October 25, 2009

Sunday morning musings

Posted in la vie bordelaise, travel tagged , , , , , , , at 5:42 am by Fat Girl Dancing

It’s hard to wake up from a dream where I’m home and holding my kittens again and snuggling them after so long.  I like it here, but it’s so hard to believe I have to be away from them for another 9 months : (  Last night I dreamt I was holding Sabrina, and I was so happy to have her in my arms again, but she didn’t really remember me. : (

It's hard not to miss her!

It's hard not to miss her!

I remember when I could just throw some clothes in the laundry two hours before going to work, and have them washed and dried by the time I needed to leave.  No longer.  The cleaning process is at least a two-day operation here.  Hope you didn’t need that for tomorrow!

Absolutely no hope of throwing something in the dryer for a minute or two on a cold morning to warm it up.  What a luxury!

I find it weird that my US phone and my US-based laptop computer both automatically updated themselves for Europe Daylight Saving Time, but my French phone didn’t.  For the next week, I’m only 5 hours ahead of everyone on EST!

I was thinking of going out to the Jardin Public for a pique-nique today, but it’s been rainy, so the ground will be wet… And I’m not sure if I feel like going all the way into Bordeaux.  Maybe I’ll just have a lazy day here in Talence.  I have bread, cheese, and smoked salmon, anyway.  What more do I need? (maybe some wine…)

I’ll be heading up north on Wednesday!  I’m doing a whirlwind tour in a week.  Bordeaux to Nantes to Vitré (with a day to visit Rennes) and then from Vitré to La Rochelle and then back down to Bordeaux!

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September 23, 2009

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , at 1:38 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

My life has been turned so completely upside down in the last week that I hardly even know where to begin!

I left the United States on Tuesday, September 15 and arrived in France with my friend Wesley on the morning of Wednesday, September 16. Customs was a breeze, even for Wesley and his cat, and after collecting our baggage we met up with our other two friends David and Lauren.

The four of us spent five incredible days (four nights) in Paris. The entire time I was in Paris, I had a sense of belonging – because the area was so familiar to me from my stay last summer – but also the sense that it was “just a vacation.” The real work was still to come.

On Sunday morning, one by one, we all went our separate ways. Lauren had an early train to catch to Nancy in the northeast. David, Wesley and I dragged our luggage through the metro (David was invaluable here, helping me get my 50-pound suitcase up and down the stairs AND carrying his own luggage) and then spent the morning sitting at a café outside the train station. Wes’s train left first, then David’s. It was down to me. I tried not to cry as David waved goodbye, but I knew that this was it. Playtime was over and my new life was about to begin. I was getting on a train to Bordeaux to meet my new family for the next nine months.

I stepped off the train in Bordeaux and looked around. People were walking everywhere, left and right, with bags and without, conversing in many different languages. How was I going to find my family? Perhaps we should have picked a meeting spot. I slowly dragged my luggage down the stairs from our track to the exit and looked around. A river of people passed me as if I were a pebble in their path. I started to haul my things towards the exit when I saw a woman carrying a cardboard sign saying “PENNY.”

With a sigh of relief, I waved at her and said “Voila!” I’m here! She kissed my cheeks and introduced me to her daughter, M., who also kissed my cheeks – the standard form of greeting in France. M. took one of my suitcases and we walked to the car where F., the father, was waiting. He loaded my things into the car and we set off for Talence. They were all very excited, asking me questions, explaining things we were passing, joking around – all in French.

They showed me the house, we had a quick but relaxing break for beverages on the terrace, and then they let me go off to my room to get settled. After living out of a suitcase for five days in Paris, it felt good to finally unpack! The room is more than I could have hoped for, especially for the price. Bordeaux is fairly expensive, and Talence especially because of the proximity to the university. My room is small but comfortable, with a bed, closet, desk, and filing cabinet. AND my own balcony! The rest of the house is small but comfortable, and all recently renovated – that’s what F. does for a living. They have told me that this is just the house where they crash during the week for work and school, but their real house is in Sanguinet, where they go every weekend. I won’t be able to join them this weekend because the other English assistants are getting together for dinner on Friday evening, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to make some friends, especially English-speaking ones!

My host family has been extremely kind to me. The first night, they took me on a walk around the center of town and showed me the tram system. E., the mother, made chicken and potatoes for dinner that night, and they were delicious. They eat quite late here, generally at about 9pm. I’m learning to have a snack around 5pm, but I’m still generally very ready for dinner by 9! The father, F., speaks English very well, and he knows that I want to improve my French, so he does speak in French to me, but every now and then he’ll speak in English to make sure I understand a point. They don’t have internet at their house yet, since they just moved here a few weeks before I did, but they took me to their son’s house to use his internet, and said I could go back there when I wanted.

Oh, and E. did my laundry the first night! I felt uncomfortable giving her my dirty underwear, but she just picked it up and through it in the laundry, which is quite complicated and I’m not sure if I could figure it out. It took me a good five minutes to figure out how to lock the front door and the better part of Monday to figure out how to make the kitchen sink give me water. Once the clothes were done washing, she put them on a rack outside, and they sun-dried all day. I’ve no idea what they do in the winter or rain.

Monday morning I was sleeping late because of the exhaustion from Sunday when E. knocked on my door, came right in, and opened my balcony door. They leave doors open throughout the day in France to cool their houses. E. said I should go downstairs and have breakfast with M., so I did. Originally the plan had been that meals were not included, so I decided that day to go out and buy my own breakfast cereal. That evening E. asked me what I wanted to do about meals, and I said I could provide my own breakfast and lunch, but I would like to share dinner with the family. It’s nice to eat à table.

M. and E. left after breakfast, and I decided to take a walk around town. I followed nearly the same route they’d taken me the day before, tracking on my GPS so I could get acquainted with the layout of the area. I had lunch at a boulangerie on the main square – a cheese quiche and an Orangina, which I ate while reading on a park bench and listening to my iPod. Then I continued to walk down to the Casino, the large supermarket.

The big supermarkets here are so amusing, because even though they are modeled after the American system, they are still very French. I can’t really explain the differences…except to say I bought an apple and handed it to the cashier who asked me something in rapid French and I just gave her a look of “quoi?” so she got up, went back to the produce, weighed the apple, got a sticker, put the sticker on the bag carrying the apple (produce MUST BE in a bag) and then scanned the sticker. It’s the little things.

Yesterday  I had originally planned to try and open a bank account, but then I started panicking because I hadn’t contacted my schools yet. I woke up a little earlier and had some of the cereal I’d bought for breakfast. One of the cats stared at me the entire time, as if to say “I NO U HAZ MILK IN DERES,” but with a French-cat accent. The other cat is terrified of me and runs away every time I come close.

Thanks to the Google Maps application and GPS on my phone, I was able to figure out exactly how to get to my main school. It told me the route to walk to the bus stop, what bus line to take, and what time the bus would get there! The bus driver yelled at me because I incorrectly signaled to him that I wanted on, so he almost missed stopping for me, but I brushed it off. It’s only my second day in town! I’m still learning! I managed to find my stop, but then I couldn’t get the door to open, so the driver just pulled off. I hit the stop button again and got off at the next stop and walked back up. He thinks he’s so funny, but he’ll have to deal with me for the next nine months!

I could hear children playing outside as I approached the school Jules Michelet. I asked the attendant where I could find the director, and as soon as I walked into his office he said (in French) “You must be Mademoiselle Morris!” Monsieur le Directeur was terribly nice, copying all the paperwork I would need, getting me a map to my other school, introducing me to the teachers I would be working with, and giving me an official school t-shirt. He spoke very little English, so the entire day was spent listening to rapid-fire French.

I stayed to have lunch in the teachers’ office with the other language teachers. One English teacher said she would help me with my French if I would help her with her English, and I said “It’s a deal.” She was also looking for someone to sit for her children a few nights a week and teach them English, so I volunteered. More money is good!

A substitute teacher drove me to my second school, where I met Madame la Directrice. She was nice, but not as self-deprecating and goofy as the Directeur. She took my information and said she would email me, because none of her teachers were available, so she couldn’t set up my schedule. If everything works out, I will hopefully be working Monday afternoons at Jules Ferry, Tuesdays at Jules Michelet, Friday mornings at Jules Ferry and Friday afternoons at Jules Michelet. That would be a great schedule, for although it would mean I couldn’t take off early on Fridays for an early weekend, I would have a late start on Mondays and two days off in the middle of the week.

Oh yeah, and I actually have to teach! That’s pretty scary.

The substitute drove me home, which was terribly kind of her and also a bit of a folly, because all I know is the name of my suburb and my street name. I don’t really know how to get there yet. But we figured it out, and I came home and decompressed for the rest of the day!

September 8, 2009

Countdown: One week

Posted in planning tagged , , , , , at 9:03 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

One week left in the United States with my family and friends.  As my time here dwindles I find myself more and more hesitant to leave, whereas months ago I couldn’t wait to be in France.  Now all I can think of is everyone and everything I will miss and everything that could possibly go wrong.

My host family has been nothing but kind to me in emails.  François, the father, has begun emailing with me in French in accordance with my wishes to practice French as much as possible.  They seem eager to get to know me and will be picking me up at the train station when I arrive in Bordeaux on September 20.  They’ve also offered to take me along to their vacation house on the weekends.

I’ve been in contact with several other assistants who are going to be in Bordeaux, and I think we’re all going to be meeting up for café somtime around the 23rd.

First day of work is le 1 octobre!

My bags are all packed…

All I need to pack

All I need to pack


June 4, 2009

Bought the ticket!

Posted in planning tagged , , , at 10:59 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

After debating back and forth with my mother, Travelocity, Priceline, and my friend Wesley, who is also going to France as a Teaching Assistant, we finally bought my plane ticket on Tuesday! 

Wes bought a ticket on the same flight, so we’ll be going over together.  We probably won’t be able to sit together, but it’s my goal to take some xanax and dramamine and SLEEP my way through the flight.  I’m still very nervous about flying, especially in light of the recent Air France disaster from Brazil.

I’ll be leaving Cincinnati on September 15th and arriving in Paris on the morning of September 16th.  I’m hoping to spend that week in Paris before heading on to my assigned city in Bordeaux (I still don’t know exactly where I’m going yet!)

I had a bit of sadness last week when Alexandra, the cat I had been hoping to take with me to France, became very ill.  She was not eating or drinking, and after much testing it was discovered that she had lung cancer.  She still refused to eat or drink anything, and so it was time to put her down.  I miss her terribly, but I’m glad that she’s no longer suffering.  She was 19. 

Alexandra ~February 1990 - May 27, 2009

Alexandra ~February 1990 - May 27, 2009

It does mean that I will be going to France just me, myself, and I.  I will miss having a kitty in my house so terribly! 

For now I’m just waiting for my arrêté — my placement of city and school in France.

November 23, 2008

Bienvenue!

Posted in Application, Introduction, meta tagged , , , at 9:48 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

Salut!  Welcome to my new blog here at WordPress.  I’m starting this blog in order to chronicle every step of my journey to become an English teacher in France — from the application to my life there.

When I’m living overseas, this blog will serve as a means of communication for friends and family who don’t have access to my personal Livejournal.

I hope this chronicle can be useful for future applicants to the program and anyone who wonders what it’s like to live abroad and teach English in France.

Just to give you a little background on myself, I’m a 30-year old student at Wright State University.  I’ll be graduating in June 2009 with a French major and a Spanish minor.  I’ve been studying French since I was in the fourth grade, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I decided to make it my life’s concentration.  I have always wanted to be a teacher.  I used to force my friends to play school, and I loved nothing more than to give them tests and help them with their homework.

I currently live with my three cats, Sabrina, Bat and Alexandra.  When I move to France, Sabrina and Bat will move in with my parents and Alexandra will come to France with me (hooray for no quarantine period!). 

I’ve printed out the application and I’m hoping to have it ready to submit for the December 15 deadline.  I’ve already asked two of my professors for letters of recommendation.  I have an appointment with my doctor on December 2 to fill out the medical release.  I went home this weekend to show my parents the application and get some advice on the essay.  The application is rather complicated, but they helpfully provide a checklist so I won’t forget any of the pieces!