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!


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 supermarché 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 9, 2009

Homeless in France

Posted in la vie bordelaise, planning tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Fat Girl Dancing

It’s been a busy month so far.  I’ve been settling into my temporary home here with another assistant, trying to maintain a balance between living out of my suitcases and unpacking everything when I know I’ll just have to repack it again.  Fortunately I’m able to stay here until at least the beginning of February, so I’ve got some time.  I’ve been keeping up with the apartment search, but it’s so much more difficult here than it is in the States!

I’m primarily searching for roommates, and everyone I apply to has dozens of applicants, so they’re free to pick whom they choose…and it’s not me.  If I were to try for a small studio, I’d most likely find it not furnished — not even with a fridge or a stove! — and I’d need a guarantor, someone here in France willing to put up their last three months paystubs and credit to vouch for me.

I went to change my address, because I still haven’t received my very important CARTE VITALE, and found it was 34 euro just to change my address with the post!  That is one area where the USA definitely wins.  So much for socialism!

France is hard.  I’m not going to lie, in the last few weeks, there were times when I thought about how much easier it would be to give up and just go home.  Yesterday I bought a ticket to see Christophe Maé in concert in June 2010 in La Rochelle, and I’ve got a ticket to see the Mozart musical in April.  I can’t leave, I have concert tickets!

Christophe and Mozart!

Last week I visited the Christmas Market in downtown Bordeaux with a few assistants.  We went Tuesday and Wednesday night.  It’s a beautiful village marketplace set up on the town square with lights and craft shops and HOT SPICED WINE.  It was wonderful the first night, but it started pouring the second night and kind of put and end to the whole evening.  I still haven’t properly shopped through the whole market, since we really just took a fast browse through each store.

Vin chaud

Last Friday I went out to dinner with some French people to the Quebec Music Cafe.  It was way down in Pessac, so I got a ride with someone, which was very nice.  It’s so cool seeing Bordeaux from a car, I see parts of the city I never notice because I’m always on pedestrian or tram streets.  You must go look at their menu, I loved it.  I wanted to eat everything.  I ended up with the “Menu Bistro” which gave me a burger, a poutine, a beer, and a crumble dessert.  I had the three-cheese cheeseburger, the classic poutine, maple syrup beer, and the chocolate-pear crumble.  It was all SOOO GOOD.

Quebec Cafe


One of the guys sitting next to me was excited to try and practice his English, and kept speaking English to me, and then speaking English to the other French people around him.  Eventually one of the women said to him, “She’s here to improve her French, so speak French!”  I didn’t mind him speaking a little English, but I thought it was weird that he would speak English to everyone else.

It’s been quite warm here the last few days — in the low 60s and upper 50s, but we’re about due for a cold snap, in the 40s!  Oh no! 😦

Holidays in Bordeaux

Holidays in Bordeaux

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 26, 2009

Chez médecin

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , at 5:29 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

I woke up rather early, on this, my first real day of vacation, to call the doctor I’d selected from the “Pages Jaune” (Yellow Pages).  I asked for an appointment, and a rather abrupt voice told me that the doctor had open office hours today beginning at 2pm.

I was nervous about having to go see a doctor, and I would have put it off if at all possible.  I don’t have my Carte Vitale (health insurance card) yet, and I specifically decided I would NOT. GET. SICK this year!  Clearly, my body was not listening.

The cause of all this distress? A urinary tract infection.  Normally I’d spare you all such intimate details of my life, but in this case it does happen to relate directly to how I experience France and French culture.  So we continue.

I began noticing the first symptoms Saturday night.  I tried to deny them, but they haunted my dreams.  Sunday I made up my mind that I would call the doctor.  To put it off any more would only make my vacation miserable and put my body in more danger.  I’m prone to UTIs and have been having them with greater and greater frequency over the last few years.  Don’t get older, kids.

Around 1:30pm I set off for the doctor’s office.  It ended up taking me much longer to find it than I’d thought, due to some bad directions from the online map, but I found her office.  And five other people waiting outside to be seen.  By that point, I already had to pee again.   I asked a nice, elderly lady if we were all waiting for the doctor, to verify I was in the right place, and she said yes.  And then started talking to me for the next hour, complaining about the wait.

The doctor didn’t show up until 2:30 (despite telling me to come at 2pm!) and after she unlocked the door to her office, we all filed into her tiny, closet-sized waiting room.  After another 15 minutes of waiting with no patients being called, the elderly woman gave up and left, wishing me good luck.  Only 4 people ahead of me!

I HAD TO PEE.  There was a small bathroom, but I didn’t use it in case she needed a sample.  I mean, at home my doctor always takes a sample and analyzes it in the same building.  I wasn’t sure if this was the same.  So I held it.  And held it.  And held it.  For nearly two hours.

Finally it was my turn.  The doctor was very nice.  We sat at her desk first, while she listened to my symptoms.  I told her, “It seems I have a UTI.” I mean, I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I’ve been through this and I know what it feels like. If you’ll just give me some drugs, we can all go home.  I managed to explain all my symptoms and answer her questions in French.  She had me hop up on the examining table while she poked at my kidneys  (and I tried not to pee on her table), and then she took my blood pressure.

She complimented my French skills and accent, which pleased me.  She said she had a neighbor who was American who had lived in France for years whose accent wasn’t as good as mine.  I need to send that in an email to my former professors!

The doctor told me I would need to go to a lab to get a urinalysis done, but she was going to give me antibiotics now anyway. PHEW.  She wrote the order for the lab test and the prescriptions, I paid her (22 euros) and thanked her, and then I USED THE BATHROOM.  There was no way I could wait until I got to the lab.  This proved to be a mistake.

Receipts and reimbursement form in hand (not having my Carte Vitale, I paid the full amount and will be reimbursed later…much later), I set off to find the lab.  The doctor had been vague…”It’s on the street with the tram.”  Yeah, that’s a really long street.  I found a pharmacy on that street first, and got my prescriptions filled.  Even using a generic antibiotic, it was still 23 euros for three boxes of pills! That’s expensive for France.  The pharmacist also gave me a reimbursement slip, and then gave me more precise directions to the lab.

French drugs!

I was seen quickly at the lab, and I knew the drill.  One problem: now I was empty!  I sneaked back out to the sink and swallowed some water quickly.  That did the trick.  What an ordeal!  I rewarded myself with Cadbury Chocolate Chip cookies from the market across the street.

I’m learning the ropes! Socialized medicine can definitely have it’s pluses and minuses.  It seems that Mondays are the only “open office” days — if I’d gone another day I might have gotten a real appointment and not had to wait so long.  But time was not on my side, since I leave on vacation Wednesday morning.  It’s definitely not convenient to have to go all the way to a lab just for a urinalysis.  But the doctor’s office was very intimate, and she was exceptionally nice and caring.  Which I appreciated, being sick and scared in a foreign country!

October 14, 2009

Still Tuesday?

Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:58 am by Fat Girl Dancing

I’m getting better, but I’m still so very tired. I’ve been tired ever since I got here…at first I attributed it to having no schedule and TOO much free time, and now I’m sick, but I wonder if I’ll ever have enough energy again?

Yesterday I taught five classes at my primary school, or as I like to call it, my “clusterfuck” school. The teachers are definitely nicer here and everyone is more welcoming, but they were still figuring out my schedule at the last minute on Friday, compared to my secondary school who knew exactly where I was supposed to be and when.

I was out of cereal for breakfast, so I stopped at the patisserie near the bus stop for a chocolatine and a can of Orangina.

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

I still need to adjust my lesson plans for time. Half the time I finish too early and half the time I have to leave while they’re still doing the worksheet. My second class finished everything with 15 minutes still to go, so I was glad that I had prepared some “filler” videos for them to watch.

Everyone crowded around my laptop, and I showed them The Yip Yips Meet the Telephone and Clap Your Hands from Here Come the ABCs.  They LOVED the martians, but who doesn’t?  I’m nearly 31, and they still crack me up.

I have one class at this school that is just awful.  Nearly every other student is adorable — example, as I was leaving for the day, some of my students saw me and called me over to talk to me and ask me questions about myself and how to say things in English.  They didn’t want me to leave! But this class is dreadful.  They laugh at my French, they don’t respect me at all, and there’s one little girl with a GIANT chip on her shoulder.  She asked if we were going to have to sing the song with the movements again, and I said “Of course!” and she rolled her eyes and said “But it’s ridiculous!”  She’s an 8-year-old with the attitude of a 15-year-old.  UGH.

Surprisingly, my French is improving in my classrooms.  I thought I’d be speaking mostly English, but I need to use French to explain game directions and worksheet instructions and to facilitate conversations.  I’m being forced to speak to these children, and that’s giving me the confidence to speak to other adults.

After work yesterday, I went to the post office in Talence to mail my OFII papers, which starts the process for my social security/medical card.  I also picked up my ticket to the musical Mozart l’Opéra Rock which was being held there.  Yay!

I went across the street to the bank to see if I could finally get my atm card and checks.  It’s only been 2 weeks!  The banker started to say my account hadn’t been verified yet, but then he double-checked, and it had been verified just that afternoon!  What luck!  So I now have complete access to my bank account.

I went outside to the ATM to deposit some money, and quickly learned that there are different ATMS for depositing and withdrawing!  I found the right ATM, deposited my 50 euro, and now my French bank account actually has money in it!

My host mother made a delicious seafood paella last night.  It was the first time I’d ever had paella.  We also had a little goat cheese (chevre) and then some apple sherbert and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

October 8, 2009

Thrown to the wolves

Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , , , at 12:23 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

In a combination of nerves and some neighbors playing drums until past midnight last night, I didn’t get much sleep last night. I stumbled around my room this morning, repeating to myself over and over the things I needed to do before I left: put my jump drive in my purse, write down the words to the song to teach, make lunch, etc.

I quickly ate some cereal (all French cereal seems to have chocolate in it, even the adult cereal), and set out for the bus stop. I left within plenty of time, and still arrived just in time to see my bus speeding by. Bugger! He was 7 minutes early! I debated walking versus waiting the 20 minutes for the next bus, and decided to wait it out. It would take me nearly an hour and a half to walk, and I would certainly be late. Fortunately the next bus was on time, and I still made it to my school before my first class.

All French schools are locked to outsiders, so I stood at the gate and waited for someone to let me in. It turned out to be one of the teachers I would be working for who let me in and showed me around. She also told me what my exact hours would be at this school, and what grade levels I would be teaching. I knew I would be teaching the older students at my main school, so I had planned my lessons for them. When I found out I would be teaching the younger students, I got a bit nervous! I had only prepared one lesson, and I would have to adapt it to the three different levels I would be teaching today.

My first class was with the youngest group that Assistants are allowed to take, I believe they are 6 and 7 year olds. The teacher shares her classroom with them and an even younger group, so I take the 10 kids to another building for their English lesson. The orientation stressed that it’s important to build rituals early for the students, so I decided that we would sing “Following the Leader” from Peter Pan as we walked to and from the classroom. The kids had no idea what I was singing, but they went along with it.

This first class went very well, even though I broke a little rule by having them write. Kids that young aren’t supposed to write in English, because they’re just barely learning to write in French, and it messes them up. But since I’d only planned one lesson, I just went ahead with it. From now on, I’ll design a separate lesson for them.

All the kids in the three classes I had today were very cute and very French. The first class was the only class where I was entirely on my own. In the other two classes, their teacher is at least in the room to yell at troublemakers.

We sang two songs, a “Hello song” that I found on the Assistants forum and made up a tune to and then I began teaching them the words to a song I loved from Girl Scout camp. They can’t understand the words, but it’s got lots of movements and it’s silly, and they liked watching an adult do the silly movements.

The last class I had were the oldest, and although they had had English before, I started them at the same place, since no one had really told me anything else. We worked on “Hello,” “My name is,” “What is your name?” “girl,” and “boy.” Most of this group caught on quickly, although there were still a few that simply didn’t understand what they were saying and were just repeating the weird words because I told them to. This tells me that a refresher is probably not a bad thing for this group, but I can speed it up a little and maybe add some more content.

I ran out of material early in my last class, and asked the students (in French) what they knew about the United States, to try and bring in some culture. They knew that Obama was president and Bush was the former president, which is pretty impressive. If you ask any American elementary student who the president of France is, they would have no idea.

I walked to my other school after teaching my last class, because at my last discussion with them they had said something about Thursday afternoons. When I walked in and asked the Director if he needed me today, he said no. He did ask me for several papers such as a copy of my passport and bank info and such, so I can get paid, so I at least got that taken care of. And he finalized my schedule:

Mondays   13h30 – 16h15   Jules Ferry

Tuesdays   9h – 15h                Jules Michelet

Wednesdays FREE – No elementary school on Wednesdays

Thursdays  8h30 – 11h15   Jules Ferry

Fridays   9h – 15h                  Jules Michelet

So tomorrow I teach at Jules Michelet, and I’ll use the same lesson plan, but maybe beef it up a bit, because the students are all older.

I came home and collapsed for a few hours. I’m having some lovely sinus drainage that’s left me with a sore throat and a queasy stomach. I’m fighting it with some hardcore vitamins I brought from the States, but right now I just feel pretty run down.

October 2, 2009

First day of working in France

Posted in travailler tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:00 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Will someone please explain to me why I packed a 100% cashmere sweater?  There’s no “delicate” setting on French washers.  I’m gonna have to handwash it, and hope I never get a stain.  UGH.

I received my second package today — the important one, since it had my winter clothes, my jewelry and my PEANUT BUTTER.  I picked it up at the post office in Talence and walked it 2/3 of the way home singing “Peanut butter jelly time” to myself before ma mère et mon père drove by, stopped the car, and ordered me to put the box in the car.  It was mega heavy, but I nearly got it home myself!  Still, I was grateful they came by and helped me out.

Giant heavy box

Giant heavy box

Yesterday I went to my main school for lunch.  I missed the bus I needed to get down there, so I took the next one I thought was going the right way.  When the driver pulled into the terminus and looked at me, I knew I was in trouble.  It turned out I had gotten on the 21 instead of the 21bis.  Who knew?  The driver was incredibly nice, getting me bus schedules and a map and making sure I was ok and talking to me for awhile as I waited for the 21bis.

I ended up being 30 minutes late, but no one was upset.  The teachers were still friendly and helpful.  We ironed out my schedule, and it’s such a mess.  I told them I would see them Tuesday since I had orientation the next day.

I had wasted two bus passes on getting there, so I decided to walk home.  It was a nice four mile walk, although towards the end I was very tired and sore!  It was also quite hot, and I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible.  Still, I was proud of myself for making it all the way home!

When my alarm went off at 6:55am this morning, my first thought was “Are you kidding? It’s not 8:30 yet,” which is when I’ve generally been getting up.  Ugh, it was not pretty.  I tried to keep my morning crankiness to myself as everyone else was up and about as well.

I did have a little skip in my step as I walked to the tram station thinking, “Here I go to work in France!”  The tram during rush hour is packed, as many bodies as can be jammed into a tiny tube.  You get friendly with your neighbors, ifyouknowwhatimean.  I switched lines at the Hotel de Ville and headed north.  Just as I was wondering if I’d see any other assistants on the tram, I heard “Hey Penny!”  It was one of the assistants I’d met last week at our get-together dinner.  We talked a bit, and some people nearby heard us and asked if we were assistants.  They were Spanish assistants from Mexico and Spain!  I listened to them speak to each other a bit, but living in France has destroyed my Spanish *sigh*

We arrived at the high school serving as our orientation site and crammed into a small room for juice and coffee.   I met a really nice girl, C., who told me that I had missed a meeting of primary school teachers yesterday, and that the primary school teachers had more training next week!  I was shocked…I don’t know why I didn’t get the email about the meeting, and what’s more, my schools were expecting me to come teach, or at least observe, on Monday and Tuesday!  C. introduced me to the woman in charge of primary teachers, who told me “C’n’est pas grave,” (it’s not a big deal) and that we’d figure everything out in the afternoon session.

During the morning session all 253 of us sat in a lecture hall room while two different teachers went over largely bureaucratic matters that are really important and also really dull.  It turns out there’s assistants for not only English, Spanish and German, but also Italian, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Slavic!

During a break I chatted with D., a friend I’d made last week and a cute guy from Wales came up and chatted with us.  His accent was amazing.  I just wanted him to keep talking.

Lunch was pretty impressive for a public school cafeteria.  Romaine lettuce salad, assorted cheeses, different kinds of vegetable entrees, meatloaf with lentils, bread (of course) and banana pudding.  I sat with C., D., and another primary school teacher who’s engaged to a French guy in Bordeaux, so this is pretty much her move to France.

After lunch we split into our separate groups, primary teachers going to a room of our own.  We filled out a lot of paperwork and talked about what we were doing at the training on Tuesday.  I told one of the teachers that I’d already talked to my school and worked out my schedule and they were expecting me, and she said “Oh no they’re not!  You are NOT teaching Monday or Tuesday!” She’s going to call the schools for me to let them know I won’t be there until Thursday.  I’m relieved that we’re going to get additional training!  I was worried about being thrown right into it.

I have one last relaxing weekend ahead of me before the real work begins!

September 28, 2009

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , at 11:32 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Written on Thursday, September 24, 2009 5:42pm

So much for surviving on my own…I’m still relying on my family to do things for me, only this time it’s my host family.

I went to my appointment with the banker this morning.  I was beyond nervous – bank officials make me nervous on a good day, much less in a situation when I can’t really understand them and they have the power to reject me.  I presented him with the papers I had, and he said some things in French.  It was a problem that I didn’t have a bill in my name to prove my address, but he started to show me an attestation paper, where my host family could vouch for me, but I stumbled and said I’d only known them since Sunday.  He said that wouldn’t work and the bank couldn’t do anything for me, and I was pretty much out of luck.

I felt defeated, but thought I could try other banks if I could just get my host family to put something in writing saying that I lived there, since we only have a verbal contract.  I took a long walk this morning, exploring new parts of Talence.   I had a chocolate éclair and bought some groceries.

The grocery store overwhelms me.  I don’t know how to eat here.  Dinners are a meat and a starchy vegetable followed by cheese (CHEVRE OMG OM NOM NOM) followed by a pudding cup.  Breakfast has been cereal everyday.  I just bought a new, different box.  I’m trying all the interesting French cereals and staying away from things like Frosted Flakes and Golden Grahams.  It’s lunch that really gets me.  I ate out for lunch on Monday and Wednesday, and school fed me Tuesday, but I can’t afford to eat out every day.  I hope I can eat at school on my long days.  I bought some viennois bread, cheese, and turkey slices to make sandwiches and a microwave salmon meal.  Their microwave meals are hilarious.  Just like ours, except instead of spaghetti and meatballs you can get rabbit and potatoes.  Ready in just two minutes!

Today for lunch I had the éclair, a peanut butter granola bar from home, some Pim’s cookies, a banana, and grapes I ate on the way home from the store.  They were the biggest, roundest, fattest, most delicious grapes.  I bit them in half, picked out the seeds, and ate the rest.  The French do not eat while they walk, so I’m sure I stood out instead of blending in, but I don’t care.  They were so good.

I came home and dozed and read and was generally just very bored.  I’m not used to having nothing to do and no one to talk to.  I feel so cut off.  Tomorrow the other English Assistants are meeting in Bordeaux for dinner, so it will be good to finally meet them and hopefully form some friendships there.  I think I’ll arrive a little early so I can explore Bordeaux and maybe get a cell phone.

When mon père got home, I told him what had happened, he called the guy an idiot and said we’d go back to the bank right now and take care of it.  I felt relieved but guilty that I keep putting such a burden on them to help me out.  The banker was surprised to see me back, but with F.’s help we explained that I had actually known them longer than a week, and my teacher had made the initial introductions (kind of), so it sounded better and he could fill out an attestation.  F. didn’t have any bills on him – even though he has an account there, he still needed to show a bill to prove his address! – so my account won’t be valid until they come back from Saguinet next week, but it’s created and I have my all important RIB and I can get paid.  YAY.

There was so much paperwork for opening a bank account, I had to laugh.  I know the French love bureaucracy, but it was ridiculous.  The guy was stamping and signing at least 15 different papers, and I had to sign and write “read and approved” on about six different papers.  At least checks are free in France.

I was grateful that F. went with me, because there were a lot of questions and things that I didn’t understand, and he helped translate.  I can’t imagine how the other assistants are doing this completely on their own.  Or maybe I’m the only one who still needs so much hand-holding.

September 27, 2009

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , at 10:00 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Written on Wednesday, September 23 – 10:34pm

Last night I was feeling so overwhelmed from a full day of speaking and hearing French, after finding my school, spending several hours with my new colleagues and then driving back to my house and trying to give directions to a place I wasn’t familiar with, and then coming home and having dinner and a discussion with my family. I was feeling Frenched out. After dinner I escaped up to my room, shut the door, and pulled up Google chat on my phone and began chatting with Carlette while watching an episode of one of my favorite TV shows ever, Psych, on my computer. It worked. By the end of the episode I was sleepy, and I nearly forgot I was still in France. I almost called out for my parents, forgetting that they were across the ocean and that the people downstairs, while very friendly, would still have been very surprised if I suddenly started speaking English to them.

Several times the last few nights I’ve woken up disoriented. This room is very cozy, and I’ll wake up feeling like I’m still at home. “Wait, what? Oh, I’m in France.” Last night I had a nightmare, and I’m glad the person it was about is all the way across the ocean.

Today I slept in until around nine and then went downstairs to have breakfast. I’d just missed M., she had shortened school hours today, but she still had to leave shortly after I came down. With the house empty and my belly full, I decided to lie back down. I’ve been terribly exhausted lately. I’m not sure if I’m still jet lagged one week later or if it’s the lack of any set schedule or if it’s just the overwhelming effects of trying to understand and speak a foreign language, but I just cannot get enough sleep.

I dozed for about an hour, took a leisurely shower, and then began studying my French grammar review book. I’ve decided I need to study about four pages a day, and when I finish my French word a day book, I’m going to start studying the idioms in there as well. Just speaking it isn’t enough, I need to drill and refresh the grammar. If I’m going to be here, I’d better be serious about it and make the most of my time.

The plan today was to try to get a bank account. I was terrified. I knew I needed to show a lot of paperwork, and I wasn’t sure that I had it. I have a residence, but the only thing I have showing proof of that is a print-out from my Gmail account that F. sent me telling me what my address would be.

I walked around the long way to explore a different street and found two sandwich shops, one that sells pizza in the evenings. Hooray! I had a chicken panini, though I prefer tuna paninis. As I walked toward the center of town, I saw there was an open air market in the town square! It was 12:30 by this point and several vendors were starting to tear down. Now I know that Wednesday is market day, and I should get there earlier.

I was thirsty, so I found a patisserie and bought a chocolatine (pain au chocolat) and an Orangina. I’m becoming addicted to Oranginas. I went to the bank only to discover they were closed for lunch until 1:30. With nothing else to do, I sat on some stairs and people-watched and read a bit in my French translation of Eclipse.

Finally at 1:30 I went back into the bank. I told the teller that called me forward that I wanted to open a checking account. She said something in rapid French, and I gave her a blank look. She said something else, and I was too flustered to say “Look, can you slow down, please?” She said “Vous parlez français? Ou anglais?” (Do you speak French or English). I said that I spoke English, and tried to add that I could understand her in French if she’d slow down, but she cut me off saying I should speak to the other woman. “Allez-y!” (Go over there!)

The other woman was much more helpful. We spoke in French the entire time. There were times when I didn’t understand what she said, but she was willing to repeat herself. The short story is: I didn’t get a bank account. I have an appointment tomorrow with a banker to see if I have all the correct paperwork to get a bank account, but since I can’t produce an electric bill with my name on it, I’m not sure how it will go.

If this bank rejects me, I suppose I’ll just try another one. That’s what’s recommended by the Assistants in France forum. I need a checking account or I can’t get paid!

I have been doing a lot of reading. I’m reading a wonderful book and a terrible book. The wonderful book is based on a blog by a woman who moved to France to marry a Frenchman and had two bilingual kids. Her entries are about new words she encounters and how they relate to her life, but mostly it’s about how grand an adventure her life is and how grateful she is to be in France. It’s pretty much the perfect book for me to be reading right now, and I’m glad I bought it. The terrible book is See Jane Date, and I bought it for my trip last year because I thought it would be a quick plane read.  Yes, I miss my family and my friends and I miss talking with certain people that I’ve recently met, but I am so glad I have the opportunity and freedom to go where I want. I never want to feel like I have to depend on anyone else in order to be a success, which is literally what this book has said at points. The only reason I’m continuing to read it is because there’s no internet and I didn’t bring that many books. I gotta keep myself entertained somehow.

According to F., we should have internet here within 15 days!

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