to Vitr√©, and on the way back I needed to go from Vitr√© to La Rochelle and then from La Rochelle to Bordeaux.¬† She printed the tickets, I paid for them, and then she asked me if I planned to make a lot of trips around France.¬† I said yes, and she asked me why I wasn’t using a discount card.¬† I explained I was too old for the 12-25 discount card, and she told me about the Carte Escapades, which was only good on weekends.¬† Which would normally be when I’d be traveling in France — when I’d want to make trips down to Pays-Basque or other close towns.¬† She re-ran all my tickets with the new discount — even though they weren’t on weekend days.¬† She was incredibly helpful, and I thanked her profusely as I was leaving.

I bought a croque-chevre from a patisserie for dinner and ate it in the square near where my language group meets.¬† It was pretty much a chevre pizza on toast, but it was delicious.¬† As I was eating, a little girl about 5 years old entered the square, pushing her family’s garbage can out so it could be emptied; it was taller than she was.¬† She came over to talk to me.¬† She told me about taking the garbage out and about her mother, and then she asked what I was eating.¬† She asked if she could have it, and I laughed and said no, it was mine.¬† She said, “Please, just a little?” So I relented and tore off a corner for her.¬† She ate it and scampered off.¬† She came back out several more times to talk to me, in-between running in to other places on the square.¬† At one point I saw her run into a bar and come out with bread and cheese!¬† I don’t think she was homeless, judging from the trash can and good coat she had on.¬† She just wanted food!

I declined going out to the bar with the folks from the language group because I didn’t want to stay out too late and disturb my host family, plus I had to get up really early this morning.¬† I got home a little before 10:30pm to find they were all already in bed with the shutters drawn and all lights off!¬† Very odd, since sometimes we’ve only just barely finished dinner by that time!¬† I climbed the stairs in complete darkness, not wanting to wake anyone.

Today was my last day with my secondary school until after the vacation!¬† We worked on Halloween words, and I gave the two older classes a conversation to practice reading.¬† They have real trouble reading English words right now, but that’s to be understood, since they’re completely unfamiliar with them.¬† My older class (around 8 years old) did the best, and I was able to have two groups stand before the class and read the scenes in front of everyone.

They were very basic, but incorporated everything we’d learned:

“1: Hello.

2: Good morning.

1: What is your name?

2: My name is Dracula.  I am a vampire.

1: Nice to meet you.  I am a witch.

2: We are very scary!”

I showed several videos at the end of class; since it’s right before vacation, I can’t expect them to work too hard.¬† They loved the video for the Monster Mash and also The Skeleton Dance; my youngest class wanted to watch the Skeleton Dance again instead of something new!¬† And I’ve now heard the Monster Mash so many times it’s like I was home hearing it on the radio.

One more day of classes!¬† And it may not even be a full day, since it’s at clusterfuck school, and I heard they’re planning a Halloween event in the afternoon, so I may not teach my afternoon classes!¬† But of course no one’s told me anything yet!

October 20, 2009


Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , at 12:30 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Plans, they are being made!¬† I just booked two tickets to see Wicked in London on December 21st, and I also booked a flight for myself from the Bordeaux airport to London from December 18 through the 22nd.¬† As much as I’d really rather not fly again, it ended up being cheaper round trip to fly than to take trains.

I’m still in the process of confirming my plans for the upcoming break next week.¬† I had really wanted to visit a couple of different cities, but my secondary plans keep falling through.¬† Right now it looks like I’ll just be going to Vitr√© over Halloween weekend, with a stop in La Rochelle on the way back.¬† I’m so excited to be traveling and seeing new sights!

I taught my kids a little about Halloween today.¬† I showed them pictures from a few years ago of my uncle, my cousins and me on our annual voyage to Shaw Pumpkin Farm, and they LOVED IT.¬† They loved seeing the giant pumpkins all over the place, they loved seeing me in America, they loved seeing my family.¬† “Who’s that?” they asked over and over again, wanting to know every last detail.¬† I showed them pictures I had of Jack O’Lanterns outside my old apartment in Centerville, and they had more questions.¬† “Is that your house?¬† Do you live there? It’s huge!”

Little kids also love stickers.¬† I gave away stickers as a prize to bingo winners in a class today, and I thought the non-winners were going to start a riot.¬† “Can we have stickers too?” they begged.

“Not today,” I said.¬† “There will be plenty of chances to win stickers throughout the year.”

“Can we play another game now so we can get stickers?”

“No, the class is over.”

“Can’t you just give us a sticker?”

They were going crazy.  HELP.  SEND MOAR STICKERS.

I only have two more days of teaching before the break.¬† I’m thinking the last days of class will be fun days, where we watch a bunch of videos and learn the words for Halloween terms like “witch,” “ghost,” and “spider.”

Next page